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The Ultimate Sacrifice
My stomach was in knots. I could barely catch my breath. It was as if someone had just punched me in the gut. The entire apartment had gone silent, no one dares to say a word at a time like this.
“I think it’s time for everyone to go home now. Please, keep us in your thoughts and prayers.” Maddie says quietly, finally breaking the God-awful silence.
As people head to the door to leave they stop by the table to pay their respects. I feel multiple hands brush my hair and touch my shoulder. Trying to comfort me, but only making me feel queasy. The thought of any type of physical contact at the moment repulses me.
I listen for the click of the lock on the front door before I look up. Rose is hunched over holding her hands together behind her head, her entire body shaking. Daniel pushes he upright and cradles her in his arms, holding back his own tears. I watch in horror as the people I love the most begin to break down right in front of me.
I push my chair out and slowly walk towards the window. I watch the clouds in the sky gradually start to open up, releasing small raindrops that stick to the glass of the windows. They create the shape of tears, streaming down the glass. It’s as if the sky itself is mourning too, crying for our loss.
“Amy, say something.” Maddie pleads, a slight tremble in her voice. I turn to look at her, her mouth quivering, threatening to betray her at any second. My eyes quickly begin to water. My vision starts to disintegrate as my eyes glaze over with fresh tears. My legs can’t seem to handle my weight any longer and I fall to my knees. I breathe in quickly for air letting out loud gasps, trying to catch my breath. Maddie runs over and wraps her long, thin arms around me. She holds me tightly, using her fingers to brush my long red hair out of my face.
“I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” She sobs, over and over, not just to me but also to herself. We sit there together, releasing all emotion that we have left.
After a while my breathing begins to even and I am able to see through my red, puffy eyes. Maddie unwraps her arms from me and stands up, holding out a hand. I take it and she carefully pulls me up. The room has a slight spin to it. I turn to look at the mirror on the wall next to the front door, and I see my unfamiliar reflection. My hair is messed up with strands sticking up every which way. My dress has wrinkled and torn in multiple places around my stomach. My face was blotchy and red, mascara running down my face leaving trails of black on my cheeks. Someone mauled by a bear would look less terrifying than the sight of me at the moment.
Despite the disturbance of my appearance, I still manage to walk over to Daniel and Rose who are sitting still on the couch, not saying a word.
Daniel has gotten Rose to calm down. I kneel next to her and I grab her hand, holding it between my trembling hands. She gently takes her free hand and brushes away a stray tear that is slowly trickling down my cheek.
“We’ll get through this together, sweet heart. It’ll be okay.” She says, comforting me as a mother-in-law would.
I bow my head down and press it against her side, squeezing my eyes shut. My whole body starts to shake as I recall all of the events that have lead of to this moment.
Everyone was mingling, catching up after weeks of studying for final exams and post graduation plans. My in-laws, Daniel and Rose, planned a small get together between close family and friends in honor of my graduation from college, and my acceptance to NYU School of Medicine.
To me my apartment still looked like a disaster. Guests were scattered around the room, leaving drinks and dirty dishes on any surface they could find. Now that I’ve greeted everyone I can finally tidy up a bit. I’m using a towel to wipe up a small wine spill on the coffee table when the door bell rings.
“Mads, can you get that?” I call to my sister-in-law.
“Just a sec!” She shouts to the outsider as she sets down her drink on the coffee table. Of course, the exact coffee table that I had just cleaned. Typical Maddie, carefree and laid back, without a worry in the world. She couldn’t even bother to use a damn coaster. If Ryan were here, he would be laughing at my silly frustration over the misplacement of the glass on our little nothing coffee table, in our little nothing apartment.
I think to myself, only a few more weeks, Amy. Only a few more weeks and Ryan will be back home, for good.
“Mads, can you get that? Now?!” I shout, impatiently waiting for her to answer the door.
She turns around annoyed and I can feel her glare on my back from across the room. She rolls her eyes knowing better than to say anything about my compulsive attitude and heads to the door.
I hear the click of the door unlocking and the low whoosh of air being sucked into the small apartment as the door opens. A deep, masculine voice echoes off of the other chatter that is occurring around the room. Slowly everyone begins to quiet, and I hear slight gasps. If my stickler neighbors called the cops on us again, we’re going to have a serious problem.
“Amy!” Maddie cries, her hand beginning to tremble while covering her mouth in shock. Daniel and Rose walk slowly to Maddie’s side, looking extremely concerned. They stand there and wait for me to join them.
I walk over and the taller of the two broad men standing in my door way ask me, “Is there a Mrs. Amy Forman at this address?” He is wearing a camouflage suit, and holds a camouflage hat in his hands along with a small, white envelope. He stands tall and strong, his body fully erect in a proud stance. His partner, wearing the same camouflage get up, stands in the same position but is much shorter.
“Yes, that’s me.” I answer in a whisper. I know exactly what they are here for. I’ve feared this day for nearly four years.
“Mrs. Forman, may we come inside?” The man asks, kindly. I move out of the way and attempt to speak, but the words don’t come out. I’m too shocked to say anything.
The other soldier starts, “Mrs. Forman, please sit down.” I comply, not knowing what else to do. I feel hands on my shoulders, trying to calm me down. My breathing becomes erratic. “I am officer Michael Whilmor, and this is officer Andrew Garfelt. We regret to inform you that your husband Sergeant Ryan Forman was killed in action, today May 4, 2011. The army expresses their deepest condolences for you at this difficult time. We would like to thank you and your family for your great sacrifice for the army, and we express our greatest sympathies for you all.”
I stare in disbelief, trying to soak in his words. I don’t react, I just sit and listen to everyone gasp and cry out in shock. I can feel myself falling over, and the hand on my shoulder tightens, trying to keep me steady.
Officer Garfelt pulls out the white envelope and puts its contents in front of me with a pen. It’s a sheet that reads army gibberish that I don’t bother trying to decipher. The officers explain to me that it is to notarize that I have been told of Ryan’s death. I draw a scribble near the line with an x next to it and the paper is pulled away from me. The pen falls from my grip with a clank against the table and my arm slowly relaxes to my side. I stare at empty space, my mind blank. The officers get up from the table and express their condolences once more. I hear their hard footsteps against the wood floors as they go to leave. No one moves until the door there is the sound of the front door closing.
The hand on my shoulder releases and I hear footsteps walking away. “No. Not my baby… This must be a mistake…” I hear Rose whisper, and she quickly begins break down. The room is still.
I slowly sit up and wipe my face of the stray tears that still linger. I lift myself up to sit beside Rose and I let her give me a hug. We sit there for the longest time, not saying a word. Just embracing each other’s company.
“Would you guys want to spend the night here?” I offer, considering it is now past 2 a.m.
“No, Amy. That’s not necessary. We better get home. Tomorrow is going to be a very long day.” Daniel replies.
“I will drive you both home.” Maddie demands.
“Thank you, dears.” Rose says, in her small, sullen voice.
We give each other long, lingering hugs to say goodbye, for now. I slowly shut the door, but I don’t lock it. I leave it unlocked for anyone to come in, for anyone to put me out of my misery.
I walk to the bedroom and I let myself gently fall onto my bed. I lie there until finally my mind shuts down. I drift off into a dreamless sleep.