Excerpt: Dependent by Brenda Corey Dunne

By: Brenda Corey Dunne
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Published: July 29, 2014
Genre: Fiction

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When 45-year-old Ellen Michaels loses her husband to a tragic military accident, she is left in a world of gray. For 25 years her life has been dictated by the ubiquitous They—the military establishment that has included her like chattel with John’s worldly goods—his Dependents, Furniture, and Effects. They—who have stolen her hopes, her dreams and her innocence, and now in mere months will take away the roof over her head. Ellen is left with nothing to hold on to but memories and guilt and an awful secret that has held her in its grip since she was 19. John’s untimely death takes away her anchor, and now, without the military, there is no one to tell her where to go, what to do— no one to dictate who she is. Dependent deals with issues ever-present in today’s service families—early marriage, frequent long absences, the culture of rank, and posttraumatic stress, as well as harassment and abuse of power by higher-ranking officials. It presents a raw and realistic view of life for the lives of the invisible support behind the uniform.


There is no more conversation. Young men with close-clipped haircuts straightenup and square their shoulders. Mothers wipe their eyes with soggy tissues. One by one, their sons grasp their duffels and walk forward.

“Michaels, John! Board now!” the man screams.

John turns to face me, a determined gleam in his eyes. “Don’t wait up,” he says.

I grin, half-heartedly, and finish our little saying. “Don’t be late,” I say. He leans forward and kisses me, then nods, turns, and walks forward, as if this were the easiest thing in the world, his legs swinging in more of a saunter than a walk. He pops his bag in the compartment and hops up the stairs. Only when he is seated by the window does he look back. He waves to his parents and then his eyes find mine.

I breathe in quickly, caught off guard by what his eyes are saying. My cheeks burn at the dangerous grin he gives me, not much different than that of five weeks ago in the flashing red glow. His gaze flicks down to the neckline of my blouse and below. It’s as if he’s having sex with me in his mind, as if we are alone and together, not separated by a crowd of sniffling parents and twenty-five feet of soggy paved space. I feel my body respond—my breath quickens and something flutters behind my breastbone. The rush of need shocks away my unshed tears.

I hear the sound of marching feet, slamming doors, and revving engines, but

I don’t look away. The corners of John’s mouth twitch, and the bus moves forward.

Parents wave frantically as it pulls away, calling their goodbyes and well wishes to the stench of exhaust and flying water.

I am left alone, standing in a puddle of need and lost dreams as John drives away in search of his own.


Brenda Corey Dunne trained as a physiotherapist, worked several years as a Physiotherapy Officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force before meeting the love of her life, RCAF Colonel Tom Dunne, and becoming a military dependent herself. Brenda currently resides on a small hobby farm in Eastern Ontario, Canada, with her husband and three children.

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