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The Bench That Held It All This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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She walked slowly through a field of leaves, letting her feet drag. All she could hear was the subtle crinkling of earthy toned leaves under her small feet. She looked down at them, pushing them around with the tips of her toes. The leaves reminded her of herself, they were once full of life, sitting up tall on the towering oak trees. But now, they were nothing but forgotten. She knew this place, she remembered it well. But despite all her efforts, she could not recognize it. It was different, the times have changed this place she once knew so well, much like the times have changed her. She continued walking, coming across a fallen tree. The remnants of what used to be a weeping willow. She remembered this tree. How its long wispy rods used to cascade down towards the ground. She remembered slipping away behind those rods and leaning against its massive trunk for hours. Listening to the sound of the wind sift through the trees many string like limbs. She lowered herself to the ground, leaning against the ancient trunk one last time. She closed her eyes and she could almost hear the rustling of the leaves in the wind. She smiled slightly at the memory, but it didn’t linger. She quickly opened her eyes and rose from the ground. She continued to move forward, it wasn’t long until she came across her second artifact. A tree with more twisted limbs than you could count. She approached the tree, circling its entwined arms. She found what she was looking for; she slowly glided her fingers over the small engraving. She could barely make out their initials, but they were still there, they would always be there. She looked up at the mess of twisted branches. She’d never seen something so ununiformed look so beautiful before. She reached up and pulled herself into the branches. Letting them engulf her. She could almost hear their laughter reverberating through the trees. A ghostly tune of what used to be, what she would do anything to have back. She slid out of the tree, letting herself hit the ground hard. The sound of rustling leaves and snapping twigs filled the air. She lay there for a while. Staring up at the blue sky through the branches. After a while she mustered the courage to get up. She hadn’t reached the last stop on her tour down memory lane yet. She’d saved the best for last. She slowly made her way through the trees. She knew where she was going this time. She’d walked this path countless times. Along the way, she lost herself in the scenery. Letting her heart take over and guide her to her destination. Before she knew it, it was right in front of her. An old bench. It wasn’t just an old bench to her, it wasn’t always this way. It once was a beautiful wooden structure with intricately designed iron sides. Now, it was rusted, and chipped, but it still had the same effect on her. She stood there for a while, unmoving, just staring at the scene before her. She recalled sitting there, sixteen years old with her legs crossed lightly on the seat of the bench, book in hand. She had been so immersed in that book that she didn’t notice when someone sat beside her. When she was finally aware of the stranger’s presence, she looked up to see a boy, of about eighteen years of age. She remembered his smile; she could have sworn the whole world stopped then and there. “Hello,” he said. And that’s what began it all. Countless days filled with sitting on that very same bench with him. She couldn’t think of a place that she would rather be. That bench was where they first met, that bench was where he proposed to her, and that bench was where she had to say goodbye. She remembered it all so vividly. She looked down at the ring on her left hand. She never had the courage to take it off. The ring was him, as long as she had that ring he would be with her. She was sure of it. She looked back up at the bench. She couldn’t bring herself to sit down, not without him. So she settled down next to it, feeling its presence. Remembering everything, feeling every emotion just as strongly as before. The good, the bad, the beautiful. It was all there, it was still there. She couldn’t bring herself to turn around yet. But she knew what was there; she felt it in the air. Lingering like a cinder block on her chest. She looked over her shoulder and saw it. The small half circle stone, resting just behind that bench, the bench that held everything. She didn’t have enough strength to stand, so she crawled like a child until she was facing the stone. She read off his name, his birthday and the day he left her. She read on, beloved son, brother, husband, and father. She ran her hand softly through the thin green grass surrounding him. She shifted her body until she was lying down next to him. She laid there for hours, never wanting to leave his side. But she knew she had to. Just not now. For now she was just going to lay with him and remember everything as best she could. “One day,” she whispered. “One day, I’ll be able to join you, and we can pick up right where we left off.” She smiled as the sun set over them both.




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