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Liliana waits by the window, with her eyes drifting every few minutes to the mountain pass. Soon, she and her love will be reunited. Months, he has been away, fighting for the Monarchs of the land. But soon, he will be home with her.

She is equal parts anxious and joyful for his return. Gods, by nightfall, she will hear his laugh. She will feel the rumble of his as it tumbles out of him. She will feel the scrap of his scruff. The lines his jaw draws when he neglects to shave, which he no doubtfully has. He will hold her again. His muscular arms will envelop her in his warmth.

The anticipation of his return causes a bouncing to take hold of Liliana’s legs. Liliana smoothly sets the book that was laying on her lap next to her forgotten tea as she stands. She gracefully paces back and forth, unable to sit still a minute longer. Soon, she promises herself as she bites her lip to stifle her smile.

Looking to the window once more, she squeals when she sees a carriage ride through the mountain pass. Thank the heavens, her love is home at last!

Racing through the halls and down the stairs, Liliana practically screams with excitement. She throws the doors open and runs towards the carriage gleefully. With a bubbled laugh, she watches as the carriage doors open. And her husband emerges.

But her giggles fall silent when she sees the grief in her lover’s eyes. Her eyes quickly rove over his face, taking in the sleepless circles, the hollowed cheeks, and the pale color of his skin. He looks half-starved, and his poster is horrendous. The sun does not shine kindly on him. Instead, he looks like a broken creature that belongs to the night. He is not filled with joy but squashed with grief. The once boisterous man is now a wisp of a person. A ghost. Her love is a ghost of a man.

Choking on a sob, she races toward him and throws her arms around him. He stumbles back a step but does not say a word. He does not wrap his arms around her; he does not engulf her in his warmth. No, he is chilled to the bone.

Pulling back, she cups his face. The eyes that were once so expressive do not hold a lick warmth. They do not hold any emotion whatsoever. Horrified, she pulls away from her love.
Yes, she knew war would be difficult. But she believed that her love would be stronger than the death he faced.

Uncertainty grips her, whispering in her ear that she can do nothing. But she must do something. She must.

Grabbing hold of his hand, she leads him inside the house, resolved to help in whatever way she can. And through dinner, even though he is not responsive to her, he eats. She celebrates this fact, for she believes there is hope at last. She rewards herself with a smile when they go through the motions of preparing for bed as they did before he left for war. And when they both lie down, she cuddles him, sure that with every act of love, her love will return to her.

Unannounced to her, long after she has fallen asleep, her love rouses from the bed with a purpose he has turned over his mind for weeks. With sure feet, he heads down the stairs, a pistol loosely gripped in his hand. Exiting the house, he heads to the backyard, sitting on the bench he carved as a gift for his wife. The perfect view, she had exclaimed when he sat upon it the first time and gazed at the stars above them. Now, he stares at the same stars but feels a world away with a paralyzing pressure resting on his heart. His mind flickers to the battlefield, to the smoke and ash and death, and he flinches. Tears run down his cheeks as they have every night. His head pounds with exhaustion and pain while his hands shake. Taking in one final shuddering breath, he releases the trigger while he releases the guilt that has been splintering his soul for months.

Gabriela is always energetic and excited about life. She approaches every situation with a positive attitude. Currently, she is studying at Texas A&M University where she has hopes of becoming an engineer. In her free time she hunts for the best lattes or huddles up with a good book for hours.
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