I came down to their graves to Pray, just as I did every year on my birthday. From the time I was two until I was sixteen, I came to visit these graves which were to represent each parent I lost. Though they weren't a very good representation of them, they were all I had.
I looked down at them soberly. I let the soft and willowy wisps of thin auburn hair blowly gently over my freckled eyes, one green and one blue. No tears formed behind the lids half lowered to the ground before them. I had been coming to this spot and doing the very same thing for the past fourteen years, to this day on my sixteenth birthday. You can only cry for so long. I bit the inside of my lip and pretended they were trickling down my icy pale cheeks, warmed by the sunlight that hit them from between the autumn leaves of winding brown trees and their dying leaves. The wind picked up and whirred the sounds of them softly in my ears.
My memory of them was so bare. My father was a kind man and from all my few memories, he took very good care of me. He took me fishing and I listened to stories by the campfire. I suppose there was nothing better to do in an empty cabin. Not a day would end where he wouldn't tell me how much I reminded him of my mother, who died after I was born. How sweet and kind and beautiful she was, just like me. And then he'd kiss my forehead goodnight. He was the only person I had in the entire world. My one, true, and only best friend.
Then came a time when I longed for him more than I do even now. I remember staring at the bright moonlight through the window as I usually did because it lulled me to sleep. Then I watched a black figure enter the room and burn my delicate skin with cold and deathlike frosts. He clutched me with black talons everywhere. He stole my breath and dried up my screams as it carried me away. My father laid sleeping and helpless, next to where I had been laying, and completely unaware that I was being snatched from him.
The creature locked me in a prison for what must have been months. Then one day I was brought before my mother and father. I took one look at her and knew her. She wasn't dead after all. I don't know why my father said that. I only had a few moments to realize that I was seeing my mother for the first time and that she was seeing me.
A short time later, she was about to be taken away from me. To a real death. In the next moments she was dying in order to save me. The image of her being clutched in the darkness of that wrathful spirit, and looking down at me helplessly, yet softly trying to smile behind the tears of agony to let me know she'll be okay in the end sticks in my mind. If I were anything other than two years old, I could then rightfully blame myself for standing there and watching helplessly. I wish I could. The memory came to haunt me from beyond her grave.
I don't remember how, but she was lucky enough to escape. We all were. I could see the promise in her eyes that we were all going to be happy. I was happy. I was going to have a mother and I was sure of it this time. We were going to have campfire stories and go fishing. I would have two kisses and an extra 'I love you' at night. We were going to be a real family, again. But fate dealt us another blow.
I remember we stopped outside of town and I saw her crumble and break down. I didn't understand it but one moment she was bubbly and happy, then the next she was distressed, scared, and practically haunted. Then after talking to Daddy, she was calm again. Calm enough to say something to me, the first and last words my mother ever said to me. You would think I'd remember them but I don't.
To be a mere toddler with minute understanding is enough, but for her final words to be so unidentifiable and so hard to understand that I don't remember them at all was an unfortunate fate. Every day I look back on those few precious seconds and I see her lips moving, her eyes dancing lovingly over me to let me know everything was going to be alright, but no sound comes out of her mouth. I'd give anything to hear her say something, anything, but even in Illusionate: a world of dreams, such a thing is impossible.
I've asked Octavia time and time again, but she always quickly changed the subject. She would also look at me uncomfortably as if I could read her mind and simply snatch from the truth from her mind against her will. Then, as if I said nothing, go back to what she was doing. It's her heavily dropped hint that she doesn't want to hear the subject any further. I know she knows what my mother said because she was there, holding my tiny hand when it happened. I hold it against her from time to time, wondering what is so hard about telling me something I needed to know that much.
She's a hard woman. Very strong willed. I smiled just thinking of it. She was once a free and gay person without a care in the world and so many friends. Then the responsibilty she had thrusted upon her to be my charge took all that away. She took it, the responsibility of it. She took it so much that she really loved me and her deep love for me caused her to willfully change.
She stayed home, no longer surrounded by friends and greeting newcomers to the town as she gleefully, and dare I say, with eccentricity, once did. No. She closed herself up in a shack to raise me. She never let me see anyone other than those silently passed on afternoon walks. There were no visitors and nobody to tell me anything she didn't want me to hear. It's as if somehow that any secret that could come upon me would take me away from her. That breaks my heart to think of it. She's the only mother I ever knew. A mother, not a friend. My father was my best friend and my mother was the new stranger who wanted to know me again. She's formidable, strict, and all in the name of love.
I've longed for freedom as I do now. I'm not allowed to go anywhere on my own. Even these short lived visits to my parent's graves provide comfort for what already feels like too long of a life. This is the one time I can go out alone without ever a charge or fear against me. Of course it's a special place. Of course there's nowhere I'd rather be. I loved them, strangers to my memory as they are, much more than home. They would be proud of me.
I kneeled on the brown leaves and laid down two withered red roses before the unmarked stones. I let them wither because I spent so long staring at them on my window sill. I thought I couldn't let them go. It was so precious to me to watch them curl each day before a roaring sun, like a red ball tossed into a fiery pit. It was going to die completely soon before I had the chance to give to them. They can have it. It belongs to them. My parents already belong to me and there's nothing else in the world I would need to keep.
For the first time since I came every month on the same day as their death for fourteen years, and in most recent years without Octavia now that I came of age, I heard a twig sharply snap behind me.
I whipped my head around and narrowed my gaze at the man who walked up to me. Silently, I was almost infuriated that someone had come during this special time I had alone to mourn. When I knew no reason was good enough to simply 'come up to me' and talk to me when I'm trying to be alone with my parents or rather, the poor representations made of the cold gray unmarked stones. I said nothing. My eyes blazed at him with a slowly growing irritation.
He didn't say anything, either. He simply let his bleached long bangs flutter in the wind over his haunting icy blue eyes. His eyes spoke for him and allured with the promise of a mystery. Notwithstanding also granting the allusion that to seek it out would grant any seeker an adventure. Still. Did he think he could win anyone's heart with them? Bring them lovingly to his knees? Well, he can't. And I wish he would say something instead of staring at me with his inappropriate curiousity that he hid behind tightened thin lips.
Without a second thought, he crouched down to my level and stared at me, pensively. Now that strikes a little nerve.
"Excuse me, but would you mind leaving?" I tried to be polite but it was so unbelievably hard for me to do it. "I want to be alone."
"Then go home. Doesn't everyone roam free here?" He softly spoke, undeterred by my snarky tone. He sounded like a poet reading his own poems, seeking their praise, or criticism, from anyone who would have him.
I looked back at the rocks, only becoming less offended with every second but trying to hide it even from myself. I waited and listened for him to rise and turn around and go home. Then with time I could forget him. Then our encounter would mean nothing. And with no further interruption, I could mourn as usual and give my sainted parents what they deserve.
"Why are you talking to those rocks?" He said.
I wanted to bite my tongue and just hold it back, but I had no other reason for my behavior. I didn't need to dance around his questions, either. I turned from the stones and looked back just enough to keep from seeing him. I kept my eyes lowered to the ground at my side, solemnly. "They're my parents graves. They died. Happy?"
He said, "No. Why? Should I be?"
I turned around fully this time and met his curious blue eyes, again. I was getting continously uneasy about all of his silly questions that I didn't have time for. All I wanted was to hear his black leather boots crunch the leaves as he quietly goes away. What a dream that sound would have been right now. "Are you happy that I answered your question?"
"In that case, yes." He smiled. That's not appropriate. "Do you want to go somewhere with me?"
I gave him a wide eyed look and my eyebrows raised above my ears in surprise. He can't be seriously asking me this. He can't be. He's mad. Maybe it was the sheltered life Octavia put me through all these years, the one where you don't see a lot of people, but I didn't get why he wasn't taking my hint. It was a big hint. It was a direct command to leave me alone.
I scoffed, naturally.
"E-Excuse me? Do I want to go anywhere with you? Right now?"
"Yeah," He said.
I turned around and looked at the stones with a slump of my shoulders and I sighed with frustration. I don't think I had anything more to say to him unless it was going to be a lecture on 'Etiquette Towards A Person in Mourning.' I sighed harder. At the same time, I wanted to quit being so annoyed with him and just give in...because it might feel good. For now, though even if something could make me look at him again, I wanted him to think nothing in the world would make me do it now.
"I got this place I like to hang out at," He started, creeping closer as the leaves got hauntingly louder in my ears with every step. I stiffened, uncomfortably. I dug my knees deeper into the leaves and the dirt. He stopped once he was towering over me, looking down at my long mane blowing down the middle of my back in the wind, some stray hairs clinging to the black cashmere of my black peacoat. The one I loved imagining my mother wearing just to feel close to her.
The rest of me remained as still against him as a living statue. He said, "It's really cool. A big, massive pile of black rubble that just doesn't stop burning. I like going there to sit under the trees and watch black smoke rising up---"
"Enough." I said, cooly. I looked back up at him and met his eyes with a frostly glare. My gaze slowly melted beneath his warm glance like ice beneath the scorching sun. Dare I say that my heart melted just as quickly, changing my tone entirely. "You show me. Then, leave me alone. Because I want to be alone with my Mum and my Daddy. Understand?"
"You have my word," He grinned. He reached his hand down and held it out to me. I knew by looking into his eyes that he wasn't going to move it until I grabbed that hand and let him pull me up. Not until I let him swoop me up into his heart like a slow tumbleweed in the wind and give him all the trust and love I denied him moments earlier. Whether I wanted to give him that or not, I grabbed his hand anyway and he lifted me up with a long pull. I took a deep breath and smiled at him, widely.
I pondered in those few seconds where he pulled me behind him and we walked away, as I wanted him to before without ever imagining myself coming along, whether I really wanted him to keep his word. Because if he did, I would never feel him sink into my soul like that again.