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I won't Forget
The cabin is crowded with girls scrambling to get their uniforms on and everything perfectly lined up. Brushes and tape measurers are being passed from one side of the room to the other. A few girls are polishing their shoes as quickly as possible and a couple are eating a small breakfast hoping they won’t throw it up the minute their training starts.
“Athela? Have you seen my hair tie? I can’t find it anywhere.” One girl, Valentina Lange, yells at her new friend. Her question sends the whole cabin into a full blown search party. Every girl started to look for a hair tie of any kind, afraid of the punishment they would receive if anyone showed up to training with their hair down. They knew their captain would be furious if someone’s hair was down; but they couldn’t find a single hair tie in the whole cabin.
“Val! I found one,” Athela screamed from one of the many bedrooms. The cabin erupted in cheers as relief set into all their minds.
“Cadet Harris you are a lifesaver,” Valentina breathed out. She hugged her friend close and then proceeded to put her hair in a tight bun. It was amazing how close Athela and Valentina had gotten over the week at camp. The two were becoming the best of friends.
All of the girls were dressed in their uniforms and ready to head to The Pit. The Pit was where all the camp goers met each morning to get ready for their training. The girls walked out the cabin door, each taking one last glance in the mirror as they exited. They could see the boys exiting their own cabin as they all made their way to The Pit.
“Cadet Weber and Cadet Williams are looking quite handsome this morning. Don’t you think?” Valentina could barely pry her eyes away from the male cadets. The group had just arrived at The Pit, where they weren’t supposed to be talking. Athela rolled her eyes at her friend’s goofy comment.
“You need to stop focusing on guys. We are here to train, not find boyfriends,” Athela retorted. She had come to this camp to train for the military, but it seemed like most of the other girls were only at the camp to flirt with the guys.
“Cadet Harris, I believe the the rules state that there is no talking in The Pit. This is your only warning. If I catch you talking in The Pit again, you will be punished accordingly.” A deep voice came from behind the two girls. The voice belonged to the one and only Captain Joey Burk. Everyone in The Pit seemed to be shocked by the Captain’s voice. This was the first time he has spoken the entire week. Captain Burk walked up the stairs to stand with the other officers on the large wooden stage at the front of The Pit.
The officers declared the day as a relaxation day and released the cadets from the morning meeting. Most of the cadets and officers headed toward the mess hall because it was air conditioned and there was enough seating for all of them. It wasn’t often that the cadets got a day off, so they planned to enjoy themselves. Valentina and Athela sat down at one of the worn out tables. Soon after the girls took their seats, Cadets Weber and Peeters joined them at their table along with Officer Augustin.
“You know he hasn’t spoken to a girl for almost 2 years. I mean he has but he has always been quite rude when he would address them,” Carlos Weber spoke as he took his seat. He received multiple confused looks from the table of girls. He wasn’t sure what had confused the girls.
“Who hasn’t spoken to a girl for 2 years? Nicely, I mean,” asked Opall Peeters. Opall was one of the other female cadets at the camp. She had joined the group at their table because she was to shy to make many friends. The table was silent with shock from hearing Opall’s sweet, little voice for the first time.
“Captain Burk. They are referring to the captain himself,” officer Augustin spoke, “My curiosity lies more in the whys. Why hasn’t he talked nicely to a female in 2 years? Why speak to you nicely? Why now?” The officer started listing off questions like she expected Athela to know the answers. All eyes were on Athela who sat silently under their judging gazes. She didn’t know why the captain had spoken nicely to her and she had no idea why he chose now either.
“Don’t act stupid Brooklyn. You know why he hasn’t spoken nicely to a girl in 2 years. Go be a b**** somewhere else,” Cadet Weber spat. A few gasp could be heard from the growing crowd of people gathering around the table.
“Watch your mouth. I am your superior,” Officer Augustin retorted. Some of the other camp attendants whispered theories about the situation occurring before them. Athela was becoming highly uncomfortable watching the two scream at each other.
“Watch my mouth? You want me to watch my mouth?,” cadet Weber screamed, “I’ll watch my mouth when my best friend is happy again.” Everyone in the crowd knew he was talking about the captain.
