H. L. Ridgeway
I am an aspiring author. I plan on being on the New York Times Best Sellers list.I am currently writing the first book in a Science Fiction/ Fantasy series. I am excited for everyone to see the stories swimming around in my head!
The Bull Who Stole My Heart
Today is such a beautiful day. The sun is shining, the flowers are in bloom, a nice breeze is blowing through my hair and all the gorgeous demi-gods are out on display. Spring is ah-maz-ing! I'm only allowed out of the underworld during this time when my mom goes to visit family. I'm the daughter of Persephone and Hades. My name is Tessa. "Ow!" Who dares to pull my hair? "Hey little Goddess! You don't need to stare at those losers when your true love is standing right in front of you." Ugh Nikos. He's definitely sexy but I am so over the underworld guys. He was devilishly handsome, pun intended. He has huge bull horns, rippling muscles, a beard fit for the Gods and the lower half of a bull, tail and all. He has been chasing me since kindergarten but I just see him as a best friend. "Why don't you go chase some other girls this spring? I'm sure someone will scoop you up, maybe even a few people. Stop wasting your time on me 'cuz it's never gonna happen." He shrugged and walked off in the direction of the women. I rolled my eyes at his newest tattoo. Why would a half bull-man need a tattoo of a bull? Weirdo. Oh my Gods! That is a sexy man and he's walking towards me! "Hello beautiful. My name's Leonidas. Would you like to have lunch with me?" Just as I was about to answer I saw Nikos walking up with a drop dead gorgeous woman. "Hey, we would love to join you guys for lunch. Where to?" Ugh. I do not want to join them for lunch. "Yeah man! My name's Leonidas, it's nice to meet you! Who's your lady friend?" She smiled seductively at Nikos and my stomach churned. "My name is Sofia. Don't worry my hair doesn't bite. These snakes are nothing like Medusa's." I fought the urge to roll my eyes. Okay so I guess I am stuck on this horrible double date. Great. I gave a fake smile to the snake-haired siren and glared at Nikos. He's so freaking annoying. The walk to the Pita Pit felt like the longest walk of my life having to watch their disgusting flirting. "Sooo, Leonidas, tell me about yourself. Do you live in the mortal realm or in Olympus?" He wrapped his delicious arm around me, "I live in Olympus. I go to college there, I live in the dorms. I think Sofia does too, I've seen her on campus." She squeezed Nikos's hand and pushed up on him, "I do! I'm majoring in the mortal agriculture system. I plan on opening my own organic business." Nikos seemed impressed by that 'cuz he scooped her up and told her he loved smart women. Whatever. Finally! Seated at the Pita Pit, I'm starving! "Hey, Tessa? Can you switch seats with me? I wanna sit next to Nikos." Really? Who sits next to their date? "Yeah, whatever." I guess this isn't so bad. Leonidas wrapped his arm around my shoulder and pulled me close. He smells so good! "Oh, Nikos lemme feed you some olives." I couldn't help it, I rolled my eyes and Nikos caught me. His smug grin is so irritating. I decided to ignore their love fest as much as possible and delved into flirtatious conversation with Leonidas. He was sexy but kind of an airhead. He plays on almost every sports team and is definitely one of the bros. Found out he's part nemean lion and part forest nymph. Guess that's where he gets his great hair from. This was getting boring. Thankfully the food here is good. Um, if I don't throw it all up, ew! I have front row seats to the make-out show and it's disgusting! Why do I feel so upset by Nikos and his date? I have a sexy guy sitting right next to me and all I can do is stare at these two jerks. At that moment Leonidas started kissing on my neck, and it felt so nice! He may be dumb but he has nice lips! I guess I could make-out with him since our double date squad is immersed in their own tongue twister session. Leonidas has some very soft lips and is an amazing kisser so why am I wondering how Nikos's kisses would feel? He's just gotten under my skin. He did this on purpose with his true love talk. "We should head to the beach! I'd love to see Nikos without a shirt on!", Sofia cooed. Barf. We all cleaned up and headed out. We met back up at the beach to a shirtless sexy Nikos and Leonidas. Could Sofia get anymore gorgeous? Her body is perfect! Now I feel less adequate compared to her. Great. Hey! Both guys are staring at her! Could this get any worse? "Come on Tessa! Take your clothes off, it's bikini weather and you have too many layers on!" She's annoying. The guys turned their attention on me and I could feel my cheeks start to burn. I stripped down to my bikini and gathered my stuff, "Let's go. I wanna get a tan before I'm stuck back in the underworld." Nikos elbowed me in the ribs and leaned down to whisper in my ear, "You seem ticked off today. I did what you asked, are you regretting your decision?" I snarled at him, "Don't you have a cheerleader to attend to?" He shot me a smug grin, "You're still the sexiest woman I've ever seen. That bikini should be illegal." And before I could spit out a rebuttal, he was lip-locking