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I often think about the past. The differences between now and then. The little changes in our physical features; even more so mentally. Maybe even emotionally. It all depends on the events that have taken place since then, it could be from just simply breaking your arm, or losing someone you loved more than anything in the entire world. Which is what happened to me. I was the one who lost someone that I cared about. I was the one who was supposed to sob and cry and be weak. But being weak and vulnerable is not something I take kindly to, so to speak.
I sat amongst the tear stained faces of my family and his, holding his mother’s hand and my mother’s hand. His mother was weeping into her husband’s shoulder, who was trying his hardest to keep himself together. My mother squeezed my hand and wiped away tears of her own. I refused to look back. I refused to turn my head and look into the sea of people behind me, their faces grim and devastated.
And I? No. No I wasn’t crying. Nor was I grieving his death. I was the strong one, the one who always comforted people. I always had been. When my grandmother passed, for a brief moment I was the strong and stable adult. Both my parents have always been very emotional and could never hide their feelings, so I took over that job. And it was my outlet to grieve.
I held my head up high in the pew, gazing at Ben’s uniformed picture standing close to the casket. I knew he wouldn’t want me to hurt, I knew he wanted me to be proud of him more than anything. And believe me, I could never in my life be any more prouder than that moment. His blue eyes so intense, sparkling with excitement and nervousness to have joined the Army. His mouth set in a serious line, making him look like a veteran already.
I remember the day he left. I remember that day better than when he proposed to me in Martha’s Vineyard. Not a word was spoken between us, but communication flowed through both of us like we were screaming. I gripped his hand tightly in mine as we walked down the bus station silently. His family were coming a little later to say goodbye. It was nine o’clock exactly, his bus was going to leave at nine thirty.
We sat down in the cheap chairs lining the walls, him sitting taller than me by a long shot. I stared at his now buzzed hair, running my hand over the stubble-like top. I loved the feeling that played over my hands as the shortened strands ran against my hand. It suddenly brought back memories of the night before. I shivered with delight and stood up abruptly. His blue eyes followed my green ones as I pulled him to his feet.
“Dance with me,” I whispered in his ear. He flashed his mischievous grin and took my hand in his, placing his other hand on my waist. And we danced. He twirled me around and around until I got dizzy and would nearly fall over my own feet. I laughed out loud and smiled until my face began to get sore. He would lead of course, but ever since we had met, I taught him how to dance properly. People stared, which is only natural I suppose, but most of them had a sad smile on their faces. I guess I should’ve had one myself, but I just couldn’t in that moment. That small but huge moment in which I knew even if he never did come back, he would never leave my mind. Ever.
The rain poured down on the paved walkways of the cemetery, making pitter-patter noises on my black umbrella. For the first time since Ben had died, I was alone. I was utterly and completely alone. I took my time walking up to his grave, my slightly wet high heels making a hollow clacking noise on the pavement. I knelt just ahead of the stone, ignoring the wet grass staining my black dress at the knees. I wasn’t cold or shivering, I felt good about what I was about to do. In fact, I was anticipating it with a great thrill.
I shut my umbrella slowly, setting down in the grass next to me. The rain poured itself over my body, cleansing me of all things that have plagued my mind over the years. I could feel it with heightened senses as the soothing water ran through my dark hair, soaking my dress through and through. I leaned back and tilted my face to the gray skies and let the raindrops fall across my relaxed face.
At this moment, I could feel him with me. I could feel his presence hovering over me protectively, watching me with that small smile that never had the chance to leave my mind. A tear slid out of my eye and blended with the trails of rainwater weaving their way down my cheeks and neck. But only one. Only one tear pushed itself into the open. The only tear I would allow to escape.
I picked myself up from the ground, not bothering to brush myself off. I didn’t reopen my umbrella either, I just picked it up from the ground and held it limply in my hand. I gazed at his headstone, then up at the gray sky. I clenched my jaw and breathed in deeply.
“I’ll be seeing you,” I murmured, quoting Ben’s favorite goodbye. I had let go. I had finally let go. But his legacy stayed in my soul during that walk in the rain, giving me hope and optimism. Just the way he wanted it to be. Just the way I wanted it to be.