I sat on a bench under an autumn-dried tree, where I usually spent my time after school. The cemetery was empty; no surprise. An occasional mourner dropped flowers–always some old person coming in to see a lost loved one–or a jogger taking a new route for change. Nobody goes to a cemetery because they want to, at least, nobody but me. It’s not like a daughter or son would stop by to see a parent who’s passed away.
It’s those little things you notice after a while: who cares and how they show it.
I was reading a book to set the mood — Poe’s ever atmospheric “The Pit and the Pendulum” to be specific. It always made sunny days turn to cold nights, with the aid of my parasol to cast a much needed shadow over me. The last thing I needed was a tan; the grey clouds too few in numbers to fend off the sun above. At least it was quiet, no noise from any cars since the only thing nearby was a small neighborhood straight out of Leave it to Beaver. Even though the cemetery was out of the way from my house, I’d rather be around a bunch of dead dudes than be bored to death in my room.
There’s nobody to relate to in this backwater town, especially for a girl that wears all black and would prefer a flannel skirt with chains over tight jeggings. I always look at the other girls at school and knew for a fact that I didn’t want to be like them. Loud, flirty, giggling at every little thing, trying to get a guy’s attention; it’s just not for me. But, what are friends for anyway? All they do is tell you what to do, what to wear, how to do your hair, talk behind your back, take up your time, and make you miserable.
Who needs them…
I was starting to sink into the story when someone walked by, the scuffling of their shoes on the cement path making me look up. It was a boy, cute as can be. I remembered seeing him at school before, maybe an 11th grader at the most; probably a track guy with the strong legs and slim size he had. He was looking at me right when my eyes got up to his and I tensed up, unwantedly, pretending like I was still reading. When the feeling of someone coming too close popped my bubble, I looked up again slowly, as if I didn’t know who was there.
“Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?” He asked.
I tried to find my place while talking. “I don’t know. I haven’t see you here before.”
He pointed at the nearby gates at the end of the path, where the timeless suburb was. “I live right there, super close by. I never really cut through here since cemeteries give me the creeps.” There was a short pause, but he didn’t leave. “… What are you doing here, just reading?”
“I’m trying to.”
“For what? School?”
Cross legged, I wiggled my foot — like when a cat wags their tail angrily. “Do you mind? I kind of go to a place with no people for a reason.”
He held his hands up defensively, a thumb hanging onto the strap of his backpack. “Sorry, I was just being friendly. You like stories? I got a story for you. It’s about this cemetery — you’ll love it.”
I gave in, flooded by his pestering. He was lucky he was cute, or else I would have ignored him in the first place. I didn’t realize that was why I let him talk, not until later. I felt shallow, but it’s not really anything new. I wasn’t alone in that way of thinking. I’m sure any human being would rather sit down with someone they wanted to kiss than sit down with someone they wanted to kill.
He seemed pretty human to me.
I slammed the book shut, frowning at him, hoping it would intimidate him. “Go ahead. Impress me…”
He sat next to me without an invitation, chuckling as if he was impressed by his own story before he even told it. “It’s an old legend that my dad told me, after we moved here a few years back. He told me to be careful when you put your hand on a grave, because if you do, it will stir up the soul of the person buried there.”
I yawned, patting my black lips with a gloved hand. “That’s baby stuff. Let me guess: then the soul haunts you forever.” He seemed to enjoy it when I over-dramatically gnarled my hands at him and my crappy attempt at a Romanian accent put a smile on his face.
“Close, but let me finish,” he insisted. “I’m not done yet, you little know it all.”
I squished my face at him; perhaps a bit too flirty now that I look back. It was one of those habits I didn’t even know I had.
“You see, the legend has it where you put your hand on a gravestone, then you say the words ‘from me to you’. If you do that, the soul enters your body and the spirit will come to you to ask for something. If you do what it asks you to, you get a reward, like something you really want. But, if you don’t, then the spirit takes over your body and your soul gets lost forever.”
I snorted, laughing under my hand. There was no way to look cute doing that, but that didn’t stop me from trying to be dainty about it. “So how long does it take for the ooky spooky spirit to steal your soul? Let me guess, thirteen days? 666 hours? Something cheesy like that?”
“Not even. It’s different from person to person, like an addiction. Some can fight it, others can’t. It’s all a matter of will. I mean, I’ve never done it before. In fact, I don’t believe in it really. It was just some stupid story my dad would always say to scare me. I guess he just didn’t want me to get lost in here by accident or something.”
“Sounds like he cares a lot. I’d never be able to know the feeling.”
He didn’t catch it. Either that or he didn’t have the time to bother with my daddy issues. Instead, all he did was awkwardly give me a wave and slap the side of his jeans. “Well, I’m Gerard. It’s been nice talking to you, but I’ve gotta run.”
Right when he turned his back to me, I replied. “I’m Helena.”
He turned around, surprised that I even bothered to tell him my name. Maybe the eyeliner made him think my stare was cold when it was really warmer than wanted, but that was me trying to get in his head. What he did do was give a grin like someone handed him a gift. “Helena. Cool. It fits. A unique name for a unique girl.”
I actually smiled at the remark. It wasn’t every day someone called me unique in a nice way. It’s not like anything was needed to be said; he waved goodbye and left the gates. I watched him walk all the way across the cemetery before I even remembered I had a book on my lap. I tried getting back into the story… but the stupid story he told me took up my brain like a damn study session.
I couldn’t focus on the written words in the pages. Once the book’s spell was broken, it’s like fixing a broken mirror: more trouble than it’s worth. I decided to head on home, taking the opposite gate that Gerard took. Picking up my parasol, I nearly skipped my way out of there. There was joy in my step I wasn’t used to — a joy I never really felt before.
Passing a line of graves, my eye caught a name that got my attention. The gravestone of Lenore Wu, 1987 – 2012. Died at the age of twenty five — barely ten years older than me. If only it said what she died of, but that would be asking too much to put on someone’s gravestone for all to see. I quickly assumed in my head that it was the usual drunk driver victim they have every month, even in such a small town like mine.
But that name, Lenore… I couldn’t pass it up.
What would taking a second to prove the story wrong do? I mean, a small part of me thought the story could be possible, that part of the body that says ghost are real and aliens exist; while the other 99% of me told my feet to keep walking. Almost throwing myself against the porous slab of granite, I put a hand to the stone, right over her name. It was a lot colder than expected, especially for something that’s been out in the sun all day. Despite going to the cemetery for so long and so many times, it was the first time I’ve ever laid hands on one.
Closing my eyes, I whispered under my breath, “From me to you.”
