This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
March 23rd, 2000
“Good night, Rose.” Laura pressed a warm kiss on her daughter’s soft forehead. Rose, a girl with curly, blonde hair and honey brown eyes, lay asleep in her bed, surrounded by stuffed animals and pillows. She had turned four that day, and the whole family had gathered in the garden to celebrate. Laura smiled when she thought about how her daughter had blown out the candles on the cake; a big one, with strawberries and vanilla, that they had baked the same morning.
It almost hurt, when she thought about how happy she was. She had a wonderful husband and the most amazing children any mother could have wished for. Charlie, with his calm personality and warm hugs, that always welcomed her home from a long day at work, and Rose, whose smile always made her forget about all the problems in the world. She loved her children more than life itself. Sometimes she had it difficult to understand her life - she had not had the happiest childhood, but she had kept fighting and finally got everything she ever could have wanted.
“Honey?” Her husband, James, had quietly opened the bedroom door and was now staring into the darkness. When he saw that his wife was awake, he gave her a smile. “I just wanted to see if you had fallen asleep.” She nodded at him.
“I just said goodnight to Rose.” She looked at her daughter. “Can you really believe she’s ours?” James - or Jim, as he was most often called - snuck into the room. Just like Laura, he pressed his lips against his daughter’s warm head; breathed in her childish scent.
“She is amazing,” he murmured, “our little Rosie.” Then he turned to his wife. “Would you like a cup of tea?” When she nodded, he added quietly: “then I’ll put on the kettle.” He left the room, but Laura could still feel his scent linger. Now she began to think back to when she had first married Jim. She could still smell the scent of white lilies from the bridal bouquet and the lavender she had worn in the borrowed locket around her neck. She thought of how they had promised each other loyalty and how their love was declared to last forever, and suddenly it hurt when she realized that forever wasn’t real. For as long as possible, she thought instead, and pushed away the sad thoughts, for as long as possible.
May 1st, 2015
She prefered the night. After darkness had fallen, everything seemed so quiet, so peaceful that not even her darkest thoughts could disturb her. When the night was at its darkest; when the stars shone the brightest, it was as if the storm within her ceased to exist. She could breathe again. The demons that usually plagued her vanished, and even if there were no angels, there was light. Sometimes she talked to the stars, and sometimes, but not often, they answered her.
A warm day in May, just when the summer really had begun to take off, she found herself in her usual spot. The usually cool roof had been kissed by the sun and was warm underneath her, and she could not help but swipe with her hands over the old bricks. The sky was beautiful, colored in pale pink and blue, bidding farewell to the dying sun. She opened her eyes to the painted sky, and took a deep breath.
“One year,” she whispered to herself, “can you believe it’s already been a year?” As soon as she closed her eyes, it all came back. His pale face, the contrast between the dark hair and light complexion, distorted by her betrayal. It wasn’t real - she knew that - but it still hurt. She heard him cry for help, but nobody answered him. She had never been told exactly what had happened that day, but that didn’t stop her imagination. He wasn’t there; it was the only thing that mattered. He was gone.
She clenched her jaws, and knew that the only way to escape the dark thoughts was to wait them out. As she opened her dark eyes, she turned her gaze to the sky. The colors calmed her, and the realization that darkness was about to fall made her relax.
“One year,” she said again, more slowly this time, and let her lungs get filled with fresh, cool air, before she continued. “One year has passed, but it still feels like it was yesterday.” She paused. She missed the stars; she felt lonely without them. “I know you can hear me, Charlie,” she began, as she realized that she had no idea what she would say. She sighed. “I know what you would have said: ‘No, Rose, it’s not your fault’, and you would’ve shook your head in that way, you know? Just like mom used to do.” In some strange way, she felt less lonely when she talked, so she continued.
“But it was my fault. Hell, if I had just-” She took a deep breath and let a hand comb through her tousled, blonde hair, which now reached halfway down her back. She should cut it, she was well aware of that, but she never really got the time. “If only I hadn’t ruined everything.” She sighed. “I always do that, right? I destroy things; all I have to do is touch it and it shatters into a thousand pieces. Just look at our family. Without me, you would have been alive, Charlie.”
Suddenly she longed for a cigarette, for thin gray smoke in her lungs, even though she didn’t smoke. She longed for something warm inside, for anything other than nothing. Then she came to think of her mother, of Laura, of her shimmering golden hair and eyes that seemed to hide another world. A small smile spread along her lips. In a strange way, the idea of her mother made her calm. It was nice; she could relax without worrying that the solitude would come over her again. She was never alone, when she thought of her mother.
“I miss you, mom,” she whispered, and though she did not feel sad; sad, like you usually feel when you think of the dead, a tear fell along her cheek. It fell quickly, and was gone even before Rose had understood that it ever existed.
When the stars one by one started to appear on the dark night sky, and the darkness chased away the bright colors that previously had set the sky on fire, Rose felt how sleep slowly crept upon her. It surprised her, as she often didn’t sleep anything at night; her past and the demons kept her awake. She said good night to the stars, whispered goodbye to the moon and waved farewell to the apple tree in the garden that had grown up with her, before she carefully walked down from the ceiling and crawled into bed.
“Rose, you haven’t forgotten that I won’t be home tonight?” The voice belonged to Mary; her aunt. Rose nodded to herself, as she put on her worn leather jacket, that was still slightly too big for her. She heard her aunt’s steps coming closer, and soon Mary was standing next to her in the hall. She was forty-five, Mary, but seemed not a day older than forty.
