A Broken Railroad

January 20, 2012
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A broken cry, a hollow scream,
tear through the fog filled night.

Her necklace scatters in the dirt as he rips it off her neck.
The events of when she was presented with the priceless gift come flooding back to her.

She woke up that morning almost five years ago, tired and groggy. She was on break from school and loved that she was able to sleep in. Her older brother came into her room, more awake than her. "Get ready. I'm taking you out today!" Steve was a great brother to her. He always knew how to cheer her up.

An hour later the bathroom smelled of Aria's shampoo, nail polish and perfume. "Alright Steve, I'm ready to go." Rocking onto her tippy-toes she stood before her brother. She can't remember how this habit started but she always did it when she was anxious. Steve didn't give Aria any clue about where they were going, and that was just fine with her. She was happy to spend time with her only sibling.

They drive past the maple tree that they are now too big to climb. They crossed the bridge that they used to skip stones off of into the murky water. Steve was always good at rock skipping while Aria never found the right technique.

Steve started to slow down when they got to the railroad tracks. Aria's face lit up with excitement and pleasure. The railroad was their spot. They used to pack lunches and walk the fifteen miles to the site. Aria could still remember the taste of the bologna, cheese and mustard sandwiches. The sound of the crisp pop can opening and the feeling of soft chocolate chip cookies was engraved in their memories. Steve went to the trunk of his car and pulled out a red cooler. As he waved it in front of his sister their eyes met and they burst out laughing. Aria always thought that the cooler got thrown out, but apparently Steve had taken it to college with him.

The cooler still had their names carved into the bottom with their sloppy writing. "I brought our favorites" Steve told his sister. As they ate the sandwiches and cookies Steve could only see the thirteen year old Aria that he used to do this with. When they had finished eating they cleaned up their subtle mess and headed for the car. "I still have one more activity planned for you lil' sis." Aria perked up with the mention and more time being spent together. She loved the bond her and her brother shared.
Steve got into the car and Aria followed. "Off onto another adventure" she thought to herself. They began to enter the city, and Aria couldn't recall any memories they had created there. They loved being outside as kids, not stuck in some shopping mall.
Aria was a little confused, but happy to be with Steve. They hadn't hung out in awhile, and this was well needed. Steve led the way into the different stores where they looked at clothes, candles, cds, and shoes. When they entered the jewelry store Aria's lips curved over her sparkling teeth. She loved necklaces and rings. However she was very particular as to what she would wear.

Lost in the beauty of all the diamonds and silver she didn't notice Steve at the checkout counter. They left the store and she made a mental note to herself that it was time to add a new piece of jewelry to her collection. However choosing one item would take some time.

Back in the car they headed home and they sang to the radio the whole way. In the driveway Aria thanked her brother for the great day, and hugged him. She pulled back and noticed that something was wrong when she looked at him. She could hear the tremble in his voice when he had said "You're welcome Aria", Steve told her he needed to tell her something. They entered their home and went this room. Aria was scared as to what needed to be said, but she tried not to show it. She could tell Steve was already upset about it. They sat in silence until he was ready to talk.

He was stumbling over his words. "I...I, Aria I don't know how to tell you this but, I'm going into the Marines." Her eyes widened with shock, fear and disbelief. "Steve! I don't know what to say! It's good that you’re doing this, but do you have to?! I don't want to lose you. You mean..." Tears poured down her face, as he held onto his words, trying to spare his sister from anymore pain. "I know, I knew this would be hard on you, but I promise I will be okay. That's why I took you out today; so that we could have another good memory to share." He gently told his sister this and explained everything to her. Why he was joining, when he was going, how the whole thing worked. The make-up that Aria had put on early that day was no longer on her eyes. "You're really leaving tomorrow?" He nodded. "I know I should have told you sooner, but I didn't want to upset you any sooner than I had to." "I understand" She whispered with her head down. Aria and Steve continued talking about the matter, and he answered each question she tossed at him.

Downstairs they decided to make some more chocolate chip cookies and watch old movies. For the rest of the night they tried to act as cheery as possible for each other, but they both knew what was coming as the hour neared. Steve had to leave the house at three in the morning to make his flight in time; so they said their goodbyes before going to bed.

Aria woke up after nine, and yesterday’s events were still fresh in her mind. Tears formed in the corners of her eyes as she got out of bed, reaching for a tissue. Instead of the box of tissues she felt a smaller box sitting next to them. It was a box from the jewelry store they visited the day before. Opening it she was faced with a heart shaped necklace, that had rail road tracks in the upper corner and "Steve” carved in the back. There was a picture as well, under the box. It was from when they were kids. They both had chocolate smeared on their face from the cookies. Aria remembered that day perfectly.

Every day when Aria wakes up she puts the necklace on, and cleans it once a month. The necklace means the world to her and she treasures it dearly. Steve and her write constantly and occasionally he can call. Aria bakes chocolate chip cookies and mails them along with other items that she knows he will enjoy. Over the past four years Steve has been able to visit eight times. Twice a year. No matter what season he is home for they celebrate their birthdays together. They go to the railroad and eat bologna, cheese and mustard sandwiches. They baked chocolate chip cookies and watch the old movies. When he leaves again the goodbyes are still hard, but they are getting used to it, and can manage with less tears each time.

It's December and Aria knows Steve will not be home for Christmas. She starts mixing together the batter for chocolate chip cookies. The door bell rings and she answers it getting mad at the fact that it’s cold outside and she doesn't want any cold air in the toasty house. A man in various greens and tans was standing on the porch. Aria recognizes the uniform instantly. She reaches for her heart necklace and thumbs over the railroad tracks nervously. Shaking her head now, the solider whispers "I'm sorry" and she falls into his arms. His uniform becomes stained with black mascara and salty tears as he comforts Steve's sister. Aria gathers herself and takes the dog tags. "I was close with Steve, and he wanted you to have this." He extends a book in her direction and she accepts it.

Aria completely forgets about the cookies and she walks upstairs crying, holding the book to her chest. Once she finally calms down enough she opens the book. "Aria, lil sis, I plan to write in the book everyday I'm not home with you. I will try my best to do so. I love you so much. Never forget the memories we shared. Your brother forever, Steve."

The book was filled with letters, drawings, memories and events. Some days he had written a lot and others just a few words. She read about the struggles he had been facing each day and about the funny things his friends had done or said. Aria could not believe that Steve had done that for her.

Every morning she would put on the heart necklace and read some of the book, she kissed the dog tags that hung by the photo of them and began her day.

She is jerked back into reality when she feels her leg snap from his force.
The unbearable pain rushes through her body as she screams for help.

Reaching for the pendant she finally grasps it. She knows her fate, as she can see it approaching in the shadow above her.

Clutching the rail road necklace to her chest like the day she received the news she whispers, "Steve, I'm coming home to you."

The figure about her is inches away as she shuts her eyes and pictures her brother. Repeating the sentence again she gets lost for a moment.

When her eyes open she is standing on the railroad confused. She looks to her right and sees Steve in the distance smiling. "I missed you lil' sis."

She runs to his embrace and feels the necklace hitting her chest with each step.
They sit down with some chocolate chip cookies and Steve begins to read Aria's book to him.

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