Fiction: “You Saved Me”
The news hit me like a ton of bricks the day I heard that Wes was killed. I never actually wanted him to go and fight but he told me that it was something that he had to do. He never expected me to understand.
I was proud of him—beyond proud that he would go off in the army to fight for our country. I always expected him to come home and ruffle my hair, telling me how much he loved me and how much I had grown.
Mom didn’t leave her room for weeks and Dad always was staring out the window. I slowly slid into depression, getting used to the horrible nightmares that had invaded my sleep every night. I would wake up screaming, my heart pounding erratically in my chest. No one came to comfort me.
But then Ellie came.
Ellie was sweeter than southern tea and had the presence of a fairy; light on her toes and always flittering about. Her cheeks were sprinkled with freckles and she was always smiling, a mane of red hair surrounding her face.
Ellie and I became friends a few weeks after she had been introduced to my fifth grade class. We started doing everything together: riding bikes, going to the local diner and getting milkshakes, homework, anything.
One night, after a full day of running about, we laid down on her trampoline, gazing at the stars a million miles away. She suddenly laced her fingers with mine, turning to face me.
“I’m sorry about your brother, Callie,” she told me, her blue eyes reflecting the night sky.
I sucked in a large breath at the mere mention of him.
“Wes always wanted to fight for our country. I am proud to be his sister, Ellie,” I said firmly. It was hours later that I had finally realized that I had said Wes’s name aloud.
Tears filled my eyes then and Ellie squeezed my hand tight.
“I would be, too,” she said softly.
In some ways, Ellie had saved me. Ellie had saved us all, I suppose. My parents were doing better. They were no longer silent, but instead they were smiling slightly. Mom hadn’t laughed since Wes died but, then again, I didn’t expect her to yet.
I stared back up at the sky, Ellie falling silent beside me. She understood that I needed to think.
I closed my eyes and imagined Wes with us. I could almost hear his laugh echo around the yard and I swear I could hear him say, “Wow, Callie! Have you grown?”
I smiled and opened my eyes again and found Ellie looking at me.
“Thank you,” I said softly.
Her brow crinkled. “For what?”
“Saving me,” I said, “Thank you for saving me, Ellie.”
“You’re welcome,” she murmured and we both gazed back at the sky.
I wasn’t entirely healed and there would always be that hole in my chest that would ache, but I was happy. It almost felt criminal to be so when my parents were hurting so badly, but I was.
I have grown, Wes, I thought, so, so much.
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