"Alright, we got the flashlights?"
"What about the king-size Kit-Kats?"
"Yeah, and the disgusting Guava candies that you wanted," I say, rolling my eyes. Milo is stuffing our necessities into a black duffel bag while I sit on the floor fumbling with the disposable camera that we plan to bring on our illegal adventure. Rhys and Lila are occupied with flirting so I turn the flash on and snap a picture of them. They immediately turn, Lila giggles and turns red before she walks over to sit by me. Rhys turns up the Scooby-Doo episode that's playing on the TV and lies back on my bed, putting his hands behind his head.
A gasp from Milo's corner of the room distracts me from the usual "Hey Shag, you're gonna be the bait," going on on the TV. Milo's eyes are wide and he's dropped the bag of M&M's that he was holding a second ago.
"What is it Miles?" I ask, partially scared but also partially used to the fact that Milo dramatizes everything in his life. He's caught the attention of Lila and Rhys too and I think he's using silence to build suspense.
"We. Are. Screwed." he manages to get out in barely a whisper. He collects himself for a simple second and starts to talk again, "Miranda, Chester, Cory, and Rachel are all at Saint James cemetery. We're screwed."
Rhys speaks up. "Dude, first of all, we get it, we are screwed and second of all, how do you know?"
Milo holds up his phone, facing it towards Rhys. Through a small glare, I can see four kids hanging out at a cemetery. The one we were going to spend tonight at.
"Oh shoot." Lila whispers. We've been planning this for weeks but I'm not too disappointed, I was actually a little scared to spend the night in a graveyard...isn't everyone?
"Wait, why don't we spend the night at Haw River Cemetery?" Rhys says, his double chin protruding out from his attempt to talk while lying down. Immediately after he says this, my stomach drops.
"No way, that place is scary," I say with complete honesty. The reason we chose Saint James was because it had lights that stayed on all night, that way it wouldn't be too much of a daunting trip . Haw River stands in complete darkness at night, making it obsolete from the human eyes when passing by.
"Shut up Jules, we're going." There was no negotiation regarding this plan for me, so we packed up our bags, lied to our parents about where we were going, and left the house in a bright-pink golf cart singing Kumbaya.
It's darker than dark in this cemetery. The only light we have is the one provided from our cheap golf-cart headlights that run down the battery when you use them.
"Juliana, hand me my bag, will ya?" Rhys says. I grab the bag but it slips out of my grasp from the weight.
"Geez, whad'ya got in there? Weapons? Looks like I'm not the only one who's scared," I say. Blindly, I hold the bag out to Rhys, making sure I keep a good grip on it this time.
"Guys...did you hear that?" Milo says from the front of the golf-cart, turning on his flashlight to reveal the opened gate of the cemetery.
"C'mon Milo, you didn't hear anything."
"Yeah, don't make jokes like that, man," Rhys says.
Milo shrugs his shoulders as if to say "whatever," and starts walking towards the gate. We follow him, silenced by fear and the nothingness that surrounds us. When I finally figure out how to, I flip my flashlight on and shine it on the path in front of me. There's a clearing between a few trees so we all make a bee-line towards that. You’d think the flowers that decorate most of the graves would make this outing a little more pleasant, but unfortunately, they don’t.
While everyone else is setting up our spot for the night, I use the disposable camera to snap a few pictures. After it takes a while for Rhys and Milo to figure out how to set up the tent, Lila and I decide to look at the names on the stones.
“Look at that one, Anderson Sanderson,” Lila says.
“Hah, this one says Lydia Nude.”
“Dang, condolences to her.”
I continue to scan the names, looking for any names that I might recognize. Luckily, I don’t find any, I think if I did, I’d freak. Right before I’m about to walk back to the boys Lila stops me.
“Wait Jules. I gotta ask you something.”
“What is it?”
“Um,” she clears her throat. “Have you noticed?”
She looks like she’s about to puke for a second but then she seems to have changed her mind, her facial expression becomes more stabilized and she smiles. “Uh, just how much Milo seems to like you. He stares at you all the time. And girl, you went across town to buy some stupid guava candy for him. I think you’ve got something going on there, Jules.”
