The Bleeding Rose
The gate wasn't meant to keep girls like her out. It was built for cars, for vandalists that came in the night to spray paint the dark statues, the smooth marble of the mausoleum. It wasn't made for desperate girls who were willing to lie back on the cold concrete, gripping the iron bar that ran along the bottom to pull themselves under. Lilly was just thin enough to slip through, her nose and breasts brushing against the bar as she pulled herself beneath it. As she stood she touched her back, finding that her skirt and sweater were damp, but not dirty. She wasn't dressed for a night like this, not like she should have been. A beige sweater, a deep green skirt, a pair of thick black tights and matching flats did little to keep out the icy cold air. It bit at her skin as her eyes adjusted to the darkness, breath coming in thick burst of fog that blocked her vision. She'd never been here at night before, but her feet knew the way, even if she couldn't see them.
Graceland Cemetery was a work of art. It was famous for a reason, many of the graves dating back to the nineteenth century. They were gothic sculptures of angels and weeping maidens, all damp with dew, some grey, some white, some beautiful, some heartbreaking. Two large angels guarded the door to a towering mausoleum, watching her as she made her way across the damp grass. It soaked through her shoes and froze her toes, but the designated paths took an extra five minutes. Besides, she was less likely to run into any night guards if she cut cross country. Large oak trees towered overhead, blocking out any trace of moonlight, casting spindly shadows on the ground. It might have terrified some, to walk through a graveyard in the dark. Surely there would be ghosts, something to lurk in the darkness and watch her with a sinister glare. But Lilly had stopped fearing cemeteries long ago, because there was simply no fear in a place like that. There was only sadness, filling her with every step, making her breathing labored and her eyes burn.
It wasn't long before she came across it, the tiny statue they'd picked out together. An angel of the miniature sort, a baby curled up in the safety of its own wings, sleeping peacefully. No pain, no suffering, only a safe slumber under the tall oak that kept out the rain and the wind. A few leaves had settled along the tiny wing, soaking wet, turning into brown smudge against the white marble. Her hand reached out to wiped them away, gentle, carefully, as if the tiny angel were really sleeping. No one would even know now. Her stomach was taught and smooth from hours of obsessive running, leaving no hint that it had once been rounded and hard. No one would know that Cadian had placed his hand against the bulge and felt their daughter kick against his hand. They would never look at her and suspect that she could have been a mother...could have been. Five months was a long time, too long to grow a child and lose them. Too long to fall in love, to plan a life, to watch it fall apart. Katelyn Mae Shirai was carved into the stone, with two identical dates lined up side by side, telling the terrible truth. Katelyn had died before she'd ever taken her first breath, before Lilly could hold her in her arms. It had been three years since she had knelt in front of that statue, three long years before she'd visited her daughters grave. There were no flowers, and she wished she would have brought some. She was gone, gone to a better place, but Lilly couldn't help but feel like she'd left her daughter all alone in that graveyard.
"I'm so sorry." she whispered, hand still resting on the icy, wet wing. It was work that had taken her away, a bakery that had made her an offer she couldn't refuse. Now they had expanded, and she'd been asked to move back to the very place they had taken her away from. But then, that wasn't completely true, was it? Yes, it had been her dream job. Steady pay, a morning full of pastry making that set her mind at ease, but there was more to it. She couldn't look at Cadian without feeling the agony all over again. She couldn't look at the buildings, or the streets, couldn't stand the memories, the reality of everything she'd lost. Running wasn't an option anymore, but that didn't mean that it hurt any less. All this time, all these years, and she'd left her baby girl alone in a city of the dead. A sob wracked her body, quiet but painful as it all came rushing back. Sometimes she could forget, she could go a whole day without thinking about it....but if she didn't remember her child, who would? Maybe it was for the best. Maybe she was too selfish to be a mother.
Lilly stayed on her knees for what seemed like hours, crying like a baby with one hand on the statue and the other wrapped around her empty stomach. There came a point when the tears ran out, along with all of the heat in her body, and she forced herself to stand. She promised the empty air that she would return with flowers, told the tombstone that she loved it, and stumbled back through the darkness to her car. As she turned up the heat she checked her phone for the time, and felt her heart sink when she saw that the date matched the one on Katelyn's grave. Fate had a funny way of screwing with people, but nobody was laughing. Dialing his number was a reflex, leftover from a life of togetherness. Cadian had always been there, every day as long as she could remember, her best friend forever. There had been a time when she couldn't picture what a day without him would look like, when her biggest fear was losing him. Never, not ever, did she expect that she'd be the one to leave. His voice on the answering machine sucked the air from her lungs, leaving her breathless when it came time to leave a message. "Hi." Was all she could choke, taking a shuddering breath. "It's me." He would know her voice, just as she would have known his. "I know that this is out of the blue. Uhm, call me. Please. When you get this." Another shaky breath. "Ok." She hung up the phone, put it down, and wondered when she'd started shaking.
It wasn't a long drive to his house, the place that had used to be their house. His car wasn't in the driveway, and her heart skipped a beat at the thought that he might be spending the night with someone else. It shouldn't have, all of her boxes were at Evan's and her toothbrush was on his counter. But still...it hurt. It hurt more than it should have. Or maybe it was just the memories, knowing that the days she spent in that house were probably the happiest she would ever have. And there was no going back to that, not ever, not now. Before she knew what she was doing, Lilly was out of the car and up the front steps. The key was still hidden under the mat, and the lock was still difficult to turn. She stepped inside, a stranger in a home that had once been hers. It was eerily similar, the same ugly, retro design that was so utterly comfortable. Worse, it smelled like him. Three years and she'd almost forgotten his scent, but it was so strong and potent now. Lilly wandered down the hall, sinking carefully onto the couch, running her hands along the thick carpet. Where was he? Where could he be? Why wasn't he home? Her phone said that it was almost two in the morning, and while it was in her hand she decided that it was time to try calling again.
Never in a million years did she imagine he'd answer.
"Cadian." Her voice was filled with both relief and surprise as she clutched the phone tighter, leaning her cheek into it as though it was his hand. His voice was home, so familiar. For a moment she could almost pretend that she belonged there, that she was calling to check up on him. Her clothes were in the closet, her sheets were on the bed.
“Wow, it is good to hear your voice,” And there was the reminder of reality that broke the illusion. Three years was a long time.
"Yeah, you too." She choked. Could he tell that she'd been crying? Did he know that her chest hurt with how much she missed him?
"I'm sorry, did I wake you up? Is it too late?"
“Nono, its not to late, I’m just on my way home,” He spoke, adding, “you’re welcome to drop by if you’re in town…”
His invitation was a little delayed, considering she'd already let herself in...but he didn't need to know that. "Ok. I'd like...that would be...Uhm, I'll just let myself in, if I beat you. I know where the key is." Her heart was pounding, and there seemed to be less air in the room. "I'll see you soon." she told him, as she hung up the phone. Three years, and now she was sitting on his couch, waiting for him to walk through the door. The show, of course, there had been a show. That's where he was. That's where Evan was, and she should have been waiting at home for him. But it was so good to hear his voice, too good for her to leave until she could hear it without the static of the phone.