Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Anzac Day... Missing Since Tuesday

This is an excerpt from the last third of Missing Since Tuesday, and I know that compared to the other excerpts, it makes absolutely no sense, but that's the way it's supposed to be - I like to keep my readers on their toes. Enjoy!

***

She started to wonder why she even went to the city that dark, early morning on April 25 to stand among a crowd of twenty-first century New Zealanders, mourning men they had never met.
The retired Army Colonel got up to speak of such things as "sacrifice" and "freedom", and a few tears welled up in the eyes around her and she looked at every one of them through her own blurred eyes.
Most surprising was the twenty-something girl standing a few feet away from her, seemingly alone with a single tear running down her cheek.
How can someone so young still be affected by this? She wondered. The Last Post has that affect on people, I guess, no matter how young you are or how detached from the war you are.
The words of the colonel and the words of the minister went by in a blur of tears, which she had long since stopped trying to quell.
The Last Post rang in her ears and she was glad to be standing at the edge of the crowd, leaning against a tree when her vision blurred and her knees gave way.
"You alright love?" Said a tall middle-aged man, who leaned down, supporting her with a hand on her elbow.
Her vision cleared enough so she could see his genuine concerned face and managed a small smile.
Heaving herself up with his hand on her elbow and other faceless mourners supporting her, she slowly regained her balance and thanked them, her voice thick with grief.
"Here, come and sit down," said the man, leading her to a concrete wall near the cenotaph where she could hear the bugle horn even louder.
"Always brings tears to my eyes too," he said, sitting down next to her.
She nodded, unable to speak and ran her hands over her belly protecting the little being inside her as she had been unable to do for him. She looked at the faces in the crowd, seeing only him.
She wondered if he had made a sound when he fell, if he cried out for her - or for his mother. Maybe it was instant, and he felt no pain and made no sound except for a gasp of shock as the bullet passed through him.
The service concluded and the marching band started. People lined up to pay their respects by placing their poppies inside the memorial, and she stayed, watching them disappear inside one by one.
She felt humbled that people this far into the future still held feelings for those men she once knew, and wondered how long it would take before they were forgotten and Anzac Day ceased to exist.
She felt an unexpected pang of jealousy. These people shed a couple of tears one day a year for the heroes who gave them freedom, and then went on with their lives. They had never touched those men, held them in their arms, kissed them fiercely as they left Wellington harbour to defend their country. They had never loved them.
Now she had a constant reminder of all she had lost, growing in her belly, getting bigger every day, and every day closer to knowing the pain and sorrow and love the world holds.
The people left and she stayed and stared at the cenotaph as the sun rose above the hills. The city came to life around her as the workers came off the trains to start their days and slowly she got up and walked to her car.
Tiny feet pummelled her ribs as she broke down in racking sobs in the solace of her car, crying out for Arthur.


*Copyright Sarah Hardie 2011

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