Noah and Ava This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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They had their spot on the hill. It was past the old, rusty fence that you had to wiggle under to get through. The brisk air was filling and escaping from their lungs. They talked about friends, parents, loss, and how awful war was. She thrived at school, and he could barely get a D. They were both poor.

Now, both of them still lived in the small town of Lodge Pole, Montana, 20 years later. When their ever-tight childhood bond broke, they didn’t talk much, just small chitchat at the annual fairs and festivals. Then she went away for what seemed to be forever. They never talked about the future unless they went to their hill, the hill that was abandoned, the hill they had no contact with since the boy and the girl were 12 years old.

Her name was Ava. His name was Noah. On her last day in Lodge Pole she sat on his front porch waiting for him to come home from his job at the bar. She wanted to see him before she left again. He came home in a daze, and saw her with her uniform and chunky boots and knew what was going on, but he pretended like he didn’t. The uniform was a blotchy, green one, and her chunky boots were faded leather. War clothes.

“Noah,” she started very softly with her velvet voice.

“I know, ” he muttered. “Let’s go to the hill.” He was certain that he would never say those words to her again. Even so, he tried to look happy for a moment.

“The hill? I have not thought of it in years,” said Ava.

Noah retrieved his anger and sadness again. “Well, you might have forgotten it, but I haven’t.” Noah tried to clam himself down and said, “ Why are you going in the army? I know how you feel about war. You know how I feel about war.”

A tear fell down on her cheek and onto her uniform.

“It was a promise I made to go to college for free, Noah. I could not turn it down. I hate war. It’s horrible, but this was the only way to get a degree when I did not get that scholarship!” She felt bad that Noah did not approve of her decision.

“Why did you wear that stupid uniform in front of me? Just to prove that you were going? To rub it in my face that you were leaving and getting a future? Noah collected himself, took a moment and said, “ You still look beautiful, Ava.” Noah turned to her, “Do you want to go the hill?”

Ava nodded her head.

They walked to the hill in silence. The hill that had kept all of their childhood secrets. She chose to sit on a rock, and he sat on a tree trunk. The trunk smelled of mildew and mothballs.

“Do you think that college is going to be worth the war?” Noah asked after a few moments.

“No,” Ava sighed.

Noah looked deep into her eyes and asked gently, “Then why are you doing it?”

“ Because I want children someday, and if I can’t afford college for them they might have to do what I’m doing or maybe worse. I need a good job.”

“Don’t go, please,” Noah begged.

“I have to go. I’ve already been to college, and if I don’t go to war I would be breaking the law.”

Noah stood up to stretch in the sun, and Ava watched him, looking at every detail.

“ I will miss you, Noah.”

“You are doing the right thing, Ava, and I love you for it.”

“I love you too,” Ava said. There was a long silence between them. She laid down in the grass and rolled down the hill.

He did the same. He landed by her side, put his arm around her, and kissed her. She didn’t pull away. He melted into her and kept kissing her. Their time was cut when she got up suddenly. She knew she had to be home to finish her packing.

He kissed her and pulled her back down.

“You can stay here you know. We can leave, change our names and never go back,” Noah said.

“No, I told you I have to go. This is going to be good for us and whatever future that we have.” She smiled, paused, as if to even think about his proposition. “You are crazy, you know that?”

“ How many years will I have to wait for you.”

“ Seven years . . . are you going to wait?” The question dangled in the air and over Noah’s head.

“Yes, I would wait eight years if I had to.”

Ava was filled with warmth.

“Will you marry me, Ava?”

“No, are you kidding? I barely know you,” Ava said with a sly smile.

Without words the couple left their hill, and walked to Ava’s loft to finish packing her belongings. A total of 12 minutes later she was at the airport.

“I love you, Ava.”

“I love you too, Noah”

And she was gone.





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