Chapter 5 - Part 1

“Hi,” Jessica whispered, her heart heavy and her throat clogged with emotion. She was on the verge of tears.


It had been a while since she had been here, nearly a year and a half. It was Myles’ suggestion that had led her here after she had finished having pizza. She’d needed some space, and for some reason it had made sense to come here. 


She knelt in the grass, feeling overwhelmed by the emotions swirling around inside of her. Her fingers trailed over the engraved name on the headstone.


Dylan Shaw

Beloved son, brother and friend.

Gone too soon

In our memories always

In our hearts forever


“I miss you,” she said, barely before the first tear slid down her cheek. It was closely followed by another as she felt the buildup in her chest.


She had to face the event that had derailed her neatly planned life and sent her on a path she hadn’t foreseen. It was the only way for her to move forward.


She missed him so much that it was difficult to put it into words. If she concentrated hard enough, she could hear his voice calling her name in the whispering of the wind. If she closed her eyes, she could see him. Her fingers ached to reach out and touch his face, and somewhere in the distance she swore she could hear a laugh rumble from his chest. The pain inside felt unbearable, too much for one person to carry.


She would give anything to be able to go back in time and to hug him one last time or tell him just how much she loved him. But it was too late. He was gone. She opened her eyes, bringing her back to the quiet spot beneath the tree where Dylan’s tombstone marked his last resting place.


“Since you’ve left…” She paused, overwhelmed by her grief. Feeling the rising of heartache, she wiped her tears away. “I’ve been a mess. I don’t know how to be without you.”


She closed her eyes briefly. He appeared in a memory with a wide smile, laughing with no care in the world. Then she opened them and he was gone. The vision of his grave watered as her eyes teared up. It felt like her insides had been twisted.


“I’m sorry I haven’t been to visit,” she murmured, setting some sunflowers on his grave as she adjusted to sit on the grass and pulled her knees to her chest to rest her chin on them. She had chosen them because they had reminded her of the sun, and she liked to believe wherever he was he could still somehow feel the warmth of the sunlight.


“I’m sorry, Dylan. I’m sorry for letting you down.” A fresh wave of emotion caught her and she struggled to hold her tears. She breathed through it. “I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about it and wonder that if I had done things differently you might still be here with us.”


Her throat burned and she paused. “We’ll never be the same.” Overcome with emotion, she stopped to take a deep emotional breath and exhaled before she continued. “Karsyn. He is so angry he won’t let anyone close. He pushed me away when I needed him most and I was too messed up to see. Myles… He is just going through the motions, but that light that was there before is gone. When you left you took something none of us will ever get back.” 


The sound of a bird caught her attention and she watched wistfully as it glided in the sky. A part of her heart had died that day with him.


“I want to be mad that you’re not here, but all I can do is blame myself.” 


It was the first time she had admitted it out loud. 


She let out a haggard breath while she stared at the date—nearly two years since she had received the call to tell her the news. 


“I haven’t been strong. It was difficult to watch Karsyn implode because he couldn’t cope, and every time I looked at your brothers, they reminded me of you. It was too much.” Thinking back to that time was just a blur of shock, grief, and pain. “I’m sorry. I should have stayed and helped them through it, but I just couldn’t.”


It brought another wave of grief. She released her knees and sat crossed-legged. 


“I miss your dad as well. Tell him I miss him too. At least when I think about you, you’re not alone. Your parents are with you wherever you are, and that helps.”


Her eyes drifted to the grave beside his. 


In loving memory of Thomas Shaw. 

Our love for you will shine a light to

guide you on your next journey.


The date of the gravestone was six months after Dylan had died. Not only did she feel guilt over the death of Dylan, but she felt the same way over his father’s death. The grief of losing Dylan had been something he had been unable to overcome. 


There had been no way to know that, when they had all stood around Dylan’s grave, reeling from his death as they had lowered his coffin into the ground, that they would all be burying his father just six months later beside him. It had been a double blow, hitting them when they had all been low.


Their passings had left an emptiness that would never be filled.


She couldn’t blame Karsyn for going off the rails, or Myles for shutting down. They had both coped in the best way they had known how. She hadn’t fared much better and, at the time, Charlie had been the light in her darkness. He had held her together while everyone else had struggled with their own grief. Her inability to deal with the stress and grief that had taken its toll had created a larger mess, which she now had to deal with. 


Myles. They were reconnecting their friendship, which was more than she could have hoped for.


Karsyn. She didn’t know if there was any way to mend what had been broken between them.


And Charlie. All she could hope for was some sort of friendship once his heart mended.


With all the emotion and crying, she had developed a slight headache. She sat silently for a while playing with a blade of grass as she tried to work through the emotions of remembering. It was late afternoon already, but she wasn’t ready to leave yet.


She was oblivious to her surroundings until she heard the sound of footsteps behind her. 


“Jess.” The familiar voice stiffened her spine. Her heart skipped a beat, and only one person had ever done that to her.


It couldn’t be. She stood up slowly, refusing to trust that she knew the voice. When she turned around, there was no mistaking the man who stood in front of her. The sight of him impacted her like a jolt of electricity through her veins. She knew those green eyes, those sharp features, and the same dark-blond hair that he shared with his brothers.




“Karsyn,” she whispered, her throat raw with emotion as her eyes feasted on his features, comparing the new with her last memory of him.


His features were closed off from her as he studied her with cool eyes. His hair was longer than the last time she had seen him. He was dressed in jeans and a blue shirt.


“What are you doing here?” he asked.


“I needed to see him,” she said with a dismissive shrug. She held back the grief she had been struggling with just moments before while she busied herself with dusting the grass from her jeans.


His eyes fell from hers to the gravestone behind her, bringing out the sadness in his deep green eyes.


Feeling like she was intruding, she wiped her jeans with her clammy hands. “I’ll leave.”


She made a move to walk past him and he stopped her with a hand to her wrist.


“How are you?” His eyes swept over her features, seeing everything she was trying to hide.


“I’m fine.” She resisted the urge to reveal the truth. 


Her eyes dropped to his lips as she remembered what it felt like to press her lips to his. Then her gaze drifted to his silky hair, which she had threaded her fingers through more times than she could count. It was agony to be so physically close and still hold back. It felt alien despite the time they had spent apart.


“You don’t look fine.” He was far too perceptive to believe her.


She shrugged. “It was difficult to come here. It brings up stuff I don’t want to deal with.”


Her words were honest and raw.


“I get it. It never gets any easier. If anything, it gets harder each time.” The emotion in his voice made her want to reach out and stroke his cheek, but she tightened her hand into a fist to resist the urge. He raked his hand through his hair.


“I’m sorry,” she blurted out.


He frowned when he dropped his hand from her arm. “What are you sorry about?”


“About everything. Charlie, and how things ended.” She wanted to reveal more, but she stopped herself.


He shrugged. “We all made mistakes.” He hadn’t been as forgiving the last time she had seen him.


She nodded. 


An awkward silence descended between them as she shifted from one foot to the other, feeling nervous.


“I’d better go,” she murmured, looking back to Dylan’s gravestone, the sight renewing the pain in the middle of her chest.


“I’ll see you around,” he murmured in response.


She wanted to reach for him and tell him how much she missed him. She wanted to tell him how sorry she was and how much she wanted what they used to have back. There were so many things she wanted to do and say but didn’t.


Instead, she moved past him and walked without looking back.