Will you remember me?
The tired September sun was warm and embracing, in a comforting way. The sky had adopted into a pale pink hue and was almost free of clouds. The oaks vast treetops rocked beautiful yet sad in the silent wind, as if they could feel this dark day. Alice could hear how the birds sang their farewells to summer, and she could feel the smell of this summer’s last, newly awakened flowers.
A lot of people had come, she saw now. She let her eyes travel over the crowd, and when she saw John, she made herself smile. Somewhere deep within her, she forgave him. A few rays of sunshine had managed to find their way through the tree’s green leaves, and felt like a warm hand on the girl’s back. Behind her, the meadow spread out, reaching beyond the horizon into infinity, and the green grass filled the air with a scent of dying summer.
Alice wore a black, long dress, reaching all the way up to her chin, which she had borrowed from Mrs. Johnson. In her hand she held a rose, as red as blood, as dark as death. She pressed the rose hard, and did not care that the sharp thorns found their way into her dry, brittle hands.
Her black, curly hair was hidden inside a net, and the hat she wore was small and simple. Only one, single curl lay against her cheek, making her pale face seem even whiter. Her green eyes were dry, and the cold face neutral. The girl showed absolutely no signs of grief, the same grief so many others around her had carved in their faces, and echoing in their souls. She kept her outside strong and tough, but on the inside, her heart was broken.
She could feel people’s eyes on her back when she slowly and silently walked up to the simple coffin. It was almost as if all of her courage suddenly left her, when she let her empty gaze fall down on the once so familiar face. A wave of nausea came over her, and she could almost feel her legs fold underneath her.
But instead of falling, she took a deep, long breath and brought the rose to her face. The flower’s scent made her remember, and for a second she let the memories haunt her, before quietly placing the rose on the dead girl’s chest, where the necklace Killian once had given her still hung. It was as blue as the sky up above, and if Alice looked close enough, she knew she could see the stars.
She was still beautiful, Annabelle, as beautiful as a warm day in July. As beautiful as an angel. Alice frowned; at least death had not taken that away from her. The curly, light brown hair lay around her like a crown; it almost looked like it was floating. Her cheeks looked cold yet rosy, and her pale pink lips were shaped in a faint smile. Somehow Alice knew that Annabelle was at peace, wherever she was - she had to be.
The dead girl was wearing a dress; a beautiful white dress with shimmering pearls sewn into the fabric. Suddenly, a wave of anger came over Alice; anger because they had made her into someone else. It was beautiful, but it wasn't Annabelle. Not anymore.
Alice gently put her hand on the girl’s cheek. Her skin was so pale that it almost appeared to be blue, as if they were still under water. Her eyes were closed and suddenly, Alice thought that the girl was sleeping, nothing more. Wake up, Annabelle, she thought, the sun has risen; it’s morning now.
But Annabelle lay as still and pale in the coffin as before, and Alice fought against the impulse to snatch hold of her and shake her until she woke up. Instead she smiled, a pale smile, as she felt tears come rushing to the surface. She closed her eyes quickly, and only one tear got away; slowly, it was falling down on her cheek, like a proof of the regret and remorse she felt. I promise, I won’t ever forget you.
Then she closed her eyes again, and turned around quickly to avoid looking at Annabelle any longer. After that, she nodded vaguely, like a silent sign that she was ready. The coffin was closed.
With slow steps, she returned to her lonely place underneath the oak tree, where she quietly swallowed her tears. She felt sorry for all those humans, who, in their turn, felt such a sorrow it might as well devour them alive. She knew how they felt, but she also knew that it would pass. She knew that as time healed their scars, they too would forget about Annabelle. Alice was ashamed of her feelings and thoughts, but the sadness she felt could never be compared to theirs.
Alice stood there and watched them go forward one by one; she saw how they arranged the beautiful summer flowers on the brown wooden coffin. She saw how they wept bitter tears as evidence of their loss, as evidence of their love for her. Slowly the coffin became covered with withering summer flowers, just like Alice’s heart was filled with a strange emptiness.
She could hear a few people singing along to an old, soothing lullaby - a song Killian had used to sing to Annabelle, late at night when they thought she couldn’t hear. It was almost as if it was the wind that was singing, that is how softly the words were whispered:
And when you come, and all the flowers are dying
If I am dead, as dead I well may be
You’ll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an “Ave” there for me.
And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me
And all my grave shall warm and sweeter be
For you will bend and tell me that you love me
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.
Later, when the sky had begun to adapt into darker hues, several of the younger men were getting ready to lower the coffin into the earth, and place the dead in her eternal rest. That was when something inside Alice burst, and became broken beyond repair. She felt the tears, and knew that she no longer could hold them back.
Swiftly, she turned down her head and straightened her hat, before she went down to the meadow. The others were gone now, so no one could see her. The next day they would wonder where she was, and maybe they would search for her, maybe not. It didn’t matter if they forgot her. The sun’s rays embraced her, and she no longer felt alone.
She took a deep breath, and let the soothing scent of late summer fill her lungs.
Then she was gone.
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