with Sofia again. Whatever. Leonidas scooped me up and threw me over his shoulder and I could've sworn my tits were gonna pop out of my suit. He started laughing, "I gotta be more careful! I can't let everyone see my goodies! I haven't even seen them yet!" I rolled my eyes again. Thankfully no one could see my face. Oh! I felt a hard slap across my butt! No he didn't! Just then I heard a very faint familiar growl. Good! I'm glad that ruffled Nikos's feathers. He should be jealous. The day went on with the both of us trying to make the other jealous. I can't believe I'm actually engaging in this seeing how I don't want anything to do with Nikos like that. I don’t know why but I can't help but get this horrible jealous feeling. Things were just mildly irritating until I looked over and saw that Nikos and Sofia were practically dry humping on the beach! I made up a lame excuse to Leonidas and stormed off to the concession stand. Maybe I can blend in with the other people and disappear. "I would like.." "One large cherry soda, light ice with exactly three cherries floating inside," Nikos interrupted me. "I don't need you to order for me. Go order for your snake charmer." "Oh, I am. I'm thinking of asking her on an official date. She's not only hot but smart too. You might've finally been replaced." Why did that hurt so much? I could feel the tears well up in the corners of my eyes and was thankful my order was ready. "I'll be back in a little bit." I just wanted to get away from him and the double date squad too. Why did I care that I was finally being replaced? He's had girlfriends before and Sofia isn't even a girlfriend. Just then I felt an arm wrap around my stomach and pull me into a very muscular chest. "I thought you didn't like me? Why are you so butt hurt that I'm into Sofia?" "I'm not! Just leave me alone!" His grip got tighter around me and surprisingly it felt really good. His lips were right up on my ear and his raspy words sent goosebumps swimming all over my body, "Tell me the truth Tessa. What do you want?" I could feel myself melting into his embrace. I didn't know how to respond, I didn't even know what I wanted. "Do you want me? Just say so." His breath on my ear was turning me into putty. He spun me around and stared me straight in the eyes. Why have I never noticed how beautiful their shade of golden brown was? They even had flakes of forest green floating in them. His septum piercing that I used to find cringey was now hot. His hands were gripping my hips and pulled me into him, "Tell me." "I uh, um, I .." Why am I stumbling over my words? I didn't have much time to ponder that because his lips were soon on mine and I lost my senses. I kissed him back, I actually kissed him back. That wasn't the worst of it. My whole body was going limp as his kiss was the best I've ever experienced. My hands seemed to have a mind of their own because they were roaming over his perfectly chiseled chest and snaking their way to his face. I cannot believe I am actually kissing Nikos back! More so that I am actually enjoying it! He pulled away slowly, "Whoah!" was all I could muster out of these traitorous lips. He chuckled, "Should I take that as you'll finally be my girl?" I stumbled a little, trying to get my footing after that mind melting kiss. He laughed again at me. "I cannot believe I am saying this but I really would like to be able to kiss you more," I was able to finally speak in sentences. "It took you long enough. Only made me wait since kindergarten. If I knew making you jealous was the key to winning your heart then I would've done this a long time ago." I smacked him on his bull tattoo, "Whatever. I don't even know why I was so jealous of her being with you. All I know is you better not ever try to make me jealous again!" He pulled me in closer, "Now that I have you little Goddess, I'll only be trying to make you love me as much as I have loved you, your whole life." He pulled me in for another kiss and I knew it then, I was completely hooked. How did I never realize the man for me was my best friend? He ushered me behind the concession stands and pulled me again, his hands exploring my body as his lips massaged mine. With every touch of his hands my body became weak and all I wanted was more. He cupped my breast as his fingers massaged my nipple through my bikini top sending shivers from my spine to my core. It was like he knew my body better than I do. My hands were doing some exploring of their own. His swim shorts were very thin in material and I could feel his bulge on my thigh. My hands seemed to be targeting that exact spot on his body. He moaned in my mouth and I lost all of my senses. His tongue swirled around mine and I knew I would never want anyone else ever again. I pulled away from him gasping, "I think we should tell our dates goodbye and take this back to the underworld." He cocked an eyebrow at me, "I thought you enjoyed your time in the mortal world?" I shrugged it off. He got excited and we were off to end our dates. Surprisingly, it went really smoothly. Apparently while we were away in our own world, these two got acquainted. They were going to end things with us as well. "Alright beast-man, let's go!"
