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The wind gave a pitiful whine, gently sailing past with lachrymose intentions. Delicate was its touch, raising and swaying dry, fallen leaves like a fitful child.
The sky overhead glared with stars, like so many drops of silver resting on black velvet. Shivering against the restless breeze, aging oak trees let their branches quiver slightly, sending shadows to crawl excitedly across the yard below.
Blue eyes softly traced the dappled archway that led to the town’s graveyard. A pale, slender face, framed by curls that boasted a light red hue, wore said eyes with friendly curiosity. The young woman, of no more than her teenage years, walked comfortably past the first tombstones of the cemetery. They reminded her of gaping sockets, or perhaps just cold, dry stares. Her lashes met in a black embrace. Weeds and other unsightly vegetation made her sigh, the air leaving her with a dainty exhalation. It didn’t appear as if anyone cared much for the dead.
The wind persistently tickled her as she walked, playing with her loose hair and tugging gently on the red fringes of her coat. It was a lonely and irritable feeling, and she quickly tried to dislodge it. Though the wind never let her go.
At last, turning down a bend in the graveyard’s path, she came across a single gravestone overshadowed by an enormous tree. Sitting contentedly against the trunk, her best friend was waiting for her.
“Good night, Tristan,” she said, smiling, and the curve of her lips was of an angelic quality.
He smiled in return. “Good night, Claudia.” His gaze immediately went to her hands, and she laughed.
“I brought you a rose this time,” she murmured, holding out the flower for him to take. “After all, today is Valentines. I hope you had a good one.”
He shrugged, hunching his shoulders lackadaisically, and took the rose. “It was quiet,” he said softly, “but I got to hear the birds today. Thank you.”
Sitting down comfortably beside him, Claudia let her back settle against the bark of the tree. They were both hushed, content to be near each other in silence. The wind spoke irritably in their place.
Finally, after a moment, Claudia said: “It’s your turn to choose what we talk about tonight.”
“Yea,” Tristan muttered. “Okay, what’s the meaning of life?”
She snorted. “That’s a hard one.”
“But we’ve never talked about it before,” he continued. “You start. What do you think?”
“Well… I don’t know. Um, the meaning of life is… to be a good person.”
“Oh, come on!” Claudia exclaimed, laughing. “Fine, you tell me what you think.”
He was quiet for a long time, his frame of body completely still as he thought. Unmoving, like a corpse. “I don’t know either,” he murmured at last, and he sounded depressed. “I really don’t.”
Claudia leaned her head against his shoulder. “Let’s talk about something happier,” she suggested. “You look great in your suit, by the way. Black looks good on you.”
Tristan laughed, his hard body shaking in amusement. “Oh, thanks.”
“Aren’t you going to tell me I’m pretty?” she asked jokingly.
They both looked to each other and laughed.
Leaning back to gaze at the stars, Tristan placed a hand against his forehead. “It’s just that… I don’t know what to think anymore; ever since the accident…” He shuddered, and Claudia knew it wasn’t from the cold.
“Sometimes, I feel so alone,” he whispered, pain coating his voice with atrocious emanation. “Without you, I don’t know what I would do. You’re everything to me now.”
Claudia reached over and squeezed his limp hand. “I’m your friend; that’s enough meaning in life for me. Don’t ever feel alone, because I’ll always be here for you.”
Tristan nodded and knew she meant it. “Was it a nice day today?” he asked suddenly.
“It was gorgeous,” she replied, and then she told him about the sunshine, and how she rode her bike today for the first time in months, and about people she had seen walking; the animals she had seen foraging for food; the children she had seen jumping in leaf piles; peculiar habits and humorous fallouts. Their conversation was long and pleasant, devoid of any awkward pauses or stages of boredom. They were, quite simply, in love with each other’s presence.
After a few hours, Tristan began to stand up. “It’s getting really late,” he told Claudia. “You should go home and get some sleep.”
“You too,” she said with a pretty flash of her teeth.
“I’ll be thinking of more questions,” he assured her.
Claudia nodded, stepping away from the tree. She made no other sign to leave.
With a knowing grin, Tristan casually walked away from the tree, letting the moon’s white light seep over his body.
The sight never failed to captivate Claudia; away from the tree’s formidable shadows, the skeletal contours of Tristan’s face were revealed with devastatingly acute details. Skin made no claim upon his face, nor the visible joints of his hands. Bone, searing and white, made up his entirety. A funeral suit selfishly hid the rest of his skeletal frame, creating a sharp contradiction in color. Black sockets were the chambers where his eyes should have been, and they caught her stare curiously.
“How can you see?” she whispered.
“Sometimes, I just have to believe that I can. And ‘seeing’ is not solely for the eyes.” He waved, each bone in his finger moving in a precise and delicate fashion. “Good night, Claudia.”
She waved back. “Good night, Tristan.”
He began to sink into the earth beside the lonesome grave, the earth swallowing him with insistent and savoring hunger. “Sweet dreams.”
Tomorrow night, Claudia thought with a beatific smile, I’ll bring him an azalea.