The lot is empty; it has been for years.

The little white house across the lane looks empty from where she stands, windows dark and opaque, paint peeling from the siding.

She remembers a pool and a garden hose, cups of water, a game of tag. She remembers that he wrote their initials with a squirt gun on the hot black asphalt. She can't remember his.

But she knows a face—she knows the outline of a face and the timbre of a voice.

He looked at her then with wide eyes—blue, or brown?—and a grin that said he wasn't quite sure what to make of her wrinkling his pale cheek.


The ghost of his voice haunts her.

"You always go away for a long time."

"I know, but I have to go home. I don't want to!"

He looked her with all the solemnity a ten-year-old could ever muster.

"Don't forget me, Emmy," he said. And he handed her a small purple flower. "It's a forget-me-not. To help you remember."

She blushed and looked at the ground.

"I couldn't ever forget you."

She hasn't. Of course she hasn't. She's here, isn't she?

"Tell me you like me," he demanded.

She didn't like being out of sight of the grown-ups. She knew she was going to get in trouble—she could hear her mom yelling for her to hurry up.

"Is it me or Tyler?"

"I don't like Tyler," she said, and looked at him, smiling.


"I have to go," she said.

"Bye, Em." He stared at her for what felt like forever, and then she turned and ran.

She shudders as a breeze assaults her through her coat. Kentucky is freezing in the fall, here at the base of the mountains, in a little town eternally in the shade.

The day she met him was sunny, she remembers. But she doesn't know how the sun got in between the mountains. It certainly doesn't anymore.

The last of her family in this part of the country died over a year ago. She is here to pay respects, not only to an ancient aunt, but to the ashes of first love.

She clings still to the hope of seeing him again, of knowing that untouched innocence of love, of ignorance, or bliss. She clings to the memory of a young boy, a memory fading fast with her age. She feels as gray as the sky she stands under.

He's gone. And she should be too.