Her tears lost themselves among the raindrops that now sank deep into the dirt ground, six feet too shallow for him to feel them. Maya smiled at the stone marker staring back at her. “You always did love the rain.”
She rolled the stem of the red rose between her fingers as the images of happier times flashed before her, ghosts of a life left behind. “I guess you loved it a little too much.” She looked up at the gray clouds, pregnant and bursting with a grief that could only be expressed through the tears they now shed with her… or for her? Maya couldn’t be sure anymore.
It had been three years since the accident and she still couldn’t decide which was the greater tragedy; that he had died, or that she had survived.
Life had been a blur since then, a mix of PTSD and a myriad of unanswered questions. She had found no escape at the bottom of bottles, no respite from the voices, the whispers echoing in the chambers of her mind. But with the pills… Yes, those had sheltered her fraying psyche from all questions but one: Why?
He had been everything she was not. The good one, the dreamer, the charismatic socialite and beloved of all. The one everyone in Branagham admired and looked up to. Everyone including herself. In less than four decades, he had made a difference in the world. But there were still so many things he hadn’t done, so many things he had wished to do. Yet, she was the one standing at his graveside.
Maya jumped at the old scarecrow of a man beside her, pale face lifted to the heavens from whence he seemed to have materialized with the rain. She hadn’t noticed him arriving, hadn’t noticed anyone else around, and yet his soaked peacoat and matted wet hair suggested he had been out in the rain almost as long as she had been.
“Excuse me?” she said, stepping away from him. “Who are you?”
“I wonder if he’s really up there…”
The man’s gaze shifted to the gravestone.
Maya pulled the rose closer to her chest. “Did you know my father?”
“In a manner of speaking,” he sighed, clasping his hands behind his back.
“How did–who are…” her words trailed to silence, and she turned back to the stone. Her father had touched many lives, it would only be natural for them to pay their respects.
“You come here with questions,” the man said, staring at the stone that was all Maya now had of the man that had given her life. “I see it in your eyes, those unanswered questions. Those depressing thoughts of what if…” He paused for a moment, sighed and then turned to her. “You miss him. Everyone who has lost a loved one feels that pain, like a piece of their heart is missing and can never be replaced. I know that feeling all too well.”
Maya stared at him. Who was this man? With his drenched old coat and unsolicited philosophies.
“I do not presume to know the depths of your grief,” he continued as he turned back to the stone, “but I do know, if your father loved you, he wouldn’t want you to suffer so much. He would want you to move on with your life, to be happy. To let go of the pain.”
“You don’t know anything about my pain,” she hissed through gritted teeth.
“Pain is pain. No matter what the cause, it is still pain. We all feel it, to varying degrees, at different points in our life. Pain is a part of life. It is what lets you know you’re still alive. It is a signal to you that something is out of balance in your life. A signal, not a state.” The man looked squarely at Maya. “You have made it a state, Maya, and that is why you are trapped in it.”
Maya gasped. “How do y–”
“I know many things, Maya Goldrys.” He turned away from her and the gravestone. “I came here to tell you this: The more you run and hide from life, the sooner you will stop living. Literally.” He started away from her and the patch of earth that had become her sanctuary these past year.
“Wait!” Maya called out to him, “Please?”
The man kept walking.
“Please sir, I don’t understand.”
“It’s simple, Maya,” he said, voice fading with each step he took, “live your life, or you’ll be seeing me again much sooner than you should.”
“But–” Maya started, but the man was gone. She wiped the rain from her eyes, scanning the surrounding, finding only trees. He had vanished, just as mysteriously as he had appeared.
A shiver ran through her. Maya dropped the rose and hurried out of the cemetery, his words playing in the background of her mind with the sound of the falling rain.
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