Unsurprisingly, there were a few tourists standing around the visitor’s center. They were milling about on the sidewalk, taking up almost the entire thing, and they were snapping pictures of just about anything. Bailey walked through the crosswalk and watched as a man with a green baseball cap took a picture of the visitor’s center, and then the street lamp above him, and then the large potted flower beside him. Tourists were a strange breed, Bailey thought.
She was in front of the visitor’s center now, and she stopped. Around the corner of the building and beyond the small hill to the parking lot was the town’s cemetery. It was called the Old Yard, and she hadn’t been there for a few years. It made her feel something close to sadness when she fully realized this. She should have been taking care of her father’s grave. She should have been visiting him more often. She should have talked to him more often.
Bailey took a deep breath and walked down the small hill. As the cemetery loomed nearer and nearer she felt her chest constricting tighter and tighter. She stopped, once again, now on the hill between the sidewalk and the parking lot. What was she doing here? Did she really want to visit his grave? Of course she wanted to see him, but he wouldn’t really be there. It wasn’t him, essentially, but just a pile of dirt with a marker that had his name etched into it. Did she really want to kneel next to a pile of grass and dirt if he wasn’t going to be there?
There was a commotion behind her. Bailey turned to see the man in the green baseball cap walking towards her. He had a vague, friendly smile on his face and his camera was clutched between his slightly pudgy hands.
“Nice cemetery, huh?” he asked Bailey.
Her eyebrows rose a bit. “Um, yes, it is,” she said.
The man’s eyes widened. “Not from here, huh? Neither am I! Well, this town sure is pretty this time of year, isn’t it?” he asked, his vague smile becoming more genuine.
Something about him irritated her, and Bailey decided that she wasn’t going to tell this man that she had lived here since she was seven. “Yes, it’s very lovely,” Bailey said, playing up her accent a little bit more.
The man’s eyes widened eagerly. “Would you mind…I mean, if you’re not too busy…I wasn’t sure if you’re here to see someone,” he babbled, glancing behind Bailey into the cemetery. He lifted up his camera hopefully. “Could you take a picture of me?”
Again, Bailey bit back her annoyance. “Sure thing,” she told him, and took his camera from his outstretched hands.
After snapping the picture, Bailey handed the camera over, smiled at the man politely, and turned her back on him. It didn’t feel right to visit her father now. She wasn’t in the right state of mind. She was frazzled, confused. Bailey wanted to have her head clear and her heart in the right place before going to see him again. And she didn’t want annoying tourists bothering her in case she was a right crying mess.
Again there was a commotion behind her, but this time she didn’t turn. Bailey was just about to turn past the visitor’s center when the man called out to her. She wasn’t usually this easy to rile up. She usually didn’t care about the mass of tourists in the summer; they gave her an excuse to people-watch. But the circumstances were just so that Bailey had had enough of this man already.
“I was wondering—”
“Look,” Bailey snapped, “I’m glad you like Stowe, but I have somewhere to be. Go take some pictures of the grass of something.”
The man looked affronted. “I was just wondering,” he said carefully, “if this was yours.” He held out Bailey’s small keyring.
Unblinkingly, Bailey took the keys from his hand; she looked down at them in her palm. She hadn’t noticed that her pockets felt lighter or that the keys had clanged when they fell to the ground. She had been so preoccupied with her thoughts that she could have had them stolen right from under her nose. Bailey looked back to the man guiltily, but he had already walked away. He was down the street in front of the jeweler’s before she’d noticed.