Part 24

Here lies Jocelyn.

Here she lies dying.

Here she lies . . . .

The macabre thought kept replaying itself over and over in her mind.  She was alone, all alone, and what was the saying?  Everyone dies alone?

Everyone dies sad and lonely.  Everyone dies with pain and regret.  Everyone dies with their bones on the outside, their blood in a pool, alone in the dark and the cold.

Maybe not everyone.

Her cheek was pressed against gritty asphalt, but she couldn’t move her head.  She couldn’t see anything anymore.  It had been almost night when she was hit, still enough light to see by, but now everything was inky black, like it wasn’t there.  I must be blind, she thought.

She knew she was alive because she could still feel — the pain where she was broken and oozing, where she’d been struck and where she’d landed in a heap on the side of the road.  And she could feel the chill of the oncoming night, it made her shiver, and each shiver sent jolts of pain through her.

None of that was as bad as knowing how it had happened.

Knowing that she was alone.  Knowing that no one would help her.  Knowing that this was the end.

It all started with a boy.  She fell in love with a boy.  Isn’t that how all great tragedies start?  With love?

Hate gets too much of the blame.  Love is what truly kills.

Jocelyn was eighteen the summer she died.  She was considered a strange and unsociable girl by all who knew her.  Though none really knew her, because she had no friends.  No bosom buddies.  No lovers.  For family she had a mother, who worked all the time, and no one else.

She’d fit remarkably little into eighteen years of life.  The one thing she excelled at was music, but there had never been enough money to make much of it.  She’d bought a piano at a rummage sale one year, for $100, and got an instrument which was worth no more than it sold for.  She had no money to pay a tuner, and so tuned it herself, with some success.  But it still never worked quite right.

There was no money for lessons, and her mother was never around enough to notice how good she was even without them.  She might have made an effort to set aside money for lessons, if she had.  But she didn’t.

Besides the piano, Jocelyn had a flute which had once belonged to her father.  She knew enough to never play it when her mother was home, and on her own decided to extend that taboo to the piano as well.

And so she played only for herself.  Always, only, for herself.  In school she impressed the music teacher with her singing ability, but then the music program was cut because the budget didn’t allow for it.  So nothing ever came of that.

All in all, none of this would have killed her.  But then, nearly a year before she was to die, she met the boy.

He was not so special, among his kind.  A little better looking than some, and tall, with a winning smile.  That’s more than enough to win a lonely girl’s heart.  But on top of it, he played the piano beautifully, with long nimble fingers.  He was playing a piano the day she met him.

She’d been looking for work and wandered into the town’s only music store, hoping against hope for a position there.  He was in the shop, and sat down at one of the pianos on display, and began to play it.

When he noticed her standing a little ways off, watching him intently, he smiled and winked.  She blushed and turned away, pretending to rifle through music books.  She couldn’t read music, but he didn’t have to know that.

Then the music stopped, and was standing beside her.  “Did you want to try out the piano?”

“Oh, no,” she said, shaking her head, looking down.

“It’s alright, I didn’t mean to hog it.  You can have a turn.”

She just shook her head harder.

“Okay,” he said with a shrug.

“Can I help you?” asked the shop owner, walking up to them.

The boy said, “I was thinking of buying a piano.”

The owner paused a beat, maybe wondering if someone so young could afford an expensive instrument.  That’s what the boy must have thought, anyway, because he added, “Price isn’t an object.  I just want the best one.”

The owner perked up, and motioned for the boy to follow him back over to the pianos.  They both left Jocelyn as if she wasn’t there.  She didn’t mind.  She decided to leave.  She’d forgotten why she came.

As she scurried out the door, she noticed the boy turn to watch her go, and she turned quickly away.

She thought about him often the entire rest of the summer.  Most often in moments just before sleep, or just after waking up, when there wasn’t anything else on her mind to distract her.  She became infatuated with the idea of him.  Maybe it was the way he played the piano, maybe it was the wink, maybe it was the way he turned to notice her leave.  Maybe it was all those things.

She only saw him again when she went back to school.  It was to be her last school year, she would turn eighteen during the course of it.  But she still felt like a young child, having undergone none of the life transforming experiences most of her fellow students had by then.  Friendship, love, sex — even betrayal, hatred, and heartbreak were things she only dreamt of.  She’d always felt so alone, as if she had been forgotten, rather than outrightly cast aside.

He had a girlfriend, a pretty blonde girl, and Jocelyn felt ashamed of all her dreaming of him over the summer.  But still, she couldn’t stop herself from watching him surreptitiously whenever he was in sight.  She couldn’t stop herself from thinking about him all the time.

Every passing moment of contact, any few words spoken, were to her like the most epic of events in the greatest of love stories.  He didn’t seem to remember her from the music shop earlier that year, but it was all the same.  If he ever even so much as glanced her way, birds sang and great symphonies rose to crescendos in her heart.

An entire school year passed this way.  At the end of it, she was faced with never seeing him again.  She had found out enough about him by that time to know where he lived, and it was far across town from her home.  He had a rich father who lived in a rich house in the rich part of town, and the pretty blonde girlfriend was his neighbor.

There was an end of year party held at his house, in the early summer of late June.  His parents were to be gone, and he had the house all to himself.  Jocelyn wasn’t invited, but she knew about it anyway, and so she gathered all the courage she’d never had, and set out that night on foot, to crash the party.

She didn’t know exactly what she’d do when she got there, but it involved speaking to the boy, and telling him how she felt.  Somehow, she wanted him to know that she loved him, even if he didn’t love her, even if he still loved his girlfriend instead.  She just wanted him to know that she was out there, and she loved him.

She never got to the party.

The car hit her as she was nearing his house.  Then it sped off, without stopping.  She had no idea who was driving it, except that it had burned rubber out of the boy’s driveway.  And she imagined, as she lay dying, that it was him.  That it was The Boy, Her Boy, who’d hit her, and killed her, and didn’t care.

Gradually, the pain lessened.  She went numb.  The sounds, smells, and feel of the world around her blackened, like her sight.  Her thoughts dimmed.  At the end, it was just like falling asleep.

And then there was Muse.

She stood in a graveyard, on a warm summer afternoon.  The sky was overcast, threatening rain.  She looked down to see a fresh grave, but the marker there was blank.  She wondered who slept there, under the ground, eternally.

She hadn’t known.  She remembered nothing.  For Immortals are not born to human mothers.  They have no childhood, they have no history.

Or so she thought.

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