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The boy sat by the window today. He didn't know why he felt like breaking the chain of routine, but something about the outside caught him. Usually, the adults try to keep them away from the windows because they don't want them to hear what happens outside. They don't want them to hear the other people talking and get frustrated that they could not do the same or some kind of silly thing like that. But the boy didn't understand that. Why would he get frustrated? He can talk, just not the same way others can. And it was beautiful out anyways...fluffy white clouds dotting the sky, one of them blocking the sun only to be split in half by the intense heat for light to leak through as if from heaven to reflect on the lush pastures.
      A hand was felt on his arm. The boy turned to find Aaron, his friend. Aaron gestured his head to the door and pointed to the rest of the kids going through it, telling the boy that it's time for lessons and recitals. The boy grinned sheepishly and scratched the tousled blond locks on the back of his head as if to say he forgot. Aaron smiled and rolled his eyes, patting his shoulder and pulling him off of the floor he was sitting on. The two ran to catch up with the others and sit in the overly-colorful and decorated 'story room'...well, that's what everyone called it, in their own way. The boy picked up a violin while Aaron and their friend Jaime, a girl from France, sat down at the piano.
      It was almost a frenzy then. Kids that played the bass propped it up against the chair that the strummer of the strings would stand on, with the kid that used the bow on ground level, since neither were big enough to do both. Then there was the twins, brother and sister, who set up the African drums, doing some test taps to see if their rhythms were still in touch. Clarinets, flutes, anything and everything you could think of. Even obscure instruments like hang drums and ocarinas were picked up by small hands to be played and used like real musicians. The three adults in the room were sitting in the front, talking and watching. The boy had to always sigh and smile at this. Last time any of them tried to intervene in their chaotic orchestration, the kids lashed out angrily and clutched the saxophone he was playing. All the kids knew why too - they were choosing their voices, not their 'instruments'. Eventually the adults gave up and didn't intervene in these moments of preparation unless one of the instruments was in jeopardy of breaking.
      The teacher came to the front and tapped the stand. The small pupils all stood ready in positions on the layers of rows that kept going up and back like a miniature amphitheater. She held up the green sheet music and we all knew what song to play. There were some shuffles as we removed the blue, pink, yellow and brown sheet musics from the stands and got ready. It started with the violins and flutes. A simple light and flitting tone, like leaves dancing in the wind, soon picking up by all the lower, more buttery toned instruments. Two kids playing one cello or one bass were in perfect sync by just reading the sheet music. Aaron and Jaime kept up on the piano and every kid in the room was suddenly talking. The cheeriest of them on violin were crying out in the jovial tone of the melody, the outgoing smiling with their eyes as the oboes and saxophones joined in and the energetic pouring their excess into the drums. The song didn't even call for drums, but they somehow found a way to work percussion in the song to make it sound nice. And then the soloist on the trumpet began, the unofficial leader of this group of exceptionally musically talented rug rats - Hayden was the oldest, a proud nine years and read sheet music better than letters(discounting the fact that this was the case with most kids here). He was their true conductor to them, not the tall lady with the stick. Everything they said was either a complement to what he was saying or a harsh contrast, but either way he was leading them through the song stronger than anyone else could ever do.
      It always saddened the kids when they finished 'talking', but they always found a way to end the songs in an optimistic note, knowing that they would talk again soon. Motions were made for the strings to finish out, and the boy strummed the bow on the strings of the violin one last time for this song. After a brief applause from the mediocre audience, the teachers got up and went to the respective students to point out the flaws via sign language.
      The boy took his advice nobly, as did the rest, and sat lying in wait for the next motions the head teacher would make. She came center and made the hand signs for 'improv time'. Every kid in the room would have yelled in delight if they could, but instead just picked up their instruments and some a song they have been trying to write. And they began talking once more, though free flowing, conversationally talking instead of the stricter recitation that they had just finished. Many excited instruments began playing at once and the world became alive again with the tones and emotions and sounds. And while they were all playing different things and they were all listening and responding in their own little worlds to what they heard, as a whole it sounded hauntingly beautiful, like many different kinds of birds chirping at one another in a small cage.
      It pained them when they heard a jar-sized bell in the hand of the teacher that signaled they must stop. She made the motions of 'It's noon, time for lunch kids!' and the lost boys and girls of their own little never-never land left the secret hideout to go do battle with the pirate lunch-ladies and their evil food. The boy paused as he turned to look out the window he was sitting by earlier. The sun was shining still.

Old writing - Mockingbird - 10/7/07

       “Rowley, you see that?” Grant, one of my good comrades asked, pointing out the window of the plane. “It’s home,” he said. “And damn, I don’t think I’m gonna be goin’ to another desert anytime soon, y’know?”