For a second, I waited, expecting hands to come out of the ground and drag me under, or for some kind of ghostly cloud to seep into my mouth. But, no, nothing happened. The wind kicked up a bit, blowing some dead leaves over my fishnet stockings — that was it.
Slipping my hand down into the grass, I pouted mentally. “Knew it. It’s just a stupid bedtime story.” Getting up, I huffed loudly; brushing the bits of crumpled leaves off my knees. “Oh, well. Now I know…”
I walked home right after that, disappointed the whole way and thinking back. Thinking about Gerard. I don’t know why, it’s not like he’s Tom Hardy with a sawed-off shotgun and a chained on mask. He just seemed so… real. Nothing fake; not trying to impress people around him, not trying to get me to go out with him, and not trying to get me to like him.
It was a natural friendliness I wasn’t used to — abrupt as it was. He could probably smell the loneliness radiating off of me from a mile away, like a bloodhound searching for an escaped convict in the woods. Usually, I try to send people off as fast as they start talking… but with him I didn’t mind. I kind of liked his voice and the lips he used to talk with. The conflicting feelings circled around in my head the entire way home.
I even started thinking about keeping an eye out for him at school tomorrow.
The house was empty–mom at work–so nobody to bother saying hello to. The time I got out of school was the time she left; only actually getting to see her once or twice, before I started spending time at the cemetery. It seemed like the pictures of us scattered around the walls was the only reason I remembered how she looked. I’ve always hated the pictures she had of me when I was younger, all smiling and stuff; it looked disgusting. But, they made mom happy, so it was bearable.
That didn’t mean I never tried to throw them away before, and boy, did I learn the punch my mom was packing on that day.
There was no reason for me to go into the kitchen, the leftovers in the fridge were going to be untouched once again. Even though I looked like Jack Skellington with spiky black hair and snakebites, I didn’t have much of an appetite. I think I was too skinny, but I always got compliments about it. Not even a million “you look good”s would make me feel better about the way I looked. I tried to avoid the mirror built into the closet in my room at all cost; the more I looked, the more I felt that I shouldn’t be who I was.
Night arrived faster than I could even realize, the dark curtains I covered my window with concealing the outside world. One by one, I blew out the black candles that I had lighting the room and keeping it warm. With only one left burning on my nightstand, I lay in bed and stared at the heavily shadowed In this Moment and Nightwish posters I had scattered along my walls. I felt tired, and I had nearly passed out during class earlier, but I couldn’t get relaxed. No matter how much I tossed and turned, I couldn’t get any sleep.
The candle’s flame wisped like coiled snake ready to strike — a distortion in the air. I noticed a slow increase of pressure in the air, half hidden by the stuffiness and scent of the dead candles. I buried my head into the pillow, hoping that putting my hands into the cool underside would get me relaxed enough to doze off. It didn’t work, my eyes as wide open as ever. With my nose pressed deep into my pillowcase, my heart started pounding when the slightest amount of weight fell by my feet.
I froze, pretending that I was asleep, that I was part of the bed itself and my body was just a folding in the thick sheets. Someone was on the bed with me, and there was nobody else that was supposed to be home. I hadn’t had a cat since I was ten and whoever was here with me had the chilling presence of a winter’s draft. The bed creaked softly, my visitor leaning forward. The sound of a girl crying softly was amplified in the quiet of my enclosed room, the sound coming from the end of the bed.
“I couldn’t do it…” She sounded distant for being so close, like she was speaking from behind the walls. “I couldn’t go on…”
I didn’t know why my brain presumed the most unlikely solution to what was happening, but then again, maybe having someone suddenly appear out of thin air fueled the idea that what I did in the cemetery had actually worked. “Lenore Wu? Is that you?”
She didn’t answer, too occupied with crying her eyes out. Sitting up, I could see the back of her head, long black hair draped over a shoulder. The white nightgown she wore glowed in the dim light; her skin hinted with a lifeless blue. Empathy tugged at my heart — I’ve been at that point where crying was the last resort, the last thing your body would allow. No matter how much I tried to stay calm, I was shaking like crazy, frightened of what was on the other side of that flowing curtain of hair.
I cleared my throat, talking to her like she was a helpless child. “What is it? Why are you crying?”
What could I do to help? Bring her back to life like we’re in some crappy teen movie about Greek demigods? She came back–and she came back through me–so something could be done. A wrong done right. I had no idea what she had in store for me, but even before she opened her mouth, I was willing to do anything. Mostly to get her the hell away from me, and also kind of because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do something good for once. But still, I wasn’t willing to run away from such a thing.
“I couldn’t do it,” she said in the tiniest voice, as if she was on the other side of a wall instead of a few inches away. “I couldn’t go on with it…”
I thought about putting a hand on her shoulder, but I didn’t dare to touch her. I had no idea what she was planning; if she was going to attack me or turn around and show me some kind of gaping hole for a face. My mind was almost more focused on the things she could do to me than what she was actually doing: sitting there like a girl who was dumped on prom night. I held my knees in, hugging myself to get a grip on the current matter. If I wasn’t so tired and used to the idea of talking to people who weren’t there, I probably would have waited until morning to go to the nearest nuthouse.
“Go on with what?” I asked, resting my cheek on my knee. My body was to the point of being unresponsive, but I myself was wide awake and at full attention.
“Nobody wants to listen to me,” she said pitifully. “Nobody cared…”
“No you don’t.”
She started to turn around, making me flinch back from the thoughts in my head running wild. And when I saw her face… I was relieved to see the face of a pretty Asian girl, her hair covering one eye. Her lips were a dark blue and her eye was pure red, but strangely, I wasn’t afraid anymore. Crawling over to sit beside her at the foot of the bed, I slowly tried to touch her bare shoulder. It was a block of ice, but I kept my hand on her skin, having it warm up with my body heat.
She seemed to steady her breathing when I got closer, finally able to talk normal. “You really want to listen to me?”
“Of course. I’m sure there’s a lot to say about how you… you know.”
Lenore looked down at her hands and guided them up to her eyes, holding them shut. “My parents wanted me to be something, to be someone. They came from China, thinking it would be better here. Right after high school, they wanted me to go to college. I need money to go to college, so I had to get a job. I was in a good college, I had the job… everything seemed so good.”
“Sounds good,” I agreed. “So what happened then?”
“I couldn’t sleep. I had to pay for my tuition, even after the financial aid. Working and studying and classes… I barely had any time to sleep. Sometimes I would lie in bed and keep myself awake because I was afraid that I was going to miss class. Half way through, I lost my job. Then I started failing classes. All I had in my mind was the debt I had, the credit cards I had to use and couldn’t pay. I had to leave college with less than what I started with.”
