Broken Remains

The fog was so thick this time of night, I could hardly see the spindling branches of the trees above. The hard gray gravestone was cold as ice and there were little chips in it where it had been bumped or scraped. My long brown hair was blowing in the light wind and my knees were sinking in the soft mud where I had knelt before him. With trembling fingers, I brushed down and traced the letters on the headstone. Barely touching it, I ran my rough fingertips over the words “Jake Paulmer, Beloved, 1993-2010.” I blinked at the tears that suddenly filled my eyes as memories came rushing back, feeling the pain I had pushed and buried until every fiber was numb. I remembered Jakes face perfectly, his dark brown eyes, his stunning smile and perfect white teeth, his amazing dark brown hair that grew so it swept just above his eyes, everything. I remembered all the times he said he loved me. All the times he would tell me he would keep me safe, when I couldn’t do the same for him. The shock of this agonizing fact knocked me breathless, clutching my chest as if I could somehow dull the torture. I remembered the time he took me to see a horror movie, we sat in the middle row and he held me close. I was too scared to keep my eyes opened for more than two minutes. He wrapped his arms around me like an iron cage protecting a sacred treasure, and whisper in my ear “your safe with me, I’ll never let you go.” My vision blurred, fading in and out, sometimes seeing his smiling face so real I could almost reach out and touch it, and other times seeing his abandoned cold gravestone that held no love, no forgiveness. My memories switched so quickly, uncontrollably flashing images of my past. A beach consumed my thoughts and I instantly know what memory is digging itself up, clawing at every move I make to push it deeper. Losing the battle, I see us, We walked along the sand for hours just talking, letting the water lick at our toes. Wet sand forced itself between my toes as our weight penetrated its surface. The sun was just setting over the water when he took my hand and pulled me close. Slipping his broad hand inside his pocket, he revealed a beautiful heart-shaped necklace and on its face our initials shown like bleeding paint. He put it on me with his warm hands and leaned so close to my face, his breath blew my nose. He said, “I love you more than anything in this world, I couldn’t live without you” and he bent down to kiss me. His lips were as warm as my cheeks felt. The sun setting over the water, the sand between our toes, it was the perfect first kiss. The edges of my vision became hazy and vanished all together. I reached up to my neck to touch the same necklace Jake had given me almost two years ago. Our initials still engraved as clearly as the day it was made. It rested on my black shirt that pulled down below my waist. Digging my broken nails into the moist earth I endured the painful squeeze tugging around my heart. I gasped for air that my lungs could not hold, wishing, hoping, and praying that I held the power to impede the merciless imagery. I couldn’t help wondering if this is what death felt like, secretly wishing that was in fact the case, to escape this world of cruelty, leave it behind and to be placed next to Jake forever, six feet underground. My morbid thoughts were interrupted by the sound of footsteps behind and someone call “Young lady” in a raspy voice, “What are you doing here so late?” I turned to see a very old man standing only a few yards away. “Sorry” I called back raising to stand next to the hollow gravestone just wanted to visit”. The old man looked at me with an apprehensive expression. He had a lantern in one hand and his other was over his eyes as if too se me clearly. The old jeans he wore had holes in the knees and were covered with dirt. Alight brown shirt clung to his chest like a second skin and on top of his balding head, laid a matching hat that stopped just above his wrinkling ears. His boots were a darker brown and covered with a fresh coat of mud. His hair was white and he had a little bit of a beard growing on his chin, bobbing with each word. “What’s your name?” he asked squinting his eyes as if to see me clearly, hoping to see the truth in my eyes instead of blindly trusting.
“Jennifer” I replied, digging my heel into the rich soil beneath it. “Well Jennifer,” he said in a stern voice “you best be getting home now, it’s late and you never know what danger is out there.” My laugh was humorless and dead, I knew exactly what was out there, there are drunk drivers, like the one who killed Jake a few blocks from my house. I knew what horrible, careless people were lurking out there. He shifted his weight, waiting for an answer. So I just nodded and thanked him giving him my best smile, which most likely appeared less than friendly. I could feel his eyes on me as I walked past him, towards the cemetery gates.
On my way home I replayed that dreadful night. Jake and I were in his car listening to his crappy radio, the one I begged a million times to get it fixed, seeing as the static was louder than the current song. One moment we were singing along to the music, and the next, blinding lights shown through the windshield as a trusk sped towards Jakes’ side of the car. I remember his gorgeous face as he looked at me and whispered my name for the last time. I remember trying to reach out and touch his cheek before it was gone. I woke in a bright room three weeks later from a horrible coma. All of my friends and family surrounding me as my eyes slowly fluttered open. I only had one question on my mind. “Is Jake okay?” I asked. No answer. I repeated the question “Is Jake okay?” “Is Jake okay?” So many people in the room and not one of them would answer me. They would just look at my torn face and cried, from their grief or my own I didn’t know. That was enough. I knew my answer. Jake was gone. My eyes here blurry as tears streaked down my cheeks and I gasped for air that would not soothe the burning of my throat. There was a loud screaming from someone close by; I didn’t realize it was me until my mom started telling me to calm down. A nurse ran into the room with a needle in hand, she injected Haldol into my arm. In one instant, my whole world went black.
The pavement beneath my feet grew wet from light rainfall. Cars passing silently made reflections on the black streets. My bright red scarf flew in the air dancing with my tangles brown hair. The moons glow was the only form of light on this dark, damp saunter. I was walking towards nothing, seeing nothing, feeling nothing, totally numb to all senses. The beating of my aching heart was the only sound I heard. The sound of my name being called released me from my trance. “Jen!” I recognized that voice. Emily. I turned around to see a white jeep slowly coming to a stop beside me. A girls’ head hanging out of the passenger window, her blonde wavy hair blowing behind her in furious interweavings. A worried look was painted on her beautiful face as she closed in on me. “What are you doing?” she asked while getting out of the car, slamming the door behind her. I caught a glimpse of Adam in the drivers’ seat staring at me with worried blue eyes. I wiped my tears the best I could before I spoke. “Hey Emily” I said with fake excitement, though I see she is not in the least convinced. Adam and Emily have been ‘together’ for a year now, much to my desolation. Emily was my best friend; she would never let me be upset without a fight. “I’m just taking a walk” I replied to her unanswered question. “At two-forty seven in the morning?” she glanced at her watch as she spoke, stealing a glance at me through her eyelashes. “Jen” she said quietly when I didn’t answer “we all know where you go when the rest of us are asleep” I looked down at my feet, only to see a puddle with my reflection. The look on my face did not escape my notice, despair, and hopelessness. “I just miss him so much” My pulse gave a weak thud and I grasped at my clothes, tugging at the hem of my shirt. Emily’s sigh filled the dead silence, placing her hand upon my arm, she bore her eyes into mine. “We all do” she stated wearily, pulling me closer and hugging me tightly. We stood still as unvoiced statues for a few minutes before Adam spoke “Em” he called through the unrolled window, “we should go now, someone will be worried.” Emily nodded, pulling awake from my grasp “why don’t you stay with me tonight” she said in a quiet voice while she tucked my hair behind my ear. “Okay” my voice did not sound like my own, it was a foreign whisper even to my own ears. Emily hopped in the backseat with me and we sat in stillness as he started the car and drove down the rode. Adams eyes stole glances up at us through the mirror every few minutes, no doubt checking on Emily. The cars headlights lit up the road ahead, throwing sparks and lighting the trees to the side causing them to yellow under the cover of the glow. “Jen?” I heard Emily ask beside me, shifting in her seat to get nearer. “Yes?” I replied looking up at her. Her face was barely lit by the blue screen on the radio, and shown blue squares in her big eyes. “ Are you okay?” she asked and I realized with horror I was crying. “I will be,” I answered, failing to sound strong. We pulled into Emily’s driveway and I mumbled my goodbye to Adam. He bent down to kiss Emily and whispered something I could not hear. I turned away just a second too late. I thought my emotions were shot before, but know, I was barely able to stand. Emily walked away and turned to me, her face was bright red and she was biting her bottom lip. “Sorry” she muttered and swiftly walked inside the house, avoiding any comment from me. My parents were out of town for a month on, what they call, their “second honeymoon”. They took a trip to Italy, so they won’t notice if I didn’t come home, heck, I would be surprised if they noticed I even lived with them. Emily’s parents were always out of the house, no matter what time it is. They keep telling Emily they are shopping, or over at friends houses, but they always come home smelling of strong alcohol and cigarette smoke. Her house was huge, there was an oversized window in their living room, and a staircase leading, both, upstairs and down. Emily walked into the kitchen and I followed, she opened the cupboard door and stepped in. I heard bags crunching and cans dropping, and she soon emerged with an armful of junk food. Pushing past me and barreling up the stairs, she stepped into her room with me following suet. Her walls were painted white with dark blue curtains, never failing to remind me of those old sailor outfits. She had a huge window in her room that overlooked the lake they lived on. The trees surrounding the water