Southern Love Story
The sky was orange with hues of pink and purple as the sun began to rise in golden excellence. The rays hit the dew droplets that littered the two yards, sprinkling the earth in tiny diamonds. The cicadas were already awake and screaming into the empty air as the birds sang love songs to the sun. It was a perfect southern morning in a sleepy little town in Georgia. Abilene was already awake collecting eggs from the chicken coop when she heard the twins from next door out running around. "Hi boys! Y'all eat anything yet?" The boys came running up to her, "Yes ma'am we did! We had cheese grits with biscuits and gravy." She smiled at the boys with the beautiful big blue eyes and freckled cheeks. Their skin was sun kissed from running around outdoors all day and their hair was a sandy blonde color. They looked so different from her yet she loved them like kin regardless. She has babysat them since they were in diapers and now they were little tornadoes kicking up dust wherever they went. "Well boys I'm ‘bout to make my breakfast and I'll be out in a while to do my chores. If you want, you can help me feed the pigs in a bit." They nodded at her and ran off to cause hell somewhere in their yard. She took the eggs inside and prepared breakfast for her family. "Hey daddy. Breakfast is ready, you should eat before you head out to the fields." Her father smiled brightly at her, filled with pride for his daughter. "Your mama will be down in a minute, she's cleaning up Junior's bottom." She had prepared a bottle and some oatmeal for Junior and a plate of eggs and bacon for her mother. In their house everyone pulled their weight. Her mother was a seamstress for the town and was a high commodity for the housewives who kept up to date with the city styles. Her father tended the farm and his fields while Abilene cooked and took care of the animals. Next door were the Callaway's. They had a house full of children and they would come help with the farm. Mr. Callaway was her daddy's best friend and worked on the farm and in the fields with her father. He made his older boys tend the fruits and vegetables and hard labor around the farm while the younger kids cleaned both of the houses. Mrs. Callaway was a teacher and she taught her kids as well as Abilene and a few kids from down the road. All in all it was a simple life. Abilene loved her simple farm life. She cleaned the kitchen and headed out to feed the pigs. She had just walked into the barn when she heard, "Well hello there Ms. Abilene. You're looking mighty pretty today. Is that a new outfit?" She blushed at the sound of Winston Callaway's voice. They were the same age, exactly two months apart. He had blue eyes as well but his hair was a light brown color. Freckles sprinkled across his face also but his skin was a little more of a reddish tan from the sun. She shyly smiled, "Yes, sir. My mama made these britches 'cuz she said my other ones was getting a little too snug on me." He poked her arm, "Well Ms. Abilene, I think they look mighty fine on you." He gave her one of his smiles filled with charm as he walked off to the tomato patch. She didn't understand why she got butterflies in her stomach when he came around, it wasn't like he could ever like her more than a friend. Just then the twins came running in crying out to be the one who got to feed the pigs. She had them help her with the animals and the barn chores to get them to settle down. Once they were done with everything she excused herself and headed out to the backyard. She walked down the trail and headed towards the pear trees. Afternoons were her favorite time of day. She would make her a small lunch and head over to her favorite pear tree and look out toward the flower fields right outside the woods while she ate. She settled in and started looking through her picnic basket. "May I join you Ms. Abilene?" She jumped at the sound of Winston's voice. "Of course, Winston. You know you're always welcome to have lunch with me." He smiled his charm filled smile and sat next to her. He had a basket of his own and was mighty proud of himself which peaked Abilene's curiosity. "I hope you don't mind, but I packed some treats for you too, Ms. Abilene." She was really curious now. "I made you some banana bread and sweet tea. I also got some strawberries. I asked your daddy if I could bring you the biggest ones I found." She didn't know what to say, it was the most