He was due home in three days. She knew because she’d heard it from her grandmother.
‘The Barkers’ son is home on the Saturday,’ she’d told her. ‘He’s back until the Monday, and then he’s got to go out to Afghanistan again.’
She wondered if she’d see him again before he went back to Afghanistan. She wanted to, badly, even if they just passed in the street and swapped a smile.
She was over him now. It had been three years since their childish romance. They were just kids; barely over fifteen. It had lasted the whole summer, and what a wonderful summer it had been, but it was over now. He’d joined the army and had his fair share of military girlfriends, while she’d gone on to focus on her education. She was just finishing college and was planning to go to University.
He’d been in Afghanistan for nearly three months now. She’d heard nothing from him – after all, why should she? Their seven-week romance, as blissful as it was, hardly compared to a relationship. It had been more like a movie romance. They’d held hands as they walked along the riverbank. They’d lain on the grass in the farmer’s field, and ran like hell when the farmer came out, yelling about the youth of today. And they’d kissed sweetly under the gentle glow of the streetlamp at midnight.
They’d never uttered the ‘L’ word. She’d wanted to, a thousand times. But it always seemed too much, too soon.
She’d adored him silently from a distance. They’d been in the same Year 10 lessons. She’d been the quiet, studious girl, while he’d been the class clown. She hadn’t even dreamt that he could return her feelings, but he did.
‘I like you,’ he’d said, on the last day before the summer holidays. She’d been stood at her locker and she met his words with a smile which stretched from ear to ear.
He asked for her address and she gave him it. The very next day he called at her house on his bike. They’d ridden out into the town, her sat on the handlebars, her summer dress blowing in the wind, her hair flying out like a waterfall behind her. She’d shrieked as they sped along. Every so often his hand would creep along the handlebar, stroking her waist affectionately.
And so they spent the next seven weeks together. When they weren’t together, they were texting or calling one another into the early hours of the morning, until her grandmother would sharply tap on the door and command her to be quiet, and she’d hang up in a state of panic. On the other end, he would chuckle to himself, guessing what had happened.
They were so young, just fifteen, and their love was so beautiful. But it was a childish romance all the same, and by the time they were back at school they no longer acknowledged eachother.
They’d pass in the corridor and throw eachother a shy, secret smile, but apart from that their contact was very, very limited. They were no longer in the same lessons. They hardly ever spoke. He no longer rode by her grandparent’s house on his red bike, and she, in turn, no longer looked out of the window waiting for him.
Still, when she’d heard that he was joining the army, she’d been shocked and shaken. Didn’t he know the dangers? He could get killed, or seriously injured. He was so full of life. It didn’t seem right for him to join the army.
She went off to college but eagerly awaited casual updates from her grandparents about his circumstances. Sometimes they’d be positive.
‘Oh, I spoke to Joyce Barker in the supermarket today. She says her son’s getting along fine. Apparently it’s not too bad over there.’
Other times it wouldn’t be as good.
‘It’s getting dangerous, Joyce says. She’s worried sick about him. He only gets to write once a month now, if that, Joyce says. She fears for his life, bless her.’
She worried too, though of course she’d never admit it. Her grandparents never knew about their brief romance, and as far as she herself was concerned, it was dead and buried.
Now, she lay on her bed, thinking about him. Just because she was thinking about him didn’t mean she was feeling anything for him, she told herself. She was simply remembering the times they’d shared.
Then she text her best friend, and played the guitar for a while. She flicked through the TV channels half-heartedly and sorted out her nail varnishes in order of colour. Wednesday afternoons were always boring because she had two free periods and so didn’t need to be at college.
The telephone rang and she considered answering it, but before she could do so her grandmother reached it first. She listened nonchalantly, not really interested but having nothing else to do. The beginning of the conversation was boring and uninteresting, but the ending startled her as her grandmother’s tone changed considerably.
‘Oh, no. Oh, dear, dear, dear. That’s awful, absolutely awful. Poor Joyce and Robert. Oh…I just don’t know what to say. Oh, the poor boy.’
She froze. Time froze. Her body froze. She knew what she’d heard but she couldn’t believe her ears. It couldn’t be true. She’d wait until her grandmother mentioned it; if she didn’t, then she’d misheard, made it up, got it wrong.
She trudged downstairs carefully, as if in a dream. Her grandmother was shaking her head slowly, her face white.
‘Oh, darling. Your friend from school, Joyce’s son…’ She nearly choked on the words. ‘He died this morning.’
She could not believe it, even now, when the words had been slapped in her face. She stumbled backwards, shaking her head.
‘No,’ she said.
They had kissed on the field three years ago and it felt like forever at the time. She wished they’d promised forever now. That way she might have meant something more. Whose was the last face he’d seen in his mind? It had probably been his mother or father’s, or younger brother and sisters’, or maybe one of his many army girlfriends. Anyone’s but hers.
She looked her grandmother up and down. Liar. ‘No!’ she said again, louder this time.
Then, for reasons her grandmother did not understand, she burst into tears. She now understood the phrase bursting into tears. Her stomach trembled and quaked with the effort of the sudden intense tears. They were too much to bear as they rolled endlessly down her face. Her brain burst too, spouting out memories like a fountain, playing them over and over like a movie in her head.
She ran upstairs and wouldn’t listen to her grandmother’s desperate calls. She threw herself onto the bed, sobbing into her pillow.
Her feelings weren’t gone. It wasn’t over, it never had been and it never would be. She loved him, she loved him, with all of her heart and every ounce of her being she loved and desired him.
And somewhere, as he felt her love instilling into his lifeless heart, the dust from his burnt and blackened body blew in the wind and smiled.
A/N: This probably isn't my best work, but it's something I simply had to write, for personal reasons. The ending is a little strange, I know. But I hope you enjoyed it anyway:)