       “Yeah; I do,” I said softly, putting a hand to the window pane. Home. That word seemed so far away, so distant. It’s like an old, reliable friend you haven’t heard from in years, that heightened sense of excitement and joy. Hell, it was all I could do not to cry. “Home.” The word slipped from my mouth like music from a piano; smooth, quiet, but warm.
       “Oi, Grant, Rowley!” Adam, our commanding officer, called to us. “We’re landing now! And gear yourselves up mates – the first time returning home from over a year in Baghdad’s gonna do things to yah.”
       We all stepped off the plane with our heads held high, eyes darting around the corner eagerly, looking for family. I came out to see my wife, Riana. Never have I ever been so glad to see her. I looked down to see her clutching a small baby in her arms, eyes closed in sleep. She saw me and ran as fast as she could without dropping the baby. I smiled and came forward, throwing my arms around her and holding her close, leaning my head on her shoulder. I could feel her hot tears of joy wash from her face and seep into my army clothes.
       “Hey you,” I said in a gentle voice, stroking her honey blonde hair. “What’chu crying about? I’m home, see? You don’t need t’cry anymore. I’m safe, I’m home. You don’t need to cry.” I don’t know why I was saying this, because I knew she was just overcome with happiness to see me again. So was I! but I guess I was just reassuring myself this wasn’t a dream that I would wake up from in less than an hour due to having little or no sleeping time, proving to myself this isn’t some bizarre mirage amidst the sands of Iraq. No, this was real, this was home. I knew it.
       Riana stopped crying after awhile, still not saying anything, simply clinging to my body for dear life. But then again, nothing was needed to be said that wasn’t already said. She smiled and said to the baby, who had recently woken up, “Norah, say hi to daddy. Say hi to your daddy!” she carefully handed the baby to me – our baby to me. Norah gurgled, and reached a hand out. I held her in a light but secure grip, scared my strong, army-scarred grip would be too tight, too rough for such a delicate, pure human being. Her teeny hand brushed along my recently shaved face. I could have sworn right then, that my own eyes were looking in a mirror, for hers were so like mine.
       “I’m sorry,” I said quietly as I cradled Norah. “I wish I could have been there.” Riana shook her head. “The important thing is that you are here now.” I smiled and kissed her. “Yes, I suppose it is.”
       She smiled that beautiful smile I fell in love with 3 years ago when I began dating her. “Let’s go home,” she said. “Airports are too noisy for infants.” I glanced down at Norah, who looked ready to go back to sleep again. I laughed; she has the sleep habits of her mother. “Home sounds good.”
       When we went to the baggage claim, my joy was choked by old memories. There were hundreds of people in here, all clumped into one room. A man sitting by one pillar with the name of some business man written on a card looked from here to there with a backpack sitting on the ground. It was like when we had to go to Faluja, and a man set off a backpack bomb, killing four children in the death toll. Another man was walking by, wearing overly baggy clothing, like the suicide bomber that struck Baghdad markets. Another dozen were rushing from one place to another in a hurry, like the insurgents that ambushed us, another nine were on a cell phone and over there, cell phones are used as triggers for bombs. I tightened the grip on Riana’s hand, while keeping a good hold on Norah in the other.
       “Cain? What’s wrong?” She asked, looking at me with her caring blue eyes. She took her other hand and caressed my back with it.
       “Um, nothing,” I said quickly, still darting my eyes around at all the people that whirred around me. Why was all of this coming back? The war was behind me, in Iraq, thousands of miles away, over a damn ocean! “Let’s just find my bag and get out of here.”
       It was more than obvious I was tense, but Riana just nodded and took Norah as I went up to grab my bag. By the time we were out of there and on the road, I was much more relieved. Something told me that big crowds would take some getting used to again.
       I looked around the streets of the suburbs as we drove in, the sun setting on a weary day. The houses…they were the same, yet not. The same peacefulness, the same look, but nothing felt the same anymore.  Seemed too far off, in some distant memory that wouldn’t live to be the same ever again. I sighed.
       When I got out of the car, I looked over my house. I cradled Norah, and walked inside. I brushed my hand against the banister I slid down when I proposed to Riana just before she left the house – that was 2 years ago. I walked up to see the small kitchen table where me, Riana, Bran and Seth used to gather around with a shot of whiskey and play cards on summer nights. My fingers barely grazed the smooth wooden surface, like I would see my memories again by reading the hand-print worn oak. I kept walking in my daze, to the living room, where Riana told me she was pregnant, not a month before I was shipped off to Iraq. That unrealistic sense of happiness, that chronic euphoria that lasted until I was gonna be deployed…I will never forget it.
