White swelled over the green.
She shuffled haltingly over the verdant, pausing at each marble mound to squint through thick spectacles at the fading lettering. A milky lock trickled down her face, creased with age, and the wind seized it, tugging gently. Sounding a light thud, her cane pressed heavily on the green and her feet tentatively felt the grass. Another stop; a sigh and more cane-leaning, and then she gingerly moved onward, careful to protect her fragile bones.
No headstone yielded success, and so the pallid woman proceeded forward. She paused and rested against a craggy oak that rose as an island from the sea of white. The tree stood tall and proud, reaching higher with each progressive year; she recalled youthful days when she had accepted such flamboyant triumph. A clear drop slid down her lined cheeks and she hastened away from the oak, from the memories, from the truth that leeched her spirit.
Emblazoned with a bold K and T cut into its surface, the monument shamed its squalid cousins. Intrigued, she laid the cane on the green and knelt before the white with the painful creaking of joints. She wiped the spectacles clean on her pale dress and raised the veil. Kenneth Thompson slept in the grave, Fleet Admiral, United States Navy. In contempt, she rose abruptly, grimacing with the strain on her weak body. She did not seek that grand structure.
Five more graves; five more peerings through meager eyes and glass; five more pauses before the stop. And there—K.T.! She laid the pure, fair lilies on the green before him, and wept for the time apart, the miles over the ocean to where he had perished, the letters that he never wrote and the notes he never received. K.T.—born April 24, 1899; lost September 26, 1918.
He had known when he boarded the ship at the harbor that he would not return. She had pressed her chest into the bar by the dock, bent forward over the grey sloshing into poles and foaming white, gazed out across the surges at the iron hulk that stole him from her and never repaid. The rain fell hard that day: not a soft pattering but a vicious torrent, intent on ripping her cold hands from the rail and turning her inside protective walls, but she had remained there, on the dock, wet from splashing seawater and pouring showers and the tears that streamed across her skin, down her arm to warm the frozen fingers clenching the metal. There they dripped into the sea and followed him to the foreign land the man on the radio forced him to leave her for.
He needed that final stare over the swells and under the grey sky; he would not remember that place the captain called ‘home’ unless he could rush out to the deck of the ship, glimpse her eyes brimming through the distortion of his own tears. Yet they held him down below the pressing ceiling, told him not to interfere with the sailors, said she could not afford for him to catch ill. She would not have minded; he knew she needed to meet his eyes again as much as he desired a last gaze upon an angel.
And then the alighting in France, the lush green, the Argonne Forest that held a false peace. He rested to enjoy the green, the calm before the red that tore any hope of finding her from him. Harsh and emotionless, the officers convened and decided upon fate; which men would die first and which would die last.
The savage anguish, the scarlet of pain and the crimson of loss! He collapsed, felt the flesh tear and held her image in his glazing eyes—she faded rapidly. He thought then that she would not truly understand why her letters remained unopened, that she would love anew and he bled red upon the green, alone, without even the company of her future grief.
But she lay, a mourning figure in front of him, seven decades later. The doctors had approached her, informed her that she would see him soon, but she could not believe. The innocence, the playful joy, the knowledge of a greater life beyond had vanished when the man on the radio had announced a number that meant nothing to that man and everything to her. He had gone, rotted away on the soft earth of Argonne Forest, become the air and the clouds and the rocks: but not K.T.
She gripped the headstone as firmly as her frail hands would allow. Face gleaming with wet, she dragged her body towards him, wrapped around him on the hills of Arlington how she could not in the trees of Argonne. And so she slept and never woke, clad in the wedding dress, and the veil that he had never lifted for the kiss.
White flowed over the green grass.
Edited by Rafv Nin IV, 14 May 2009 - 03:00 AM.