There couldn’t have been a sillier idea than staying in a graveyard past midnight in the hopes of having a wish granted. Yet here I was, staring at Mae’s ass as we hid from the security guard. Torch light pierced through the mesh of branches and leaves, but from the whistling and the any-which-way direction the rays moved in, you could tell the man wasn’t seriously searching. I wouldn’t be either if all I had to do was look after corpses. Dead things don’t move.
“My days.” Mae sighed, slumping to sit on her butt after we could no longer hear the tuneless whistling. “That was close. Imagine if we got caught.”
Her chuckling wasn’t amusing, so I pinched her. “If we do, I’m going to remind you of it with every waking moment.”
She rubbed her arm, presumably glaring at me, though I couldn’t tell in the darkness. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you turned into a vengeful ghost. All threats and curses, I swear you were hexing the English teacher yesterday.”
“That’s because he’s silly. I deserved at least a 90 on my report.”
“Sure you did.” Mae got up and pulled me up with brute force, her strength too much for my stick arms to fight. She was that kind of girl, all wrestling muscle, all good humor, all common sense. Her touch, despite her large hands, was gentle as she patted away leaves from my curly hair. “You’ll get your marks next time.”
I sighed and leaned on her, my forehead coming to rest on her solid breasts, not because I wanted to, but because my body was weakening by the day. My pinch-game, though, was still solid. Fueled by book reading, knitting and other hand related hobbies, my fingers had grips of steel. And I used them now to hold on to Mae. “Probably not.”
“Cause I’ll be too shit to write my own report by then, and I might not be ali--” My voice trailed away, not because I was afraid of facing my demise, but because Mae was. She shoved my face into her body, suffocating me so she wouldn’t have to hear the truth. It was annoying. But her arms were big, and I liked being wrapped in them. The night was cold.
We waited on grass, surrounded by tombstones, our tangled legs lost among the occasionally tamed weeds. Soon, soon, Mae reassured, cradling me. I didn’t mind either way. My mind had already wandered to the gymnastics of bathing, brushing, and breakfasting in the morning. Those things were supposed to make me feel better, but they drained me more than anything. Still, I insisted on being independent. I didn't want my parents hovering over me. Sinking deeper into the warmth of the body behind me, I stared up at the sky. Maybe, just maybe, I could make out a star in the moonless sky. I used to do that as a child, when my eyesight was still decent.
Crickets rang their bells, reminding me of a lullaby. Not the exact melody or lyrics, but in a huh-wasn't-there-a-record-store-over-here kind of way. That feeling of knowing without actually knowing. My memory was shit. That was good. I wished the same for Mae, so she could move on with her life when the inevitable came. So she could live life to the fullest, making friends, telling jokes, even if the pinching, selfish part of me didn’t want to be forgotten.
At 3am, Mae’s wristwatch buzzed on her arm, stirring me awake from the haze of oncoming sleep. She carried me on her back, and staring over her shoulder, I realized just how tall she’d gotten. There used to be a time when I was taller than her, when I’d hold a comic above her head and make her jump to get it. Turning my face to rest my cheek on her back, I wondered why she was still friends with me.
We stopped at the largest tree in the graveyard. I slipped from Mae’s hold and came to stand beside her. The trunk of the elderly tree was gnarled in such a way that it tilted and grew to one side. For some reason, I felt safer not having to stand in its shadow. Mae took my hand.
“Close your eyes,” she said with all the conviction of a believer.
“Okay,” I replied with all the hopes of an unbeliever.
They said when you close your eyes, your other senses heighten. For me that meant the growing aches in my joints, the growing itchy feeling where mosquitoes had bitten me, and the growing chills that made my face feel as if they were on fire. Mae squeezed my hand. She believed. She was praying.
Folklore had it that when time was on the cusp of dawn, that was when the spirit realm opened to the earth. It granted wishes. Or at the very least, brought you a step closer to your “destiny.” No, not the destiny of reality, but the fanciful ones everyone liked hearing, like you’ll be a great person one day, or you’ll do great things with your life. Mae squeezed my hand again, telling me to focus. She knew me too well.
So I prayed to the powers that be, the old gods, the ancestors, to Mother Nature, and whatever entity that was willing to be beseeched so early in the morning. I prayed, and wished, and hoped. A small tug of belief clawed at my chest, and I wanted to open my eyes. I didn’t want to fall again. I was happier on the ground, playing in my own muck. But Mae squeezed my hand. Not yet she seemed to say. Give it a chance.
I don’t know how long we stood there, probably looking like another pin-headed couple since we were holding hands, and I was leaning on her. Everyone likes to dream, but I’m a realist, so I squeezed Mae’s hand and let her know I wanted to open my eyes.
“I love you, you know.”
“Yeah, I do.” I opened my eyes and stared at the dirt and my filthy stained sneakers, then at our entwined fingers. “I love you too.” And I was so grateful you did. I was so grateful you held my freezing hand in your warm one. I was so grateful you dragged me to a hecking graveyard even if it amounted to nothing.
She noticed I was crying and started to worry, because that’s the kind of person she is. She asked if I wanted to go home. I shook my head. We were already here. We might as well watch the sun rise.