"Why of All Paths, Did You Take This One?" by Misha Raynes

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Dinner was physically quiet that evening, but the memories were loud in the minds of the three that ate. Nobody wanted to speak about it for fear that putting words to it would make it true. It was true but nobody wanted to admit to it. The package was still in the living room, barely touched since its arrival. Nobody wanted to look through it and expose the life that once was. If they just sat quietly, they could forget that it ever happened. They'd go to bed, wake up and it would all have just been a nightmare.

A knock at the door disturbed the silence. It rendered the memory of the knock that came earlier. They sat in fear not wanting to answer it. Their eyes stared widely at each other, wondering who would be the one to get up and face the truth. Who would be the one to break the calm waters that they had forced upon themselves to reveal that which they had hidden not so well? Maybe the knock would go away?

It pounded again. Pounding in their ear drums. Pounding the beat of their hearts that raced with fear of the knowledge and ached with pain of the truth. More glances and no words. They would leave soon. Leave, just like he had years before. It was easy to lie to themselves, but they knew they'd have to actually face it sooner or later.

Finally, after another knock, Misha Raynes got up from the table and made her way to the door. Slowly, still hoping they wouldn't be there. Her parents stayed behind, not brave enough, not wanting to know. Misha's frail hand pushed the button and opened the door. A soldier. Another soldier, just like the one before but much younger. He was her brother's age. It was obvious by the look on her face that he did in fact know her brother. He expressed pain too.

"I'm sorry."

That was all he could manage before his voice cracked and the tears started. His face was wet and ashamed. Misha's face wet also with tears that overflowed from her pain. She bit her lip and tasted the salt of the tears.

"Come in."

No! That's not at all what she wanted to say. She didn't want any memory of this event to ever come inside her bubble. To ever taint her air with grief. But it was too late to change her mind. The words were already out there and he was already inside. His face was covered in fresh scars. He had been in a recent fight. His walk had a limp to it but he tried to hide it. He was sent home. Too wounded for any more fighting.

"He was a hero," he managed after a gulp. "He saved us…"

He would have been a hero. Misha and her brother had many differences but the one thing the two shared was confidence. She was confident in her ability to figure things out and he was confident in his physical strength. He was more brute while she was more smarts. He was always someone she could look up to. He protected her from the things she feared. She was ten years old when he left. She was fourteen now.

Her parents ignored the guest in their living room. It seemed the living room was filled with things that caused them pain now. They sat in shame at their table knowing that they had always disapproved of him leaving to aid in the war. They had always preferred their daughter. Someone who would grow up and have an amazing life. Someone smart enough to avoid something that would get her killed. This did not mean they wanted to lose him though.

Misha had grown up, quiet and a little distanced from the other students. She fed her time into building her knowledge. Her parents were incredibly proud. That is until she had informed them she was joining in the ranks of the military. They would not lose another child. They fought over the decision making it clear that they would not support her with this decision. Their fear was mistranslated though. Misha had looked at this as them turning her away just like they had her brother but she was intent on helping those in the military. She wanted to make it so that less families had to face that loss. Less brothers and sisters had to die. She signed into the military with a mission and she wasn't going to fail the many men and women that would need her.