I Hope You're Doing Alright Up There.

Submitted into Contest #51 in response to: Write a story that begins and ends with someone looking up at the stars.... view prompt

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General

It’s been months since you’ve gone. I’m writing this at 12:00 am watching the stars unmoving in space. It’s unfair. You’ve left me with nothing but fading memories and broken promises- I guess I’ll have to survive on that limited supply till the end. I think I’ve already began to forget you; jokes, hair tousling in the wind, evergreen eyes. I haven’t forgot your laugh, though. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.

It’s been devastating. The world’s noises have suddenly stopped into quiet. It’s a feat I never would have dreamed possible, but you were always going and achieving the impossible. It’s what made you. It’s what I miss most. It’s what makes me cry myself to sleep every other day and awake in my damp patterned pillowcase, barely missing the last whispers of your screams as nightmares fade away.

Your parents are a mess. You were their only kid and you were doing so well- the straight A’s and soccer scholarships were solid evidence of that. Too bad you’re not here to watch the fruit of your success grow. The houses are cold, you know. I know, an odd thing to say, but true. My house is cold. Your house is hold. Our friends’ houses are cold. It’s strange the houses are cold as the Arctic. It’s summer. We all should have been racing down the boardwalk eating fudge-pops or shrieking with terror at the horror marathons they play at the cinema. But no. We all definitely could go out and do those things, but no. We can’t. We miss you too much. It’s too hard to watch The Blair Witch Project without hearing you snorting wise cracks at the invisible entity the film students are running from.


(“For all we know these film students staged it all to cash in a quick buck-”


“Shut up, you’re ruining the movie, dummy!”)


We can’t walk the boardwalk without hearing your complaints about the squeaky board that always caused you to spill your cream soda.


(“Stupid board! I should file a flippin’ complaint to the town!”


“Ha, ha, as if they’d fix it. Now you can either buy yourself a new soda or lap it up from the ground ‘cause ain’t none of us got the money to buy it for you.”)


Can’t go shopping at the thrift store without spotting an item of clothing you’d add to your “vintage wardrobe” that consisted of rock bands and Mickey Mouse characters.


(“Get me that one, Kip!”


“You have a good thirty bucks though, I only have fifteen!”


“My birthday’s coming up in a couple weeks!”


“Weeks?! My birthday was a couple days ago!”


“Alright, fine. Have it your way.”)


See how hard it’s been?


Man, death sounds terrible. I hope you’re floating somewhere in heaven, even if I don’t believe heaven exists.


I’ll make it exist for you.


Anyways, I’ll come back with another letter for you in awhile, okay? My therapist says it’s good for me or something. You know what my mom thinks: anything the therapist says, goes. It’s so dumb that I’m writing to my dead best friend and it’s even dumber to think that it’ll help me let you go. I mean, really? As if ink on paper can heal emotional damage. Gotta love that. Talk to you later, Aiden.


-Kip



I fold the letter and place it on the chrome headstone of my late best friend, Aiden Brougham. This is stupid. It’s not as if anyone’s going to read my bitter ramblings- that is, if my mother isn’t crazy enough to, “keep an eye on,” her troubled son. Moms can do things that balance on the thin line between mother’s love and insanity to protect their children. What’s there to protect me from? I saw my best friend slowly die right in front of my eyes and there’s still something to protect me from? The world must be a screwed up place.

There’s really no point in coming to this dark cemetery and wallowing in my pain when I can do just that at home. It’s for the sentiments, Kipper! His body’s here… Yeah, so what? That sounds harsh of me, but honestly: so what? I don’t care about your body much; at least, one that doesn’t move. I don’t care much for glassy, unfocused eyes that can’t wink at me from the bus stop. I care about your thoughts, your feelings, your actions, your spirit. That’s what I care about. Sure, your body may have stored your butterfly kisses and your witty remarks- but it was your spirit that made your body do those things.

Your spirit is most certainly not spending its time wandering through the cold headstones that have strangers’ names etched on the tops. Your spirit is probably at my home watching Netflix Originals over my sister’s shoulder. Your spirit is probably still sifting through clothing racks at Thrift Rose and picking out shirts to try on in the dank fitting rooms.


Your spirit is probably everywhere except here.


I turn to leave before fresh tears can spring into my wobbly hazel eyes when I spot him two or three headstones away. He’s standing at someone else’s grave and placing what look like forget-me-nots onto the headstone. That’s sweet, I guess. A way of saying, don’t forget me, even after you’re dead. I wonder who he’s mourning.

