A/N: This is a short story I've written for a short story competition (Writer's Digest is the host), and I wanted to share it with you guys! It's a little bit rushed because of the 1,500 word limit, but I put a multitude of feelings into it.
If I win anything, I will let you guys know! Fingers crossed...
November 19th, 2001
His hands were warm as they cupped my cheeks, and his blue irises were iridescent in the setting sun. The air engulfing us was moist from a previous rainfall, and the damp grass enveloped my bare feet with its sticky tendrils. Focusing on his face, which loomed closer and closer to mine, I welcomed the rapid pace of my heartbeat as it sped up.
Words flooded through my mind, but they made no sense. Nothing but the love I felt for him made sense. His arms caressed my waist, and brought me closer to his radiating chest. Warmth surged through me. Everything I wanted to say was left abandoned on the tip of my tongue. He left me breathless.
"Never leave," Daniel whispered, his lips brushing against my earlobe, "Never leave me, Eleanor."
I lifted my hands to his burning cheeks. "Oh Daniel, you know I never could."
He nodded, but his eyes spoke stories of deceit and betrayal. He didn't believe me. He expected me to leave him—expected me to walk away from something that took years to create. I couldn't walk away. My love for him was real, and it was the only thing I knew.
February 14th, 2002
The melody that filled my ears was breathtaking, but it was nothing compared to the boy behind the melody. Daniel's blue eyes were steady and passionate, and his blonde hair curled around his face. He was an angel—my angel. I watched his fingertips graze the piano keys, creating a musical brilliance one could only dream of achieving. Though Daniel hummed no words, the gentle, sweet mood of the tune was easily decipherable. My chest swelled with longing and a dull ache engulfed me; just the sight of him molded new feelings. Our relationship—old as it was—would never stop feeling new.
"Happy Valentine's Day," his voice, thick like velvet, whispered to me, "I love you, Eleanor."
I slid next to him on the bench, and tenderly wrapped my arms around his waist. "I love you." I relished in the finished melody. Daniel leaned into me; exploring my mouth with bursting emotions I'd never forget.
March 12th, 2002
"No!" The papers that were crumpled in my fist scratched at my skin, but the only thing I felt was immense pain. "Daniel, you can't do this! You can't…you can't…"
His arms wrapped around me, and I sobbed to the slow pace of his heartbeat. Terror rippled through my body. I sobbed harder. "I'll come back," he said, rubbing circles in my back with his thumb, "This doesn't mean we're over."
"Of course it does, Daniel! Don't you see? How can you expect me to love you if you're off fighting in some stupid war!" I pushed him away from me, wiping the tears pooling down my chin.
"You don't mean that," he said, his voice struggling to stay smooth, "You know it isn't stupid. I'm defending our country—our people. How can you just dismiss that?"
My fingers came together in a fierce motion, and I slapped him as hard as I could. "But you're leaving me—your girlfriend of five years. What will I do if I lose you? I can't!"
Anger rippled through my veins, and the tears kept pouring. The sadness that tormented my throbbing heart grew as I stared at his broken expression. "Daniel…"
A tear escaped down his cheek, and his blue eyes spoke a tale of tragedy. Golden strands of hair were matted to my sweaty forehead, and I was sure my emerald eyes spoke a similar story. He took a step closer to me; another tear falling down his face. I took a step back, but the wall caught me.
Daniel was inches away from me in the blink of an eye, and he tipped my face upwards. His face, filled with agony, stared through my pupils and into my soul. I felt naked under his studious gaze, and felt a stab at every tear he shed.
His lips pushed against mine, and we shared a passionate, pathetic kiss. I gasped for air every time we broke apart, trying to control my sobbing, and calmed myself down enough to really look at him. His face—broken, though it was—spoke of compassion and freedom. I knew he wanted this. I knew I couldn't stop him. How could I even try?
"You better come back to me," I whispered, hitting him softly on the chest and smiling through my tears, "I will never forgive you if you don't."
"I'll always come back to you, Eleanor." Daniel pressed his lips to my forehead. "Always."
April 29th, 2002
I was drowning in sorrow. Air wouldn't grace my lips, and a choke twisted in my throat. I gasped.
"Shhh," Daniel whispered soothingly in my ear, tightening his grip on me, "This isn't goodbye."
I managed a weak chuckle through my despair. "Isn't it?"
Daniel cupped my cheek with his right hand, and brushed a strand of hair from my eyes with the other. "Of course not, Eleanor. It's 'see you later'."
An indescribable weight lifted from my chest, and I turned my forced smile into a real one. I wanted Daniel to remember me. I was the woman he loved, who'd be waiting for him when he returned. I wouldn't be going anywhere. I'd be strong—if not for myself, then for the men fighting for our country.
Losing myself in his kiss, I held onto his shoulders like they were a lifeline. I knew this moment had to end, but I didn't want it to. One last kiss…
He broke away from me—my longing embrace—and gazed at me wistfully. Walking to the door, Daniel took his first step into a twisted world and his first step out of mine.
October 20th, 2002
Daniel's letters ended two months after he departed. Lost in a depression threatening to overcome my entire being, I had no time to focus on whether he was alive. All I knew was that he wasn't in touch with me anymore, and I could feel our connection feeding into the dying embers.
I took each day as it came, trying so hard to move past the obstacle of losing Daniel. Only, I didn't want to move on. I no reason to give up on Daniel, because I didn't know if he'd given up on me. How can a person move on from something that means more to them than life itself? I hadn't been home since he'd left—not really home. Home is where the heart is, and Daniel was gone.
My heart was definitely with Daniel, wherever he was.
I longed for the day I'd receive his letter, but that day never came.
October 31st, 2002
The moment I received news of my love was jaded, as was the officer in uniform who appeared on Daniel's mother's doorstep. A look of pity was clear on his face, and a piece of paper was clutched tightly in his hands. Daniel's mother recited the news to me over the phone an hour later, and I could barely choke out my condolences. Agony gripped at my chest, despair absorbed by my bones, and a sharp pain erupted where my heart was supposed to be.
I would never get it back now. Daniel was dead.
The first week was the hardest; I wasn't ready to let go of Daniel. My entire body ached for his embrace—for his tender kiss. Hope tore apart my insides in a desperate attempt at denial. I was lost in my own mind, giving whim to the world of dreams where Daniel was still safely in my arms.
The days passed by in blurs of dull colors, painful memories, and a sharp aching in my chest that refused to subside. Getting through one day was an unlikely task, and the weeks began to melt into months. I was losing myself in a downward spiral. I yearned to dream—to see his radiating smile. I longed to melt in his embrace one last time. Distant as his memory became, my love for him only grew.
Going through the motions of life was almost worth it—the chance to see Daniel, reality or not, was the only thing I wanted. The dreams never lasted however, and the almost-possibility of being in my love's arm grew unbearable. The bottle of pills on my nightstand taunted me, and every night I swore I would do it. I didn't do it. I couldn't do it.
The pain only grew worse however, and one night the bottle of pills was lying empty on the floor. I had simply one choice.
If I could only be with Daniel in my dreams, then I would never wake up.
Freedom. A flying sensation. Beautiful colors. A blinding light. The gates of Heaven, beckoning me in. Daniel, his arms held open, waiting to welcome me home.