M for Mourning
Miss Parker approached the tombstone and placed a white rose on top of it. Crossing herself, she knelt. Her fingers traced the engraved name, while her lips whispered it. She got up and took a deep breath, barely holding down the tears.
The air around her was dry, the wind nonexistent. She closed her eyes, feeling as if there was nothing else around her.
It has been such a long time, she thought. So much that's happened.
Another deep breath and her mind began wandering into the past, back to the days of her childhood, when she was no longer stranger to grief, but when she still had people who cared for her. She remembered them all, as they were then and as they were now.
Why did we allow things to change so dramatically?
Miss Parker opened up her eyes and felt his presence even before he placed his hand on her shoulder. She grabbed his hand there and squeezed it gently. He circled her, his hand still holding hers, and placed another white rose next to the one she'd put.
“I wasn't sure you'd come,” she said. “Thank you.”
“I told you I'd be here. You know I'd never lie to you.”
“No. You just give me ulcers.”
He didn't answer this time. Not because it was true or not, but because that was not the reason that had brought them there.
“I miss her, Jarod.”
“I miss her too.”
“We've only known her for two weeks, but...”
“It doesn't matter how much time you spend with someone, what matters is how you spend it.” He squeezed her hand. “She gave us plenty. All three of us.”
Wiping away a newborn tear, Miss Parker made the acknowledgment. “He should be here too, Jarod. Angelo was her friend as well.”
“Why didn't you bring him with you, then?”
“I thought about it, but I couldn't. It's too dangerous. Imagine what this place would do to him.”
“You're right. I hadn't thought about that.”
“And they say you're smart.” She sighed. “Ever since my fath... Mr. Parker died, Angelo has been visiting my office a lot. He has been a really great friend.”
“He has always been your friend, Parker. We all have.”
“I know. I just try to ignore that sometimes. I don't want people to miss me when I'm gone.”
“How could they not?” he asked. “You've been my best friend ever since we were kids. It's true that you shot me--”
“All right. Tried to shoot me once or twice. But I know you only did that to protect me.”
“I'm a good shooter, Jarod. Don't forget it.”
“I know you're a good shooter. One of the best I know. But you're also a good friend. And good friends will always be missed. No matter how much they try to change that.”
Miss Parker let go of his hand and turned around to face him for the first time since he arrived. His face was practically the same since she last saw him two years earlier, right after Carthis, yet so different from the boy with whom she'd spent her childhood days. The boy with whom she played and cried and laughed. Her companion.
She leaned her head against his shoulder and wrapped her arms around him. Jarod hugged her back. They both missed these hugs, not romantic, but friendly. Each hug was a symbol to a unspoken promise made between the two of them a long time.
I will always be your friend.
Today, that promise had a witness.