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“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it's worth watching”
There were eight people (five men and two women) that made up the third US Military squad stationed in Mosul. As the four that weren’t keeping watch outside crept through the dusty cement building, Lieutenant Will Fellows, who was in the lead, was bombarded by unwanted thoughts of how unqualified he was to be doing this. Sure, it had been a while since he joined the military, but he hadn’t been in Iraq half as long as these soldiers had been. Really, he hadn’t been out of ROTC and into the big kids’ army long enough for him to consider it more than a phase. But that didn’t matter right now. Fellows needed to focus. The four were approaching a rickety little wooden door, so Fellows held his right hand up in a fist by his head, signaling to the rest of the squad to stop. Holding his gun at ready, he turned around and nodded to Lieutenant Peterson then pushed the door open.
Four men with guns trained right at Fellows’ head sat around a little card table that was covered with papers that had Arabic writing all over them. Something seemed a little off, though. None of them moved. Or blinked. Or breathed. It was as if they were waiting for something to happen so that they could react to his entrance. Before Fellows could read too much into the situation, though, he felt someone tap on his shoulder.
Turning around, Fellows saw the face of a girl whom he hadn’t seen in at least four years. Yes, he saw the face of that girl, but some of the other features on this person definitely didn’t belong to her. For instance, this new girl had long, thick, strawberry hair. The girl he used to know didn’t have hair at all. This new girl was walking just as easily as he could, which was something the girl he used to know couldn’t do. This new girl was smiling a big, familiar smile, but even though it was quite familiar, it couldn’t belong to the girl he used to know because she grinned like that so rarely. Surely this wasn’t the same girl. Deep down, though, Fellows felt differently.
“Would you go for a walk with me?” the girl asked. Fellows knew he probably shouldn’t leave his squad to deal with these men by themselves, but a walk away from the fight was oh so tempting. Lowering his gun, he followed the little girl past his static squad. After the pair had maneuvered the compact halls of the cement building once again, they stepped through the front door and into a brilliant sunshine that could only belong to his little hometown of Madison, Georgia on a sunday.
Fellows was shocked to see the vibrant green trees and the big yellow blossoms surrounding his old home that he hadn’t had even a fleeting glimpse of since he went to see the little girl for the last time. Just before he could ask how on earth he had found himself here of all places, a smiling, young couple stepped out of an old teal pickup truck that had been sitting in the driveway. The man reached into the backseat and removed a car seat, then brought their new baby boy into the house to say hello to his big brother for the first time. Following them inside, Fellows and the girl saw the father gently set the car seat down on the ground, right beside his spot on the couch. In the next room over, the mother was rousing an old woman and a little 5-year-old boy who had spent the night waiting for the new arrival. Soon, they were up and in the living room, quietly beaming at little baby Will, the newest addition to the family. Back outside, the two continued to walk down the lane.
The next house was just like the first except now it was a little faded, there was an old football in the front lawn, and the pickup truck had a crack in the windshield. As Fellows and the girl watched the house, two little boys rushed out of the front door and into the back yard, coming out seconds later on their hand-me-down bicycles they had received on Christmas, one of the few days when you could keep them away from each other’s houses. The two little boys rode up the lane and to a park at which they had an excited discussion about about the new movie they had gone to see on saturday: X-Men! Usually, their mothers wouldn’t have let them see a PG-13 movie, (even though Will had turned thirteen the week before) but since both boys had already read the comics and knew what was going to happen already, an exception was made. Following the boys away from the park and past the house, Fellows and the girl came to a school.
Morgan County High School was decorated with red, black, and gold streamers and balloons. A big banner over the gym entrance said MCHS Hollywood Dance. Inside the Gym, walls and tables were decorated with stars and oscars. They had a red carpet, spotlights, and their own walk of fame. Over by the tables, a sixteen-year-old Will Fellows and his date to the dance sat with friends, talking about the decorations. Soon, This I Promise You by NSYNC came on, and everyone who had managed to find a date was pressured to go up and dance. Fellows and the girl watched Will and his date go out on the dance floor together. When it was time for everyone to go home, Will drove his date home and received his first kiss before she got out of the car. Fellows and the girl kept walking.
After a minute or so of walking, they came upon a little rental house with two cars parked in the driveway. When the two went inside, they saw Will, though much older- nearly twenty, and the girl from the dance sitting at a little table eating dinner. They talked for awhile and finished their meals, then Will stood up from his chair, got down on one knee, and asked the big question: Will you marry me? She said yes, of course. Fellows and the girl left the house.
Farther down the lane, there was a hospital. It was quite large and it should have taken them a pretty long time to find where they were going, but Fellows knew exactly where they were supposed to be. When they entered the hospital room, they saw an extremely happy Sarah and Will Fellows with their brand-new baby girl. She was so tiny that she could be held in just one of Will’s hands, but he was too cautious to do that. She was a cute baby, too. Will and Sarah were lucky parents, to have a baby with such big, brown eyes and strawberry hair that she just made you want to proclaim to the nations how adorable this baby was. Fellows looked over at the girl, then back at the baby. They left soon after.
Fellows didn’t want to see what was next. He didn’t want to keep walking with this little girl anymore. After all, what was the use in watching a movie or reading a story if he already knew what was going to happen? But there was no turning back now. Literally. When Fellows turned to face the direction from which he had come, he could no longer see the little cement building where he had abandoned his squad. It was gone. They had to keep moving forward, no matter how desperately Fellows wanted to turn back.
Soon they came to another hospital. That was just about all it had in common with the one they had just left. The little town hospital was a happy place, full of rejoicing for new babies and healed injuries. This new hospital was decorated with posters that were practically begging people to donate. It was pretty depressing. But not because of the posters. When they got inside, Fellows felt as though someone had tied weights to his shoes. He simply couldn’t bear to take another step, couldn’t bare to relive this moment, but he had to finish this walk that he wished he had never taken. Up the elevator and down the hall they found room 357 and walked through the open door. Fellows saw his sweet little baby, only five years old, lying there in the hospital bed. All her long, thick, perfect, strawberry hair was gone. She was smiling her big, familiar grin up at a still young fellows and blinking her perfect, loving brown eyes at him. The monitor started to beep faster. Some of the other machines in the room started beeping warnings at them, telling them to get moving, time was almost up. A nurse rushed in, and then a doctor, and then a specialist. Will smiled sadly down at his little baby girl, the person he loved the most, the person he would die for. He leaned down and hugged her tightly, kissing her on the forehead, then on the cheek. Some more nurses came in and rolled her bed and her lifelines away for an emergency operation.
“I love you, Daddy!” his sweet, perfect, angelic little girl called down the hallway to him.
“I love you, too, Elizabeth! So much! I’ll see you soon, baby!” he said, more for his own sake than hers. Fellows walked out the door and back down the hallway in the opposite direction of the bed.
Back on the main road, they walked until they were back at Fellows’ parents’ house. The teal pickup was gone; replaced by a black hearse. Once Will, his parents, and Sarah were in the hearse, it backed out of the driveway and the funeral procession began. As Fellows stood on the edge of the lane and watched, he realized that he barely knew half of the people that were trailing the hearse. Maybe he had seen them once or twice at parent meetings for the school Elizabeth had gone to, but that was it. Removing his helmet, he stood there on the edge of the road until all the cars had passed.
Second-to-last building was a simple, gray, warehouse-looking building called a Military Entrance Processing Station. Inside, Will was filling out some paperwork so the officials could determine whether or not he was prepared to enter active duty. It was same year as that day at the hospital, but Will had aged much more than that. Giving the finished paperwork to the secretary, he sat down in the small waiting area of the lobby to await his physical examination. The scene began to change around Fellows and the girl. Now, it was about a month later in the same building. In the waiting area, Will and an officer were shaking hands. They made small talk for awhile, then Will followed the officer into the back office area. Fellows knew that would be the last memory they watched in Georgia. Fellows and the girl left the building.
The last building was small, cement, and covered in dust from the ground around it. Just outside, Will, who was dressed in a soldier’s uniform, was having a silent discussion with his squad. When it was finished, they all nodded. Four stayed outside, Will and three others went inside, then everything was quiet. Fellows and the girl stood there silently for a long time. Then, they heard a single gunshot, and a soft thud.
“I love you, Daddy.” his sweet, perfect, angelic little girl said, looking up at Fellows.
“I love you, too, Elizabeth. So much.” Will reached down and picked up his little baby girl, the person he loved the most, the person he would die for: Elizabeth.