The sky was a cloudless black exposing the brilliant shine of each individual star like diamonds that had been tossed into the air and became stuck in the sea of night sky. On that night, the moon was round and full with light as it glowed peculiarly bright upon a small house nestled snugly in a neighborhood of other homes just like itself. Only this one was a bit different. Looking down the street of the neighborhood, you would see all the lights turned off inside the homes signaling that the occupants inside were sleeping comfortably in their beds on this clear, cool night. The only house lights that could be seen belonged to the house lit up by the full moon in the diamond sea night sky.
Inside the house and into the dully lit room was a girl. Her room was tidy enough with a desk, vanity, dresser, and stereo all comfortably fit into her small bedroom. The lamp by her bedside washed the room with its dull light as the girl sat curled up on the bed clutching a single picture to her chest while tears streamed down her young face. She could have been no more than sixteen. The rest of the house was silent; her parents asleep in their room at the other end of the house while her heart slowly cracked to become shattered into thousands of pieces. She wished for anyone to hear her cries, but, well, that wasn't true now was it? She only wanted one person to mend her aching heart.
The door to her bedroom creaked open; her bedroom light barely being able to light up the figure in her doorway. A man around the age of 25 stood silently as he watched the girl rock back and forth trying to hide her sobs. He was unsure whether the girl would even want to see him after what had happened between them a couple of days ago. He didn't want to upset her further because of his presence. Finally, she lifted her brown eyes to meet the soft, caramel ones of the man. He relaxed when a small smile graced her lips. He stepped forward, closing the door behind him before sitting along the edge of her bed and pulling her close to him. Her tears were still falling fresh down her cheeks, but her sobs had quieted. The picture she still clutched tightly to her shaking torso.
"Mason, will you tell me a story?" She quietly asked keeping her eyes away from his so he wouldn't see how ashamed she was to ask such a question at her age. She'd been having awful nightmares for the past couple nights and he was the only one that could make them disappear.
The man, Mason, chuckled at the girl. "What would you have me tell you? A fairy tale?" he teased lightly. He didn't want the girl to cry anymore. He hated seeing those large brown eyes wet with sadness and fear.
"Tell me the story," she quietly pleaded. Her body had ceased shaking and her sobs were no more. Even the tears that had fallen like rain down her face had come to a halt.
Mason's face grew solemn. "It's such a sad story though. Are you sure you want to hear it? After all, it might not help your situation."
"It's fine," the girl reassured confidently. "As long as you stay beside me until I fall asleep again."
Mason nodded assuring her that he would so that her nightmares wouldn't return even though he knew that, most likely, they would revisit her the next night.
"Once upon a time…" he began with a smile causing the girl to playfully nudge him in the side with her elbow. Mason chuckled holding the girl closer to him as he continued on with the story she had begged to hear. It was the only story she had wanted to listen to for the past couple of nights, but he understood why.
"Once upon a time there was a girl…"
Once upon a time there was a girl…she was around your age, with beautiful brown eyes and a smile that could light up the midnight sky. She was a kind person with a gentle soul; the type of person who couldn't imagine hurting a fly even if it was buzzing annoyingly around in her face. She was loved by her family seeing as she was the youngest having only one older brother. A brother she was extremely proud of for he was serving their country; protecting their freedom. Although the girl worried he wouldn't return home one day, she remained confident in her brother that he'd come back home to her again so she could see his face once more.
It was on the night that her brother had just returned home. Only the girl had been at a friend's house for the day working on a project for school. She was trying to hurry through the job telling her friend excitedly that her brother had finally returned home, but she also wanted to do her best for school. So, her brother waited patiently at the house for her return so he could tell her of the stories from being in the military and give her a present he had gotten for her while overseas fulfilling his duty.
Finally, on a cloudless night when the sky was blacker than usual and the stars were twinkling even brighter, the girl started on her way back home. Her friend lived a few blocks away from her home and during her walk back to the house she called up her brother letting him know she was on her way back to him. Her brother pleaded with his sister that she should let him pick her up and drive her back to the house, but she would have none of it. His sister assured him that she would be alright walking home on her own; that she knew how to take care of herself. Shortly after having slipped her phone back into her pocket, a few men stepped out of the shadows of the abandoned building she happened to be passing by. The girl stopped in alarm upon their appearance. Slowly, she took a few cautious steps backward only to bump into the body of a man that had stepped up from behind her.
The man quickly snaked his arms around her tiny waist and pinned her arms against her sides making it nearly impossible for her to move. The girl wriggled in his tight grasp; she grunted in pain when one of the men buried a fist into her abdomen. It was true she knew how to take care of herself, but not when it was three against one. While the one man held her, the other man, who appeared to be the leader, stepped forward with a malicious smirk. She knew exactly what the three men planned on doing to her all from the wicked gleam in the evil man's eyes. Once more she began struggling, but was painfully subdued once more with a swift punch. Tears welled up in the young girl's eyes as she realized the awful mistake she had made at refusing her brother's offer to drive her home safely from her friend's house.
