Forever | TeenInk

Forever MAG

By Aerin Gleason, San Diego, CA

In the days of the war, when men and women ran headfirst into ­barrages of gunfire, there was not one person unaffected. Soldiers died, and families submerged in sorrow when the officer knocked on their door. I was no different. I was the naive, fresh-out-of-high-school girl who married a reservist, and then paid the price for my innocence.

I remember that hour vividly: the meek face of the officer, the wind nudging the clouds over the sun, down to the small flag waving on my porch. I bit down on my lower lip. This was the moment that had starred in my nightmares for seven months. At any second, I would wake up and be staring at the ugly popcorn ceiling of my bedroom. That relief never came. Zachary Atmos, my husband, was killed trying to protect an injured comrade.

Exactly one week later, in a whirl of color and people talking too fast, I followed my brother-in-law to my seat at the funeral. It was a miserable day. Rain had poured relentlessly for two days. In my self-pity I believed that the angels were crying.

The militaristic funeral service was covered by neon blue tarps; the riflemen seemed unfazed by the cold. In unison, their guns fired three times in salute to my husband. With every ringing shot, I shook.

I wondered what he had heard in his final moments. Was he in pain when he died? Had he thought of me? What if I had joined alongside him and been deployed also? Would things have been different? Now there was no way of knowing.

Like the statues placed around the cemetery, I was similarly stone-faced, but with ribbons of moisture running down my face. I was crying. I and the attendees around me were like a black-clad sculpture garden, conveying solemnity in our midst. I moved only to accept the flag that was laid over my husband’s coffin. Over the sheet-like drone of the rain, a single bugle player performed the lonely tune of Taps – a lullaby for the dead.

Then, as quickly as everything had begun, it was over. I was walking away, my face downcast toward the sidewalk. I wondered if Zack was watching me, if he was feeling okay. My mind was so wrapped in these questions, I wasn’t paying attention. The stiletto heel of my shoe wedged into a crevice, causing the other to slip on the concrete. My leg flew up while the other collapsed under me. I don’t remember much of the initial fall, but I must have yelled, for the ducks nearby retreated to their hidden nests in the reeds.

My dress was wet and my tumble broke my umbrella. My bangs stuck
to my temples, pressing the newly acquired grime to my face. Forcing myself to my knees, I noticed a diluted film of red coating the ground. Only then did the palms of my hands and my right knee begin to sting. For the millionth time that day, tears flew to my eyes and threatened to spill over my lashes.

My marred hand went to my face instinctively, smearing blood on my cheeks and sending mascara around my eyes and brows. I caught my reflection in a puddle, my shoulders falling at my pathetic image.

Great tufts of hair hung matted, ­soggy, and windblown. My makeup ran in deformed rivers. My black gown was wrinkled and stained with blood. Suddenly, the smallest flash of light caught my eye. Centered neatly in my V-shaped collar hung the necklace I had put on that morning. My gaze was locked on the tiny charm on the delicate chain. Zack had given me it shortly before he was deployed. It depicted the face of a wolf. The flat back of the charm had a single character in Japanese hiragana: Kokoro – the word for “Forever” or “Always.”

I knelt there in the rain and wind, contemplating … always … always … The word sounded so comforting. My fingertips grazed the cool metal at my throat, and I stood. I gathered my purse and my useless umbrella, standing straight and tall. The pendant on my necklace rested comfortably at my heart like unbreakable armor.

A few hours later, I was home, bathed and warm again, hands and knee bandaged with care. Huddled by the fireplace with a book, I looked into the flames, where I swear I saw him smiling his dorky grin at me.

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This article has 129 comments.

Fia-fia BRONZE said...
on Nov. 25 2011 at 6:54 pm
Fia-fia BRONZE, Bethesda, Maryland
4 articles 1 photo 157 comments

This is beautiful, full of emotion. It is really clear why it was put in the magazine! Thank you


on Nov. 25 2011 at 2:08 pm
LifesIllusion BRONZE, Cicero, Indiana
4 articles 0 photos 127 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Don't let your fears slow you down. Instead, chase them down and beat them."

Very emotional story which is harder to write then you think so great job!!! It brought tears to my eyes. 5/5 stars

on Oct. 12 2011 at 6:22 pm
wordsiwrite BRONZE, Greentown, Pennsylvania
1 article 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
Do what you love and love what you do.

This is such a touching, beautiful story. I felt her pain and anguish through the story. Although I can't relate to her, it is so easy to sympathize with her. The end was what really grabbed my attention and moved me with the subtle message. Great, great, great work!

on Sep. 20 2011 at 4:58 pm
ChocoMint SILVER, Bloomington, Indiana
7 articles 0 photos 129 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Love is like swallowing hot chocolate before it has cooled off. It takes you by surprise at first, but keeps you warm for a long time." - Anonymous

"Love starts with a smile, grows with a kiss and ends with a tear." - Anonymous

I cried.  Absolutely beautiful.  <><

Faded SILVER said...
on Sep. 20 2011 at 4:15 pm
Faded SILVER, Minesing, Other
6 articles 1 photo 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
Live, Love, Laugh. Don't forget the cake.

