As the sun set, the sky began to cry.
At least, that's how he saw it. He couldn't cry; he was beyond tears, left to that bleak place where pain can have no expression, where all emotion and feeling have been turned off to protect a fragile mind. He knew that there was nothing shameful in his stoic manner, but a part of him felt guilty for not crying more—as though all his hours of crying had not been enough. In his mind, it wasn't enough. Nothing was enough for her, no expression of mourning potent enough to adequately account for her loss. So when the well of his tears dried up, the earth began to cry for him. For her.
He sat on the bank of the river, his legs tangled beneath him in the moistening grass. He was so numb that his body was hardly aware the raindrops pelting him, and he could not feel the cold that was making him shiver. This had been her favorite kind of weather. She had been the girl who would stand in the rain, laughing and dancing as others would run for cover and hope for warmer conditions the next day. In fact, he'd noticed her during a rainstorm in this very park as he and his little brother had been bolting for cover in the car. He'd seen her standing near the very spot he now sat upon, her hands in her pockets, staring upward at the angry sky with a silly grin on her face and her tongue held out to catch the falling droplets.
She had been a mosaic of eccentricies and oddities, the girl who never fit in and never seemed to care. Clearly her off-center approach to life was a decision, because she could have been quite popular had she wanted to. Wealthy, gorgeous, and intelligent, she had what everyone expected of the prom queen, but she never once chose to use it, puzzling all those who knew her.
He was the only one who hadn't been puzzled. He'd seen her true face, probably the only one who ever had, when she would lower her defenses around him. Sometimes it was the things she said that showed her real character coming out, but sometimes all he had to do was look at her to see it. At night, under the glow of a semi-full moon, he could always see into her. Her dazzling ebony hair that shone under the sun took on a sooty tone; her light green eyes that danced in the day became the color of muted emeralds; and all of her perfect features became just a little too perfect, a little too well-placed, geometrically shaped in a way that made her beauty flawed. She was not the glowing face she showed, and she came nowhere close to the icon of perfection that some thought she was or could be. She was only herself, as lost and hurting as he, and the night he had realized that had been the same night he realized he loved her. He'd known it the second he saw a tear fall from her eye and found that he wanted nothing more than to comfort her, that he felt as hurt as if he had been the one crying. He wanted nothing more than to protect her from the brutal world, to take on her pain as his own and allow her false smiles to become real.
But the headstone that now bore her name and age marked his failure. An unfortunate patch of ice on the highway, a car gone out of control, a tragic accident, and she was gone. He'd spoken to her an hour before the collision, making plans to meet her that night, and he'd hung up the phone with a heartfelt pledge of love. Three hours later, when he was just getting ready to pick her up, the phone rang again. He had felt his heart leap in that happy little way it did every time the phone rang anymore, wanting and expecting to hear her voice on the other end and getting a thrill out of the very notion. Rather than fulfilling his boyish excitement, the voice on the other end gave him news that killed his spirit as effectively as that car had killed her.
With this reminiscence, he began to feel a pain that made him wish for the numbness. His eyes locked on the gentle river before him, fascinated by the myriad of ripples that turned the water's smooth surface into a tumult of tiny rapids. He closed his eyes and let the rain chill him, let himself hear her laugh echo in his mind again. How he would go on without her was a question he could not begin to answer. A part of him wanted to join her in the moist earth, but for all his pain, he knew he would not. She would want him to go on, to make the most of his life, and for her sake he would. This all left him in a place where he was lost for action: unable to carry on, unable to stop the pain, simply standing and waiting for some solution to come out and present itself to him. For now, he was content to wait for that solution right there at the river's edge, the place he felt closest to her memory. The night would wear on, the rain would taper off, and the dawn would find him sitting there still, a statuesque silhouette against the gray sky, forsaken by the answers he waited upon.