She found me in a graveyard. She saw me slumped against the tiny white headstone, with a bottle of a beer dangling from my fingers, and she came on over.
“You’re Jake, right?” she said. “Why are you here?”
“Somewhere to go.” I squinted up at her. She was pretty. “You?”
“Same.” She gave a quick smile. “Want to hang out?”
I left with her, blocking the headstone from her view, and hoping she hadn’t noticed the engraving: Skinner, Mark. 2005-2012. See you later, bro.
I don’t know why I never told her.
I’m lying under a tree in this dead end corner of a park, thinking about him. Dad used to bring us here to kick a football. Sometimes life seems like that stupid movie, Wizard of Oz, but backwards. It started off technicolour, and then Mark died and the colour switched off. Dad never took me to the park after that.
I went by myself once, as I had to get away from the Mark museum, otherwise known as home. (“No, Jake, you can’t touch that toy; he was playing with it On That Day.”) I thought they’d be furious, but they didn’t even notice. One of the worst parts about Mark dying was that I became the fucking ghost.
“What are you thinking about?” Ella is lying next to me, propped up on her side.
“Your tits,” I say, with a grin. She laughs loudly, and looks around.
“There’s no one here,” she says, reaching an arm across my belly.
I grab her, rolling her across and under me. I’m reaching under her skirt, and she’s giggling like she can’t believe we’re about to do this.
The smell of the grass makes Mark flash into my mind. Not here. Not in this place.
I push my face into Ella’s neck: smelling her shampoo, kissing her, fucking her, until she is all I can see and feel.
You can’t have everywhere as your bloody memorial, Mark.
Ella sits up, straightening her clothes.
“I can’t believe we just did that,” she says.
Her cheeks are pink, and she has blossom through her hair. The sun is bright behind her head, making her glow.
“You look like a bride,” I say.
“Shut up.” She starts to brush the flowers away, but I sit up and grab her wrist.
“Leave it,” I say. “I like it.”
“Shouldn’t you be at school?” A woman is staring down at us with a look that says she knows exactly what just happened.
“My sister’s not well,” I say, nodding at Ella. “I’m taking her to the doctor.”
The woman gives us a look of horror, and steps back.
“Well, you should move on,” she says. “Kids come to this park too, you know. The devil makes work for idle hands.”
I give a military salute to the woman, and she hurries away. We’re laughing before she has even reached the edge of the path.
“Your sister?” Ella pokes me.
“Did you see her face?”
“You’re the devil.”
“Do you have idle hands?” I grab them. “I can make work for them.”
We both lie back on the grass, laughing.
“How come your parents never had any other kids?” she asks me.
“I had a brother once. He died.” The words fall out of my mouth and I try to stuff them back in. “I don’t even remember anything. It was ages ago.”
“Shit.” Ella sits up and reaches for my hand. “Sorry, Jake. What happened?”
I give her my widest grin.
“I’m just messing with you. Let’s go before that stupid bitch comes back.”
“Seriously?” She hits me. “That’s not funny!”
“You’re just too easy. You believe anything.” I pull her up to standing, and we walk through the park.
“You know what I love about you?” she says. “You’re not scared of anyone. Most boys I know are so lame. You’re just totally evil.” She laughs. “There is literally no line with you. You’ll do anything.”
“I’ll do anything for you,” I promise.
“Good to know,” she says. “I have a plan. Something funny.”
I glance back at the pink trees in the park.
Screw you Mark. Screw all of you.
This story runs in reverse chronology. Click below to read the previous (later) parts: