The Girl in the Pink Dress Part 3

By Avery Wickersham (TheLorian)

Penny drags Nate to the outskirts of a black iron-rod fence. She leans up against the metal, fiddling with a broken rail that’s missing the pointy arrow.

“Are you going in there?” he asks. His foot crunches over a pile of leaves as he fidgets in place. He jumps.

“You’re not scared, are you?” Penny teases, swinging herself inside the gate. The archway reads Stonebrook Cemetery. A little plaque above Penny’s hands shows the history of the cemetery, including the year it was founded. A layer of red and yellow leaves covers the grass, leaving the headstones sticking out.

“Come on,” Nate laughs, a nervous edge to his voice. “I’m not scared. Just confused.”

Samantha sneaks up behind Nate, watching him talk to himself at the edge of the cemetery. His posture is rigid, a sharp contrast to his usual relaxed stature. She waits until he moves farther in past the gate before continuing to follow him.

“Why are we in the cemetery?” Nate asks, watching Penny dance around the headstone. She steps on the ground over a grave and he winces.

“What?” she asks.

“I don’t think you should step there. My mother always told me that it disturbs the spirit of the person buried there.”

Penny steps off the grave and takes his hand. She pulls him around headstones until she finds a clearing. Penny lays down and motions for Nate to join her.

“I really should be heading home,” he tells her sheepishly, fiddling with the hem of his t-shirt.

“I think you owe me,” Penny frowns. “I mean, you nearly killed me earlier.”

From behind a gravestone, Samantha cocks her head to the side, watching Nate reluctantly lay down in the grass. He grabs a handful of leaves and covers his stomach with them.

“Nate, what are you doing here?” Samantha asks, finally approaching him. He bolts upright, cheeks stained red.

“Sam!” he exclaims in a pinched voice. “Did you follow me?”       

“You just ran off. What are you doing?” she repeats. She extends an arm to pull Nate up. He hangs his head, and motions to the ground beside him. “I was following her.”

Samantha looks around, but she doesn’t see anyone. “Who? There’s no one there.”

“Why is she here?” Penny asks angrily, fingers digging into Nate’s arm.

“She’s my girlfriend,” Nate tells her.

“Who are you talking to?” Samantha asks, backing away slowly.

“Her name is Penny. Penny Hodges,” Nate explains. “I’m sorry, Sam.”

Samantha reads the gravestone next to Nate. Penny Hodges, beloved daughter of Frank and May Hodges. 1890-1906.

“Sorry for what?” Samantha asks, laughing. “For pranking me with the best Halloween joke ever?”

She points at the gravestone. Nate’s stomach drops, and he coughs, turning it into a laugh. He pulls Samantha into a hug.

“I knew you’d like it. Tell me more about those costumes you picked out for us.”

As Samantha chatters on about a pharaoh and queen costume, Nate glances back at the gravestone. Penny is nowhere to be seen. The only reminder of her is the bruises from her fingertips on Nate’s forearm.

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