Where We Meet Again (Arrow Creek 1)

Page 8

I lift my eyes to the headstone. The marble is a tinted moss green inscribed with his birth and death date. In the center, near the bottom, rests a carving of a guitar wrapped in angel wings. Ritchie loved music, and I’m sure, wherever he is, he’s hanging out with the musical legends who’ve already passed on.
“Thanks for listening, brother,” I whisper as the wind guides my words away.
I chatter about Evelyn’s birthday this afternoon to end my visit on a lighter note. The longer I sit, the more my neck prickles, as if someone’s presence is with me. With a new sense of paranoia, I glance around, but I’m alone.
Nothing new there.
I’m in a cemetery. With all the spirits roaming around, I’m not as alone as I’d like to think.
With that thought I stand, brush off my damp backside, and touch a hand to the cold headstone. My head bows, and I fight back the tears that always come with goodbye. “Miss you, Witchy Ritchie.”
I turn to walk to my car and nearly smash into a man standing right behind me. My hand clutches at my chest, attempting to regain stolen breath. My eyelids drift closed while I pu
ll myself together. When I reopen them, he stands still as the headstone his gaze fixates on.
“Lawrence. You scared me.”
Ignoring my comment, he provides one of his own. “You still call him that?”
Everything inside me cinches tight. Guilt, pain, fear at what he might have overheard all grip me in a vice so tight I don’t know if I’ll ever breathe fully again. I can’t stop myself from wondering what goes through his mind right this second.
And what the hell he’s still doing in Arrow Creek.
Regardless of my questions, I have a birthday party to throw for my baby girl. Today is not the day to rile me up.
“Of course, I do. I called him witchy from age three when I couldn’t say my r’s properly and never stopped. You knew that.” I look at anything but him.
He again acts like he doesn’t hear me. “Rumor around town was a distant relative bought a plot here when his health deteriorated. I see it’s safe to assume that was bullshit, too, and they brought here him because of you.”
My throat dries like sun-scorched timbers, and I struggle to swallow. I orchestrated that rumor, never expecting it to take root. I couldn’t stand to have my brother buried in a place I knew I’d never visit again.
His statement doesn’t warrant a response, as his deduction is accurate, so I attempt a question of my own. “What are you doing here?”
My tone remains neutral, even though every other part of me trembles as I wait. By the look in his narrow eyes, one would think I just raised the alarm for battle.
Law works over an answer. Whether he’s concocting a lie, I can’t be sure. If he’s anything like the Law I used to know, he’ll give it to me straight.
“I really want to tell you to fuck off, considering it’s none of your business.”
Straight it is. His words pierce my withered heart.
“I’ve been coming here since about six months after he died.”
“You have?” I choke on the words, disbelief and shock like two hands squeezing around my throat. I can’t breathe. I can’t… how is that possible?
“’Bout once a month. Six weeks maybe, if I had shit going on.” He shrugs like his admission means nothing.
Like he didn’t just tear open old wounds, making them fresh and bloody and painful.
I’m shit at math, but a rough calculation would mean he’s been here over a hundred times through the last fourteen years.
How could he have been that close, so often, and not once cross paths?
“Did you ever even look for me?” I blurt, so caught up in my revelation I forget to apply a filter.
His torso swings toward me. Hands ball into fists at his side, and his face pales right before it heats crimson. The lines at the side of his eyes stand out white and prominent with his angry squint.
“Let’s dissect what it is exactly that you’re asking me, and maybe you can figure out the answer to that question yourself.”