Her brown, straight hair reached down to her shoulders, and her blue eyes were as energetic as ever. Rose had always marveled at her blue eyes; so different from her own, light brown. Her mother had always said that she had eyes colored like honey. She smiled at Mary, who smiled back, causing the dark circles under the blue eyes to disappear, if only for a short while. Rose hated the rings under Mary’s eyes, simply because they were a sign of the sorrow Mary must have felt when her brother - Roses father - died five years ago. He had been taken away from them too early, too violent, and although Mary didn’t want to admit it, she was still haunted by it today.
“I know,” replied Rose, and gave her aunt another smile. “I won’t be home either. I was planning to visit Charlie today, anyway.” She realized that Mary had forgot about it, as her eyes became filled with guilt.
“Charlie! One year today, isn’t it?” Rose took a deep breath and nodded slowly.
“May 2nd.” Mary nodded too, and then it seemed as if the rings under her eyes suddenly became darker.
“Time goes by all too fast,” she said, and gave her niece a pitiful look, “it’s almost sad to think about it.” Rose took a deep breath; she didn’t want to talk about Charlie anymore.
“I have to go now, school will start soon,” she said out loud, too loud, and Mary nodded.
“See you, Rose,” she said, as Rose pressed down the heavy doorhandle and took the first step out into the bright may morning.
The high school loomed in front of her, but she walked past it without a doubt. She had never planned to go there anyway. Believe it or not; she had not spent a full day in school in several months, because when she thought about it, what did it matter? She knew what her future looked like, and whether she went to school or not wouldn’t affect anything. Moreover, she hated the place. The teachers, the hallways, the classrooms... Even the food.
She remembered how it was when Charlie passed away. How they looked at her with pitying eyes, how they said that they understood how she felt, claiming it would be better. She remembered how angry she had been at them. On all of them; teachers, students, friends. Although she claimed that she really didn’t have any real friends, it wasn’t true. She had friends, who with sad eyes and weak voices told her that they were there if she wanted to talk. She didn’t want to talk.
Instead, she had begun to hate them and their nosy looks. It was the same with the teachers, and it was a shame. Mrs. Carraway, a middle-aged woman with dark, thick hair that lay in curls around her shoulders, and soft, warm brown eyes had been her favorite, but after Charlie’s death nothing remained the same. She didn’t want to be with people who thought the knew what she was going through; she couldn’t handle the constant feeling of being pitied upon.
Rose shook her head. Even today, it stung, as she thought of Mrs. Carraway. She really had been a special teacher. Rose turned her gaze away from the large building, kicked a stone on the street and kept walking.
She continued to walk until she arrived at the church, located in the outskirts of the suburb where she lived. This was where Charlie lay buried; where all of her family was resting. It was completely silent, when she quietly walked past the withering tombstones; the only sound came from a bird that alone sang to welcome the summer. As she was walking, it started to rain; barely noticeable at first, but not long thereafter, it was as if the sky had turned inside out. The rain fell violently and dense, whipping the grass by her feet and the graves. She walked past the large stone building, and walked through the grove behind the church. Amidst the greenery there were several tombstones, and right beneath an old oak tree, she found what she had come for.
“Hi, Charlie,” she said, and swept with her hand across his stone. Her hair and clothes were soaked in rain and she felt water drops dripping along her face; over the straight nose, the curved lips and the determined chin. She hadn’t visited her brother for a while; when she thought about it, she hadn’t been to the cemetery since the end of March, just after her birthday. Rose didn’t like the suffocating silence and the feeling of being watched, as she so often felt when visiting cemeteries. But today it had been a year, and she felt almost obliged to come here. Water splashed up as she walked; it was still pouring down. She sat down in front of the grave, careful not to destroy the rose bush Mary had planted last summer.
“I’m sorry I don’t come here that often,” she began slowly. As usual, she didn’t really know what she was going to say. “I... I can’t say I’ve been busy, though.” When she thought about it, she had trouble remembering what she had done in the past year; it was all covered in some sort of a fog. She sighed. “Remember when we were little? When we used to... Run up to the woods behind the house and play hide and seek, even though it was only the two of us, and you were always so much better at hiding than me?” Rose interrupted herself and laughed. “Do you remember the time when mom got so worried about us being kidnapped or something, that she called the police?”
It felt good to laugh, and for once, Rose felt safe. It was a strange feeling, as she wasn’t used to it. “I miss you, Charlie,” she murmured, as her laughter had come to an end; been replaced by silence. “You wouldn’t be able to understand how much I miss you. Nobody would.” Then she was struck by another feeling - injustice. She took a deep breath.
“Something that I just don’t understand,” she began, after a moment of silence, “is why it had to happen to us. Our family. Why was it you, who didn’t get to grow up? Why dad, why mom? What could we possibly have done to suffer so? What can we possibly have done to have deserved this?” She hadn’t expected an answer, and she wasn’t surprised when she didn’t get one. Rose slowly stood up, and placed her hand on his tombstone one last time.
There was a candle there, on top of the stone, and she pulled out a dirty, old lighter from her jacket. She remembered that she had left the candle there the last time she had visited the graves; when she also had promised to visit them more often. A promise which she hadn’t even tried to keep. The candle’s flame was flickering, but it still made her feel at ease. She stood there for a while, watching the flame rise and fall, and thought of the family she once had had.
Before she decided to go she put a hand on the tombstones that belonged to her parents, two graves which lay just beside Charlie. Here grew no flowers; if Mary had planted some, they were long gone. She felt a deep remorse within her when she saw their names engraved on the cold, hard stones. It hurt in a way she thought she had forgotten.
“Goodbye,” she said, with her voice steady and monotonous, and then turned around to go. She hated the cemetery, she hated the graves; she hated the way they made her feel. The worst was when it rained. She had read a book once, which was written about cemeteries when it rained. The author had done a fine job describing how people hurried from there, into their dry cars, on their way to their warm homes. But the graves were left; they were always left, just like the dead bodies beneath and the engraved stones above. Nobody cared about them, when it started raining.
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