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Laurels
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Cause what you see isn't always the truth
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July 18, 2024, late afternoon

Ella and Kelly walked close together as they made their way through the cemetery. Ella kept the bouquet close to her side. It was a small bouquet she picked up at a grocery store before she left Las Vegas. She would have liked to get something bigger, which would have been something she was sure Noah would have liked, but she didn't really have money to get anything extravagant. But considering it was her first visit in nearly a decade, she was sure he'd take anything she brought.

Ella looked at Kelly as they walked past the headstones. Kelly looked very quiet and solemn, her glassy eyes focused on the path before her. Ella didn't know what kind of small talk you make in a graveyard. She could ask how often Kelly comes by or how she was feeling now. None of it felt right, so Ella soaked in the atmosphere. The two women made their way trough the rows quietly, passing a few other mourners along the way.

They finally reached the plot where the MacIntyres had been buried. Noah’s was still just a small plaque on the ground, although it looked like it hadn't been cleaned in a while. Ella noticed grass was starting to grow around the edges. She thought that maybe the groundskeeper hadn't been over to this side in a while.

Ella also noticed a new headstone. “Arnold James MacIntyre” it read. Ella looked over the dates. “September 15, 1943 - April 4, 2021.” She did the mental math and realized he was short of turning 78. She then looked down beneath Arnold’s dates. There was more writing on the headstone. “Edith Marie MacIntyre”. There were no dates for her name. Ella figured they planned to put Edie’s body here when her time came and would fill in the dates then.

“Sorry, I should have brought some flowers for your father,” Ella said to Kelly.

“Don't worry. You didn't know him for long, so I wouldn't expect you to.”

Ella pursed her lips a bit. She then looked down at the bouquet, a mix of yellow and purple flowers. She reached in and pulled out one daffodil. She laid it on Arnold’s grave.

“I didn't know him well,” she explained to Kelly, “and I really only remember him during unpleasant times, but he was always nice to me, and I know he meant a lot for you and your mom and Noah.”

Kelly silently looked at Ella and smiled weakly. Ella then turned her attention to Noah’s grave. She sighed, then spoke.

“Hey, bro,” she said. “Sorry, I know I never called you 'bro' when you when you were alive, but I kind of changed a lot since you last saw me, so please bear with that.”

Ella brushed some hair back.

“I'm sorry I haven't come by in years,” she said. “Things have been rough since you died. Mom and Dad tried to make their marriage work, but it didn't. They split when I started high school. It was amicable, and I didn't really cry over it. I knew it was coming, they knew it was coming. I think they were just waiting for the right time for my sake.

“But don't worry, it's fine now. They've been on good terms since then, and Mom's still very much the same. I get to stay with Dad every other weekend, and he's been really good to me. I think he may have also decided to cut back on a lot of his bad behavior. He doesn't drink or smoke, and he hasn't dated since he and Mom split. So, yeah, looks like we won't get any more siblings like we feared, ha ha.”

“You did?” Kelly asked.

Ella turned to Kelly. “Oh, it was something dumb. I thought my mom was pregnant when I was five and had a freak out because I didn't want a little brother or sister, so Noah had to promise that he would only pay attention to me if that happened.”

“Why didn't you want a sibling?”

“I was five and an only child. I reveled in that attention.”

Ella cleared her throat and turned back to the grave.

“Anyways, I'm starting college soon. UNLV. I know you wanted to go there, and I'm really excited. I'm doing theater though. I want to be a comedian like you, so I want to work on my skills so I can make it in Hollywood. I've got a good start with my web show. Yeah, if you can watch it in Heaven, give it a look. I had Sharon Grievances on recently. I think you worked with her drag mom, Erin Grievances, in the past, so that may interest you.”

Elle chuckled, but her smile soon faded away.

“Um, Noah, I'm really sorry about what happened to you. You didn't deserve it, and no one from your school did. I know you didn't get to do the things you wanted and probably died sad and angry and scared, but I want you to know that we're all doing fine. Obviously, not entirely, but we’re making it through each day.

“I just hope you and your grandpa are getting along well, going fishing or whatever you guys did. I know I'll see you someday. I just hope you get your condo in Heaven ready for me, because when I get up there, I'll be coming in style and I swear, if you decorated that condo with pastels or, so help me, tartan, I'll let you have a piece of my mind.”

Ella bit her lip and swallowed. A tear was starting to fall down her face.

“Anyways, I'm going to be fine. You mom will be fine. So don't worry about us if you are looking down from that supposed condo in the sky,” Ella continued. “Just rest knowing we’re going to make the most of what’s left of our time here.”

Ella knelt down and placed the bouquet on the grave. She wiped her eyes and sniffled. She turned to Kelly.

“Do you have anything to say?” She asked.

Kelly shook her head. She wasn't crying, but her head hung low.

“You said it all,” Kelly replied. “I wasn't much for speeches and motivational words. Noah knows that, so we should be fine.”

Ella put a hand on Kelly’s shoulder. She gave Noah’s Mom a weak smile.

“Okay, we should go,” Ella said. “Goodbye, Noah.”

Ella waved at the grave and began to walk away. Kelly waited for a few more seconds, then followed after Ella. The two quietly walked through the graveyard to the parking lot. It was a quiet drive back to Kelly’s house. Neither woman said anything, both keeping their gaze elsewhere.

When they arrived back at the house, Ella pulled into the driveway. She remained seated as Kelly unbuckled her seat belt.

“Would you like something to eat before you go?” Kelly asked.

“No, I really should get going,” Ella said. “It'll be dark soon, and my mom will probably feel better knowing I'm on the road.”

“Okay, just be safe,” Kelly said. “Thank you for coming.”

“Thank you for inviting me over,” Ella said. “I'm glad I got to come.”

Kelly smiled, then stepped out of the car. As she began to walk up the path to the house, Ella shook her head. She then reached into her center console and pulled out a scrap of paper and a pen. The paper was an old grocery list, so Ella turned it over and began to write. Before Kelly entered the house, Ella called out to her.

“Hey, wait a second!” she said.

Kelly turned as Ella made her way out of the car. She walked up and handed Kelly the paper.

“Here,” Ella said. “It's my phone and email. If you need to talk to anyone, for whatever, send me a message.”

Kelly quietly took the paper and stared at Ella. For a moment, she saw a bit of Noah in the girl. Maybe it was Christian’s genes peaking out, but Kelly felt comfortable.

“Sure,” Kelly said. “I'll be sure to.”

Ella smiled.

“Great. Well, I better go. Um…”

Ella looked back, then at Kelly. She moved forward and then hugged the older woman.

“Please do call,” Ella whispered.

Kelly froze for a second, then hugged back.

“I will,” Kelly said.

The two broke the hug, and Ella walked back to her car. She pulled out of the driveway and down the street. Kelly remained at the door, watching as Ella’s car disappeared. Once the car was gone, she remained in place for a few seconds. When she was ready, she walked inside.
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