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July 12, 2011
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Ella, her jacket wrapped tight around her tiny body, maneuvered through the cemetery with ease. It was a beautiful day out, but still remained much too cold for Ella’s taste. The towering pines planted at the edges and throughout the cemetery stood tall, proud that they remained green throughout the year. Birds twittered about and squirrels darted across the crisp grass, despite the numbing cold. It seemed ironic – to the point of almost being disrespectful, even – that such a morose place could be so full of life.

Ella, upon arriving at her sister’s grave, sat down cross-legged atop the grave and leaned on Ava’s headstone. She didn’t care about the whole respect thing. Somehow, she knew Ava wouldn’t either.

“Ain’t got no manners!” Ava appeared just then, sporting a ponytail and her trademark outfit of shorts, a tank, and shades. Her lithe, athletic frame stood tall beneath the cold sunshine, as it always had. She laughed at her own Southern accent. “Guess Mom never taught you that whole ‘respect the dead’ thing.”

Ella chuckled. “Nah, guess not.”

Ava’s playful smile faded and a more serious look crossed her countenance. “How ya been, El?”

Ella swallowed, with some difficulty, the lump that had grown in her throat. “I’ve been great. Miss you tons, Ave. It’s not the same. Nothing is the same, not since you left.” She said it as if Ava were just on vacation and would be back within the next week, although Ella knew in her heart she would never come back.

Ava said nothing, just stared off into the trees.

“So uh, how’s Heaven?”

Ava sat down beside her. “Aw, it’s alright. Look, El, I don’t want you to throw away your life because of me. If we were in each others' shoes, I know you wouldn’t want me to do that. You haven’t been to a single party since you’ve been in college, have you?”

Ella shook her head, knowing that Ava already knew the answer. “Who would look over me if I passed out? Who would hold back my hair as I’m vomiting up my entrails?”

Ava scrunched her face. “Girls don’t puke. That’s just gross.” She laughed heartily. “You have Fru.”

“Fru’s not you,” Ella mused softly as more of a thought to herself than a response to Ava.

“I know.” Ava sighed heavily. “You need to get out. Live a little.” She looked at her twin with playful eyes. “Dominick’s gorgeous, by the way. Delectable, even. I commend your taste in boys.” Her brow raised provocatively. “Have you…?” She trailed off.

“What? No!”

Ava choked. “Really?! So that's what's wrong with you,” she mused playfully. Her eyes grew wider as she shook her head in disappointment. “Go get some of that.” She winked.

Ella blushed modestly. She had thought about it before, wondered how Dominick would react if she made the first move. After a moment of silence, she nodded. “I will.”

Ava clapped her hands together and a grin spread across her young face. “Excellent!”

Just then, a strange sensation passed over Ella. She felt as if someone was watching her; sure enough, as she turned around, her eyes connected with those she felt on her back. A middle-aged woman whom she didn’t know stared at her with a frightened look about her face.

“I guess that means I have to go. Wouldn’t want people to think you’re crazy, would we?” Ava winked again. “Even though they would be absolutely on point about that one.” Her tone grew serious again. “I love you, Ella. Take care of yourself, and thanks for stopping by. It sure gets lonely out here.”

Ava kissed her sister on the cheek. “I’m always watching over you. Ta-ta, but only for now. I promise.”

And just like that, Ava Stevens was gone again.

Ella collapsed to her knees and planted both hands atop Ava’s headstone in order to maintain stability. She despised her mind for playing tricks on her sense of reality. The conversations were always so real and so clear.

She heard feet shuffling through the grass, but didn’t look up. Soon enough, the middle-aged lady who had been eying her was kneeling on the ground beside her, her knee hovering over the grass so as not to get her pants dirty. “You’re a pretty girl.”

Ella glanced at the lady through her blurry curtain of tears and hair. “Not as pretty as she was.” She gently traced each individual character of Ava’s name and birth and death dates with her index finger, wondering what date would be on her own headstone.

“Who was she?” The lady’s voice was soft and open.

“Ava. My twin sister. My best friend, guide, mentor. My better half, for sure.” She glanced at the winter sky, knowing Ava was watching the incident take place.

“It’s amazing that it still hurts after all this time, isn’t it?”

Ella nodded, although she was convinced that the lady had no way of comprehending the depth or degree of her sense of pain, her sense of loneliness.

“I lost my son in a car accident about fifteen years ago. My husband recently lost the fight against leukemia.”

For the first time since the start of the conversation, Ella looked at the woman. She was clad in a black pantsuit, her honey-gold hair pinned back tightly with a clip.

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Austin Woodard said...
Jul. 29, 2011 at 1:58 pm
Very nice!! 
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