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In Loving Memory
The brisk winter wind whipped against her face, reddening her cheeks and nose. Loose strands of long, brown hair whisked about her face chaotically in the current. Leanne drew her coat around her tighter and tucked her face down further into her scarf to fight off the cold. Her eyes scanned each tombstone she passed, taking in the name, age and decorations (or lack thereof) of each. She blinked furiously to fight off the tears.
The wound of Emma’s death was still fresh in her heart, even though it had been almost a month and a half ago. Those final days in the hospital were seared into Leanne’s memory-- the image of her best friend being poked with IVs and attached to beeping instruments. The sound of her final heartbeat echoed in her head, haunting her like a ghost.
A million and one various emotions were contained in Leanne’s small heart. Confusion, hurt, longing, love, lossâ€”but most of all guilt. It weighed her down like a block of lead that she was forced to carry with her everywhere. Its constant presence was slowly beginning to wear her down. At a time when Emma had needed her most, she had let her down. Abandoned her. Thinking back on it, it made Leanne feel small inside, selfish and unkind. By her reasoning, she figured that she deserved to endure this torment. It was karma’s way of turning the tables on her and she accepted the backlash of her actions willingly.
“Do you want to hang out tonight?” Emma’s voice asked through the phone. Leanne inwardly groaned.
“I can’t tonight… I have um..-“
“Yeah, sort of,” Leanne said awkwardly.
“Let me guess, with Mitch.” Emma sounded angry, but Leanne could hear the hurt underneath it. She chose to ignore it.
“Look, I’m allowed to hang out with my boyfriend,” she said angrily.
“Yeah, but I’m your best friend, shouldn’t that count for something?”
“Not if you are going to act like this,” Leanne snarled and snapped her cellphone shut angrily.
Leanne now cringed as the memories flooded her mind. The tears she had fought so hard against now fell quietly from her eyes.
“So then she got all snippy with me,” Leanne complained to Mitch and took a sip of coke from her straw.
“I don’t see how she thought she had the right to control-“
Somewhere in Leanne’s purse, her cellphone began to ring and cut him off. It took her a bit of rummaging to find it and when she did, she was not pleased with the caller I.D.
“Ignore her,” Mitch said lazily, popping a French fry into his mouth.
“Gladly,” she said as she opened and closed her phone, hung up on her best friend and proceeded to turn her phone on silent.
Later that night, when she went home, Leanne would take out her phone and see that she had 9 missed calls from Emma and had one new voice mail.
“Lee, its me. Look… I’m sorry about before but I really need you to call me back. I had another doctors appointment today and apparently it’s gotten worse. I gotta stay at the hospital overnight. They didn’t say when I’d be getting out. I really need you here. Visiting hours are between 2 and 8. Please… call me back.”
A week later, Emma had died from something that the doctor’s had originally said “was no big deal.”
Leanne came to a stop at a large rose colored tombstone shrouded with flowers. She didn’t need to read the inscription to know who this gravestone remembered. Grass had not yet started to grow over the scar the burial had left on the earth. Leanne sat down next to the tombstone and leaned her body against it’s cold, hard surface and began to weep.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, staring up at the steely gray sky. “I should have listened to you, I shouldn’t have-”
But it didn’t matter anymore what she should or shouldn’t have done. Emma was dead, there was no changing that. She hadn’t even been able to apologize. From that night until the morning of her death, Emma had been barely conscious.
“Please...please, forgive me,” Leanne said, turning to place a kiss on the top of the gravestone. As she did so, a single tear fell and soaked into the ground beneath it. She waited a moment, half expecting a whispered reply. When none came, she took a deep breath. It would be difficult to do this- to live with this guilt. But it was her only option. She owed it to Emma to never forget.
Leanne stood and took one final glance backwards before she turned and walked away.