A/N: This is a personal favorite of mine, so let's see how you like it. Read, enjoy, and review!!


look back and remember

I never saw her again after that night.

She smiled and kissed me and walked out the door, ready to face the day, to face all the days that could ever be thrown at her. But she missed those days. She missed those years. She missed the rest.

It seemed unreal when they told me. Car crash, they said. Some idiot swerved into her lane, they said. Nothing anyone could have done, they said. I'm so sorry, they said.

They said a lot of things. Strange how none of them helped.

We had been so close to having it all. After so many years of separation, we were finally together. She had told me that she'd waited all those years for me, and she had been so happy when I told her I loved her. Not ecstatic or jubilant or euphoric or joyous, no, she was simply, completely, undeniably happy. There had been such a light kindled in her beautiful hazel eyes, eyes that have long since been shut.

I see them in my dreams sometimes, glistening with laughter. I can't remember how she looked when she was sad or anytime else. I can only remember how she looked happy, how she looked on that last day, that last night, before the end.

I didn't cry at the wake. I gazed down at her lying so still but couldn't cry. Something ripping was tearing at my insides, clawing at my stomach and my lungs and my heart, but there were no tears. I didn't think she looked peaceful. I didn't think she looked anything. That was a body in the casket but that wasn't her. I could tell that she wasn't there—she wasn't just dead, she was gone. Gone to that place where the only tears are those of that perfect happiness and where the hazy half-light casts a warm glow upon everything and makes it all so, so beautiful.

I had run into her outside her apartment that November day. She had been walking down the steps and I had been walking down the sidewalk, and she'd been preoccupied with forcing her keys into her purse and I'd been distracted by something across the street, and we'd bumped shoulders. It'd been years since I'd seen her: all of college and a bit more. And yet she barely had changed, as strong and confident and wry and intelligent and beautifully perfect as ever.

I didn't cry at the funeral, either. We huddled in the cemetery on that gray November morning and watched quietly as the casket was interred. It had been completely silent except for the wind in the lifeless trees, a soft whispering that tried to comfort us. But all we could think was how chilly it was and how bitterly it sliced right through our coats and how it whipped the hair in front of our eyes.

We had gone for coffee at a local café and sat outside stubbornly despite the cold of late autumn. She liked this weather, she had said, when the sky was flat and steel-like and the last leaves were crackling underfoot and that sharp, clean scent hung in the air. Her favorite time of year, especially when the geese made their way overhead and cried to everyone and no one. I had asked her why and she had only shrugged and smiled a small, mysterious smile and remarked that she would tell me someday.

It was only after the funeral when I returned to my apartment and lay down in the dark and caught her scent on the pillows that I cried. Sometimes I think that if she hadn't taken a part of me and left a part of herself it wouldn't hurt so badly. That the dull, constant ache that lingers in the background like a subtle shadow on a light-washed painting wouldn't exist because she wouldn't have painted it there. But it's all that's left of her. The scent faded from the pillows long ago, but I hadn't expected it to stay.

It had only been one night.

Now I stand in the cemetery beneath that softly steel November sky and feel the wind as my eyes trace the patterns in the stone, carefully caressing the lines of the letters that make up her name. I can't imagine her growing old with me or growing old at all. She was one of those people that would stay young forever, a brief flash that casts more light and defies more shadows. She couldn't be a candle, steadily burning until the faraway end, expiring with little commotion into a darkness that had already begun encroaching. She was a firework that lived in a brilliant explosion of light and sound that caused time to pause and darkness to balk and was brighter than a thousand, thousand candles.

Maybe I'll get married someday and have children and grow old in peace. Maybe the girl will have hazel eyes and long brown hair or maybe she won't. Maybe it won't matter and the memories will become dreams that vanish upon waking, hazy snatches of a past long faded into the dawn.

Sometimes, though, when I hear the geese crying, I wonder what she would have told me.

fin