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A month later, two men appeared on the Jones front porch. They wore uniforms and carried with them a familiar dufflebag, a set of polished dog tags and a folded flag.

Mrs. Jones stopped smiling after that. Her lips would never quirk up again, she was never able to be around others who were smiling. Amelia smiling, even a little, triggered tears and sobbing almost instantly.

Amelia didn't smile for a long time after that. She spent a lot of time at the Williams house, and out with friends, coming home rarely because she couldn't bare her mother's tears and her father's silence, or the room that sat next to hers and continued to collect dust.

It would be years later, after her mother passes, and her father moves out of the house into a smaller one further in town, and Amelia is married and has two little girls. She wears the dog tags that had been given to her mother, and there's a photograph on the mantel of her and Al at the age of fifteen sitting on the fence at their uncle's ranch. She can smile again, at her little girls and her husband and her life, and thinks Al would have been happy for her. For the life she has.

She'll never stop aching for the part of her that she lost when Al stopped writing. She'll never forget the boy he'd been as he climbed on that bus, or years they'd had together. But life continues, and she knows he would have wanted her to be happy, so she tries, and is.


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August 2017

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