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.

on Mar. 6 2011 at 3:48 pm
remembermeplz PLATINUM, Friend, Nebraska
36 articles 10 photos 230 comments

Favorite Quote:
"when the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace" -- Jimi Hendrix

I love it =) made me cry which makes me like it even more =)

on Mar. 6 2011 at 1:17 pm
RomeofreeJuliet BRONZE, Ottawa, Other
1 article 0 photos 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
"At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet." -Plate

It's really touching, keep writting!

on Mar. 6 2011 at 2:58 am
FutureSoldier, Alderson, Oklahoma
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
"Better to die on your feet, than to live on your feet.

As an enlisted soldier in the united states army Rangers I can strongly relate to this, what was your husbands MOS?

on Feb. 12 2011 at 4:48 pm
Caffiene-Free-I-Swear BRONZE, Middletown, New York
2 articles 0 photos 2 comments
This is just one of those stories that is so sad, but I couldn't help but smile alittle at the very end. Keep writing. =]

anne.Brooke said...
on Feb. 12 2011 at 9:25 am
anne.Brooke, Mumbai, Other
0 articles 0 photos 19 comments

Favorite Quote:
I'd rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I'm not.
-Kurt Cobain touching... :)

on Jan. 21 2011 at 8:30 pm
The.King SILVER, Golden, Colorado
9 articles 1 photo 70 comments

Favorite Quote:
"A story's beginning is a sudden event. The start, a happy accident; the end, the fate for which it's meant. A story that never ends is a sad fate."-Miss Edel

I don't know if you've read it yet, but I think you would like the book "Lone Survivor" by Marcus Luttrell, awesome book about the Navy SEAL

on Jan. 21 2011 at 1:44 pm
paige.ward BRONZE, Dexter, Michigan
3 articles 0 photos 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
I'm not random you just can't think as fast as me.

great story love it

Emkat said...
on Jan. 21 2011 at 1:41 pm
Really cool story, I had to keep myself from crying at the last line :) Really well done!!!

on Jan. 21 2011 at 10:15 am
sleepingsoundly BRONZE, Unknown, Massachusetts
3 articles 0 photos 15 comments

that was incredibly well written.

are you going to go farther with the story? or back track?

nice job!

on Dec. 30 2010 at 1:39 pm
theEMOrequiem GOLD, Aurora, Colorado
17 articles 0 photos 12 comments

Favorite Quote:
Just because it's green doesn't mean it's edible!!!!

Coincidentally, I was listening to Just a Dream by Carrie Underwood while reading this and before the last sentence I waas balling my eyes, wonderful story.

twixy said...
on Dec. 30 2010 at 1:38 pm
i think it very inspiring, too.

AmberA BRONZE said...
on Dec. 22 2010 at 9:30 am
AmberA BRONZE, Karachi, Other
4 articles 0 photos 12 comments

Favorite Quote:
Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.
-Oscar Wilde.

This is so amazing and beautiful.

Mostly inspiring, you'd make a best selling author :)

on Dec. 10 2010 at 6:13 pm
fashionlover16 SILVER, New Gloucester, Maine
5 articles 0 photos 49 comments

Favorite Quote:
I honestly don't know what my favorite personal quote is. I can tell u what i like, if u want that. I really like the twilight series. whenever my mom suggests that we should go shopping, i light up. I love shopping. well thats about it, byez!!!!! <3

 tht is true, very good point :)

kkbutterflys said...
on Dec. 10 2010 at 3:33 pm
yes i do agree but you just dont no wut their situation is. maybe they were in a hurry. u never know.

on Dec. 9 2010 at 3:10 pm
fashionlover16 SILVER, New Gloucester, Maine
5 articles 0 photos 49 comments

Favorite Quote:
I honestly don't know what my favorite personal quote is. I can tell u what i like, if u want that. I really like the twilight series. whenever my mom suggests that we should go shopping, i light up. I love shopping. well thats about it, byez!!!!! <3

i know that they arent, but stil I think i would atlest write a little more then " Good Story" i mean dont u agree??

on Dec. 8 2010 at 10:09 pm
OpalFlame BRONZE, Houston, Texas
4 articles 0 photos 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow."

This was so great.. inspiring. Keep it upp(:

on Dec. 8 2010 at 8:14 pm
yearsgoneby SILVER, Montclair, New Jersey
5 articles 0 photos 7 comments
Absolutely beautiful story!

on Dec. 8 2010 at 5:52 pm
JAckgezalian BRONZE, Fresno, California
2 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself

Amazing!! but if i can give one piece of constructive criticism, theres a part where you ask a few rhetorical questions. In my opinion i believe theres just one too many. But otherwise phenomenal!!! Keep it up :D

kkbutterflys said...
on Dec. 8 2010 at 4:36 pm
some people arent as emotional as other people. so dont go all out

on Dec. 8 2010 at 3:36 pm
MimeOfAnarchy BRONZE, Winter Park, Florida
2 articles 0 photos 1 comment
Shed a few tears while reading this, made me think more about wanting to join the SEALs.   Great piece, very moving.  Ooyah.