“That sounds awful,” I said after a few seconds of staring at my dresser.
It was all I could think of saying, for as little as it mattered. I knew exactly where the story was going from there, but I allowed her to continue. She raised her head up, shaking again. Her hair slowly started getting wet and her skin started to dampen, nearly having my hand slip right off. I held her closer, not caring about getting my clothes wet from the water gradually pouring out of her like she was melting. I knew the setup, I knew the state of mind it puts a girl in, and I knew all she wanted was a hug at the least.
With a quivering hand, she grabbed my arm, trying her best to hug back. “I borrowed money from a friend,” she continued hesitantly. “I told her I would pay her back when I could. I bought a bottle of sleeping pills and walked all the way to the beach outside of town. One by one, I sat there at the pier, swallowing one pill after another, thinking of all the things I wasn’t going to be able to do. The last thing I remember was falling head first into the water and falling asleep at the same time. And I never woke up after.”
I held her by the shoulders, looking her in the eye. “Lenore, you didn’t have to do that. You didn’t have to go all the way like that. Why didn’t you just tell that friend you borrowed money from? She was a friend of yours, she would have listened to you, she would have gotten help.”
“How could she? I had nothing. I had less than nothing. I wasted entire years for nothing. I had more debt than I could ever pay back. I don’t even know if I could have called anyone a friend. I barely talked to anyone. I never sat down and talked to anyone about anything. Just study, work, study, work. I just want someone to say I wasn’t a total failure. I just want someone to say it wasn’t all for nothing.”
“Lenore, you’re not a failure. I may be, but you are not. You got to go to a good college, you even got a job. Half of the world couldn’t say the same. The only thing you did wrong was give up. But nobody could ever say you didn’t succeed. You almost had what you wanted, you almost made your parents proud, but you blew it. Not by failing the classes, but by ending your life the way you did. If you had a second chance, I’m pretty sure you would have just gone back home and try to give it another go.”
The face she made was like she had inherited a fortune. A face so grateful, it nearly glowed in a heavenly light. “Thank you,” she whispered. “Thank you so much. Now I can go on, knowing that there was a chance that I didn’t take. This whole time, I thought there was no other way. Now, I can rest in peace, thanks to you.”
“No problem,” I said, a bit too casual thinking back to it. “Anytime. I mean, I’m sure this is the last time I’ll see you. I kind of wish we were friends in real life. I’m pretty sure we could have gotten along.”
She smiled, looking more like an adorable child than a twenty year old specter. “Me too. Although, you kind of seem like a weirdo.”
I hacked out a laugh. “Don’t push it.”
“I shall reward you for your sympathy and kindness. A gift, from me to you.”
I was shocked. Everything was exactly how Gerard said it would be. My body flashed with an electric jolt of joy; I would have jumped and squealed if my legs weren’t like two wet noodles. “Thank you. I-I don’t really know what I want, though. Nothing I would want to waste a gift like this on, at least.”
She pulled me down and tucked me under the covers, keeping her contagious smile. “You know what you want… and you’ll get it. Goodbye, Helena. See you on the other side.” Lenore walked out of the room and closed the door behind her.
Instantly, I woke up, not even remembering when I had fallen asleep. My room was covered in the gentle glow of the morning sun. It was earlier than when I usually woke up; most of the time I would look at my alarm clock and jump out of bed for being late. This time, I saw I still had plenty of time to get ready and actually get a chance to eat breakfast — something I usually had to skip. There was an unusual peacefulness in the air, like every worry in the world was erased from existence.
But, school would fix that. High school had the supernatural ability to ruin anything good.
I couldn’t understand what had happened, and all of my class time was used up by endless wonder about the previous night. Did it actually happen? Did I really talk to a dead girl, even laugh with her? Why the hell did she tuck me into bed? That was freaking weird.
Lunch time came in and I still hadn’t done anything in class. That would have alarmed me if I actually did classwork before. What had me worrying was that there were two things that could have happened: Gerard’s urban legend was true and I talked to a girl who had committed suicide, or I had one of the strangest dreams and needed to cut down on the spicy food. Either way, no matter what I determined, the scene kept playing back in my head over and over again. Through the hallway, I wasn’t paying attention to anything in front of me; just walking mindlessly like a zombie.
Gerard passed right by me and I didn’t notice until he called out to me. “Hey, Helena. You in a hurry somewhere?”
His voice snapped me awake from whatever trance I was in. The last thing I had in my head was Lenore saying, “… you’ll get it.”
I shook my head, seeing him walking up to me. I tried to act natural, but failed when my voice cracked right away. “Oh, oh no. I’m not going anywhere in particular. Just heading nowhere fast, you know.” I pointed at the guitar in his hand, trying to hid the smile coming from the thought that he played and played well. “I didn’t know you played guitar. Are you any good?”
He looked away, a little embarrassed. “I try. I mean, I’m still learning, but I can put a song together. Just nothing that I want to — all of the music I listen to has some of the craziest instruments going on. Especially prog metal. Dude, that stuff is intense.”
I turned my face at him. “Did you just call me dude?”
His eyes bugged out. “No, I didn’t mean that!”
I laughed at his reaction. “I’m just messing with you. But that look on your face sure was priceless.”
He looked at his watch, seeing it was still early in lunch. “I’m not holding you up, am I? You don’t have anybody waiting for you, do you? Is that why you were in a hurry?”
“Oh, no. Nobody’s waiting for me. I mean, I didn’t plan to eat lunch with anyone today… in particular.” I coughed, uncomfortably.
“Well, you can sit with me, if you want. All of my friends decided to play hooky today.”
“I guess. Just nowhere too far, I don’t want to run up the stairs on my way to 5th period.” Walking beside him, we went to a place to sit down at. “So what, they didn’t tell you they were going to ditch or are you too much of a goody two shoes to skip school?”
“Well, if you ask me, it didn’t matter much.”
I didn’t know what he meant by that. On that day, he saw I wasn’t eating and tried to share his lunch with me, no matter how many times I said I wasn’t hungry. After that, I started bringing my own lunch, waking up early enough to make one on my own — my mom snoring away in the other room in the morning. It wouldn’t be so bad if my black lipstick didn’t smear onto my sandwich bread. But, when I applied more lipstick after eating, I would catch guitar boy staring at me… and I liked it.
It was good to have someone look at me in a good light for once, not because they thought I was a freak. He told me he liked my piercings and he liked the way I dressed. I bet he would have said more if he wasn’t so shy about things. But, I like that about him. He didn’t try to butter me up or raise my self esteem because he thought it was low like how most girls were. He treated me nice because he wanted to.