“Cadet Weber,” the officer started to speak but was interrupted.
“2 years. I had to watch my friends suffer for 2 years because he loved you for some god forsaken reason. I watched as he beat himself up over you,” Weber spoke angrily, “How dare you talk to her like she’s done something wrong. At least she isn’t a giant asshole like you are.” The mess hall had fallen completely silent as Carlos Weber spoke. No one knew how to respond to the current situation. The table at the front of the mess hall, where the captain and his officers sat, had all stood to get a better view of the argument taking place.
“That’s enough,” Captain Burk’s voice boomed. His words seemed to slice through the thick silence that had fallen over the crowded mess hall just moments before. Athela felt like the captain’s words were echoing in her mind. Her heart was pounding in her chest as her eyes locked with the captain’s. She couldn’t tear her eyes away from his icy blue ones.
“Joey, she deserves to be put in her place.” The captain pulled his attention away from Athela’s honey colored eyes and focused on his best friend’s complaint. He agreed that Brooklyn needed to be put in her place, but he was over the pain she had caused him and felt that it wasn’t worth it.
“Carlos, it’s over between myself and Officer Augustin. There is no need to fight.” The minute the words left Captain Burk’s mouth something in Athela’s thoughts finally clicked. She realised why Brooklyn was so upset about the captain speaking nicely to her and she almost laughed at the thought. She found it funny that the other girl was so jealous of her when all the captain had done was speak to her.
A few hours passed and the camp seemed to be back to normal again. The officers decided to have a formal dance that night to help calm the cadets down.
The girls cabin was more hectic than it had been that morning. Girls were rushing around the building trying to find their heels, dresses, hairspray, and jewelry. The whole cabin was in a panicked rush to prepare themselves for the dance. One girl, Hikaru Tanaka, was rummaging through a huge pile of makeup that had been dumped in the middle of the hallway. A few other girls were crowded in the bathroom while others chose to gather in their bedrooms.
Athela sat on her small twin bed in a light yellow gown. She was in a room full of other girls who, like her, were getting their hair and makeup done.
“Hey Hikaru, can you bring me a light shade of bush,” Valentina yelled. She knew the other cadet was searching through the pile of makeup just outside the room they were in and hoped the girl would be nice and help her out. The next thing she knew, a small blush container was being passed into the bedroom. Valentina smiled at the container which contained the perfect shade of blush she needed to complete Athela’s look for the night.
“Thank you,” she quickly yelled. She then proceeded to look for a brush to use. Her eyes landed on a makeup brush that was on a nightstand across the room.
“Hey, Opall, would you pass me that makeup brush?” Valentina pointed to the brush on the nightstand. Opall picked up the makeup brush and passed it to Valentina with a smile on her face. The girl was happy that someone had acknowledged her existence and had spoken to her. Valentina turned her attention back to her best friend and swiped the brush across her cheekbones leaving behind a light pink on each side of her face. Athela could feel the soft bristles of the makeup brush move ever so lightly across her cheekbones. A few gasps escaped the lips of the surrounding girls as Valentina stepped back to admire her masterpiece.
“You look absolutely stunning,” Valentina gushed. Valentina had a talent for makeup and hair. She loved making other girls feel beautiful.
“Wow. You did an amazing Val. I bet she’ll get all the guys looking like that. Clara Rossi, one of the youngest cadets, complimented both Valentina and Athela. Athela could feel herself blushing and let out a soft giggle.
“Thank you Val. You did an amazing job. I don’t think I’ve ever felt prettier,” Athela spoke. More girls gathered in the room to grab the last little things they needed for the dance; and then the girls all headed to the mess hall.
Music spilled through every crack in the mess hall. The officers had worked hard to decorate the mess hall to create the best dance they could. Boys, in their dress blues, and girls, in their dresses, all gathered in the now converted mess hall. Everyone was waiting for the okay to dance and enjoy themselves.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the usual dance rules apply here tonight. Be safe and have fun,” Officer Damion Queen spoke. His voice echoed in the building. A loud cheer erupted from the crowd of cadets as the music started to play again.
