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The bus trundled down the lonely road, its engine humming a monotonous tune as it carried its passengers closer to their destinations. Among them sat Tom, his hands trembling slightly as he clutched a worn, much read draft of a letter. The words were etched into his mind:

"I'm coming home, I've done my time. Now I've got to know what is and isn't mine. If you received my letter telling you I'd soon be free, then you'll know just what to do if you still want me."

The Yellow Ribbon

Inspired by the song 'Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'round the Old Oak Tree'

Tom had spent three long years in prison, his life turned upside down by a bank robbery gone wrong. At least the millions he had stolen were hidden away, safely stashed in his house, waiting for him. If he could just bide his time, all could still work out well in the end. He wasn't alone in his cell during those years, though. He had shared it with a man named Mark, a cunning and ruthless criminal who had listened intently to Tom’s every word about the money and his plans.

Mark had seemingly turned over a new leaf during his time in incarceration, and had devised a plan of his own. He would help Tom craft the perfect letter to his wife, Mary, carefully suggesting the words to ensure she would understand the message. "Tie a yellow ribbon 'round the old oak tree," Tom had written, his hope pinned on this one simple request. If she still wanted him, she would tie the ribbon, and he would know it was safe to come home. If not, he would stay on the bus and vanish from her life forever.

After all their time locked up together in such close proximity, it turned out that Mark was released just a few days earlier than Tom. He had assured Tom that they would work together on the outside; that he would help him get back on his feet, that Mark had great plans that would shape the lives of both of them.

****

As the bus finally approached his hometown, Tom's heart was pounding in his chest. He stared out of the window, searching desperately for the old oak tree in his front yard. He needed to see the ribbon, to know that Mary still wanted him, that there was a future waiting for him. The bus driver, sensing Tom’s anxiety, slowed as they neared the house. "Bus driver, please look for me," Tom had whispered. "I couldn't bear to see what I might see."

The bus rounded the final bend, and there it was: the old oak tree. Tom's eyes widened in disbelief. It wasn’t just one ribbon. The tree was adorned with hundreds of yellow ribbons, fluttering in the breeze like a beacon of hope. The passengers cheered, sharing in his joy.

"I'm really still in prison, and my love she holds the key. A simple yellow ribbon is what I need to set me free," Tom had written. And now, here it was… the true symbol of his freedom, of Mary's love.

He stepped off the bus, his legs unsteady as he approached the house. As he got closer, he noticed the front door was slightly ajar, and a sense of foreboding washed over him. He called out for Mary as he entered, but the silence that greeted him was chilling.

He walked through the house, his heart sinking with each step. The living room was in disarray, furniture overturned, and papers scattered across the floor. He moved to the bedroom, dread pooling in his stomach. There, he found Mary. She lay motionless on the bed, her eyes staring blankly at the ceiling, a pool of blood spreading beneath her.

Tom fell to his knees, a strangled cry escaping his lips. Beside her, he noticed a piece of paper, hastily scrawled. With shaking hands, he picked it up and read the words:

"The yellow ribbons led me right here. Thanks for everything. Turns out I was the one who got back on the bus, so now you need to forget about us… Mark."

Tom's mind raced, piecing together the horror. Mark had been released early, had come to the house, and had murdered Mary before stealing the hidden money.

The yellow ribbons fluttered mockingly outside, a cruel reminder of the hope and love that had been there, now shattered by betrayal and greed. Despair overwhelmed him as he realized the true cost of his trust. Mark had taken everything from him, leaving nothing but sorrow and death in his wake. Tom staggered out of the house, the ribbons a blur through his tears, and fell to the ground, the weight of his loss crushing him.

The bus had long since departed, leaving behind the haunting echoes of a promise broken and a love destroyed. And Mark, with millions in his grasp, disappeared into the night, his cruel note the only trace of his treachery.



Written by DariusMcCorkindale
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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