The Love Of A Cemetery

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I was ten years old and I was wearing a thin, white summer dress with a pink ribbon tied around the waste. I was a very girly child, and I loved dresses. I skipped, the only sound was my pink plastic flip-flops slapping against my heals. The cemetery was my favorite place to play when I was small. It was quiet and beautiful, and I didn’t mind the “dead people” factor.

When I came to the large, brick building, I stopped. It was a strange sort of thing, looking like a soup can made out of bricks. That is, if the soup can had windows and parts were crumbling away. I had never been inside it because, truthfully, it was the only part of the cemetery that ever scared me.

I had chosen today to go inside it. It was the day before my eleventh birthday, and I couldn’t leave it any longer. Back then, I had declared myself queen of that graveyard, and a queen must know her kingdom inside and out. And more important than that, I wanted it as my palace.

I stepped over a pile of old bricks into my to-be palace. I dramatically breathed in deeply, and as a result had a coughing fit. When I could breathe again, I ran up the stairs. When I reached the top floor, I realized part of the roof was out. I could see out over the whole cemetery. It was dangerous and high up. I loved it.

Outside, it was just starting to snow. It was the first snow of the season, which meant it was the last time these flip-flops would see the light of day. I looked down at my toes, beet red from the cold, and frowned.

Something shuffled behind me. I whipped around, my blond curls bouncing with the skirt of my dress. In a dark corner, there was a pile of blankets that moved slightly. It’s probably a cute little family of mice. My adorable ten-year-old mind thought, And I’ll raise them to be my servants. They’ll make dresses for me, and clean... The blankets shook more violently, disturbing my ridiculous thoughts. Then the pile expanded, and took shape.

I screamed and covered my eyes. I spread my fingers a bit and looked through them. A laugh burst from me, and I sat down and laughed some more. It was a boy. The blankets had been his clothes, I just hadn’t seen in the shadows of my palace.

When I was done laughing, I sat up and strolled over to the boy and smiled. I stuck out my hand. The boys eyes widened as he stared at my hand. Then I figured out his behavior.

“Oh, I am so sorry!” I bowed deeply. “You must be the king of the palace already. But I must tell you that I am the queen of that cemetery down there.” He looked at the cemetery below, his eyes still wide. His hair was blonde-brownish, and he was taller than me. His plain red tee-shirt and jeans were dirty, but otherwise in good shape.

“Who are you?” He asked. His voice was lovely, refreshing, and smooth, like swallowing ice cream. His face looked young, and he was probably around 14. Despite his age, though, he was a whole foot taller than me.

I flipped my hair back and said, “I’m Louise. Who are you?”

“Well,” His forehead wrinkled. “Do you want a name? Because I don’t have one.”

I giggled. “You must have a name!” He shook his head. “Well, then I must give you one!” I spread my dress under me and sat on the dusty floor. I stared at him while he shuffled from one foot to the other. “Oh I know! Your name is Theodore.” At the time I had a teddy bear named Theodore that was the color of his hair.

He grinned and pushed his hair back. Then he bowed, and to my delight, said, “Queen Lousie of the surrounding cemetery, I am King Theodore of the brick, um...”

“Soup can.” I finished for him.

“Alright. King Theodore of the brick soup can.”

From that day on, Theo and I were the best of friends. I went to the cemetery everyday to visit him. Two years later, I remember lying in the snow of the quiet cemetery with him beside me.

“This isn’t as fun as you said it was going to be.” I complained at him. His eyes were closed and he looked like he didn’t hear me. “It’s cold!” He remained still. “Theo!”

“Shh.” He whispered. “You need to just be. And be quiet, too.” Although I had grown up enough to have shed my queen obsession, I still had issues being quiet.

“Theo, you know I can’t do that.” The cold leaked in through the seams of my jacket and mittens. The wind whistled across my face and I shivered. “Hey, um, Theo?”

“Mmm?”

“My thirteenth birthday is tomorrow and I really want you to be there.” I turned my head toward him and the snow crunched under me. “Please?”

“No, Louise.”

Every year, I would invite him to my birthday party. I never invited him to anything else, because I knew he would say no. But every year, no matter how many rejections, I would ask him to my birthday. He was my best friend, and I was closer to him than any of my school friends.

“You don’t even have to get me a present. Being there would be my present.” I sat up in the snow. He always got me a present. I don’t know how he got one, because he never left the cemetery. “Please, please?”

“No, Louise.” He stood up in his snow angel. I jumped up and stepped right in front of him. I was almost as tall as him now, short by just three inches. I had brought a ruler once to show him.

“Then I have to go and get ready for tomorrow.” I turned around quickly and he was splashed in the face by a sea of blonde curls. I stalked across the cemetery to the exit. I always acted mad when he rejected my invitations, even though I never was.

Just a year later, everything changed between us. It was a cold spring day, just weeks after the last day of winter. Theo and I were having lunch on a blanket spread out in front of the legendary soup can. It was really windy, and my skirt whipped around me. Then my sun hat with the pink ribbon blew off my head.


“Hey!” I yelled at wind. Theo jumped up and ran after the hat. I laughed as he jumped in the air and grabbed it. He turned around and smiled. Then, like a dog with something expensive in its jaws, he turned around and ran. “Hey!” I yelled again and chased him.

“Yo! Guys!” A voice that wasn’t mine or Theo’s called from the cemetery gate. We both skidded to a stop. It was some boy from my school on his bike. He sat next to me in science class. “Are you guys, like, together or something?” I swallowed nervously. At the time I desperately wanted to yell “Yes!” and run into Theo’s arms like some cheesy romance novel.

But instead it was Theo who spoke. And he said the one word that turned my whole world upside down at the time, and changed, well, everything.

Theo said, “Yeah.” He said it so casually. Did he have any idea that my head was spinning? That my world just changed shape and form and color? That my circular world just turned cubical?

“Oh. Okay. Bye, Louise.” He waved then peddled down the sidewalk. I turned towards Theo. He shrugged and chuckled, then walked the opposite way. My face turned red and I clenched my fists. I ground my teeth. Was he joking? Was it just a dirty trick that had made my heart beat then shatter? This was the first time I was really mad at him.

I screamed, “WHAT?” I ran at him full speed. I think I was crying, but even now I can’t explain why. It was probably hormones or something. I got to him and punched him in the shoulder, hard. “You dirty, disgusting creature! How could-” Then he kissed me.

I got older, and taller, too. I stopped wearing skirts and sun hats and switched to jeans and headbands. It seemed that I was the only one changing, but I figured that was impossible. He still wore the same red tee-shirt and dirty jeans I had met him in. We were “madly in love”, I suppose you would call it, when I came to him with terrible news.

“I’m moving.” I was fifteen, and my parents wanted me out of the bad high school as soon as possible. Theo looked at the partially frozen ground. I had cried for so long in my bedroom, my well was dry. I couldn’t cry any longer.

“I suppose that’s good.” Theo said.

“What?” I looked at him in confusion. “What do you mean?”

“I was going to have to leave soon anyway.” He mumbled this.

My teenage mind rushed to the obvious. “You were going to break up with me?” I sat on the ground even though it was cold.

“Well, yes. You see, you were getting so old...” I got up and left. I didn’t understand his reasoning at the time. The next day, I left Pennsylvania and drove to Buffalo, New York with my parents.

I finished high school in Buffalo, then took a year off before starting college to see the world. I went to Europe and saw the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben. I had met a guy in England, and when he asked me to come and live with him there, I quickly said yes. I loved Europe almost as much as I loved this mysterious British stranger. When I returned to my small apartment to move out, I found the most curious thing in the large pile of mail.

The return address said it was from “Theo”, no last name. I ripped it open and scanned the letter. It was an invitation to a birthday party. My birthday party. I drove to Pennsylvania that night. I stayed in a hotel, and got to the cemetery the day the invitation dictated. I walked slowly among the gravestones as memories of my childhood flooding into my brain.

When I turned a corner, I saw him. He was standing by a table covered with a colorful table cloth. There was a small cake in the middle and two plates in front of two chairs. But the table setting wasn’t what caught my attention.

Theo was there, and he hadn’t change. His red tee-shirt and jeans had the same stains I remember. His hair was the color of my teddy bear I had when I was ten. But he was still fourteen. He hadn’t aged a day since I had left. And then it hit me. He hadn’t changed since I had first met him. He didn’t age.

I sat down at the table, my eyes locked on what I thought was a hallucination. We ate cake in silence. Then he handed me a relatively large box wrapped up with a ribbon. I opened it cautiously, not sure what to expect.

It was the sun hat with the pink ribbon he had lost that day. I didn’t know what to say.

I was twenty years old. Did he want me to fall in love with him again or something? I didn’t get it. But I was also touched deeply. I placed the hat gently on the table. I pushed my chair back and walked to him. He watched me with those wide eyes, the same ones that had stared at my attempted hand shake ten years before.

I pulled him out of his chair and hugged him. Then I kissed his the top of his head, then left the cemetery and walked to my car. When I had jumped in the front seat, I rolled down the window and watched him. He smiled at me and waved. I returned the gesture, then drove away.





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