Thanks to Beatriz Martin Vidal for permission to share these exquisite visual prompts!
Paulie pushed against Kyle’s chest in frustration. “Did not!”
Kyle held his wrists tight and swung him around so he lost his balance and stumbled again. The other boys laughed. Paulie fought back tears. If he cried, they would never leave him alone.
“If’n you don’t believe me, come see fer yerself, Kyle,” Paulie dared. The laughter started and stuttered into waiting as the boys watched to see what Kyle would do about this challenge. He couldn’t let it go.
He pushed Paulie to the ground and turned on his heel. “Fine, Gobber. We’ll meet you there tonight.”
Paulie jumped to his feet, spitting with righteous indignation. “Oh no, Kyle. Just you.”
Kyle looked back at him warningly. The boys still watched.
Paulie continued, fists on his hips in a daring stance, “Too many might scare her off. Just you un me, Kyle, unless yer too skeered.”
The boys tensed. Kyle laughed sharply, and they joined in. “I’m not skeered, Gobber. I’ll be there tonight. You best meet me, or I’ll come drag you outta yer bed!” He led the boys away, and Paulie scuffed his feet all the way home.
He didn’t want to go back. He couldn’t tell what worried him more: that she wouldn’t be there, or that she would.
Homework, dinner, bed. Paulie tried to act like everything was normal. He wasn’t scared. He wasn’t sneaking out of his bedroom window. He wasn’t going there.
He hugged his mother with an extra squeeze around her waist while she did the dishes. She laughed and dropped a quick kiss on his head. “Off to bed with you, ye goose!”
He lay on his bed in his jeans and sweatshirt, waiting for her to go to bed. Waiting for the TV to shut off. Waiting for the moon to rise. It shone in his window, and he climbed out and down. He walked-ran-walked to meet Kyle. Maybe he’d be too scared to show. Paulie hoped.
Kyle waited under the big oak tree outside the iron cemetery gate. He shone a flashlight in lazy circles.
Paulie’s greeting was a gruff, “Can’t shine that in there. Over the wall, then.”
They quickly climbed the old stone wall, using the thick ivy for handholds. From the top, they jumped down together. Kyle oofed. Paulie rolled. He didn’t look at Kyle. Didn’t want to see his face, his eyes.
“This way,” he whispered, and walked into the cemetery.
They passed headstones and obelisks and angels. Kyle looked around at everything, gleaming under the moon’s light. Paulie looked straight ahead. He stopped and put up his hand. Kyle almost bumped into him and froze. Paulie sidestepped to the right towards a tall obelisk with a wide stone base. Kyle tried to step in Paulie’s shadow. It would have been better if he could hide in it, Paulie thought.
They crouched behind the obelisk and waited. And waited. Paulie sat still as one of the stone cherubs. Kyle fidgeted, and after awhile, he started to stand. “I’m—”
“Shh! There!” Paulie motioned him down with one hand and pointed with another. They were in the middle of the cemetery, where it opened up into a broad grassy hill. Three large oak trees, the biggest of any in town, stood at the base of the hill, and their leaves scattered across it, since the town only paid the Mr. Johnson to come out and mow once a month now.
The leaves skittered and danced, floated in a breeze the boys didn’t feel. They spun around, more and more joining into a miniature tornado that spun in place. Kylie made a noise, and Paulie waved his hand behind his back without looking. Hush.
There was no moment that separated when she was there from when she wasn’t. She simply appeared. Covered in bright red leaves that didn’t come from the oak trees, she spun in the air until her feet touched the ground. She danced. Her pale arms waved patterns in the moonlight. Her black hair hung still down her back without a tangle or a whisper as she moved.
Kyle crept closer. Paulie wanted to call him back. Not as much as he wanted to avoid her gaze. He stayed behind the stone. Kyle peered around the closest oak tree. She didn’t see or seem to take notice of them as she danced.
A red leaf spun up, away from her, spiraling into the night sky. Another. And another. One by one, the leaves disappeared. As they thinned from her body, Paulie could see beneath them. Through them. They lifted one after the other, leaving nothing behind. Finally her arms, her face, her hair remained, ghostly in the moonlight.
Her eyes snapped open, looking straight at Kyle. Paulie had forgotten him, mesmerized by the disappearing leaves. Kyle groaned, and Paulie dragged his eyes to the oak tree where the other boy stood. He was covered in blue leaves.
The girl’s eyes blinked once. Twice. She disappeared in the heartbeat in between.
Kyle turned around to Paulie, his face white and his eyes round with fear. The leaves grew over his body, his arms, his face. Paulie watched until he could see nothing more than the blue leaves. The wind picked up, and they started to swirl.
Dogs in house:
Houdini, Brindle, Bacon
~ 40 minutes
May word count: