Bayview Secondary School was closed for the summer, but the memorial was always open. Even now, fifteen years later, it seemed as fresh and perfect as it had the day it was opened. And still there were offerings - flowers, cards, photos - some of which had been there for years. Some people had been organised and laminated their messages. She hadnt done that. But hers wasnt really intended to last.
The person it was meant for already knew what it said.
As soon as she released their hands they had run off across the grass, Emma winning by a streak in some impromptu race. They started to disappear into the haze. Emma was carrying in her hands a bunch of white flowers.
"Emma! Roman!" Acacia called after them. Roman turned, his eyes wide behind his glasses and he trotted dutifully back towards his mother. Emma stuck her tongue out and danced around a little, before continuing to run, perpendicular to them, back towards the car. She did a pirouette, holding the bunch of flowers high above her head like a pom pom. There was nobody else around.
Roman slipped his hand inside hers, and Acacia squeezed it back. They walked slowly together towards the memorial. As they got closer, she clamped a hand over her mouth, unsure of any other way to respond that wouldnt scare her son. She dropped Romans hand, using that one to trace the names of people on the wall.
It was silly. These people had been dead for fifteen years, and yet looking at their names she might have been in class with them only yesterday. Tom Guthrie, hed asked her to Prom. She hadn't thought about him in years, but all of a sudden they were swinging on the ropes in the gym. There was Max Neill, she could hear them reading his name out on the list of the dead, the guy shed actually gone to Prom with. Charlie and Thea and all the other girls from Cheerleading, pom poms long since rested. She could see Charlie being shot, the scene playing out in her mind and obscuring her vision. She was seventeen again, and she didnt know what to do. Running after Hayley Kelly on some kind of hell bent revenge. Losing her insulin and finding the boats. The bird with her underwear on its head.
"Its my name!" Acacia glanced down. Romans arms were reached out to a little above eye level, touching the memorial delicately with his fingertips. Crouching down next to him, Acacia looked at it closely. "I never found anyone else called Roman before."
Ive only ever known two people called Roman, Acacia said softly, distractedly. "Theyre both right here."
Roman turned around then, as if expecting there to be someone else standing nearby. He looked back at his namesake written on the wall, then up at his Mom. Then he looked away quickly, unsure of how to react. Acacia, trying unsuccessfully to hide how upset she was, reached into her bag and extracted the note. It was written on a small card, with a cake on the front. Inside was a single sentence, written in the elaborate handwriting she had last used as a teenager. She handed it to her son.
"Put that with all the others," Acacia said, pointing at the smattering of tokens that had been left at the base of the memorial. Her son took the note and opened it immediately with curiosity. Why had he been dragged out to a random school near his Grandparents house to go and look at something that just had a load of names written on it? The only redeeming factor was that one of the names was Roman too.
"I never told anyone about the bug," Roman read out loud. He turned to look curiously at Acacia. From behind them they heard Emmas airy voice. "What in darned tootin hell does that mean?"
"Ill tell you one day," Acacia said with a watery smile, hugging Roman and Emma to her. She nodded at the memorial, and Emma placed the flowers, by now a little bedraggled from roving around the grounds, gently next to the note. For a moment they stood, Roman still had his arms wrapped tightly around his mothers waist, and Emma stood slightly to one side, looking at the memorial with a detached interest. Acacia watched her.
One day. One day she would understand.
But, for now, it was time for them to experience the rest of their lives.
Everything in life is only for now.G018, ACACIA SALINGER - CONCLUDED