He looks about my age; 16-17, only a few inches taller than me. He looks strangely… blank. The opposite of what you looked like.


I suppose you look like that in the ground, though.


For a second, I almost see you in him. The eyes deep murky blue almost turn into green in the dim, rainy light and the hair a mahogany red almost blends to earth brown.


Almost.


The hunger in my stomach returns; the hunger to be with you once more. The hunger for your wandering hands and sparkling eyes and the heat from your touch.

I realize I’ll probably look weird when the boy turns to look up, so I snatch my gaze away before letting it drift once more, stealthily this time. Wow, I’m such a creep. Spying on strangers mourning the dead, spying on what should be a private affair. I consider approaching this oddly familiar stranger but leave it be. After all, it’s probably wise not to spark small talk with someone knee-deep in grief. My eyes flit away, and I start to walk before the boy calls out a soft, “Hey!”

“'Scuse me?” I reply, my voice scratchy. He shifts, opening his mouth then promptly closing it again, as if he was debating whether to speak.

“H-hello-?” he stammers finally. I raise an incredulous eyebrow at him, as if I weren’t staring like a lunatic a bare minute earlier. He smacks his palm against his face and speaks once more. “Sorry. I sound like a weirdo. You- you look like you’re my age. I was… I was gonna ask who you’re here for. Sorry if that’s insensitive.” He shuts his mouth again and looks like he’s about to cry from the sheer embarrassment.

“No, it’s okay, don’t worry. I mean, I was going to ask the same thing. Um…” My tongue twists and turns in my mouth, trying to grasp words quickly dissipating from my lips. We stand in awkward silence for a moment or two before I begin to speak again. “Well, I’m here for my best friend,” I say, so soft I’m not even sure I said the words aloud or simply murmured them into my clustered head.

“Oh,” the boy gulps. He blinks a few times, looking to the ground, and for the first time I observe the freckles spattered across the bridge of his slender nose. You had freckles, too. “I’m here for my sister. She had leukemia.”

“Oh.” There isn’t much to say after that, because I’m not telling him how you died and he looks like he doesn’t really want to know.

“I’m Kip,” I say instead, sticking out my hand.

“I’m Breccan.” He tentatively returns my offer for a handshake and drops his arm immediately after.

“So… how’ve you been coping?” The conversation is taking a turn for awkward and I’m admittedly a bit desperate to save it.

“I haven’t,” he replies bitterly and I almost bark a raw cackle.

“That’s one thing we have in common.”

“Oh, crap! I’m sorry to cut this short, but I’m gonna be late! My mom’s driving me out to meet my dad,” Breccan exclaims, glancing at his phone. “I visited my sis before we had to leave.”

“Oh, okay, no problem. Catch you around, I guess..?” The words sound a little satire but Breccan doesn’t seem to notice. He flashes a practiced smile at me before leaving, and I can feel his empty eyes boring into mine.


Ah, well.



“Kip, hurry up, we’re gonna be late!” my mother calls from our BMW.

“I’m coming, I’m coming!” I yell back. “…Don’t get your panties in a twist.” I shove my phone into my pocket and scurry out the door. It’s been four days since I ran into Breccan, and for some reason, I can’t get him out of my head. The encounter was brief, fleeting, but it stuck. Probably because of that split moment I saw him as you in that light.

My mom’s long dark blonde hair is spilling over the back of the driver’s seat as I sit besides her. “Kip, you know you can tell me anything, right? Anything you need to talk about Ai- him?” she says, staring directly ahead as if she can’t bare to look me in the eyes. My parents have some unspoken agreement that they won’t ever mention Aiden’s name… in front of me. Of course, I manage to hear their smuggled words when they think I’m out of earshot


(“Really, James? He needs time to heal, he doesn’t need your bitterness in his face-!”


“Laura, he’s a grown teen! He can’t wallow around in pity. Aiden’s dead, has been for months. He’s gotta move on.”)


and their whispers to neighbors. It’s all to be expected, really.

The road to the therapist’s is quiet as a mouse. It’s all to be expected, really.



I’m surprised to see him sitting in the waiting room. I thought I’d leave him behind four days ago.

Breccan’s moping in the waiting area of the therapist’s clinic. He looks up at me a second after I spot him. I’m standing frozen in an aberrant mix of shock and… glee?

“Kip?” he asks incredulously. My mother looks back and forth between the two of us, visibly confused.

“Have you two, uh, met before..?” she asks, tilting her head to the side.

“Um, yeah, we uh… we met at the cemetery,” I reply uncomfortably. Sheesh, what a way of making new friends. Spark up conversation at the cemetery.

My mom raises her eyebrows and nods, though I get the feeling she’s concerned. Honestly, I would be too if my 16 year old son told me that he’d made a friend while visiting a field of dead people.

“Well… I’ll leave you to it! I’ve gotta get back to a dinner with my boss, so I’ll be back home late. Your dad’s working late, too, so you’re gonna be home alone for a bit. There’s dinner in the fridge, m’kay?” my mom rambles as she closes the door behind her. I stare after her, a little flustered Breccan had to hear about my personal life.

“Uh, hey..! Good to see you again, I guess.” Breccan waves his hand to a seat next to him and I awkwardly maneuver into it.

“Heh, yeah, who would have thought we go to the same clinic,” I say in response, looking up at the ceiling.

“Who do you got as your therapist?”

“I have Mr. Kiss, or whatever.”

“…Kiss?”

“Exactly, that’s what I said when I first came here!”

“Whose last name is actually Kiss?”

“You know, they say your last name is what your ancestors did for a living.”

“That makes me slightly uncomfortable, not gonna lie.”

“Pfft, who would be comfortable to know that your therapists ancestors were who-” I say an adjective that’s definitely not PG and there’s a pause of silence for a second. I look at Breccan and he’s staring at me in amused shock. “What?”

“I’m astonished you would say that to a complete stranger.” We make eye contact and suddenly burst into laughter, even though it’s not even funny. Breccan’s laugh is so different from yours- but it still carries that strange sense of home in it. I think I’d like to hear it again sometime.

Just when the chuckles die off, Breccan snorts again and that sends me into more laughter. It’s one of those moments where you laugh for no reason except you don’t want to stop laughing. That sounds confusing. But I don’t want to stop laughing because now I can finally laugh.

“Hey, this is probably weird of me to say, but… well, could I get your number? I dunno, we’ve talked like twice now and you seem like you’d be a good friend,” Breccan mumbles, embarrassed.

“Wow, that’s a compliment. Sure, why not? Most people think I’m too salty to be friends with.” I gesture for Breccan’s phone and he hands it to me after unlocking it.

“Salty people are the best people.”

“Here, all done!” I give Breccan’s phone back to him and offer a polite smile.

“You know, you don’t have to fake smile. It’s pretty obvious coming from someone who does the same thing.” My smile fades and something flips over in my stomach.

“...Damn, thanks. You don’t know how much it means for you to say that. Wow, I can finally be honest with someone,” I shakily laugh. Breccan nods and looks away quickly. “Hey, I don’t wanna be one of those people who ushers friendships along too fast, but do you wanna meet up somewhere? Like the field out by the river?”

Breccan looks pleasantly surprised and grins. “Sure! How ‘bout this night, 9 pm? We could stargaze.”

“Well, isn’t that romantic?” I tease.

“Whattt? Hah, no way,” Breccan replies, even though he’s red.

“Haha. Anyways, text me when you’re walking there so I can get your number.”

“Sure thing, cap’n. You should ask Mr. Kiss where his last name originated from. I’m kind of invested.”

“Oh, he told me it was Hungarian for ‘small?'”

“…”

“What?”

“I’d say something dirty but I think I’d scare you off-”

“Oh, I’m pretty sure we’re thinking the same thing.” Another burst of laughter and Mr. Kiss just has to come in at that exact moment. At this point the two of us are wheezing while he stands there, baffled.

“Hey, Kipper? Time for you appointment,” Mr. Kiss says, looking back and forth between the two of us.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll be right there!” I get up from my seat as Mr. Kiss walks into his office. “9 pm?” I ask Breccan.

“I’ll be there.”



The therapy session was easier than normal today. Probably because my mind kept drifting to Breccan. Now I’m on my way to the field at 8:47 pm, waiting for stargazing with a stranger. I glance at my phone, checking for texts. None so far.

I’m wearing what one would call ‘first date attire,’ but it just felt right to wear for some reason. It’s not that I was trying to dress up, I just thought it would be right. Nothing weird about it.

Gray plaid shirt (tucked in of course), unbuttoned collar, hair messy but not too messy, skinny jeans, fancy watch, and my trusty red converse. Nothing weird at all.


