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Do Us Part (2)
My body’s long, shuddering tremors woke me before the sour smell did. I lifted and turned my head to see a small pile of vomit beside me. I gagged and my empty stomach complained immediately with a punch of pain. My eyes prickled and throbbed. Henry…I jerked into a sitting position and glanced to see the place where he…Head thudding, I closed my eyes and tried to make sense of my thoughts: I left the house to see Henry, mother and father had called to tell me they wanted me to join them in New York for a few days. I had to tell Henry I’d be gone or else, he’d think the worst. He was already at the cemetery, smiling. I told him, he got hurt and angry, he said I’d leave…I’d never leave, no I couldn’t leave Henry…We kissed-the sour taste in my taste became stronger-and then, he told me to leave…Midnight…Henry kissing me…Midnight…Henry walking away…Midnight…Henry disappearing in the dirt. Oh God! I scrambled to my feet and threw myself in front of the marble angel where Henry had disappeared and began to dig. Furiously, my nails dug into the rough dirt, painfully breaking. But, I didn’t care. My Henry…Oh God…Henry! When I felt hands around my waist, pulling me away, I screamed loud and shrill.
A gruff voice cursed liberally as my legs found knees to kick. “Damn, crazy teenagerz kin’t even leave the good dead alone!”
“Let me go!” Promptly, I was dropped, hitting the ground hard. I scrambled around to stand and glared angrily at a tall, balding man with powerful-looking arms. His face was full of disgust and his lips curled back to reveal a gold tooth.
He glared right back and pointed his finger at me. “With God as my witness, chile. I’m gonna have you arrested and locked up sumwhea ya kin learn some respect for da dead and dey families!”
“I wasn’t bothering the dead!”
“Don’t chu lie to me! I saw yaz diggin’ up that grave,” He sneered, “Yer hands still got dirt.”
“Henry’s in there!” I started sobbing. “Henry…he’s in there…he needs to get out…Please…Please!”
The man’s mouth dropped in disbelief. “Yer talking ‘bout a dead boy?”
I screamed out all the rage and frustration I felt. “He’s not dead! He’s not! He got pulled in the dirt!” I dropped to my knees and started digging again with my hands. The man did nothing but I felt his eyes on me. I turned to fix him a furious look. “Help me! Don’t just stand there! A boy’s trapped!” Dumbly he walked over and kneeled beside me but made no move to help.
“Chile,” His voice was softer, “I know it’s hard losin’ people yer care for but ya can’t dig em back up like that, yer hear? Ya gotta wait till ya kin be with them up in Heaven.”
A wave of dizziness hit me and before I knew it, I was throwing up liquids churning in my empty stomach. The man patted my back and made soothing sounds as I sobbed.
“Please, he’s in there…I love him…PLEASE!”
“Little One, ya kint dig him back up,” his voice was pained.
“You don’t get it, I SAW him being dragged down!”
He sighed. “Listen chile, ain’t no such thing.”
He shrugged, “Ok, ya saw. But, jist listen fo’ a second, ok?” He paused. “I been workin’ here for fourteen years, that grave ya was digging at couldn’t be anyone ya knew. That grave been here fo’ a long, long time. They tole me it’s ‘bout a hundred and twenty years old.” He took a fistful of the dirt. “See this?” He crumpled it in his hands. “The dirt is stiff an’ it ain’t easy to dig up. That means that it ain’t been moved in a long while.”
I moaned and fell limply against him. He patted my back again. “I know ya suffferin’ but ya kin get help, fo’ free too I hear. It’s gonna be fine, chile.”
Limply, I nodded.
“Ya ain’t crazy, ok? Don’t you be thinkin’ that now. These things happen when ya lose people ya loved. Was he yer boyfriend this boy?”
He nodded. “Yea, that’s tough, chile. Tough. Lost my wife when we was jus’ married, almost made me die it did. But, ya learn to live. Ya learn to wait. Ya learn that ya see ‘em again.”
Feeling sick I pulled away and tried to stand, immediately, the man’s hand was on my arm, helping me. I looked at the smiling marble angel and noticed there was no name on the grave’s plaque, no dates. Only one lonely word was etched in the gray-white stone: Semper. The man’s voice flowed in and out of my ears, I only registered the tone of deep concern in voice. I wondered, had I dreamt the whole thing? If I had, could Henry truly had left me here, alone? Without fail, he always walked me to the cemetery gates and watched me walk the three blocks home, waving good-bye when he saw me reach my door. The sky was pink with the sun’s waking, it was early morning. Henry…My head ached with a pain that seemed to be a sword against my every nerve. I needed to lie down, needed to sleep.
“You sure ya don’t need a doctor, chile?” The man was asking.
I nodded. “Yes.”
He stared at me for a moment and then, reluctantly let go of my arm. “Ok. I’m walkin’ yer home though.”
Suddenly it dawned on me, the good ole “stranger danger” rules. “I’m fine, but thank you.”
He chuckled. “Yeah, I’m a creepy ole man workin’ in a graveyard, but I swear to ya, I ain’t bad. My parents raised me right, I ain’t never done nobody no harm, especially not no kids.” His brown eyes were warm and honest, his face, clean-shaven and open. Inwardly, I groaned. I nodded and again, his hand encircled my elbow and supported me as we walked on the uneven ground. He walked me two blocks and then, I stopped. I didn’t feel he was bad, but still, I felt better knowing that he didn’t know where I lived. “I’m fine now, sir. Thank you.”
