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In All Forms

By Ruth KPublished 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 11 min read
First Place in Love Unraveled Challenge

Leah never stopped moving. Even when she was standing still, you could feel the restlessness in her bones. She’d shift in place, tap her finger, jiggle her leg. She was a hurricane wrapped in tanned, freckled skin, a perpetual motion machine in human form. Everything was to excess. She ran like the wind, laughed at everything. She drank like a fish, cursed like a sailor. She lived life to the fullest, all day, every day, and she never once got tired.

I used to hate it. She’d tap on the wall and keep me up all night. She’d drag me out on hikes or runs and, good lord, how I hated cardio. I’d opt for a calm, chill night in and she’d have me out in the bars until three am, hammered drunk and stumbling home. Worst of all was her taste in food. I’d want burgers and she’d insist on sushi with an ungodly amount of edamame. Once she made me roasted Brussel sprouts marinated in balsamic vinegar. I’d complained that they made the apartment smell like farts then admitted that they tasted good, grudgingly so, of course.

Leah pissed me off when we were kids. Both so neurodivergent but in opposite directions. Leah’s made her loud, brash, and annoying while mine made me shy and anxious and also annoying. Our feud lasted many years. Screaming matches as kids, fistfights as teenagers, stony silence as young adults. But still, the love persisted. By the time I was twenty-four and she was twenty-one, we were best friends. She helped me move across the country several times and I was always there when she needed a place to crash or someone to vent to.

We never judged or doubted one another. I could show her all the worst pieces of myself and she only ever smiled. She could tell me that she was going to live on the moon and I’d help her plot her route there. Even when I was one hundred percent in the wrong, she was only ever on my side. Our differences now complemented each other. I taught her how to appreciate the calm, enjoy a night in and just relax. She taught me how to be wild, to sneak into penthouse parties in Vegas and lose myself to the music.

I was the oldest. So I tried to protect my two sisters as best I could, sometimes with encouragement and other times with a bit of tough love. But Leah was brave. Leah was wild. I saw so much of myself in her, so much of my own yearning and insecurity. I saw her making the same mistakes I had once made and I desperately tried to steer her into safer waters. But she needed to feel things for herself. She wore her heart on her sleeve, doled out hate and love with equal intensity. I loved her so much that I would have taken a bullet for her. I would have let myself be set on fire, pulled apart by horses, stabbed through the heart, if it meant she could have a happy life.

So, Leah was wild. She joined the Army Reserves as a heavy watercraft mechanic and took part in a mine sweeping operation based out of Kuwait. She showed all the male soldiers up in her physical training; her rifle qualifications were always expert and above. Leah never did things halfway. It was all or nothing and I was so proud. I watched her accomplishments but I also worried. She would drink until she blacked out in the street; she went to Brazil for two weeks on her own, lost her phone and wallet and still somehow managed to make it home in one piece.

But everyone matures and Leah finally found her center in Colorado. She got a great job as a brewer at Coors, bought a house and made friends. Such good, dear, precious friends. Those strange work friendships where age is literally just a number and you find yourself twenty-eight years old with besties that are either in their forties or are barely old enough to drink. Leah was good like that. She could make friends anywhere she went, with drunk college kids at the bar or a bunch of old ladies a garden party. She was personable, likeable. And so I wasn’t surprised to find that she had a new boyfriend.

I wasn’t able to visit her new house or meet her new, perfect boyfriend. I was in Afghanistan, working myself to death in order to buy a house for myself and my youngest sister, Logan. But Leah and I made plans once my contract came to an end. We’d meet up in Vermont on her birthday weekend. We’d rent a cabin, go skiing, enjoy the local nightlife. While I wrapped up in Afghanistan, Leah moved her boyfriend into her house. She was at last building toward something important. Instead of manic nights out, trying to dance and laugh away her pain, she was working to build a future. And I was so excited to be a part of that.

It was January. I’d come home from contracting in November and I was still trying to adjust to life back stateside. Covid was still hitting us hard but the liquor stores were open at least, so that was a plus. I was trying to live. I was trying to get used to working as a lift mechanic, to carrying wrenches instead of a rifle, to working in the snow rather than the desert. One day, my mother wouldn’t stop calling. She called while I was rewiring a safety wand; she called while I was replacing worn sheaves on a tower. She called while I was trudging into the house I’d finally been able to afford for me and Logan, and while I made dinner with my boyfriend. Annoyed that she’d been so persistent, I finally answered the phone.

It's all a bit of a blur. I remember getting angry. I remember Logan’s shocked silence and my boyfriend’s hand on my shoulder. I remember my mom crying and I remember my aunt on the line as well, trying and failing to keep things calm. I remember being pissed at Leah for playing such a cruel practical joke. But, most of all, I remember my mother saying that Leah was dead. That her boyfriend, the one she’d finally decided to trust and settle down with, had murdered her, then killed himself.

I was in the Army. Been on two combat deployments and spent two years as an expat in Afghanistan. I’ve been blown up, mistreated; I’ve seen injury and death, misery and destruction on a grand scale. I’ve seen people blasted to bits and shot up; I’ve seen friends commit suicide or self-destruct. It’d take a lifetime of therapy to get over it all. And yet nothing ever hurt this badly. No broken bone or concussion or heartbreak ever hurt so bad as losing my little baby sister. My mother’s middle child, the one who could never be tamed or calmed or soothed. The one who never stopped moving and who would now never move again.

There’s something different about losing a sibling. It’s not like losing a close friend; it’s an entirely different sort of pain. Like losing a limb, a piece of yourself, almost like a piece of your soul. Her death came so abruptly. There one second and gone the next, her head turned away on the pillow to sleep and then her life extinguished in the time it takes to pull a trigger. They say I should find comfort in the fact that she went fast. That she never saw it coming, that she felt no pain or fear. But that’s such small comfort compared to what we should have had. After everything we'd both been through, we should have had a lifetime of picking each other up when we fell. Of laughter and tears and shouts and…love. We were owed a lifetime of love.

Leah was challenging to love. Say you found a wild animal hurt in the forest, took them home and nursed them back to health. Over the next few weeks or months, you fall in love with the little thing, almost see them as a permanent member of your household. And they love you back, you know they do, But they also never stop being wild. They would never be satisfied living cooped up behind locked doors and so, one night, unable to stand their cries, you let them out. They know you’re safe; they come back to visit you every so often, let you pet their head and hold them close. But they always leave. And it always hurts your heart to see them go. Because it's dangerous out there and you worry for them. You want to keep them with you, where you know they’ll be safe. But you knew they’ll never be happy and so you let them go.

That was what it was like to love Leah. My love for her could never restrain or tame her. When she visited, it was a whirlwind of laughter and excitement and endless stories told back and forth. But even though we loved one another, she never stayed. She was always off on the next adventure, her freckled face grinning at me from the doorway of an airport or through the window of a taxi. I always worried that she’d get hurt out there in the wild, that someone would be cruel or thoughtless and she’d come limping back to me with yet more scars. She knew that I would always be there for her, though. She knew I was safe.

I have so much love for Leah. She and I were so alike, so desperate for the same things. Our hearts ached together, constantly searching for something so ephemeral and elusive that we couldn't even quantify our longing. When Leah died, I jealously held onto that love. It was mine and Leah's and no one else could ever intrude on that. I isolated myself so much that I lost my boyfriend, temporarily lost my job, lost touch with anything save my own internal pain. But a love this strong can't be contained. After months of lonely suffering, I set it free. And that love spread in ways I could never have imagined.

When I was young, I was desperate to be loved. I dated a string of men in some misguided bid to find validation and comfort, threw myself into their arms in hopes that they could kiss my pain away. But it never worked. After my isolation, though, I realized that I was looking for love in all the wrong places. I didn’t need boyfriends, I needed friends. I needed to appreciate my other sister and my mother, give them the love and respect they deserved. If I could love Leah, who pissed me off to no end, then surely I could forgive my friend for never knowing when to shut up. Surely I could be gentle when Logan zoned out or patient when Mom told the same story for the hundredth time.

You can’t change a person’s personality. All you can do is love them for who they are and accept their flaws. My friends are definitely annoying. Logan is…well, I wouldn’t call her annoying but she definitely has her flaws. My mother is too religious and stubborn. But my friends are also loyal, entertaining, and knowledgeable. Logan is intelligent, clever, and funny. My mother is soft, kind, understanding, and sometimes her jokes are real bangers. Love makes me patient. Love keeps the stress at bay, lets me weather every storm. Because I love my friends and my family and they love me and we know that we love one another. Our love is quiet, loud, gentle, stormy. No day is the same but love threads through every moment of my life. And I have Leah to thank for that.

