The Substitute(14)By: Lindsay Delagair
When little A.G. was three months old, they were making plans for a big welcome home party for Gabriel. They had told all the grandparents involved that Gabe fathered the baby, but they let everyone assume it had been handled in a doctor’s office—there was no need for them to know more.
Two days before his unit was to ship back to the states, the unthinkable happened. They had gotten into a heavy firefight with rebel soldiers and were pinned down in an area waiting for help to reach them. The only thing anyone knew was that there had been three lives lost and several others wounded.
Andy held Jen and their son in his arms all night as they lay crying and praying in their bed waiting for news on a man that was very special to all of them.
Eleven p.m. the following night Gabe’s mother called. He had been shot, but he was alive and they were sending him home.
Four days later, Gabe opened his drowsy eyes in his bed in the Malcolm Randall VA hospital. He expected to see his parents, but instead his best friend Andy was sitting there alone.
“Damn they gave you enough morphine. I thought you’d never wake up.”
“Where—where is everybody?”
“Your folks are here, and so is Jen. They went down to the cafeteria about five minutes ago. How are you feeling, Buddy?”
“Like somebody shot the shit out of me,” he replied with a small grin. “I felt two hard thuds and I blacked out. I remember the medics getting me the hell out of there and starting the morphine drip. That was pretty much it. I don’t even know where I got hit at.”
Andy rested his hand on Gabe’s arm. “Well, I hate to tell you this, Gabe, but we are one sorry pair.”
“I’m missing both nuts and you’re missing your dick.”
Gabe’s eyes got so big they looked like they were going to bug out of his head. “Ah, fuck!”
Andy started laughing. “I’m kidding. I’m sorry, Dude, I couldn’t resist. Your dick is intact.”
“Damn it man, Andy! Don’t pull that shit on me.” But he looked really relieved, and started to find the humor in the joke, too.
Andy apologized, and then his laughter softened. “You took one in the left thigh and one in the right shoulder. They said you should be able to go home in another week or two. I guess you’ve got some therapy ahead for your shoulder.”
“How’s Jen and A.G.?”
“She so pissed at you for getting hurt—said something like, ‘Superman, my ass!’ She cried like a baby when she saw you in this bed.” He paused and then swallowed. “My wife loves you, but I’m good with it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Sure enough to ask a favor.”
Gabriel eyed him suspiciously. “What kind of favor?”
“Jen wants something that I can’t give her: a daughter. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind being my substitute again—when you get healed up. Now, I’m not saying she wants that second baby right this minute, so don’t like bust your ass to get out of here or anything, but….”
The door to his hospital room opened and Jen walked in carrying a beautiful, chubby-cheeked little boy with deep blue eyes. She started crying the moment she realized he was awake.
“Yeah,” Gabe said reaching out his hand to grab Andy’s. “I’ll be your substitute anytime, Buddy, anytime.”