Walking through the crooked gates, I held tight the picnic basket in one hand, and roses in the other. The petals were still crisp like their fragrance, a fresh welcome wafting up into the dreary gray sky. This was better than the constant smell of mud and rain. The rich reds popped out from the grayscale scenery, the colors blending together into one somber mess. I was glad; I wanted you to stand out.

Stepping over the other stones and plaques, I reached you, the pristine white cross deep in the ground. As I sat down, I placed the roses in your place.

“It’s been a long time,” I greeted. “How are you?”

Silence. Just as expected.

I brought out a book from the basket. It was worn, filled with dog-ears and teardrops, but it still smelled like it was fresh from the bookstore.

“Remember this? How we first met?”

I could still recount it from the heart. From all the books piled on the shelves, I was drawn to it. Looking at the back, I was intrigued by such little words. At that moment, I was absorbed.

As soon as I went to the first page, I was hooked. My eyes devoured the print, while my fingers continuously flicked them. It was a race. All fast-paced. You should’ve seen me, just gasps and widened eyes. My eye bags are proof of the sleepless nights I laid, only wanting to know what came next.

“One more chapter,” I said. “It would be quick,” I said. Then boom! The cliffhanger attacked. With no other choice, I chugged down my coffee, preparing to soldier on. I was ready to do it all, because of you.

When you were first introduced, I didn’t know I would be so attached. Back then, you were just another character to me, I’m sorry to say that. But as you developed over the pages, I changed my mind.

“I’m happy to know you’re no longer being treated like trash.”

My face scrunched up, thinking of that damn author. Trying so hard to be powerful, throwing such precious characters away. Yes, it was powerful. It wrecked me, so I wrecked my surroundings. I threw the book to a wall. I consumed three boxes of tissues, filling up the trash bin. I was crying for god knows how long, suffocating under the numerous blankets I wrapped myself up in. It took me a long time before I recovered—no—I never did.

The tears were coming back. Before I had a chance to wipe them away, they all came rushing down my face. So I let it all out. My sobs were loud, monstrous to the ears, but we were the only two here. I carried on, thinking of your suffering. How you deserved better. The life you could’ve had. Imagine all that could’ve been written. Those pages are now incomplete, missing you, a vital element. All those ifs and beens are buried with you now.

The other characters may grieve for a while, and then move on to the next arc. But I’ll always be here, remembering you. I’ll keep you in my memories, so you’ll come to life once again, just as you should be.

I hugged the cross. “It’s okay, my love. It’s okay.”

—By Bianca A., 14, Philippines