       Riana hugged me from behind, her head leaning on my back. “Welcome home.” I snapped out of my reminiscing and turned to hug her back with my available arm, kissing her gently on the top of her head. “Glad to be home,” I agreed with her.
       She smiled and sighed in content. I looked down at her, with a small smile of my own. At least one thing wasn’t distant or far off.  One little thing that wouldn’t make me wonder if I was really home. “Well, I oughta get with making dinner; why don’t you get to know Norah for a little bit?”
       “Sure thing,” I said. “It hangs over my head bad enough that I only today met my daughter. I have some catching up to do.”  Riana saw the guilt in my eyes, I could tell. She always had a way of seeing someone like looking through a piece of glass. She chose not to say anything, but to get to work instead. But really, what could she say that would get rid of it? Nothing that I could think of.
       I carried Norah up the stairs like she was a little silk pillow that had a fine glass bead on it that would shatter if it left its pillow. I found our room and flipped on the light switch. I found that the small white cradle was to the left of our bed, a couple toys here and there. I sat on the bed and held Norah out to really look at her. Wisps of honey colored fuzz could be seen on the top of her head, like her mother. Fair toned porcelain baby skin brought out bright hazel eyes that looked me over with interest and curiosity.
       One of her miniature hands gripped my finger and turned it over, examining it. How can I blame her? Her mother’s soft, sweet scented hands were so different from my sun tanned, leathery, scarred hands. It was like my own daughter thought me an alien. I sighed, and simply let her turn over my hand, touch the skin-like leather that encased my body, and it had sunken in just how different things were. Iraq did things to me. Instead of seeing my child, I see an Iraqi child crying because her mother was just killed. I see so much past, and it scared me, right then, so much. Norah put a hand to my cheek, and it comforted me, brought me out of my spell to the past. It was burned in my head still, but Norah was its bane, it seemed.
       “Cain, dinner’s done!” Riana called from down the stairs. I sighed and wordlessly got a securer hold on Norah and went back downstairs. Though, when actually came to eating, something in my system just told me not to. I looked at the simple chicken and pasta with a roll in front of me and wondered why I was resisting this; I haven’t had a home cooked meal in a long time.
       “What’s wrong?” Riana asked. “I would think after over a year of rations you would be scarfing this stuff down.”
       “I’m just still adjusting to home is all,” I said bluntly, my eyes on the wood of the table.
       Riana reached her hands across the table to grab his, her thumb making gentle stroking motions. “You were acting like this at the airport too. Anything you want to talk about?”
       I closed my eyes and put my head in my hands. I didn’t need to see her gaze to see it held worry. “Its not that I don’t want to talk to you about this,” I said slowly, carefully. “I just…I need to talk to someone who’s been there and back…I need to talk to Bran and Seth. I think that’ll help.” I looked up to see now her head was down, though she nodded. “I’ll keep your plate warm, in case you wanna eat when you get back.”
       I sighed and went over to her, wrapping my arms around her. “I’ll be alright,” I said, though I couldn’t tell if I was talking to myself or to Riana.
       “Just come back home soon,” She said quietly. “That’s all I ask.” I nodded and solemnly left the house to take a walk a few blocks to the graveyard.
       I walked through the giant black wired gates and went up to the area where the war soldiers were buried. I knelt by two stones and closed my eyes, brushing over their names with my hand. “Brandon T. Karson. Seth J. Aries,” I said aloud, opening my eyes. “Bran, Seth, it’s me…I’m home. Or…am I home? I can’t tell anymore. Every time I see something that was once normal, once fine, it feels so different! I see someone on a cell phone and I flip out, I see a large crowd, I can barely keep in control!”
       I sighed and put a hand to my head. “You guys…we grew up together. We enlisted together. We fought together. We bled together. Yet for some reason, we didn’t die together.”
       I could already hear Bran’s blunt response of, “Well you have a kid and we don’t dumbass!” I could still feel his harsh gestures when he got mad at me; all of it was flooding in.
       “Riana, she knows something is wrong. But, can she really help me with this?”
       Seth would prolly tell me in his calm and reasonable voice, “Of course she can. All you need is to be talked to. You keep bad things bottled up; they do worse things to your health!”
       “And what about the past? I can’t just go back to life like I never saw or did anything! I could barely get home without melting down-“
       “Then talk to Riana,” Seth’s voice continued in his head. “She loves you. She wants to help you, and she can. She may not have been there or know what you are going through by experience, but she’s a good minded girl that can offer good advice, a shoulder for when things get tough, anything you need, you know she is ready to give.”
