Prompt Day #327: Picnic on a gravesite. Create and emphasize a peculiar irony surrounding the location.
So, I think having a picnic on a gravesite is in itself a peculiar irony. I don’t know that I succeeded in meeting this prompt’s requirements exactly. I mean, I had some other ideas, but irony would be all new and happy things, right? I’m sure there are brilliant horror writers out there who could have figured out a way to make it work, but I couldn’t. So, I tried to mix beginnings and endings into a story and I hope it works ok for you.
Never Leave Me
Jack pulled up to a lovely old Victorian with a wraparound porch. Beth gasped. They’d been dating for six months but they had only ever spent time at her apartment. He lived in an apartment too, technically this was his Mother’s home, inherited from his grandparents.
“Let’s not go inside. It’s a big, drafty house. Let’s go out back. I brought stuff for a picnic.” He said and kissed her cheek. She felt giddy. He’d been acting a little strange lately and for a hot second she feared he was going to break up with her, but now she was thinking more the opposite. He was going to propose. And what better place than here, in the backyard of this white mansion?
They walked around the side of the house past a colossal lilac bush. Jack stopped.
“I wonder.” He said gently pushing the bushes aside and peeking in. Beth heard a chirping noise. “Yep. Have a look.” She stood on her toes to look over his shoulder. The nest sat nestled perfectly in the branches as if it’d been there as long as the house itself. Inside three little naked creatures with bulging eyes and veiny pink skin opened their enormous maws begging for food.
“Awe, baby birds!” Beth said. Today, everything was just amazing. Today she was getting engaged.
“Every year” he said. They walked on. The back yard sprawled out behind the house bordered on the far side by a creek and studded here and there with flowering shrubs and ornamental trees. They’d gone wild, no trimming had been done in some time, but it gave the old house charm as far as Beth was concerned. Jack headed towards the ancient willow on the corner of the yard where the creek bent towards the house. There was a bench beneath it and just beyond the bench, Beth could see a couple decorative stones.
Jack threw the blanket down on the ground under the wispy branches of the willow. At this level, Beth saw that the stones were actually grave markers.
“Jack, are we picnicking on someone’s grave?” She asked
“My grandmother’s and my little sister’s, yes. Does that bother you?” He responded. It seemed a test. If she said, yes, of course it bothered he, who wouldn’t be bothered by a picnic on some long dead loved one’s grave? But she wanted that ring. She had already imagined herself living here in the future with Jack.
“No. I think it’s sweet that you’d bring me here to visit with your grandmother. I didn’t know you had a sister though.” She lied and then fished for more information.
“Good. Let’s eat then.” He said, ignoring the bait.
The picnic was lovely and Beth found her appetite beneath her excitement. She wondered when he might pop the question. He stood and walked over to the stones. She followed.
“My grandma loved this house. She said she would never leave it. She wanted to be buried here. She fell down the steps and broke her neck my first summer home from college and I brought her out here and dug the hole myself.
“Oh, that must have been terrible for you to find her.” Beth said. This conversation was taking a morbid turn, far from that of a man about to propose.
“Hmm” he said noncommittally.
“And your sister?” Beth asked.
“I don’t want to talk about her right now.” He said and spun around, marching back towards the picnic basket. Beth’s heart flip-flopped. He pulled out a bottle of wine and two glasses. “Today is a day to talk about new beginnings.” He smiled and poured them each a glass. Beth’s cheeks ached from smiling.
They toasted and sipped.
“Walk with me.” He said and got back up. He bypassed the stones. Beth took a quick furtive glance at his sister’s stone. Trying to catch the dates chiseled roughly into the stone. She was pretty sure the second date started with 20—which meant she hadn’t died that long ago. Weird that he’d never mentioned it.
Jack stopped by the creek. Beth stood beside him. She tried to focus on the swirling water below but found herself watching out of the corner of her eye for the tell-tale sign of a ring being pulled from a pocket.
“My sister. She was sixteen when she died.” He said. Beth’s heart plummeted into her bowels. He was going to kill her with these ups and downs. “Every woman who meant anything to me, left me.”
“I’m not going anywhere, Jack.” Beth said.
“They never thought they were going to leave either.” He said. “Can you be sure?”
“Honey, I’m healthy and well. Of course I can’t promise an accident won’t happen, but I want to live a long and happy life….with you.” She said assuring him. He seemed to be considering her answer. He reached into his pocket.
“This was my grandmother’s ring.” He said pulling out a dainty diamond ring set in a filigree of silver, surrounded by tiny teardrop rubies. Beth’s heart stopped for the third time that day. “I would like to see you wearing it.”
She was silent for a moment. Was this how he was going to do it?
“Beth, will you be mine until death do us part?” He said, falling to a knee. She covered her mouth with her hands in a feigned surprise.
“Yes, Jack, I will.” She held out her hand. He slipped the ring onto her finger. It fit perfectly. He stood back up and kissed her.
“The ring was left to my sister after Grandma died. She wore it for a year before she drown in this creek.” He said, staring into it again as if in a trance.
“Oh God.” Was all Beth could think to say. She considered the ring on her finger. Why would he want this cursed thing on his wife’s finger?
“I decided that with my sister gone, the ring would go to me. There are no other women in the family.” Jack said, still hypnotized by the water.
“What about your mom? I thought you said she lived here. Am I taking it from her?”
“Mom is dead too. She has no use for it.” He said. The lack of emotion in his voice sent a tiny red flag up in Beth’s Amygdala. She tried to ignore it, keep it buried deep in her midbrain.
“Jack! When did she pass? Why isn’t she buried here with her mother and daughter?” She asked, now twisting the ring around on her finger.
“Because I haven’t gotten around to burying her yet.” He said. Beth startled. She must not have heard that correctly. “Like I said, everyone leaves me. You’ll leave me too.”
She heard that and made sense of the situation. She ran. He leaped after her. She tripped over the stone marking his sister’s grave but managed to get up before he made it to her. But the Lilac ultimately stopped her, she’d turned around to see how close he was when she ran straight into it.
“Oof!” she coughed. She saw the nest fly out of the bush as if in slow motion. The fragile little newborns scattered through the air before falling to their death, lilac petals rained down on their broken bodies like confetti. Beth took too long to mourn the babies. She felt Jack’s arm wrap around her.
“Beth, you promised you wouldn’t leave me.” He said.