This story is by Samantha Mistretta and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
On their first date Brandon and Ashley went for a drive to Peddler’s Village, a place that has now become a favorite spot of theirs. They walked around the plaza for hours. Talking, laughing, and creating memories. Brandon can distinctly remember most things from that day. Especially Ashley’s outfit. Her hair was tied up in a ponytail and she wore a pink t-shirt with an embroidered rose in the center. In her hand, Brandon could see the distinct image of a man in the back of her clear phone case, next to it a sticker with a yellow butterfly.
While they were walking around they decided to grab kettle corn and sit on a bench near the center of the shops. Ashley threw a piece of kettle corn at Brandon laughing and he shoved her playfully with his palm. Grinning, she rested her head on his shoulder and looked up at him. He glanced down and leaned in for their first kiss.
It was late April. Warm enough for a t-shirt but breezy enough to still be comfortable in pants. Ashley and Brandon were taking advantage of the nice weather and walking through the shops in Peddler’s Village. Holding hands and pointing different trinkets out to each other in the windows. They were smiling, joyful, and wonderfully in love. Brandon was wearing a blue t-shirt and khaki pants while Ashley wore a long floral skirt and thin white long sleeves. Brandon thought she looked beautiful. He always thought she looked beautiful. Ashley walked ahead of Brandon for a moment, giving him the opportunity to check his pocket for the fifth time that day. Patting around anxiously until his right hand landed on the velvety box in his back pocket. Phew, still there.
Brandon caught up with Ashley grabbing her hand again, pulling her toward the street back near the car.
“Where are we going,” she asked.
“I wanted to take you somewhere really quick, do you mind?”
“No, let’s go!” Ashley responded excitedly.
As they reached the car, Brandon walked to the passenger side and opened the door for Ashley. He then walked around the front for himself, waited for a car to pass on his side and got in. Soon they pulled out of their spot and were off to Brandon’s mystery location. Ashley turned on the radio and their favorite song came on, they started to sing. Driving along the tree-lined roads with the sun shining into the car, Brandon stole glances of Ashley, reached his hand and laid it on her thigh. She smiled and looked at the window watching the trees pass by.
No more than ten minutes down the road, Brandon turned his blinker on as he approached the local cemetery. Confused, Ashley turned to Brandon,
“What are we doing here?”
“You’ll see,” he grinned, “don’t worry I promise it’s a good thing.”
Hesitantly she responded with an okay and stiffened a bit in her seat. Brandon took a few turns and stopped next to a large mausoleum, parking his car. He turned the engine off and popped the trunk, motioning for the two of them to get out.
They walked around to the back of the car and there was a bouquet of flowers with a banner that said “Dad” on it. At the sight of it, Ashley let out an audible oh, and squeezed Brandon’s arm.
The two grabbed the flowers and began walking through the row of tombstones. Flowers and flags decorating many of the stones they passed, a couple adorned with stuffed animals for the young souls that took residence there. And some with rocks and twigs resting on top of the stones.
They walked down the row about eleven tombstones in and stopped in front of a large black one. The front of it had one half blank, the other said “In loving memory of David Weston. December 21, 1969 – April 3, 2018.”
“Hi Dad, I’ve missed you,” Ashley said as she looked down at the etched picture of her father.
“You’ve been saying recently how much you missed him and that you haven’t come to visit him in a while. I knew he was close to here so I thought it would be nice to come. I hope this was okay.” Brandon explained.
“This is perfect, thank you, I really needed this” Ashley hugged him.
Ashley crouched down and touched the tombstone, placing the flowers at the base. She then folded her legs and sat in front of the image of her father and began talking to him. Brandon sat next to her, staying silent, gently rubbing her back as a few tears were let loose. Eventually, Ashley ran out of things to say and became silent.
Resting her head on Brandon’s shoulder, she let out a contented sigh. “Thank you, I think I’m okay now.”
“Okay, why don’t you get the car started, turn the air conditioning on. It’s probably gotten warm from sitting in the sun. I’ll be right there.”
“Sure sweetie.” She kissed him on his cheek and stood up to walk to the car.
When Ashley was out of ear shot, Brandon began speaking to her father.
“Um, hi. I’m Brandon, Ashley’s boyfriend. I love your daughter very much and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. And I know you can’t answer, but I—” Brandon grabbed the ring out of his pocket, “I wanted to ask you for your blessing. I hope if you could’ve met me you would have said yes.”
Brandon put the ring back into his pocket and stood up, touching the top of the tombstone before he began walking back to the car. As he turned, a yellow butterfly flew in front of his face, odd considering how cool it was out. Then again it was still spring. And then he remembered…
He got into the car and turned to Ashley, “What did you say you saw a lot after your dad passed away?”
“Yellow butterflies, why?”
Brandon smiled, “No reason.”
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