were about twenty feet high and had bright yellow, red, and orange leaves. A queen-sized bed laid in her room that had dark blue sheets thrown over the top of them in an unorganized mess. There was a couch to one side and a table to the other corresponding each other. She had her dresser pushed against the wall opposite of her bed and above it rested a huge mirror. Her black and white cat, Patches, was sitting on her bed. “Alright” Emily said as she picked up Patches and put her on the couch. “Eat anything” she dumped all of the food on the bed and sat beside her heaping pile. She had picked up all foods from chips to hard candies, and finally cupcakes. I picked up a strawberry lifesaver and popped it in my mouth, savoring the sweet taste. “So” she said casually “what color?” she held up many different colors of nail polish. I looked at them all and picked a dark red color in her right hand. It was Jakes favorite color, but Emily doesn’t need to know that. Emily picked up the paint bottle and took the brush out of it. I grabbed the remote to her silver stereo and pressed the power button. Emily was painting my second hand and allowing the first to dry. The radio station played “Three Days Grace”. Emily finished the second hand and then finally spoke again. “So Jen,” she said while picking up a chocolate chip cookie. “How do you want your hair done?” she took a bite of her cookie. “HAIR!?” I asked with shock. “What? What’s wrong?” she asked confused. “Nothing” I replied, trying to make the situation better, I thought my words through before I talked. “I’m… Just… really tired” I lied, even though I felt like I could run a mile without getting tired, wishing I was allowed to do just that, to feel my heart pumping erratically once again, exerting every ounce of treachery from my body. “Thanks for painting my nails, but can I go to sleep now?” I asked while picking up food from the bed, quickly tossing it to the dresser “Sure” she said still trying to understand why I was acting so weird, though already knowing all too much. I changed into some gray pajama pants and a lighter gray t-shirt, dull, colorless, me. I crawled under the covers and turned off the lights, glancing around the dark room, wishing to disappear altogether. Emily got in too and we both faced the direction opposite of each other without a word. I stared out her huge window into the darkness, watching the trees sway in rhythm. The moon was full and brighter than ever. When I heard Emily’s’ soft snoring, I looked at the clock. Four-twenty eight. I slowly got out of bed and walked down the hall to the closest bathroom. Turning on the light, I face mirror, its sleek surface calling to me like silver velvet. In the mirror, I didn’t see me, I saw some sad girl with drooping eyes that had huge dark circles under them. She was frowning and her hair was pulled back in a messy ponytail, small strands escaping their hold and sweeping in front of her face. Her nails were painted with a fresh coat of dark red nail polish and her gray pajamas were baggy and had holes in them from long wear. I lifted my hand to touch her agonized face and she did the same mimicking me exactly. Our hands met and I pulled back by the touch of her ice-cold fingertips. She did the same. We both bent down and splashed water on our faces. The water was so cool and refreshing, washing away the grime from the graveyard. I pulled the tan towel off the rack and dried my face, dabbing my raw skin with the soft fabric. I then walked downstairs as quietly as possible, passing the clock on my way out of the door. Five-thirteen. I blindly guided myself outside to the front porch with slow jerky motions. There was a swinging bench next to the front door, and huge white pillars a few feet in front of it, sliding down onto he bench, I let all of my tense muscles relax into the pale wood. The freezing bricks stung my bare feet as I pushed off the ground swinging the bench backwards, creaking as it did so.. The moons glow was so glorious; I could see every detail without turning a light on. My body did not complain about the earliness of the day, I had been use to it in the days that shall never return. I use to wait until my parents were asleep and run outside to my front yard. Jake would always be waiting for me, and I would run into his arms and bury my face in his chest, he always smelled so good. He would set his warm cheek against the top of my head and whisper, “It’s amazing how my world seems to die when you’re not around.” I felt my heart swell at his loving words, but it wasn't painful, and I couldn't stop the smile from melting across my face. We would sit in the grass and watch the stars. Once we even fell asleep out in the lawn and woke with the sun blinding our eyes and fresh coat of dew on the grass. We would sit and talk about the future. We both saw each other. One night we were laying back and a shooting star flew across the sky like a diamond on black paper. “Make a wish,” I said. He turned towards me and looked deep into my eyes and said “I already have everything I could ever ask for and more” I remember everything that night, the cool breeze on my face, my hair blowing lightly across his chest, the warmth of his hand in mine, his gorgeous face in the glow of the moon, my cheek pressed against his raising chest. No matter how long it will take for me to join him where he is now, I will never forget that moment. I looked at my cell phone for the time. Seven-twenty three. The sun was starting to rise. The colors were beautiful, orange, pink and yellow, gracefully dancing, like paint flowing in water. I ran inside the house before anyone was awake, listening to the calming beat of me bare feet on hard wood floors. I sprinted up the stairs and got into bed without waking Emily. I gazed at the swaying trees outside until my eyelids slowly slid shut.
I dreamed about the last time I saw him. We were on the couch at his house watching the colors whip across the television in flashing motions. Jake was lying on the couch and I was lying in front of him. His broad hands wrapped around my stomach and his head was nestled in my neck. My attention was grabbed by the saddening movie, watching as despair fell upon these sorrowful characters. Jake looked at my face a wiped my tears away with his thumb. “Aw Jen” he said “Even when you cry, you’re still the most beautiful girl I know” I reached up to kiss him like a million times before. This kiss was different, It was more longing than any others. His lips crushed mine a little harder than his usual soft kiss. I pulled away wondering what changed. A long silence held its place and I wondered what he was thinking. “Jen” he said with a new seriousness to his voice. I looked up at him and he looked sad, his gorgeous chocolate colored eyes looked deep into mine, he looked at me like I was something more than me. His eyebrows pulled together on his forehead, creating a small crease in its place. His warm hand rose to my cheek and he rubbed his thumb against my face. “You know I love you right?” he asked. Of course I knew he loved me. He shows it every second we’re together. “I love you too” I replied, then moved closer to him so I could lean on his chest and place my head under his chin. “No Jen, I mean do you know how much I love you?” My thoughts escaped me, What a weird question to ask. “I think so” I said pretty confused. “Well,” he said hesitantly. “Have you ever thought of us,” he paused and his face looked torn, like he couldn’t decide to continue or not. “Getting married someday?” he asked finishing his question. My heart skipped a beat and my breathing ceased. Of course I had thought about it, but we never talked about it to each other. “What?” I asked, still trying to catch my breath. He just looked at me without a word. The only sound was our steady breathing and the slow piano music coming from the credits of the movie. “Yeah, I have” I said wondering what brought this conversation up. He raised his eyebrows “Well? What did you think?” he asked in a whisper. “I thought, it was very possible,” I said just as quiet. I could feel his chest rise and fall on my stomach as we faced each other. He looked down at our hands that were linked together and back at my face. “What if” he said and paused, his chest was still. He was holding his breath? “It’s more than possible?” He said releasing the air he held in his lungs, blowing my hair across my cheeks. What was he meaning? I was confused beyond words. “What do you mean?” I voiced my thoughts, allowing a crease to form between my eyebrows. He got off the couch, his hair brushed against my cheek as he passed over me. Pulling me off the couch with him, he took both of my hands and walked in front of me. The music was still playing, soft and relaxing. He looked deep in my eyes and slowly knelt down on one knee, never breaking his gaze. My heart beat faster as I slowly realized what was happening. He had an astounding smile on his beautiful face. His thumb rubbed the back of my hand, his own were warm and soft. I found his eyes, they had a certain spark of hope in them. “Jennifer Gates, I have loved you for two years and will love you forever, you are my life and I couldn’t bear to live without you. I don’t have a ring now, but I will. If I promise to keep you safe for all eternity, will you marry me?” I could feel a smile stretch across my face and tears streaming down my hot cheeks as I whispered the word that would change my life forever. Yes.

After an hour of talking and crying tears of joy, we decided that I needed to return home. He opened the door for me and said “Mrs. Paulmer” with a smile that could stop the earths orbit in a seconds time. I took his hand and he helped me in. “I like the sound of that” I said before he kissed me and closed the door. He got in the drivers seat and turned on the car, causing it to hum to life. Turning the small knob on his stereo it buzzed static louder than the song. Smiling at my new fiancée, I complained, once again about getting a new radio. The brilliant smile that melted against his face, he chuckled and took my hand, whispering, “I love you”. Then we started to drive down the road to my house. Only, we wouldn’t make it to my house.
“Jen! Jen! JENNIFER!! Wake up!” I woke to the sound of Emily’s frantic voice. “What?” I asked in a groggy tone. “Jen” she whispered looking at the ground, intertwining her hands in her lap. “You were screaming, and crying in your sleep” she looked at me with her hair draped over her eye. Tucking it behind her ear she gazed up at me. “I was?” I asked touching my face, only to feel wet tears. My throat was sore from what could only be, screaming. “I don’t even remember what I dreamed about.” I said. “Well it must have been bad” Emily touched my cheek to wipe away the remaining tears I had missed. In that one touch to my cheek, I remembered. I remembered the way Jake had touched my cheek, just as Emily was. I remembered my entire dream. New tears welled in my eyes and spilled over. “What’s wrong?” Emily cried in shock, reaching out to me, hoping to somehow stop the pain. I looked up with a red face. “Everything” I whispered in a broken voice.





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