As the leader of the three men began to unbutton her jeans and slide a hand beneath the waistband, a car peeled around the corner of the street to screech to a stop next to where they stood. A silhouette rushed out of the driver's side of the car as he quickly approached the men. The young girl feared for her life thinking it was another member coming to kidnap her so that they could each have their way with her. However, her thoughts were wrong. The silhouette of the man was in fact her brother.
He had become worried that she had not arrived home yet and thought maybe she got caught up in talking to her best friend or something worse. So he had come out in search for her only to see her wrapped in the arms of a burly man and being sexually harassed by a lankier one. Her brother tackled the leader to the ground and made quick work of the lanky man's face with his angry fists. The blood was clearly shown on the leader's pale face as the soldier turned to the burly man holding his sister. Before he could even stand to his feet, his sister stumbled forward as her captor released her and ran like hell down the street away from her brother. The only man both the sister and brother had forgotten about happened to be the most dangerous one.
When the young soldier caught glimpse of the man moving towards his sister, he curled his fingers into his palms turning them into fists of rage. He stepped threateningly towards the third man, but the man showed no signs of fear. Instead…he smiled. That smile sent chills all along the sister's spine wondering how a simple twitch of the lips could look so malevolent. That was when she saw it. The light from the street lamp overhead caught the edge of the silver gun as the man lifted it to shoulder level. Her eyes widened when she realized the gun was pointed straight at her chest.
Within a blink of an eye, there was a ringing in her ears as the gun went off. The loud crack of the bullet leaving the barrel broke the eerie silence of the night that had settled around them. For long, agonizing moments the girl waited for the pain of the bullet to strike her, but it never came. It was only when she saw the man running away, gun in hand, that she saw her brother lying face down on the ground. Stunned, she quickly pieced together in her mind what must have happened in that short moment after the gun went off. The soldier had dived in front of his younger sister to protect her from the excruciating strike of the bullet before collapsing to the sidewalk.
She dropped to her knees beside her brother; a pool of dark liquid already beginning to ooze out from beneath his body. Tears like diamonds fell down her cheeks as she cautiously flipped the soldier over to see his face and check for any signs of life. However, there was none to be found. The soldier, her brother, had already passed on from this world to enter a better one where he wouldn't feel pain any longer. The sounds of her tormented sobs echoed down the empty streets as she wrapped her arms tightly around her brother's waist vowing to never let him go. She could feel the warmth of his blood stain her pale, cool cheek mixing in with the salt of her tears, but she didn't care. Even when his body had grown cold with death, she continued to hold him all the while blaming herself for what had occurred. It was that guilt that slowly began to consume the young girl's heart. A guilt she made herself live with forever.
Mason quietly finished the story as a single tear escaped from the corner of his caramel brown eye. He glanced down at the girl sleeping peacefully curled up in a ball beside him. Her tears had dried up long ago, but he knew for one moment that didn't mean the aching in her heart had ceased to exist.
He brushed his fingers along her cheek, brushing back a few strands of hair. The faded trails from her tears were sticky beneath his fingers. She stirred slightly in her sleep before slipping back into her dream with a small smile. Mason could only guess what she was visualizing in that mind of hers. She always had a strange imagination, but it was an admirable one. The longer he watched her sleep undisturbed, the more his mind thought back to a couple of days ago. The salt of his tears burned the edges of his eyes as he did everything he could to hold them at bay. Mason was afraid that she might suddenly awaken to see him crying the way she had when he'd stumbled upon her.
Slowly he leaned down until his lips were a hairsbreadth away from the young girl's ear.
"It's not your fault for what happened. I don't know what might have happened had it been you, but it doesn't matter now. It's my duty, as a soldier and your brother, to always protect you no matter the cost. I'll always be watching over you to protect you always. Just know…it was never your fault so stop blaming yourself. I will always love you, Ellah, no matter what happens. Goodbye."
Mason pressed his lips against the warmth of his sister's forehead in a gentle, loving kiss. A tear slid down his face to drop smoothly onto his sister's cheek as he pulled back. His eyes fell upon the picture she still had clutched tightly to her chest. Carefully, Mason removed it from her fingers to gaze down at the image. It was a picture of them hugging in front of the house; her face full of smiles while he had his tongue out threatening to lick her face. A strangled laugh emitted from his throat as he remembered that day. From his pocket he withdrew his dog tags and wrapped them around the picture before sliding it once more beneath her hand. His dog tags had been the present he was going to give to her that day. He stood up from her bed watching as a smile drifted across her young face while a single, crystal tear fell from the corner of her eye. Maybe having visited her one last time had been for the better unlike what he had originally thought. Mason glided toward her bedroom door, about to exit her room, but glanced once more at his sister over his shoulder. She was tough. He knew she could pull through this without him. Just as long as she always knew he was never far away.
With one last tender smile, the young soldier stepped through the doorway, disappearing, to enter into his new home: Heaven.