Athela and Valentina sat chatting at a table in the back. The two girls hadn’t really planned on dancing much so they sat and watched as all their friends enjoyed themselves. Athela was laughing at something Valentina had said; and the two girls hadn’t seen the boys approach their table.
“Cadet Lange, would you give me the honor of this dance,” Cadet Weber asked. He held his hand out praying she would accept his offer to dance. Her hand slipped into his as Valentina rose from her seat.
“Why yes Cadet Weber, I would love to dance,” Valentina sweetly replied. As the two walked of, Valentina turned and winked at her friend.
“Athela, would you like to dance?” An unfamiliar voice came from behind where Athela sat. The voice made her jump a little ;but when she turned to face the person who had spoken, she recognized Cadet Williams immediately. The boy looked nervous as he fidgeted with his fingers waiting for her reply.
“Gabriel, if I’m to be honest with you, I don’t really feel like dancing right now. Maybe we can dance later on in the night.” Athela felt awful as the words left her mouth. She didn’t want to hurt the boy’s feelings, but she wasn’t really into him.She could see what little hope the boy had in his eyes disappear.
“I understand. Have a good night.” Athela could tell it was hard for the other cadet to be so respectful after his rejection, but she appreciated his manners. She watched Cadet Williams walk toward another table and take a seat. Her heart hurt from the idea of hurting such a nice guy. She sighed and turned her attention back to the dance floor. Her eyes landed on her friend and Cadet Weber. The two looked like they were enjoying each other’s company and the soft notes of the classical song that was playing through the speakers. Athela slouched in her chair. Her eyes never left the dance floor which explains why she jumped when she felt a tap on her shoulder.
“I would greatly appreciate it if you would dance with me Cadet Harris,” Captain Burk spoke. His voice seemed shaky and nervous. Athela stared at his extended hand remembering the rejection she had given Cadet Williams. She knew it would be wrong to dance with the captain and not her fellow cadet; but if it were wrong, why did it feel so right. She slipped her hand into his telling herself she would dance with Cadet Williams later in the night. The captain pulled her up from where she was seated and led her to the dance floor. A slow song started the minute the two got on the dance floor. The captain placed his hands softly on Athela’s hips. He pulled her body close to his own, pressing her firmly against himself. The two swayed slowly to the classical notes that flowed from the speakers.
“I like this song,” Captain Burk whispered. His breath tickled Athela’s neck.
“Sir that tickles,” Athela giggled. She felt utterly girly with the captain and her own laugh made her want to cringe. She didn’t know why she was acting so feminine in that moment, but she hated feeling so giddy inside. Captain Burk shifted his body so he could see his partner’s face.
“Don’t call me sir. Call me Joey.” As the words left the captain’s mouth, Athela felt like the world had stopped. She didn’t know what this feeling was, but it made her almost sick to her stomach. No words could describe the fireworks that were going off in her mind. The song was coming to an end and she didn’t want the hands on her hips to let go.
Before they knew it, the two had danced the night away. The dance was coming to an end and everyone was sent to their designated cabins for the night. Athela felt bad that she didn’t dance with Cadet Weber, but she didn’t care that much. She was in an amazing mood from the night of dancing with the captain.
Athela and Valentina entered their bedroom with looks of wonder on their faces.
“I think I’m in love.” The two girls spoke at the same time as the flopped on to their beds.
“He told me to call him Joey and, oh, I can still feel his hands gripping my hips. I can still smell his musty cologne and see his blue eyes. I love those blue eyes that seem to hold the sky, ocean, and the future.” Athela let out a heavy sigh.
“I know how you feel. Carlos has swept me off my feet,” Valentina cooed. The two girls layed on their beds, replaying the night’s events in their heads. They felt as if nothing could ruin such a magical night.
