Graveyards at night are by far creepier than graveyards during the day. I tried desperately to ignore the souls hovering over graves I assumed were theirs. But it was really hard not to jump every time we walked past a grave and a soul floated in front of us. I wanted to grab Miranda’s arm and stop her so the soul could wander past but that would only confuse her and alert the soul s that I could see them. So, instead I closed my eyes tightly and tried to pretend we weren’t walking through souls. Oh, how I hated Leif’s father for this stupid curse.
“It’s chilly out here,” Miranda said breaking the silence. I glanced over at her as she took another sip of the bottle of wine in her hands. I’d found a dessert wine that I knew she’d be able to handle. Coming to a graveyard at night was not my idea of a good time but I sure hadn’t wanted to get out here and have her completely break down on me or, God forbid, go running into the night the way she’d run at the mall. I wasn’t up for an evening jaunt down a soul-thick path.
“Yep,” I agreed, pulling my beige leather jacket together and buttoning it up.
“You want some? It’ll warm you up,” Miranda offered me the bottle of wine.
I glanced down at it in her hand. The pale color and fruity smell was tempting. I could use something to ease my discomfort. But I was driving so I shook my head, “No, I’m good.”
Miranda waited one more second before pulling the wine back to her chest, “Okay, if you’re sure. But it really does help.”
I wasn’t going to argue with her. I was sure it was helping her tons. Three weeks ago I couldn’t have paid her to walk through a graveyard at night. Heck, I couldn’t have paid her to pull in the parking lot of a graveyard at night. Having someone she loved buried here changed things.
“There it is,” she whispered, finally stopping.
My gaze followed hers. Wyatt’s grave was still fresh and covered in flowers. A few were starting to wilt but for the most part the flowers were all still as lovely as they had been at his funeral.
“Let’s go sit on the bench,” Miranda said almost reverently.
Wyatt’s parents had placed a bench at the foot of his grave. I’d wondered about that when I’d seen it the day of the funeral. I thought maybe it would just be there for the funeral but when we’d left I’d glanced back and it was still there.
“There’s the one I sent,” Miranda’s voice broke as we sat down and stared at the flower arrangements in front of us. The large round basketball that lay on the head of his grave was made of orange carnations and black angel’s breath. Miranda had been hysterically insistent that the florist make an arrangement that looked like a basketball. They’d come through for her. It was beautiful. Wyatt would have loved it.
“It turned out really good,” I assured her.
“Yeah, it did. I wish he could see it.”
I wasn’t sure how to respond to that. I didn’t want her to start talking about his soul hanging around and seeing it before it passed on. Lying wasn’t my strong suit and I had a hard time agreeing with her when I knew better.
“Remember that time we brought Wyatt’s four-wheeler down here from that path in the woods behind his house?” Miranda’s voice had taken on an amused sound.
“Yes.” We’d been chased by the cops for jumping graves on his four-wheeler. Both Wyatt and I had taken the blame and left Miranda out of it. Wyatt had always been protective of her even back then and, in all honesty, she’d begged us not to do it. We’d listened to her the whole way over here about how wrong this was and how the ghost of the people’s graves we jumped would haunt us. I’d, of course, known she was wrong and it didn’t bother me at all.
“My mom still has no idea that happened. I didn’t even tell her about you two getting in trouble because I was afraid she’d refuse to let me hang out with delinquents.”
I laughed and a small smile touched Miranda’s mouth. It was so good to see those. They were very few and far between.
Miranda took another swig of the wine. Her sips had progressed to swigs. The glassy look in her eye told me it was having the desired effect. I felt a little guilty for getting the wine for her but she needed to be relaxed to face this. She was reminiscing. That was good. It was worth a bottle of wine and underage drinking.
“Whoa, not who I expected to see here,” Leif said as he walked up beside us. Miranda let out a small, then a giggle followed after she realized it was Leif and not a zombie who’d joined us.
“And drinking?” Leif’s eyes lifted from Miranda’s bottle of wine to meet my glare.
“She wanted to come here. I figured she needed some courage to face it.”
Leif nodded and a small frown puckered his forehead. I wondered if he felt sorry for her loss or if he even missed Wyatt at all.
“I can understand that,” he replied.
Miranda scooted closer to me and patted the spot beside her. “Come sit,” she ordered Leif.
I wanted to tell her he was the most dangerous thing out here but I kept my mouth shut. At least on the other side of Miranda I didn’t have to see his face.
“Here, it’s good,” Miranda replied shoving the bottle toward Leif clumsily. Okay, so maybe she’d had enough to drink.
“Don’t mind if I do,” he replied and I could see him tilt the bottle up from the corner of my eye.
“Sorry I ran off today and we juslefyouthere.” Miranda was starting to slur. Yep she’d had enough. I reached across her and took the bottle from Leif.
“You’ve reached your limit Miranda. Any more and you’ll hate me tomorrow,” I explained pulling the cork out of my pocket and stopping it up before setting it down by my feet.
“I was worried about you but I saw Pagan caught up with you,” Leif replied patting her knee.
