The kiss was awkward, well meant but a little gross, and very awkward. It was both of theirs first kiss. Neither really new how it worked, nor what was supposed to happen so they just ducked down and did their best. The fact that they were “just friends” didn’t help much either. Without any clear guidelines of how far was too far they ended up just making slight fools of themselves. Not that they minded, they came away with a laugh and a grin.
The bus honked its horn letting all passengers know it was boarding and would be rolling out soon. “There’s something I want you to have,” said the boy. He dug into his jeans and pulled out a ring. It was made from steel and had a three leaf clover stamped into it. He took her hand a started to move it onto her finger, stopped and then embarrassedly placed in her palm. Looking at her face again he stared at the best friend he had ever had. Her eyes were wet with tears, she tried to blink them away, stifled a sob and grinned the same silly, carefree grin she had when he first saw her ten years ago as she jumped through puddles by the creek. He grinned back and started to say something before he was cut off by the bus once again honking, this time more urgently. He rolled his eyes said “Bye,” turned and ran for the bus.
As he was boarding he turned to her once more, she was still standing there. She waved and shouted “I’ll see you in six months!” He waved back and climbed into the bus.
He was seventeen and joining the army. He was going to fight in
She stood and watched as the bus finished filling up and drove off. She didn’t move; she barely breathed until the bus was out of sight. She stood for another moment rubbing the ring he had given her, a ring every member of his family had for protection. Then she reached up and touched her lips. Closing her eyes briefly, tears leaking from between her lids, she turned and walked home. It was almost a mile, but she didn’t mind the walk, she had walked it before and it gave her a chance to think, to think about what was coming, about her friend, and about the maelstrom of emotions she found herself suddenly assaulted with.
He was in
She still waited for him too. Every day she would rush out to the mail box and see if a letter had come from him. She wrote faithfully and he wrote back as often as he could. There was one stretch, where he was in a
Every night, before she went to bed she would clasp her hands and pray for his continued safety. The ring he gave her never left her finger and she whispered an almost constant mantra that whatever protection it offered would keep him safe while in
She was 19, and her family wanted her to marry. She refused. She would wait forever if need be.
Then one fateful day in mid December a different sort of letter arrived at her neighbor's house. When his mother showed up at the door with fresh tear marks running down her face she was worried he had been injured again. His mother held a telegram in her slightly shaking hand and wordlessly offered it to her. It began "Dear Mr. & Mrs. Mcharridy." Her vision blurred, she new what sort of a telegram this was and couldn't even make it past the first words before tears started to well up. Blinking them away she read on "We regret to inform you that your son, Shawn, died in the service of his country." She couldn't go on, the telegram fell from her hands and she collapsed
into a corner of her living room crying. Her mother came to comfort her and she pushed her away. His mother picked up the telegram walked over to her and lightly placed her hand on her head. They stood there a moment looked in a perfect pose; his mother standing tall, chin up, with fresh tear tracks staining her proud features, and her cowering in a corner sobbing silently but uncontrollably head in arms. His mother withdrew her hand and left silently. She eventually moved up stairs where she continued to cry, holding the ring he gave her tight in her hands, sobbing silently.
Three years pass and she has moved off to college. With nothing to keep her in her country village anymore she has decided to become “a new woman" like all the magazine reporters talk about. She has started to make a new 1954 woman’s life for herself. She is majoring in political studies and she has met a boy. She still remembers, and cares about, her first love. She always wears the clover stamped ring but things have changed, times have changed, and she has moved on. She does not hurt with his very memory; she has matured. She is almost 22 and she thinks of all the fond times they shared, rather than the years of waiting only to be broken by his death in a war he was to young to fight in anyways.
A year later and her new boy has just asked her to marry him. He does not know it but he asks on the very day she read the telegram. He was going to wait till the weekend but she seemed so depressed that he desperately wanted to cheer her. He takes her out to a drive-in movie, then dinner, then a walk. Their walk takes them along a lake. A cool breeze blows across the water and she snuggles close to him as they walk. They don't say anything, loving one another's mere presence. They stop at a bridge and each flip a coin into the lake. They watch. As it plops into the water she asks, "What did you wish for?"
He stops and thinks. He did not know that they were making wishes. He is hit by a sudden inspiration. He drops to one knee and pulls the ring out of his coat pocket (it was an expensive ring and he kept it about him at all times to keep from loosing it) "That you would say yes," he responds.
She is speechless for a moment, her breath knocked from her. She knew he had planned on proposing but had no idea it would be right then. She figured it would be in a few days when they were going to a fancy restaurant at the earliest. She looks down at the ring and reaches for it, a sob catching in her throat. Even as she says "Yes," and takes the ring from him she notices the clover stamped ring. She starts to really cry; she can barely put the ring on her finger she is crying so hard. He gets up and helps her put the ring on. Looking down at her hands he sees that she has the clover stamped ring on her other finger and that she is staring at both of them through her tears. He wraps his arms around her and they both turn and look out over the bridge at the night sky. "What is that steel ring for," he asks her. He had never asked before because he thought it was just an ordinary piece of jewelry but that night seeing her stare at his engagement ring and her steel ring as she cried he realized that it meant much more than that.
It is 1955 and they are standing on a bridge. Dawn comes and they are still standing on the bridge. She spent hours telling the story between her tears. Afterwards she finished they talked, about each other, about the rest of their lives together, but most of all about the Irish boy and his ring. She had never talked about it with anyone and it felt so good to finally discuss what had been going through her mind that whole time that she lost track of how long they were talking for. He loved her so much and was so happy to see her finally talk about her grief that he did not mention the time, he kept his sleeve pulled over his watch and never glanced at it to keep her from realizing that they both should get to sleep. It wasn't until dawn started to peak over the hills that she realized they needed to return to their rooms.
It is 1970 and she has been happily married for almost fifteen years. She has two children, a boy and a girl. The boy, her first born, is named Daniel Shawn, Daniel for her husband’s father, Shawn for her long departed best friend.