Exclusive Prologue of HERE/NOW by D.D. Lorenzo

Sang Run Cemetery, McHenry MD

I’ve never liked cemeteries. There is an illusion of peace and tranquility, but I’ve never felt that when I come here.  The headache I’ve had for the last hour is mixing with the upset stomach, and the result of both don’t resemble serenity at all.
I’ve only been here once. The day after the funeral. My feelings that day had nothing to do with sorrow, far from it. They were thick with anger and banged through my head like a ball in a pinball machine. At least they were emotions I could deal with.

I didn’t talk to Lacey that day. I just sat down on the dirt that covered her. I know that it doesn’t make sense, but I was pissed at her for leaving me. It was the only thing that accompanied my helplessness.  I couldn’t control anything at that time. I liked order and I’d lived to please Lacey.
 Now it was all gone.

Driving here today, memories were messing with my head. It was either that or my brother’s accident. I’d done a lot of driving in the past few weeks. The quiet of the road gave me some time to sort through what I was feeling. Here was another thing I couldn’t control and it was changing my life. I felt bad for Declan – and Aria, for that matter. Once again, I was at a loss. The only thing I could do for my brother was to be there for him. I was good at that. Being there for people. Always being what they needed, when they needed it – and Declan needed me.
I parked the truck and looked at the headstones as I try to find her grave. Cody is right by my side. She misses Lacey too, I can tell. I’m not even sure why I came here. She isn’t here. I know that in my head, but my heart isn’t listening right now. I need to talk to her in person. I tried talking to her at the house…well, let’s just say I didn’t feel like we were connecting. So I came here.
As I walk over the graves I’m careful not to step on them. Cody doesn’t know there’s something weird about walking on somebody’s grave. You feel like you’re disrespecting them somehow. None of that affects her though, she just runs. 
Up ahead I see her lay down. She found Lacey’s grave by instinct. Her chin is touching the bottom of the stone and as I approach she moves over like she’s making room for me. It’s as if she’s telling me that her girl is here, but I know that all too painfully. Lacey’s resting under a tree, next to a tiny lake. She always liked the water. There’s a white gazebo. It’s filled with leaves and looks a little worn, but it’s pretty. She would have liked that too.
I didn’t know what to pick for her so the headstone isn’t anything real fancy. It’s just marble, with some pink veins going through it. 
Kind of like her. 
Beautiful and strong. 

8/30/80 – 4/30/12

The grass is nice since I was last here. It doesn’t get much sun under this tree, but I can still see how it’s grown since the funeral. The only thing I can touch that has any connection to her is the stone that has her name on it, and it’s cold. It reminds me that, no matter the appearance, this is still a place of death.

“Hi, Lace. Betcha didn’t think you’d see me, huh?”

Stooping down I run my fingers over her name, as if that somehow makes her more real.

“I need to tell you something, baby. I don’t think you’re gonna like it, but you probably already know it. Declan’s been hurt. He’s been hurt really bad, and I need to stay with him.”

The dust from the stone is on my hands, but just like her it flies away. I don’t want to look at the carvings anymore, and I hate coming here. It’s too final. No matter what, I have to say what I came here to say.
It’s uncomfortable, leaning my back against the stone. I can stretch out my legs. I’m sitting as close to her as I can get. The only thing that separates us is dirt…and air…and a heartbeat.

As I lean my head back I can see that there’s a squirrel above me on the branch, jumping like he’s an acrobat.  It’s probably the happiest thing I’ll see today, and for a minute I feel myself smile. The rest of me feels dulled. I really need to get this over with…

“Lace, I think I’m going to be gone for awhile. I’ve seen him. He’s in bad shape and really needs help. I know if you were here, you’d want me to be the one to do that – help him. So that’s what I’m doing.” 
The thought of leaving the house hits me and it’s just one of things you wish you didn’t have to do, you know? If I leave I feel like I’m breaking my connection with her. To most people the house looks the same, and the lake hasn’t changed. The only thing that has changed since the day of her death is me. I feel abandoned. I feel resigned.

It just is what it is.

I brought this crumpled piece of paper with me. She was always trying to get me to “step out of my box”. I think she meant something like this. Something that I wouldn’t normally do. It was something I wrote to her right after she died. The words came one night when I wasn’t angry…just lost.

“You’ll like this baby,” I say as I prepare like a first grader to read to the teacher.
“I wrote it for you.”

I pull up my knees and lean my arms on them to make me more comfortable to do something uncomfortable, if you know what I mean. The first thing I see is my awful handwriting. I had to put my glasses on just to read it. 

“You were always better than me with words, Lacey. Just bear with me, and know that it’s for you.”
I don’t know why I’m edgy…maybe it’s reading to the teacher.
“Here goes…”
          If I’d only known…
A last kiss would have been sweeter
Iced tea would’ve been like you liked it
        If I’d only known
An hour before…
I would have made a phone call
Told you a joke so I could kidnap your laugh
        If I’d only known,
If I’d only been aware…
I’d have made love to you longer
I’d have preserved your tears
        If I’d only known
A moment before…
I’d have stood in your place
Murdered your killer
        If I’d only known
In the time after…
Days are fragments
Regrets useless
        If I’d only known
I’ll feel inefficient
Wished I’d done things different
If I’d only known.

Shit! My eyes are tearing up. I don’t cry, and I don’t want anyone to see me like that so I drop my head to my chest. I don’t know why. There’s nobody around. I’m not sure what it is I’m feeling, but it hurts like hell. I just need to leave. 

I don’t know when I’ll be back, Lace. I know you’re not really here, and you don’t need me anymore. I can’t figure out what to do with myself since you left. This thing with Declan, well, I could be there for awhile, and maybe that’s a good thing.”

I kiss the top of the monument to the woman I thought I’d be with forever. I’m not planning on coming back for awhile, if I ever come again. I hate it here. It rips the Band-Aid off the misery of losing her every time I think about it – but it’s all I think about. No matter what I do, no matter how much I tell myself that this is a nice, pretty place for her, it just doesn’t register.

“I love you, sweetheart. I always will.”

How do you say goodbye to the half of your heart that’s in the ground?

It’s time for me and Cody and go. I opened the door and she jumps in, and once I get in something starts to gnaw at me…

…I’ll never move forward if I keep looking back.

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