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For · ev · er (adv) Without ever ending; eternal. Continually; incessantly; always.

In the course of one lifetime, a person will hear the word ‘forever’ repeated an infinite number of times.

It’s taking forever to get to the cashier.

It’s been forever since I saw you last.

I’ll love you forever, baby.

What does forever mean, really? Does it mean an eternity? Or just a single human lifetime? Or maybe just one breath; a single event in a never-ending progression of voices; of people; of lives. Of deaths.

She stared down at the words printed neatly on the dictionary page. Adverb. Never-ending. She wondered how people could even attempt to define forever. It was larger than life; larger than anything. Forever could be cold and evil, warm and tender. It could shift and turn and swirl into lives where it had no business belonging.

And yet, there it sat, printed neatly on the dictionary page. Seven little letters that stood for everything; everything and anything.

She shuddered just imagining forever. In her world, there was no guarantee that you’d even live past the next heartbeat. A single, solitary moment could change the course of millions of lives. Or just one.

Though that didn’t matter, she whispered to herself. It didn’t matter if one moment changed one or a million lives, as long as it changed something. Anything. A second could, say, affect a squirrel. One moment, it would be scampering across a deserted road, its mind concentrated solely on collecting nuts before the autumnal winds got chillier. The next moment, it would be merely a spot on the tar, while the car that changed everything sped off into the distance. The squirrel would be gone forever; there was no reversing the icy, harsh flow of time. But would anyone feel the difference that one squirrel had made? Would anyone miss it? Remember it? Think that it had played any part at all in the grand scheme of the universe? Or would it simply be a dot on the memory of earth? One squirrel that had lived and died. Died at the hands of something that it couldn’t control.

She felt a sob catch in her throat, and hurriedly closed the dictionary. As she stared at the worn, cheap red paper cover of the book, she wondered if she was going insane. Here she sat, on a hot midsummer day in the middle of an air-conditioned library filled with muted whispers and the restrained laughter of children, holding an ordinary book with an ordinary purpose, practically crying over a squirrel that had died in her imagination.

Maybe I’m not so insane, after all, she thought, stretching back in her chair, and gazing out the window, where children in shorts and t-shirts scampered about merrily, shouting to one another. After all, forever—time, itself, actually—was a scary thing.

And one moment was a scary thing.

One moment had sure changed her life. One moment she was healthy, and the next, she had cancer. She wondered if she had sensed anything, the very moment she had fallen ill. The very moment she would rage over and cry over and generally try to relive for the rest of her life. She wondered if there even had been just one moment. It could’ve happened over a long span of time, but she didn’t like that idea as well as the one where one moment had changed everything. That one moment formed a line she would cross back and forth, back and forth in her mind. She rather liked the idea of one line cleanly separating her past and her present; separating happiness and sorrow; healthiness and sickness. One line.

It made her sickness seem less real, or maybe more real, in a way. It gave her a starting line and a finishing line. A place from which, if she went backwards, she could relive happy times, carefree joy. Or if she went forwards, she could examine the true nature of her character. One line didn’t seem substantial to her in reality, but in the course of her life, she liked to think that it had made all the matter of a difference, and that one line had changed everything. One line, she mused. One line. That was it. One line that she could not redraw, one line she could not white out and ink over.

She dropped the dictionary on the vandalized desk where she sat, and reached down to pull her sketchpad out of her backpack. Flipping through the pencil-covered pages, she paused at the one exactly in the middle.

There sat a graphite portrait of a girl with too-large eyes, a too-small nose, and too-full lips. With dark hair cropped short to her head, and eyes half-shut, she was attractive in a strange, rather dark sort of way. A funny quirk graced her mouth along with high cheekbones under which were thin cheeks. Her face was cast in half-shadows, expertly shaded in.

She thought of this portrait as the line. Her sketchbook was her physical reminder of what her mind contained, her thoughts captured by fleeting, short strokes of a pencil, flying over a blank page with a grace that she only achieved through her drawing.

Before the portrait, on the first few pages of the book, were sketches of a grinning, chubby little girl in a sundress, sitting on a faraway beach, waves crashing in the background, the salt air almost tangible. Sunlight always shone on her, and she often held some toy or a piece of candy in one of her plump hands. After those sketches came some of an older girl, middle school aged, maybe. She was still smiling, but the smiles were softer now, and the face and figure had thinned down. Her eyes blinked out from under a fringe of thick, dark hair that fell down to her waist. The next sketches portrayed a young teenager, still smiling…but her smile had a haunted air to it. She was happy, though, proved by the light in her dark eyes, and the dimples on her cheeks.

And then came the line.

The sketches after the line were a jumble of chaotic portraits. It was always the same girl as in the line portrait. The strokes used in these drawings were darker now, thicker and angrier, slashing across the page. The pictures were beautiful, dark and haunting. The expressions on the girl’s face would change from intense joy to overbearing sadness. But the eyes never changed. They would always be half-shut, flat, dark, contrasting sharply with the life-filled face they sat in.

Join the Discussion

This article has 6 comments. Post your own!

linnoxfawn said...
Oct. 22, 2013 at 8:04 pm:
You're a fantastic writer. Amazing twist halfway gave me chills. You do words justice.
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juliam This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 16, 2011 at 5:27 pm:

This is awesome. Extremely clever and well writtn (I LOVE the squirell bit, it's hilarious and contrasts well with the darkness of the rest of the story). 

But I can't help but agree with DiamondsInTheGrass.... the ending is a little off, a little flat. I almost understand why you chose to do it like that, because, really, her life is just a moment and forever, all wrapped in one, but it's still a little awkward. 

And of course, other than that, it's amazing. 

... (more »)
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DiamondsIntheGrass This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 3, 2010 at 7:22 pm:

this is beautiful, but the ending leaves me with the thought: "thats it?  whaaaat?  anythign else?


are you sure?


just saying.

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joywriter18 said...
Jun. 23, 2010 at 5:40 pm:
well written, though a tad too rambling at times.  i got a little lost in all of your beautiful prose, because it doesn't quite have a plot.  keep writing, i did enjoy this, write a story.
Starkid42 replied...
Mar. 18, 2011 at 3:11 pm :

Aw, I like the rambling. It reminds me of my own mind. :P

There's something beautiful in prose that doesn't have to conform to a plot like silly, inferior works, like actual books. (Note: this sarcasm was intended as a compliment.) Something freeing.

Especially the one-line sentences.

Which was not intended as a play on the line in your piece, but worked out rather nicely if I do say so myself.

Happy rambling.

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SeaStorm This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 14, 2010 at 11:41 am:
I love it :)
Keep writing, darling! <3
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