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 May. 24 2010 at 12:19 pm
sundaelover116 BRONZE, Ann Arbor, Michigan
3 articles 0 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind" ~Dr. Suess

wow!!! amazing

on May. 2 2010 at 9:49 pm
Alice_in_Wonderland GOLD, San Clemente, California
16 articles 0 photos 620 comments

Favorite Quote:
“I could give up, I could stay stuck, or I could move on, So I put one foot front of the other, No no no nothing’s gonna break my stride, “ –David Archuleta (The Other Side of Down)

Great job! I loved this story and it is well written. Keep it up!

on Apr. 10 2010 at 6:50 pm
Very, very well written and detailed. Good job, Aerin G.!

on Apr. 10 2010 at 8:41 am
writergirl13 GOLD, Cherry Hill, New Jersey
11 articles 8 photos 261 comments

Favorite Quote:
All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusions is called a philosopher.
Ambrose Bierce

This is absolutely amazing! I loved the use of similes and metaphors. I can only hope this is not a personal experience you had to go through, but if it is, remember that you can always go through a storm and come out singing on the other side. Please look at some of my work, that would be greatly appreciated.

on Mar. 19 2010 at 3:24 pm
firstsnowfalls DIAMOND, Marcellus, New York
51 articles 6 photos 105 comments
wow. this was awesome. so moving, so emotional. it felt very real. but i hope it wasnt...

on Mar. 19 2010 at 2:53 am
SolvoAnimus BRONZE, Jamaica, New York
1 article 0 photos 29 comments
I'm sorry to hear about your husband...but he is in better hands now...

as we all will be one day.

But let his death not be in vain.

Do all you can, and pray for him...and for yourself.

I can't imagine how it feels....but I do know this..... God is there for everybody.

So don't lose faith in the very same being that created you and your husband.

May Gods mercy be upon your husband and yourself, and everyone...

God Bless

on Feb. 10 2010 at 7:39 pm
DallysGrrl PLATINUM, Middlesex, New Jersey
20 articles 0 photos 199 comments
I was impressed!!!! really great!!!! wow!!!! i got a little teary-eyed!!!!

on Feb. 3 2010 at 10:02 pm
SpiritFlyte BRONZE, Washington, Michigan
1 article 0 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
ANNE MORROW LINDBERGH:
Him that I love, I wish to be free -- even from me.

My boyfriend is in the reserves, you just described my worst nightmare. Your story, whether truth or fiction, really struck a cord. You managed to capture every thought and fear that races through them mind of someone with a loved one being deployed, or joining the military. Very moving piece great job.

on Feb. 3 2010 at 8:04 pm
bamboom212 PLATINUM, Chestnut Ridge, New York
23 articles 0 photos 155 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The truth with a bad intent, is worse than any lie you can ever invent."
"You are smarter than you think. You are stronger than you look. You are braver than you feel."

i luvv this story. it had a gr8 concept and u did an awesome job with the descriptionz. keep it up & plz write more!!

Pillow BRONZE said...
on Jan. 12 2010 at 11:58 pm
Pillow BRONZE, Spokane, Washington
1 article 5 photos 300 comments

Favorite Quote:
Nothing says oops like a wall of flame.

Wow. I lost 2 grandfathers this year. I'm so happy that you can find comfort in your time of greif. I understand your loss.

on Jan. 12 2010 at 11:14 pm
homewardbound, Billerica, Massachusetts
0 articles 8 photos 78 comments
I thought that the part about the dorky grin really brought personallity to her strong soldier. This part helped me connect with the piece, I liked it.

M.B. said...
on Jan. 12 2010 at 12:37 pm
That story was rather touching. I though it really spoke to the reader.

on Jan. 12 2010 at 8:26 am
chris brumfield, Warrenville, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments
this is a great story. You were very descriptive throughout the whole story. It really caught the readers a attention.

alexb31 said...
on Jan. 11 2010 at 8:37 am
Very nice job. You were very descriptive and put alot of heart into this story.

on Dec. 22 2009 at 6:13 pm
SerenityMine BRONZE, Not Saying, California
2 articles 0 photos 156 comments
Good point! Great job on this story, author. :)

on Dec. 21 2009 at 7:28 pm
opalescent.stars, Orange, Michigan
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
"What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger"

This was a nice subtly deep story. I adored the concept. Though, I disagree. I believe if the character had a signature smile, then it should be in there. The only thing I would've done is wrote something about that, just so we understand that he had an awkward smile. Great Job!

on Dec. 21 2009 at 3:09 pm
sasssgirrrl22 PLATINUM, Pearl River, New York
27 articles 0 photos 266 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Giving up is not a part of my vocabulary."
"Don't let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game."
"Truth be told I miss ya, truth be told I'm lying."

omg this is such an beautifully written story. this is one of my absolute favorites on here :P plz keep writing!

on Dec. 21 2009 at 2:49 am
SerenityMine BRONZE, Not Saying, California
2 articles 0 photos 156 comments
Yeah it was soo amazingly well written and captivating, but the "dorky grin" didn't really go. I would rephrase that and it would be perfect! Great job, you're an excellent author.

QuoteMe BRONZE said...
on Nov. 29 2009 at 9:05 pm
QuoteMe BRONZE, Hudson, Wisconsin
2 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Ink and paper are sometimes passionate lovers, often times brother and sister, and occassionally mortal enemies." (Anonymous)

This is really excellent. The only thing that ruined it for me was the "dorky grin" part. I felt that a better phrasing could've been something like, "his crooked grin". Just a matter of opinion!

maki:p GOLD said...
on Nov. 29 2009 at 5:21 pm
maki:p GOLD, Rocklin, California
17 articles 1 photo 47 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The only journey is the one within" and "You can't help anyone who doesn't want to be helped."

amazing. nice mesage.