She was just startled. Yeah, that was it. Startled. He hadn’t scared her at all.
I’m an idiot, Jamie thought to herself as she huddled in the small shelter made by the wings of a kind-faced angel statue. Why she hadn’t left completely, she wasn’t sure, except that there was really nowhere else to go. There was nowhere else where she wouldn’t feel lonely, where she’d feel safe. This was her haven.
Which was what made her a complete idiot. The rational part of her mind told her that, even if she went home, no one would be there until later tonight, but she was not very good at listening to reason. Reason had died years ago, drowning in bloody bath water.
“No, no, no. I’m not doing that,” she mumbled aloud, refusing to slip into the memory again. The pain was too much for her usually, but now would be even worse. Now it would be unbearable. She’d go mad from it.
Forcing herself to her feet, Jamie Cunning began to wander again, the reassuring silence blessedly comforting her aching mind into stillness. Here, she was among friends, people who would never harm her. Here, she could be herself, fully and truly, without fear. That was its own kind of salvation.
Arriving at the far corner of the lot, where the oldest of the headstones had already worn smooth, unrecognizable and nameless, Jamie moved more slowly, stopping to greet each ancient plot and place a little flower on it. It was her way of saying hello to the dead. It wasn’t that she believed in ghosts, or in souls, or in any existence after life. It was merely that she thought that, if there was such a life, it would certainly be lonely.
Then again, maybe lonely was better.
When you were alone, you could think. You could do what you wanted, without anyone to stop you. I could wear short sleeves, and not have to worry about whether or not my bracelets hide the scars, Jamie thought with delicious, wicked joy. Those scars were her defining trait, the one thing everyone’s eyes were drawn to, if she didn’t hide them carefully.
When you were alone, no one could hurt you.
“And I am alone so very much,” the girl whispered to the nearest stone. It was one of her favorites, worn smooth by weather and time, but still somehow dignified. Age, she thought, had made it more beautiful, the stone smooth and almost polished, stained by water and dirt.
Well, not really alone. There were visitors, although not often. Most, like the old gatekeeper, kept their distance, leaving her in her private world, but some came closer, dared to speak to and, in rare cases, touch her before she could run. She hated them.
They thought the world was theirs, acted like they owned everything, like there was just no place in their world for a fourteen-year-old girl who couldn’t seem to fit the mold. The arrogant fools actually felt entitled to their places, rather than realizing what a lucky gift their easy lives were. She knew better.
The boy was like them. He drove her off, not even letting her speak, explain herself. It was as if the world was his, and she was simply an ant he was deigning to notice long enough to crush. It didn’t matter to Jamie if he was older, stronger, and, in general, better than she. She was still a person, and he had had no right to treat her that way.
Not that she’d ever broach the matter. Not with him, and not with the others who came either.
The gatekeeper, though, she liked. He was a kindly old man, whose only thought was for the dead. He paid her little mind, simply hobbling on by whenever they passed, as if she really were a ghost. Jamie was unsure whether he actually believed the story he told visitors, or if she was simply an attraction, a reason to visit – and donate to – Ravensgate Memorial more often.
Jamie knew she wouldn’t have minded being a real ghost. She’d never seen one, but she thought they must be like the cemetery: old and silent and elegant. Yes, she might have been happier dead, so that she could spend eternity in this cemetery. In this calm, peaceful stillness.
Like the stillness before a storm.