Ding. Ah, that must be Breccan. I open up the text and read:


hey, im omw! where u @


omw too, just two mins and ill be there ;)


owo we might get there at the same time


did you just use an emote


yezzir i did, im testing the waters


dam another thing in common


woahh u one of us 0-0


;))


AHAHAH I KNEW IT

UR TOO SALTY TO BE BORING


akhdjsgfyyah how did u possibly know

was it my charming words about mr. kiss’ ancestors


Breccan doesn’t reply, and I assume he’s just walking and not ignoring me. I’m at the field now, and I can’t wipe the grin off my face no matter how hard I try.

“MR. SALTY! OVER HERE!” And that’s Breccan. I turn to the voice on my right and see him sitting cross-legged on the grass. He’s wearing ‘first date attire’ too, only trading in my plaid shirt for an oversize (I think it’s Conan Gray merch- another thing we have in common) hoodie and my converse for chunky sneakers.

“Hey, Mr. Emote. How you doing?” I flop down next to him and lay back, folding my legs over one another.

“Terrible. How are you?”

I chuckle and give him a thumbs up. “Same.” He lays down next to me and gazes at the constellations, which are surprisingly vibrant today.

“You know, my sister used to say that when we die we become stars. That’s why there’s so many of them out there; it’s like a grave for the dead, except prettier and far more meaningful than the cemeteries on earth. They’re infinite up there.” We’re quiet at that, letting it sink in our beloveds are up there in space. “Sorry. That sort of ruined the mood.”

“Nah, don’t worry about it… That actually really helps. Thanks. Really.” We lay in silence, tears almost there but not quite. I stare up at the sky.


I hope you’re doing alright up there, Aid.

I think I might have found someone new.


July 23, 2020 23:52

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11 comments

Zilla Babbitt
00:29 Jul 28, 2020

You asked me to read, so here I am. Cheesy! In a great way. The dialogue is natural, grammar pretty good, and plot holes nonexistent. I would specify gender at the beginning. I thought at first it was a girl writing. And (this might be just me, being poetic) I would spend more time in Kip's grief after Aiden's death. Talk more about the cold, and the loneliness, and the beach. The ending is good, and dialogue is great. Keep it up!

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Nico K
17:09 Jul 28, 2020

Aaah, thank you! I wanted to include some of the grief but I was only limited to 3000 words so I couldn't incorporate it as well :(

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נιмму 🤎
02:59 Jul 31, 2020

heyo here i am i apologize in advanve for any typos i twisted or fractured or idk my right wrist which is my dominet hand and im typig with my left hand oml I agree about the gender thing idk what it was specifically but at first i thought the MC was a girl lol but then i realize along the way that he isnt. A enjoyable read I also really liked this part too: The houses are cold, you know. I know, an odd thing to say, but true. My house is cold. Your house is hold. Our friends’ houses are cold. It’s strange the houses are cold as the Arct...

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Grace Michael
18:22 Jul 30, 2020

Wow! You are definitely a good writer. I felt the emotions you put into the story.

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Nico K
20:29 Jul 30, 2020

Thank you!! :)

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Batool Hussain
14:27 Jul 28, 2020

Heya! I am here as promised. This is such a sweet story, a very unique take on the prompt. I simply love the way you've described everything from the various descriptions to the amazing dialogues. Good job! You've certainly done justice to the prompt. Mind checking out my story and sharing your views on it? Thanks.

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Nico K
17:11 Jul 28, 2020

Thank you so much!! I'll be there in a jiffy :)

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Courtney Stuart
01:33 Jul 28, 2020

this was truly a beautiful and heartbreaking story, but at the same time, you managed to keep it full of hope. i will admit, i almost had tears in my eyes right off the bat as i was reading the letter. it was very emotional and heartfelt, and there's something almost cathartic about writing letters to the dead. i especially liked this part: 'The houses are cold, you know. I know, an odd thing to say, but true. My house is cold. Your house is hold. Our friends’ houses are cold. It’s strange the houses are cold as the Arctic. It’s summer.'...

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Nico K
17:29 Jul 28, 2020

Thank you so much!! Side note- I checked out your account and you're a Haikyuu enthusiast too?? 0-0 stan oikawa for clear skin

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Nico K
17:31 Jul 28, 2020

hold up we have the same music taste too

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Courtney Stuart
17:38 Jul 28, 2020

oh my gosh that’s awesome! 😆

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