Chapter Thirty-nine

I walked back to the service, hope fluttering in my stomach. I never did. Her words had sent chills through my body, just like her writing.

I was up last to share my memories with everyone. Although I hated being the one with all the attention, I felt like Haylee would want me to do this. When the second to last person was done, I strode to the front of the room, thinking of the memory I would share. As I took the microphone, I decided to share about the road trip to the Grand Canyon. I blocked out the taunting memories pouring in, and just concentrated on telling the story. I was proud of myself, for I didn’t lose control of my feelings once.

Before I knew it, the service was over, and I was headed back home. Quickly, I got changed into more comfortable clothes, and walked briskly to the clearing, my new song in my head. Dark clouds rolled over the sun, bringing a light drizzle, then a steady rain. I didn’t mind though, and just put up my gray hood.When I got to the tree stump, I sat down and began warming up my voice. My new song was called Haunt, and I only had the first verse and the chorus down.

“We’ll make our agreements about when to meet, and I’ll leave you in the doorway.” I started, my voice bouncing off the surrounding trees and through the rain. I continued to sing, making sure to keep my back straight. I kept practicing in the rain, making sure that every pitch was absolutely perfect. My songs were my escape, but yet they were my prison at the same time. They were about Haylee, and seemed to calm me yet disturb me.

The rain kept coming, and I kept singing, until I heard a shuffle in the woods. “You have an amazing voice.” It was Riley.

I spun around, raindrops flying from my face. “You were eavesdropping?”

“No, I was listening to your voice and words.” She hesitated before adding, “The lyrics… They’re about Haylee, aren’t they?”

I narrowed my eyes. "None of your business."

She sighed, walking closer to me. "Dan, it's okay. I miss her, too."

"No, it's not okay. She's dead, Riley, don't you get that? We will never be the same again." I stood up from me and Haylee's stump.

"There's a reason why this happened."

"I can't imagine what it would be." I felt Haylee's sarcasm boiling inside me.

"I don't think anybody knows. But it definitely taught me a lesson. What did it teach you?" She was standing right in front of me, looking up at me with understanding eyes.

"It taught me what real heartache is." I said after a moment's hesitation.

She nodded slowly. "Me too." She whispered, pain clouding her brilliant green gaze. We have so much in common. She didn't know what she was doing. I honestly don't believe that she was spying on Haylee willingly.

"I'm sorry." I said, feeling bad for all of the things I had accused Riley of.

"It's okay. I'm sorry, too." She replied, a tear sliding down her cheek. Tenderly, I wiped it away, bringing her closer. The rain poured down harder. Before I had made a self-conscious decision, my lips were already on hers. The second they were, memories flooded my mind before I could stop them. Me and Haylee's first kiss out in front of her house, our kiss on her roof, our kiss in the clearing. It was so different kissing Riley. She wasn't near as pretty as Haylee, and wasn't particularly anything special to look at. None of that mattered, though, did it?

This is wrong, I thought, pulling away from her quickly. I turned my back on her, wiping the rain from my forehead.

I heard Riley take in a shaky breath. "Dan, I don't know what you're doing; I'm not quite sure what to think of it myself. Of all the people you could have went for, you went for..." She hesitated. "Me? I killed Haylee, and you just kissed me. Why?"

I asked myself the same question. Why? All I could think of was how forgiving Haylee once was. "Haylee was the most forgiving person I've ever met. I guess... Some of it rubbed off on me." I added quickly, "But it can't be this way. It won't work."

Sadness took hold of her gaze. "Why not?"

I sighed. "Chris wants me to find someone else to love, as well. And I don't think that anybody will understand if I tell them. Chris didn't."

"Try me."

"This isn't how it's meant to be. I'm meant to be with Haylee, and that's how it's going to stay. I will never love anyone else."

I saw a tear slide down her face and mix with the rain as it dropped to the ground. "Okay." I didn't want to talk to her anymore. It hurt me to see someone like this. I walked out of the clearing, leaving her behind.

What were you thinking? I asked myself once I had gotten dressed into some dry clothes. You can't have Riley. In fact, you can't have anybody! What would Haylee say? Riley betrayed her and caused her so much pain.

And you just kissed her?

The End

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