Two years ago…
Krystal loved the graveyard following a rain shower. The air smelled fresh and crisp, the rain having coaxed the scent of dirt and fresh-cut grass from the ground, along with the slightly unpleasant aroma of water evaporating from the cement and the rocks of various grave markers. Just thirty miles east of New Orleans, almost all of the graves in Fern Dell, Louisiana were above ground, as the water table was so high, but there were a few exceptions. In the graveyard Krystal found herself in presently, old and decrepit, with many of the grave stones falling to ruin beneath neglected plots overrun with weeds, the bodies of the dead were sealed away in cement vaults above ground, with the occasional crypt boasting wealth.
She loved this particular graveyard, its ornate black ironwork, full of swirls and rust, the elaborate crosses and figures of angels and saints, many broken or with features so weathered by the elements that they seemed to be blank, as if the sculptor had gotten to the face and abruptly ceased his work, inspiration having left him. It felt old and powerful, somehow. It was full of shadows, lichen and moss growing uninterrupted, vines crawling over crypts, carpeting even the stone in fresh greenery. It was an amazing sight, but what Krystal loved most of all was the quiet. No one came out to this old cemetery that had seen no one interred into its bowels in over a century. It was like her little secret, families having forgotten distant relatives here long ago, leaving them to the care of a church with a much bigger cemetery flourishing on the other side of town. Sure, they still tended to it. Old Mr. Thackery came to mow the lawn once a month, made sure that none of the crypts had been broken into, but other than that, it was left alone in quiet dignity, its occupants at peace with their surroundings.
Krystal sighed as she kicked off her shoes and walked through the grass, relishing the feeling of the damp ground as the shards of grass tickled the soles of her feet, clippings from the latest mowing clinging to her toes and ankles as she made her way to the southeast corner. She let her hands slide over the stone vaults as she passed them by, and patted the head of an angel who’d lost her wings long ago during her steadfast vigil over Robert Stanton, 1890-1908.
Halfway to the vault she usually sat upon, she saw her best friend, Cassandra, already there. The blonde was splayed out over the damp cement, as if sunbathing, although the clouds overhead prevented anyone outdoors from gaining any color from the rays of an absent sun. Cassandra wasn’t going to be deterred however, from the looks of it.
Krystal paused a few feet away and watched her friend, who had her eyes closed and arms up over her head, as if asleep. She looked like the opposite of Krystal, who boasted hair so dark it may as well have been black, with envious curls that effortlessly formed directly from the shower, spilling over her shoulders. Her skin was pale and delicate, and she was rather pretty for a twelve-year-old. Cassandra was dark-skinned with bleach-blonde straight hair, and a slight hook to her nose that gave her otherwise ordinary face a little character. But being the same age, they rather got along, even if Cassandra didn’t attend school with Krystal.
Suddenly Cassandra’s lips pulled up into a smile and she opened her eyes. “There you are,” she said with a sigh. “I was wondering when you were going to get here.”
Krystal returned her smile and hefted her schoolbag onto the vault with a grunt, climbing atop it easily to sit beside her friend. “I had that makeup test to take after school. I hate math.”
“Do you think you did better this time?”
Krystal shrugged. “Maybe. I just can’t wrap my head around the stuff, but some of the problems looked familiar, so maybe I did alright.”
Cassandra sat up and turned to her friend. “Math is so lame. It’s not like you’re going to use algebra for anything anyways.”
“That’s what I keep saying,” Krystal sighed. “But let’s forget about math. I’ve had more than my fill for the day.”
“How was the rest of your day?”
“Uneventful,” Krystal replied, glancing up at the dark clouds lazily drifting by overhead. “The mile run was canceled because of the rain, so that was nice.” She shrugged. “Trina flicked rubber bands at me again in Science. She is so immature.”
“She sounds like a brat,” Cassandra nodded empathetically. “Didn’t you say she has a face like a rat?”
“She does,” Krystal recalled with a grin. “A drowned rat. But she’s so popular. Everybody laughs along with her when she does stuff like that. Especially when they get stuck in my hair.”
“Yeah,” Cassandra said , putting her hands over her heart mockingly. “It must be so hard to have naturally gorgeous hair.”
Krystal rolled her eyes. “I just hate her. I wish she’d disappear.”
“You know she’s just jealous.”
“Of course. But why does she have all the friends then? Why am I alone and a…a freak?” She closed her eyes and rubbed her hands over her arms to ward off a sudden chill in the air. She felt a drop of rain on her arm and looked back up at the clouds. “I think it’s going to rain again. I should go.”
“Ooooh,” Cassandra moaned. “But you just got here.”
“I know,” Krystal said, jumping off of the vault and grabbing her bag. “I’ll come visit again tomorrow.” She paused. “I don’t know why you want to hear about my days anyway. My life’s so boring.”
“At least you have a life,” Cassandra said sadly, looking away. “All I have is this.” She gestured around the graveyard and Krystal followed her sweeping hands for a moment before returning her gaze to her friend. Sometimes it was so easy to talk to Cassandra that Krystal forgot that her friend was a ghost. But if she really looked, she could see through her skin to the graves and greenery beyond, like she wasn’t quite there. And no one else would be able to see her at all. Unless they also happened to be a necromancer. But Krystal wasn’t aware of what she was yet as she began walking from the cemetery, glancing back at her friend, looking so dejected and forlorn from where she watched her leave beside the crypt. All Krystal knew was that she could talk to ghosts, and often times, they talked back.