ficlet written based on this beautiful edit by team-angel-coulby, starring Luke Mitchell as Jon and Rachel Hurd-Wood as Tish
The breeze off the bay chases the afternoon heat from Riverview Cemetery, and even in the half-sheltered hallway of the mausoleum, it sets Tish’s black dress fluttering around her knees. The lilies over her arm sway faintly, and the plastic wrapping rustles around the white roses I picked up at the grocery store.
Tish’s fingers trace the letters of a marble face plate sealing an urn in its little nook, the last in a row of five. “And finally, Nadia Nicolescu,” she says, and I remember startling green eyes in a worn, wasted face, preserved forever in a mugshot for solicitation. “Lord, grant her the peace denied to her in life.” She looks across the row of names - the five unclaimed dead among Abel Cuvier’s victims - and she says, “Most merciful God, please bless them and keep them, may Your face shine upon them, and be gracious to them. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, amen.”
I’m not Catholic and I’ve never done much in the name of any of those people, so I don’t know if I’m supposed to say amen. Instead I start to unwrap the roses. The cheap plastic crumples loudly, and I stop.
“Thank you for coming with me,” Tish says, settling the lilies in the vase mounted at the end of the row.
I found these people in her father’s walk-in freezer. Seeing them to a decent resting place seemed like the least I could do. “Of course.”
Tish turns to me and holds out her arms for the roses. The plastic slides off easily in her small hands, and she starts slipping them in among the lilies one by one. “White for remembrance,” she says. “And for innocence.” She smiles faintly. “My mother spoke flower.”
“Ah, Laetitia, un lys blanc pour le souvenir, une rose rouge pour l'amour,” she says in a voice a few steps lower than her own. “The Victorians had a language of flowers. A purple hyacinth was an apology. A solid color carnation meant yes, and stripes meant no.”
“Did I bring the wrong kind?”
She smiles at me, soft and wistful. “No, you didn’t.”
“I wish you’d let me help.” I gesture vaguely at the five niches with their marble plates, none of which she let me pay for. She said her father’s life insurance covered it all.
“I can’t make up for what he did,” she says to the cement under our feet, “but let me try where I can.”
I shake my head. “None of that blood is on your hands.”
“Maybe not. But it was all over his.” She nestles a lily deeper into the arrangement, then clasps both hands in front of her. “And blood will stain every time.”
Yes. I know.
I reach past her to tug one white rose free from the arrangement. “This one’s for you.”
She gives me a very serious look.
“I don’t speak flower,” I say on a shrug. “It’s just something pretty that smells nice, ok? And it’s for you.”
For me too, maybe. For innocence.
When we leave the mausoleum with the first chirp of nightbugs, Tish is twirling the rose between her fingers.