“Yesss. Don know whatid do withouther,” Miranda slurred.
Leif leaned forward and I could feel his eyes on me. “She’s pretty special,” he agreed.
Miranda nodded then started to lay her head on my shoulder but missed and fell forward. Both Leif and I grabbed her before she could topple face first into the fresh dirt and flowers.
Giggling, Miranda swayed back and forth as we sat her back up. She’d had way more than enough. I doubted she’d remember much in the morning. Hopefully, she wouldn’t wake up hugging the toilet.
“Okay, I believe it’s time for us to go home,” I said reaching down to grab the bottle of wine and then stand up. “Come on, you. Let’s get you to bed.”
“I’ll help you get her to the car,” Leif offered and I started to tell him no when Miranda fell forward on her knees and cackled with laughter.
“Yeah, okay thanks,” I muttered. It would be really helpful if Gee hadn’t disappeared completely on me today. But I was on my own and Leif was the only ‘being’ stalking me at the moment. Leif looked entirely too pleased with this turn of events and I had to squelch the urge to tell him I could do this on my own. Because I was more than positive we’d end up sleeping in the graveyard if it was up to me to get her to the car.
Leif reached down and picked her up under her arms. She swayed on her feet and Leif wrapped his arm around her waist. “Easy girl,” he coached.
“Easygirl,” Miranda mimicked laughing like he’d said the funniest thing she’d ever heard. Note to self, Miranda was a lightweight. In the future one glass of wine was her limit.
“Bye Wyatt loveyousomuch,” Miranda called out as Leif led her down the pathway we’d followed from the parking lot to get here. Like me Leif could see the souls and he dodged them and let them drift past so I didn’t have to walk through any on the way out of here.
“Loveyousomuch,” Miranda began to chant forlornly. The sad drunk was starting to emerge. I hadn’t thought about that possibility.
Leif opened the passenger side door and eased Miranda into the seat instead of letting her fall inside. Which I had to admit was very thoughtful. Especially for a voodoo spirit.
I walked around to the driver’s side when I heard the passenger side door close and the rear door open. Snapping my head around I watched as Leif got into the backseat. No way was that happening.
I stopped and opened the rear door on my side and stuck my head in. “What do you think you’re doing?” I hissed.
“I’m making sure you two get home safely,” he replied with a polite smile on his face.
“Oh no, you’re not. Get out!”
“Donbesomean Pagan,” Miranda chimed in from the front.
Rolling my eyes I let out an exasperated sigh. Fine, if he wanted to be prince charming he could. I wasn’t dealing with him right now. I needed to get Miranda home before she passed out, or worse, threw up in the car.
“Whatever,” I grumbled and slammed the door for extra effect.
I managed to crank the car and pull out onto the road without once glancing back or acknowledging Leif’s presence. I intended to ignore him the entire way home. Maybe he’d get miffed and disappear. God knows Miranda wouldn’t realize it. I shifted my eyes over to her and saw her eyelids getting heavy.
“Stay awake. I won’t be able to get you inside if you’re passed out. We don’t want your Daddy coming out and finding you like this.”
That perked her up. If her Dad found her drunk he’d be furious. Well, maybe. Her parents had been so worried about her he might understand. Or they might admit her to a mental house. She really didn’t want to go to one of those.
“That’s better, keep those eyes open,” I rolled down her window. “The cold air should help and if you start to feel sick please lean out that window and puke.”
Miranda giggled and laid her head back against the headrest letting the cold breeze blow her hair across her face.
“Whose idea was it to get her wasted?” Leif asked from the backseat.
I was going to stick with my plan to ignore him so I reached for the volume to turn up when Miranda drawled, “Paaagaaans, shesosmart.”
Leif chuckled from the backseat. I had to agree with him. I was questioning my intelligence at the moment too.
“Canwedoit agaaain to..tomorrow?” Miranda asked.
I shook my head, “No. Trust me, the headache you’re going to have in the morning will agree with me. That was a one-time deal.”
Miranda made a “pfft” sound that caused spit to spray from her mouth.
I pulled into Miranda’s driveway fully expecting Leif to just evaporate when he opened the car door like a human and then proceeded to get Miranda out of the car. Great, Prince Charming was going to continue with his polite behavior. I followed them to the door and Miranda’s mother met us there.
I stepped forward and handed her the half empty bottle of wine.
“She wanted to go see Wyatt’s grave tonight. I took this because I felt like she would need it. I’m sorry--”
Her mother held up her hand to stop me. “No, it’s okay. I understand. That’s not any worse than the pills I’ve been giving her.” Her mother’s tone was so defeated. I’d heard that tone before with my mother. I hoped they weren’t going to do with Miranda what my mom had done with me.
“Just go on home tonight Pagan. Your mom’s already called me looking for you. Her plane arrived an hour ago. I’ll look after Miranda tonight.”
I nodded and stepped back as Miranda went into her mother’s arms and she closed the door.
“Looks like it’s just you and me,” Leif said, entirely too pleased.