The early-morning cemetery was silent. Dead silent, and no, that description wasnt intended as a play on words.
The grass was emerald green and well-kept. Large trees surrounded the yard, tossing their leaves in the wind. The markers stood in perfect rows, all different heights, colors, and textures, like the teeth of an old, homeless beggar. Some graves had living plants planted right into the ground, others had cut flowers placed in marble vases. Some graves were simply cement lids laying on top of the ground that led directly into the grave, others were massive coliseums decorated elaborately with angels or the scenes from the Crucifixion. Some headstones had military markers, others were flat and tiny with engravings of lambs and pacifiers.
Just a basic cemetery, really. Only, there was nothing typical about it.
It held her.
I slipped my shoes off, because I was morbid like that, and walked up and down the rows, looking for her. I hadnt been able to go to the burial the day of the funeral because her mother hadnt allowed me to. Therefore, I had no idea where she lay.
After twenty minutes of fruitless searching, I found it in the far corner under a brand-new tree. Around it were about ten other markers bearing the same last name. She was buried amidst her family.
Carolyn the marker said at the top. It went on to say her full name and the date of birth and death. It also bore a poem in curly, flowing script. Squinting, I struggled to read the loops and coils. I got so far as to read in heaven with the
angels and Lord forever and stopped. I fought down anger. How could they live with someone as bright and good as Carrie for so long and not even know her?
I stood over it for a while, staring down at the bare ground, half-wishing I had x-ray vision so I could check on her and make sure she was as pure and untouched as the last day I saw her alive. I half-knew that that desire was completely stupid.
I hadnt brought anything for her, no flowers or photos. I hadnt thought that far ahead. Somehow, I knew she wouldnt mind. I released a sigh into the ethereal breeze and tossed my shoes to the ground, dropping into the grass six feet above where her body lay.
Six months. Six months.
That was all.
That was all I had of her.
A baby born in that time would be born sick.
A school year was longer than that.
After six months, two harsh fights, two make-ups, an evening of pure secrets, a million free chances, and countless bright looks that sent my heart racing, a fucking rock was all that I had left of her.
Shit, after seventeen years of memories, dreams of the future, thrown fits, moments of selfishness, moments of selflessness, mistakes, love, laughter, tears, and heartbreak, a rock was all that was left of her, period. A rock and a rotting body.
But I couldnt think about that. Id break.
I hadnt cried in six years, four months and eleven days. I had been going for the world record, but my record was useless, now.
WHY? I screeched to the Buddhist god, the Christian god, the Muslim god, the Asian gods
fuck, Satan. Any god or demon that would listen. Some distant part of my brain hoped to heaven and hell alike that there was no one else in this godforsaken cemetery. WHY HER? WHAT DID SHE EVER DO TO YOU? I had a string of insults, threats, and inventive cusswords ready, but my words were cut off by a sob that seemed to have wrenched from my very foundation and, all of a sudden, I couldnt breathe.
The fat, yellow sun shot shards of fire through my eyes.
The shadows under the distant trees were black holes I could fall into and never climb out.
My mouth and throat tasted sour and thick and salty. The taste and smell of tears.
Still, I couldnt breathe, not even another gasp for another sob.
The entire world had frozen.
Me and death.
I didnt know how long I lay there, but when I could finally wrench open my eyes, the shadows were shorter. It was either almost noon, or just past it. Hours, at least. I must have fallen asleep, choked off from tears, too tired to care anymore. Id slept on her grave. Six feet too far away.
Six feet. Six years. Six six six. My brain tumbled over itself senselessly.
Pulling in a trembling breath, I forced myself almost vertical, rubbing at my eyes, which were still crusty with sleep.
I started to reach for my shoes, but
What are you doing?
I jumped and spun around. Carrie sat cross-legged on a large marker a few places down. Her shift and hair fluttered, but not in time with the real-world breeze.
I shrugged, and my eyes drifted automatically to the marker again. I havent been here, yet. Thought Id pay a visit.
She sighed. Why? To remind yourself that, yes, Im dead?
I forced a laugh that sounded cold and dead. No. I dont need a reminder for that. I cant stop thinking about it. Ever. Where have you been, anyway?
She shrugged, her mouth twisting. Out and about.
She wouldnt tell me. Secrets: just one more rift between us to strengthen the whole life/death barrier.
Her eyes narrowed at me, studying my face closely. Have
you been crying?
Why? Her eyes went wide. Because of me?
I shrugged and looked away.
Im not gone. Im right-freaking-here.
Youre still dead. That counts for something. Fuck. Nothings ever going to be the same
Her voice was the same tone and pitch and tenor and everything that Id come to know and love, but her words echoed oddly. As if I needed one more frigging reminder
"I'm right here, I'm still the same. I--" She stopped, as though realizing, finally, that she was not still the same.
The silence dragged on for a moment, until I remembered something that had been on my mind since the funeral.
Carrie, I started. Why did you choose me? Why not your parents or some other member of your family? That damn boy of yours? Why me?
Her shoulders bobbed and her eyes flitted away and back. Whenever she did that, it meant she was about to delve into something difficult, something she wasnt sure she should mention. You seemed like the one who needed me most. Plus, I care about you. Carrie shoved off the headstone, shooting forward into the air at rapid-fire speed.
Instinctively, I gasped and ducked backwards, not wanting to her hit me.
But she only lifted a near-transparent hand to brush a strand of hair off of my cheek. She lingered there for a moment. She went on, I care about you more than I care about Tristan and even more than I care about my parents. I had to come back. It sounds selfish, doesnt it? She frowned and leaned back, staring over my shoulder. To haunt a person for personal reasons.
No. Not selfish. Never selfish. Not you, I whispered. Catching a breath, I shook my head. Im just me. Not special. I have no untapped potential. Theres nothing out there for me
Yes. Now there is. Me. Ill be there for you when no one else is. Thats why I came. To help you. I want to help you. I want to spend whats left of your life with you. Then, afterwards, you can come with me. Ill lead you away. She leaned in closer. Or, at least, I shall stay until you dont want me to anymore.
Ill always want you, I said firmly.
She smiled sadly. You say that now. But when you have a walking, talking, opinionated shadow that follows you every step and has a comment for everything, it gets old.
I raised an eyebrow and smirked. Isnt that like marriage?
Like every time Id ever brought that side of me up, she looked away, redness rising in her cheeks. I suppose.
I wanted her to be embarrassed. I wanted to punish her for thinking that I could ever not want her.
While she struggled to collect herself, I just stared at her, that eyebrow still up. Looking cocky, acting untouchable. Why did she insist on pushing me away like that?
The day was light, airy, and bright, and the cemetery was open and clean. But something dark and dirty dragged me down.
Carrie shook her head and caught my eye. Are we going to be here all day, or are we actually going to go somewhere interesting?
I sighed and hauled myself to my feet, snatching my shoes as I went up. Lets go, then.
Her smile lit up brighter than the sun, and was just as piercing. Great! Finally. Where to?
I shrugged. Today is your day.
Together, we left that place of death.