I was about seventeen at the time this happened. I was spending the summer in Europe, where I would travel every year to visit my family. It was my first week there, and my friend Radka, took me to a dance party by a lake. That is where I met him. We were waiting in line to get drinks when he showed up. I will never forget the first time I saw him. He was wearing cream-colored slacks and a light cream-colored shirt to match, with a set of black shoes. His lightly curled hair was brushed back out of his face and his brown eyes were the deepest I have ever seen. Radka introduced us, he smiled and I think for the first time ever I found myself speechless and embarrassed. We all joined up with the rest of our friends and had a great rest of the night dancing and singing.
The weeks to follow were even better. We were together every single day. I had a summer job while I was there working at a halfway house. On the days that I had to work, he would always stop by just for a few minutes to say hello.
One day my friend Radka (18), Ales (19)( that was his name), Jirka(19), and I went out. We decided to have a full day of nothing but fun starting at nine am. So, right on the dot at 09:00AM, Ales picked us all up and off we went to town. We drove to a town not to far from where we lived called Ostrava. There was this really great tea bar that we were all going to go to. Once we got to the place we realized that there was still two hours before they would open. That was not a problem for us at all. We walked around and looked at all t he stores. Upon finding a toy store I made everyone go in.
My friend Radka has been my friend since we were little. Our mothers knew each other from school, and both had us around the same time. Radka always reminded me of a peach, so I was thrilled when I saw there was a big stuffed peach with a smile sitting on one the shelves. I had to get it, and so I did along with four small containers of bubbles. Everyone thought I was crazy to be buying those. Little did they know that at some point they too would be using them.
From the toy store we went to a small café, and had some coffee to help wake us up. We sat on the patio that was on the 5th floor. Being the kind of crazy and spontaneous person I am, I started blowing the bubble off the balcony. It did not take my friends long before they joined in. So there we were four teenagers at 11:00AM blowing bubbles off a building in the middle of downtown. We didn't care, it was great fun and we all laughed about it for hours afterward.
A little after noon, we arrived back at the teahouse only to find it in full service. Now this was my first time to one of these places, and I completely fell in love. When you walked in the lights were dim. There was light instrumental music playing and pillows everywhere. The ceiling and walls were covered in tapestries, and the floor was covered with pillows. There was just enough room for a single file walkway. The waiter brought us to our small table and we all sat around. Leaning into the wall was like leaning into heaven, they had padded the whole wall. It was great. Not knowing what to order my friends took the liberty of ordering for me.
Here is the shocker; all they served was tea. When they brought it out, it was served in these small coconut shell cups. The cup was full of herbs and steaming water. In the cup was a straw like spoon, which at the bottom had a strainer. You would use the spoon like a straw so you would not drink all the herbs. The tea was really amazing. I have never had anything like it in my life. It was bitter sweet and the smell of herbs was something else. So there we were just the four of us sitting and talking for hours. Some few teas later and many laughs we decided to depart. It was somewhere about 08:00pm by the time we left. If you ask where did the time go, I really can't tell you. Nor did we ever care. We were out to have fun and that is what we were going to do.
Once we left the teahouse we drove for about an hour to another town. Once we got there we found a small bar/ pool hall that was opened. It was a pretty warm summer night, so Ales and I stayed outside in the town square by a big water fountain while Radka and Jirka went into the pool hall to play some pool. Ales and I talked, and joked around. Sitting at the water fountain he told me a made up story about a crocodile that lived in there when I had the bright Idea to pour some of my bubble solution into it. My hand slipped and the whole thing spilled into the water fountain. The next thing we know there are bubbles starting for form when the streams of water hit the bubble solution. Laughing, we back away as the bubbles start to multiply. We walked into the pool hall, gathered our friends and set out back for yet another adventure.
We arrived back in our town and hit up a nightclub. This was sometime around midnight. We all ordered sandwiches and coffee to help rebuild our energy. Sitting around a small square table, recapping the events of the day and singing along to the music, a few more hours slipped by. It was sometime around 04:00 AM when we left the club. See in Europe the clubs don't usually close till 06:00 AM and reopen at 12:00 PM.
We decided to drive a short way to the lake where we had all met a few days prior, as the sun was going to be coming up soon. Making great time, we sat on the stonewall surrounding the lake as the sun started to come up. It was the best way to end a perfect day. As the sun was coming up, Ales drove us all home and at 05:30 AM, my friend Radka and I drifted off to sleep.
That is one of my best memories of my time with him. I was in Europe for about a month, and in that month we spent every day together, surrounded by our friends, camping, hiking, and going to play pool. Ales always knew how to make me smile, and feel great about myself. I loved every moment I spent with him, and if he would have asked me to stay and not return back to the United States I would have.
The day that I was leaving to come back to the USA, he was leaving to go to the army for one year. The day before our departure we spent together. It was about 3:00 AM when we parted ways. We spent that day with our friends playing volleyball, having lunch, and in the evening recapping our summer's adventures at an outdoor restaurant. Somewhere at about 2:30 I called for a cab to come get me and take me back to my grandparent's house. I offered him a ride back to his car, as it was on the way.
Sitting in the back of the cab, we made small talk about our summer. Then right before the cab stopped, he took my hand and asked if I would come back next year. I told him that I would. Offering a smile to make my answer as solid as possible he said " I will wait for you, if you promise to come back." What I felt at that moment I have never felt again. The joy and the butterflies in my stomach, the uncontrollable urge to start crying, because I was so happy. I promised up and down that I would come back, the same time he got back from the army I would fly back home to be with him. We shook hands in the car and looking at his smile I knew that he was thinking the same thing I was. I love you.
