Posted: Monday, March 2, 2009, 9:30 am
(Length: 4 min, 25 sec)
Presenting the winners of the 2008 Worthington Libraries Teen Poetry and Short Story Competition. Emily Webster, the third place winner for high school short story, reads "A Wilted Rose."
Life could not be more perfect, thought Marietta as she walked down the street. It was a beautiful spring day in New Mexico, the temperature just right, the air clean, the sky clear. As Marietta wandered, her feet angled the rest of her body naturally in the direction of her fiancé's house. She smiled pleasantly, her dark eyes dancing with joy at seeing Antonio's adobe house come into view. A light breeze ruffled her skirt and dark hair as she approached his front door, a wide smile spreading across her wide, dark face. She poked her head through the door.
"Antonio? Where are you?" she called sweetly.
"In the kitchen, Querida," he called back. Something coated his voice, but Marietta took no notice in her happiness. She glided over to where he stood, back turned toward her. She pulled gently on his arm until he turned. The moment he did, her smile vanished.
"What?" she asked, fear making her voice sharp, "What is it?"
Antonio took both of her hands in his, looking into her eyes with more pain in his than should be possible. Marietta became even more anxious.
"Tell me," she pleaded softly, pulling a hand from his to touch his cheek. His eyes closed at her touch, and his expression seemed as though he were being touched by an angel. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes slowly, staring into hers intensely.
"The war in Europe," he began slowly, carefully, "It seems America has entered it, and it is getting worse."
"I see," Marietta nodded, puzzled. She had talked about the war with him many times over, and never had he looked this solemn or troubled. "But how does this affect us, mi querido?"
He was silent for a minute, not daring to look at her directly. When he answered, his voice was agonizing, filled with hesitation.
"My father and brother are planning on joining."
Marietta squeezed his hand reassuringly. "I am sure they will be just fine, Antonio—"
"They want me to go with them," he cut in heavily.
"What? Nombre de Dios, Antonio, you did not tell them you would?" she asked, even more sharply than before. Fear and apprehension bubbled inside her, crushing her happiness with a single blow. It grew even more as he continued to avoid her gaze.
"Antonio! Antonio Guierrtez, answer me! You did not, did you? Did You?
"I leave for training tomorrow."
"No!" Marietta shrieked. She ripped her hands from his. "No, no, no!"
She gazed fiercely into his face, but it gave her no relief. A moment of hesitation, and she burst into tears.
"Ay, mi Dios!" She wailed, beside herself. She fell to her knees, her hands over her beautiful face, crying with no control. Antonio dropped to his knees beside her, pulling her to his chest and holding her tightly there. Above her head, Marietta heard wet sobs that were not her own. The two lovers held each other and cried. As the light began to change outside the window, their crying subsided. Antonio pulled Marietta up from the floor, looking her full in the face. He held her eyes with his own.
"I have something for you," He said. Without dropping her gaze, he reached across the clay table and produced a single, potted red rose.
"This is yours," He said softly, "it is a symbol of my love. Care for it, keep it. Every time you see it, you can be sure I am thinking of you."
She took it from him and looked carefully at it, loving it already. "I will treasure it." She said simply, but it was enough. Antonio embraced her tightly, holding her as tightly and sweetly as he ever had. He leaned down and kissed her until she was dizzy. As he pulled away, he whispered something softly to her: "Wait for me."
And so she did. For three long years, she waited and waited, living as best she could. It was a week before her 25th birthday, in the dead head of the summer. Sweating, pulling her thick hair off the back of her neck, Marietta walked out to her mailbox and casually flipped through the envelopes. One was postmarked from the military. Her heart began to beat considerably faster, and she clutched the letter tightly. With shaking hands, she opened the letter and began to read. Was Antonio coming at last? She would soon find out.
"Marietta!" her mother tapped the front door gently, "Marietta, darling, open the door for your mother!"
Marietta did not answer the door. Frowning slightly, Mrs. Martino reached for the key under the mat and let herself into the apartment. It was empty, but there was a note on the table. As Mrs. Martino read it, she let out a sharp gasp and began to cry. There was a suicide note from Marietta. Antonio had been killed in the war. She had driven to the Grand Canyon and hurled herself off the cliffs. She could now be with her Antonio. And sitting on the table, unnoticed by Marietta's grieving mother, was a single, wilting rose.
3rd Place, High School Short Story
2008 Worthington Libraries Teen Poetry and Short Story Competition