Your Little Soldier This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   She looked at me with fear in her eyes, those pale blue eyes that were shielded over as if they were behind glass. Her wrinkled but kind-looking hands reached out toward me and that was when I realized how much she really cared about me. Then, she started to speak.

I looked out beyond the playing fields that I could see from my grandmother's room in the hospital. Used for sports or gym classes, they were now emptied, not seeming right like that. They looked exactly like I felt inside, empty as a cold and dark room with not one person around to talk to. I longed to be outside where I could be free to think what the months ahead would hold for me, and how to tell my friends why I was so different and why I had suddenly grown up while they were still living in my past. Things are really different now, but how do you explain to someone that you're afraid of dying when nothing is wrong with you?

My friend, Lisa, knew how upset I was. She knew how I felt because she had also been faced with death. Her father had died less than two years ago. Lisa was the only one of my friends who knew. I couldn't deny to Lisa that my grandmother was dying.

I wanted to tell my other friends, but I just couldn't admit that she was dying and that it was just a matter of time. My grandmother seemed to know this, yet there was no trace of it in the way she did things. My grandmother would still take me to the park when she wasn't sick, and she would still cook my favorite foods: macaroni and cheese homemade. Only she could make it the way I really liked. My fears had made me grow up significantly and I knew it. Part of growing up though was admitting I was afraid, and on this subject I still had a great deal of growing up to do.

Sometimes, when my grandmother's pain was unbearable, I would sit and hold her hand, not knowing why she had to be sick; it wasn't fair.

The thing I still worried about most, though, was dying myself. Somehow when my grandmother suffered, so did I. I could feel her pain and I knew when she hurt. This is why I felt I was dying, too, and I knew nothing was wrong with me. One night I didn't feel well at all and I knew something was wrong. It was the middle of the night; I woke up around three. I knew there was something wrong with my grandmother. Just as this thought entered my mind, the phone rang downstairs and my mother picked it up. It was my grandfather. My grandmother was very sick and he asked us to come right away. My grandfather told my mom that it was just a matter of time and there was no hope of recovery. I had overheard this, although I pretended not to. I tried to fool myself into believing Grandma was okay; if I walked in the hospital room she would be smiling at me the way she always did.

"I want to see her. Please, Mom, can I?" I asked my mom.

I was allowed to see her, but when I did, I felt sick. There were big glass objects at the top of her bed covered in plastic and it scared me to think what they were used for. Mixed with everything, there was one thing there that did belong. It was her chain with a heart on it that I had made for her in crafting class. It was ceramic and I had painted it blue, her favorite color. She wore it all the time. When the light hit it a certain way, it would sparkle. It reminded my grandmother of me; she said this was because I put a little sparkle into her life.

I walked up to the bed and she opened her eyes and slowly began to speak.

"Hello, how is my little snowball doing? I still have your heart on. I didn't let them take it off." I just stood there, not knowing what to say.

"I'm doing okay. When are you going to come home? We miss you."

"That is what I need to talk to you about, honey. Come here and sit down beside me. Do you remember the time we watched the movie about the soldier whose best friend died, and he was so brave he didn't cry? He missed him so much and he was so brave?"

I remembered this. I tried to forget it.

"Yes, I remember the movie." I replied. "We watched it and ate a ton of popcorn and we put butter all over the top of it and, and, Grandma, am I going to die?"

"What? Oh, of course not, what makes you think that? I just told you about the movie and the soldier, because the time might come for you to be a brave little soldier. Do you think you can do that?"

"No, Grandma, you can't die! Please don't! I don't want to be a soldier. I LOVE YOU! Don't you love me? Can't you understand that? I'll be good."

"It's not that I don't love you because you know I do, but things like this just happen. I do love you and I need you to be a brave little soldier. Okay, you be my soldier, just mine."

"Okay, Grandmother, I'll be just yours."

That was the last time I would see my grandmother and I knew it. The ride to my grandfather's house seemed to take forever. It felt like we would never get there and no one said anything; it was a cold and miserable night and rain pounded so heavily I thought it would smash the car's roof. I was freezing in the back seat; my jacket felt like it had pine needles in it. I looked over to where my grandmother usually sat and I saw it was empty and I knew that this was a fact I would have to get used to. The rain made it dark with shiny puddles on the road; they looked like silver dollars and they gave me a sinking feeling in my heart. I sat back wanting the darkness to take me away, to make me invisible, just like the stars were invisible under the clouds and just like my grandmother. She was gone, and I would be here without her. I just looked out the window and said, "I'll be your brave little soldier, just yours."


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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