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

The Sun and Moon

Maybe my parents assumed I made friends or joined an after school club. Every single weekday when the school bus dropped me off at three in the afternoon, I’d run like a child on Christmas morning towards Saint Eugene’s. Jude would be waiting on the steps of the Mother Mary statue in the back.

I remember his smile, how he would stand and watch my scrawny frame zip over the hills towards him. I always felt like I couldn’t reach him fast enough. My legs never came to a smooth stop; he’d catch me with one arm and my momentum would swing us around in a circle. We would then go on our way in search of the unknown through countless rows of graves.

At seven o’clock I’d begin my reluctant trek home for dinner. Some days I wanted to invite him along, but I was never sure what argument I’d walk through the front door to find. If I couldn’t spare myself from my parents, I’d spare him instead.

This went on for three years.

When autumn made its way back around to us, Jude and I would watch the leaves change from green to brown and flutter down onto the graves. I made a habit of stealing the rake and some garbage bags from my house to clean up the back half of the cemetery that the grave keepers neglected. Sometimes I wondered if they noticed someone was doing their job for them. I would gather the foliage into neat piles but every time, Jude would lunge into them and roll around, absolutely ecstatic.

“I’m sorry,” he’d apologized while laughing at my unamused face, picking sticks out of his hair and flicking them to the hay colored ground. One of his willowy hands would find its way to my shoulder and he’d say, “I’ll put them into bags for you, I promise,” but then his arms would wrap around me and we’d both going tumbling down into the leaves.

My pouting would crack and dissolve into laughter. Once we caught our breaths, together we would collect the leaves and stuff them into bags. He’d carry them with me to the front gate, but there he stopped and watched as I heaved them onto the side of the road by myself.

During the spring and summers, most visitors stopped bringing flowers. It looked as though the grass itself was replaced by poppies. Where there once was green, now grew flowers of every color imaginable.

“You’re everywhere!” Jude exclaimed, practically skipping through the abundance of colors. I felt like I was the only one looking for the person he needed to find as I checked the headstones. Alongside me, Jude was too distracted by his own joy to pay attention to the dead.

On certain patches of land, mainly in the back of the cemetery, no poppies grew. Just sad, yellow-white grass. I’d pick flowers and backtrack to lay them on graves that had none sprouting around them. But I always kept some as leftovers, hiding them in my back pocket.

Jude would walk me to the main entrance so I could start my daily walk home, but I’d stop and face him to pull out the tiny bouquets, shoving them directly under his nose. He’d crinkle his face in annoyance before registering what they were. But then he would melt, scooping them out of my hands to coddle like a baby.

“You’re everywhere,” he'd say it quietly this time with a shy smile, holding them close to his heart.

I still didn’t know who we were looking for. Jude seemed to forget we were looking for anybody in the first place. Our days slowly became more about spending time together than on an aimless hunt for one undisclosed name among thousands.

I remember a particular snowfall that happened around Christmas one year. We brushed snow off a bench to sit on in the front of the cemetery, near a centerpiece statue of Saint Eugene. A car came to a slow stop and parked on the slick road. Two people, a middle aged woman and man, shuffled out under the gray sky in their green and yellow parkas, wearing snow-pants, hats and gloves and all. They wobbled over to a grave and sat on the ten inches of snow, sinking into it. They would be there for a while, just talking.

“I wish people visited me like that.”

I turned my head to look at Jude. “What?” He often said strange things. I rarely thought much about it. This was the boy who had introduced himself with a ‘howdy-doo?’ after all.

“I mean,” his eyes honed down on the snow between his feet, “when I die. I don’t think anyone would visit me like that.” Without looking at them, he motioned towards the couple who had braved the snowstorm to visit their departed.

“I would.” I said without pause. Typically full of laughter, all he did was exhale out of his nose.

“Yeah,” he forced a smile, “if you could ever find it.”

I didn’t ask him what he meant. I didn’t really want to know. We watched the couple for another thirty minutes without saying anything to each other. Finally the two clobbered to their feet, struggling to free themselves from the snow. Their cheeks were red and wet. Maybe the snow fell on them. Maybe those were tears. But all I could focus on was how horribly the silence suited Jude.

