By Dana Quell

It could have been something out of a fairy tale, with its background of chickadee chirps and morningbird symphonies, with the warm summer breeze that lifted the scent of freshly clipped grass over the small plot of land, with the sound of the nearby ocean waves caressing the rock-free sand below. It could have been something out of a strange humanistic movie, with its rows and rows of neat gray slabs marking the lives and deaths of the inhabitants, with the solitary woman standing, hands clasped in front of her, head bowed slightly, solemnly in front of one of the plot's smallest stones in the early morning darkness.

She was not there to lament the loss of some life she might have known; in fact, the stone she stood in front of now was some random stone, picked for its nearness to the edge of the plot. She was waiting, patiently, for him to arrive. She had already been waiting for over an hour, and, though her feet were throbbing with the ache of anticipation, she was not annoyed. The waiting was a necessity, a frustrating one no doubt, but still something that was needed. He had to be careful, had to make sure that he was safe here, and she understood that. She was willing to play the game, as long as it meant she was able to see him.

And so it was ten minutes to sunrise when another individual crept up to the edge where she waited, unmoving. He had been watching her for nearly twenty minutes from within one of the tall hawthorne trees that stood nearby, next to the tall stone wall that marked the boundaries of the graveyard.

He placed a single daisy upon the stone she stood in front of, a silent offering to the soul buried underneath, some meagre symbol of gratitude for the meeting place, and straightened to stand a full head taller than her. "You weren't followed?" he asked, his eyes dark as the brightening sky, staring at the same colour in the tablet.

She shook her head, "No." He nodded his reply, and she took it as a sign to continue. "They all… they're all wondering where you are. What you're doing."

"Are they?" He glanced up, his eyes meeting hers in a careless glimpse of indifference.

"They are. I know you don't care about them, but they -"

His words were bitter when he interrupted, sharp blades of sarcasm. "What do you know? Huh? Just what exactly is it that you know?"

The darkness that surrounded the cemetery lightened a shade, and the crickets slowly began to finish their opus and drowsily nod off into sleep. The soft words "I know I care deeply about you," drifted through the humid air and forced his stare back towards the stone, his eyes to read the careful inscription of The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, immediately regretful.

"I'm sorry. I just… I'm a little stressed out. This is harder than I thought it would be. I didn't think I'd miss my old life so much. I didn't think I'd miss you so much…"

It wasn't much of an apology, but she would accept it, knowing it was the most she'd get out of him this morning. She nodded. "I know." She turned her gaze to the daisy he placed on top of the headstone, stunning and stark contrast of white against gray on a canvas of monochrome darkness, and idly wondered where he could have gotten it from. "Look, I didn't come here to talk you out of your decision. It was yours and yours alone, and I know I can't change your mind. I don't want to change your mind."

"Then… what did you come here for?"

"I want to come with you."

He considered her words thoughtfully, not dismissing them easily as impulsive emotions, because he knew how much it took for her to say them, how much consideration it would have taken her to arrive at them. It had taken the same from him. "Are you sure?"

She nodded. "My bags are in my car. I've got $1,000 cash I've been saving, plus some food and other neccessities. And I'm ready for it, for this change. I'm ready to go."

"Ok," he whispers, taking a step closer to her. "But only because you're sure. " He leaned over, placing a callused hand gently on her shoulder, and their eyes locked, an invisible connection of gray and azure between them. But the sound of a car revving up its engines behind the stone wall broke the moment, already a memory, as he glanced away in paranoia.

He wet his lips with a muscular pink tongue, trying to recover his calm demeanor. "Um… well, we can't take the car with us. They'll look for that, if they decide to look for us at all. You'll have to dump it. Leave it at the bus station, then walk the couple of blocks to the train station. I'll meet you there around nine or so."

She nodded, then moved closer and wrapped her arms around his waist, the first of many embraces to come. Surprised, he hesitated at first, but moved quickly to return the gesture. Then he pulled away, and, without looking behind at her, walked back to the hawthorne tree and the stone wall from where he came, disappeared in the already lifting fog.

She stared at the place where he was for a few seconds, then turned her attention towards the grave she stood in front of. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. She has been given the most incredible gift - the gift to start anew. And this time, she will be making the decisions. It will be her life.

Just after sunrise near the edge of a small cemetery, a solitary woman reflected for a moment on the morningbird's songs in front of a small grave before she too left. She had not been there to lament the loss of some life she might have known; in fact, the stone she had stood in front of for some time was some random stone, chosen for convenience, used, and soon to be abandoned. Or maybe she had been there to lament the loss of some life she might have known, but if so, for hers and hers alone.