*Nine months later*
After losing both Gardenia and Tulip in such a short period of time, the cemetery was no longer a place of comfort. I was no longer fascinated with death, I was more angry than anything. It was amazing what a 360 I made in the last nine months. I stopped spirit hunting, in fear I was hunting people I loved. My new job was part-time at a bookstore, and it wasn’t as awful as I thought it would be.
Maple and I came to visit the cemetery every so often. He and I had both changed so much in the last few months. He was no longer the spontaneous man I used to know. He was much more reserved and quiet. It was painful to watch him sometimes. He no longer enjoyed acting, but I talked him into continuing, because I knew he’d regret leaving someday. I hoped that he’d come around soon.
“Hey man, you ok?” Maple asked as he took a seat on the grass next to me.
“Same as always, you?”
“Same.” He responded.
“Do you think we spend too much time here?” I asked, we usually came twice a week.
“Maybe. But it helps, so I don’t think we should stop yet.” He sighed, and ran his fingers through his newly cut hair.
“Yea, I agree. But maybe we should go home for today, I’m starting to burn.” I pushed myself off the grass and helped Maple get up too.
“Oh dude, don’t forget the flowers.” He nudged me and gestured to the vase of flowers on the grass.
“Right. You go get the car, I need a minute.”
“Alright.” He said, and jogged off to get the car.
I placed the flowers near Tulip’s headstone. I stood there for a second, just staring at the words written on the stone. I read the sentences over and over, until the words didn’t sound real anymore.
I was interrupted by Maple honking the horn at me from the front of the cemetery. I shook my head, trying to clear my thoughts. I took one last look at the headstones before jogging off to the car.
After everything that happened in our old house, Maple and I couldn’t live there anymore. We sold the house for a lot less than it was worth, but we didn’t care. We just couldn’t stand to be there anymore.
Our new house was in a homey little neighborhood in the middle of town. We didn’t exactly fit in here, it was more of a family neighborhood than a bachelor-pad neighborhood. But regardless, we really loved the new house. Fern and her husband lived in the house right across the street, so it made visits convenient and more frequent then I might have liked.
“Hey Carrot, mind if I join?” I asked my half-brother as soon as I got home. He moved in with us not long after we moved in. Our father was tired of his bad-attitude, so he dumped him on me.
“Yea, if you don’t mind getting your ass beat.”
“I’d love to see you try.” I teased as I put on my own headset.
Carrot was a tough opponent when it came to video games, I’m pretty sure we get that from our father.
“So how was your day?” I tried to make small talk with him. We still didn’t know each other very well, he was the sibling I spent the least time with.
“It was okay, we lost our game though. But it was a pretty close score, so I don’t feel too terrible about it.” Carrot was a professional athlete, and his team was actually really good. He invited Maple and I to his games all the time.
“That sucks, but you guys are good, you’ll beat ’em next time.”
“So how’s your family doing?” He always asked about my family, I think he might like them better than his own. His mom wasn’t exactly in his life, he didn’t get along well with our father, the only one he really liked was Fern.
“They’re ok. Poppy got kicked out and my parents are raising Aster. They love the little guy but I worry about them. They’re getting older, they don’t need to be raising another kid.” I sighed, my sister was getting worse and they didn’t have a choice.
“That sucks man. But he’s a pretty good kid, I doubt he gives them much trouble.”
“Yea, but he’s so full of energy, it can be hard for them to keep up.” I spent a lot of time with my family after what happened, and I always noticed how tired out my parents got after playing with Aster.
“Hey, if they ever need a baby-sitter, they can call me. They know me, and I love the little guy.” He offered. I smiled, I was glad both sides of my family could get along.
“I’ll let them know.” I laughed, and pulled out my cell to text my mom. When I unlocked my phone I noticed my boss had texted me. She was asking me to go to the library and see what books had been checked out the most this month. “Crap, I gotta run to the library real quick.” I ripped my headset off as fast as I could and grabbed my car keys.
“Thanks for leaving me hanging.” Carrot joked.
“I’ll be back in a few.” I called out for both Carrot and Maple to hear.
“Detective Blu?” I cautiously approached my former boss. She glanced over at me, and gasped.
“River, how are you?” She asked. I hadn’t seen her since the night everything happened. It was good to see her.
“I’m doing alright, how are you?” Even though I didn’t see her anymore, I found myself worrying about her. Tulip was the only family she had, and I worried she would have a breakdown or something.
“I’m okay.” She smiled sadly, leading me to believe she wasn’t being truthful. “Oh and by the way, I’m not a detective anymore. You can just call me Hydrangea, or Drea if you’d like.”
“Oh, sorry. What happened?” I asked, hoping it wasn’t too personal of a question.
“I quit. I decided detective work wasn’t something I wanted to do.” She explained. I felt terrible for her, I knew she loved her work and it upset me that she quit.
“Oh, that’s too bad.”
“Yea, and I heard you quit the ghost-busting business.”
“I did, I just lost interest I guess.” I lied, we both knew we were lying. But it was better than admitting the truth.
“That’s too bad.”
“Hey so, I have something I need to do right now, but we should catch up soon. Do you wanna come over for dinner?” I offered.
“Dinner? With a vampire?” She joked. The Hydrangea I knew never joked, but I was glad she could be a little more light-hearted.
“Ha-ha, fine. Maybe you could come over for a movie? Or, Maple and I have a pool, if you wanna come over and test that out.” As soon as I mentioned pool, her eyes lit up.
“Now that sounds like an offer I can’t refuse.” She laughed.
“Awesome, I’ll text you.”
“It was really great to see you, River.” She beamed.
“You too, Drea.” I had never addressed her by her first name, and it felt foreign in my mouth.
We said our goodbyes, and she headed out of the library and I for the bookshelf.
Wait, what exactly was I here for?
I got home a little while later, and found all the video game stuff put away and Carrot was no where to be found.
“Carrot?” I called out as I climbed the stairs. I heard a grunt come from our shared bedroom, so I followed the noise.
“Hey bro, is everything ok?” He was curled up on his bed, and he looked miserable.
“What happened?” I walked over to my bed and flopped down on it.
“Cinnamon dumped me.” He mumbled. Cinnamon was his high school sweet-heart, and he was absolutely head over heals for the girl.
“What? Why would she do that?” I asked after flipping on the TV.
“She said I’ve been too distant lately, whatever the hell that means.”
“That sucks, man. You wanna talk it out?” I joked, knowing how much Carrot hated talking about feelings. I knew that because that’s all Fern made him do.
“Barf. I’d rather stick my face in a toilet.” He fake retched.
“Alright, but you sure you’re gonna be ok?”
“Yea, I’ll get over it.” He laughed. I smiled, I was glad I could make him laugh when he was upset. I finally felt like we were actually brothers.
I kicked off my shoes and my jeans and climbed under my blankets. “Night.” I called to both Carrot and Maple, who slept in the room next to us.
“Night.” They both yelled back. It didn’t take long for me to doze off, and when I did, it was one of those rare nights when I didn’t have a nightmare.