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By Beth J. Whiting
John only left home for school or the graveyard. He didn’t have money for flowers. He just sat and reminisced about his mother.
He started to see a blonde girl at the graveyard as well. They arrived at the same entrance one day.
John started the conversation, “I noticed you're here every Saturday.”
“Yes, I'm here to visit my dad’s grave.”
“I'm visiting my mom.”
“I don’t see you at my school.”
“Where do you go?”
“Banks High School.”
“I go to Angel High.”
“What did your father die from?”
“Mine was breast cancer.”
They were silent for a moment, and then they unexpectedly smiled at each other.
“See you next Saturday?” asked John.
The next Saturday they took turns sitting together at their parents' graves. As they were getting up to leave the girl asked, “Would you like to go to my house?”
He hadn’t been to another person’s house since his mom died. He said, “Sure, what's your name, anyway?”
As they entered the house John saw scattered pictures on the wall of Melanie and her parents. The father had a neatly-trimmed mustache and the mother's bright red hair was pulled back. The mother greeted them from the hallway. “You have someone over!”
“Yeah. I met him at the graveyard.”
“That’s a strange way of meeting someone. What’s your name?”
“Since you're here, would you like lunch?”
He agreed. They made taco salad. Before John left, Melanie asked if he would like to stay over for the night.
“I’d have to ask my dad.”
“Do you have any Sunday clothes?”
“If you’re staying over, you have to go to church with us in the morning.”
John moaned. They drove by his house. He had trousers and a white shirt in the closet. When they went back Melanie asked if he wanted to watch a musical.
“A musical movie?”
“My dad and I watched them together.”
Reluctantly, John agreed.
“First, Mom’s going to take us out to get pizza.”
“So what church are we going to tomorrow?”
“I’ve never been to church.”
The girl complained, “I go to church more than ten hours a week.”
“Yeah. Seminary’s in the morning, which is before school, Sunday church block is three hours, then there’s mutual where teenagers hang out which is an hour and a half. It’s too much church.”
“It probably keeps you in line. Teenagers do weird things.”
“I don’t do weird things.”
“Point made.” Then John mildly whined, “You said it's three hours?”
They took home leftover pizza. John looked through her movie selection. “What do you do for fun?” Melanie asked.
“I study. I want to make the top 10 of the class.”
“So you’re one of those brainy kids.”
“I wasn’t last year. I made mostly C’s. But then my mom died and I wanted to change.”
“How many hours a day do you study?”
John picked The Neverending Story. The two pitched their sleeping bags at opposite sides of the living room. Melanie's snoring made it hard to sleep.
The next morning they went to Sacrament meeting and listened quietly to the prepared talks. John saw a mustached man in the crowd. He thought he recognized Melanie’s father from the pictures. John nudged Melanie, and pointed in the man's direction. She seemed confused by the gesture. After the session, the father approached John and said, “I have to speak to you.”
It was obvious Melanie couldn’t see or hear him, as she kept on walking.
The father took him aside, “Melanie needs a friend desperately. I can tell you have a big heart from seeing you at the graveyard. Watch those musicals with her. I want her to be happy.”
John paused, and mumbled, “Okay.”
John asked Melanie if she would like to go to his house on Friday. He told her to bring some musicals.
“I thought you hated them.”
“I’ve had a change of heart.”
“Good. It's my favorite genre.”
They watched Singin’ in the Rain. John had to admit, surprisingly, that it was kind of cute. Melanie was so happy. “I’m going to introduce you to all the classics.”
That Saturday John went to the graveyard earlier than usual and was greeted by Melanie’s father.
“I made some bad decisions in my life. I’m still repenting for my sins. You need to help Melanie avoid following my example.”
“Why don’t you show yourself to Melanie?”
“I want her to move on with her life.”
John was going to talk more but he saw Melanie coming in the distance.
John kept going to the graveyard early each week. The father pleaded with John to help her with science because she was failing. John agreed, though he began to feel the burden of the extra studying.
The next Saturday Melanie arrived from behind where John was speaking to her father. “Why are you speaking to my dad? What, can he see you?”
John lied and said, “I just talk out loud here sometimes...when I'm alone...to work through my feelings.” Melanie focused her eyes on John's for a second, and then motioned for them to walk to her father's grave.
The next day was a testimony meeting where the church congregants voluntarily step forward to share their convictions with the church.
Melanie got up to the pulpit and declared, “I know there is an afterlife. My father speaks to someone else instead of me.” She burst out crying. There were murmurs in the crowd. Melanie's mother quietly took John by the arm and they left the chapel to meet Melanie.
John went to the graveyard that afternoon and told the father, “You need to see your daughter. She’s not happy about this. She needs you more than she needs my help.”
On the way home John walked by Melanie's house and saw the father at Melanie's doorstep. Tears of joy trailed down Melanie's face. John called Melanie that Saturday morning.
“Are we going to the graveyard today?” she asked.
“No let’s just go to a movie instead. Your pick.”
So they went.
Beth J. Whiting was born in 1983 to a large family of brainy eccentrics. At eight years old she developed a love of books through the works of Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis. Her short stories revolve around underdogs in suburban settings, such as the one in which she was raised. She currently lives with her artistic twin sister in a tiny apartment in Mesa, Arizona.