To Lose a Friend by Lily Trueper
This story is one of the March Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
I am already regretting this.
It was one in the morning, the sky outside pitch black, only illuminated by a sprinkling of stars. It had been a challenge to even make it out of my bed and to the window without alerting anyone downstairs. The linoleum floor of my bedroom was older than me, and it had a miserable creaking sound whenever you stood on a weak panel. I had had to hold my breath to keep from panicking when I tiptoed across it, the thought of how easily someone could hear me invading my brain.
Eventually, I had made it onto the black roof of my two-story house. I was seriously debating whether or not I should turn back. The window of my room was right there, and I could very easily creep back inside unnoticed, safe from the risk of being caught. But that’s not what Cam would want me to do, not after her life was taken too soon and she never got to do anything exciting with it.
So, my adventure continued. The ladder was right there, resting against the trim of the roof, just like Wyatt had promised. The common sense inside of me was screaming, Are you an idiot?!, and perhaps I was. The ladder looked unsupported, but I pressed on reluctantly.
As I climbed cautiously down the ladder, I attempted to block out my doubts and fears. I listened to the ever-so-present chirp of crickets, not even twenty feet away from me in my backyard. It was a colder night than usual in June, but that was something Cam would appreciate. She had always loved the cold.
When I reached the bottom of the ladder, I finally could release a breath. I got down low on the ground, careful not to be seen from the downstairs window in my living room. My parents were still awake watching something on the blaring TV. I crawled along the grass, silently complaining about its itch until I reached the gate. I pulled up on the metal latch, using pressure from my grip to contain the noise of it opening. Just like that, I was out of the house and facing our street, Pine Cove.
I repeated the instructions Wyatt had given me two days ago when the plan had been formed. When you’re safely out of the house, bike down to the cemetery and take the fastest route available.
“Why are we doing this so late? It would be safer to go during the day. Middle of the night burial spot visitings do not sound safe to me,” I had asked him.
“Mal, they don’t want you going there after what happened to your sister years ago, which is reasonable. I mean, she could have died there. If we went during the day, there’s a higher risk of being caught.”
“Yes, I know that. But still. This sounds terrifying.”
“It will be.”
Years ago, my older sister Margot had been dared by some of her friends to go touch the grave of some girl which was supposedly “haunted.” They had all been watching from way across the street, probably because they were scared themselves to go anywhere near her gravesite at night. Margot had just barely touched the gravestone when a gunshot was heard from a spot way too close to her and her friends. She screamed and ran when she saw a figure with a dark hoodie holding a gun about a hundred feet from her.
She and her friends made it safely to the next door library when the police had already intercepted the shooter. Ever since, my parents have made that particular cemetery, where Cam just so happened to be buried, completely off limits to anyone in our family.
But Wyatt and I both agreed that paying our respects to our best friend was way more important than respecting one of my parents’ rules.
When I arrived at the cemetery, I immediately spotted Wyatt in a white sweatshirt standing by her grave. I parked my bike by the rack at the 24-hour library and hurriedly joined him. Neither of us spoke a word, which seemed to be a mutual unspoken decision. For a minute or two we just stared at the stone.
Wyatt reached behind him for a basket of flowers we had picked out especially for Kam, full of bright yellow sunflowers, her favorite. One by one, we thoughtfully placed a flower on the stone.
“Oh Kam, what will life be like without you?” Wyatt asked.
I didn’t answer, I didn’t need to. He saw the answer in my eyes.