I know I sound like a know-it-all a lot of the time, saying how “I knew what he was thinking”. But that’s how it goes when you observe rather than act, when you see how other people talk and react from afar. I spent a lot of time watching other people live and talk, having nothing to act upon. Until I met Gerard, that’s when things changed. He hung out with me every lunch for a week, and that’s when I easily assumed his friends didn’t really play hooky.
He asked me out that Friday. It was cute; he was all nervous and trying to make it sound like it was not a date. But, dinner and a movie… that’s date. It was my first. I never had anyone ask me out before, at least, I never had anyone talk to me long enough to have it as a “yes or no”. Anything before was just from a guy who was either desperate as hell or thought I was, having it be the first thing they say to me, as well as the last.
Gerard played some music for me at the cemetery, taking me there after the movie. Night sky, soft acoustic guitar, gravestones, the crickets chirping like they were on fire. It was a perfect end to a perfect date, made even more perfect when he kissed me by the iron gates. I never thought my heart could race so fast in such a short amount of time. When he was leaning towards me, I had to hold my breath to stop myself from freaking out.
Time froze. It was just me and him in the world, in the cemetery, under a dead tree. He held me close and I held him back. I didn’t think it could get any better and I wanted to stay there holding him until the sun came up. When he said goodbye and heading off to his 1950s suburb, I fought the urge to call out to him and chase him home.
I didn’t want him to leave me. I knew he wasn’t that kind of person, I knew he liked me a lot. But I didn’t want the chance of him leaving me. I was pretty sure this was Lenore’s gift to me. I mean, what else could have caused a guy like him to fall for a girl like me? So if they had the power to make him like me, I was sure the spirits right under my feet had the power to make him stay, to eliminate any doubt in my mind.
On my way to the other side of the place, I strolled by a line of graves, opposite to the side I went by last time. In the moonlight, a gravestone caught my eye again; the name underlined by one of the bare branches of a tree. Roderick Usher, 1784 – 1833. I didn’t even know the town was old enough to have someone from the 1800s in it, but I guess even the smallest towns had to start some time. Like clockwork, I got down to the grave, put a hand on it, and said, “From me to you.”
I didn’t know what I did differently, or if it was just my imagination anticipating what was bound to happen, but a cold pulse of something went through my arm. Right away, I felt like sweating, like a fever was swelling up. I figured I had dropped to my knees too fast or I was unconsciously excited about the next ghost I was going to talk to. Maybe, the older the soul, the harder they hit, or something like that. After getting up and having the soothing wind relax me a bit, I headed on home.
Right on arrival to my ever-empty house, I nearly flopped over the welcome mat in exhaustion. The movie drained me, the kiss made my brain kick into overdrive, and the gravestone made me ready to call it a night. Getting out of my corset and into my typical skull-covered pajamas, I slipped right into bed, not even bothering to turn on any lights while getting undressed. Of course, having my head on the pillow made me wide awake. Drowsiness was avoiding me like the plague, but thankfully I had a full moon to look at — lighting up the room through the slits of the blinds.
It got me thinking. I started to worry if Gerard was going to stay. I knew he liked me, but to know me, to know how I was… that was what I worried about. The thin self-inflicted slits on my exposed arm were shadowed in the moonlight, almost amplified. I tucked my hand under my head to avoid those recent memories.
I needed him to stay. I needed another “from me to you” to make sure he was not going to dump me like some trash in the gutter. I’ve never been dumped before, but it must be awful if the sheer thought of it has the power to make me want to fall to the ground and never get back up. It was the thought of “If not him, then who?” and knowing there was nobody else. The pain from pondering stabbed at my insides, making me feel tired again.
I would have probably passed out right then and there, but I couldn’t shake off the feeling that someone was watching me. Rolling over, I gasped at the sight of a man sitting at my desk, facing away from me. His entire body was covered in an old hooded cloak, burns and holes covering the back of it, nothing visible under the openings. It was common for coachmen to wear that kind of thing; I figured he was riding a stagecoach for someone when a bandit came in and slit his throat, something of that nature.
That was my first impression… and it was far from the truth.
He didn’t turn around or move in the slightest. In a gentle and almost comforting voice, he said two words. “Kill yourself…”
I froze, holding my breath like I was trying to hide from him. He already knew where I was and even with him facing the other way, there was no way I could escape his sight. Sitting up and leaning forward, I carefully moved as if I was nose-to-nose with a cobra. Not daring to blink, I kept my eyes on that faint shadow in the corner of the room as best as I could, ready for it to fly at me. I’m sure a ghost could do whatever they wanted, not chained down by a physical mass anymore.
I had no idea what I was dealing with, and regret was already coursing with my blood.
“…Excuse me? What did you say?”
Turning his head to the side, he spoke more firm, yet still calm enough to make it sound like he was asking if I wanted more tea. “You heard me. Kill yourself.”
Breathing harder than ever, I could see my breath clouding in front of my mouth, the air growing colder. I tried to keep myself under control, but the best I could do was prevent tears of fear from coming out and my shivering from being too noticeable. “Is… I’m assuming that is that your request?”
“Yes, it is — and I believe it is the only one worth requesting. Don’t you agree?”
I shook my head, resisting the urge to open my big mouth and possibly anger him. I knew for a fact that the last thing I needed was for him to be angry. “Umm… no? Not really. I don’t like that request one bit. Is… there anything else I can do for you, perhaps?”
“I only have one request in mind and that is for you to kill yourself. You may choose the way you die, but it must be by your own hand.”
“But why? Why do you want me to do something like that?”
He stood up. I flinched back, almost falling out of the bed. “You have my request,” he said, absent of emotion. “I suggest you fulfill it… or suffer the consequences.”
He suddenly blended with the darkness around him, disappearing before my eyes. The air grew warmer, returning the sense of life inside the room. As for the feeling of being watched, that lingered as I lay awake for the rest of the night. It was one of the longest nights of my life; looking at the ceiling and hoping it wasn’t going to be my last sight of Earth. Thinking back to what had happened to Lenore and how she willingly did what I was now being requested to do.
Right after, Gerard came to mind, and that was when I knew I couldn’t do it, no matter what. I had someone to look forward to, I had something to cherish and fulfill. It wasn’t much, but it was all I wanted and all I needed. I’ve already gone through the “low point” of puberty and I already have the scars reminding me of how foolish I was. Never again would I give in to the temptation of an easy ending.
To quote the raven, “Nevermore.” Nevermore shall I succumb to the false joy I had presumed to await me on the other side. Seeing the spirits showed me that there is not much to do after death. Despite two life-changing visits, I still wasn’t sure if the spirits were even real. Could it have simply been me going crazy?
I will admit, I am not a very stable person and when I was younger, I used to have imaginary friends — not many, but I still had them. But, everyone had imaginary friends; I’m sure I was not the only one. Could it be the loneliness getting to me, making me crack? Anyone would have had some effect after being absent of human interaction for so long, no matter how much they preferred to be by themselves.
I had no clue. All I knew for sure was that I did not want to see that… that thing again. The Coachman and his revolting request. Just thinking about him froze my skin and made my stomach feel like I was trying to digest a ball of heroin needles. I tried my best to focus on something better as I lay there stiff and deprived of drowsiness.
Last time, I felt like hopping out of bed and saying hello to the world. This time, I wanted to tell the world to shove it and shove it deep. I could have skipped school and just stayed in bed all day–I’ve done that a few times before–but I knew seeing Gerard would rid me of my stupid worries. Four hours of pointless class time was well worth the hello kiss and the half hour lunch we had together. It was a lot better than being in my room and waiting for the Coachman to reappear, that’s for sure.
He could tell I was mentally preoccupied, I wasn’t very good at hiding it. I silently sat there against the wall beside him, staring at my knee-high boots and fiddling with my iron cross necklace. He acted like nothing was wrong, but he most likely lost his own appetite from my draining presence; I didn’t hear him touch his food in the slightest. Putting a hand over my shoulder, his warmth seemed to snap me out of the trance I was in. I tried to give him an assuring smile, mustering the weakest one in existence.
“Everything okay?” he asked, trying to not sound too serious. “You’ve been awful quiet. And that means something with you being you.”
I nodded, patting his arm pleasantly. “Yeah, I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. Just… haven’t been sleeping well is all.”
“Up all night doing homework?”
I widened my eyes. “Oh yeah, a lot of homework. Gallons and gallons of homework.”
“I get ya. I don’t like doing homework either, but my dad monitors me like a watchdog. If he doesn’t see me doing it, he takes away my friend privileges. That means no mall with bros and no movies with you.”
“Can’t have that happen, can we?”
“No way! Movies with you is what makes the week worth it.”
I could swear I was blushing since I felt a warmth on my face for the first time all day. Pressing my lips together, I tried to not say something stupid. Sadly, I didn’t try hard enough. “I really don’t want to sound nosy, but I just noticed you never mention your mother.”
“You never mention your father,” he replied, more timid than aggressive.
Looking down at my boots, I tried my best to keep my mind on the mud stains than think of the past. Still, it was right there, ready to take the reins of my brain and ride it to nowhere. “I assume we don’t mention them for the same reason…”
“Yeah… Well, not same reason, but same result. Gone.” He looked down at the floor between his legs too. “It’s… it’s not easy. I’m still trying to get used to my dad’s lineup of girlfriends.” He scratched his cheek, changing the focus over to me. “So it’s just you and your mom?”
“Yup. No brothers, no sisters. No mom either, really. She always working and I only get to see her on weekends. And when I see her, I only see her getting ready to go off to the clubs or bar or whatever. We don’t really bond much; not like her and ‘the girls’. She’s 35 and still acts like a teenager on her first chance to go drinking. It’s like she’s trying to ignore the mistake she made when she had me.”
“Must get lonely in the house.”
“You have no idea.”
“If you want, i can come over sometime. I mean, so you got someone to make some noise and keep you company.”
I chuckled at how excitedly he said it — like a kid buying candy. “Yeah. Actually, yeah, i’d like that. It would be a good way for us to be alone.”
“Whoa, really? I mean, good, good. That’s really good.”
I lightly patted his knee with the back of my hand. “Down boy. I’m inviting you to my house, not a trip to Paris.”
The bell rang, making lunch end and us to get up with empty stomachs and fluttering hearts. Gerard hoisted me onto my feet, holding both hands like we were about to spin around in joy. We would, but I was barely able to stand up, let alone do anything enduring.
Instead, we hugged. His grip almost tightened more than the corset I was wearing. “Don’t say you’re a mistake. You’re not a mistake. Not at all.”
I looked up at him, my voice caught in the back of my throat. I had no idea what to say. All I could do was make sure I didn’t make a fool of myself by starting to tear up or something stupid like that.
“Time for torture,” he said, kissing me before he went off to class with a wave goodbye.
I nearly forgot to head to my own class, too busy watching him fade off into the crowd. Luckily, once my teacher started lecturing about pointless gobbledygook, I got a text from him.
“How about I come over tonight?”
“That desperate, huh?” I texted back.
“No, bored. I got nothing planned.” A second text came right after. “Or do you have plans?”
I didn’t want to sound like I was ready for action so soon. I just needed someone there to keep my mind away from that damn request. And–keeping my fingers crossed–maybe the Coachman would stay at bay while another person was in the room. To prevent Gerard from getting the wrong idea, I decided to reply near the end of class, keeping him waiting with the patience of a whistling tea kettle.
“Now I do 😉 Today, we head in my direction.”
His response right after was, “Can’t wait.”
Class seemed to take forever now that I had something to look up to. But, at the same time, this was the first time I dreaded the thought of nighttime. The entire day, the Coachman never appeared once, and yet, I could never shake off the feeling of being watched. It was like eyes were upon me from all directions, from every angle. I pretended to be asleep for the rest of the class, while I was really just hiding my face in my arms and letting the tears come out casually.
I didn’t know why I was crying. The tears just came out on their own, soaking into my sleeves. I was lucky I didn’t cheap out on eyeliner and have it all runny when I had to go meet up with Gerard. Still, I checked myself in the restroom, just in case. Wiping off the little bit that got smeared on the sides, I got out as quickly as I could, getting the usual stares and facial expressions from the people not used to seeing me.
Even the hipster girls smoking pot in the spot near the stalls were giving me the look. Years of practice allowed me to shrug off the stares without scoffing anymore, something that started numerous fights before. Who knew potheads were so punchy. Sometimes I wonder if Gerard would prefer for me to be like them, like someone more acceptable. Then I realize, who the hell wants to be like them?
Gerard waited for me by the school gates, like always. Seeing his face glow as I approached was a million times better than the ugly faces I got in the restroom. Once we kissed hello again, everything about school was left at the gates, just the way it should be. Walking home was different since it was the first time in years I had gone straight home from school. It was actually the first time I didn’t go near the cemetery in years.
