There was a grave chill in the air. It ran down Bonnie’s dress wrapping itself around everyone of the little, invisible blonde hairs that covered her body. It was easy to forget that the human body was covered, or supposed to be, with little fine hairs to provide sensory context and feels. It didn’t help that women especially were trained to not have body hair, causing most of them to suppress the fact all together. As Bonnie made her way through the graveyard toward the church, there was no way should could forget about her body hairs as they all stood at attention brushing against her clothing. If she hadn’t been witnessing the events her eyes were locked onto, she wouldn’t believe it was happening.
Bonnie tripped over a root working its way between headstones, breaking through the ground. Bonnie hoped that the roots were the only things that every tried to push through the dirt here. Looking around the cemetery Bonnie felt a wave of saddened peace. It was a nice place. Well kept, minus the strong willed forces of nature, filled with signs of people who had once been loved and cared for. Peter Knollwitt, died 50 years ago, buried next to his wife, Samantha, who joined him 5 years later. They had gone into old age together. Bonnie hoped their lives had been filled with love and wonder. They had separate headstones centered in a nice square plot to themselves. Knollwitt carved in stone sat on the open footpath to their final resting places. Bonnie closed her eyes and said a silent prayer for them. Opening her eyes Bonnie followed the root that had grabbed her to a singular headstone. Lonely and by itself. The name Gabrielle Buhrman had been etched into the stone in looped writing. Few other details were offered. Another wave of emotion ran through Bonnie’s body. This time it felt more like unsettling fear.
She continued on her mission, propelling herself forward with morbid fascination and excited horror. She had been thinking too much the past few months. Playing detective, taking self-defense classes, reading self-help books – the works. She had been planning and preparing for this moment in all different scenarios, places, and even time periods. All of them, except the one she found herself in now.
Bonnie saw the commotion up head. She paused for a second, resting on an oversized, low-hanging branch from the tree rooted in Amiella Montgomery’s plot. Looking up at the tree, Bonnie followed as the branches all leaned toward her, as if reaching over the girl’s plot and away from her neighbor’s. Bonnie knew she had to push on, but her knees were weak. Everything that had defined her life for the past five years had come down to this. She knew she could handle it, she just wasn’t sure she could do it at this moment.
Walking around the base of the tree, Bonnie looked at the two graves side by side. Bonnie was shocked. She had figured by the size and stature of the tree that Amiella would have been there for centuries, not a few years. The grave to the left of her’s, the one kept meticulously and void of all life – plant or continuing on – save for a potted plant in front and a picnic basket had been there for almost of the Montgomery girl’s lifetime. There was one name across the double stone, “McGillicutty” the smaller details on the right side implied that Mrs. McGillicutty was laying in rest, waiting for her husband Mr. McGillicutty to join her. Bonnie felt a pang. She would have liked to see the couple. The flowers and the picnic basket gave Bonnie a feeling of love and companionship that compared to nothing she had ever experienced herself. She only hoped that one day she would.
The church bells rang snapping Bonnie back to the present. She had to forge ahead, regardless of whether or not she wanted to. There were very few defining moments in people’s lives, at least ones they were cognizant and aware of, and this was Bonnie’s. Straightening out her dress, and pulling her jean jacket closer toward her body, she turned on her heel and headed once more toward the church. There was a herd of people slowly making their way inside the building. Bonnie recognized only two or three of them from the crowd. She chided her heart for racing. This was no time for human emotion. This was research. This was closure. This was the height of her investigation. It could be the end of her rope. The last of her sanity. The start of a new life.
Bonnie watched planted behind a tree as the herd thinned leaving only a few stragglers and a photographer. He had just finished setting up as a long black limo pulled up in front of the church. Bonnie wanted to kick herself. She had missed the first chance she had had at her moment. The easier shot. The least painful and less obvious road had passed her by while she was reflecting on past lives. Lives that had no bearing on hers. Who cared about the McGillicutty couple or the dead Montgomery girl. They had no impact on her. They were not going to change her life. The Knollwitts and Gabriella Buhrman, they were not going to alter the course of Bonnie’s future. Not like this would have. Not like this will.
A woman engulfed in a large white, fluffy dress crawled from the limo. The photographer firing off shots like the cops in a shootout. Bonnie couldn’t see her clearly enough to see if she looked beautiful. She couldn’t believe she was, no matter how hard she tried to. She could tell the woman was hot. A smaller package, perfectly presentable when she wasn’t surrounded by a flurry of white wedding dress. Bonnie watched as she entered the church. She knew she should feel something, a door closing, a new beginning, she had the facts. But she hadn’t seen the proof. It didn’t matter what the movies said, in this life, in this case, if she couldn’t see it, Bonnie didn’t believe it. Perhaps that was why she was still alone.
Taking a deep breath in, Bonnie pushed herself off the tree she had been leaning on and headed back into the cemetery. There was a bench up ahead. Bonnie toyed with the idea of sitting down for a rest before the ceremony was over. The thought of sitting still, like a duck waiting to be took, cooked, and served for dinner, made her skin crawl. Those hairs again, moving without reason, creating a cascading effect up her arms and across her body. She thought about going inside the church. Her sharp and erratic laughter cut through the sounds of the leaves moving in the wind. All day the sun had played peekaboo behind the gray clouds, just like Bonnie’s laugh punctuated the cemeteries silence. She didn’t want sunshine and she didn’t want to laugh. It was a nervous laugh, a ridiculous show of emotion almost as ridiculous as the idea itself. Go sit inside the church.
