Warning: Mature Themes

Are you going this year?” The woman says the words gently. She glances at her husband over her thick reading glasses.

He pauses while he dries the plate, hesitating. “Hm. I don’t know yet,” he says quietly.



“Let me know if you want to go. I’m happy to drive.”

“Thanks, hun.”

He continues drying the dishes while his wife reads. Occasionally, she looks up from her book, measuring her husband. He’s been quiet lately. Worn. Sitting at the television every night, watching (but not really watching) the weekly date-night movie. Distant.

She knows it’s starting again. Like it does every year. 

“I’m being off again, aren’t I?” The man says suddenly.

The woman raises her eyebrows in surprise at his quick recognition. “A little, yes. It’s okay. We’ll work through it. We always do.”


Are you okay?

The man sighs, placing the plate and the dish towel on the counter. He leans over the sink, his head lowered. “No.”

“I know, sweetheart. I know.”

The woman slides her bookmark into the page of her book and sets it down on the table. She rises from the dining table chair and walks to the kitchen to stand behind him. She wraps her arms around his warm, familiar body, clasping her hands against his chest. She kisses his neck. “I know.”

“It feels worse this year.”

“I know.”

“You always know.”

She smiles. “I know.”

He laughs softly.

“I think we should go,” she says against his neck.

He sighs. “Yeah. Yeah, that would be good.”

She lingers just a moment longer, feeling his heartbeat against her own. She rests her forehead against the back of his head for a moment, leaning into him. He trembles. She hears him sniffle, moving his hand to his face, wiping at his nose and eyes.

“Let’s go.”

She moves away, lowering her hand to entwine her fingers with her husband’s. He takes her hand gratefully, smiling, still wiping away the tears.

She leads him gently to through their house and into the garage. She helps him into the backseat before sliding into the driver’s side. The car is quiet as it pulls into their driveway.

The man looks around. “Huh. Would you look at that,” he says in wonder.

Snow blankets the ground, the trees, the roofs of houses. It leaks from the sky gently, like powder sprinkled on a cake. He looks out the window as the woman drives through the neighborhood, occasionally wiping away a tear. Houses upon houses of neighbors, friends, family. All quiet now. The snow silences all.

Finally, they arrive. The woman stops the car, and they sit there for a moment, in the silence, the snow still falling outside the windows, the interior growing ever so slightly colder as the minutes drag on.

“Are you ready?”

“Yes.” The man opens his door and steps on to the snowy path.

The man and woman link arms. They walk slowly, side by side, through the snow. The branches of the surrounding trees are so weighed down with snow that they appear as if they’re about to break under the pressure, dumping hills of snow upon the headstones that lie before them, dotted all across the ground for miles.

They look at the names etched on the slabs of stone in the ground. Names of all genders, of all ages, of all races, of all identities. The man’s trembling grows stronger with each passing name. The woman pats his arms encouragingly, sadly, helping him along the path. He leans on her; she is a grounding force when he wants to flitter away.

“This way,” she murmurs, tugging the man to a path that diverts to the right. They turn, passing more headstones.

“Here.” They stop.

The man releases a sob.

The ten gravestones are grouped together, forming a small circle. Flowers and letters and toys and other memorialized trinkets encircle the ground around the headstones, the snow turning everything white and cold. The names are still bright, black against the white marble. The man reads the plaque in front of them.

In Loving Memory

The Aspen Senior High School Ten

Never Forgotten

Always Loved

The man sighs, leaning against his wife heavily. She supports him; she stands firm for him.

“Look,” the woman says. She slowly leans away, ensuring that her husband stands steady, and unlinks her arm. She pulls something out of her coat pocket. “Here. For you.”

“Oh,” the man says, his voice breaking. She hands him the pen and paper.

“Say what you need to say. Like we do every year.”

He kneels down, his hands cold and shaking as he presses the pen to the paper. The words are messy, ink splattered haphazardly across the white sheet. But he writes nonetheless, taking deep breaths as he finishes, wobbling as he stands up. He hands the pen to his wife and, stepping forward slowly, he stoops down to lean the note against one of the headstones.

