The night before she was taken away, they sat under the bridge in the park. The war was a dark and dirty thing, not yet landed upon their shores but stretching its monstrous arms into their lives just the same. Her family had accepted fate quietly; but as children they were angry, and broken, and bewildered as only children can be. He had carved their names in the wood above them.
“I'll remember you,” he said, wiping his nose on his sleeve and not caring that she saw it. Such is the nature of trust. “I hate this. You were born here, just like I was, so why are they sending you away?”
“My father said it's because we might be friends or relatives of the enemy. And that it's for our own safety, to keep people on the streets from yelling at us or attacking us. He said the war will soon be over and that if this is our part, we should do what is asked.”
“I'll wait here for you every day until you come home.”
A year later she had not come home, and his father was transferred to a new job, far away. As they packed, he stormed and wept, thinking of ways to sabotage the new job, or to run away; but, in the end, he went quietly enough, carrying her in his heart.
He turned eighteen, and the draft notice came. Another war, another leave-taking, another tear in the fabric of his life. He was sent back to the sunnier climes of his youth, where he sought out the old bridge that still stood protectively, if a little wearily, over the stream in the park. Something had been carved, next to their names; K Y O T O.
In a strange land, sent to kill those he neither knew, nor understood, nor cared about particularly, he fought with dogged courage and the sole objective of living till his next R and R. And then the next, as he searched with fading hope for one name belonging to one girl in one very large city.
Sometimes all of the hope and faith in the world is simply not enough. And so, what can we do, but live. He finished out his sentence, survived, and went back to his home; found a good job, loved and married a nice girl who met all of the right criteria, and had a daughter. Somewhere in that time, he crept under the bridge and, feeling a little foolish, and not a little sad, carved O A K S T. Nothing else was ever added, although he looked from year to year.
Time passed, as it does, despite our devout wish to hold it still on occasion. His wife died suddenly, and his daughter was now married, with her own brood to raise. He had plenty of time to sit by the bridge in the sun.
A letter came to Oak Street, but he had since moved away to a nearby respite home, and the forwarding had expired.
Fate is not always cruel, although it may seem that way. His daughter still took him to the park on Sundays, and so he was there when she came one day; the girl, who's name he had carved in the wood so many years ago. Changed, and yet not so much, especially when she smiled.
“I thought I would be too late,” she said, taking his hand.
“It's never too late,” he said.
They had a year and a half together, and though that may not seem like much, to those who thought they would have nothing, it was everything.
The bridge is still there, and if you duck your head, crouch down underneath, and look up, you will see those carvings, and another:
Sample: Flash Fiction