I didn't lie to Liam; I did have somewhere I needed to go before I went home. But I was happy he hadn't questioned it. He was a chilled-out person, but even he wouldn't understand what I was about to do. No one would have, except maybe my mother.
Tall grass brushed against my calves as I rounded a corner and disappeared out of sight. I entered the less frequently visited part of the graveyard, and no one saw me arrive.
I was grateful; this wasn't a place I wanted to be seen. I hid my face behind my hair and pulled my coat hood over my head, hunching my shoulders as I approached Auntie Olivia's grave. Uncaring for the state of my jeans -- they were already destroyed from sitting under the tree earlier -- I sank to the ground beside her gravestone.
"Hey Olivia. Wait. Mum says you hated it when people called you by your full name." I looked around nervously and lowered my voice. "I'll call you Liv. Mum said you preferred that nickname."
I skimmed my fingers over the dry dirt and sighed. "I don't suppose it's out of order for me to ask if we can have a girly chat? It is my birthday after all."
Unsurprisingly, my request was met with silence. I wondered what the world – what my life– had come to for me to reach this stage of desperation. I was talking to a grave -- no, a gravestone -- with my aunt's name on it. She couldn't hear me.
Death by the flames she ignited.
It was a bit disconcerting in a way, looking at a grave with your name on it. I was lucky that when Mum chose to name me after her sister I had my father's surname to protect me.
Aside from that, it still wasn't the catchiest of plaques. Mum always complained about the cause of death section — the part where they publicly labelled her sister as a murderer. She couldn't bear to look at it, and after a while, she stopped dropping by the cemetery. I didn't blame her; the gardeners didn't bother with this patch of graves, and it was a depressing sight.
Auntie Liv's grave sat amongst Jane Does and the people who had died without a family to visit them. They lay segregated from the rest of the churchyard. Because of this, the weeds that climbed around the stones grew untamed.
Mum used to visit in order to cut the wild plants and scrub the gravestone until the marble was pristine, but it was rare now that she made the trip. Mum didn't know that when she ceased visiting Auntie Olivia's grave, I took her place. It seemed only right for her resting place to be kept tidy.
Liam always asked me why my family never moved away. Unfortunately, I wasn't sure why we had stayed in a town amongst people who were scared of us. But I was ninety-nine percent sure it had something to do with Auntie Liv rotting in the ground here.
I tore my eyes away from the gravestone and looked around.
The graveyard was quiet, but the still air wasn't eerie. People who don't frequent cemeteries claim them to be spooky — like the scene of a horror film or Michael Jackson's Thriller music video. That wasn't how I saw the churchyard. I kind of loved it. A place where people came to pay their respects to the dead could never be scary to me, only peaceful. But I guessed that made me the weird one.
YOU ARE READING
Named after the aunt who burned down her high school, Olivia Peterson never had a chance at a normal life. But when an innocent birthday tradition results in a new set of curtains-and an unforgiving hole scorched into her carpet-Olivia realises that...