Forever Young by Jay-Z
I wanna be forever young
Tiny fingers grab at my hand and a smile reaches up to my lips. My fingertips caress hair as soft as angel wings, a smile as small as a pearl looking up at me. I can't help the grin that in turn makes its way to my own face. I feel lost in this moment, just myself and this beautiful child that I have been given. I don't feel anything else but an overwhelming sense of joy and pride in the little baby in my arms. I have never seen anything this wonderful in my life.
Soft hands move the hair from my forehead and kiss it gently, I look up to the adoring face of the only other person I have been able to love this tenderly. His lips also curl up in awe of the tiny child, his arms reaching around me to caress the pinkish skin until our little girl falls asleep in my arms. He leans over and kisses her forehead just as he had done to me. He catches me staring down at him and he smiles back at me.
"She's beautiful," he coos. "Just like her mother."
"I can't believe she's ours," I whisper so as not to wake our daughter's softly snoring body. He reaches up and kisses me, gently and slowly this time as opposed to the quick sign of affection from before. I relish in it, the joy spreading all throughout my body. "I don't ever want to let her out of my arms."
"She won't be this tiny forever," he smiles. "Enjoy it while it lasts, she'll grow up fast you know."
"Not too fast," I say wistfully. "I don't think I'm ready for that."
"We should get her to bed. I think you deserve some rest too, honey," he tells me, helping me up with both hands and catching me in his arms when I stumble from the chair too soon. He leads me over to the tiny manger we have set up for her and I place her down as carefully as I can, ensuring that her head rests on the softest part of the worn comforter within. It's not much I'm afraid, but it was all we could afford in time for her arrival. We'll make a pact, though, tonight. Promises made that we will work harder to provide for her. She deserves the best and we aren't able to give her that, yet at least. I'll do everything I can to make the money for toys and dresses for her, so that she can make friends when she goes off to school. I'll promise myself that I will do that, but for now I know I have to rest. The world swims before me as my husband helps me into bed beside him, just steps away from our daughter. My mind tries to relinquish itself immediately to sleep but there is one more thing I must say.
"I don't want her to grow up," I mumble into my pillow, unsure if anyone can even hear me at all. "Can't she stay this young forever?"
My grip tightens on my husband's shoulder as I watch my little girl's faded white dress bounce out of my sight and become swallowed by the crowd of other children as they make their way towards their sections in front of the stage. He breathes a note of calm into my ear and I relax if only slightly. My eyes shift through the crowd nonetheless, searching for the springy blonde ponytails within the swell of children. When I cannot find her I move my eyes to the screens that lie on either side of the stage, each one giving off different images both from on the stage and from inside the sections of children and parents as we wait.
A Capitol man prances onstage but I pay him little attention until the images have changed from the children I had searched for my own to become the visions of rebellion and war that they show each year. The prequel to the sad song that they will play as the lyrics of a child's name is sang throughout the district. My heart beats in my ears as the man onstage delivers his obligatory speech about the choosing of tributes for the Hunger Games, the honor it is to be chosen, and the meaning it holds for our nation. I become aware of the fact that my nails are digging into the arm of my husband but he doesn't seem to notice and I am unable to force myself to relieve the pressure. I hold my breath as the escort draws the first slip for the male tribute.
My eyes swim dizzily in my head and I nearly faint, the pressure building up inside my brain until I am sure I might burst. The chosen boy makes his climb to the stage without a sound but tears kiss the wood as he passes over it. Somewhere in the distance I hear the wail of a mother and my throat tightens when the boy hardly reacts to his parent's cry. My mind is unable to log the fated boy's name but the escort moves on without skipping a beat and as his lips form the song of the doomed girl I realize I am once again finding myself unable to breathe.
The two strong arms that reach out to catch me are not enough to stop me from falling to the ground. The lyrical name echoes in my mind as though it were merely a faint tease of what might have been but should never truly be. As if only to further my pain the name is repeated another time, nothing but black surrounding me as I attempt to crawl in the direction I believe to be forward. Two pairs of arms bring me gently to my feet but I push them away blindly, my vision coming back blurrily but enough for me to recognize the white dress and the bouncy, brown curls as they step towards the stage.
