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A hauntingly sweet and ethereal short story by Molly Huibregtse
“You know, Mary Shelley lost her virginity on her mother’s tombstone when she was
“That doesn’t make this okay, Percy! It's creepy.”
As my date pulls her sweater closed in front of her chest to ward off the sudden chill, I look around searching for the perfect spot to spread out the picnic blanket rolled up under my arm.
“Seriously? It’s already starting to get late.”
“I thought you said sunset picnics were so romantic.” I set my bag down, satisfied with the new location of the blanket, right between two massive weeping willows, and start unpacking the basket.
“Not in a Graveyard!”
Women: can’t live with or without them. Why must they be so dramatic? Once the
champagne bottles are safely arranged against the basket to prevent them from rolling around, I turn back to look at my date, who has taken to pacing on the other side of the willows.
“Cemetery,” I corrected. “It’s only a graveyard when it’s associated with a church. And you said you weren’t superstitious-” A smirk crept onto my pale face, “but if you’re scared, you can always hold my hand.” Well—Maybe, I think.
My date did not seem amused and leaned against the willow with her crossed arms facing away from me. I poured her a glass of champagne, holding it out away from me, as a peace offering. “Just give it a chance? Give us a chance.”
To my surprise, the glass soon disappeared from my hand as a light breeze flipped up one of the corners of the blanket. Zoe was perfect in every way. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I first met her this morning at the park across the street. I couldn’t believe she actually saw me at all. Not in a cheesy way . . . well I guess in that way too. I knew that park better than the back of my hand and could recognize the hundreds of usual passerbys . . . but Zoe was different. Being seen was so exhilarating, and I had nearly forgotten what it felt like. Almost as if I had
known her in another life. It was like a second chance I wasn’t counting on just walked right into my arms. Almost as if she was—No, that was highly unlikely.
“I appreciate you staying and humoring me. It’s the most peculiar thing…. and I don’t mean to scare you off-”
“We’re way past peculiar. For goodness sake Percy, I wouldn’t agree to a date
surrounded by dirt and dead people if I didn’t like you. Just spit it out already.”
Even though I didn’t feel any warmer, as the chilly autumn air nipped at my nose, I knew my cheeks were now rosy. Who knew I could even feel this way anymore? She did remind me of Irene. The way she spoke. The way she looked. The way she made me feel. Heck, even the way she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind was similar.
“Oh, uh right, Thanks for that by the way. But I was just going to say you remind me of a girl I once knew.”
I could almost see the wheels turning inside her head as she met my gaze. Did she think this was all too much? Was I too forward? Too creepy? I wasn’t used to doing this kind of thing—dates that is. Telling pretty girls exactly what I think of them had never felt like an option before. Everything about this felt impossible and invigorating at the same time. What was different now? Well, other than not having anything to lose that is.
“I remind you of an ex you mean?” the angel finally spoke bringing my train of thought to a crashing halt. Great going Percy, you’ve totally fumbled it now. I knew it from the moment I first saw her, she looked exactly the same as Irene once did cloaked in sunlight as the two of us wasted time running barefoot through lavender fields, her hand always in mine but never her heart . . . Not in the ways I wanted anyway. Maybe this time could be different? “Not exactly. A childhood friend. It feels like I’ve known you for years. Not because I have been watching you
from afar secretly or anything creepy like that or anything . . . I just mean there’s something about you that feels so familiar . . .” ugh why was talking to pretty girls so hard? The moving picture shows always made it look so easy.
“You really are quite strange.” Strange? What does she mean by that? Strange how?
Before my thoughts took complete control of me, Zoe spoke again. “Delightfully strange, that is.”
“This may come as a surprise, but I’ve never been described as strange before.” My
cheeks grew warm again as I remembered the rest of her statement, “Or delightfully anything for that matter. Although I must admit I am quite pleased by your assessment of me as such.”
Zoe seemed satisfied with my reaction to her unique complement, leaning back now,
blessing the grass with her touch. With the hands I wish would bless me. I wondered if they felt as soft as they appeared. Soft as a feather pillow, smooth as silk. I longed to reach my own frozen hand out. Longed to initiate contact, feel her warmth, her peace. The air was still, and silence fell over the cemetery. A sweet lullaby composed solely of her even breaths overtook me, much like my favorite Beethoven pieces once did.
A multitude of minute infinities passed by as we gazed upon the painted sky. Or more
accurately as Zoe’s eyes praised the setting sun. Mine were otherwise preoccupied, choosing to drown in the shining depths of Zoe’s eyes instead. Her sparkling crystalline eyes were captivating in a way I knew my dull ones would never be. As the evening sun disappearedbeneath a dark blanket of velvet above us, the atmosphere shifted, and Zoe laid her head against my chest comfortably.
She no longer seemed nervous or suspicious of the concrete garden around us. I’ve heard people talk about time standing still in times of romance and bliss. But this wasn’t like that at all. It was as if I had been frozen in time, a faded silhouette merely observing humanity around me. Silently watching as time passed for passersbys.
“You were right, that was absolutely lovely,” she said with a grin, before swiveling
around to sit across from me once again. “Now that I’ve been convinced hallowed ground can be romantic with the right person, may I know what else you’ve planned for the evening?”
Am I dreaming? I must be dreaming. Wait, is that even possible? I was almost certain my face was a lovely shade of pink as her eyes burrowed their way into every inch of my being.
“I wasn’t expecting to even get this far if I’m being honest.” I smiled at her, Am I even allowed to look at her like this? If this is wrong—if being wrong feels this good, then why would I ever want to be right? “I’m open to suggestions. Any wildest dreams I can help you achieve, my fair lady?”
Zoe giggles, presumably thinking about what my offer might be implying, “Well
actually, I have always wanted to dance beneath a starry sky. I mean I never envisioned I would be doing so among the dead and buried, but with you and the stars to keep me company, this feels like the perfect place now.”
“Admitting I have two left feet right now would be cliché, right?” I joke before nodding and hesitantly holding my hand out for her to take. “May I have the honor of being your dance partner this evening, my lady?”
My phony posh accent resulted in the most melodious laughter to ever grace my humble ears. Still laughing, Zoey reached for my hand. For a second I squeezed my eyes shut. What if this doesn’t work? Only a few seconds passed before I felt her soft skin against mine. How long had I longed for this exact thing? How can this be possible? Why is any of this possible?
For hours we danced under the faint glow of the full moon like we were the only two
people in the universe. We danced like this was exactly why we had been put on this earth. For just a few hours I held Zoe close, like breathing in her sweet floral perfume was the only thing that mattered. The perfume was sweet, floral, and . . . familiar. But what was it? Rose? Lilac? No, Lavender. She smells of fresh Lavender. She even smells like Irene . . . Maybe she sent her? Maybe this was meant to be? Maybe Zoe was a sign of some kind?
I had never danced without music before, but with Zoe, it didn’t matter. Every step with her hands wrapped around my shoulders felt like flying. Is this what floating feels like? Maybe this is what those strangers on the street had referred to as ‘Cloud Nine’.
As she spun under the full moon, all I could do is stare in awe. She was perfect.
Beautiful, kind, and understanding, so understanding, and gentle. She made me feel like the luckiest person to ever walk the earth, and I couldn’t help but feel incredibly guilty. Leading her on like this wasn’t something I was proud of. The worst part is I know she would probably understand if I told her the truth. But how does one tell someone this? How would she handle it? She said she wasn’t superstitious, but I can’t be sure. Before I could stop myself, I did the unthinkable, I dropped her hand. I cleared my throat and kept my head down as I spoke, unable to look her in the eyes anymore.
“Before we go any further, there is something I must confess.” It was at times like these that someone else in my position might draw in a shaky breath. “We can’t be together after tonight, because I-”
“I know.” She interrupted me again, closing the growing distance between us and taking my hand back in hers. As she intertwined our fingers, I finally looked back up, studying her face, the surprised look in her eyes, one that seemed to question how this was even possible, confirmed that she knew exactly what I was going to say.
“But if you know then why-”
“I think you needed to love me, in order to be at peace with yourself, and maybe, just
maybe loving you for just this one night is enough to teach me how to love myself.” She had cut me off mid-sentence yet again. My mother would have reprimanded her for that, would say it was rude and unbefitting for a proper lady, but some crazy part of me loved it.
Still holding my hand, Zoe pulled me back over to our cozy spot between the trees. Once we were sitting again, she pulled me close to her. I had a million questions I wanted to ask, and I suspected my date had about fifty million more, yet neither one of us said anything. Sitting here just the two of us in quiet contemplation and avoidance of what would happen next, time seemed to freeze again, only this time I hoped it would stay frozen.
The sky above us lost its richness. The dark velvet sky slowly melted away, revealing a soft gray color, only becoming lighter and lighter by the moment. Any moment dawn would awake, re-staking her claim on all Earth’s living things. The world around us grew brighter and brighter by the minute, and yet everything felt the opposite to me. Fading with the evening, losing its color. Losing its vibrancy. It’s warmth.
We had been talking for hours now, although I couldn’t ignore my concern for Zoe. We had been up all night. She had been up all night; I could only imagine how exhausted she must be feeling. I tilted my head back down to look at her again, only to realize she had already started packing up our little makeshift paradise.
There was still so much I wanted to know about her. I wanted to know everything about her, about her family, her home, her life. I wanted to know she wouldn’t forget me, as selfish as that may sound. Maybe I’m the one seeking some kind of closure. Here I am desperately holding on to the moment. Our moment. Lamenting everything that could have been, mourning everything I could have been.
The world grew quieter, despite the fact, everything was just now waking up. The flowers seemed to wilt just a little when I stared at them for even a second too long. Would I be forced back into my role as the invisible observer? What would happen now? Would everything come to a crashing halt? Would I finally get a fresh start?
I whip my head towards my favorite sound, possibly for the last time. I imagine biting my lip, then I imagine her biting my lip, and finally I snap back to . . . reality? I’m not sure that’s the right word for it, but anyway.
Rather than responding verbally, Zoe wrapped her arm around my waist, pulling me onto a nearby gravestone with her. Pulling me on top of her. Everything was colorful again. All of a sudden birds were singing, the flowers seemed to climb towards the ever-lightening sky, and I felt something I hadn’t in a long time. Zoe leaned in closer, whispering softly in my ear, so softly one would assume she was concerned the bees would snitch if we were overheard, “I love you. I know we only just met, and we’ll probably never meet like this again. But I had to tell you at least once. You deserve to hear it at least once.”
And just like that, she kissed me. A girl kissed me. I had Kissed a girl. Something so
simple and yet I felt complete. I felt peaceful, happy, and light. Incredibly light. “Thank You”, I whispered back, seeing only her nod of permission as a blinding light engulfed the cemetery. Zoe had already started making her way back to her car, walking past a small tombstone engraved with an upside-down bouquet of lavender. Lavender. That’s why it was so familiar. After wandering between planes for over a century, at last, I returned to the concrete lavenders I called home.
Here lies Persephone Morose,
A flower wilted too soon,
May 7, 1877- October 31, 1900
Molly Huibregtse (she/her) is a university student, studying history and writing. She has written mostly poems in the past and has been published in four consecutive issues of the Medium Weight Forks literary journal.
You can find her on Instagram @a_few_novel_thoughts
Copyright © 2023 by Molly Huibregtse
Published by Orion's Beau
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