thoughtful thing anyone other than her family has ever done for her. "Winston, this is amazing. I can't believe you did all this for me. But I don't understand why?" It was his turn to blush and he cleared his throat, "Ms. Abilene, I'm sweet on you. I think you are the most beautiful girl I've ever laid eyes on. I spoke to your daddy and asked his permission to have lunch with you. There is nothing I wanna do more than make you happy." She didn't quite know what to say. She blushed hard and smiled at him. "Winston, I have been sweet on you for years. I just didn't think you would like someone like me. I thought you would be keen on someone like Hattie. She has such pretty golden curls and all the boys seem to like her." He laughed a little at that, "Hattie?! You thought I would be keen on Hattie? Not when I've got the prettiest girl living right next door to me. And may I ask what's wrong with your curls? You also have the greenest eyes I ever have seen. They remind me of this flower field with the sun right overhead. Your smile can light up a whole room and your laugh is as beautiful as the church bells on a Sunday morning." She blushed even more at hearing this. She never quite felt like she fit in. Hearing his words made her feel like she was on top of the world. Her mama always tells her that she's the prettiest girl in town but it didn't feel the same as when Winston said it. She had caramel skin, with long, thick curly, red tinted hair, green eyes and long legs that her daddy called frog legs. She was skinny but fit thanks to working on the farm. The other girls picked on her for her muscles but they were not as big as boys' muscles and she could never understand why they picked on her for that. Winston continued to tell her all the things he found perfect about her and to her surprise all of those things were what she had considered her flaws. They spent the entire afternoon together under the pear tree. Abilene read her book out loud to Winston as he leaned back on the tree, lost in the sound of her voice. They would talk about everything, laugh at the stories of mischief the twins would cause and just sit in comfortable silence with each other listening to the sounds of nature. Abilene felt like the day couldn’t get any better until Winston scooted over closer to her and slid his hand over hers. He leaned in slowly toward her and kissed her gently on the cheek. “Ms. Abilene, would you be my girl?” She began to blush again. “Why Winston, I would be proud to be your girl.” They both blushed and giggled. Winston shyly leaned forward and softly kissed Abilene on the lips. “We should get going. School time for the older kids is ‘bout to start. Here let me help you up.” Winston stood up and helped her to her feet. They gathered their baskets, innocently intertwined their hands and headed to the Callaway’s house. Abilene was smiling so hard that her cheeks hurt but she just couldn’t stop. She snuck a quick look over to Winston and saw he had a huge smile on his face too. She giggled a little and squeezed his hand. Mr. Callaway and her daddy had just arrived back from the fields and caught sight of the two. “It’s ‘bout time them two got together. I was wonderin’ how long my son was gonna follow her around like a puppy before he let her know he was keen on her. He made a mighty fine choice in Abilene. She’s a good girl.” Mr. Callaway smiled brightly as he talked about the two teenagers. Abilene’s daddy nodded his head in agreement. “Winston’s a good lad. I know I can trust him with my baby girl’s heart. I’d be proud to see her with him.” Mr. Callaway elbowed Abilene’s father, “You’re just saying that ‘cuz you’re my best friend!” They both gave out a hardy laugh and walked inside the house. Everyone smiled at the sight of Abilene and Winston. They truly were a beautiful pair. Abilene and Winston were inseparable from that day forward, wrapped in the bliss of their new relationship. Winston made sure to tell her every day how perfect she was, while Abilene made sure to make a special lunch for them to share at their favorite pear tree. Every day they sat under the pear tree for lunch and every day their love grew stronger. Abilene truly loved her simple farm life but she enjoyed it so much more now that she had Winston to share it with. “Winston, I will always love you.” Abilene shyly admitted as Winston blushed so hard his cheeks burned. “I will always love you too, Ms. Abilene.”
