Henry clasped both of Gertrude’s hands in his. The setting sun reflected in Henry’s brown eyes, causing them to look golden. “You know, I will have to leave.”
“Henry! No!” She pulled her hands away, tears filling her eyes. “You cannot leave.” Her voice shook as she took a step back. “You won’t leave!”
Henry drew in a deep breath, searching his mind for the correct words to calm her. “It’s ok.” He took a step closer. “I have to. My parents are growing old, and living in England isn’t helping them much.”
“I’ll go with you.” She interrtupted him. “I’ll help them too.”
“You can’t.” He stroked her cheek softly. “You have to stay here with your family. I will come back.”
A tear trailed down Gertrude’s cheek. “Henry, you left once. You cannot leave again.” She swallowed a sob. “If you leave, if something happens to you-” Her voice broke off.
“Hush, Gerttie.” He handed her a handkerchief. “Everything will be fine. I won’t be leaving for a few months anways. We have plenty of time to be together.”
She gladly took the handkerchief and dabbed her eyes. “But you know of all the attacks that have been happening, the-the-” She broke off into tears again.
Henry pulled her into a hug. “I know...the terroist attacks. But I can’t leave my parents to fend for themselves, especially now.”
Gertrude laid her head against Henry’s chest. His heartbeat made a soft thrum as silence now surrounded them. A breeze blew around them, bringing colorful leaves raining down on them. They pulled out of the hug. “Now, let’s not dwell on the future.” He sat down with her on their picnic blanket. “Let’s have fun before I leave.”
“Yes.” Gerturde smiled and pulled her coat around her.
Two months later...
The stars glistened in the sky, a light layer of snow covered the ground. Both Henry and Gertrude stood gazing into the starry night. “Henry, you really shouldn’t go.” Gertrude spoke.
“I have to.” His hand tightened around hers.
“But there was just an attack on a plane a couple weeks ago. It blew up and crashed in the ocean-” Gertrude mustered up strength to continue on. “And, no one survived.”
“I will be fine.” Henry swallowed a lump in his throat. To his own ears the words sounded like a false hope. Deep inside he was sure everything would be fine. Yet, another part of him felt something would go seriously wrong.
“How long will you be gone again?” Gertrude bit her lip, holding back another rush of tears.
“About a month, but I’ll be back before you know it.” He smiled lovingly at her. “Anyways, I thought of something.” He continued. “A phrase.. one that you can remember when you miss me.”
“I want to hear it.” Gertrude quickly replied. Her breath blew into the cold night air like smoke.
“All right.. stars shine brightest, on the darkest of nights.” He turned to face her and look her in the eyes. “Even on the hardest of days, you are still shining as bright as ever. And no matter what happens, you need to keep shining.” He carressed her cheek with his thumb.
She placed her hand on his. “Henry, please don’t act like something bad is going to happen.”
“I’m not trying to.” He whispered. “I’m just trying to let you know, whatever happens you need to keep shining.”
“I will.” She promised. “I’ll miss you.”
“I know, and I’ll miss you too.” He sighed as they headed back to their homes. “I’ll see you in the morning at the airport.” A sparkle in his told her he was up to something.
“Bye, Henry.” She waved as they went opposite directions. “See you in the morning.”
The next morning Gertrude rushed to the airport to see Henry off. Her heart was racing when she reached the airport. Unfortunately, she was not allowed after the checkpoint.
“Hey!” Henry waved pulling his suitcase inside.
Gertrude ran over to him, giving him a big hug. “Do you have everything?” She watched as he grabbed a backpack.
“Yes.” He pulled all his belongings inside and stopped out of the path where others walked. “I’m going to miss you.” He grabbed her hand. “A lot.”
Tears welled in Gertrude’s eyes. “I’ll miss you too.” She swallowed a sob.
Henry reached his other hand into his pocket. “I want to ask you something.” He pulled away from her hand.
She nodded, unable to speak as her throat tightened. Henry went down on one knee and pulled a small box. He opened it and revealed a dazzling diamond ring. “Will you marry me? I decided to ask right before I left, so you have something exciting to look forward to. And, so no other guys decide to steal my gorgeous girl while I’m gone.” He chuckled.
“Oh! Henry, I’d be honored to!” She smiled as tears from both sadness and joy spilled down her rosy cheeks.
Henry slipped the ring onto her finger and stood, pulling her into a tight hug. “I’ll miss you, Gerttie.” He whispered into her hair.
“I’ll miss you too.” She sniffed and wiped tears from her eyes.
He pulled away slowly and grabbed his bags. “I better head out.” He smiled at her, tears glistening in his own eyes. “I love you, Gertude Louise.”
“I love you too, Henery Thomas.” She waved as he walked away to get in a line to check in. A small sob escaped her throat. It would be a long month.
Almost 2 months later...
Gertrude flipped on the news as she sat on the couch. Henry had called earlier that day, saying that if everything went smoothly his flight would be in the afternoon. Gerturde flipped through the channels until she found the news. Her mother and father had left for a dinner out by themselves and she was home alone.
The TV’s glow glowed in the dark room. It was around 9pm that night. Henry had likely boarded the plane and taken off hours ago. Gertrude glanced at her hand and smiled. The engagement ring glittered slightly as she moved her hand. In no time, she and Henry would be married and start a family. The man speaking on the news drew her out of her thoughts. “There has been a plane crash, the cause is still to be determined, but it looks like a terrorist attack. The plan crashed into the ocean.” Gerturde grabbed the remote and turned the volume up, her heart racing.
The man continued. “There were no survivors. We are allowed to give the names of a few of the passengers who were boarded on that flight.” A list of names appeared on the TV.
Gertrude’s eyes scanned it, fear pricking her heart. Her voice whispered to no one except herself. “Josh Kars.. Larson Gates... Amelia Reston... no..” She whispered hard. “Henry Wiles.” Tears poured down her face. Henry’s name was on that list. Henry, had died in the plane crash.
“No, please no.” Gertrude sobbed as she read the screen. Tears flooded her vision as she placed her hand to her mouth, becoming a sobbing heap. She tumbled to the floor, tears pouring down her face.
Lights turned on in the house. “Darling?” Her mother’s voice called. She rushed over and pulled Gertrude close. “We just heard on the radio, I’m so so sorry.”
“He can’t be gone!” She sobbed harder. “He-he just talked to me a few hours ago.” Pain racked her chest. “He has to still be alive.”
“I’m so sorry, honey.” Her mother cried with her. Gertrude’s father came over, joining them in a hug.
“It will be ok, sweetie.” He rubbed her back as she cried.
Gertrude closed her eyes, trying to push the pain away. “I-I need to go!” She pulled away. As she stood she grabbed her coat and rushed out the door.
Her father grabbed Gertrude’s mother’s arm. “Let her go.” He whispered.
Gertrude ran in the snow, images of Henry’s face filled her mind. She slowed her pace near a snowy field. “Oh, Henry.” She cried into the night. “Why did you have to leave?”
His words floated to her mind. ”Stars shine brightest, on the darkest of nights. Whatever happens you need to keep shining.”
She wiped tears from her eyes and gazed up at the stars, shining as bright as ever. “How can I shine bright when I’m hurting?” Her eyes filled with tears again. “How can I be the brightest star, in the dark around me?” Anger surged through her chest, anger at herself, at the terroists, at the plane, even at Henry.
Gertrude sunk down into the cold snow, the brisk air took her breath away. “Why did you have to leave me? Now you’ll never come back.” She cried. No one was there to comfort her, help her with the pain. Only the brisk winter air, the snow, and silence surrounded her.
Henry paced the hospital waiting room, his eyes spotted the TV as the news flipped on. The man sharing the news reported a plane crashing, the plane Henry was supposed to be on. He spotted his name on the passenger list. His eyes filled with tears. “I was supposed to be on that plane.” He whispered.
He watched as more names came through. Suddenly he remembered Gertrude, the news, the call he made to her...
His heart raced as he thought about how she likely heard of what happened. He had to call her, but his phone battery was dead, the hospital phones were all busy, and he was too far from home. He ran a hand through his hair, thankful he wasn’t on the plane. Yet his heart hurt for all the other families and his heart was hurting badly for Gertrude. This news, it likely devastated her. There was nothing he could do but wait. “Stars shine brightest, on the darkest of nights.” He whispered as he took a seat in the waiting room. “Just hang in there, Gerttie. I will call you, I will be home. Everything will be ok.”
A doctor came out. “Mr. Wiles?”
“Yes.” Henry shot to his feet. “How is my father?”
“He is in critical condition right now. We are doing all we can to help him. Currently, he is in a coma. We are not sure how long it will last, but so far, his vitals are good.” The doctor continued on. “If you would like, you may stay here for the next few days. That is up to you. We will call you with any updates.”
“I’ll stay here for now.” Henry sat back down, fidgeting with his fingers. “The phone call will have to wait a little longer.” He whispered. Then shook his head. “Excuse me, but do you have a phone available?”
“Um..” The doctor checked his watch. “In a couple hours, one should be available for your use. I apologize for you needing to wait, but we have limited patient use for long distance phone calls.”
“I understand.” Henry swallowed, he would call Gertrude, as soon as possible. “Thanks.”