By this time the cab had come to a stop. I nodded and he got out. Closing the door he smiled and walked away. As the cab pulled away, I turned and look out the back window to see him standing in the road watching me leave. I didn't want to go. I wanted to stop the cab, run back to him and tell him how much I loved him, and how happy he made me. That never happened, the cab drove on, and when we rounded the corner I turned around and watched the city go by as I made my way home.
The next morning bright and early before I boarded the plane, I called him from a payphone at the airport to say my goodbye, and let him know I could not wait to be back with him next year.
Arriving back in the USA, I found my mother's health to have gotten worse. She had been battling lung cancer for a few years by this point, and it was starting to take its toll. Between going to school and taking care of my mother the time passed by quite fast for me. I would send an email to Ales at least once a week. One day I got a postcard from him. I laughed and jumped around like a little schoolgirl. I was so happy to read how much he missed me and that he was waiting for me. The one thing that you should know about him is that Ales would call all the girls "kittens", but I was his little girl.
For the longest time I did not understand it but when it finally hit me, it was like a light had gone off in my head. Yes, he did call all the other girls kittens, but I was different. And being called his little girl set me apart from the rest of them. At one point I was mad because I was not called the same as everyone else, but in the end I was glad that I was in a class of my own. Being that he was in the army I called him my little soldier. Not a day passed that I did not think of him. And every time I thought of him, the feeling in my stomach was the same.
The months passed and the summer grew closer. In the early spring my mother died from the lung cancer. I shut down. She was my whole world and now she was gone. As far as I was concerned there was nothing left for me here in the USA. I wanted nothing more and looked forward to going back to Europe in the summer.
My father broke the news to me early in June when school was over. I was not going back this year. He had thought about it and felt it was best for me to stay here. I was devastated. I didn't want to be here, I had an appointment to keep and I wanted to be there. Nothing I said changed my father's mind and the decision stood. I was heartbroken when I called my little soldier to let him know I would not be back this summer. He was disappointed, but understood and promised to wait for me until I came back. I made a vow to save my money from my summer job and fly out there in the fall. There was nothing that was going to keep me away. I was so mad with my father that I did not speak to him for days. How could he have done this to me? Did he not understand? It's funny how life works.
I sent Ales letters and pictures every week, and always got something back in reply. Then, one week the replies stopped coming. I tried calling, and my calls were never returned. I swallowed hard and let time go by. The summer came and went and turned into fall. Fall too came and went turning into winter. I was not able to go back in the fall and I could not get a hold of him to let him know.
It was sometime around Christmas that I called my friend Radka to wish her happy holidays. I could not help myself and asked about my little soldier. She was a little hesitant and then said he was gone. I did not understand her, and questioning what she meant I got the response I was not looking for. I thought she meant he had moved away, met someone and gone to another place and lost touch with everyone.
As it turned out, a week after he had gotten out of the army, he was walking home one night after they were all out, and on a dark back road he got hit by a drunk driver that went off the road. According to the news, the driver never stopped and kept going leaving him there on the side of the road. Had the driver stopped and taken him to the hospital he would have lived, but because he never stopped it cost him his life.
She said they never found the guy that hit him. I talked to her for a while after that, but I don't remember much of the conversation. Everything was a blur. I felt like for the second time my world was ripped out from under me.
Every single thought, feeling, and emotion came flooding through my head. My whole world fell apart. All I could think about is how I broke my promise, by not being there when I said I would. His eyes, his smile, the unsaid I love you, that we both felt so strong burned in my mind, . His voice, his hand, his lips. What I would give to have kissed those lips.
See, through all the time that we spent together we never kissed, and never once did we sleep together or fool around. The most we did was hold hands and cuddle by the fire when we were camping.
You may think upon reading this that I was naïve to think true love had passed me by. But I know different. When it comes, you know. It is unlike any feeling you ever had and you would be willing to risk anything for the person-anything at all.
I cried myself to sleep many of night thereafter. The blame I put on myself, the wish I had told him that I loved him. But deep down I knew that I did not have to tell him. He knew. He knew the same way that I knew he loved me.
In due time, I came to terms with what happened. I had no reason to go back to Europe now. The tables were clear. I stayed here in the USA, and made my life. I went to school, met a boy, and fell in love. But it is a different kind of love. I have never felt the same way about anyone as I did about my little soldier. Every now and then I think of him and what our life may have been. But I know there is no living in the past, he is gone and I cannot get him back. I love the man I am currently seeing, and have been with for the last three years. I knew my little soldier 6 years ago, and the love I still have for him will never fade, and none will ever replace him.
People get mad at me when I tell them my story of love, but I just smile and tell them it is all part of life. Life will not always be fair. But you can't give up when it throws you a curveball no matter how big. Things all happen for a reason, and we will never really understand till maybe one day. But that is for us all to find out. My name is Zuzana, and this is my story of life and love.
Gone but not forgotten.
Written in 2005 by Zuzana Kucerova
I was born and raised in the Czech Republic, and moved to the USA at the age of nine, with my mother. Currently I reside in Florida. My life has been quite colorful to say the least, but I would not change a single thing that has happened over the years. The experiences in my life have thought me many lessons and molded me into the person I am today, and I love the person I have grown up to be. I am 23 years old and this story was written last week while reminiscing about the glory of finding your first love, and the pain of losing it.