       “That’s it though. I can’t tell her the horrors that I saw there. she would-“
       “Would what, explode on impact?” Bran came again. “Listen, we grew up with Riana, she isn’t made of glass! She would have gone through that same hell and back ten times if it meant you would be safe, you know that! So stop acting like a childish, dumbass brat and do something other than talking to dead people! I didn’t take that bullet for you so you could come home moping and crying about how hard life is now that you’re here. Guess what, I knew it was going to suck for you. But you gotta get over that!”
       I could almost feel Seth’s gentle, brotherly hand on I shoulder. “Norah needs you, Cain. She can’t grow up with her father always distant and too scared to go in public. She looks up to you, to protect her. Fulfill at least that to her.”
       I sighed. I think I understood now. “Well, then what do I do?” I asked aloud, in a calmer voice.
       “Go home,” Seth and Bran mentally sounded. “Talk to Riana. Take care of Norah. But most of all, move on.” And they were gone. Well, okay, not gone, but this sense of purpose finally came, a sense of what I had to do.
       I walked back home on legs that were stronger, yet they were never weakened, eyes that had courage, yet never really lost it. it was complicated, what  I could say at that time, but all I knew was that something came back, yet it was never really gone.
       I walked in to see a sheet of foil over a plate, which I assumed to be my dinner, but I heard a soft voice upstairs. I quietly went up them and entered the room to see Riana singing Norah to sleep. The lullaby came out of her lips like water from a fountain; cool, gentle, but the song itself...it plainly told what happened when he left.
       Hush little baby, don’t you cry
       Momma’s singing your sweet lullaby.
       May your dreams never be stirred
       On the wings of your mockingbird.
       Travel under mountain, over sky,
       Yet still in this bed you’ll lie.
       When weary dreamings have occurred
       Come back home on your mockingbird.
       In your dreams you may weep
       And wish no longer that you’re asleep.
       You need not say a word
       Just call your loving mockingbird.
       Hush my sweet baby, don’t you cry
       Momma had a nightmare, I won’t lie
       Daddy’ll be home soon, I’ve heard
       On the wings of our mockingbird.
       Daddy’s still off fighting in the war
       So your dreams shall have no gore.
       Soon, your dreams will become cured
       When he comes home on our mockingbird.
       Hush pretty baby, please don’t cry
       Daddy’s gonna be alright.
       If he gets hurt and you overheard
       Fly away on your mockingbird
       You miss your daddy, yes I know
       At your age it really shows.
       If you wanna see him, don’t say a word
       Dream of him on your mockingbird.
       She finished, and Norah was asleep. I walked in quietly and hugged her gently from where she sat on the bed. “Can you tell me what’s wrong now?” I could hear her voice wavering. She was scared she was losing me, I finally realized. I hugged her a little tighter.
       “I can. See, the war…it did things to me. I see a man on a cell phone and I think a bomb is gonna go off, I look at the side of the road and wonder if a bomb is sitting there, I just…” I sighed, leaning my head on her shoulder in hopelessness. “I just don’t know how I’m supposed to come back home from all of this and act like I never left in the first place, like I don’t see things I saw there.”
       I felt Riana hug back. “You don’t need to. Cain, its okay to come back from the war zone and not be able to let go of what happened like that. I’m here to talk to, to help you adjust, to help you with anything you need so you can move on. I love you, why wouldn’t I?”
       “I know. Bran slapped me back into reality, and Seth did all the reasoning. I know what I did earlier to worry you was wrong, I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you straight away.”
       “Think not of it,” Riana said quietly, leaning on him and gently kissing his cheek. “Now, what happened over there? Talk to me.”
       I opened my mouth to talk when Norah began crying, woken up from whatever she was dreaming. “I’ll take care of it,” I volunteered, going to the cradle to hold my dear sweet child. “shhh, girl,” I whispered. I realized this was my time to fix things, to make my alien hands familiar, to make her father no longer a stranger. Softly, I sang:
       Hush my lil’ baby, daddy’s here
       You don’t got anything to fear
       Know that you’re never unheard
       On my wings, your mockingbird.

It Begins.

Hello. My name is Jen and I'm a PC this is my first journal entry on livejournal. I will be using this as a portfolio of my creative writing, mostly, as well as giving related updates. I also have a deviantart (Username: Braveheart-Ancestral) on which I am much less active at the moment and has a lot of other things, if you so wish to see them. I don't have anything up for you yet, but I hope to get a weekly or every other weekly story going once I get in the swing of things. We'll talk more later!