Bonnie pulled her long brown hair forward over her shoulder and twisted it into a side bun. Pulling her dress up slightly and fanning in out, Bonnie sat on the bench and studied the tree in front of her. There were more graves a little ways off behind it. Bonnie practiced her own form of meditation. She might not enjoy sitting, but walking around getting lost in the unknown histories of the dead would only distract her from what she had come here to do all along. Bonnie kicked off her canvas sneakers and tucked her feet under her legs.
Her eyes starting at the base of the tree, traced the lines of the bark up as she breathed in until her lungs were past capacity. Holding it she observed the lichen, the bugs, the imperfections on the large trunk until she was almost dizzy. Her eyes continued up the trunk, following the grooves in the bark until the air was depleted. She continued this until her eyes reached the top of the tree. Closing her eyes Bonnie took a moment to reflect on the sounds she heard. The church bells began to ring. The noises of people began to fill her ears. It was time for Bonnie to head back toward the church. Slipping her feet into her sneakers, Bonnie adjusted her jean jacket once more and as quickly and quietly as she could returned to the tree where she had watched the bride arrive.
She herself running through the cemetery. The sky completely grey, birds screeching as she whirled past them. The limbs weaving alongside her between the headstones, their off shoots grabbing at her dress. She knew she had to run faster, push harder. The danger ahead was unknown, but better than what lay behind her. It was taking her forever to get to the church. The fear of missing her moment pumped a nervous energy through every cell. She had to make it. She had to. Dodging a low flying crow, Bonnie stumbled forward, closing her eyes as she braced herself for impact. She inhaled sharply and opened her eyes. Everyone was looking at her. Everyone except the bride and the groom whose backs were still turned toward the door. Bonnie had said she wasn’t going to go into the church. Too many people would be there to witness the cracks of her emotions. If she was going to have gone into the church, she wouldn’t have barged in like a lunatic. The blood drained from Bonnie’s face as the backs of the marrying couple began to turn, twisting their bodies to be facing her. Her in her torn and tattered dress, her dirtied and ragged jean jacket. Her with shame and heat creeping up her neck, sprawling across her face. In an instant she knew. She knew who the groom was, not that she hadn’t known all along, but there standing at the altar was her confirmation. Bonnie was running again, this time toward the altar, the anger coursing through her legs. No one moved. Not a sound could be heard. All Bonnie could hear was the blood rushing through her body, the wind sailing past her ears. As Bonnie’s tall yet slender frame collided with Jimmy’s body a loud chime rang through the air. Bonnie blinked several times until her eyes were opened.
She was looking at the tree. The tall, thick tree with bugs and lichen. The tree from the cemetery. Bonnie’s palms were clammy. A chill ravaged her body as the wind picked up. She had been dreaming. Somehow she had fallen asleep. The bells. A bell rather, had woken her up. She unfolded her legs desperately jamming them, numb and unfeeling, into her sneakers. She stood up, steadied herself, and made her way back to the church. She hoped she wasn’t too late. She hoped her dream had been only that.
The same herds of people that had entered the church were now gathered outside. In two clusters, they formed a clear path for the bride and groom to exit the church and enter into their limo. Bonnie tried to steady her breath. The doors to the church opened. The bridal party had begun making their way outside. Bonnie reached into her jean jacket and held onto a crumpled piece of paper. Running the worn paper between her fingers, Bonnie couldn’t believe it was only three months old. The soft paper between her fingers felt almost like a comfortable flannel shirt or blanket. It felt like a book from her great-grandmother’s childhood. It did not feel like a three month old letter. Soon Bonnie’s breaths and the strokes of the paper were unified. A stroke up, a breath in. A stroke down, a break out. Bonnie loved breathing. She loved matching her calming breaths to the things that made her calm around her. It was her own way of tying herself to this world for a little longer.
Bonnie froze as the doors to the church opened once more and the crowd quieted down. Her heart rate spiked. If it were beating any faster, Bonnie was sure it would be still. Something like of a hummingbird’s wings. The bride came through the door a half step ahead of the groom. Of Jimmy. Bonnie watched as he came into full view. Standing there tall and happy, holding the hand of his bride, his wife. How handsome he looked. How in love. Bonnie felt her head go light, as if she had only been breathing in and hadn’t exhaled once. She could feel his joy spreading throughout her body, followed by a numbness. Whatever she had thought coming here would bring, hadn’t happened. The wind blew, taking Bonnie’s dress with it, her hair wrapping around her face.
The crowd cheered as the bride and groom made their way down the stairs. Selfies and group shots were taken. The couple in front of the limo, getting into the limo – shot after shot. Jimmy had opened the door for his bride, kissing her as she got in, making both a lovely gesture and a lasting photo. Walking around to the other side of the car a paper blew into his leg catching his eye. Jimmy bent down and picked it up. His breath caught in his throat. Looking around the car, down the block, and finally across the street, he saw a blur of light pink and blue in the trees of the cemetery. Jimmy blinked for a second. She was gone. Pocketing the letter, Jimmy paused and smiled for a moment. He thought of Bonnie, he hoped she was somewhere surrounded by books with a perpetual winter and stoked fireplace. A place where the coffee and hot chocolate were unlimited, and where every day started with a good breakfast. Jimmy opened the door and slid into the limo. Closing the door behind him, Jimmy leaned forward kissing his wife on her check before leaning over her shoulders to wave to their friends and family. They were headed to the hotel for their reception. Their married lives were going to start with a hangover and continental breakfast. A beautiful woman once told him that any day you woke up was a good day, but any morning that you woke up to breakfast was a great day.
Stories from the Headstones:
Sometimes characters, or people can’t be left in the past. Interested in some of the characters from Bonnie’s Cemetery, check out their stories below: