So Far Away
It's summer when I go to visit them. Children are playing in the streets, perfect pictures of innocence. Unaware of what awaits them outside of their parents arms, of the hardships, the pain.
I turn down the familiar winding streets, manoeuvring myself past mothers pushing prams and deliberately trying not to see their barely suppressed shudders as I pass. I push the thought to the back of my mind and focus on my one goal; getting to the house with the red door.
I see the house minutes before I reach it. The red door stands out like a beacon, radiating hope, happiness and home. Half remembered conversations drift back to me as though coming through a bad radio connection; "The door should be a happy colour......vibrant.........it needs to show who we are as people!" I smile a little, that it certainly did! In a road completely full of blue doors, the red drew the eye from halfway down the street.
Suddenly a woman appeared. She was slightly blurred but I could still see her bright blonde, curly hair falling to her shoulders. Her dress was a pale blue colour that contrasted with her pale skin beautifully. She called out to two of the children playing in the street and they ran to her immediately. I followed at a distance, watching the domestic scene with a longing so intense it was almost a physical ache.
I followed the small family into the kitchen of the house, which was decorated with drawing, painted ones, no doubt the children's handiwork, and more sophisticated ones done in pencil. Of flowers, a bird, the children's smiling faces...... The family sat around the wooden table in the middle of the room and began to eat the lunch that was set out there. I soon noticed the fourth seat at the table, which apparently also took the attention of the smallest child. He looked at the empty space at the table and I saw his brow furrow in concentration. He finally turned to his mother and asked "When's Papa going to come home, Mama?" Next to him, his sister's eyes widened and she delivered what I suspected to be a swift kick to her brother's shin. Her mother frowned at her reproachfully and then turned to her son, "Jamie, sweetie, daddy's not coming home." The boys face fell, and I edged closer to the table so as not to miss his small "Oh" of comprehension.
But this was wrong! I turned to the mother, Hilary I remembered now, ready to tell her that she was wrong, and for the first time I caught sight of her face. Her normally vivid green eyes had dulled slightly and her cheeks looked hollow, like she had lost a lot of weight in a short space of time. And then I realised, that in all the time I had been stood in that kitchen, no one had seen me there.
A sense of dread came over me. I stumbled out of the kitchen and into the next room. Light was streaming in through the enormous bay window on the far wall, reflecting off items in the room and off the mirror. I scanned the room quickly, my eyes finally coming to rest on a pair of empty boots by the fireplace, bots that looked exactly like my own. I turned again and found myself staring at a photograph of a man. I made my way over to it, to study it in more detail. He's a handsome man, dark hair and piercing blue eyes. His uniform shows him to be a military man. And then I see it, the folded American flag, a set of dog tags still on their chain, a St Christopher medal and a gold wedding ring. I turn back to the photograph and notice the writing underneath it. I try to pick it up, but find that my arms won't move, so I move closer in order to read it.
What is written there sends a shiver of horror down my spine.
David Robert Sullivan
01/07/1981 – 04/09/2011
Killed in Action
There's a sound of scraping chairs from the next room and the two children, my children, come running past me. They shiver slightly but run on, oblivious. Hilary follows not long after, looking around the room and then going to the mirror hanging over the fireplace. I move to stand slightly behind her, looking straight into the mirror, but see only Hilary's reflection. She lets out a deep, shuddering sigh "Oh Dave, I wish you were here." I try to respond but find myself incapable.
I turn instead and flee the house, determined to leave the place that had once been a place of sanctuary to me. I knew now why they could not see me; to them I was not there. I had moved on to a place where they could not follow, but I knew that I would see them again. As I felt myself being pulled away from that place, I vowed to myself that I would wait a hundred years if I had to, just to be together again.