“There’s nothing going on. And you cannot talk, flirting with Rhys all the time doesn’t exactly put you in the place to talk about Milo and I.”
“Whatever,” she says, and we start walking back to “camp.”
“What’re y’all giggling about?” Milo says as we walk up to the small fire that they’ve started. This time, I look at Milo, and we make eye contact. Maybe Lila was right, maybe I do have a thing for him and I haven’t really noticed...His facial features are glowing in the firelight and his curly black hair looks messy from the wind on the trip up here. He smiles at me and then looks back down to the fire that has gone out in a matter of seconds.
“That’s literally the second time that’s happened,” Rhys says.
“My dad would be so disappointed,” Milo says, looking back at me as if to make sure I laugh at his joke. I do.
“Should we just go in the tent and snuggle up?” Lila says sneakily. I see the guys look at each other, shrug, and wrestle each other to get into the tent. I laugh and follow them in, kicking my shoes off outside and climbing on top of a fuzzy blanket.
“Hey, I forgot I brought my laptop, we could watch a movie if I connect to my hotspot,” Milo says.
“Sounds good, what movie?” I ask, once again smiling at Milo.
“Ew, why are your feet so cold Rhys?” Lila says.
“Rub them,” he says bluntly. Lila peels away, visibly disgusted. Milo laughs and I join in. I look around at my friends, all smiling, their cheeks stained with red from gentle exhaustion. A few years ago, I thought I’d never have a solid friendship with a group of people. I’m thankful that I was wrong.
We turn on “13 going on 30” after much arguing over how a scary movie would easily interfere with our sleep. Near the middle of the movie, Milo scoots closer to me, closing the small distance that had been between us in the first place. Our shoulders are touching and the warmth of his body is pressed up against me. Beside us, Lila and Rhys are cuddled up, his arm is over her shoulder and her head is pressed against his chest. I can almost feel the happiness floating off of her, they look nearly perfect with each other. His dirty blonde hair blends with hers, which would be the same color if she hadn’t dyed it pink this summer. He’s tan, and so is she, they’re almost...made for each other.
We’re just getting to the part where Jenna Rink makes her wish to turn thirty when Milo looks down at me.
“Hey, uh, can I talk to you outside for a sec?” he whispers. I nod my head and he helps me up, as I step over all of the ruffled blankets. The cold air bites my pale skin as we step outside and it’s so dark that I can barely see my hand in front of my face.
“Do you have a light?” I ask.
“Uhhh.” I hear him ruffling around in a bag. “Ah, here we go.” He flips on a flashlight and the freckles on his face are illuminated. My cheeks warm up at the sight of his curly hair. He looks nervous and the air between us is stiff, I rub my sweaty palms against my sweatpants.
“Why’d you need to talk to me?” I ask.
“Oh, yeah-I uh. I wanted to tell you something important. Look, I know we’ve known each other since we were like...what? Three? Yeah-three. Anyways, I-You-I’ve started to have feelings for you. Actually, for a while now. I just didn’t wanna tell you because, like, I didn’t wanna ruin the relationship we have.”
“So I just wanted to, ya know, tell you, cause-”
“What is that behind you?” I ask. I didn’t mean to interrupt him but something has caught my eye. Four graves have become alight with four candles. Each of them have names engraved on them, but they’re so far away that I cannot see them. A different kind of chill goes through my body as Milo turns around and his face flickers with the eerie glow.
“Stay here,” he says. His feet crunch on the fallen leaves and I almost feel like I hear another pair of footsteps, but I keep quiet, I know I’m just paranoid. As he approaches the graves, I can hear a small gasp come out of him before he starts laughing.
“Jules, come look at this,” he says in between a few laughs. “Someone’s messing with us, dude. Look, there’s four graves with our names on them.” I hesitantly laugh, is it really a joke? It’s true though, all of the graves have our names on them, with our exact birthdays, and today's date finishing the sequence.
“Rhys! Come ‘ere!” Milo yells. Him and Lila come running out of the tent. They take a few seconds to read the graves, but when they do, they too start laughing, while I’m standing in the middle of them all, shivering. It’s not from the cold though.
“Guys this is serious. Why are you laughing?” I ask.
