Alone Again - Answer to Annart's Challenge

This photo is of a painting done by Annart and is her sole and copyrighted possession.   It is used here with her permission.
This photo is of a painting done by Annart and is her sole and copyrighted possession. It is used here with her permission. | Source

Life can be hard. No rocks or mountainsides can compete with the hardness of life.

Take Jim for example. He's your average man in every way. He's a high school graduate with two years of college. Not an overly tall man standing at five foot eleven inches. He has a ruddy complexion with hair we used to call mud gutter blonde, or as others may call it, dirty blonde. He has no distinguishing features. An average nose, blue eyes that don't pierce you when you look into them. Just your average man.

Yet Jim's life has been all but average. He was born to military parents. They were both American citizens serving in Japan after WWII. They were stationed there under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan. Living in a foreign country is always difficult but for a little American boy post-war Japan was beyond difficult and offered many day-to-day challenges. So much of the country had been gutted by war. Food was scarce for the Japanese people, communicable disease was everywhere, and the black market flourished. He made friends but not easily, after all he was an American in post war Japan. Language was a barrier and he of course he looked different than the other children. His childhood play, like those of his schoolmates consisted of games about famine and prostitution, a 'trade' that arose from starvation. This was the country of his youth.


He returned to America with his parents when he was just ten years old and began school in what was now, to him, a foreign country. Here again he was a stranger. His Japanese was better than his English and children often made fun of him. He didn't understand the taunting and hurtful things they tossed at him. There was no honor here among these children. He went on to attend high school and finally began to fit in in the country of his origin. He made a few friends in passing but no lifelong relationships.

When he started college he met Akiko. Her face was long and oval shaped with beautiful wide set brown eyes. Her straight black hair was so shiny and silky. She was a tiny little thing with a beautiful melodious voice. It was love at first sight though the courtship lasted for two years. Two years time to revel in each other's likenesses and differences. they shared so much about their childhoods in Japan. Not surprisingly they were married. It was a beautiful, warm, spring day in a small farm filled with apple blossoms. The beautiful scent of the apple blossoms complimented the beauty of their love. What could be more appropriate.


After three years of marriage, Akiko became pregnant. They were ecstatic and talked about names for the baby, what color they would paint the baby's room and what furniture they would buy. They joked about who would change the diapers and get up for three o'clock feedings. Jim would lie next to Akiko placing his hand on her belly and talk to the baby. It was hard to tell who was more happy about this pregnancy. Life was good, Jim was not alone!

As it came time for the delivery, complications arose. The doctors did all that they could but neither Akiko nor the baby survived. Jim was inconsolable, he felt as if someone had drilled a hole in his chest and tore his heart out. It was hard to breath or care. His life had ended. He couldn't fathom going on without Akiko, that voice with the built in smile. Those brown eyes twinkling with love and mischief, how could he go on without her? What of that baby he never got to meet? He was heartsick but worst of all, he was alone without Akiko. Akiko was his other half. She brought the joy and sense to his existence.

A deep melancholy settled into his being. Nothing made sense. Why would a sun rise without Akiko? Why would he live without her? Where could he go in this empty life? They had both loved the ocean finding peace in its beauty, so it was to the ocean he turned.

A beautiful sunset shining on the ocean reminded him of the times he and Akiko had sat holding hands in front of the same scene. The water shimmering like so many jewels as the sun cast it's fading glow. He walked into the water to feel the sting of the waves as they met the drier sand. The water rolled over his feet making him part of this beautiful scene and casting his shadow on the water behind him.

Here he experienced peace. An inner peace he could find nowhere else. He came day after day to witness the sunset. After several weeks he realized this was the only place he could find Akiko. One evening when the sun seemed more beautiful than ever he walked farther into the water. The lapping of the waves woke his senses as he walked farther and farther letting the peace of the ocean engulf him.

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Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton blown away the ending really stilled my bones.. Loved it voted awesome!!!!

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York Author

Frank, I admire your work so much and read it whenever I can. Having you say my work is awesome is like winning the trophy!

SarahAWard-author profile image

SarahAWard-author 2 years ago from Conroe, Texas

I love your style! The video just enhanced my emotions as I read your story. There are many readers who have experienced these same feelings and yes I have. "Love Restore" is my story. I was able to get past the wanting to die but it took 15 years. Thank you for sharing.

Sarah A Ward

annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England

This is heart-rending stuff. Beautiful but so, so tragic.

You set the scene artfully; we understood why the two were soulmates. Therefore we understood why he was so lost without her. The anticipation of the outcome was timed so well and that takes skill.

