From Follow You Down
Everything in the box belonged to a dead boy.
“I know it’s been,” Ben’s mother swallowed. “It’s almost been a year, Evie. I couldn’t even touch his room until now.”
Almost a year, and I didn’t have the words to explain what happened the night my boyfriend died. I couldn’t tell anyone about the fear I’d seen in his eyes as he died. No one wanted to know Ben wasn’t at peace. Although the truth broke my heart and gave me nightmares, I kept it to myself. I knew what I had to do.
That sad woman looked at me with longing in her soft brown eyes and words lost themselves in the distance between us. I wanted to tell her Ben had her eyes, but I looked away when she shoved the box in my hands.
“You look beautiful, Evie,” She said as she turned and walked away. “Ben would have though so, too.”
I took the box upstairs and dumped its contents onto my bed. Photos, the fedora I’d bought for Ben as a joke, along with his sketchbook, landed among my crumpled sheets. I chewed on a strand of hair, debating. It wasn’t a good time to take a trip down memory lane. But since Ben died, I’d become a pro at making bad decisions. I hung the hat from a bedpost, and put the snapshots on my dresser. Pictures of us were the worst. He looked happy, I looked happy. I wanted to yell at the couple, “Stop smiling! Nothing lasts forever. Nothing.”
The sketchbook mystified me. I could find no sense of him. I had pictured him with sunshine on his hair and laughing. I studied the harsh lines smeared across the pages. A dark man in a tall hat appeared again and again. The man towered over scenes devoid of light or life. One terrible scene depicted the man imprisoning an angel unlike any I’d ever seen. I knew her face from my dreams since Ben’s accident. Goosebumps rose on my arms and I turned the page before I looked too hard, thought too much.
One message appeared throughout the book: the dead have rules.
I wondered what compelled his mother to give the book to me that night of all nights. I wanted to burn it before my memories distorted and I lost sight of the boy I loved. One page blazed with color and with the Ben I knew.
It was a picture of me, wearing the same frilly prom dress I wore now. He’d included the purple Chucks on my feet. In the sketch, I wore my usual crooked smile. But my favorite part were the huge, vibrant fairy wings he gave me. Ben had made me beautiful.
I cried. I couldn’t back out now. I promised Ben I would go to the senior prom. We were supposed to go together. He bought me the dress, and we took the country roads home.
It was my fault. I liked the meandering roads and easy pace. I didn’t understand what was happening as he died. I held his bloody head in my lap. The driver who had hit us stumbled out of his car, smelling like cheap whiskey and called 911. Then the driver was gone, and I had little recollection of his presence. I was in shock, and I’ve been in shock since.
I’m haunted by memories and promises to keep.