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.

evie428 BRONZE said...
on Nov. 29 2009 at 3:49 pm
evie428 BRONZE, Ontario, Other
4 articles 1 photo 88 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Writing a novel is not merely going on a shopping expedition across the border to an unreal land: it is hours and years spent in the factories, the streets, the cathedrals of the imagination."

Wow, really well done. Concise, and attention grabbing! One of my favorites!

on Nov. 29 2009 at 8:44 am
TemptedFiction, Grayson, Georgia
0 articles 0 photos 75 comments

Favorite Quote:
A hard part in life is pushing yourself to perfection. Whats even harder is realizing that it's an impossible goal to reach. -created by me-

This is a really good story, I enjoyed reading it. I was hoping that you can return the favor by reading and commenting my work, called Rewind. Its a book that I started writing. So if you want to, just click and read it lol.

on Nov. 22 2009 at 10:12 am
haana114 PLATINUM, -, Other
22 articles 2 photos 26 comments
this was good but-- hiragana uses syllables.the one that you are stating is kanji.and another thing,'kokoro' means heart or should use either 'zutto' forever or 'itsumo' always.

coolico said...
on Nov. 7 2009 at 1:43 pm
i argee this is very well writen with so much thought in it i can tell! i love the last paragraph

on Nov. 7 2009 at 7:23 am
very_literary SILVER, Ballwin, Missouri
7 articles 0 photos 46 comments
This was a great story. The descriptions in the beginning were heartbreaking and the little bit of hope in the end was heartwarming. It really shows us that we should try to look for some hope as bad as it gets. Can you read some of my poems, they are at:


TigerLynn GOLD said...
on Oct. 16 2009 at 5:46 pm
TigerLynn GOLD, Maysville, Kentucky
10 articles 0 photos 111 comments

Favorite Quote:
"She walks in beauty,
Like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes."

OMG i love this. I am in love with my boyfriends and just the other night i woke up crying because i had dreamed he died. This made me cry.

Jinq said...
on Oct. 16 2009 at 10:40 am
Really love the imagery. As some people have already said, I can see everyting as it happens. The narrative draws me in. Thanks for this heartwarming tale (hope admist sorrow)

Sabryth GOLD said...
on Oct. 16 2009 at 9:38 am
Sabryth GOLD, Lawrence, Kansas
18 articles 1 photo 25 comments
awwww! i love this story but it is so sad! it's really well written though...

ps13795 SILVER said...
on Sep. 28 2009 at 7:02 am
ps13795 SILVER, Baguio, Other
9 articles 5 photos 43 comments
Wow. Like what everyone else said, I can see every single scene clearly like it's happening in front of me. You're awesome!!! ^_^ Keep it up!!

Nicegirl82 said...
on Aug. 25 2009 at 7:50 pm
This piece was very interesting to me. I love that the necklace said forever or always and i can't even explain how happy i was with the ending.

***Dorky Smiles all around***

on Jun. 30 2009 at 12:26 am
LakeTownGirl GOLD, Lake Stevens, Washington
13 articles 17 photos 40 comments

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

i love this piece. Esspecially the last paragrapgh. and i know people have already said that but i really love it.

on Jun. 24 2009 at 5:08 am
GreenDayFan SILVER, Phoenix, Arizona
7 articles 3 photos 134 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Every story has an end, but in life, every ending is just a new beginning."
-Uptown Girls

i love the last paragraph, this is really good work!

on Jun. 4 2009 at 1:09 pm
Griffinwing SILVER, Manchester, Michigan
9 articles 0 photos 37 comments
Very nice. I like the wolf charm part the best.

on May. 27 2009 at 12:01 am
birdie-boo BRONZE, Fredricksburg, Virginia
3 articles 0 photos 2 comments
this was an amazing story! u have great tallent. I adored the end when u said and he smiled his dorky little smile that was so cute! :)

on May. 23 2009 at 1:29 pm
Xinwen PLATINUM, Brossard, Other
44 articles 0 photos 25 comments
I have to wonder, wouldn't a single character in Japanese hiragana only be one syllable? And Kokoro means 'heart', I believe...

But hey. This is pretty amazing. you have a great style.

on May. 16 2009 at 7:31 pm
CarrieAnne11 GOLD, Potsdam, New York
11 articles 0 photos 22 comments
Oh wow that's deep and eerie especially the last sentence. So real... omg thats awesome.

on May. 8 2009 at 5:46 am
Danni_Lynn BRONZE, Akron, Ohio
4 articles 0 photos 2 comments
Wow. The imagery was excellent! I was super close to crying. This was a very moving piece. 5/5

on May. 5 2009 at 2:00 am
SpiritFlyte BRONZE, Washington, Michigan
1 article 0 photos 4 comments

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

I have a boyfriend who is in the army reserves whenever I think about whats gonna happen to us after school is over. This is one of the things I have to face and scares me to death... Really great use of emotion and imagery it really came to life in my mind...

on May. 2 2009 at 8:19 pm
Julietbyheart BRONZE, Coalton, Ohio
3 articles 0 photos 15 comments
Out of all of them this is by far my favorite!!

on Apr. 1 2009 at 3:55 pm
Pauline Blondiaux BRONZE, Vevey, Other
1 article 0 photos 1 comment
Its really well written