"No!" I screech, pushing everyone in front of me away to clear a path for me to get to her. Everyone moves out of my way without much more than a pitiful stare as I clamber into the rope that binds the children in and the parents of the doomed out. "My baby! No!"
My daughter looks back at me as I can see the tears falling freely from her beautiful brown eyes so much like my own. Her lips form a tiny sphere and I think that she might run back to me, into my arms so that I can scoop her up and carry her in my arms as far away from here as my legs will take us. Two men in white uniforms appear on either side of her and each place a hand on her lower back, prompting her towards the stage where the other fated boy stands waiting for her to join him in damnation.
I won't have it. I scream and shout her name even as my throat goes raw, even as I feel at least two other bodies edge between myself and the ropes and carry my away and back to my husband who waits for me in tears. I turn to run back to her, I won't let them take my baby away from me, but I see that it is already far too late for me to do anything but watch as my little girl shakes hands with the boy who cannot quite reach her eyes. The voice of the man that sang the names of the two children announces them once again, a mockery as if they had only wanted to remind me that there was nothing I could do to get my daughter back.
That night we draw the shutters in as the sounds of celebratory meals fill the houses around us. There is nothing for us to be glad for and so we only lie on our bed staring at the little cot in the corner that would never again be slept in. As my husband cries himself into a drunken sleep I lay my head on the side of the low child's bed and shed my tears quietly into the threadbare blankets. I do not sleep for even a minute that evening, mocking images of my daughter laughing and smiling playing through my mind as if only to remind me that I will never again share in that humor. These play like photographs through my mind all night, only the sounds of hooting owls and half-asleep moans from my bed to keep my company in my grief.
Six days later a knock on our door brings a tiny coffin to our step. It is not sealed, and we are asked by a single white uniform to identify the child within it as ours. I cannot bear to look and my husband peels the lid off for a mere second only to nod with half-conscious agreement that the child within the box belonged to us. He left us with no more than a soft spoken apology before he was on our way, leaving us to mourn her together.
We could not afford a proper burial for her, so she was buried alongside many others in a squished grave with only a wooden block to mark her name. We were told that the grave maker would inscribe anything we would like upon the marker, and my instructions were simple. There was no need for a day long quote about how wonderful she had been for the short twelve years of her life, anyone that had met her already knew that. Along with her name I requested just two words to be written with the utmost care.
On the day of her funeral only a few families came, mostly friends from school as both my husband and I had lost contact with our relatives in the years since our marriage. Two little girls in matching black dresses and hair bows knelt before the tiny wooden box and spoke words in soft harmony, voices so low that I could not hear what they were saying. Each visitor in turn did the same. There were no words spoken aloud because no one could think of any. We only sat before her grave to thank her for what she had given us and what she had left behind. My husband bowed before her for what seemed like hours before he finally stood with mud streaking his forehead where he had pressed it into the ground to honor her.
I approached the grave with gentle steps, as I did when she was a mere infant and I wished not to wake her from slumber. I glanced back at the sparse crowd, who had remained after their words had been whispered to help with the lowering of the casket, before lowering myself down to the brown grass and pressing my forehead to the wooden box containing her body; hands clasping it at both sides.
"I am so sorry. I could not protect you as a mother should always do. How anyone could live with themselves after being the cause of death to such a kind soul I will never know, but I only need remind you how much I still love you. No matter what happens to me and your father, we will always remember you and you will always be our baby girl."
Final goodbyes said and with the arm of another woman to steady me, I watch tearfully as my daughter's coffin is lifted gently from the ground and lowered into the narrow hole just wide enough to slide it into. There is no music, only the silence and the remembrance of the final goodbyes we have all said to my beautiful baby girl. My husband is the one to spoon the first shovel of earth into her grave before two other men take over for him so that he can help lead me out of the graveyard and back to our empty home. Just before we step onto the path to lead us away from her resting place I turn to read the little marker, to remind myself of the only two words I had written to put her to rest with. Two careful words cut out of the soft wood that remind me that she will always be just what I had wished her to be on the day she was born.
This is just something I had the inspiration to write about after listening to the song "Forever Young". Sorry if it is overly sad or depressing, but it is something that is actually pretty relevant to something that happens both in Panem and in today's world. A parent should never have to bury their child, and yet it still happens.
I would appreciate any reviews, but more than that I just wanted to write this for myself though I do hope that you enjoyed it as well.