It’s a nice cemetery. Not all ghoulish, and crusty crooked headstones. Hang on, I haven’t started the fiction yet. This is today’s #writephoto prompt from KL Caley at New2writing.com, coming in at just under 1000 words. Okay, you can read on now.
A Walk in the Cemetery
“Shall we go for a walk?”
It was a good suggestion, since it was a mild, sunny winter’s day, and we’d more or less run out of things to say to each other over our pub lunch.
I nodded, and reached for my purse.
“Oh, no, this is on me.”
“I don’t think that’s right, not the first date. We should definitely go halves.” This principle had been drummed into me. Do not get into his ‘debt’. You don’t know him well enough.
“Well, if you insist.”
I smiled that polite smile I had. Not too friendly, not off-putting. I hoped.
We paid the bill together, tapping our cards, but he added extra on his. Well, if he wanted to demonstrate his generosity, he was making a good show of it.
It wasn’t that I didn’t like him. He came across well, listened to what I said. Wasn’t too self-centred. Usual story, he and his wife had grown apart after the children had gone to college. Found they didn’t have any common interests… That’s why he’d tried the music channel’s dating site.
I’d found the dating site because I was fed up with being badgered by friends to find a new partner. One I might actually move in with. “Who I might let move in with me,” I retorted. Whatever.
This one had suggested ‘a pub lunch, nothing too fancy,’ then proceeded to go for starter, steak and apple pie. I’d stuck with the vegetarian dish of the day, and wondered whether I’d actually specified vegetarian in my sign-up form.
We wandered down the road away from the shopping area. I was still unfamiliar with the area, although I had a vague idea there was a cluster of churches this way.
We stopped and admired a bell-tower, standing aloof from its church.
“I used to ring bells up there once,” he said.
“I love the sound of bells. Why did you stop?”
“Maureen.” That had been the answer to a lot of questions about why he no longer did things.
“How long is it since you split up?”
“Four years now. Divorced three. Anniversary next week, as it happens.”
And you’re not over it yet. “Why not take up bell-ringing again, then?”
“Ah, that’s an idea.”
We walked on, past the church and into the green space beyond. A small garden area gave way to the cemetery, both neatly tended. I paused at the gate and looked back.
“Do you suppose they do the wedding photos in the garden? I wonder what happens if there’s a funeral going on at the same time?”
“Well, there wouldn’t be, would there? Wedding in the church.”
“Does the cemetery belong to all the churches in the area?”
“And the crem, too, I reckon. Although that might have its own space, come to think of it.”
“I haven’t come across the crematorium yet. Don’t know anyone round here who’s died.”
We wandered along the path, admiring the well-kept trees and graves by the path.
“Must be funny, moving to a new place.” He’d never thought of it. “Not knowing about cemeteries, and crems, or even churches. Schools too, I suppose.”
“That’s right. First place I found was the supermarket, closely followed by the library.”
“Oh, you read books then?”
“Oh, yes. What do you like reading?”
He walked on with no answer, past several headstones without grave markers, scanning them as he went. “Look there, died in the first world war, wife buried with him in1979.”
“Must have been over eighty by then.”
“Why would she stay alone all that time?
“Perhaps there weren’t many eligible men after the war. Does it say any more about her?”
He shook his head.
This was a pleasant graveyard, but we’d come a long way from the road, and there was nobody about. I stopped and looked back the way we’d come, then looked at my watch.
“Well, this has been lovely, Vincent, but I think I’d better be getting back. Art club this evening, you know.”
“Oh, you’ve got hours till then.”
“True, but I have several things to do beforehand. Shall we go back?”
Vincent hesitated. “Let’s take this track back.” He pointed to a side turning.
“No, I think I’ll just go back the way we came. I want to look at the quotation on that little girl’s grave again, the one in the centre by the War Memorial.”
I smiled. “If you want to carry on walking, do. It’s been a lovely meeting and a great lunch. I hope you decide to do it again.” It was time to go. I turned.
I half expected him to protest some more. My walk back was at a normal pace, not the saunter we’d used on the way up. I paused for effect near the war memorial, but couldn’t hear him coming. I risked looking back. Not in sight.
If he wasn’t in sight, where was he?
I bent forward as if looking at the girl’s grave again, and scanned the area as much as I could without making it obvious. No sign of him.
I shook my head and walked on.
As I passed the bell tower I felt something in the shadows, a presence, watching. It hissed as I passed.
“You shouldn’t go walking in cemeteries with strangers, you know.”
For an instant I considered stopping, but walked on, slightly faster, until I reached the road and could see other people walking along.
Was it Vincent? Was it someone else? I don’t know.
I cancelled my dating subscription. I’d have to meet people through bona fide groups, like the art group. And the history society. And the garden club. But oh, so many of them were old and boring.
When the art group arranged an open air painting session in the cemetery, I declined. Just in case.
© J M Pett 2022