avatarPernoste & Dahl


"Annie's Story" is a poignant narrative about love, loss, and the struggles of a young woman named Annie who is coping with the death of her fiancé, Johnny, while reflecting on her past and the relationships that shaped her life.


Set in a modest apartment that Annie has been personalizing, the story delves into her relationship with Johnny, a soldier who died on a peacekeeping mission. Through a series of flashbacks, Annie recalls the quiet afternoons spent with Johnny, their shared love, and the pain of his departure. She reflects on her deep love for Johnny, her troubled past, and the strength she found in their relationship. The narrative is interwoven with Annie's poetry, which expresses her emotions and the depth of her connection with Johnny. Despite her profound sense of loss and guilt over a moment of infidelity, Annie finds solace in Johnny's posthumous forgiveness and the enduring love they shared.


  • Annie harbors a deep sense of guilt over her infidelity and believes it contributed to Johnny's decision to re-enlist, ultimately leading to his death.
  • The story conveys that Annie's love for Johnny is unwavering, as she continues to feel his presence and love even after his passing.
  • Annie feels a profound loneliness and isolation, exacerbated by her strained relationship with Johnny's parents and her estrangement from her adoptive family.
  • The narrative suggests that Annie finds some comfort and distraction in the act of beautifying her apartment and in the memories of her loved ones.
  • Annie's past,

Annie’s Story

a short story of love in a broken heart

Image by Pernoste; Story by Pernoste & Dahl

I finally put the curtains on the windows, after a year … about time. The walls were painted too, a boring beige just to cover all the marks of dozens of prior tenants. I spent many weeks, every night, after long days working at the mall selling shoes.

It’s sunny outside, and I smile to see the birds in the tree near the window. It’s why I got the apartment, why I had convinced Johnny to get the apartment. It is not the best place, or in the best location, but I like the birds. Stupid really, but Johnny hadn’t minded.

That day before he was supposed to ship out, we’d had a quiet afternoon, just us. There had not been much else for us, but quiet, a chance to spend time together. I had laid my head on his shoulder as we’d sat on our lumpy third-hand couch, looking at all the bare walls of our small apartment and listening to the birds.

We had just moved in. And soon it was up to just me to turn it into our home. Ready for him when he came back. Ready for us for after we married.

“I won’t be gone long this time, Annie. Just a peace keeping operation, not going to a war zone.” He’d said it like it was certain to be quick and like things never changed, but it was what I’d wanted to hear. I needed him to come back to me.

I had never been so much in love. Never felt so safe before. My poetry sometimes I would recite to him, just a few lines, when I could do it without tears. This time it had only been in my head.

I find love in your tender smile your loving words the light in your eyes

When I didn’t say anything, he had said, “Annie, it’s gonna be OK. Who has more love than us?” He’d pulled me closer and kissed me, tasting the tears on my lips. It was different than it had been an hour before, when all he could have tasted was our passion.

“I know, Johnny. I know. Just thought we had a little more time.”

“Wanna listen to music, Annie?”

“No, I just want to be like this, if it’s ok.” His arm had wrapped around me again, as I clung to him, listening to his heartbeat and thinking about the lovemaking we just finished a short while before, passionate and tender. In the moment I had felt his love, but afterward it had felt like the end for me. I just watched the little birds. I had known I was going to be lonely without him, and I missed my family, too.

What I cannot say in words you may feel in the rhythm of my troubled heart, my tears warm on your neck

The memories just won’t go away, circling, circling, never changing, never resolving anything, never helping me to find peace. I’m stuck in an endless loop.

Today I hold the letter in my hand, sitting here at the kitchen table, the letter from Johnny’s parents. I opened it of course, though I know what it says. I consider myself grateful to have gotten the letter, though. Johnny’s parents don’t much like me anymore.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

I couldn’t help but think of my Mom and Dad after Johnny left. It was the same as Johnny had said about us. My Mom, Dad and I had had more love than anybody else in the world. That’s what my Momma had said, and Daddy too. They were right, I know that. Even when I was only five years old, just five fingers (I always said then), I knew. It was true with Johnny too.

Momma was beautiful, and I loved to sit on her lap and watch her as she told me stories, or sometimes sang songs. I always thought that must be what Angels look like, beautiful black hair, and bright grey eyes, and a pretty face that can also look silly and make me laugh.

if I could have had her longer so much more I would have learned, so much more I would have seen, in her beautiful, care-lined face.

“Why are you always looking at me, Blue?” she’d ask me. I’d just giggle and say, “you have something on your nose… right there …,” and I’d give her a teensy bop on the nose. “Gotcha.”

“Oh, thank you so much,” she always answered, tickling me until I’d almost pee.

My daddy mostly drank his dinner at night, beer with beer. Whiskey for dessert. In those days, where we were, it wasn’t unusual. He was a man’s man, a hard drinker, tough as nails, but a good man. He was good with Mama, made her laugh, made me giggle. He was kinda down-and-out though, so we had a hard life, and Mama cried sometimes.

His beautiful heart was no protection against a demanding world

“No one will give me a fuckin’ chance, pardon my french,” he’d say. It was his mantra, his excuse. Didn’t know how to change, but he didn’t want to look bad to his wife and little girl. I know that now.

He was a good Dad to me though. Bought me a tiny kitty. “Only thing tinier than you, Blue,” Momma had said. And Daddy would read to me every night, kitty on my lap, purring. Doctor Seuss he’d read.

“Cat in the Lap,” he would say, and I would have to correct him. “Hat!” I would proclaim, giggling at how silly my Daddy was.

