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The heat of the summer sun pulsed down on Caleb’s shoulders as he stepped out of the house and walked toward the white fence that surrounded his property. It was August. The early days of spring had come and gone with the soft breeze. The morning hours had been spent packing his belongings into about twelve boxes. Nature and solitude nursed him back to health after the tragedy. Now, he only wished to be closer to Octavia. That meant leaving behind this place and moving further into the city, which was only a few miles away from the Ailwards. There was a blue Chevy sitting on the lawn that was filled with half his belongings. The other half were packed away in storage and yet more were scattered across his father’s ranch in Texas and his Grandmother’s apartment in Paris. It was emotional to be leaving this patch of land. It was the first place he’d called home in fifteen years, but Caleb had not spent as much time here during the summer as he’d planned.
He’d gotten distracted. A twenty-four hour road-trip had become longer and longer, until weeks had passed by without him noticing..The grass was taller than it had been and it brushed his legs as he came to look out over the lake. He’d somehow thought that this would be the last move of his life, but a new relationship had shown the impracticalities of such minimalist living. The little slice of heaven would always hold a special place in his heart, but it was time to keep moving. The only thing he regretted was not being able to carry the willow tree with him.
It was taller now. With Aurantia’s help, it had sprouted up dramatically in the last three years. It reached his torso now. It was easy to imagine that at six years old, his son would have been tall like his Daddy and perhaps been as tall as the tree. Caleb shoved his fingers deeply into the pockets of his jeans as he walked down the driveway to greet the sapling. The original still lived in Paris. He and Ava had planted it in the back garden on one of the first days that she was strong enough to get out of bed.
Caleb crouched down by the tiny tree with a wistful expression on his face.It had been a good year. He’d focused mostly on turning over new leaves, instead of grieving the old ones. He ran his fingers down the bark. In the back of his mind, the image of a little boy with gleeful blue eyes and bright red hair floated to the surface. He wanted to push it away.
Everyone had told him that it would get better with time and it had, but Celeste had been right that nothing had ever filled that very unique Darcy-shaped hole in his heart. It was just there. He’d slowly started picturing a future with Octavia, but hadn’t dared to hope that far. Deep down, the young man knew that he was forgetting something. It was nearly August. August. August twelfth. It was important.
It wasn’t just important because he’d rented the blue chevy to help him move. Memories shifted in his brain, filing into order, until one came into focus. Dread became the prevailing emotion, but before he could back away a strong image cemented in his mind of a white hospital room, his fiancee lying almost catatonic as she stared out the window, and the small empty bassinet.
Caleb pushed his lips into a thin line, furrowing his brows. He had been so busy. He’d gotten sidetracked. He’d forgotten. How could he forget? One of only a few important dates that had once been tattooed onto his mind has passed by with surprising ease. Three days ago had been his son’s birthday.
He took a deep breath of the humid air as a giant wave of guilt washed over him. and pushed his hands into the mulch that steadied the tree. He didn’t want to move. He didn’t want to leave. The branches swayed in the wind. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
The tree said nothing, which left his mind to wander. Like his mama, Darcy had bright red hair the day he was born. The day he was born was also the day that he’d passed away. They’d spent six precious hours holding his tiny body and reading him stories. Singing. He remembered the moment that the tiny, shallow breaths just stopped. There had been no warning. Everything leading up to that day had suggested that they would bring home a healthy, happy baby. Caleb hadn’t cried. He’d needed to be strong for Ava. It was only after he lost her too that the dam finally broke loose. They’d planned a funeral for their child before they ever saw him walk. Only a year later, he'd been alone.
The last few five years had changed him, but it took so little to remember everything that had happened. The sun was fading away into an afternoon storm. Caleb swallowed, hard, and stood up. He couldn’t leave the city on such short notice. He couldn’t go visit their graves. The only place he knew to go was the same place that he’d grieved Ava four years ago. It was a small cemetery on the back of one of the oldest chapels in town. It was never busy. Most likely, the people who were buried there were lost to time. No one had ever minded his presence.
Caleb whistled for his dog and a golden retriever bounded into view. “Heel.” The Frenchman said softly and the two of them began the several mile walk, side by side, with their shoulders slumped. His loyal friend stayed glued to his side as he found a space in the grass that seemed familiar and stared up at the sky. He didn’t care if it rained. Maybe, the sky wanted to cry too.
