Forever This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

In the days of the war, when men and women ran headfirst into ­barrages of gunfire, there was not one person unaffected. Soldiers died, and families submerged in sorrow when the officer knocked on their door. I was no different. I was the naive, fresh-out-of-high-school girl who married a reservist, and then paid the price for my innocence.

I remember that hour vividly: the meek face of the officer, the wind nudging the clouds over the sun, down to the small flag waving on my porch. I bit down on my lower lip. This was the moment that had starred in my nightmares for seven months. At any second, I would wake up and be staring at the ugly popcorn ceiling of my bedroom. That relief never came. Zachary Atmos, my husband, was killed trying to protect an injured comrade.

Exactly one week later, in a whirl of color and people talking too fast, I followed my brother-in-law to my seat at the funeral. It was a miserable day. Rain had poured relentlessly for two days. In my self-pity I believed that the angels were crying.

The militaristic funeral service was covered by neon blue tarps; the riflemen seemed unfazed by the cold. In unison, their guns fired three times in salute to my husband. With every ringing shot, I shook.

I wondered what he had heard in his final moments. Was he in pain when he died? Had he thought of me? What if I had joined alongside him and been deployed also? Would things have been different? Now there was no way of knowing.

Like the statues placed around the cemetery, I was similarly stone-faced, but with ribbons of moisture running down my face. I was crying. I and the attendees around me were like a black-clad sculpture garden, conveying solemnity in our midst. I moved only to accept the flag that was laid over my husband’s coffin. Over the sheet-like drone of the rain, a single bugle player performed the lonely tune of Taps – a lullaby for the dead.

Then, as quickly as everything had begun, it was over. I was walking away, my face downcast toward the sidewalk. I wondered if Zack was watching me, if he was feeling okay. My mind was so wrapped in these questions, I wasn’t paying attention. The stiletto heel of my shoe wedged into a crevice, causing the other to slip on the concrete. My leg flew up while the other collapsed under me. I don’t remember much of the initial fall, but I must have yelled, for the ducks nearby retreated to their hidden nests in the reeds.

My dress was wet and my tumble broke my umbrella. My bangs stuck
to my temples, pressing the newly acquired grime to my face. Forcing myself to my knees, I noticed a diluted film of red coating the ground. Only then did the palms of my hands and my right knee begin to sting. For the millionth time that day, tears flew to my eyes and threatened to spill over my lashes.

My marred hand went to my face instinctively, smearing blood on my cheeks and sending mascara around my eyes and brows. I caught my reflection in a puddle, my shoulders falling at my pathetic image.

Great tufts of hair hung matted, ­soggy, and windblown. My makeup ran in deformed rivers. My black gown was wrinkled and stained with blood. Suddenly, the smallest flash of light caught my eye. Centered neatly in my V-shaped collar hung the necklace I had put on that morning. My gaze was locked on the tiny charm on the delicate chain. Zack had given me it shortly before he was deployed. It depicted the face of a wolf. The flat back of the charm had a single character in Japanese hiragana: Kokoro – the word for “Forever” or “Always.”

I knelt there in the rain and wind, contemplating … always … always … The word sounded so comforting. My fingertips grazed the cool metal at my throat, and I stood. I gathered my purse and my useless umbrella, standing straight and tall. The pendant on my necklace rested comfortably at my heart like unbreakable armor.

A few hours later, I was home, bathed and warm again, hands and knee bandaged with care. Huddled by the fireplace with a book, I looked into the flames, where I swear I saw him smiling his dorky grin at me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 129 comments. Post your own now!

livetodie said...
Oct. 20, 2012 at 9:19 pm
Wow. This is amazing.
hugeNYRfan said...
Oct. 20, 2012 at 12:17 pm
Omg, this is really good. i felt like i was really there
SonjaRenae said...
Sept. 28, 2012 at 9:28 pm
Oh my god. Just. I don't even have words to describe how amazing this is! It cuts especially close to my heart because my best friend and love will be graduating next year and is going to join the military. I've known him since I was seven and the though of anything happening to him is killing me. I cried when I read this. It is just so amazing!!!
writer3499 said...
Jul. 2, 2012 at 10:58 am
this is fantasic
thewouldbelibrarian said...
Jun. 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Here's a long due comment on one of your pieces, Aeliss! (Sorry I didn't do it before, especially since you commented on mine.)

This is great! Really lovely style, and I could see everything happening really clear while I was reading it. Good word choice. Nice, original story! I don't wonder it got printed! =D

SilverSun said...
Apr. 28, 2012 at 11:13 pm
Beautiful, sad, emotional, descriptive. Wonderful piece. I kind of cried. So goooooodddddddddddd job!!
Lucifer S. said...
Apr. 27, 2012 at 10:12 pm
This is an awesome story! It truly is a masterpiece. Could you also read and comment on my short story, Modus Operandi?
WonTonFred1 replied...
Oct. 20, 2012 at 12:52 am
Fiction is fiction for a reason hes supposed to be dreamy :D, loved word choice etc. etc. Would have cut out the dork part and ignore whatever wordsRus down there is saying about your story its awesome and the average reader doesn't care it's itsumo instead of kokoro.  
team_haymitch This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 30, 2012 at 8:47 pm
dont call him a dork at the end. he was dreamy until that last part. i dont think she'd be calling her dearly departed husband a dork
happilyeverafternot replied...
Feb. 21, 2012 at 9:50 pm
Really? I liked it, because I think it shows character... And dorky grins are cute. I think all dreamy is unrealistic.
Regia replied...
Mar. 14, 2012 at 8:05 am
I sincerely agree...I thought that was one of the best things about it...soldiers are real people, just like everyone else, and there's no reason he wouldn't have been dorky; it just adds character and reality to the story. Great piece! Fantastic writing. So vivid and realistic.
SonjaRenae replied...
Sept. 28, 2012 at 9:30 pm
I agree that it showed character! It was obviously somethign the widow loved about him, his dorky grin, and I think it adds the touch of nostalgic happiness that the ending was leading up to :)
WordsRUs This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 30, 2012 at 7:03 pm
I hate to do this, but I must. As a student of the Japanese language, I must inform you that "kokoro" means "heart", as in the one that bears feelings. It's also written in kanji, not hiragana. The word you're looking for in that context would be "itsumo". That means always or forever when dealing with matters of the heart. Your piece was beautiful, but the lack of research on your part really ruined the most powerful scene for me.
thebrighterparts said...
Jan. 30, 2012 at 10:43 am
Absolutely beautiful.
Nick5 said...
Jan. 8, 2012 at 9:33 pm
Awestruck.This piece deserves professional critisism. "Incredible! Two thumbs up!"
bubblesrfun said...
Jan. 8, 2012 at 2:08 pm
Amazing! I can't believe this is fiction! It all feels so personal and realistic.
Def_Leppard_fan120 said...
Jan. 8, 2012 at 1:05 am
Check out my article called THE BATTLE and leave comments. I cried when read this. You can see what was going on in your head.
Andrew1 said...
Dec. 17, 2011 at 5:44 pm
I am so sorry for your loss. This is such a moving and saddening poem I am about to cry. You're an amazing writer.
Andrew1 replied...
Dec. 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm

* I felt so sorry for her loss 



otherpoet replied...
Dec. 17, 2011 at 9:45 pm
This is an amazing piece - no wonder it's getting chosen for print! You are so talented in your writing, I hope you write more. I loved how closely you allowed the reader to connect with your character. Over all - a great piece!
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback