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I Promise to Remember You This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

It was the perfect day. The sun had risen in its misty morning glow, rose and beamed clear white light, and at sunset, had cast her golden rays amongst the tree-tops, turning them bronzy green. The perfect night had quickly followed. The evening air was crisp and light, I was warm in Alec’s arms as the last sunlit clouds dissolved into the inky starscape.

I could hear his heartbeat thud against his muscled chest. He was humming a song he had written. I listened patiently, treasuring all that was him in the summer air. The promise of fall nipped at my bare arms, but I didn’t mind the chill that the end of summer brought. The separation that came with that promise is what plagued me.

“Alec?”

He went silent; his gaze, I could tell without seeing, had drifted toward me.

I grasped his hand, meshing our fingers together. I could feel his green eyes watch the motion.

“Promise you’ll never forget me,”

He went stiff.

I curled my head around to see his expression, but my search revealed no hint of emotion on his face. Concerned, I continued. “I know it’s college and all, and the women will be absolutely magnetized to you, but don’t forget me. Please.”

Alec smiled suddenly, chuckling, gasping me in his tanned arms for a kiss I would not soon forget.

I smiled at him. “So, was that a yes or no? Will you remember me?”

His hands, worn from hours of horn practice, stroked my face lovingly. “How could I forget you?”

I felt alone and afraid on this last night. His expression worried me. He was lying to me. I would soon be a distant reverie, another annotation in his extensive love life. Tomorrow, he would be gone, and our relationship with him. I would return to high school as a sophomore, and he would be a college freshman in another state.

“You’ll forget,” I said softly, laying my head on his chest, determined to cling to him with my remaining strength.

There was no reply; I doubt he heard me. He merely hugged me closer. Stars had begun to make their appearance. The sky sparkled with them. We watched, our gazes united by wonder.

“Alec,” the sound was sharp, “It’s time to take Lillian home.” His mother stood on the rock that jutted from beneath the balcony, she sounded very far away.

“Alright mom,” He was using his public voice, the voice that he used for everyone, everyone but me.

Her silhouette nodded in approval, and returned to their home.

“Shall we?” he asked, his voice lighter, happier, prodding from me the response he was looking for.

“No,” I turned around in his arms and stared into his eyes, delicately touching noses, “I want time to end right here, so you can remember me forever,”

Alec shook his head, the short lengths of obsidian hair brushing against my skin. His lips parted in a smile. “I promise, Lilliana,”

My skin rippled. His voice speaking my name was enough to make me blush, but my pet name spoken in his girlfriend voice turned me to fluffy, huggable marshmallow.

The car ride home was always silent. He had asked of me silence, so he in turn, would not run us into anything. Silence was a small price to pay for my life, he had said.

I stared at him, memorizing every millimeter of skin, wanting nothing more than to stop the car right there and make love to him. I had always kept silent on that subject of course. That would be out of the question, him being eighteen and I being a minor.

He noticed my gaze. Not being an idiot, he knew what I was thinking. A smile played his lips as we turned onto my street.

The seconds were flying by. The Chevy lurched to a stop. We got out, walked hand in hand to my door, and froze on the porch. He wrapped me in an embrace I was determined to engrave into my memory.

“I love you,” he said after some time. “I promise, I love you,”

I looked at him, his eyes sparkling brightly in the streetlights. He was my height, close to five-seven; it made kissing him easier, but I merely buried my face in his neck, inhaling the scent that was uniquely Alec. “I love you too,” I whispered those four simple words to him. “We’re ending it now,” I pulled away from him, still firmly attached to his hands.

“That would be best,” he agreed stiffly, letting me go free.

“Don’t forget me,” I pleaded once more. “I meant it when I said I loved you,”

“I meant it when I replied,” he said wittily, “and I will never forget you,”

___________________

It was the perfect day. The sun had risen and just as it had every day of summer that year. Dusk was approaching slowly, dragging languidly with it a cool breeze. It had been eight years since I had been home. Vassar had kept my busy lately, but I had returned.

I sat on the same front steps of my childhood, fiddling with a rock the size of a small grape on my left ring finger. The memories came from deep within me, as though I couldn’t stem their flow. It was illogical for me to hold on to Alec’s memory when it would never be as good as the real thing.

Nathan was a good man. Having attended Yale, our internships in a law firm had produced a relationship that would become permanent. He had made me forget the pain Alec had left me with, and the very least I owed him was marriage.

The impulse to move was too great to ignore, so I took my car keys our of my pocket, and shoved myself into the ancient Chevy which had ferried me home so many years ago. It still smelled like Alec. I admitted to myself that I felt strange in the driver’s seat. Alec, of course, had kept it in perfect condition to give to me upon my return from college.

The keys turned willingly, and the engine roared to life. As I drove out into the street, I wondered vaguely where I was headed. I would drive without destination, I decided. My neighborhood had changed little in my absence, so I decided to go through Alec’s more run down neighborhood to familiarize myself with the changing world.

I don’t know what turn I made, but I was lost. So utterly lost. I had forgotten my cell, the road held no houses, I felt alone. The car was spluttering to a halt.

Frightened, I braked, my hands set like stone on the wheel. To think that Alec had once held it in his hands, was too much.

