By Gia, age 18, Florida
Sweet Designs Featured Writer
He arrived home, aged two years more since leaving for the war in Afghanistan. The sun tanned his skin and the sand was in every crevice. He was a soldier in the Army who was proud to serve his country. He was home now, back on Texas soil. There weren't any spiral landings to protect them from attacks. Instead it was family members rocking back and forth; angst. He swung his duffel bag back and forth between his hands, waiting.
She stood there, blonde hair flowing down her back, sunglasses covering her eyes, and her hands kept playing with a piece of jewelry. It was his fiancé; they met while he was still in boot camp. When he finally got off the plane, she wrapped her arms around his neck. Her tears soaked his shirt, and she kept whispering, "I love you. Never leave again, okay?"
Familiar scents surfaced as he sat in the car - her apple shampoo, her mother's perfume, and what seemed to be wet dog. Nothing seemed familiar; the barracks and tents were what he knew as home. "Can I touch you?" she asked him, waiting for a nod. She played with his auburn hair, cut short, and touched his shoulders. He stared off in the distance, never moving where, in the corner of his eye, he saw them.
They were exact replicas of his buddy from his unit. They had black hair, with brown eyes. One had glasses with freckles. They were ten when they were deployed. They have to be about twelve now, he thought to himself. His wife looked the same. Her red hair was tied back, with bags under her eyes. "We sit and have coffee sometimes. I watch the boys when she needs a break. She misses him so much," his fiancé told him.
Inside their apartment, it was wedding mayhem. "Man, just think when you get home, you are going to marry her. If you don't want her I bet one of the other guys wouldn't mind having her," his buddy told him one night. There were high fives and whistles when he showed a picture of her. He didn't want any of it though. "I'm going to go have a smoke," he told her.
He was suffering from survivor's guilt; he was diagnosed in the hospital a month later after the attack. He was tortured never being able to sleep more than four hours without night terrors and sweating. I shouldn't have lived; it should have been me, he kept thinking. He tried to get back into the normal swing of things, waking up whenever he wanted to, watching TV, and cooking dinner. "You can't blame yourself. You couldn't have done anything to save him," his fiancé said as she stood in the frame of the door.
He just stared at her. "You don't know what this is like. He has a family," he said softly.
He walked out of the apartment building, down the hall to his buddy's apartment. He heard the boys stampede towards the door after he knocked. "I need to speak to your mother," he said, barely able to look at them.