Goodbye

Some unknown celestial force woke Aubry from his dreams. With a yawn, he glanced at his clock: 6:14 am. For a moment he lay in silence, blinking as a strange thought broke into his conscious mind unbidden.

Suddenly, resolutely, Aubry kicked away his warm cocoon of blankets and scrambled out of bed. He dressed into his warmest jeans, a black zip-up hoodie, and grabbed, almost as an afterthought, his knitted pink scarf from the floor of the closet. Aubry slowly wrapped it around his neck, lost in thought and a sad smile.

Aubry left his room and plucked a black Sharpie from the kitchen counter.

He left the apartment and exited the building, taking off down the street at a slow walk. With every breath he took in, every icy white puff of air he released into the chilly morning air, Aubry felt as though his eyes opened wider. The stupor of sorrow that had been eating away at his soul for weeks since Andrew's suicide, cutting him off from the rest of the world and slowly killing him ebbed away. He felt more awake than he had been in weeks.

He finally arrived at the cemetery as the sun began to filter through the surrounding oak trees. Aubry walked between the graves, through little golden rays of saffron sun that reached out their fingers to touch him. As he meandered through the cemetery, trailing his fingers along the arches of headstones he passed, Aubry felt a near physical stirring in his soul. He closed his eyes with a smile.

I hear you, Andy.

Aubry slowed his pace as he approached the tall, knarled oak tree at center of the grave yard. He looked up into the foliage. The sun trickled through the leaves to cast splotchy patches of golden light on Aubry's pale face.

He looked away from this enchanting sight and turned to the large headstone closest to him.

ANDREW HEDLEY
1989 - 2005
Beloved son and brother

Aubry sat down cross-legged upon the new grass before the gravestone. He reached out and slowed traced the engraved letters on the stone in front of him. Even after a month, it still required a great suspension of Aubry's disbelief to realize that it was his Andrew this writing spoke of. His Andrew this stone marked the final resting place of. Aubry shivered; he nestled his face deep into the pink scarf he wore. With a sad smile, Aubry remembered the day Andrew had given it to him after their romp in the snow on Christmas Eve, as they sat by the fireplace. "It'll always keep you warm, Aubry. When I'm not there to do it, that is."

The scarf did keep him warm. He could feel Andrew's love in each stitch he had made, and it nearly emanated warmth.

Aubry sighed. It hurt him to think that he didn't take Andrew's remark more seriously.

He was gone, now.

Tears began to sparkle in Aubry's wide blue eyes. They distorted his vision as they soaked into his long eyelashes and Aubry blinked them away.

"Andrew," he whispered as he wiped his tears on his hoodie sleeve. "Jeez, look at me, Andy. I'm a mess without you!"

Aubry looked up at the name engraved on the stone and laughed bitterly.

"This whole thing has just been murder for me, Andy," he sighed, pulling his knees up under his chin. He added in barely a whisper, "I really love you."

Aubry reminisced for a moment in silence. Andrew's face materialized in his mind, and he reveled in the memory of those warm brown eyes, that grin. Aubry smiled as he remembered Andrew's wide-eyed innocence, and his disbelieving happiness after their first kiss.

Swallowing, Aubry drew in a shaky breath before quietly singing a soft tune. One that reminded him of Andrew.

"Blackbirds singing in the dead of night,
Take these broken wings and learn to fly.
All your life,
You were only waiting for this moment to arise."

He reached into his pocket and drew out the black Sharpie as tears began to fall from his eyes. Pulling off the cap, Aubry leaned forward and wrote beneath the engravings:

I'LL ALWAYS LOVE YOU, ANDREW

With a shuddering sob, Aubry dropped the pen into the dewy grass and stood. He buried his face into the scarf and dried his eyes. Through his tear-soaked eyelashes, Aubry tilted his head back to watch the sky. As he let the clouds' enormity absorb him, he remembered the last thing he had heard Andrew say.

"Watch the sky, Aubry. Because I'll be watching you."