Moving slow, dark eyed teen in the long black coat. Black boots, black nails, black lips and snow white skin, she looked too deep, and looked too long. They parted before her, the young and the old, but held their mockery until she passed, afraid to meet her gaze. Freak they called her, witch they whispered, then shuddered as the sunlight strove to banish the grave chill of her passage, for the most ignorant among them could feel it; the dead in her eyes.
It had passed. Winternights, the time of the light was dying, the time of the living waned, and the dead stirred in the mound, in the dark, and they hungered. She felt them, the dead whispered to her, they called to her, sung to her in songs written in Hel the songs that please the two faced goddess, the corpse bride. Songs the living should not hear sung in her bones, and the cold of the grave stirred in the shadows of her eyes.
She looked upon the great brooding trees, the majesty of their green canopy a tattered remnant, her black boots scritched and scratched through the dry leaves on the sidewalk. The dead leaves sang to her, of dawns waking to the touch of sun, the bright dream of spring, the lazy heat of summer, dancing in the wild summer thunderstorm, then bleeding out green life, until only the gold and scarlet of death remain, and they let go of life and fall to the ground to dream of the summer past. Falling to her knees in the pile of leaves she inhales the grave scent of their passing and feels the ghost of a hundred summer nights caress her, the warmth of a hundred summer days flickers behind her eyes, ghosts passing through her.
Rising she passes the cenotaph and the dead turn to watch her, dead eyes meet the same in icy silence. She feels one rise and take her hand. Cold fills her with the touch of the grave, him who died so young fills her with a chill her living flesh cannot shake, and he/she/they turn towards the coffee shop. Her flesh hungers, his soul thirsts. He wants a coffee, she wants pumpkin spice, and orders a pumpkin spice coffee and muffin.
Sitting at the table alone/together, she feels the blood hot coffee fill her mouth, the bite of the coffee, the burn, the warm unfolding of the layers of spice subtly blended to reveal one by one like the aftertaste of a whiskey she has never tasted, but the spirit within her had. They revel in the warmth and sensation of the coffee, the muffin, the babble of conversation, the laughter, couples holding hands, children playing games they make up with rules no adult may know but each grasps easily. Dead man and living girl breathe the scent of the coffee and exhale the feeling of warm, alive, and full, and the hungry dead sighs in peace, the dead eyed girl experiencing her own life through the eyes of those who have lost the chance for those little moments.
Her eyes catch those of the girl at the next table, she is always there at this hour. The goth girl’s heart skips and a blush rushes to her too pale cheeks. She sits here to see her, but says nothing. Inside her head the dead man stirs, his cold dead eyes see through hers, his cold dead heart stirs the ashes of a love unrequited, unspoken, unlived because he died never having spoken.
“Tell her, tell her TELL HER, tell her, tell her tell her!” he whispers, he screams, he sobs. She remembers with him writing a hundred letters he never mailed to the one he loved, he remembered shaping her name with lips growing blue as his lungs filled with blood as he breathed his last a thousand miles from her smile. She shuddered, the fear of letting it pass without ever daring tore through her like the memories of bullets her flesh had never known.
Screwing her courage to the sticking place, she got up and walked to the door. As she passed the girl, she met her eyes, and smiled awkwardly.
“I think you are really pretty.” The goth girl spoke, and smiled again, before blushing and ducking out, her blood hammering in her ears like thunder. The approval of a dead man whose eyes judged the girls reaction as surprise but not rejection, echoing in her ears as the dead man slipped back into the dark.
Stopping at the playground, she felt the cold presence of the old woman come upon her, as always, the old woman felt surprise to feel a body that was not bent and trembling, that stood strong and whole, but it was the girl who felt her heart too weak for what swelled within it now.
Old eyes who had buried husbands, daughters, sons, who had held three generations in her hands, and seen them grow, laugh, cry and go forth in the world before she passed from it. Come back again, and again for the grave was no bar to love, for while one drop of her blood walked this world, so would she look out to make sure they were well, and loved.
Tears welled in the goth girls eyes, for her own family were strange and distant with each other, never knowing how to speak to each other, never understanding each other, divided by a common language and differing dictionaries. She felt the love of the old woman, accepting each of her loved ones as what they were, the strong, the weak, the proud the foolish, the broken, the bitter, each looked to her with love for each saw from her only love, whether she understood their lives, their journeys their goals or not, she supported them, and claimed them all.
The goth girl broke her own rule then and spoke to the ghost that filled her. One word, a whisper in a graveyard, a howl in her soul.
“How?” How do you love the ones who cannot accept you, who cannot understand you, who cannot forgive you for not being what they dreamed you would be? How do you love the ones you cannot talk to without arguing, cannot seem to say the right things, cannot seem to not start a fight when all you want to say is I love you.
The old woman reached cold arms around the living girls chest, and crushed her to her breast as she had crying children, weeping women, stone faced men, a hundred wounded souls she claimed as her own and whose pain she took with the simple and wordless embrace, the arms that would hold when the crying was done, when the shouting was spent, when the silence was crushing, when the walls closed in and left no room to breathe, her arms gave shelter, gave hope, gave love and acceptance.
Tears running down her face, black makeup making scars on a white skin grown pale with cold no living can know, an outward sign of an inward wound the living cannot see, but the dead all see.
Stumbling through her door, her mother looks at her, the black shadow that replaced the laughing little girl she understood and loved, alarm rose in her. Opening her mouth to say something, then stopping, not wanting another fight, she rejected a half dozen ways to ask what was wrong, and settled for a single word.
“Honey?” Her mother was unprepared for the dark shadow her daughter had become hurling herself into her mother’s arms and holding her so tight it almost hurt. She felt her daughter’s heart hammering, then, slowing to a strong slow beat, as the breathing went from a almost panting to calm and deep as the grip of whatever held her relaxed and her daughter’s grip relaxed to a gentle hug.
Letting her hands fall off her mother’s back, she squeezed her hand once before passing upstairs to her room. The dead were in her eyes, they would not let her close her eyes to life.
None but the living can ignore life, none but the living can reject love, none but the living can turn away from the beauty of a sunset, the fall of the last leaf, the first snow, the moon shining above the water, the opening of the rose. The dead hunger, and she has the dead in her eyes.