The Empty Chair

December 22, 2007
By Jillian Mismas, Highland Hts, OH

It was as if her sister had already died…
The pain of knowing her sister having a ninety nine percent chance of death followed her like the leaves follow the wind. It hasn't been the same around the house since the departure of her sister. And always, when she sat down for dinner, she looked across and saw the empty chair. The knowledge that one day a soldier could come to their door and say that her sister died in battle haunted over her. Their family never talked anymore, and during dinner, everyone looked at their food. But not Greta. She always looked over and saw the chair her sister used to sit in, which was now empty. Nevertheless, there was still that one chance that it would stay empty forever. Since the departure of her sister, it felt to Greta that she was an only child. There was no one to play with, no one to help her with her homework, no gossip of her school. Nothing. She couldn't tell her friends half of what her and her sister used to share. There is no friendship alike those who have the same blood, is what her sister used to say. No friends can overpower sisterhood. Nonetheless, it is true. A friendships bond cannot last as long as the bond of sisters.

Greta's father used to be a very jovial man, but since his older daughter left, he became depressed with worry and concernment. He used to shout at the table and wrestle with his daughters. Now, there was no cheerfulness in his loving face. Only wrinkles that spread over the long period that felt as though it were interminable. His hair became gray and his vision had began to fail him. He walked with a slight hump in his back and walked leisurely. His ways were no longer, and Greta knew, that never would their house be the same again. Even if her sister came back, should would still have to leave again.

The mother became as worn out as her father. Maybe if possible, more tired and restless. Greta always heard her screaming in her sleep for this war to end. Greta even found herself crying in her sleep. Other times, she cried herself to sleep. Her mother always had great advise. Until she found out that she had no advise about this problem. She had no idea how to react. When their daughter was at the table, Greta's sister used to explain about her day at school. Her mother would listen inventively. Now, there was no conversation at the table.

Greta acted as though she didn't care. But she only did so because it was best for her parents. Her reason was because she didn't want to worry her parents even more. It was as if Greta was wearing a mask. She had to be the strong one in the family. If not, who would?

Everyone tried to ignore the empty chair, but sometimes, they couldn't.

The traditions of holidays soon became a memory. It was already nine months since she saw her sister. And to her, Greta thought her sister was already dead. Greta was failing all of her classes because she could not focus. Her mind would always wonder to when she would eat dinner that day and look across the table and see that empty chair again! It was like a living hell!

Greta read more then ever. Nevertheless, she only read because she felt as though she was getting out of reality and into a different world with new problems. More simpler problems that she didn't have to face. When she stopped reading, the worriment only came back.

In addition to reading more, Greta started to write short stories and poems. That also got her out of reality. It made her become someone who feared what could happen, and by that, Greta hid behind her books and paper. She feared the future and what could happen.

"What do you want for dinner, Greta?" Her mother always asked her that question. Greta shook her head in a gesture of curio.

"What about spaghetti?" Greta's mother said.

"I don’t care. Whatever I guess." Greta sat at the kitchen table accomplishing her homework that made no sense to her.

"Oh, ya. There is mail for you on the porch stand." Her mother gestured to the front door. Greta looked up. She stood and walked up to the door and saw the letter. Greta went to her room and started to cut the letter open:

Dearest Greta,

I am missing you to almost insanity. I miss hearing you yelling at me. I hope you are doing well. I am doing all right. I guess I have nothing to complain about. Please, don’t worry about me. I should be the one worrying about you! You know I love. And I cannot stop telling you this. My work is very grueling and I am getting stronger each day. I will no longer loose when I arm wrestle you. Please, make the best of your life. You are the only reason I am in this. I want you to have a safe life. A wonderful life. I wanted to follow in grandfather's footsteps. His medals always shined with the luminosity of pride. Please, if you can, write me a poem about how you feel. Pour your heart out!
With everlasting love

Greta wiped the tears off before she started to write back to her. She looked out the window and saw the snowflakes coming down. She stared for over an hour, thinking of what the poem should be about. And then she had it! Writing in her notebook that was so helpful to her, she began to write about what bothered her the most.
Dear Violet,

The empty chair
The rain will pour,
Their feet will become sore,
Lightning will be seen in the corner of their eye,
Thunder will sound as our hearts heave a great sigh.

The fearful will hide and scurry,
As the brave will take on the worry.
Clothes will be dripping with our tears,
As the brave take on their fears.

As you look across the table you see the empty chair,
Remembering the soft skin, tall figure, and beautiful silky hair.
Their laugh sounds in your ears as the tears build,
You think of how they may be the one who could get killed.

One rest on the bed though it was meant for two,
A dark shadow washes that spot as you dream of him and you.
Why must they be brave,
Why must it be them who can save!

Questions will buzz and burn,
And they will say this it was their turn!
In a way it is true,
Next turn it will be me and you.

Christmas is a time of laughs and joys,
When children start to play with their new toys.
You look across the table and see the empty chair,
Remembering the soft skin, tall figure, and the beautiful silky hair.

The evening comes and you have presents to give,
But an unexpected knock on the door proves that he no longer will live.
A soldier in red white and blue stands by the door,
You start to cry and fall in puddles on the floor.

You stand and whip the tears,
Now it is time for you to face your fears.
You turn the door handle,
The sudden rush of wind burned the one candle.

The soldier faces you as more tears fall,
The man had soft skin, no hair, and rather tall.
He rapped his arms around you and whispered in your ear, "I love you."
You don't brush the snow off of your hair as you look in his eyes, "I love you too."

You look across the table and you don't see any empty chair,
But you do see a soldier with soft skin, tall figure, and no longer silky hair.

Violet, I put a happy ending in this poem because I hope that alike that girl, I to get a happy ending. I hope all is well. Christmas is coming soon, and it will be the first time we will not be together on Christmas in all of our life. I guess there is a first time for everything. It is not the same here without you. I hope you come home soon.
Merry Christmas,

Greta sent the letter the following day.

Greta knew it was rude to read at the table, but she didn't want to look across from her and see the empty chair.

"Greta, please, stop reading at the table. It is rude." Her mother said.

"Let me finish this chapter." Greta said, turning the page of her book.

"When are you going to stop hiding behind your books!" Her father yelled.

Greta looked at him, traumatized. She knew he was right, but she decided not to agree with him aloud.

"What are you talking about?" Greta asked.

"You may be able to hide behind your books, but for how long! Till Violet is dead!" Her father shouted, standing from the table. Greta began to cry, as well as her father and mother. "You act as though you don't care about her! As though you don't care about what the outcome could be!"

"I know what could happen!" Greta shouted at her father.

"Well then act like it!" Her father left the table. Greta cried into her sleeve. Her mother embraced her as they cried together. Greta realized that her father had been right. Greta no longer wore her mask, but she did stay strong. Only in a different way.

Christmas day was tomorrow.

Unlike all kids, Greta wasn't excited about Christmas because she would never acquirer what her heart truly desires. Christmas had come all to soon. Greta only thought of Christmas as another day, another day that could mean the last of her sister.

On Christmas day there was a knock on the door. It was early for the guests to arrive. Nonetheless, Greta went to answer it.

Greta turned the door handle. She opened the door.

A women with a hate, and white gloves stood in the doorway. On her feet she wore sparkling white shoes.

"Who said there was a first time for everything!" Said the women.

The wind brushed against her skin, making Greta freeze. She looked at the soldier with tears in her eyes. She didn't bother brush off the snow that laid on her. She hugged the soldier in front of her. She was a soldier, and at the same time, she was her sister. She looked different, she looked like a United States Soldier.

As they embraced one another, Greta thought that as they would eat dinner that night, there would not be an empty chair as she had expected.

Greta looked at her sister. When she went back to school, she could brag to people about her sister. She was a United States Soldier by choice! She was so proud of her. Greta's sister followed their grandfather's footsteps, so now, nothing would hold Greta back from doing the same… and that is another story for another day!

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