Angrily, I kicked open the car door, pouncing onto the sun warmed gravel, and slammed it shut. The sound echoed eerily amongst the forest trees, and for the first time, I felt a breeze chill my skin in summer. I wrapped my arms around myself, as though I could squeeze out the remnants of loneliness from my chest. I noticed the color of the sky, a promising blue. Sunset was fast approaching, and so I began to walk.

It was several minutes before I noticed that I was walking on cracked and broken one-lane street. Leaves from many years of desolation lay crunchy across the pathway, shuddering in the wind; there was no other movement. An iron wrought fence lined the pavement to my left, while the woods cooed to me of forgotten promises. I approached the fence, intent on the slab of stone that lay immediately on the other side.

GREY MARCHIBY, it read, OCTOBER 3, 1901- AUGUST 19, 1989.

It was a cemetery, which meant civilization.

Hopeful, I gazed over the peak of the hill. There were several shaded octagonal buildings on the mound of grass, obscured by thick oaks and over grown heaps of grass. Nathan would have told me the buildings I saw could have been crypts, but there was something about the furthest one that spoke of the living. I disregarded my fiancé’s practical wisdom, and decided to scale the fence.

Without much difficulty, I climbed over the waist-length fence, gingerly stepping over Grey’s headstone, and felt through my shoes the feeling of cool marble.

I looked down to find myself on another headstone. Dread panged me instantly. “Sorry,” I apologized to Mary, stepping onto the uncut grass as my words fell upon long deaf ears.

After a time I quit staring at the woman’s grave and faced the setting sun.

The tree tops were bronzy green as I trudged on, reading the names of people I had never met, and feeling their families’ loss as if it were my own. There were names that caught my eye. The Franks’, the Peregrines’, the Ross’s tombs lay scattered about my path. Did my friends ever know this was the place their ancestors were buried? I was treading on sacred ground. Diana Ross’s father lay beneath one stone, Molly Peregrine, my ancient god-mother had a slab further along.

MURPHEY.

My heart froze. Alec.

The next thirty square feet of land was dedicated to the family. My heart pounding, I searched and searched and then I found what I sought. Had I known I would have found it, I would have walked the other direction from the very beginning.

Gingerly, I sank against the trunk of a might oak. “Alec,” I whispered, head in my hands. Memories flooded over me, threatening to suffocate me.

There he was, holding me on the night of our parting, and then there he was again, this time in a casket.

My throat tightened. He had wanted to be cremated so he could be returned to earth, not shut up in a box and shoved beneath the ground.

It was not a memory, but in my dreams I had heard the screech of brakes and crunching of metal as the truck barreled into his mother’s Toyota, wrapping it around the light pole on my street corner.
At the viewing, I had stared at his body for almost a half hour. He remained unscathed, his face perfect, his hair slightly longer than I remembered it. I would have given anything to have his breath returned to him. The drunk truck driver had not shown himself, had not apologized to Mrs. Murphey for killing her son when he was returning from drum core that warm spring day.

Alec had given me a few possessions. His truck, for one, which he had so lovingly coaxed into working for almost four years. His baritone, like its master, unscathed after the accident. And my favorite possession, his marching gloves.

They were black and white, with gold string holding the fabric together. Soft and official looking, he had pulled them off on the eve of our departure and explained to me how much he was looking forward to marching with them for the drum core season. They smelled like his sweat and were nearly a soft as his skin, they were worn thin from overuse and had molded to his hand as though it were plastered there. Often when I examined them I imagined his hand inside them brining to life the baritone and then filled in the rest of him.

The lack of light suddenly startled me out of reverie. The sun had sunk behind the hill, shadows stretched across the grass. I knelt before Alec’s tomb, placing my palms on the icy marble.

ALEC MURPHEY. I traced his name. JANUARY 9, 1992-MAY 17, 2014.

As a college freshman, I had never dreamed of returning home for a funeral until that day. “Alec is dead,” The three words which had changed my life. Bitter, I had returned to Edensville for a single day, avoided everyone I knew, and refused to see him buried beneath the ground. I boarded a plane and returned to Vassar to complete my weekend in peace.

“I’m so sorry,” I managed through forming tears. His death had sent me into depression only a lover can retrieve you from, and that person had been Nathan. The weight of my ring was heavy on my hand and heart.

“Did you remember me?” I asked Alec. I had spent my summers interning in New York, and had left my childhood behind me. Alec had been apart of my childhood. I hadn’t given him a chance to be reminded of me. Had I had forgotten him. “You promised you would remember me,”

The stone bearing Alec’s name did not reply.

Returning the silence with muffled sobs, I rose from my knees, intent on running far away.

“Hey, lady,” a man was tottering towards me from the distance. “You here for someone, or just lost.”

“Lost sir,” I replied evenly, for it was truth, and he didn’t need to hear a sob story. I dried my tears. “I ran out of gas just a little ways down the street."

“We can fix that. I call a tow truck,” he said, teetering back to where he came from. “This way,”

I took a last look at my love’s resting place before following. The irony, I mused. I had so wanted to be remembered, and here Alec is, lying forgotten beneath three feet of earth and overgrown weeds. “I’ll remember you Alec,” his name was light on my lips. “I promise,”




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