I'm blown away by the response to my challenge - all different but all amazing. Thank you so much for penning yours. You've packed in so much emotion, it's left me breathless.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

It's amazing how different writers can look at the same picture and find a different angle for a story. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I am inspired to take on Ann's challenge....maybe today. :) Well done, Mary.

cam8510 profile image

cam8510 2 years ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

Mary, this is a beautifully written story that gives us the joy of budding romance and the heartbreak of death and loss. Grief is hard. Life, as you described it, is hard. Thanks for sharing your story. Ann's painting is giving us a lot of variety.

marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 2 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

Dear Mary,

Your interpretation of this picture is heartbreaking, powerful and visceral...I absolutely love it. What a perfect song choice as well.

Voted UP and Awesome, like you. Love, Maria

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York Author

Susan, I am sorry you hurt for so long, but, glad you are doing well now. Sometimes love hurts. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Thank you Ann. I had my doubts but after reading and re-reading several times I let it go. So glad you found it all well timed. Your painting was beautiful and your challenge a good one.

Bill I will be looking forward to your answer to this challenge, I know its going to be a great read.

Thanks Cam. You pointed me to this challenge and I loved every minute of it! Reading all the different interpretations has been great too.

My lovely Maria, its always nice to have your bestie like you work ;)

Vellur profile image

Vellur 2 years ago from Dubai

Spellbound, great write. Sad but beautifully written.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York Author

What a lovely comment. So happy you took time to read it Vellur.

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Mary, this is superb creative writing here! I really enjoyed this brilliant piece. You are a truly talented and should write more creative fiction.

I am so glad you participated in Ann's challenge. I will have to go back and read the others.

Voted up +++ tweeting, pinning and sharing


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

I have just one word. "Exceptional."

Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

A beautiful story Mary, and it took sadness to another level. All the stories based on Ann's picture have been so sad. I tried three times to open the link on Ann's hub to this but it said "no longer published"...eventually got it though. Well done, voted up.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York Author

I have to admit Faith, I like writing flash fiction and find the challenges other hubbers propose more than just a challenge. I enjoy them. Thanks for the votes and shares. Hugs.

Thank you tobusiness!

Jodah, I guess I found the picture melancholy and went from there. Can't figure out the "no longer published" but glad you perservered. Thanks for the vote.

DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

So greatly written and a beautifully thought of hub. You certainly have your own way here.

Suzie HQ profile image

Suzie HQ 2 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

Beautifully written my friend, such passion and emotion. You are truly gifted and have a real talent for this style. Well done Mary!!

annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England

Ref Jodah's remark, I have re-linked this story on my hub; no idea why it didn't work because it looks the same! I've tested it and it works now. Sorry about that. Ann

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York Author

Thank you DD, glad you like it.

Good to see you Suzie. Thank you for the kind words. Hope all is well.

No problem Ann. I need to link others' to mine.

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sheilamyers 2 years ago

Awesome story! I love how you covered the man's whole life and all of his emotions in such few words.

manatita44 profile image

manatita44 2 years ago from london

Well-written, fast-paced, thorough and full of sublime beauty and suspense. I 'm not ashamed to say that I did not realised that you were that good, Mary. Another super ending. More ...

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi Mary. All I can say is wow. You had me on the edge of my seat. Powerful writing. Great job.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York Author

Thank you Sheila, I thought it might help catch my readers unaware.

Ah Manatita my friend, I am full of surprises ;). I assure you I'm not done yet :)

Thanks Bill, the edge of your seat can be a good place to be. Glad you enjoyed.

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

Oh Wow mary! that was awesome! I didn't expect that ending, but yes it was totally right, pure brilliance! voted up and shared all the way!

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York Author

So you knew it had to be! I tried other endings but this seemed to fit the best. Thanks for the vote and shares Nell.

Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Hi Mary…

I’m only now getting caught up with the response to Ann’s challenge. I like the way you begin this story about who Jim is; his struggles growing up; how alone and apart he felt as a “stranger” in two different worlds. And his discovery of endearing love and friendship with Akiko; “that voice with the built in smile.” To lose both her and their unborn child is unimaginably painful…but this is clearly visible in Ann’s painting, which you brought to life through great joy and sadness. Tears fill my eyes with this poignant story and the loss of all three lives. This is writing. Voted up and shared.

fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Til...This is absolutely stunning...from beginning to the shattering end. My eyes are stinging from tears....your story reached all the way to my soul.. UP++++

jhamann profile image

jhamann 2 years ago from Reno NV

What a beautiful and beautifully written story. Thank you for this journey of love. Jamie

AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

Really beautiful writing!

Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

Beautiful story, Mary. You put so much emotion into Jim that I felt his joy then his sorrow, and his peace. I believe you have found a new part of yourself that is a talented creative writer.

Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

Mary, I cannot find Annart's challenge. Is it in a hub of hers, or in a forum, or the Q&A?

Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

Thank you, Jodah.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

You are welcome Phyllis.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York Author

Genna I appreciate the wonderful comment and I'm glad I could move you. I could have gone on and on but thought short and sweet would do the trick.

Paula I think that is the shortest, non-funny comment I've ever seen from you. I guess it did get to you. Thank you my friend.

Jamie you are most welcome. It was my pleasure.

Your comment is appreciated Audrey.

Phyllis, I hope you are right. I've been looking for the inner me in my writing and this is so much fun it just might be it! Glad Jodah gave you the info. Now I'll be looking for your story.

Thanks f or the help Jodah.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

My pleasure to help Mary.

Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 2 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Voted up and awesome. I could feel his pain and that ending gave me the shivers. Made me think of the ending in the movie A Star is Born. Passing this on.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York Author

Glad I could give you the shivers Gypsy. Thanks for the lovely comment and shares.

Harishprasad profile image

Harishprasad 2 years ago from India

It is such a fantastic response to Ann's challenge that I want to relish it more and more. Mary, you produced a story succinctly yet so beautifully. It all felt as real, so passionate and emotional ! Great work. Voted up and shared.

always exploring profile image

always exploring 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

Oh, this is so sad but beautiful! Your story is so touching. I felt Jim walking further into the water, Wow tearing up here. Thank you. Sharing on Twitter..

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York Author

Your comment is so appreciate Harishprasad as is your vote up and shared. I am glad you enjoyed my work so much.

Always Exploring, guess we have that creative gene. This has been so much fun and I am honored to hear such nice things from such good writers. Thanks for the share.

Romeos Quill profile image

Romeos Quill 2 years ago from Lincolnshire, England

Very pleased to make your new acquaintance on HP ma'am and thank you for your kind comments you left on my reply to Ann's invitation.

Happiness; despondency, a broken spirit with a lugubrious finale - poor Akiki and bairn and poor old Jim - just too many tear drops for one heart to carry on it seems and the deftness of your last paragraph plumbed as many leagues of silence as the depths of Jim's aqueous goodnight.

Your chosen video by the B/Boys was very sad as well :-

" ... asking me to feel the things you never show."

These words are like the ante-room of departure; dejection wrapped in sweet melancholia which captured the ' je ne sais quoi ' dehiscence betwixt being and unbeing very well.

Thanks for the read and bid you a pleasant evening in NYC from an undecided autumn in merry England.

Warm Regards;


The Stages Of ME profile image

The Stages Of ME 2 years ago

Beautiful story of a forever love. So sad that he could not find a purpose in the memory of the love he had with Akiko. Loss is a horribly difficult thing, but, to be lost because of loss is even more tragic. I pray that some will feel the sadness of this piece and find strength in the possibility of sharing that immense love that was experienced in another way. Some never get to feel that kind of love, but one season of it is worth a thousand when it's so beautiful. Others can learn from that kind of love and there in find a purpose to live on until they meet again. Thank you for writing this I believe it will draw great emotion. Peace in your stages :)

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York Author

I am moved by your words Romeo and happy to make your acquaintance as well. You have captured much of my intentions and you are so right about my choice of songs. Thank you for the beautiful comment. Sending you the best from NY to England.

You make such good points Stages of Me. As Tennyson said, "Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all"...heart ache though often makes us less appreciative. As time goes on you can bear it better. Thank you for such a lovely comment.

mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

tillsontitan you have tapped so many emotions with this very short story. You can see from the stream of comments that your story has touched the hearts of many of your readers. Congratulations on a well written piece.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York Author

Mike I have to say your comment made me feel like my writing is worth the many writers, I often wonder but then along comes a comment like yours and I know I'm on track. Thank you.

aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Very well done, and extreme grief has been known to do just that.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Aviannovice. Sometimes we don't know where we're going or how we got there.

pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 18 months ago from sunny Florida

You wrote so that I HAD to read on....I had to know how this would evolve and come to a end. But for me, it did not end. Because I think there is much more to this story....your ending is the beginning for me as I am left to decide what came next...

Well done...I enjoy most these articles that I relish reading from beginning to end. Know that Many Angels are on the way this morning ps

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 18 months ago from New York Author

We all let the ocean engulf us in one way or another, it is peace we seek and hopefully peace we find!

Thanks for the angels. God bless.

cam8510 profile image

cam8510 18 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

I reread my story yesterday that I wrote for this challenge and noticed yours in your profile this morning, so I read it again as well. The ups and downs o life can do this to a person. I was fortunate to have waited until things got better and life has been good ever since. This is such a well told story, Mary. I love it.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 17 months ago from New York Author

Thanks Chris. I really enjoy these challenges and the camaraderie. Glad you enjoyed and so appreciate your comment.

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