Lady of the Pond
Eureka Springs, Arkansas. 5:00 p.m. Emily sat down at a table in the quaint cafe located in the middle of the historic little town she had just arrived in. She was a city girl in much need of some relaxation and decided where better than in the middle of nowhere. "What can I get ya' hun?" Emily looked up at the middle-aged woman that was dressed in slacks and an apron. "Um, what's something quick? I need to check into the Full Moon Hotel soon." Worry crossed the woman's face, "Honey, I can get you anything. That hotel allows outside food. They take orders from us all of the time. We can always pack up your left-overs for you. But I recommend the bacon grilled cheese with a side of baked potato soup for someone who's been traveling all day." Emily smiled, "That sounds perfect! I'll have that please." The woman smiled and walked off to the kitchen. Emily took her phone out to Google the directions to her hotel and was pleased to see it was only ten minutes away. She continued to google the quaint little town while she ate her food. "May I interest you in dessert hun?" Emily shook her head no and paid for her food. "You stay safe now okay hun?" Emily said her goodbyes and headed over to the hotel. Once she was checked in and her luggage was in her room, she decided to go roam the grounds. She thought the area was beautiful with its old oak and pine trees , the even older Victorian three story building towering over her, the way the winter breeze hit her cheeks, and the owls calling out to her. Everything was perfect except for the frozen pond. The way the fog danced over the ice and slithered its way towards her creeped her out. She felt goosebumps make residence all over her body and a shiver ran down her spine. Just as she turned to head back she let out a scream as she almost ran right into the bellhop. "I'm sorry ma'am but you shouldn't be out here all alone once evening hits. Please come inside." She apologized and followed him inside, turning around to look at the pond once more. Back in her room she laid down and stared at the ceiling, still thinking of the frozen pond. Before long she drifted off to sleep and was entangled in the most vivid nightmare she's ever had. She heard her name being called from the pond and before she knew it she was chasing her name, barefoot across the grass and sticks. Thorns were poking her from the branches that scratched her arms and face. She felt a pull to the pond, mesmerized by the call of her name. She couldn't stop no matter how hard she tried, she just kept moving towards the treacherous pond. She felt like it had only been seconds since she started her journey but she was already standing on the cold ice looking down. She carefully knelt down and placed her palms on the cloudy ice. Emily knew whoever was calling her was in the water, trapped under the ice. The ice began crackling, splitting beneath her fingers, just as a hand came thundering out shooting ice in all directions. The hand grabbed her by the throat, gripping her so tightly she couldn't get away. She didn't have time to think before another hand shot out and grabbed her by the hair, yanking her down. Emily tried to scream, tried to pull away but she just couldn't, the hands were so much stronger than she was. The more she tried to push herself up and away from the hands the more the ice broke. After what seemed like decades of time had passed she finally woke up from her dream, sweating and scared but freezing at the same time. She opened her eyes and looked around only to realize she was laying upon the ice. Was that really a nightmare? Frightened beyond believe, she scuttled to try to get off the ice as fast as she could. She grabbed hold of the dirt, clawing the rest of her way off of the ice and ran barefoot back to the hotel. She slammed her room door behind her as her back slid down landing her with a thud on her rear end. She began to hyperventilate as she shook uncontrollably. Tears streamed down her face like a rainstorm on a summer's day. Her thoughts ran wild as she wondered if her nightmare was truly a dream or reality. She ran to the bathroom to check her throat. She fell backwards in fear as she saw the sight in the mirror; her throat was bruised and purple. She jumped and squealed in fright as she heard a knock on the door. "Ma'am, breakfast is served. Would you like me to