Friday, December 10, 2010


   My fingers tear against the muddy soil as the rain pours down, drenching me from head to foot. My uniform is like a suit of armor, heavy and cold on my body. Not until my fingernails connect with a hard surface do I stop digging. Once I hear the muted ting of metal, I shove my hand into the hole and yank out an old-fashioned lunch pail. I pry open the box and take out a piece of red cloth, which surrounds a heart shaped pendant hanging on the end of a silver chain. I lift the necklace gently and examine it.

   As it hangs in the air, I watch it spin on the end of its chain in the midst of the large raindrops. It is the size of a golf ball, if the golf ball had been melted and shaped into a heart. It is tacky, too large and gaudy for my particular taste. The heart itself is molded out of smooth silver and glistens like a dull mirror in my hand, reflecting the dreary cemetery behind me. In the very center, there is a small etching, tainting the otherwise smooth surface.

   I draw the necklace around my neck, my frozen fingers struggling with the clasp. The moment the heart thumps against the base of my throat, my chills are eliminated with an overwhelming warming sense. The beat, like that of the heart it emulates, shutters in a strong steady rhythm that is perfectly opposite mine. I feel them together—one consistent trembling.

   This necklace, which I have come to hate but cannot live without, is the only bit of Rune that I have left. His heart.

   I lift my fingers to the gravestone that is in front of me and trail them across the etched in words. His name is written in all capitals: RUNE MATTHEWS, with a strange symbol beneath it, the same symbol that is engraved into the heart.


   I can't explain how one person alone can change a life. But he did. He took away the aching and gave me hope. He made me believe that maybe life didn't have to have a shadow in every image. He gave me back my life and in the end, I was the reason he lost his.

   Poppy's words ring in my ears like a knife on a chalkboard. A truth I have always known. The reality I have always believed.  

   I don't know what made me do it. I was afraid of the water during a storm. Rune wanted me to face my fear, believing it was running from our fears that made us afraid in the first place. He wasn’t afraid of anything, so I went to prove I could be brave like him. And when I stood by the edge, I heard the words whispered in the rain, "come in Jaylee." I looked at Rune, but he was only grinning at me with a winsome gaze and had not said anything.

   When I looked back towards the water, I saw him—my father—he was sitting in a boat in the middle of the lake. His arm was outstretched towards me, beckoning me to join him. I don't remember making the decision to jump, but one moment I was standing on the dock, and then the next I felt the freezing water engulf me as the tumultuous waves pulled my small body under. Rune called out my name, and I felt the splash as a body joined me in the water. The next thing I knew, I woke up on the dock; Rune was gone.
   Gone forever. Gone with my hope. Gone with my happiness.

  With each day, misery threatens to seep in, but I push it aside, welcoming the brutal emptiness of a life that is now lived without him.

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