That is the only time in my life I can remember thinking, ‘please, just let there be noise.’

The one time I went to the cemetery with no intent of seeing Jude was on a blistering summer night. I was curled up underneath the blankets around midnight when the red and blue rotating lights pierced through the curtains and illuminated my room.

My parents hadn’t of shut up since dinner ended. Mom plated the food with more aggression than usual. Dad drank more beers that day than he did on average. My hands felt numb from being pressed over my ears for the entire time. I think they were yelling about me, but I know I counted nine plates that shattered against the kitchen floor.

“Our baby fucking hates us. Can’t you see what you’ve done to your family yet?”

“If I were her, I’d want to get away from this bullshit too. Can you blame her?”

“No. I blame you, Jesse.”

I blamed the both of them. Our neighbors must have been more fed up than I was, because as much as I considered it, I wasn’t the one who called the cops. When a heavy knock came upon the door and my parents grew silent, I was already standing on the toilet for old times sake. I was seventeen - my arms were stronger now. Easily I lifted myself up and escaped out the bathroom window in my oversized pajamas and white rabbit slippers. The lilies under my feet were still dead, dead, dead in the heated July moonlight.

When I found him, I almost thought he was dead too. At the very back to the left, in the tree lines where fences guarding peoples homes were crawling with vines and weeds, there was a patch of poppies beneath the drooping branches of willows and oaks. It was about the size of a single bed adorned with colorful sheets, bushes for pillows and a headboard. The moon shined directly onto it. Onto him.

Jude lay face up, towards the night sky. His chest rose in little breaths. I walked over the hills, the dewy grass gripping onto my ankles in passing, and pushed aside the branches serving as curtains around him. I sank to the ground on my knees to sit quietly next to Jude. In my lap, my hands twirled together for something to do. I tried to focus on them but my eyes kept drifting back to his face, slack and soft in his features. He opened his eyes without warning and met with my own instantly. The midnight sky and glow from the moon made everything they touched navy.

Taken aback, I stuttered, “What’re you doing here?”

It came out more defensive than I intended. He smiled at me weakly, then adjusted his hands behind his head, propping himself up a little. As if I wasn’t there, he looked up through the branches at the few stars glittering above. After a minute, he spoke, sounding very disconnected; “It’s a beautiful night.”

Then he eyed me suspiciously. “What’s your reason?”

I shook my head and held my pointer finger up to my lips. “Peace and quiet, Jude, peace and quiet.”

He huffed a tiny dissatisfied noise. I startled as he rolled over, head ending up on my lap, trapping me there. Somehow I relaxed just as quickly. My hand timidly found its way to the top of his head. He closed his eyes and let out a contented sigh. It felt normal.

“When we met and you said that, it turned out you just wanted someone to talk to,” he muttered, almost to himself. Maybe he was right. I stared out past the hanging tree limbs to the open valley, considering whether or not to open my mouth.

“The cops are at my house.” I couldn’t stop the words. Talking to him was too easy. I felt him nod in understanding.

“And I think I love you.” At that he slowly pushed himself up right. Rearranging his legs into a criss-crossed position, he sat directly in my line of vision, forcing eye contact.

“Will you still love me when I leave?” Jude asked immediately. He looked unsure; his lip was caught between his teeth, being worried back and forth.

‘When you leave?’” I repeated him, voice calm to frantic within a second. “What do you mean? You’re leaving?”

It couldn’t be anytime soon. We still had so much to do. The promise I made him, I hadn’t seen it through just yet. I bet I looked anguished, like someone was cutting my heart in two with scissors at just the thought of him not being somewhere I could run to. His face fell, like his heart was being cut too.

“We all leave one day.” He said it gently, as so I wouldn’t bleed onto the blade of those words. But that was irrefutable. On the wet grass our hands scrambled closer, tangling together. This time neither of us pulled away.

“Will you still love me when I do?” He asked again. The intensity in his eyes made me want to look away. I refused to.

“I’ll love you until I leave too.” Wherever I may one day leave to.

Jude gleamed. His smile was brighter than the moon, the sun, or the gods who created them. “I love you too.”