When the Sun Sets

By Ashley W.

Artwork by Jeana W. (Grade 9)

She stares at her feet, the flowing skirts of her white dress rising with the movement of her knees as she climbs up the rocky steps. The rocks are surprisingly even, the warm temperature the outcome of the afternoon sun’s rays. She shields her eyes with her hand, squinting into the sunlight of the setting sun. ‘Almost there,’ she thinks. The contrast between the cliff and the sun peeking from behind it is amazing, and for a moment she regrets not bringing her camera. She can’t help letting out a sigh, wondering if she would be able to print the photos later, even if she’d remembered to bring it. Quickening her pace, she soon reaches the top of the cliff.

She walks over hesitantly. Carefully seating herself at the edge of the cliff, her legs dangle high over the water beneath, the pale fabric of her dress spread out around her. The cerulean water of the ocean sparkles in the sunlight, seemingly stretching on to the end of the world. She glances down at the waves, white foam breaking against the pale sand.

They’re spinning around, laughing, his large, tan hands intertwined with her pale, smaller ones. He falls down onto the sand, pulling her down next to her. She can’t stop laughing, the dizziness making her hysterical. She slowly stops laughing, twisting her head around to look at him, a smile still on her face. He’s looking back at her, his hazel eyes serious, and her smile slowly fades away. He pulls out a box from his pocket and gets up on one knee. “Emily Nicole Arreguin, will you marry me?”

His expression is nervous, waiting impatiently for her answer. As if she could ever say no. “Of course I’ll marry you,” she tells him, throwing her arms around him. Grinning widely, he gently unravels them from where they are clinging tightly to around his neck and puts the diamond ring on her outstretched hand. The waves wash against their feet and the cliffs tower high above them, as if all the world wants to be a part of their incredulous joy.

            A lone tear trails down her cheek. Everything had been perfect back then – before the war, before he left.

The doorbell rings. She opens her mouth to call out his name, but then she remembers that he’s gone, off to fight in the war. The doorbell rings again. She quickly turns off the stovetop and walks out of the kitchen, her black hair up in a bun. “Coming, coming,” she calls. “Patience is a virtue.” Opening the door, she sees what appears to be a police officer, judging from his uniform.

            Thoughts race through her head as she tries to figure out the reason the man is there, her mind wandering from possibility to possibility. What would be so important that a police officer would be required to personally tell her the announcement, instead of delivering a mere letter? ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ she asks herself.

‘Derek could be dead.’

She’s astonished at how quickly the thought came to her mind, though the mere thought sends a shiver down her spine. ‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ she tells herself.

“Yes?” she inquires politely, her anxiousness betraying her as she apprehensively brushes an ebony curl behind her ear.

Incredulously, her heart beats even faster upon seeing the heave of the officer’s chest as he takes a deep breath.

             We regret to inform you, ma’am, but your fiancé Derek Alexander Underwood was shot on September 17th, 2010 at around four-thirty in the afternoon. He was immediately sent to the hospital, but the wound proved to be fatal and he died at around seven in morning on September 18th, 2010.”

            He wasn’t the only one who’d died. Her dad had died from a heart attack about a year before Derek, her mom from lung cancer three years later, and her older brother when she was just a teenager.

She was alone.

The townspeople, they’re whispering behind her back. They think that just because she’s depressed, just because she’s alone, that she won’t know what they’re saying.

            They don’t know that she heard their every word, clear and pronounced.

            “Poor girl.” “Must be terrible, to lose so many in such a short time.” “She must be going insane with grief.” “I do think she’s going crazy, you know. She’s been wearing the dress ever since she received the letter.” “I really don’t know what she’s going to do now, with nobody to support her. What can she do?”

            The words hurt, shards of glass cutting into her skin. They don’t know anything. They never will. She knows she’s not crazy, that she’s not insane.

She isn’t quite alone, she knows. Looking down at her stomach, she feels incredibly guilty. “I’m so sorry,” she tells her unborn baby. She’s six months old, and she already has a name for her. Leah Jessica Underwood. She doesn’t know how she knows that Leah’s a girl. She just does.

She found out that she was pregnant shortly before he left, two months before the letter. Without him, what would be the point of raising Leah up? Without him, her daughter wouldn’t have a father figure in her life, and she would be working so much to keep their lives going that she wouldn’t be much of a mother either. But she is half-Derek, half herself. She sighs, looking down at the sea, remembering a conversation she’d had with her friends when she was just a freshman.

“You know, if I could choose how I died, I’d want to die with a gunshot through my head. It’d be quick and painless,” Erin, one of her best friends, blurts out of nowhere. Her other friends all give her a weird look. After all, most people don’t talk often about how they’d like to die. But then, Erin wasn’t most people.

            “Well, I wouldn’t,” Isabel replies. She was always the one who couldn’t help but argue back “I’d die in my sleep.”

            “What’s the point of dying in your sleep? It’s so boring. I’d much rather die in a plane crash or something. Better yet, I’d survive a plane crash, but die in the desolate place that I end up in!” Emily can’t help but smile, her green eyes twinkling, at her friend Olivia’s excitement, though she has to admit it’s a rather strange way to die.

            “How would you die, Emily?” Isabel asks.

            “I’d die falling.”

            The cliff was rather high up – thirty meters, perhaps more. She’d never bothered to count. She stands up, brushing the dirt off her dress. She’d fallen in love with the dress when she first saw it in the shop – short white sleeves, the waist of the dress adjusted so that it was at her ribcage, the off-white fabric loose and flowing above her ankles. Of course, it didn’t fit in the stomach area as well as it would if she wasn’t pregnant. But then, Leah was a small baby, and the bump was barely noticeable under the loose fabric.

It was her wedding dress.

Today would’ve been their wedding. The fourteenth of February – Valentine’s Day. It’d been his idea, actually. He was a romantic – one of the things she’d loved about him. Still loved about him.

“When are you coming back, Derek?” she asks him, her emerald green eyes wide.

            “They said I can get back in three months,” he replies, his brown hair in his eyes as he bends down to kiss the top of her head. “Just keep out of mischief while I’m gone, okay?”

            She laughs. “If either of us gets into mischief, I can assure you there’s a ninety-nine point nine percent chance that it’ll be you. But, yes, I’ll ‘keep out of mischief’.”

She’d kept out of mischief, as he’d said. But he hadn’t. He’d gotten shot. It wasn’t his fault. She didn’t blame it on him.

She blamed it on the rest of the world.

There was no way that they would ever get married now. Her parents were dead, her brother – the best man – was dead, and the groom was dead. The groom was dead. How do you have a wedding without a groom?

The answer was simple. You don’t.

In middle school, she, along with all of her classmates, had been forced to learn how to dive. She remembers beaming proudly when the teacher praised her ‘natural ability to dive impeccably’ while the other students shot her zealous glares.

Furrowing her eyebrows, she tries to remember how to dive again.

She clasps her hands above her head, her arms straight and covering her ears. She slowly bends down, her upper body at a forty-five degree angle from her legs. Her toes are curled around the edge. Once again, she’s quite thankful that the rocks on the cliff are smooth.

The sun is dangerously close to the horizon now as she prepares to dive into the abyss below.


The wind is exhilarating, whipping through her hair and stinging her eyes. The aquamarine waters reflect the tranquil expression of the young girl far below, her image wavering.

And with just a mere blink of the eye, the sun has set and the world appears to be dark.

But there remains the light of the moon.


  1. Grace. L Said,

    October 8, 2013@ 4:15 pm      Reply

    I love this story! One of my favourite sentences were: “The wind is exhilarating, whipping through her hair and stinging her eyes. The aquamarine waters reflect the tranquil expression of the young girl far below, her image wavering.”
    That’s beautiful! You should be an author when you grow up!

  2. Michelle Zhao Said,

    November 15, 2012@ 9:36 am      Reply

    This is one of my most favorite pieces. I love how you left off with the single sentence: “But there remains the light of the moon.” Beautiful.

  3. ivy Said,

    October 17, 2012@ 8:34 am      Reply

    ;( so sad but really goood

  4. Jessica Said,

    September 18, 2012@ 2:51 pm      Reply

    It’s amazing, but you know that already. I love the part where she says, “I’d die falling.” The idea isn’t unheard of, but you manage to rewrite it in such a way that it feels new. The flashbacks are smooth and fluid. So nice 😛

  5. Katrina Said,

    September 17, 2012@ 4:00 pm      Reply

    Love it so much! I’ve never seen any of ur pieces before. So descriptive! XD

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