“It’s not that big of a deal, Jules. I posted on my Snapchat story that we were here. It’s probably just some idiots from West Ashley,” Rhys responds. I nod, trying to understand that I don’t have to always be so paranoid. I still shake uncontrollably, though, but Milo notices and draws me closer to him. I can hear his heart beating as we all head back towards the tent, our shoes folding the dewy grass as we walk. I take a few deep breaths, count the shoelaces on my shoes, focus on the warm arm that’s still wrapped around my shoulder, and wrap myself in a blanket in the tent. This time, as the movie comes to a finish and the exhaustion from the day starts to weigh my eyes down with a stinging sensation, I scoot closer to Milo, lying my head down on a pillow right next to him. I fall asleep listening to the three steady breaths that flow through the tent, blending into the cool air that warns of the approaching winter. At one point, though, when the tent becomes as comfortable as the bland walls of my room, I swear I hear a fourth breath join into the mix.
I wake up to darkness.
It’s deceiving at first, but then I remember the four graves with our names carved into them. I remember the fear I felt as my friends laughed at them as if they were a joke. Those graves were not a joke, and my suspicions are confirmed when I look up to see three empty spots in the tent. One blanket is stained with red blood, and the blood is spreading all throughout the tent, into the walls, soaking so far into my skin that I start to believe it’s mine. My breathing starts to escalate and my lungs start to close in on each other, as if I’ve been smoking for ten plus years. I would never smoke though, it’s bad for you. Milo’s dad smokes, one day he is going to di-
Milo is dead. I can see him through the tent door. He’s laughing at the grave, but this time, he’s in it. Only his head is sticking out of the earthen mound that contains fresh dirt. When the other graves come into view, I see Lila and Rhys sitting in the graves as well, laughing hysterically. When they see me, they stop and turn their heads towards me.
“Wake up Juliana,” they say in unison. “Do you want to be in a tomb for the rest of your life? Then come on, it’s nice!”
Tears start streaming down my face, and all of a sudden, I’m lifted up into the air. My body goes limp as I’m carried by some force of the Earth, tossed around with no care in the world. I start spinning out of control, hurling towards objects in the cemetery and dodging them just before I hit them. But my control becomes even less. I hold out my arms, just for them to be pushed down by the pressure of the wind. There’s hair in my mouth and blood on my knee. Just as I’m about to pass out from the shock, my head hits one of the graves, and I’m brought back to reality.
“Crap, dude, I hit her head on one of the gravestones.”
“Well if you’re gonna get her to like you, ya gotta do better than that.”
“Jules? Are you awake?” Milo says. His face starts to come into focus and I can see the tiny curls on the top of his head. He’s carrying me, his arms beneath my knees and my back.
“Yeah, I think,” I respond.
“Jules. Guess what happened,” Lila says. We’ve stopped walking now, and she’s leaning over me, her eyes almost bugging out of her head.
“So basically, the cops came. And like, you were still sleeping but I heard them yelling from the gate. So I woke up Rhys and Milo but, girl, you would not wake up for anything. That’s when we told Milo to carry you so we could get the heck out of there. Long story short, we left the tent but got most of the important stuff. Luckily we didn’t get locked up in a tomb forever though,” Lila explains.
“It’s a cell, Lila, not a tomb,” Rhys says, his voice exasperated. I ignore the laughs that come from the pink mouths of my friends. Instead, I meet all of their eyes, first Lila’s endless ocean eyes, then Rhys’ chocolate eyes, and lastly Milo’s green eyes, like the color of his favorite guava candies. What’s similar about all of their eyes is that they’re all focused on me with genuine worry. Then it hits me, they’re not insane, they’re not just heads sticking out of a grave, and they’re not dead.
“Oh my god, y’all are alive.” I stand up and get my balance using Milo’s arms. When I finally can see straight, I grab Milo’s shirt, give him a slight kiss on the lips, and start walking away with a giggling Lila and a whistling Rhys. Milo remains stationary for a few seconds, a bewildered look on his face.
I’d like to say that we got out of the graveyard quickly, but when we jumped on the golf cart, it didn’t start. We were only in the “tomb” for a few hours, though, not forever.