Lydia carefully placed her bare feet in the tall grass, pulling at tiny flowers speckling the field. The spring sun set the buttercups aglow, warming her back. She didn't even mind the increasing stains at the edge of her long, white skirt.
The young woman wasn't sure if such a bouquet would brighten things up, but there was always a chance. They made things look so much more lively, and it was worth a try.
She didn't mean to surprise the neighbors just how she did last night, but she simply hadn't met anyone new in such a long time. That didn't happen all the way out here in the countryside. Not for her.
She'd make a better impression, not how she popped up late last night and scared them so badly. At least her mistake broke the ice, even if they did look a little unwell for a while. And were so quiet.
Lydia added even more flowers to those in her hand.
For years, everyone said she was too shy. That she should try and make friends. All she wanted was to push herself, but obviously she'd need to fine-tune her method. Maybe she'd get another chance one day.
Her hand was brimming with tiny yellow blossoms and it came time to head back. She pulled her green and yellow tinged skirt up to her knee at one side and half-ran, half-skipped toward the tree line at the other side of the field. Soft shadows reached across the grass in the fading afternoon light.
Her bare feet carried her into denser woods. The trees broke up remaining sunlight into fluttering patterns on the forest floor.
A small iron gate hung open before her, rows of old headstones beyond. She passed through, taking care to close the latch behind her. She picked her skirt back up.
The cemetery was unkempt, though not crumbling. Names were still legible on most of the tombstones, though not many came through to read them. Not anymore.
Lydia made her way forward and was rewarded with the small stone mausoleum. The space was just large enough to carry a few names, as well as a small bench at the opposite end of the room. Without hesitation, she stepped up and into the dim open doorway.
Inside, tall, thin windows cast long spears of golden light across the floor. An elderly man and woman sat on either side of the marble bench. They didn't look happy, but they hadn't moved from where Lydia last left them.
Though they still looked a little grumpy, they looked at her with expectation – as well as could be interpreted through their cold, pale faces.
“Oh, don't be like that,” Lydia started. “Look what I brought you!”
She held out the buttercups, a beacon of color in the empty space. The man raised a skeptical white eyebrow, but the equally weathered woman held a spark of interest in her eye.
“You can look however you want now, you know,” Lydia told them, a smile spreading across her youthful face.
“You mean, now that we're dead?” the man asked, voice wavering. He was far too solemn for the occasion, in her opinion.
Lydia cocked her head to the side.
She half-jumped, half-skipped into the air. Her legs disappeared into the ethereal white fabric and the rest of her form momentarily shifted in the light, like a smudge on a camera lens. She landed, snapped into focus, and planted herself on the bench right between her new neighbors.
“What's dead mean?” she asked.
The elderly woman let out a heavy sigh and rubbed her temple. The man raised his eyes from Lydia, up to his wife, who raised both eyebrows and looked away from him, into the ceiling.
“Nevermind,” he answered.
“So anyway, these are for you.” Lydia was content to move on. She did, however, look at him, then to the wife, and back again before she split her buttercup bouquet in two and offered each half.
“I'm sorry for scaring you both last night,” Lydia continued. The woman took and looked deeply into the yellow flowers. She picked at the stems underneath her hand, in thought.
Stripes of sunlight crept across the floor.
The man sucked in breath as if to speak, but looked up first and his breath was taken away. His wife sat there, entirely different yet completely the same. Her brown hair framed a young face, looking back at him with a twinkle in her eye.
“See? Not that hard. C'mon, I can give you a tour,” Lydia burst, full of life and energy. She jumped up and skipped back through the open mausoleum door.
The woman took her husband by the hand. A young, black-haired man stood.
“Not that hard,” she shrugged, a laugh threatening to burst.
He did laugh.
“I'll tell you what, though,” he began. His wife wrapped her arm around his and leaned into him. “I'm glad we'll never have a heart attack again, but... maybe we can distract her from making many more friends.”
She smacked him lightly on the shoulder with a smile.
They followed Lydia out, into the warm twilight.
Entered in the Spring 2020 24 Hour Short Story Contest,
hosted by BookLocker.com
April 14, 2020