leave the cart at the door?" The voice was familiar, she realized it was the bellhop from yesterday. "Y-ye-y-yes. P-pl-please," was all she was able to stammer out. She composed herself and convinced herself that she had to have been sleep walking and that she caused the bruising somehow. She ate breakfast, took an extremely hot shower, and decided not to think of the nightmare again. She wandered out of her room, paranoid stricken, slinky around the halls. Something caught her attention from the corner of her eye. She turned the corner to her left to enter an empty dance hall. Emily was confused as she could've sworn that she had seen someone. There was another shadow in the corner of her eye, she spun fast but there was nothing but empty space. "Emily." She spun around again and again, no one was there. The entire day went on like this. Every corner she turned she swore she saw a woman. She was chasing ghosts throughout the building until she ran into the bellhop, literally. He fell backwards and landed hard on the ground as she did the same. "I'm so sorry! I just kept hearing my name and was trying to figure out where it was coming from." He nodded, "Well ma'am I was coming to inform all of the guests that dinner is served." She was taken aback by that. "Wait, you mean I missed lunch? I didn't know the day passed so fast." He nodded and informed her of the menu and that he would leave her meal in her room. She thanked him and decided to head back to her room and prepare for her dinner. She had just changed into something comfy when the bellhop knocked on her door. She ate her meal, cleaned up and decided to turn in early. Sleep came fast and easy, it was peaceful. At first. The nightmare returned. The voice took control of her once more and she was in hot pursuit of it. Her bare feet crunching the sticks beneath them as she ran towards the frozen pond again. She paused as she reached the ice, touching it with one toe, testing it to see if it was real. Her dirty foot smeared across the rock hard ice, then her other foot. She left a trail of dirt behind her as she walked towards the hole in the ice. Her pace was slow and steady as she prepared herself for the inevitable. Finally, there she was, standing in front of the hole looking in the water. Waiting. "Where are you?" It was a deafening silence when in the breeze she heard her name again. "Emily." She stared down waiting for something to happen, for someone to appear. "Emily." She dropped down on her knees, "Let's get this over with." Still nothing happened. She was just about to get up when a hand grabbed her wrist. She tried to yank back but couldn't wrench her wrist free. Another hand shot out of the water and grabbed her other wrist, yanking it into the water pulling her down until her face smacked into the ice. She felt the other hand move from her wrist to her shirt collar and yank her again. Her head slid off of the ice and into the frigid water. She was pulled further into the water. Her face and body immediately became numb and it felt as if she had a million needles pricking her. It was becoming harder to fight off the hands when she felt her arm be released. She thought she had a chance for escape when her throat was grabbed once more and she was pulled down further into the water, submerging her whole body. She felt another yank and realized she was now nose to nose with her assailant. She choked in water as she looked into the eyes of the woman who had held her , realizing she was staring back at herself. The attacker suddenly disappeared leaving Emily to slowly drown. She swam upwards knocking into the ice, pounding, trying to break free. She closed her eyes accepting defeat and upon reopening them she looked around seeing she was back on top of the ice. She was gasping for air, freezing, confused and terrified. She struggled to get up as she tried to get away from the frozen pond as fast as she could. Emily fell as soon as she reached dry land, clawing her way back to the hotel. She reached the clearing, turned back to the pond just to see herself standing in the middle of it. Before she could register what she saw she realized she was back on the ice standing in the middle of the frozen pond. Reality hit her as hard as a train. She was the lady of the pond, stuck at the frozen pond, forever. She let out a haunting scream as she faded away.
