"Why have we come here of all places?"
Libby shoots a glare over her shoulder at her boyfriend, effectively causing him to shut down any other complaints he might have had. I, on the other hand, choose to ignore it. It's obvious that she hasn't told any of them why today is such an important day so it really wouldn't be fair of me to get angry for something he didn't even realize he was doing.
The snow crunches under our feet as we walk further into the cemetery, and absently I begin to regret my decision to wear my ankle boots rather than snow boots. It's not that the snow is packed high or that they're not waterproof, but they're simply not nearly as padded and the cold is really seeping in. My toes are already beginning to grow numb in my socks, but I can't bring myself to care too much. Losing a toe or two is one of the last things on my mind.
We pass several more headstones before finally reaching the one we came here for. It may be my imagination, but I swear I hear Landon let out a loud breath that almost sounds like an "Oh" as we read what's scrawled across the slab.
Richard Lee Young-Graham
November 2 1972-June 15th 2014
Beloved son, brother, husband, and father
A thin layer of snow has piled on top of the stone, lightly dusting over the words, hiding them from view ever so slightly. I feel my breath hitch in my throat, and duck my head quickly before I get the chance to read the entire message, not that it matters. I've had it memorized for months now.
When I was younger, I used to believe that maybe if it snowed or rained hard enough, it would wash the words away and he'd be home when I got back, standing over the stove making crepes and telling bad dad jokes like nobody else could. Libby and I would stand outside on the hottest of days and march around in our own version of the rain dance, willing it to happen. Willing for everything to go back to normal.
Only it never did.
I watch my gloved hand as it slowly reached out and shakily begins to brush away the snow. I can feel tears beginning to burn in the back of my eyes but I sniff them back hard, refusing to cry in front of everyone. Even so, my vision begins to blur and I can feel my shoulders grow stiff at the effort of keeping them from shaking due to my silent sobs.
Hands reach around from behind me and I'm suddenly being pulled against a familiar body. Libby doesn't say anything, just continues to hold me tight until I feel well enough to support my own weight once again.
"He loved the snow," I smile after a second, proud that my voice only wavers slightly. "We used to watch it every year."
Time seems to move in slow motion after that. After a couple of minutes, Libby and Landon move a couple headstones over, seemingly to clear them off, and Kellan and Danielle move off on their own as well, leaving just me and Felix. If this were any other time, I might be nervous to be alone with him, but I can't seem to summon up anything else other than grief.
"I thought I saw you with your parents at conferences a couple months ago..." Felix says slowly after a minute, as if he couldn't think of anything else to say.
I sniff, wiping away a tear from my eye. "Vanessa is my birth mom. She's been best friends with my dads since they were kids, so when they decided to have children she was the obvious choice. She didn't start living with us until after..." I trail off for a second, unable to say the words, but ultimately realizing I probably didn't have to. "But she was always around. Now she just kinda helps my dad out so that he doesn't have to do this alone."
"Oh," it's clear that he isn't quite sure what to say to that. "That's..."
"Unusual," I snort and shake my head. "Believe me, I know. But it's my life, and if I could change it for the world, there's no way I would."
We lapse into a silence that isn't uncomfortable as we continue to watch the gravestone, until he starts speaking again.
"It's crazy to think that a whole life can be whisked away in a matter of seconds." he whispered with a shake of his head. "One moment you're there and the next... not. Everything you once were, every dream you once had, are suddenly gone in the blink of an eye."
I allow a sad smile to cross my face once again. "Almost makes you want to do everything you want as soon as possible. Because who knows if you'll ever get the chance again."
"Yeah..." if I weren't so lost in my own grief, I might have noticed the distant thoughtfulness in his voice.
But I didn't, so instead of worridly inquiring like I probably should have, I merely let out a loud yawn as I feel exaustion suddenly wash over me, before allowing my head to lull forward just enough to prove the point I'm about to make. "Today has definitely drained me. I think I could go for a nap... or some pizza... or both."
Felix jumps as if surprised by my sudden declaration before nodding just a bit too enthusiastically, "I'll go get the others," he hops to his feet and runs off, leaving me alone.
I push myself to my feet as well, and make my way back over to the headstone, laying my hand on the cool surface. "I love you daddy," I whisper.
The others come walking over soon afterwards, and I'm able to push past my sorrow enough to allow a giant smile to cross my face as they talk about going to Pizza Ranch.
If only I knew what the rest of the night had in store for me.