9. “It looks like it’s just you and me.”

“Whoa, not who I expected to see here,” I said aloud in order to announce my presence. Pagan and Miranda hadn’t realized they weren’t alone in the cemetery. But then Pagan seemed to have her hands full with a very drunk Miranda. “And drinking?” I shifted my gaze from the bottle of wine to Pagan.

“She wanted to come here. I figured she needed some courage to face it.” The annoyed snip in her voice I’d recently grown accustomed to was gone. She sounded… tired.

Being the cause of all the pain I’d watched her experience since Wyatt’s death weighed heavy on my chest. Now, she looked like she was at her breaking point. “I can understand that,” I replied.

Miranda scooted over and patted the spot beside her on the bench in front of Wyatt’s grave. “Come sit,” she instructed me with a slur.

I took the offered seat. “Here, it’s good,” Miranda shoved the bottle into my chest. Yeah, she’d had way too much.

“Don’t mind if I do,” If I drank some maybe it would help me deal with what I was about to do. Time was running out. If I didn’t get Pagan’s attention tonight it was very possible my father would take another soul—someone else close to her. I couldn’t let that happen.

“Sorry I ran off today and we juslefyouthere.” Miranda apologized for the episode I’d witnessed at the mall earlier. Pagan didn’t respond. Instead she reached across Miranda and took the wine bottle out of my hand.

“You’ve reached your limit Miranda. Any more and you’ll hate me tomorrow.” Pagan said as she shoved the cork back in the bottle and set it down on the ground beside her feet.

“I was worried about you but I saw Pagan caught up with you,” I responded to Miranda.

“Yesss. Don know whatid do withouther,” Miranda slurred.

“She’s pretty special,” I agreed leaning forward to meet Pagan’s gaze.

Miranda nodded then started to lay her head on Pagan’s shoulder but missed and fell forward. I reached down and pulled her back up as Pagan did the same thing. Our hands brushed and I felt a warm jolt from the brief contact. Begging her wouldn’t work but at times like this I often wondered if it just might sway her vote a little bit. Maybe.

“Okay, I believe it’s time for us to go home,” Pagan announced standing up. “Come on, you. Let’s get you to bed.”

“I’ll help you get her to the car,” I offered.

Miranda fell forward on her knees and cackled with laughter.

“Yeah, okay thanks,” Pagan muttered.

I was more than positive that Pagan’s sudden willingness to accept my help had to do with the fact Miranda was more than a little out-of-control. I reached down and picked her up under the arms. Once I had her standing up, I wrapped my arm around her waist as she began swaying and giggling. “Easy girl,” I tried to sound encouraging. It was my father’s fault she was like this after all.

“Easygirl,” Miranda mimicked laughing. “Bye Wyatt loveyousomuch,” she called out as I led her back down the path toward the parking lot. The souls wandering the cemetery could sense me. They knew I saw them just as they knew Pagan did too. I dodged the ones standing in our way.

“Loveyousomuch,” Miranda began to chant. As soon as I reached Pagan’s car I opened the passenger side door and eased Miranda into the seat. Then without asking I opened the backdoor and climbed inside. I didn’t want to give Pagan a chance to turn me down. Tonight we had to talk. She needed to know. If I didn’t explain things to her another soul she loved would be lost to her forever. I couldn’t let that happen.

Pagan opened the opposite rear door and stuck her head in looking at me like I had lost my mind. “What do you think you’re doing?” she hissed.

“I’m making sure you two get home safely,” I replied with a smile I hoped was reassuring.

“Oh no, you’re not. Get out!” She came close to screaming.

“Donbesomean Pagan,” Miranda chimed in from the front.

I could see the uncertainty in Pagan’s frown. Finally, she rolled her eyes and slammed the door. Then she opened the driver side door and climbed in. I heard a mumbled, “Whatever,” before she slammed her door. I guess that one was for good measure. In case I missed the fact she’d slammed the first door.

“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.” Pagan told Miranda in a gentle scolding voice.

Miranda managed to wakeup some from the droopy eyed girl who’d been falling asleep.

“That’s better, keep those eyes open,” Pagan encouraged rolling down the windows. “The cold air should help and if you start to feel sick please lean out that window and puke.”

“Whose idea was it to get her wasted?” I asked already knowing the answer.

“Paaagaaans, shesosmart.” Miranda replied with a giggle when it was obvious Pagan was ignoring me.

“Canwedoit agaaain to..tomorrow?” Miranda asked.

“No. Trust me, the headache you’re going to have in the morning will agree with me. That was a one-time deal.” Pagan replied.

When Pagan pulled into Miranda’s drive, I quickly opened my door and started getting Miranda out of the car. She wasn’t going to make it up that walkway and stairs without my help.

Once we reached the door, Miranda’s mother opened it and Pagan stepped forward and handed her mother the almost 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—”

Miranda’s mother held up her hand to stop any further explanation. “No, it’s okay. I understand. That’s not any worse than the pills I’ve been giving her.” I could see the worry and fear in her mother’s eyes and I was reminded once again of how important it was that Pagan knew. Everything. Tonight.

“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.” Miranda’s mother informed her.

After she closed the door I turned to look at Pagan, “Looks like it’s just you and me.”

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