“Hey, Lily. Wait!”
Erin Donohue made her way up the steep hill, her long, coppery hair fluttering in the breeze as she wove through the
tombstones. I couldn’t imagine what she was doing here in Hillside Cemetery on a bracing Saturday afternoon when
everyone else was at the big football game.
She paused by a large marble angel to catch her breath. “What a coincidence, running into you. Then again, I guess
this place is your hangout, huh?”
I snapped a twig in half and tossed it into the wheelbarrow. “Something you want, Erin?” I highly doubted she was
here to chat. Erin and I hadn’t exchanged a civil word maybe ever.
“Just wondered what you were up to. It’s so weird to see you doing this kind of work in a full-length black gown. Don’t
take this wrong, but have you ever considered even trying to act normal?”
I ignored the dig and shook the garbage bag filled with dead foliage, rotting green Styrofoam blocks, and broken pots.
My mother routinely volunteered my services to the cemetery commission twice a year, spring and fall. Somehow,
Erin must have figured this out.
“Doing some winterizing,” I said. “Want to help?”
Erin recoiled as if I’d asked her to bury a body. “Ew, no.” She rubbed her bare hands and surveyed our surroundings
at the far end of the graveyard. “Geez, it’s cold up here. Desolate, too. Not a living soul around.”
I tied the bag and got a new one. “Yup.”
It was late October, almost Halloween, and though it was just after four, the sun was setting. The woods behind us
cast dark shadows across the browning grass and the air was turning raw under the gray sky. I had to get going if I
wanted to lock the tools in the shed before the caretaker locked up.
Erin was not the type to stop by Hillside Cemetery on a whim. She was more the type to document her super busy
life in sparkly pink gel ink on her Blessed Virgin Mary wall calendar, every minute packed with wholesome, youthful
activities designed to bring her closer to sainthood. Or Villanova. The two in our town being virtually synonymous.
“Matt came by last night,” she said breezily.
Matt was Matt Houser, Erin’s longtime boyfriend.
“He wanted to talk about us.”
I emptied a container of wilted geraniums into a wheelbarrow. I had no idea why Erin thought a routine visit from Matt
was something I would find fascinating. “That’s nice.” I guess.
She tagged along as I tended to the next grave, where a wreath of faded plastic roses covered the brass plaque for a
World War II veteran. I bent down to get it and she towered over me, blocking the fading light.
“We broke up.”
My fingers gripped the small wreath and I stood, careful to appear nonchalant as I folded it in two. “Seriously?” Okay.
That was a surprise. Matt and Erin were such a thing that they were referred to in one slurred word, Mattnerin. “You
have a fight?”
“Not exactly.” She pulled herself onto a small black tombstone and scowled. “We’re taking a break. But I’m sure he’ll
come back to me. He can never stay away for long.”
Why was she telling this to me, of all people? Erin and I had never been particularly close. In fact, we’d been quite
the opposite.