I carry Leah with me everywhere I go. I wear her dog tag and her icon of St. Jude, even though I’m not religious in the slightest. I think of her all the time. When I laugh, when I cry, when I’m at work climbing a tower or rewiring a stop button. She’s always with me. This love I hold for her will never die. Her death left a wound in my heart that no longer bleeds but refuses to heal. I’ll never be fully happy again; a part of me will always grieve her absence.

My love for Leah is so strong that it has melded into every facet of my life. I gave a piece of it to my coworkers, the ones who've become my precious friends. I gave a piece to my family, to my mother and Logan. I even gave a piece to myself, gave myself the same grace I give others. I've learned to appreciate and cherish what I have in a whole new way, to embrace love in all forms and never give anyone cause to doubt how much they mean to me. No burden is too heavy to shoulder. No wintry night is too cold, no summer day is too hot, no task is too tall. Because my life is full of love.


About the Creator

Ruth K

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (15)

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  • Atomic Historian25 days ago

    I'm so sorry to hear you lost your sister that way. She sounds wonderful. And thank you for sharing this in a challenge. I felt weird entering my obituary for my grandmother in a challenge. I didn't care about winning the challenge. I just wanted people to read about her. So thank you for allowing us to read about your sister. There's a belief if I've always found beautiful from ancient Egypt that is the reason pharaohs were so obsessed about being written about. It's that the act of recording someone's life in writing makes them immortal. I hope this thought/belief brings you some comfort

  • Today is my baby brother's birthday. I lost him nine years ago, and the wound still hurts. I think I was meant to read your story today to remember to set that love free, and to let it spread. This must have been so hard to write, but thank you for sharing with the world.

  • S.L. Underwood29 days ago

    I'm so sorry for your loss. This story hit close to home, I lost my sister in October of last year and your writing touched my heart. Thank you for sharing this.

  • George Shannon Fergusonabout a month ago

    Leah's memory lives on through the love and kindness she brought into the world, and we are grateful for the opportunity to carry on her legacy through your words.

  • Andrea Corwin about a month ago

    Ouch. A big ouch! So brave to write this, you showed Leah to us and you bared your soul. 💔💔 Painful to read but not like the pain you feel. (I’m Army -Ret.- wife.) Deep condolences and sending hope your pain lessens soon.

  • sleepy draftsabout a month ago

    I don't have words for how much this moved me. Thank you for sharing this and for sharing a part of Leah's story. Your love for each other and how she impacted your understanding of love is profound and I thank you for putting it into words and sharing this with us. I don't think I will ever forget this piece or the way it has made me feel. Congratulations on this win. I wish it could win one hundred times over. 💗

  • D.K. Shepardabout a month ago

    I’m so very sorry for your loss, this piece is so raw and full of such love.

  • Dana Crandellabout a month ago

    Congratultions on your first win. I expect it won't be your last.

  • Ava Mackabout a month ago

    So well done, Ruth. Thank you for sharing your story, and Leah's, with us ❤️

  • Gabriel Huizengaabout a month ago

    No words can really do justice to the beauty and power of this piece. Thank you for sharing Leah's story, and the transforming love that she carried into your life and beyond. You have my deepest condolences, and my deepest gratitude for sharing this piece of your story and soul.

  • emaabout a month ago

    Congratulations for your first place in the challenge!

  • Alyssa Nicoleabout a month ago

    This is such a beautiful piece. I love how you convey your unique and loving relationship with Leah. It sounds like she was an amazing person and it's heartbreaking that her life ended so early. Your words are a wonderful tribute to her and how your love continues. Congratulations on your very well-deserved first place win!

  • Caroline Cravenabout a month ago

    Wow. Such a phenomenal tribute to your sister. I’m sure she’d be just as proud of you and love you just as fiercely. I’m so sorry her life was cut short. This is an exceptional piece of work.

  • Hannah Mooreabout a month ago

    Your life is full of Leah.

  • Christy Munsonabout a month ago

    Congratulations on your win! 🥇 🥳🍾

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