Being Earthbound was difficult. It was a difficult change with each Aurazin. Carmela missed her child who was left in the Vile. Lucien was lost without his wife, the two had grown close in their time on Earth. They leaned on each other allowing the other to be weak when they couldn’t be so in front of the other Aurazin. Carmela took to holding sick children at the hospital, helping parents grieve when they lost a child, and visiting Graveyards to help people grieve. She really leaned into her Aurazin nature, it was how she felt the most useful in a world that she wasn’t a part of anymore.
Carm stood in a Graveyard lost to time placing flowers on all the graves, and toys on the one for children. “You are missed.” She said to each one before shifting behind a large gravestone when Caleb entered. She paused feeling the wave of sadness hit her. She peaked around and took in everything, understanding that he was struggling with the fact that he was moving on. Feeling bad that he forgot the birthday of his son who had passed. Her heart ached for the man and she shifted into the woman on his mind Ava.
She took a step closer, then stood beside him. “It's not wrong to move on, it's a part of life.” She said in Ava voice as she looked at him with a smile. “You can’t stop living, you can’t beat yourself up over forgetting his birthday. You are human after all.” She said lightly as she held her hand out to him. “Want to take a walk Caleb?” She asked softly to the frenchman.
Caleb had a particular habit of lying on the ground and gazing upwards when he was upset. The great expanse of the sky had always welcomed him like an old friend. He often felt that it carried more secrets and knew more sorrow than he ever could. Perhaps, that was why he liked nature so much. Things like stars were distant, the sky had fits of rage, and even the trees sometimes seemed to bend under the weight of the world. He’d grown up hearing many stories that explained the story of earth and the origin of its sorrow. There were those of the Ancient Greek pantheon, the ones found in the Catholic Bible, and so many more. Evermore itself had it's own stories. Every culture had an explanation for the burden of grief that was so terribly attached to humanity.
He wasn’t sure what he believed, but he did know there was something out there. The existence of magic had only further cemented in his mind that there were bigger things out there than his own mind could fathom. It was part of being an artist to find meaning in everything. Even in pain, and especially in death. The Frenchman squinted up at the clouds. The rain was just on the verge of tearing downwards and thunder boomed in the distance. A wooded graveyard was probably not the safest place to be in the middle of a storm. He knew that should matter, but Caleb had long struggled with finding concern for his own safety over that of the people that he cared about. Right now, he'd rather stay.
He closed his eyes, breathing in the damp air, and trying to center himself to the moment. That was particularly difficult to do when the moment wasn't something a person enjoyed remembering. It was often said that no child should ever lose a parent, but that a parent especially should never lose their child. In his short life time, Caleb had experienced both of these things. The day that everything had gone down had been almost blank in his memory for a while. His brain had written a blank slate over those memories for such a long time. It had only been in the last two years as he settled into a healthy, happy routine that his mind had allowed the pain to truly exist.
Caleb hadn't necessarily planned what he'd do on days like this. There had always been a plan when it came to the anniversary of his mother's death. He'd brought her geraniums every year and the gardener had begun planting them. Now that he didn't live in France, the happy colored flowers decorated the window boxes of his home. He liked the reminder. They were like sunshine. She'd been much like that herself -- happy, even on the hardest of days.
He opened his eyes as there were soft footsteps in the grass beside him. The sun had emerged from the clouds, as it often did after a brief summer storm and Caleb had to shield his eyes in order to see who was standing above him. He blinked, twice. The face was one that he recognised instantly. It was the one that had belonged to the young woman he'd shared a home with, a bed with, and eventually a child, too. She was dead. He knew that.
Evermore was a strange place, but Caleb was still fairly certain that the dead couldn't just...rise out of nothing. He felt caution creep above the tender jolt of fondness that had been triggered upon looking at the familiar features. "Sure."
The question of what was happening and who she was slipped towards the back of his mind. He was certain - anyone invited to take a last walk with their long-gone loved one would jump at that opportunity.
Caleb tucked his hands into his pockets, as he commonly did when he felt shy. It had been a very long time. "How did you find me? I left France and never looked back after both of you died. I...I haven't been back."