“Hey, Joe,” he murmurs, touching the headstone briefly where the name “Joe Anderson” is embedded. “Good to see you, man.”

He closes his eyes, remembering the day he heard the news. The day he got a cold, and stayed home with Momma, snuggled up tight in bed and playing video games and eating soup, as if he were a little kid again. The best day ever.

And then the worst.

The voices of a thousand news channels echoed in his head.

“Shooting at Aspen Senior High School…”

“Five dead… fifteen injured…”

“Critical condition…

“Nine… no, ten shot…”



The names had flashed across the screen. And, there, his best friend. Joe.

He wipes his eyes again. His wife grips his hand tightly.

“Ready?” She pulls him gently away from the small grave site.

“Let’s go,” he says, nodding.

They walk, arm-in-arm, away from the headstones and back toward the car.

“Oof," the woman says, wincing. She stops.

"What is it?" The man asks anxiously, glancing at her.

"Nothing," she rolls her eyes. "Just a twinge of morning sickness."

"Hey, Joe, cool it off," the man says, gently laying a hand on her stomach. "Take it easy on your momma."

The woman laughs, laying her hand over her husband's. After a moment, they continue forward, hand-in-hand, the snow falling gently all around them.

October 02, 2020 18:34

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Noor Ahmed
18:41 Oct 03, 2020

This story is beautifully written! I loved the ending way too much. Awesome job, and keep writing~!


Lina Oz
04:48 Oct 05, 2020

Thank you as always for your kind comment! :)


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
22:08 Oct 07, 2020

This is so sad! It's amazing how authors can make humans feel sympathy for characters who don't exist - which you did perfectly. Great job!


Lina Oz
22:23 Oct 07, 2020

Thank you so much for giving it a read and for your comment! I really appreciate it.


22:24 Oct 07, 2020

You're welcome! :)


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Ariadne .
17:55 Oct 06, 2020

Oh, Lina...this managed to make me sob. It's hard to lose a best friend. It's such a unique take on the prompt! Well done! ~Ria


Lina Oz
02:29 Oct 07, 2020

Thank you so much for giving it a read and for your kind comment! I really appreciate it :)


Ariadne .
02:39 Oct 07, 2020

Not a problem, anytime! :)


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
21:38 Oct 02, 2020

WOOOWW Amazing Lina! I was not expecting that ending at allll! I don't know why my mind described them as old. But I really liked the atmosphere of this story. The snow really added to that calm atmosphere as well. I felt really bad about Joe..and at first I thought the husband had something to do with his death but then when I realized he didn't I was relieved. I like how the Husband relies on his wifffee and how they named the baby after his bestfriend. It was so cute! I loved it! great job! Also I posted a new story its kind of a foll...


Lina Oz
04:47 Oct 05, 2020

Thank you so much, Ugochi! I really appreciate your comment. I will definitely get to your new story; I have a very busy week, but will be able to read it in the next few days. Thanks as always for your thoughtfulness!


16:32 Oct 05, 2020

Of course! And its okay thank your time!!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Lani Lane
18:11 Oct 11, 2020

Wow, the naming at the end brought tears to my eyes!! This was another hard-hitting, touching piece of yours. Really appreciate the commentary here.


Show 0 replies
Charles Stucker
05:55 Oct 05, 2020

Sun shines warming and snow falls- sent mixed signals to me. In the one line, it felt like spring or summer. Snow makes it feel like winter. Or Norway... "The woman links her arm through the man’s arm." Try, "The man and woman link arms." OR, if you want to imply she initiates, "The woman links arms with the man." This is a very different take on high school reunion. You pull it off as a smooth long scene. You give foreshadowing and deliver a strong emotional punch at the end. Everything holds together very well. The title even makes a...


Lina Oz
15:56 Oct 05, 2020

Hi Charles! Thanks as always for these great catches. I'll change it now. And thank you––I wanted to go for a different spin, and experimented around a bit. Glad the message came across!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply