A Lover, Not a Fighter This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

March 18, 2013
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Mary navigated rows upon rows of identical white pillars. Each only a foot in height, they stretched away in perfect, unbroken lines to the horizon and back, like an endless picket fence. Grazing the tops of the smooth marble monuments as she passed, names and verses swam past her in a blurry stream. “John McEvoy – beloved brother, cherished friend.” “Peter Davies – devoted husband and father.” Some pillars had been carefully adorned with telltale trinkets – the holy relics planted around his plot marked Ray Mirallegro as a devout Catholic, while James Matthews had been an ardent patriot, the miniature flags fluttering in the stiff August breeze testifying to this fact. Still she moved on, the tension in her calves propelling her past names and places to his name, his place. She didn’t recognise it at first, the name which flashed in the harsh sunlight like a foreign verse. Then the tension ebbed away, leaving only tears and tightness to fill the vacuum left by sudden acknowledgement. She clutched at her chest with quivering hands, and her bouquet of crimson poppies dropped to the grassy path, their petals crushed and bleeding as she fell silently to her knees.

Her heart did not belong to the name emblazoned upon the marble - it belonged instead to his shadows, his past incarnations. It had been first conquered by his seven-year-old self, a scruffy-headed, shorts-wearing boy with the bruised knees from across the road. Their friendship had been cemented when he shared with her his bowl of minty gumball ice-cream on Labour Day. They had clanked their spoons together and wished upon the same firework as it wobbled across the twilight sky. Gradually this little boy relinquished his reign, and her heart passed on to the 10-year-old who had helped her hunt down bugs for the nature stand in school – his inherit tenderness with the fragile caterpillars, his awe at the flitting butterflies with their luminous wings, had captivated her then as it did now. Even in the turbulence of adolescence he’d retained the placidity of his soul, delicate in movement and yet so deliberate, so purposeful in his words. They’d become inseparable, walking the length and breadth of the county by day, and making ridiculous plans in the cocoon of the balmy evenings. They would move to Liverpool to be near their heroes and idols, The Beatles. They would find work as shipworkers or bar staff, but their ultimate aim was to become famous novelists, promoting peace and unity, and colouring in the grey expanses of the world with their voice.

The stiffening wind in the graveyard elevated her, transporting her back to that night. She could still feel even now the dewy, writhing grass beneath her summer shawl, the warmth of his forearm radiating through her sleeve. The harvest moon illuminated the line of his jaw as he gazed upon its face, resplendent in the velvety cloak of the night. “You want the moon, Mary? Just say the word and I’ll pull ‘er down for ya!”. She giggled at his Bogart impression, mumbling, “the earth and everything in it will do just dandy, thank you”. He turned to face her, all trace of humour absent from his face. “What do you want, Mary Freeman?” he whispered, his maroon eyes boring into her own arctic grey ones. She bit her lip awkwardly and contemplated her answer. She stumbled over the words of her wishes.

“I want… all that we ever dreamed together – I want Liverpool, I want peace, I want to make a footprint on the world… and I can’t do that without you, so I guess I want you too.”

“I- Mary, I have something to say”, he said with measured breath. His Adams’ apple bobbed in his throat as he delivered his news – “I’m going to war, Mary”.

She was consumed by an initial numbness, but this quickly gave way to a torrent of emotion; panic, fury and confusion each punched her with the force of an iron fist. She collected her pain in her throat and leveled it at him, screeching, shrieking, whispering hoarsely and, when speech evaded her, pummeling his chest with her mailed fists before untangling herself from his grip. He chased her into the night, but it swallowed her up. She couldn’t bear to gaze into the innocent eyes which would soon be indelibly tainted, coated in blood and murder and incomprehensible horror.

That familiar tightness clenched Mary now, squeezing her lungs with the force of the whipping wind, hot on her cheeks. That night had been their last exchange – he had made the journey to the airport alone the following morning, and wrote only to his mother. She had visited her a day or two after the funeral – a woman of exhausting strength, her face of Greek origin bore the creases and stoic humour of someone accustomed to tragedy. The elder woman comforted the younger, and handed her a wadded folder of scraps and discoloured paper. “He wanted you to have this – do what you want with it” she said as she left. Alone, Mary undid the pretty bow which bound the papers in place, and began to study the poems, the sketches – some of her lounging in the cornfields, or mid-swing on the cracked rubber tyre – and newspaper cuttings, charting the war and its statistics to which he now irrevocably.

The chirping of a bluejay about her head returned her to the present. From her pocket she retrieved the document which had been hidden amongst the others in the folder. It was a note, penned in his unmistakable scrawl, and simply read,


if I could find the means to pluck the moon and the stars from heaven for you, I would. If I could gather the earth into a bundle, wrap it up and leave it upon your doorstep, I would. I promise so much, and yet I deliver so little. Please forgive me; I cannot forgive myself. Remember me as you colour the world - I will be with you every step of the journey. Your love forever,


Tucked carefully within the crinkled rice paper was single one-way boat fare to Liverpool. He wasn’t here, he was within her, the imprint of his soul etched upon hers. She shook out the poppies and placed the bouquet among the dense wreaths which littered the damp soil. She cupped her hands and caught the tears which collected at the point of her chin, and tossed her hair which swirled in clumps, obscuring her vision. The taxi tooted its horn – she could spare no more time. The tears continued to flow, rolling down her cheeks and becoming indistinguishable from the rain. She ran back to the car without looking back. Vaulting into the back seat, the taxi driver raised his eyebrows at her momentarily; on catching her eye, however his expression softened. He turned up the radio, and the tinny sound of The Beatles encouraged her tears, only this time, they were accompanied by laughter. Shakily, she sang along as the port came into view,

“all you need is love, all you need is love, all you need is love, love, love is all you need…”.

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SilentNinja This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 22, 2013 at 3:59 pm
I love this!
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