Silence welled up in my throat, condensing into an unspeakable knot. It lodged itself against my tonsils, pulling in tight so that I could barely breathe.
I miss you too.
I stared back at her mother.
But you should have missed me when it mattered.
I broke eye contact, and then noticed what she was holding. It was red, but it wasn't roses.
You should have missed me when you had the brick in your hand.
There was an axe in her hand. It was already red, with bright paint, before it tasted blood. She swung it at me and I fell, screaming, to the ground, blood pouring from my neck. I moaned in pain, and twitched as I reached for her leg.
Then I blinked, and it was over.
I was standing again, looking at the grave as if nothing had happened.
"I said," she reiterated, "you killed her, you have no right to miss her."
I just kept looking at the grave. I didn't turn. I couldn't turn. I wouldn't turn. Not again. Not even if there was, indeed, a fireman's axe in her stubby old hands.
The roughly cut stone was rugged and beautiful. Its slated shade of gray, with purple undertones, reminded me of her. Even the curving font that had been used to etch her name into it.
There was a single black rose there, below it. Black for mourning. Ben had left it. I admired it. My eyes ran along the stem, and traced out at every thorn. It was the thorns I admired most.
"Get the God damn hell away from my daughter's grave, you bloody fuckin' murderer!" she screamed, and then broke into sobbing tears.
She carelessly flung the axe onto the grass at my feet. It was a rusty hatchet. It wasn't red. And it wouldn't taste blood.