The two girls lay in silence, afraid that sleep would erase all their memories from that night. Sounds of explosions and gunshots broke through the room’s silence and sent shivers up the girls’ spines. Everyone jumped into action, remembering every step of their protocol. Not one girl in the cabin missed a beat. Dresses came off and uniforms were on within seconds. Girls were loading guns while others collected knives to use when they ran out of ammo. The girls all grabbed a gun and quietly exited their cabin. They could see other camp attendants squatting near their own cabins. Athela and Clara crawled toward some cadets they knew. Valentina went the other way in search of the officers.
“What’s going on?” Athela questioned Marcus Jones and Spencer Norson, two lower level cadets. The two boys looked scared out of their minds.
“One of the other cadets went crazy and just started to shoot,” Cadet Norson answered. His voice was trembling and his hands were shaking. They had never heard of a cadet going crazy and shooting up the camp before so this was a first for all the attendants.
“Who?” ,Cadet Rossi spoke up. She had asked the question Athela had been thinking. Neither of the two male cadets seemed to want to answer her question. Their eyes held both fear and confusion.
“Cadet Williams,” Marcus retorted. His voice was hard and emotionless. The girls could tell he was angry, but neither knew exactly what angered the young cadet.
“No. That’s not possible. Gabriel? He wouldn’t do something like this,” Clara defended. Something in her voice led Athela to believe something else was going on.
“Yeah it’s Gabriel. No one thought he would do something like this,” Spencer spoke, “He came into the cabin mumbling something about someone not dancing with him. I’m not sure what he meant; but I guess it really hurt his feelings.” The words that left the cadet’s lips sent chills throughout Athela’s body. She didn’t have time to ask more questions because more shots were fired in the distance. Athela felt her pulse race as the shots echoed through the chilly night air. She refuse to think about all the possible outcomes that could have occurred if she had just danced with Cadet Williams.
“Cadet Harris, if you are out there and can hear me, I want you to come closer. I want to see your face when he dies,” a deep voice screamed. Athela immediately recognized the voice as Gabriel’s. She stood and walked toward the officer’s cabin, ignoring the advice from her fellow cadets. She froze when her eyes landed on the captain being held in a headlock by Gabriel with a gun to his head. Her heart was beating fast and she didn’t know what to do.
“You think you’re special because he likes you?”, the cadet screeched, “You deserve better than this scumbag. I could give you so much more love than this loser.” Gabriel’s words were harsh. She felt her heart beating fast.
“I’m sorry I didn’t dance with you. Please. You don’t have to do this,” Athela pleaded. She hoped she could talk the other cadet out of whatever he had planned to do.
“No! I’ve made up my mind,” the boy shouted. Athela didn’t have time to respond before Gabriel pulled the trigger. Joey’s body went limp in the other boy’s arms.
“Now we can be together,” Gabriel laughed. The sound of his laugh made Athela physically sick. She was afraid Gabriel would hurt her if she tried to get close to the captain. More shots were fired from behind Athela; and she watched as Cadet Williams fell to the ground dead. Athela took off in a sprint toward the captain. She picked up his body only to see that Joey was very weak but still alive. She felt herself sigh as her eyes locked with his.
“I need to tell you something,” the captain whispered. Athela shook her head no. She didn’t think she was ready for the next words that would leave Joey’s lips.
“No you need to save your energy,” she spoke. Her voice sounded rough from the sobs that had taken over her body.
“Listen to me. I don’t want to die some kind of hero just because some idiot shot me,” Joey grabbed her face and pulled it close to his own. Athela felt her pulse quicken from his touch.
“If you remember me, I don’t care if everyone else forgets,” he breathed out. He pulled her face to his own and placed his lips on hers. Athela felt like the whole world had stopped in that moment. She didn’t want the kiss to end, but he pulled away. He coughed before speaking again despite the fact that he was very weak.
“Do you understand me?” He questioned her. He knew he didn’t have much time left and he didn’t want to die not knowing if she would remember him. Athela shook her head to tell him yes. Tears were streaming down her face and she was shaking from the sobs. She could see that Joey wasn’t going to make it. Her heart sank as he took his last breath.She cradled his body in her arms and held him tightly against her own.
“I won’t forget,” she whispered through the tears, “I won’t forget.”