Updated: May 23, 2019
When Army vet Haddie loses her lucky rabbit's foot, she realizes she still suffering from PTSD. But even lost, her foot still just might bring her luck.
An explosion. I want to drop to the ground, but I can’t. I’m sandwiched in a crowd of gyrating bodies.
After my vision clears, I see that everyone else in the club is unfazed, dancing and smiling.
It takes a second for my brain to process that the sound was just a boom from the blaring techno music. I’m safe, but I don’t feel safe. I can’t breathe. Mia talked me into coming out with her tonight, but clearly, I’m not ready.
My lucky rabbit’s foot. I grab my keychain to rub it. It sounds silly, but it’s been a lifesaver since I returned from service in Afghanistan. Gramps gave it to me when I was five, telling me it had brought him lots of luck, and it would me too. I believed him. I believe him even more now. But as I thumb through my keys, I realize the rabbit’s foot isn’t on the ring.
Tingles of panic nip at me. “Mia. I have to find my rabbit’s foot,” I yell. When I get no response, I look around to see that she’s not beside me anymore. I scan the scene, but all I see are silhouettes of bouncing heads. I get an elbow to the back, but I keep moving. “Mia! Where are you?”
The hot, sweaty room is closing in on me, so I look to the ceiling. But the flashing neon lights put me right back in Afghanistan, shots flying over my head lighting the night sky. I duck through the crowd looking for Mia. When I finally see her, she’s dancing on the stage, and a rock forms in my stomach. I can’t fight the mosh pit to get up there.
Focus, Haddie. I just have to keep my mind on the objective: finding my rabbit’s foot.
The packed dance floor is impossible to see. Worse, I’ve had two Greyhounds, and it’s affecting my vision. But I continue weaving my way through the sea of sweaty bodies, shuffling my feet as I go. Please. Please let it appear. After several minutes of this, tears well up in my eyes. I know it seems absurd. A vet choking up over a silly trinket.
Except it’s so much more than that.
My squad and I were being targeted by snipers. While running for our Humvee, I stopped to grab my fallen rabbit’s foot. It was stupid, I know. When the vehicle exploded, everyone inside was gone. Well, everyone but me. In the blink of an eye, we lost five of our own. I don’t know why I got to live and they didn’t. The only way I sleep at night is to believe that Gramps saved me.
I have to find it. I wipe the tears from my eyes so I can focus. But it’s useless. My body trembles as I stumble to the bar.
I hear, “Excuse me, miss?” His voice is firm, calming. “Are you okay?”
I gaze up to see the bartender looking at me with concern in his eyes. There are many customers waiting for their drinks, but he’s ignoring them.
Shaking my head, I reply, “I’m not sure.”
“Tell me what you need.”
“It’s gonna sound really weird.” My voice shakes.
He runs a hand through his wavy brown hair. “Try me.”
For the first time, I have the nerve to really look at him. When I see he’s wearing a dog tag, my breath hitches and I fumble for words. I gather myself and point to his neck. “Where’d you serve?”
“Iraq, six months.”
I exhale. “I’m having flashbacks, and my lucky rabbit’s foot fell off my keyring. I was hoping you could look for it after closing?”
He nods and purses his lips. “What’s your name?”
“Just hold on Haddie, okay?”
“Thank you.” I return to my search until the music stops and the loud speaker crackles. “Attention everyone.” It sounds like the bartender. “We’re starting a contest right now. There’s a rabbit’s foot on the dance floor, and the person who finds it and brings it to me wins four free beers.”
Cheers echo through the room as heads look to the floor. The lights go up.
My heart beats so hard it feels like it could escape my chest. I approach him and whisper, “Thank you.”
“It’s nothing, really.” He lowers his voice. “Even if you weren’t so pretty, I would’ve helped.”
I smile, my stomach flip-flopping from the compliment. “I know this was a strange request.”
Winking a stunning emerald eye at me, he says, “Strange is relative. Yesterday a chick ordered a martini with duck-fat washed gin.”
I smile. “That’s pretty bad.” It hits me that I’m calmer.
“So what was it?” His question seems vague, but I know exactly what he’s asking.
I clear my throat. “A roadside bomb.”
“I’m so sorry.”
I twirl a piece of my curly black hair. “So, what’s your name?”
“Justin.” He smiles, and it’s an amazing one. “The first Fourth of July after I got home, I wanted to spend the evening under the bed with my dog.”
“Oh no.” I let out an empathetic laugh. “Glad I’m not alone.”
“You’re a survivor, Haddie, remember that.” Handing me a napkin, he says, “Here’s my number. In case you need to talk to someone who gets it.”
My heart races. “I’d love that.”
A cacophony of claps and cheers break out in a group of guys as one holds my rabbit’s foot in the air. I let out a gush of air and look at Justin, who has an ear to ear smile. After he serves the group their free beers, Justin steps around the bar to hand me my rabbit’s foot. It’s filthy, but I don’t care.
I pull him into a hug. I know we just met, but being in his arms is comforting.
After we pull away, he touches the rabbit's foot and smiles. “Possibly a good luck charm for me, too.”