So sad, yet so touching. I knew several people that deployed, and two who were killed in action, along with my great-grandfather in the Battle of the Atlantic. Too true...

italy said...
on Sep. 20 2011 at 8:32 am
really sad and i could imagen it in my was ireally good descriptive

Mackie BRONZE said...
on Aug. 29 2011 at 6:59 pm
Mackie BRONZE, Neverland, Indiana
4 articles 0 photos 11 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Life isnt about waiting for the storms to pass... It's learning to dance in the rain."

please check out some of my stuff if you have time :) i appreciate comments !


Mackie BRONZE said...
on Aug. 29 2011 at 6:58 pm
Mackie BRONZE, Neverland, Indiana
4 articles 0 photos 11 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Life isnt about waiting for the storms to pass... It's learning to dance in the rain."

yes ! tht was awesome... so descriptive ! i could see the entire plot in my head !

on Aug. 29 2011 at 6:29 pm
Vacilator BRONZE, Merritt Island, Florida
4 articles 2 photos 96 comments

Favorite Quote:
No cup of tea is large enough, or book long enough, to suit me.
-C.S. Lewis

Totally great!  Really sad, because the husband dies, but very well-written!

on Jul. 16 2011 at 2:15 pm
icecreamrules, Alameda, California
0 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
Something Woody Allan said , " Its fine strolling down the memory lane, just don't build a house there. "
Thats probably not exact. But it spoke to me.

Warming with a bit of sadness..


on Jul. 16 2011 at 9:01 am
Terminal_Laziness PLATINUM, ????, Ohio
40 articles 1 photo 773 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I am not invincible or unstoppable, but I stay strong because it is the only way to survive in this world."

It was very sad, but I loved it! Great work and keep writing! I just posted two of my books online called nightstalker and the beast. If any of u decide to read them that would great and make sure that u post comments! Thanks! :D and keep writing everyone! :)

on Jul. 16 2011 at 12:43 am
just-another-url GOLD, Cannes, Other
16 articles 6 photos 151 comments

Favorite Quote:
"It's a good thing to be strange. Normalness leads to sadness." -Philip Lester

This reminds me of the service at Arlington for my grandpa, very well written. Good job on being published in the magazine. 

on Jun. 24 2011 at 3:11 pm
insearchofsoni BRONZE, St.John&#39s, Florida
3 articles 0 photos 13 comments

Favorite Quote:
"For you, a thousand times over."

This is really good :D Visuals, description, I really did like it!
Please, take this as consructive ciriticism, but "kokoro" means 'heart' in Japanese; "Eein" means 'forever" ^o<

inkers GOLD said...
on Jun. 24 2011 at 12:22 pm
inkers GOLD, Midland, Texas
10 articles 0 photos 41 comments

Favorite Quote:
"And the lamplight gloating o'er him threw his shadow on the floor... and my soul from out that shadow... shall be lifted, nevermore!" - Poe

Your use of language is very good, and made the story colorful, even though its theme was not so. I could visualize everything here perfectly, which means you did great! This was a wonderful and beautifully written piece.

on Jun. 15 2011 at 3:20 am
clover96 BRONZE, Santa Monica, California
2 articles 0 photos 3 comments
this kinda reminds me of a famous letter a soldier wrote to his wife before he died

on May. 11 2011 at 10:38 am
A.PaigeTurner, San Antonio, Texas
0 articles 0 photos 125 comments

Favorite Quote:
You think that everybody hates you. You should really stop that.- A Good Friend

I loved the story and that picture of Arlington cemetary.

on May. 11 2011 at 8:26 am
Jorman123 BRONZE, Auburn, New York
2 articles 0 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
"To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest."

This was so amazingly well written and heartfelt, and my heart goes out to you. This is a beautiful story, and I think writing is a great way to cope with loss. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

RealRiot said...
on Apr. 19 2011 at 8:31 pm
RealRiot, Perth, Other
0 articles 0 photos 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
If A Girl Says She's Cold, Don't Just Say Me Too. ~Anonymous

Anyone who devotes time and attention to what makes people tick, to me, is a smart person.~Ron Silver

I love this story, it was sad but it made me smile. My dad's an army man and I was able to relate to the story a little. Keep writing.

storystar said...
on Apr. 19 2011 at 2:16 pm
storystar, Raleigh, North Carolina
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." -Dr. Seuss

I love this! It's sad, but I love your style! I could really picture the story.

on Mar. 28 2011 at 4:41 pm
TragicMagic SILVER, Smiths Grove, Kentucky
8 articles 1 photo 37 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Life isn't about how popular you are... What girl or boy you are dating or who you know. Life is about always being true to who you are or what you believe in. Never let anyone convince you that their way is better than your way. In the end all we have is our hearts...and our minds. This is the reason why we sing... this is the reason why we cry... this is why we live."

My bro is in war and I love this story. Kinda made me cry though. :')