2. A painful goodbye

Looking back, here now at seventeen I know that I was very happy at home. All my memories of being with my parents seem to buzz with life, but the innate sadness always wins through. When we got to the train station only a very few were crying. They were all in shock. I had always tried to be the strong one for Jamie, but he wasn't around anymore. I visualize the way his face looked, hanging out of the window of the dank train pulling east, not quite knowing where he was headed, the way my mothers face looked as I pulled away in the opposite direction. Torn two ways, drawn both east and west. Surprised. Shocked. Almost grieving. I tried to forget that bit. The stream of painful memories continued. The station where I was abandoned. The look on my foster family's critical faces when they took in my untidy chocolate hair and stained knees. How I felt when some kind of chemical bomb destroyed my old town. What I did, when I heard that my mother was dead... I'd ran away, I had thought, no knew they were lying and I ran. They found me the day after, sobbing, delirious. It had finally hit me. I had received one last letter from my mother in reply to my own. She'd included a forward of a letter from Jamie. He hadn't been taken far.

I shivered, thinking of the sheer mass of bombs that place must have had to be able to attack almost every town and village I had ever known and wiped away the memories of such conflicting seeming times. I had made up my mind to leave this place some time ago, but had been unable to make myself. I had ties here, friends. Even in one of the very few places untouched by the war, I knew I had to be elsewhere, to find my brother. Mum would have wanted that. Even in death I didn't want to have her split in two. East and West. She couldn't be both. Mum had never been any good at multi-tasking. I half-smiled grimly at the thought and stood up shortly, swinging my legs back from the cliff edge, startling my male companion. Ayden and me had come on the same train to this village overlooking the almost barren ocean, which I looked across now bleakly. Six years. Not long enough with Ayden, but too long without my brother. "You're leaving then" He said it softly but it was a statement, not a question. The movement of his lips fascinated me. "There wasn't even a doubt" I whisper, betrayal stabbing at my chest. "I was going to go sometime" I sigh, apologetic. He'd tried to come but I'd turned him down. I would risk myself but I wouldn't jeopardize someone I loved. He slowly clambered to his feet, each movement pained, drawn out; and turned to face me, standing just a few inches taller than my five feet six. He scoured my eyes with deep green ones and I leant into him as he enveloped me in his embrace. I couldn't help myself; I turned and kissed him, lips pressing unreservedly against his. Gently surprised, but unresisting he hugged me all the tighter and I inhaled deeply; sending the scent to my core. His dark hair was a short curtain around me, blocking out the world. My pain intensified; knowing I had to leave. I drew away from him, away from the one place I could feel safe, feeling his arms stretch further to keep in contact with my pale skin; and jogged away, unable for now, to show him the tears that stained my face.

I couldn't stay for farewells, telling one person; I knew would be bad enough. Ayden would tell them where I'd gone. There were only thirty-two of us, even since Ayden's elder sister had twins. They had been evacuated together but I wasn't resentful. That just wasn't who I was. I darted into my tarpaulin-covered shelter and glanced toward my bed. A strip of red cloth was draped over the pillow. I had left it for Ayden, sentimental as I was. I sighed and took in my surroundings. The place I'd lived for the last five years after my foster family's house was destroyed, with them inside. They had always refused to shelter when the alarms went, professing that their home was their life. I walked quietly, unnoticed through the maze of multi-coloured tarpaulin/ brick shelters, listening to the happy conversation of my friends knowing there were many voices I would miss and far too many I would never hear again.

I escaped the maze, and looked out at a wilderness which would a long time ago have made a great hike. I knew it stretched towards the half-standing ruins of the village where some of these people had once lived happily. Looking to the sun I thought I could be there before nightfall. Fighting intensely with my pride I walked almost reluctantly eastwards, towards the damp dawn, unsure as to whether to look back. Finally I forced myself to turn and survey my only existing home. A tall lone figure stood at the edge, slumped, defeated. Now I too, was drawn two ways. Ayden lay behind and Jamie ahead. For a moment I couldn't move, frozen by my warring desires. A single tear ran down my face, stricken then I turned and walked slowly towards the old village, eyes streaming. I knew that by leaving, many would be hurt, but none more than Ayden. My Ayden.

The End

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