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Conquering Love This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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“Love conquers all.” In my freshman year of college, I had to write an essay on these three little words, centering upon my rejection of or support of it. Not much had come to mind on the topic other than to refute it, seeing as love never had and never would conquer famine, war, or disease. I was a very realistic man… except for today. Today, with her mischievous brown eyes staring up at me and rosy red lips softly on mine, I became an optimist, maybe even somewhat of a dreamer. These rare lapses in judgment weren’t common for me, ever, but once in her presence, they would gradually appear more and more often, oblivious to the immense power this woman who was a year younger than me in terms of age, two years younger than me in terms of education, and yet vitally integral to my own self had over me.

We were strolling down our pier- the same pier we had discovered today, on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, when we had blissfully escaped the giant restaurant table overflowing with her family, friends, and other guests I hadn’t bothered to make mental note of. Our feet dangling over the still-warm Florida water, we talked about our future and kissed our signature gentle kisses, well-aware of the party she had to entertain back at the venue.

Processing the beauty encompassing me- both hers and nature’s- was difficult enough, as we neared the end of the pier and stared, awestruck, at the sunset facing us. Beauty- I’ve always believed- can’t be explained; you need to see it with your own two eyes to truly grasp its magnitude. However, this waning sphere of fire would be worthy of at least the attempt of capturing it in a few words. The entire sky was blue- every imaginable shade of blue possible including baby blue, twenty-leagues-under-the-sea blue, and the blue you see right before your mind even registers the color you’ve been observing is, indeed, blue- save for the intermittent flashes of silent lightning that appeared in celebration of this day. Ironically enough, it wasn’t the nonexistent thunder we were to hear, but the beating of life all around us. The rapid, urgent beating of transparent dragonfly wings, mixed with the easy-going rhythm of the gray pigeons, and topped off with the soothing, almost other-worldly flutter of the orange-spotted butterflies that flew closest to us, pausing near Emma’s outstretched hand, only to sway in place due to the gentle winds that day. The descending sun served to light up the sky one last time today, rays of yellows, oranges, and reds penetrating clouds and blanketing the ocean waters.

The hardest decision we made was to return to our awaiting table, a choice I agreed to only because we would be alone later tonight.

“We need you in here, Emma!” shouted her mom with a wave of her hand, indicating that we’d already spent enough time away from the party. Emma looked up at me with apologetic eyes, knowing just as well as I did that every second away from each other was already too much to bear.

“Go on in, babe. I’ll be right there.” I reassured her with a smile, determined to make this her best birthday to date, free of worries and pressures, especially from me. She smiled- that same smile that, for a split-second, makes you forget every unfortunate, inopportune thing that’s ever happened to you- softly pressed her lips against mine, and turned to walk back to everyone else, her shiny, black stiletto heels echoing with each step she took away from me, each one like a stab to the heart.

Regarding what was left of the sun, I marveled at how deeply this one woman- the woman of my dreams- had affected my life, my goals, my own personal expectations. Our relationship had never been easy when we were apart- the only reason we’d have the occasional argument or quarrel. With her, all worries dissipated, dissolving to mere ashes once we were together. All these thoughts gave rise to one particular conjecture that started me senseless- maybe, just maybe, love DID conquer all.

Before I had time to even process this epiphany, an ear-splitting noise shocked me into reality- into my accustomed role as a realist. It sounded like the launch of a firework, right when you’re sprinting back to your friends for fear that it’ll discharge prematurely and decapitate one of your limbs in the process, but right before the assorted hues and sparkles are seen hundreds of feet above the ground. Hearing what I later realized were screams and shrieks from the guests, I gingerly turned around, expecting to see a burned firecracker or other odd contraption capable of producing such high-pitched sounds, but instead my eyes found Emma sprawled on the ground, as flawless as ever. Lips a pinkish tint, wavy hair reflecting the last few sunrays, and eyes embodying the love she’s always had difficulties expressing verbally. Flawless as ever … save for one detail. It took me a millennium before the realist in me found reality, found solid ground with a solid explanation for the ever-enlarging dark-crimson pool engulfing her body, swallowing the woman of my dreams as mercilessly and ruthlessly as a snake swallows an innocent chipmunk, unaware of the red target that’s been pinned to its back since the day it was born.





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