Status: i accidentally deleted this so yay for having to repost it, am i right? +always looking for constructive criticism, so don't be afraid to comment! pls try not to be a silent reader ♡+

Where Poppies Grow

Five Thousand and Ninety Three

Once the breeze came to pass and the world around us stilled, he blinked his eyes open and sat up, leaning back languidly against the base of Mother Mary.

“I saw you almost get hit by that car.” He wiped at the tears falling down his cheek while trying to contain his chuckling.

“And now, you’re walking around a cemetery; trying to remind yourself to be more careful from now on?”

“I was actually in search of some peace and quiet.” With a sharp jab of my hand, I gestured to him. “But look how that turned out,” I said with a sigh.

He studied me intently for a second before offering a gentle smile. I had never seen brown eyes like his before. They presented more like crystalized amber against his pale skin. The way he stared was so endearing it made me feel like a page in a bittersweet story where something good finally happened.

“Quite frankly, I’m sick of the peace and quiet.” He said, suddenly serious as he stood, legs slender and brittle. He took strides down the stairs until he was standing in front of me, one hand extended outwards.

“Jude. Howdy-doo?”

I shook it firmly, raising an eyebrow at his dialect. “Poppy Voo.” My brain forgot to let go as we ogled at each other.

“That’s a weird surname.” He peered at me through his unruly bangs and we remained fixed on each other until I noticed my hand was still in his. He looked amused. We untangled our fingers clumsily.

“You’re weird for calling it a surname. What’s yours, stranger?” I stammered. He shrugged, eyes scanning some of the names on the tombs surrounding us.

“I’ll let you know when I know.”

From the get-go, everything about him was ambiguous. Weird was an understatement. It was more like he wasn’t completely there.

“Uh, okay then.” But he seemed alright. Better than alright. The invisible rain cloud over my head that day finally broke. His attention returned to me and he beamed. There was light.

“Yeah. Okay. It’s nice to meet you, Poppy Voo. Not a lot of people I can talk to around here.” He found humor in strange things.

“You’re kind of funny for someone who hangs out in a cemetery,” I joked, and for the first of many times, I smiled back.

Together we weaved between the graves. Jude walked slower than I did, paying special attention to every single one. Some towered over us. Others were so low they hid in the overgrown greenery that engulfed the land beneath our feet. Occasionally he brushed his fingers over their corners with a solemn expression. I began to tread backwards so I could observe him in fascination. When he glanced up and saw me watching, his face changed. His eyes sparkled with my reflection in them. I felt as though he was relieved to see someone with his own reflection looking back.

“Come here often?” I inquired.

“You could say that.” He quipped back.

We approached an overlook with a smaller, ancient mausoleum built underneath it. The roof was accessible from where we stood at the top of the mini hill.

“What’s so cool about this place to you?” I asked as I jumped onto it. Jude flinched.

“Be careful,” he warned. “It’s weak.”

“Fuck it.” I made my way over to the edge and sat down with my legs dangling over the side. The cemetery went on even further, but I could see the gate in the distance. There was another road beyond it. Death wasn’t endless - it stopped right there, unless it wanted to get hit by a car.

“Come sit,” I invited him. He didn’t move immediately, but I felt the roof dip when he set foot onto it. Soon Jude was next to me, dangling his legs off the side too.

“No one has a normal reason for gallivanting around a cemetery. Yours’ first.”

“My parents fight a lot.” I told him plainly. The sky was blue. Water was wet. Ghosts weren’t real.

“Oh. Mine did too.” I felt him stare into my cheek, but I was preoccupied with the sun as it began to set. “I’m sorry.”

“What about you?”

I heard him click his shoes together thoughtfully. After a while, he said, “I’m looking for someone.”

“In here?” Ouch. I leaned in closer to him, curious but mostly concerned.

“Yup,” he sighed with a bob of his head. “Here.”

“There has to be thousands of people buried here.” Another fact.

He nodded again. “I’m up to five thousand and ninety three.”

My mouth fell open. “What?”

“That’s how many I’ve checked.”

“Jesus, Jude.” I marveled. “Are you kidding? Who are you even looking for?”

He leaned back onto his elbows. Shadows of leaves shivering in the tree limbs lining the acres flitted across his face. The black specks and holes of orange light made him appear as if he was missing pieces of himself.

“I’ll know when I find him.” He said with a confident tone, but it was a dismal situation. I was used to those.

He winced away as I grabbed his wrist, unsure of the simple touch, before he stilled. His skin felt crisp in the humid air. With a tilt of his head, he looked at me quizzically. My bruisy blue eyes burned into his unwaveringly.

“I want to help.”