When Daddy had gotten that better job, and that nice car for his long commute, we didn’t have him much longer. With all the drinking, worse with the stress of the new job, he’d wrapped the car around a tree.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -

Dave knocks on the door, every day now, but I pretend I’m not home. I can’t face him. He reminds me of my weakness and stupidity. And in a small town, you can’t afford to be weak and stupid. Everybody knows everything about everyone here. They think there’s something going on with us, but there isn’t.

I had missed my Johnny. Week after week, month after month after he left. All I’d had was work, and our lonely apartment, and the letters from Johnny. Sometimes for days no letters came, and then would come a stack of letters all at once. The military post could not have known how I had suffered each of those days. I felt pathetic in my weakness, and I tried to be strong.

it all brings me to you, to loving you to heartache.

I really liked Johnny’s Mom, and I know she liked me at least a little, so I reached out to her and Johnny’s father. Maybe talking to them about Johnny would make me feel less lonely, and maybe I could be like a daughter to them by the time Johnny returned. I just wish they had lived a little closer to me when Johnny shipped out. I have such a hard time being alone.

I’d spent a lot of my days off driving over to visit Johnny’s Mom and Dad, but they’d never invited me to stay. I’d even shown them all the letters I’d been getting from Johnny, in case they didn’t think he still loved me. To them, maybe, I was still just the girlfriend waiting for Johnny to get back so we could get married. Maybe I wasn’t educated enough, or it was because I had no one, being estranged from my adoptive family. Maybe they thought I deserved to be alone.

I’d kind of hoped Johnny’s Mom would consider helping me plan the wedding, but she would always say, “it’s better to wait ’til when Johnny gets back.” Never any time for me.

I’d gone there when she became sick, though. I’d gone every day to help her after work when the chemotherapy started taking its toll on her. I’d made her soup, made Johnny’s father dinner, and I’d cleaned their house, done the laundry, then made the long drive home.

Every day I suffered without my Johnny, certain I might never see him again. And all night I had wept with nightmares about cancer and my Momma.

This is when I need you to touch my face gently, to kiss my brow, my lips, and tell me, convince me, that I’m worthy of love.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -

After the Angels had taken my Daddy, my Momma had been sad a lot of the time. I was still only five, but I’d tried to be helpful to make my Momma happy. I’d even tried to make her laugh by dancing all crazy with my kitty. I’d gotten smiles from her, though, the lovey kind of smiles, a lot of those, with big squeezy hugs, and not too much crying…just a little. I usually just went to my room alone to miss Daddy back then. I’d imagine him reading Dr. Seuss to me.

My Momma and I still had most of the love in the whole world. Just without my Daddy. Momma had started drinking like Daddy used to, but I had cried and kissed her until she stopped, and she tried to smile more after that, tried to laugh with me.

I didn’t want her to leave me, too, just wanted us to be well and be happy. But just when we were having fun again, and had stopped crying so much about Daddy, Momma started feeling sick with headaches.

She went to the doctor lots of times for her headaches, and then we started going to lawyers, and then a lot of activities like bowling and tea parties. And she started talking to me about my Uncle Red, about how nice he was. She bought me lots of new clothes, “Blue for you,” she said, “blue, but other colors, too.”

When the headaches got really really bad she spent a lot of time in the smelly hospital. I lived with fake parents, and I visited Momma every day.

I was hugging my Momma when she finally died of cancer, when the Angels took her to be with Daddy.

I didn’t know that memories can falter. But I love and remember, forever, her kind face

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -

I broke Johnny’s heart. I know I did. I broke mine too. And it’s all my fault. I never told him what a bad person I was really, deep inside. All the bad things that happened to me, all the bad stuff I had to do just to survive when I was living on the streets, when I escaped from foster care with my sister. I had to protect her, my little sister. My world was never one without pain, humiliation and fear. I shouldn’t have put that on Johnny.

The sun was in my sky, too, and it also had a bright moon but nothing prepared me for love, for in my world it rarely existed.

I should have told him that no matter how much I love him, I couldn’t be trusted. Maybe he’d be alive today, like his Mom and Dad told me in the letter. “Though you broke our Johnny’s heart, we felt you should know that Johnny died last week of injuries sustained on his peace-keeping mission.” Johnny’s dead and its your fault, is what they really said. He did another tour because of me, because I told him I cheated on him.

It doesn’t matter that I cried every day after he left. Doesn’t matter that the nightmares kept me from sleeping. Wasn’t important that the men at the mall would wait for me outside when they knew I was leaving. I was terrified, always terrified. In my madness, in a very bad time, I found comfort, for just a moment, in another man’s arms.

I told Johnny I was sorry, that it was a terrible mistake, that I had been afraid and desperate and in pain, that I would do everything I could to make amends.

It was just once, only once, and never did I give him my heart.

I got another letter from Johnny, written after he had already signed up for another tour, received several weeks after he died. I don’t show it to anybody. It’s just for me.

He forgave me. He thought about me every day after my letter, and in time he forgave me. He was coming back to me in another few months. He said he understood and that he still loved me. He even wrote me a poem because he knew it would make me happy.

For Annie

I can follow my way with you without you and feel you, touch you, when you’re not here. And if I close my eyes, and touch the skies high above the rain, I’m in your heart and you’re in mine. I love you still, I love you always.

It doesn’t matter if nobody knows. I have him back, if only in my heart. It’s not enough. It’s not. But somewhere he loves me like I love him.



Originally published at https://vocal.media.

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