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Grace

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I clutch a small bouquet of flowers to my chest, barely noticing the cold wind freezing my fingers through my gloves. They're his favourites. Were, they were his favourite. A small sob escapes me when I realise my mistake. 

The pastor is praying, but his beautiful words offer me little comfort. I try not to cry, but it’s useless, my grief is still too raw. Warm tears trail down my cheeks and drip onto the flowers. His favourite flowers. 

When the sermon is over, the pastor offers me a few words of sympathy before leaving me to grieve in private. I’m alone, standing at his grave. I’m the only one who came to say goodbye and it makes me grieve even more for him. If only there was one other person in his life, someone he could call a friend. He told me he was a very private person, but I never really understood exactly how lonely he must’ve been. 

Part of me wonders about all the things he didn’t tell me, all the things he couldn’t tell me. It doesn’t matter anymore, nothing does. I just lost the one person who meant the world to me, I don’t even know how I’m supposed to go on from here. My life doesn’t seem worth living anymore without him beside me. 

Oh, Harold! I miss you, it hurts so much.

I don’t know how long I stand there, at his grave. I’ve lost track of time thinking about him, me—us.  

I think about the first time we met. I can’t help a small smile remembering the way he just stood there, eating an ice-cream cone—in the middle of winter! His quiet but happy “Hello.” A shy smile accompanying that little word, rosy cheeks from the cold. 

He seemed genuinely interested in my art. It was only later that I realised that that wasn’t the only thing he was interested in. My heart gives a painful squeeze at the memory. 

We connected so well on so many subjects; we spent hours talking about art, travelling, and places with great food. We went for long walks, visited every art exposition we read about, and tried every restaurant we could find. It was as if we were one; he was everything I ever hoped to find in another person. 

I was never good at trusting people. The things that happened in my past- no, I won’t think about that. I did like my solitary life; it gave me the security that those things would never happen to me ever again. I felt safe, even if I did feel lonely at times. 

Then there was Harold. He showed me that there are people out there who can be trusted, who can connect you to the world and yet keep you safe. Safe, I don’t think I’ll ever feel safe again with someone else. 

He was always so thoughtful. I smile again as I vividly remember the treasure hunt for my birthday. Leaving me all those notes to follow through the city, collecting all these little treasures along the way. The flowers, the ice-cream. It finally led me to one of my favourite places: the Guggenheim museum. It was already dark when I arrived, visiting hours long over. The security guards let me in when the saw me, it was all so amazing. And then Harold showed up with a big smug grin on his face. I knew in that instant that I absolutely loved, love, him for the rest of my life. 

Harold took me on a tour of the museum that night; just the two of us. And then he gave me the best birthday present anyone has ever given me: a chance to quietly enjoy the most beautiful painting I’ve ever seen in my life. Another pang of grief, but mixed with love this time. 

I don’t think Harold even looked at any of the paintings that night; his hand gently holding mine, his eyes lovingly on me the entire time. In the end we spent the evening wandering through the museum, hand in hand, just enjoying each other’s company. 

It was the best birthday I ever had and I told him so when we were leaving the building. He blushed a nice crimson, suddenly all shy. It gave him the courage to decide that he wanted to tell me about himself, about his past. We sat down to talk, but I could see he struggled to open up, to tell me things that he never told anyone before.  

It was painful to watch him force himself say things that he might regret later, so I stopped him right there. I didn’t care, I still don’t, we all have secrets we need to keep. He already showed me everything I needed to know about himself. From here on, we would find our own way together. I told him so and his eyes lit up, full of love. He kissed me, and I him, at last able to express our feelings. I think we both found our one true love. 

Standing at his grave, remembering his life, I let my tears fall. It’s good to have something of him, even if it’s just memories. However painful they are, they’re all I have left. 

Four years; we had four years together. Four wonderful years. I won’t lie if I say that they were the best years of my life. Of course, there were things we didn’t really share, we both had our own interests, but we trusted each other—we supported each other. We loved, love, each other. 

He did seem to struggle at work sometimes. He wouldn’t really talk about his job, but I could tell it was eating at him at times. I can’t say that I understand what it is that he did, but I did try my best to be there for him; just like he encouraged me in my art. His mood would always brighten after we talked and he would be happy and, dare I say, playful again. 

One day I asked him to pose for me in the park, which he willingly did. I could see him contemplating a difficult subject, but I knew he’d come around when he figured it out. In the meantime, he made a wonderful and beautiful model for my painting. Sitting still for hours on end was somewhat of a speciality of his. 

At long last, he did stir. He roused himself from his thoughts and stood up. His mouth had this determined set that he gets, got, when he made a decision. With a little knowing smile, he put our phones into my paint box, took my hand, and gently guided me deeper into the park, away from the people around us for some privacy.  

I still can hardly believe what he did next. My heart clenches at the memory. I sob and a smile at the same time. He sat me down on a large log, handed me a book, and when I opened it, he went down on his knees for me. Inside the book was a small box with a beautiful ring in it. I was so shocked, I barely heard his words. I never thought he’s wanted to marry me, me. I said yes, of course. I loved, love, him for the rest of my life. My heart will always belong to him. 

We spent the rest of the day together; talking, laughing, making plans for the wedding; I remember it involved a lot of kissing. It was the happiest day of my life. 

Two weeks later our lives ended.  

There was some sort of explosion at the ferry dock. They said it was a terrorist attack. I don’t know, all I knew was that Harold was supposed to meet someone there. Of course, I rushed over as soon as I heard the news and I couldn’t reach Harold’s cell. I was shocked when I saw the horror of what happened. 

Not every victim was accounted for; some were lost to the water of the harbour, some were sent to different hospitals. I was finally directed to a triage centre, but I couldn’t find him among all the other injured people. Deep in my heart I knew that if he was alive, Harold would’ve found a way to contact me. After a long day searching, whatever hope I had left was wiped away when I found the book that he used to propose me with.  

Finding that book was like someone punched me in my stomach. I wanted to die right then and there. Part of me didn’t want to believe he was dead, part of me knew better. For a long time, I just stood there with the book in my hand, unable to breathe, unable to fully understand what happened. I don’t know how I got home after that, how I made all the arrangements necessary.  

The wind has thoroughly chilled me to the bone and with a shiver I rouse from my memories. The reality of what happened comes back rushing in. I hold back another sob and dry my tears. I gently lay the flowers, Harold’s favourite, at the foot of the wooden cross over his grave. It still hurts so much that they never found a body, but I needed something to come back to, to grieve. 

A few steadying breaths and I’m finally able to take the first step away. Away from the grave, away from him. I don’t know how I’ll survive without him, but I have to try. Harold would want me to, even though my heart breaks every time I think of him.