We are staring at a patch of grass. In context, there is nothing special about it. It’s very green with bits of fresh clippings sticking to the toe of my shoe so I can at least deduce that the local gardeners are taking care of it; but it has a bit of a crunch under my step meaning it still needs some help. When I slowly lift my head, the patch of grass is interrupted with a tiny bouquet of fresh flowers. A lump rises in my throat and I try to suppress it. They’ve already been here. I continue lifting my head and my gaze is met with a heavy grey stone. It is tall and strong. Unnatural. Man-made. Looking further up, I see a scattering of more upright stones, poking their heads and breaking the surfaces of the grass. I look back down. It’s not really just a patch of grass. I know this. He knows this. But it makes it easier to be here if we think like this.
This specific patch of grass is special to us. Although we are surrounded by almost identical other patches of grass, they share no meaning. But this one, with this particular stone is important.
This stone is my brother.
I read the etchings on the stone and reflexively reach out my fingertips to trace the letters carved. I run my index finger across his name, spelling it out. N-A-T-A-N-I-E-L. I can’t bring myself to trace the dates; they are so finite. So complete. For some reason I expect the stone to be hot and burn at my touch. But it’s hard and cold.
Zander clears his throat and I jump, forgetting he is next to me. I gaze at him, and I don’t know what to say. I don’t know why I wanted to come here. This wasn’t a good idea. Zander places his hand atop the stone and lets out a heavy sigh. He knows this was a mistake too. We aren’t ready for this.
I start to take a step back and a look of panic spreads across his face.
“You don’t want to leave yet, do you?”
I think about this question. I want to be here. I need to. But it’s difficult with him next to me. Not because he makes me uncomfortable. But because I can feel we both have our reasons for wanting to come. But we both don’t want the other to know what they are.
“No, I just–I think that we both need our time with him.” I take another step back, “You can go first.” Before I turn, I can see the panic drain from his face and replaced with relief. I walk away, heading towards a large tree. I sit down, feeling the roughness of the bark against my back and turn my body away from Nat’s grave, giving Zander more privacy. I tilt my neck and lightly rest the back of my head against the tree. Closing my eyes, I try to filter out Zander’s voice–is he talking out loud?–and filter in the sounds around me.
I am a headphones kind of girl. I don’t go anywhere without some way of blocking out the sounds around me. I hate listening to other people. Their conversations, their problems, their noises. It might just be the after-effects of the whiskey diets I had drank earlier but right now, I am reveling in the silence. The sounds of my surroundings slowly transform into a natural symphony. The combination of the rustling of the leaves in the wind with the swaying of branches interweave with the caws of a distant crow. Everything sounds so wonderful, even with the slight humming of Zander’s voice as he talks to Nat. I sway to the natural sounds for either five minutes or an hour. Time has frozen here but I suddenly feel a presence.
Fluttering my eyes open, I meet Zander’s raincloud grey gaze. He sits next to me and forces a smile. It isn’t genuine. The corners of his eyes aren’t twinkling like they usually do.
“You look pretty serene considering the circumstances.”
He playfully bumps my shoulder with his and his wry smile fades. The conflict of his emotions are hard to stomach. I wish for the false smile to return. His brows furrow and picks his next few words carefully. “I had a lot to get off my chest.”
Worry is spread across his face. He has something else to say, I can tell. He opens his mouth again, as if he is going to tell me what is wrong. But he closes it. Ashamed. Maybe another time he will be able to tell me.
“Well,” I get up and stretch my arms over my head. “I need to be with my brother now.”
**This is a scene I have been toying with in my young adult novel. I just felt like sharing it today.