Mike stared down at the snow covered grave.
The entire idea of graves was stupid. The hillside around him was filled with stored dead people. Why? Why were they saving them? Was there some hope that in four thousand years our dead would impress the same way Egyptian ones did? Will the more attractive ones be propped up in museums around the world? He couldn't see it.
He also couldn't see how what was buried before him was his love.
It couldn't be. Kelly had been life. Kelly had been fun. She had been snuggles under a blanket as they watched TV nude in the dead of winter.
That Kelly was dead. This was nothing more than ... a memorial.
He closed his eyes. Kelly. Four years. You'll move on, they said. Move on from what? Loving her? Why would he ever want to do that?
"I miss you." He spoke it aloud, as if she could hear the words. As if spoken thoughts carried more weight than silent ones. Perhaps that was true. Certainly, hearing her answer back would be more impressive than thinking he heard her in his mind.
More frightening as well.
The wind sent a chill through his body. He sighed. Squatting, he placed a red rose on the snow beside the headstone. The scene from Night of the Living Dead flitted through his mind, the asshole brother bitching about putting plastic memorials on graves, accusing caretakers of cleaning them up and reselling them. Well, they weren't going to do that with a real flower. It was a waste, but one that couldn't be taken advantage of. Although, knowing Kelly, she would have gotten a kick out of him using a cross and flower arrangement identical to the one in the movie.
His eyes rose, flicking around. Nope, no living dead to be seen. Good. He dropped his gaze quickly. No hand rising out of the grave, either. Double good.
Mike reached out, tracing the carved letters. Meaningless. All meaningless.
Then why did a part of him give it meaning?
Part of him wanted to sit. Sit and talk. He rose instead. The dead of winter was not the time for that. He had other things to do this day, other rituals to perform. Mike found himself closing his eyes again.
"I still love you."
With a sigh, he turned back towards the road.
A woman was standing beside a strange car, looking at him.
Mike straightened, making sure his knit hat was on somewhat presentably. The car was pulled up behind his on the narrow, somewhat plowed cemetery road. It was something sporty, not really what you'd want for winter. So, too, the woman did not seem built for this area. Even from here Mike caught the feel of Florida, of someone visiting. Her coat was not bulky enough, hat more fashion than practical. She was pretty, though. He could tell that. Mentally shrugging, he walked towards the cars.
"Hello," she said. There was a weather induced chill in her voice. Her arms crossed over her chest. Yes, a Southern girl.
"Hello." He nodded to her. "Never saw anyone else here. It's not a popular place."
"Understandable." He got the sense she was referring to the entire area. Well, that was her problem. He liked it. She cocked her head to the side. brow furrowing. "How do you know her?"
"My sister. How did you..." Her voice trailed off, eyes widening. "Oh! You're him! Mike, was it? You're Mike! Kelly couldn't shut up about you!"
That made this all the more confusing. He knew all her sisters, and none of them were this one. If nothing else, she did not have the short stockiness that seemed to run in that family. There also was an Asian tinge to her face, not the European melting pot that had been Kelly. Seeing his reaction, she stepped forward, removing her glove.
"I'm Misa, her adopted sister. I assume she didn't talk about me much?"
"If she did, I wasn't listening." He took her hand, his own still gloved. Neither had talked about family much. There had been much more pressing matters. "Good to meet you."
"They didn't say you came here."
"They wouldn't know." He assumed Misa was talking about her family. He had not seen any since the Funeral. No reason he would, despite tear filled words spoken in mourning. His hand released hers, both his hands retreating to his coat pockets. He felt his keys. "I really should be going. I'm not a fan of these places."
"Me either." Her eyes slid towards the grave. They returned to him. "Look, would you like to go someplace? Talk?"
His eyes slid upward. Snow clouds were overhead, the first new flakes hitting his nose. As good an excuse as any.
"No. Sorry, but no. Not today. I have to be going. It was good to meet you." A bit rude, perhaps, but he really wasn't in the mood. He turned his back to her, walking around his car. Reaching the front door, he smiled. "Maybe if we meet again."
The parking lot of the small diner was empty. Strange, given the day, but not so given the weather and the early hour. Plus, bringing a woman here would be a warning sign any female would quickly pick up on. Anyplace would be better for a date. Greasy Spoons were for the hungry who didn't care about sanitation, or health.
The place was clean, at least. No stained ceiling tiles, bare table tops wiped and shiny. A small hand written sign told him to find his own place. He picked a booth against the front window. If his car was buried in the snow now falling, he'd be able to watch its loss.
"Hello!" The waitress was young and cheerful. She must have come straight from school to here. "How's the weather out there?"
"Now that I'm in here, I don't care." Her nose crinkled at that. For a brief moment, Mike wished he was a decade or two younger.
"What can I get you to drink?"
"I'll have that out to you in a moment!"
Chuckling as she walked away, deliberately not looking at what her backside might look like, he glanced at the menu. Typical fare. He'd avoid anything trying to be fancy, like steak. Probably sticking with a burger would be best. This was just to tide him over for the hour-long drive. He looked out the window again. OK, make that two hours.
Another car slowly pulled in. He ignored it, giving the menu another look. Maybe the chicken fried steak? He hadn't had that in awhile. If the gravy was good...
"Just sit down wherever, I'll be with you in a moment." The waitress came over, setting his drink in front of him as a woman passed behind her. "Have you decided, Sir?"
"Chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes."
"I'll put that right in!" Her nose crinkled again, hand taking the menu. Mike's attention was drawn to the blue coated black haired woman standing one booth away staring at him.
The woman from the cemetery.
She honestly looked as surprised as he felt. This vanquished thoughts of a stalker, at least for now. If she was heading back to the highway, this was the only way to come. Kelly's family had chosen a real out of the way place to put her. At least, if you weren't a local.
"I didn't see your car," she said. He glanced out. It was covered with a nice thin covering of snow. He looked back at her, shrugging.
"I like hiding it in urban, high crime areas like this." She smiled, eyes uncertain. Well, as much as he wanted to be alone on this day, there was no reason to be uncivil if Fate was going to be like this. "Care to join me?"
Not replying, she took off her coat, throwing it onto the bench as she slid in across from him. Her hat came off a moment later. He had been right. She was both beautiful and Asian, long black hair falling past her shoulders. Her body was slim, without even a hint of insulating fat. She needed a coat twice as thick to survive here for long. Hands moving hat matted hair away from her face, her gaze rose as the waitress approached. Mike thought the girl no longer looked as cheerful and flirty.
"What can I get you to drink?"
"Certainly. Do you know what you want?"
Misa grabbed the menu from the holder, scanning it quickly. Mike hoped the waitress was just trying to have both their orders ready at the same time, and wasn't being intensionally rude. Misa seemed familiar with the menu, quickly making a choice.
"I'll have the fried seafood basket."
"I'll put that in for you." The waitress turned away. Mike watched for a brief moment. Yes, that was a nice behind.
"I had to come here," Misa said, smiling as she put the menu back. "I grew up on this horrible food. Our parents would bring us at least once a week, when Mom didn't feel like cooking."
"There was a similar place near my Grandparents. They'd insist on going there if we offered to take them out. I think Grandpa just liked the meatloaf."
"Where was that?"
"East Pembroke. The diner is long gone."
He took a sip of his drink. Every question he could think to ask this woman could be considered insulting, or at least combative. He'd wait to see what she wanted to talk about. The waitress brought the cup with its tea bag and a small metal pitcher. Misa slowly poured the steaming water.
"I wish I could have met you at the funeral." He blinked, not expecting that for a conversation opener. Her eyes didn't meet his. "I was in Europe on business, and couldn't get back here."