He smiled. “No need callin’ me sir young lady. Every one I know calls me Lou, ‘cept my son o’ course.”
I returned the smile. “Thank you, Lou. Um…I’m…Christine.” Well, it was only my fist name. One of them anyways.
He tipped an imaginary hat at me, “Take care of yerself, Christine.” He turned around and walked back towards the cemetery. I made sure he was inside the gates and deep into the graveyard before I made my way home. My mind was full of Henry. In my bathroom, I grew shocked when I caught sight of myself. There were chunks of vomit all over my chin and the front of my shirt. My hair was snarled with leaves and peppered with dirt. My eyes were puffy and red-rimmed with dark circles. Ugh, how had Lou managed to keep such a kind face when I looked like such hell? He hadn’t mentioned anything about my face. I sighed, what a nice man. My father hated it when I looked less than good. “Christine Elizabeth Leigh, I won’t tolerate you in those ratty clothes! Either change or disappear from my sight!” My mother too, Madame “LaBelle,” couldn’t stand it when she saw me without make-up, without the frilly, too-costly clothes she bought me. “Do you know how hard your father and I work to buy you these things? Parading around in ripped jeans and silly t-shirts is a poor, poor way to repay us our work. Do you do this on purpose, Christine? Do you want to hurt us when we love you so much?”
I stood in the shower for a long time, brushed my teeth, and shuffled to bed. I didn’t think I could sleep, but I did and my dreams were full of Henry. I dreamt of the marble angel and it became Henry who fell and broke into a thousand marble pieces as I screamed. I dreamt of Lou, shoving Henry back into the ground with his powerful arms, shouting: “Ya gotta wait for Heaven, chile! This boy’s goin’ da other way!”
I woke up and it was night. Hurriedly, I dressed and headed for the cemetery despite everything in me that screamed against it. From all I read of true love, from all I felt for Henry, I got the little strength I needed. My body trembled harder with each step. But finally, I made it to our tree and the marble angel. I wanted to call for him, but my voice wouldn’t spill from my lips. I sat down, my back against the large tree; my legs huddled against my chest. Time passed slowly and mercilessly. Softly, I cried.
My head jerked up. Henry. I gaped at him, my heart drumming with fear. He looked fine, beautiful in fact. His dark waving hair was tucked back behind his ears, making the handsome lines of his face more apparent, and his silver eyes, more noticeable.
He said my name again, “Christine…”
Cautiously, he took a step towards me. His body was tense, stiff. But, there was a look of such wild joy in his eyes, it made a heavy contrast. I flinched but he wasn’t discouraged. He smiled.
“God,” he whispered, “I love you too much, my darling. Too much. Simply seeing you now…Oh God!” His hands clenched and unclenched as if he were a child, itching to touch something forbidden. Finally, it seemed he couldn’t control himself anymore, he threw himself in front of me, kneeling in the dirt. He stared and stared while I hugged my knees closer to my chest, frozen. He enveloped me in his arms, burying his face in my hair and neck. He pulled back and again, I saw that wild joy in those silver eyes. I couldn’t speak, not if my life depended on one syllable. Intensely, he began to recite:
“Oh, but life is violence in flesh, violence in mind.
She dares live against the tide,
Fishing pearls from a howling sea and weeping sky.
And in my heart she dared to find,
A small boy to skip lovingly by her side,
And he gained Heaven…by and by…”
“Remember when we first met, Christine?” He asked softly. “I told you then what you were to me.”
My watch went off, eleven o’clock. Henry glared down at the device on my wrist.
He made a deep sound of frustration. “Time! Always has been, always will be my greatest enemy.” He grasped my hand. “But, no matter. That will all change now, my heart. I’ve so many things to tell you, to show you. Just say you’ll join me tonight.”
At last, I found my voice. “Join you?”
“Yes!” Eagerly, he stood, lifting me up with him. “I can show you everything now. Everything!”
My heart couldn’t stop drumming against my ribcage. I swallowed hard before I asked, “Henry…did I see…you disappearing last night?”
“Yes,” he replied lightly.
I felt faint suddenly and easily, he supported me in his arms. “Henry…you went inside the dirt…”
“Yes,” he said again.
“Why? How?” I croaked.
“You’ll see,” he said in that same light, unconcerned tone.
I shoved away from him. “Henry. WHAT. ARE. YOU.”
“Your boyfriend,” he smiled easily. “Soon, more.” My watch’s alarm blared off. Eleven fifty-five.
“I have to go,” I whispered, my voice hoarse.
He took a step forward, “No, you don’t.”
I made a move to run- and my legs crumpled beneath me. Easily, Henry lifted me into his arms. His face, oh gosh! His face! The handsome features I loved so well seemed to smear before my eyes. I began to cry.
Henry crooned to me as if I were a baby, “Oh sweetheart, lovely, don’t cry. Hush baby, hush.” He rocked me even as he walked towards the marble angel. I started to struggle and scream. His lips came down on mine, gagging me with his kiss. Like the night before, he tasted sour and my stomach twisted.
“Think of happy things, darling…only happy things,” he kissed me again. “Remember when we first met? Remember that? Oh Christine! I love you…think of our first meeting, I loved you even then.” I wept long, bitter tears and he kissed them away as he held me closer. “Only happy things, my love. You’ll understand everything soon. Think back to that day, only that day…” I felt the earth tremble beneath us and I screamed again as Henry stroked my hair and whispered for me to stay calm, to trust him. I did as he advised, and started thinking of our first meeting. I wanted this all to be a long, horrible nightmare. The earth started to shift beneath us...