He read the simple engraving with a flat expression.
Jezebel Marie Gable
November 18, 1968 – April 12, 2006
Beloved Mother, Daughter, Sister
Rest in Peace
It was polished black granite, the letters carved into the surface and inlaid with what looked like gold paint. There was a little embellishment at the bottom that looked like something floral – Jezzy probably would have liked that. She had had a habit of walking through the local graveyards and tracing her fingertips over the names and the designs, getting to know the dead and her history.
These people helped to build the world we live in today, Dusty, she would tell him, long blonde curls falling into wide blue eyes. She was sixteen the last time they had walked a graveyard together, he eleven years old and impatient for ice cream. All he wanted was his chocolate-chip cone; he didn’t care who built the world around him. They were dead.
Jezzy always laughed whenever he said something like that, telling him that one day he would understand why it was so important to remember their dead. After all, it was only after their parents had died that Jezzy took an interest in the dead in the first place. She liked to think about the heaven their parents lived in, wondering if it was nice and peaceful and perfect for them.
Dustin couldn’t remember their parents. He had been too little when they had died. So he really didn’t care where they ended up.
Who cared where the dead went?
They were dead – they were unimportant.
But Jezzy was always important to Dustin, even after she died.
Heavy blue eyes turned to the grave marker sitting next to Jezzy’s, a light gray polished granite with similar lettering and the same floral embellishment at the bottom.
Aaron Solomon Walker
February 9, 1961 – April 12, 2006
Beloved Father, Son, Brother
Rest in Peace
He had never met the man who his sister had fallen in love with – the married man who had dirtied his sister’s integrity and made her go against all of her morals because he smiled at her. He had never met him and he never would, and he couldn’t help but feel glad for it.
Jezzy was important.
This man was not.
Dustin Gable twitched and turned his head to see who was approaching the graves, their heavy footfalls crunching the grass that was only starting to grow again.
He did not recognize the man…but he recognized the boy from the few pictures Jezzy had shown him during her affair. Freckles that took over his flesh, hazel-green eyes that Jezzy claimed were identical to his father’s, light brown hair that practically turned blond in the summer…
This was Zebediah Walker, Aaron’s boy.
Aaron’s boy stopped just a few feet away from the graves, looking at Dustin as if it were strange that he should be there. And he supposed it must have been strange to the boy; here was a man he had never seen, standing before the graves of those he considered his family.
He frowned, eyes narrowing unpleasantly.
“What’s your name, then?” he asked, pitching his voice so that Aaron’s boy could hear him. The freckled boy flinched, looking at him properly as if he could actually see him, and Dustin wondered if he saw Jezzy in his profile. Jezzy had always been the beautiful child; Dustin had a big nose and a small mouth and eyes that scorned. But strangers always said you could see the resemblance.
“…Zebediah Walker,” he said after a moment, confirming Dustin’s thoughts. “Uhm, I’m just – I was here to – who are you?”
“Dustin Gable,” Dustin replied stiffly, turning away from the boy and settling his gaze back onto Jezzy’s grave marker. He heard the boy’s breath catch in his throat, causing him to snort in vague amusement. “You’re just here to visit family then, are ye? So’m I.” He paused, gaze sliding back to the boy without moving his head to face him. “You’ve got something ye want to say.”
Dustin inhaled sharply at hearing Jezzy’s name slip through this stranger’s lips, shoulders tensing before he pivoted on the heels of his feet to fully face Zebediah. Lifting his cane, pressing his weight onto his good leg, he pointed at the boy and prodded him in the chest with the tip of it.
“Don’t,” he hissed, spitting words from between clenched teeth and hoping to get across his very-important-message, “call her that name.” He set his cane back onto the ground properly, holding back a groan of pain as he moved his weight back evenly onto his feet – as evenly as he could, at least. “Do you understand?”
“…I’m sorry,” the boy started, stepping towards Dustin. Dustin shot him a glare and he boy stalled, stepping back again. “I…I loved her too, you know; she was the mum that I always wanted –”
“Was she now?” Dustin interrupted, straightening his back into a soldier’s stance and staring down Zebediah with that cold gaze that made even the nastiest of prisoners start spilling their guts out. He was told his eyes were very unnerving when he was angry.
He would use that to his advantage.
“Y’must have loved her quite a bit, hm?” Dustin continued, not allowing Zebediah to speak. “Must have broken your heart when she died. Loved her enough not to tell her next of kin what had happened – but perhaps that slipped your mind, I was only a story, right?” He smiled thinly, though it didn’t soften his looks.
“She must have loved you, too – her son went to you, right?” Here Zebediah winced and stepped back again, wrapping his arms around his stomach and gripping onto his biceps with an unsure expression. “…was he the brother you always dreamed of?”
Zebediah didn’t answer, so Dustin pushed forward.
“I never learned what happened to him until today. Imagine my surprise, Zebediah Walker,” Dustin stepped forward, limping and ignoring it. Zebediah’s eyes flashed down to his leg and Dustin whipped his cane out, hitting him on the calf. “Pay attention when the adults are talking, boy,” he said softly, before continuing. “Imagine my surprise when I saw that next to my sister’s grave.”
He gestured to a third grave maker, a darker gray than Aaron Walker’s but not quite black. It had no embellishments and spoke of lack of money.
Benjamin Joseph Gable
March 15, 1990 – May 14, 2006
Beloved Son and Brother
Rest in Peace
“How’d he die, boy?” Dustin asked quietly, stepping into the other’s space and craning his neck upwards. Tall – everyone was so bloody tall in this city. He wondered for a moment if Aaron Walker had been tall. “How’d he die under your watch?”
“…He killed himself,” the boy said softly, looking at Dustin’s eyes with a carefully neutral expression. Dustin couldn’t see signs of lying, though, so the face was more for strength than to hide a secret. “Shot himself in the throat, in my store. I’m sorry.”
Dustin scoffed, turning away from him and limping back to his sister’s grave marker, looking down at it with narrowed eyes and tensed shoulders.
“Don’t speak to me, boy. You were never my sister’s family.” He paused, licking his lips and tightening his grip on his cane. “You were never my nephew’s family. I don’t want to see you anywhere near this spot again. I don’t care if your da is right there.” He whacked Aaron Walker’s grave marker with his cane then, wishing he could break it.
“Keep the hell away from my family.”
Silence answered him, the graveyard filled suddenly with white noise, before it broken under the crunch of heavy footsteps on dead grass.
Once the silence returned, he looked back at the engraving.
Beloved Mother, Daughter, Sister
Rest in Peace