This day was the day everything seemed to change completely. It was good to have a change. Really good.
The entire time we walked and talked, my mind was mostly running through what we would do in my place. Being alone in the house is the perfect time to get really close, but I was afraid to. Hell, I couldn’t even kiss him without my skin feeling like it was on fire. How could I go all the way without turning into a pathetic puddle? It wasn’t the actual act, it was the binds it came with that really made me nervous.
I knew it was going to be worth it for me, but I also knew I couldn’t make it worth it for him. The poor sap. Why does he even like me?
Walking up the dirty steps to the chipped-up front door, I unlocked it and showed him in. “Well, this is it. Pretty crappy, huh?”
As I closed the door to re-lock it, he looked around with a enjoyed look on his face. “I actually kind of like it. It’s like a haunted house, you know.”
He smacked the top of the couch nearby to lean on it, causing a cloud of dust to shoot up into his face. I pulled him away from the living room and into the hall, Gerard’s coughing subsiding quickly. “Man, this place is awesome!”
I rolled my eyes at his obvious lie. “Okay, Pinocchio.” We stopped in my room, having just barely enough light coming through the blinds for me to find my lighter.
“I’m serious,” he said with actual enthusiasm. “I bet you can eat in your room and everything. My dad would never let me have that kind of luxury.”
“Yeah, I guess. My mom rarely cleans and I only clean the stuff I use.”
He saw me lighting up the black candles, playfully sounding smug about it. “Candles huh? Classy. No bottle of wine?”
I scoffed at his silly remark. “Shut up, guitar boy. I’ll let you handle the cheesy stuff. I just like candles more than turning on the lights.” I glanced over at him, trying to stare him down in my flirty way. “You got a problem with them?”
He sat down on my bed, hold his hands up. “Not at all.” The room was quiet for a while until he spoke again. “… You know, I can’t tell if candlelight is better than moonlight. Would you be mad if I said you look beautiful in both?”
Lighting the last candle right when he said that, I nearly dropped the lighter and burned the entire house down. Closing it with a nervous hand, I sat down beside him, pulling my lips in. Staring into his deep and tender eyes, I felt like I was going to melt as if my skin was snow.
“No… I won’t be mad.”
This time, I kissed him for once. He put his arm around me; the two of us sitting there and staring at at the flickering flames. I couldn’t resist holding him closer and putting my head against his chest. His heart pounded like crazy, but somehow it relaxed me. It let me know that he was just as nervous as I was.
“Helena,” he whispered. “I-I want to make this night special.”
My eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. With a jolt, I nearly jumped out of the bed from what he said. Again, he did it. He put me in a spot where I had no idea what to say. I didn’t want to say yes like it was what I wanted ever since I met him. But… I didn’t want to say no, because it was what I wanted ever since I met him.
If not tonight then it would be never. If he didn’t stay, I would have to deal with the Coachman again. My mom could barely see her way to the room with all the booze she fills herself with, she wouldn’t even notice if we slept in the freaking hallway. I wasn’t ready at all for what we wanted to do, but I knew in my heart that this was the only way to make sure he would stay. With the second attempt at a “from me to you” a major failure, I had to do things on my own.
Slowly, my eyes returned to normal, making him relax again. “… I do too.”
Hesitantly, he grabbed my shoulders to kiss me hard, like he was trying to shove his lips through me. I pushed back, doing the very same to the point where it almost hurt. Behind me, his fingers tugged the lace holding up my corset, the knot coming undone. Without thinking, I held the front of it against my chest, my back completely bare. All I had going through my head was how he would see nothing but skin and bone.
He held his hands up like he just stabbed me by accident. “What’s the matter? Is something wrong?”
“I don’t think you want to see more of me. There’s nothing there to see.”
Holding my face with his hands, he looked deep into my eyes. “Helena, I’m with you for a reason. You’re the only girl I want to see.”
Gently lowering my arms down, he made my corset fall down to the floor. I had my eyes closed, waiting for him to be disgusted and start gagging. Instead, he put a hand on my left rib, moving his way up, having his fingers bump along the protruding bones. It tickled and then it tingled. It was an entirely new thing when another’s hand felt you.
With my eyes still closed and my mouth in a silly grin, he sent me back against the pillow, planting a kiss that didn’t want to let go. There, with him surrounding me, becoming all I knew around me, I was able to feel happy. He only stopped to take off his shirt. Opening my eyes, I wasn’t afraid anymore. I beckoned him to come back to me with awaiting arms.
His face passed by the shadow of the curtains as he leaned back forward. That was when my heart nearly jumped out of my throat. The Coachman was on top of me, taking Gerard’s place, his pure white mouth sticking out of the shadow of his coat’s high collar. I tried to push him away, but he pinned my arms down to the mattress. All I could do was struggle to the point where my arms felt like they were going to snap out of place.
“You’re mine now.”
I saw his mouth stretch open past his neck and I screamed as if my end was near. Regurgitating loudly, the Coachman’s mouth poured a shower of maggots into mine. I could feel the little things wiggling and being squished by my lips as I tried to spit them out. Feeling like I was going to choke to death on them, as well as my own vomit from the taste, I coughed and sputtered frantically. Flying off the bed, I held onto the windowsill, gasping for whatever air I could.
Gerard patted my back. “Whoa, whoa, what happened? Did some saliva go down the wrong pipe?”
Finally able to breath normally, I checked my mouth with my fingers. The maggots were gone; nothing but loose strands of hair clinging to the sides of my lips. With a quick sigh, I instantly felt my face get red in anger and embarrassment. Right away, I covered my eyes and tried to hid my tears. My sniffling let Gerard knew anyway, and it just made me cry more.
“Helena, what’s the matter?”
I tried to stop the tears from coming, but it was already too late. “I don’t know…”
“Are you having, you know, girl stuff? Because it’s cool if you are.”
I got the waterworks to stand-by since he wasn’t mad at me like I feared. He even made a better excuse than what I could have at the moment. I took it as a lucky break and rolled with it. “Yeah. It’s… just that time of the month. It completely slipped my mind.”
“Say no more.” He grabbed his shirt and put it back on, something I mentally frowned at for happening. “We can resume this thing another time when you’re emotions settle down.”
I grabbed the t-shirt I slept in that morning, taking it from the floor where I usually left it. Putting it on to cover myself up, I held myself up on the bed, looking down shamefully. “… I’m sorry.”
He held me by the shoulder right away, too afraid of my supposed emotions going haywire to give me a full hug. “Don’t sweat it. But man, you made me think I was killing you right there. I think I was more afraid than you.”
I tried to keep my stomach from turning at the thought of having the cold touch of the Coachman on top of me. “I hope not.”
“You don’t have to walk me home,” he said reassuringly. “Just staying with me until I reach the door would be more than enough.”
I cleared my throat, my head still as unclear as a foggy blizzard. “Yeah, sure. I would really want to go all the way but — yeah.”
We held hands all the way to the front door, even while he was putting back on his shoes. I didn’t want to let go, but he couldn’t stay the night, not with the freak show I just performed. I was surprised he didn’t just run out and never look back with the way I just stopped the one thing we were waiting for all night. I figured guys don’t care much as long as it’s eventually — or maybe he just cared enough to stay with me while any other guy would do the exact opposite. Even though my mind was a mess and my insides felt like they were put through a grinder, I still managed to smile with him before getting the last kiss for the night.
After he left, returning to my room was like walking up to an electric chair. I expected the Coachman to be waiting right there for me, sitting at the foot of the bed, staring at me under the shadow of his hood. Thankfully, all I got was a messy bed and a lone candle waiting to be snuffed out. With a weak huff, I turned off the last light and crawled into bed, forced to imagine what I would have done with Gerard instead of live it. I could still feel his warmth pressed against me, his fingers grabbing at my skin, and his lips on top of mine.
And I could still taste the sour flavor of the maggots every time I gulped.
The sun came before sleep ever could, another day waiting for a dream that would never occur. It was as if days have stopped changing and it was just a long wait until the next part of the same one. My eyes were tired despite having them closed all night. I didn’t dare to open them in case the Coachmen was right there. I even lay on my side so he couldn’t pin me down as easily, just in case.
But once the sun rose, a voice did as well from the dark corner of the room. “I’m waiting…”
Shooting my eyes open, I scanned around, seeing nobody around, not even the outline of a cloak. Trying to calm my heavy and weary breathing, I went to the bathroom to try and get the drowsiness out with some cold water. Splashing my face with a few handful, I turned off the faucet and hung onto the sink’s rim — barely able to stand on my own. Looking up at the mirror, I saw my eyes still dark like they were covered in more eyeliner than usual. Rubbing some water on them until they skin was getting sore, I realized that the uncomforting blackness was my actual skin.
The rest of my face wasn’t any better. Bluish veins pulsed around under my almost ghostly skin, like I was wearing a realistic sugar skull mask. The only makeup I put on was to hide the disgusting veins all over my face and even down my neck. The last thing I need is for Gerard to be even more disgusted in me. I figured it was just from not sleeping, but somehow, I wasn’t even tired in a mental sense, only physically.
When I was done in the bathroom, I checked my phone and remembered it was Saturday. No school, no problem. But no Gerard, that could be quite the biggy. How could I tell him I couldn’t do anything after how I acted last night? How could he still like me after that amount of rejection in a row?
It was still early and I had plenty of time to at least rest up and eat before he could wake up. I wasn’t hungry at all, but I figured some food could boost my energy to a point where I could walk around without passing out. Pouring myself a bowl of cereal, I added some milk and ate next to the fridge — the table too crammed with random junk to sit at comfortably. The first spoonful felt like I bite into a chunk of burnt toast and the second one was even worse. Spitting it up in the sink, I checked the expiration date on the box.
It was nearly a year away from going bad. There was nothing wrong with it, but that didn’t stop me from throwing what I had left in the bowl away into the trash. Making my way back to bed, I crawled under the covers and tried to sleep the rest of the morning away, feeling like my skin was turning to sand the entire time — as if my body was was on the top half of an hourglass and dwindling away with every second. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get myself to sleep and I couldn’t get the Coachman out of my head. I knew he was watching me as a struggled to sleep the entire night and past sunrise, but I stopped worrying.
Not worrying is what scared me. Accepting that he was going to be there, watching and enticing me to commit to his request. Having him in my mind was no different than having him scream in my ear of what he wanted out of me. Having the idea constantly come up only made it stay in my head longer and longer. Having it stay in my head made it seem like the only way…
The vibration of a text from Gerard snapped me out of my crazy train of thought. He wanted to meet up later while I wanted to just lay down and never get up. I had to do it. I had to get up and go out if I expected him to stay with me. Fighting to keep my fingers moving, I texted back, “See you soon.”
If I didn’t get out of bed, it would surely become my unintentional coffin. Getting dressed was harder than ever, my legs buckling under the slightest shift in weight. I could barely get my boots on without having to stop and take a break, my arms collapsing by my sides like they were broken branches. Once I got walking and headed out the door, things didn’t seem as hard — my shoulder brushing the wall a few times as I stumbled out of the house. Outside seemed no better than how it was inside.
The grey sky was nearly black with how dull and dark everything looked. It didn’t look like rain, but nothing looked colorful in the slightest. The way to Gerard’s area was like walking along a blank canvas, nothing to see but an empty and useless slate. Not even the cemetery brought me any joy, a place I once felt almost ecstatic to be within. Gerard waited for me there, sitting on the bench where we first met.
No matter how drained I was, I still mustered a smile, as faint as it was. “Hey.”
“Hey.” He patted the empty half to get me to sit there.
I couldn’t even smell him anymore, the crisp aroma he always had that made my heart flutter when it filled my lungs. Kissing him took effort that was well worth it and he enjoyed me resting against him. He didn’t say a thing, most likely knowing that there wasn’t much to say. He couldn’t compliment me on how I looked unless he compared me to a ghoul. I wanted to tell him what was going on with me, but I knew for a fact he wouldn’t believe me.
Tell him would only make things worse, so I kept my mouth shut like it was sewn shut.
His phone ringed, so he lifted me off for a bit so he could see who it was. “Hello? Sure what is it? Aw, come on dad, I got plans. Yes, I am right here in the cemetery but… Really?” He huffed, turning away from me so I couldn’t see his displeased face. “Yeah, okay. Okay, okay, I’m going. I’ll be there soon. Yeah, I’m coming, all right? Okay, bye.”
“Trouble in the Brady Bunch household?” I asked softly.
He held his forehead. “My dad needs me to handle some stuff in the house. It shouldn’t take long. Is that fine with you? I’m sure you don’t mind staying here a bit until I get back, right? I mean, you did everyday before today.” He chuckled while I tried and failed. “I’ll be right back. Just text me if I take too long.”
I waved weakly as he made his way back home. “Take your time. There’s no rush.”
Once he passed the gates, I felt like I was going to pass out. Holding myself up on the metal armrest of the bench, I glanced around to find my only chance of getting better. The grave of the Coachmen, it was the only answer to get me back to normal. I couldn’t go on like this. Maybe another day, but not an entire lifetime.
Retracing my steps from last time, I walked up to the gravestone of Roderick Usher and regretted every step I made previously. He wasn’t a person, he was a monster; one that was rightfully buried underground for good until I came along like an idiot. The short walk was too much for me to make without stumbling and falling into the grass. I crawled towards the grave, with only one idea in mind. There was a small chance it could work and it didn’t hurt to try.
Smacking my hand against the gravestone, I took in a deep breath. “From me to you.” Nothing happened. “From you to me.” Nothing happened. “Return.” Nothing. “Go back to hell from whence you came!” It didn’t make me feel any better, all it did was make me more angry. “Get away from me! Get out of my life!”
Making a fist, I pounded it against the stone. All of the frustration and hatred inside of me–for him and for myself–coming out with one punch after another. It hurt, but I didn’t care; blood streaking across the face of the hard stone. I had to stop, my knuckles bleeding and my hand shaking uncontrollably. From above, a shadow loomed over me, watching over me as always.
“There’s nothing you can do to get rid of me,” the Coachman said in his sickeningly calm voice. “All you can do is fulfill the request.” Sitting upon his own gravestone, he leaned down to have his head right above my own. “You belong to me now. You do as I tell you. You… are… mine. You’re soul is not yours to own anymore.”
“You bastard!” I lunged upwards to take a swing at him, but he disappeared before I could even get my hand balled up. “I want my life back, now!”
A dark cloud gathered from the direction of the gates, and within came the Coachman. “You already gave up your life once you came to me for a request, one that you so stubbornly continue to delay. You can barely stand, and yet you still want to keep going. Either give up now, or continue to suffer. That is all life will offer: suffering and waiting for more suffering. That is all and that is all it’ll ever be.”
“I won’t do your stupid request! I won’t do it!”
The Coachman was quiet for a second, his hood tilted up slightly. “… Or shall I include Gerard to get you to give in?”
My body could barely move, but I still ran at him at full speed. Grabbing onto him, I punched and scratched with all I had. He grabbed my arms, but I struggled out of his grip and continued my endless fit of rage. Somehow, he got a hold on my wrist that kept, quickly knocking me over to the nearby tree. Struggling to break free, I screamed and grunted like a wild animal.
And when I opened my eyes… I felt like falling to the floor.
Gerard was holding my arms down, his face covered in scuffs and scratches, one next to his lips bleeding badly. He looked more afraid than I was, his own eyes on the brink of tears. I couldn’t speak. My mouth hung open and no words dared to come out. What could I ever say after I just attacked the only person I loved?
How could I expect him to stay with me after what I’ve just done?
“Helena, what is going on with you?” His question was more worried than angry, but anger was still there. “What the hell just happened?”
I shoved myself out of his reach and ran. He called out to me in the distance, but I continued to run and not look back. The tears dropped far behind me and kept doing so until I was about to faint. He could have chased me down with ease, but he didn’t. He didn’t even try to run after me. I knew for a fact that we were done for.
The town grew darker the further I walked, heading to who-knows-where. I didn’t care anymore. I just kept going where my feet took me, my head hung lower than ever. People, cars, buildings, nothing mattered around me. All that mattered now was finding a way out.
Eventually, I started walking near the water’s edge, the street overlooking the river from high above. The street took me to the one bridge out of town, with me being the only one on it. Walking right to the center of the bridge, I stood at the ledge, only one step away from falling right into the dark depths below. There was nothing left for me anymore. With Gerard gone… there was nothing left.
The roar of the water was calling me. Finally giving in, and without any second thoughts, I took my last step and my last breath. The fall happened faster than I imagined, no time to even realize I left the bridge up above. Underwater, I thought about the mother that never cared, the father that was never there, the friends I never had, the life I never liked, and the love I would never feel again.
Sinking down to the dark bottom of the river, I opened my eyes. I just stayed there, no pain and no turmoil. The only thought in my head was… I’m finally free. Free from the pain. Free from worry.
Free from the shackles of life.
I didn’t feel like I was drowning — not anymore.Touching down to the rocky dirt floor, someone was waiting for me patiently. Someone I was no longer angry at. The Coachman sat at the front of a horse-drawn carriage, the horses’ flesh remaining in little dangling strips that clung to the bone. Their eyes glowed brightly, leading the way through the darkness as if they were the last remaining lights in the world.
He extended a skinny white hand, guiding me to the carriage door. “I’m waiting.”
Stepping inside, I left the world I once knew, and all the trouble it offered. Down into the depths we went, far into my watery grave. Everything I did and everything I knew was gone from my heart for good. But one thing stayed with me. Gerard.
If I couldn’t be with him, at least I had the memories. And for those, I would die for all over again.
. . .
It’s been a month. It’s been the hardest month I’ve ever had to deal with. I was half glad there wasn’t a funeral; I knew I wouldn’t be able to contain the tears if there was one. At least she’s closer, and at least now she’s in her favorite place. I know that’s not much to look in the positive light, but that’s all I have.
What else can I say? I’m glad the last thing she did before she jumped was nearly claw my face off?
She probably thought I was going to leave her. It would take more than one incident for me to even think of leaving. I should have told her. If only I told her I was going to stay. Sometimes I stayed up at night, thinking if I did, maybe she’d still be alive.
I feel like it was me who pushed her off the bridge, and no matter how many times I try to think rationally, the guilt is always there. Today, I felt the most guilty. Passing the cemetery bench, the place wasn’t the same without seeing her sitting there, reading her book like she always did. I saw her there so many times before I gathered up the courage to talk to her.
Were those few days of happiness really worth her early end?
No matter how many hours I pondered, I could never understand why she did it. On the way to her grave, all I could think about was that very night it happened and how I was in the same place it happened in. Even though the snow layered over her spot was freezing cold, I kneeled down. For some weird reason, I imagined being down to her gravestone was the closest thing I could get to being face to face. Seeing Helena’s name etched permanently on that stone… it made it hard to contain myself.
“I miss you,” I said aloud; as if she could hear me through the coffin, dirt, and snow. “It’s hard being without you.”
Clearing my throat, I set the flowers in my hand down to lean against the base of the gravestone; snow overhead falling to gently bury them. I’ve never bothered to visit a grave until now. It wasn’t until know that I had a good reason to.
“They’re black roses,” I told her, pretending she was right in front of me. Wishing was more like it. “I remembered they were your favorite. It-it’s the least I could do. Consider it a late gift.” I set my hand on the cold face of the gravestone, feeling it heat up from my touch. “From me to you.”