Piece of Me
It was still dark outside as the small boy stretched in his bed. He didn't want to open his eyes just yet as he curled into his blanket. It smelled of his abuela (grandmother); cigars, Maja soap, and a hint of a soft floral off- brand perfume. He smiled as a tiny tear rolled down his cheek. Today was Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and he wanted to get an early start to make his abuela proud. 'Time to get up. Move your body, muevete (move), let's go,' he thought as he slowly sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. As his feet touched the floor he smelled fresh bread baking. He gave a quick stretch and headed towards the bathroom. He held back tears as he saw the bar of Maja soap but decided to use it to wash his face. "Macho! Are you awake? Come eat breakfast mijo (son)." He walked in the direction of his mother and she greeted him with a smile identical to his abuela's. He didn't know how he was going to make it through the day. His abuela passed away only months ago and this would be the first Dia de los Muertos that had a family member he actually knew. Abuela Yolanda was his favorite abuela. He loved his abuela Gloria but she was strict and chanclas (house slippers) were her weapon of choice when he misbehaved. Abuela Yolanda never got upset with him and was always patient with him. She made sure to get involved with all of his interests and even dressed as a luchadora (wrestler) one time when he was sad because he wasn't old enough to go to a Lucha Libre match (wrestling match). He stiffened his chin and hugged his mama as she handed him a plate of eggs and rice. His morning routine seemed to drag on forever. He did his chores and helped set up the ofrenda (remembrance altar) with marigolds, sweet bread, candy, candles and the offerings his mom entrusted him to handle. Lastly he set up his favorite photo of abuela Yolanda right next to the photo of abuelo (grandfather) Miguel. Once he was done helping his mother set everything up she allowed him to wander off into town for the celebrations. He always used to love the celebrations but today he only half-heartedly enjoyed seeing all of the spectacular parades and costumes. He sat down at the children's table and asked the face painter to add his abuela's favorite flower as she skillfully turned his face into a skull. "Aye hijo (child) you look so guapo (handsome)! You'll make your familia (family) so proud! Who will be visiting you tonight?" The face painter looked at him so lovingly while she awaited his answer. He shuffled his feet and looked down as he said, "Mi abuela Yolanda (my grandmother Yolanda). She loved the flower that you painted on my face. Do you really think she will visit me tonight?" Her smile reached her eyes as she assured him that she would. He thanked her as he walked toward another children's activity. Her words made him feel a little better and he enjoyed the rest of the festivities. The day was turning into evening as he decided to make his way home to join his mother for the night procession to the cemetery. "Mijo (son) are you ready? I have candles and marigolds, bread and water. Am I forgetting anything?" He shook his head no as he helped his mother carry her items. He didn't know if he was going to be able to keep his tears from falling as they walked through the town. The reality of her not being with him was hitting his heart like a fist to his chest. He tried not to think of her as they walked on. He watched his feet as he stepped on the marigold petals wondering if the dead were walking alongside them. They finally reached the cemetery and headed to their family plot. He helped his mother decorate all of their family's headstones and lit candles next to each of them. They saved Abuela Yolanda's headstone for last. "Mama, I miss you so much. Thank you for everything. Te quiero (I love you)." He listened as his mother silently wept. She started to set up the bread and cups of water near the headstones while he stayed at his abuela's. He dropped to his knees as the tears fell from his eyes. "Abuela, I miss you so much! Life is not the same without you. I can't do this without you! How am I going to do anything without you? I need you!" He pleaded with her to come back to him and pounded the ground in frustration. A single marigold floated down in front of him. He sniffled and wiped the snot from his nose as he picked it up. A breeze hit his face, filling his nostrils with the sweet smell of his abuela's perfume and cigar smoke. "Macho, no llores (do not cry). Javier, mi Machito (macho) you must not be sad. I am here with you, always." He heard her words but could not see her anywhere. Suddenly he felt her warm embrace as if she was in front of him hugging him. He closed his eyes as he cherished this moment. When he slowly opened his eyes he gasped in shock as he saw abuela Yolanda right in front of him. "Macho you look so handsome! I will always be by your side whether you can see me or not. Thank you for my ofrendas (offerings). The marigolds are so beautiful! You got the biggest ones I see! Look at the colors! So vibrant! You always had an eye for the best flowers. I love you so much Macho!" He smiled as his heart filled with so much love, "I love you too abuela. I am sad I don't have you here anymore. I'm going to miss your hugs and your laughter. Will you visit me every Dia de los Muertos?" She laughed, "Of course Machito. You don't have to worry about that. I will always come to visit you. I must go now but please do not be sad. Anytime you need me, I will be there. I promise mi amor (my love)." He watched as she slowly faded away as the breeze blew through her. "I love you abuela." He closed his eyes once more, replaying her words in his head. As he opened them he saw his mother walking towards him and he smiled at her. He had a new sense of calm as he met up with her, "Mama, I love you." She smiled down at him and wiped the tear from her cheek. "Let's go home mi amor." He nodded his head and hugged her. He took her hand as they headed home, "Mama you don't have to miss abuela. She said she will always be with us." She squeezed his hand as they walked silently the rest of the way home. He was finally at peace with his abuela's passing.