Always and forever

The pathways, which roam the once proud town of Granstone were now battered and bruised, this sorry sight was just one reminder of the war that had engulfed the town. Silence that filled the air that was almost deafening, was unfamiliar to the town , which was so used to the murmur of constant dread being the background noise to their lives. Sunlight spilled over the top of the hill which loomed over the town, and continued racing down the hill until it had washed over the grey walls of Granstone, bright colours could never return to this murky own, which had been forever scarred by war.

With the sun's rising, Granstone had started ticking like the internal workings of a clock. A woman walking to the direct centre of the town had begun her daily routine. She was a slight woman of a reticent mien, exquisitely beautiful, with soft brown avoiding eyes. Her smooth brown hair was parted exactly and drawn together at the nape of her neck. Although her hands were trembling, her feet were calmly resuming the well-trodden path to the post box; she had to get the routine right, she had to, otherwise the rest of the day would be disastrous.

The moment came where relief would flow through Sarah, but a large robust woman pushed past exclaiming, "Y'cant dilly dally 'bout all day gel! Some people have important work t'do ya'know!"

Sarah replied with mumblings of an apology, whereas really she was angry with the woman, angry with her for ruining the ritual. Angry tears had begun to fill her eyes, but wilfully she wouldn't let them wet her cheeks, the boutique where Sarah worked was in full view of the post box, and she knew who would be watching and waiting for her to arrive.

As Sarah advanced slowly, the window came into view where many of their beautiful garments lay, that reminded Sarah of the ball, two summer's ago that she had attended with Mark, her fiancé. She could still hear the music playing as the imaged flashed before her eyes. Sarah glanced at the glass door, she could see the owner of the boutique trying to look engaged in something, pretending she wasn't watching Sarah like a hawk.

"Sarah darling!" Rita exclaimed as she walked through the door, "You simply must look at the new garments I received this morning! Just imagine, me in one of these, for the ball in a fortnight! It's simply divine! And we have just my size!" Sarah felt the automatic nod that took over every time Rita spoke; she knew perfectly well that Rita always ordered a surplus in her own size purposely. As Rita sashayed off into the fitting rooms, Sarah's eyes fell onto the sizing tag, which read a size too small for Rita, despite this she made no attempts to stop her.

After a short while a shrill scream broke out , followed by Rita storming out of the fitting rooms looked dishevelled and disillusioned. This entrance was soon accompanied by a disparagement of the dress:

"Can you believe this Sarah? I shall never buy from that hideous designer again! I absolutely cannot believe i even considered this dress for the ball! How grotesque i would have looked! Imagine!" Rita swiftly crossed the shop to the till, and flung the dress beneath it.

As Rita swooped down on an un-suspecting customer, Sarah gingerly laid out the dress on the top of the counter, to inspect the damage inflicted upon it. The zip had been ripped from its place in the lining, for Sarah it was an easy affliction to repair. She waited for Rita to finish an untruthful praise of a customers figure in a dress, to ask if she could have the dress:

"Rita i was wondering- well- i wanted to ask- if i could- if i may have this dress, as you cannot really sell it." her voice was timid and could hardly be heard.

"Well of course you could darling! You could even wear it for the ball! Well- that is if you go of course," her voice boomed around the shop.

"Thank you ever so much."

"But of course you'll have to pay for it darling, as it is damaged, i suppose i could take a percentage off."

Sarah expected this and didn't need to be told.

Sarah hesitated as she went to pick up the dress, as Rita often changed her mind about trivial things like this, but Rita made no movement or sounds, so Sarah took the dress, and carefully place it in her bag.

The day passed without much that flicked Sarah's interest, until a customer who Sarah hadn't noticed in the ship, directly addressed her:

"Excuse me i was wondering, if you would be so kind in telling me if you think that this dress isn't a little too brad?"

Sarah's eyes swung to the woman whom she was being addressed by, a tall elegant woman with fiery red hair and bright green provoking eyes, entered her view.

"Oh- sorry, i was away with the fairies! Ermm- well yes i think for your hair colour, it would make you look drab-sorry," from the look of the dress she could see that Rita had chosen it, "but i think this dress would suit you perfectly."

Sarah showed her an emerald green silk dress, that shimmered like water in the sunlight, Sarah had wanted the dress for herself, but she was much too short to wear it, not like this fiery haired woman.

"Oh! Thank you, it's beautiful! You see i want it for my engagement part, but so far I've had no luck, but now thanks to you, i have my perfect dress!" The fiery haired woman glanced down at Sarah's hand to see an engagement ring sitting perfectly on her finger:

"Oh my gosh sorry! I see you are engaged too! How impolite of me! How long have you been engaged?"

Sarah looked down at her finger with a heavy heart, she wished her and Mark had, had an engagement party.

"Oh- Ermm- Well we have been engaged for a year."

"Oh how perfect! Well we are both lucky women indeed! Thank you ever so much for showing me this dress."

"that's perfectly alright."

The evening passed with Sarah repairing the affliction to the dress.

The next morning through her letter box, a card softly dropped onto her mat. It was from Mark, the neat writing gave it away, but she would refrain from reading it, and save it till she had lunch at work. The post box was left devoid of cards from Sarah, she had promised herself.

Sarah headed for the stock room as soon as she entered and didn't come out till lunch. During this time she allowed herself to read Marks card to her. The message sent was familiar, and sent waves of warmth and relief through Sarah: 'I love you, always and forever.'

Sarah returned to the front of the shop in a haze, Rita's voice just sounded like a distant echo to her, until Rita had seen what Sarah was wearing:

"My gosh darling! You simply cannot wear that! It just does not co-ordinate with the rest of the shop darling! And I'm so sorry to tell you this but that shirt is so outdated!"

Sarah looked down uncomfortably at what she was wearing; it was Marks favourite shirt. Sarah could feel hot tears prickling the corners of her eyes.

"I'm sorry- Can i- Please may i go on my lunch now?"

"Oh yes darling of course! I'm sorry if i hurt your feelings, but it had to be said, I'm only trying to help."

Sarah almost leapt out of the shop in order to leave as soon as possible. She had to break the promise to herself; she had to, it was the only thing that would make the rest of the day bearable. Automatically she entered the card shop, and chose the card in a blind rush. She cut herself on the envelope as she hurriedly opened it. Her writing was no-where as neat as it should have been.

Sarah didn't care about any of it as long as she got it in the post. By the time she had finished, blood had splattered all over the card like teardrops.

Relief swept through Sarah as she pushed it through the post box, 'now,' she thought, 'i will get through the rest of the day."

The shop was quiet when Sarah returned; with her fingers trembling she took off her coat. Sarah looked around the shop for any garments that stood out, and was just about to give up perusing over the garments when a shawl caught her eye; she ran her fingers over the fur that had been delicately placed on it. It was perfect Sarah thought, perfect for her dress, Mark was sure to like it. The ideal vision was soon shattered when Sarah's eyes sought the price tag, far too expensive for what she could afford.

Soon after a young tall man with fiery red hair entered the shop. As Sarah surveyed him she idly wondered whether he had been fortunate, and had escaped the war which had took so many young men's lives, he looked at her directly in the eye, he had the same provoking green eyes as the woman yesterday.

"Hello, i wondered whether you could help me, my sister came in yesterday and brought an emerald green dress."

"Yes i remember," Sarah replied.

"I was wondering if you had any shawls, that would match her dress?"

"Of course sir, if you would just look at these."

Sarah showed him various shawls, but none seemed to satisfy him for what he wanted.

"What about this one?"

Sarah turned around and she knew instantly which one he had chosen. She knew it would go perfectly with the dress.

"If you don't mind, could you try it on, so i would know what it would look like on?"

Sarah obliged, as she felt it slip around her shoulders, the shop melted away. All she could see was Mark. Sarah could hear the band playing in the background. But all she cared about was mark, he was there holding her, kissing her.

The fiery haired man's voice brought her back. Without thinking Sarah started to run. She ran out of the shop, and down the street. The shawl was still wrapped about Sarah's shoulders. All she could hear was Marks laughter; she did not hear Rita screaming at the top of her voice.

At the boutique Rita was raging about what had just occurred, when the fiery haired man intervened:

"I shall pay for the shawl, and an extra 10 for any damages to you or your boutique."

"Thank you. Sarah will have to return, she's left her purse and coat here." Rita replied bitterly.

"I shall take her possessions to her home, to save you and Sarah the trouble.

That evening the young man waited for Sarah's return. He was just about to give up for the night when he heard the sound of footsteps travelling down the path.

A street lamp lit Sarah up. She was wearing her dress, with the shawl perfectly laid across her shoulders. Sarah looked up, she saw him standing there. Her face lit up to a genuine smile:

"He was there!" Sarah exclaimed, "He was there this time! I knew h would be, i just knew!"

"I came to return these to you, you left them at the boutique," he replied.

"Oh- yes of course, thank you. I'm sorry, i should not have bothered you with nonsense." Sarah hung her head with embarrassment, and tried to shuffle past the young man.

"My sister was right," he said suddenly," she was right, you did need help."

"Sorry i don't understand," she replied confused.

"My sister was the one in he boutiques, she could tell you needed help from your expression, your actions, the look in your eye when your fiancé was mentioned." He earnestly replied.

A few minuets passed before Sarah dared speak:

"People do not think that you ever want to talk about a loved one who has died, but it's what you want to do most in the world. That's why i resolved to send cards to myself in Marks handwriting, so i could get some kind of communication about him. No one else dared. He died a year ago today, whilst fighting in the war. I hadn't seen him to be able to say goodbye. There was an argument with his parents about what should be placed on the tombstone, but finally his message to me was agreed on. 'I love you, always and forever." So finally i went tonight, to his grave, and finally he was there, finally i was able to say goodbye."

Her breath was short, and silent tears ran down her cheeks, she knew now. He looked at her with compassion and sympathy, neither spoke for a while, allowing the information to settle in.

"I'm sorry Sarah, but i have to go, but here is my home address, i hope you will come over some time, if you ever need to talk. Good night Sarah."

As Sarah entered the house, she dropped the young mans card in the bin. She resolved to put all the cards that she had sent herself over the past year in the bin also. Sarah finally felt as if a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. That night Sarah slept peacefully, when she finally woke, she ventured downstairs to put the remaining card in the bin.

As she picked it up, she noticed it was Marks neat handwriting, not the emotional sloppy handwriting she had written in the previous day. Sarah tore into the card, and found there was no teardrop blood she had left. Sarah forced herself to look at the message.

'Life is for living. I love you, always and forever.'