I’m waiting in the graveyard. It's past 4am and it’s starting to rain. It seems appropriate. I pull my coat a bit tighter around me and look at my watch. She’s late. She’s been late before. It’s not exactly surprising that she’s late again.
The first thing Grace ever said to me was that she liked my coat. She touched the sleeve, tugged it a little bit. I liked that. I couldn’t help grinning and she grinned back at me through her black lipstick. It was a party, the first week of university. I had been talking too much because I’d drunk too much but I remember that after she tugged my sleeve I couldn’t think of anything to say. I wanted to sound interesting and alluring but I didn’t say anything. She was rifling through my CD collection and asked if she could borrow some. She’d left hers at home when she was packing. I nodded; she told me which hall of residence she was in. She told me that I should come round and listen to them some time. I went round that night.
Grace and I were a couple for two years. It was fantastic. I could tell you all the little things we did, all the big things, all the dirty things, all the sad things, all the angry things, all the funny things. But I’m just going to tell you that we loved each other very much. Six months ago she was hit by a drunk driver and she died on the side of the road. She was walking back from lectures and she was crossing at a light. Green for her, red for traffic. The driver didn’t see the light change. I’m told that there were lots of people around her when she died. Apparently lots of people tried to help. She always had lots of friends. But she died before the ambulance got there.
The university let me go home for a bit. My parents didn’t try and talk to me too much. They’ve generally left me alone since I started going through puberty and started wearing a lot of black, but they’re alright really. They just knew that they couldn’t help with this. I didn’t leave my room for days. I didn’t speak to anyone. I hibernated.
I finally came back to university last week. I’m living in halls instead of my old house with my old housemates. I couldn’t face them while I was grieving at home, I didn’t think I could face them while I was grieving at a house party.
The first few days were rough. I tried to find a routine. I went to my lectures, I talked to my tutors. I did my work. But it was hard. Every song I played reminded me of her. Whenever I got bored and I wasn’t thinking I’d get out my phone and start to dial her number. Once I actually called it and an automated voice told me that it was not in service. Her parents still live near the uni and I’m always worried that I’ll bump into them. I’m definitely not ready for that.
I’ve been drinking heavily. Last night I’d finished nearly two bottles of wine and woke up at about three in the morning with a brutal headache. I clambered out of bed and headed into the communal kitchen to get a glass of water. I didn’t turn the light on; I just grabbed an empty pint glass and filled it from the tap. I drank two pints without slowing down. As I made a start on my third I noticed that someone was in the room with me. I turned around.
Grace was sitting at the table. She was sat in one of the cheap plastic chairs, looking up at me. Her black hair was tangled and soaked. She wore thick mascara around her green eyes. Her black nail polish was chipped. She was wearing red lipstick rather than her usual black. She was wearing a black dress. This was how the undertakers had dressed her. She was shivering.
I can’t put down in exact detail what happened next. I can’t because I don’t really remember it. I remember telling her that it couldn’t be her; it couldn’t be because she was dead. She told me that she knew that.
“But here I am.”
There she was. I remember that I reached out to touch her. She was there alright. Her skin was so cold. I got her into my room and put a blanket around her. She said that it wouldn’t make any difference but she was grateful anyway. I told her that I had missed her so much. She told me that she had missed me too. Then I asked her how she had come back.
“I don’t know. I remember feeling like something had grabbed hold of me, was pulling me out through the earth. When I opened my eyes I was outside, lying on the grass and it was raining. And I knew I had to find you.”
I put my arm around her and pulled her close to me. Her clothes were soaked through. As I kissed her I put my hand on the back of her head and pushed my fingers through her hair. I flinched. I could feel the stitches. I pulled away and she asked me what was wrong. I told her that I didn’t want to hurt her. She felt where my hand had been and laughed as tears sprang to her eyes.
“It’s like I’ve got a fucking fontanel.”
She rested her head on my shoulder. I took her hand in mine.
“Can you put some music on?” she asked. “It feels like forever since I last heard any.”
I knew exactly what to play. She smiled as it started and squeezed my hand.
We sat like that on my bed for an hour or two. Sometimes she would ask me how I had been and I would answer honestly. I would tell her that I had been a wreck. I would tell her that I hadn’t been able to function properly without her. Then she would be quiet for a bit. It was the happiest I had been since she had gone. Feeling her breathing in and out, feeling her hair against my neck. Hearing her softly sing along to the choruses made my heart feel like it was going to burst. When the CD had finished playing she gave my hand another squeeze.
“I’ve got to get going,” she told me. We both stood up. She took the blanket off her shoulders and hugged me. I didn’t want to let her go and I told her so.
“You can walk me back, if you like,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s something you’ll want to see.”
I took her hand and told her that I would stay with her as long as I could. We left the flat, me with my arm around her and her with her head on my shoulder again, walking slowly through the rain. At first I tried to think of things to say but I realised that I didn’t want to hear myself speak. I wanted to hear her, to be with her.
We reached the graveyard too quickly. She stopped me at the gates.
“I don’t want you to see,” she told me. “This last bit, this need to just be me.”
“I love you so much,” I said. She said it back to me. “Are you going to come back?” I asked. She smiled through the tears that she was wiping away with her sleeve
“I’ll see what I can do. I’ll really try. I love you, Mike. Thank you for tonight”
Then she turned and walked away. The newer graves are out of sight from the entrance and I watched her walk past the trees and fading gravestones until I couldn’t see her anymore. But I broke. I ran after her, shouting her name. When I reached her gravestone she was gone. A shoe lay on the grass by the stone. Other than that, it seemed to be untouched.
I’ve spent today in a daze. I think people have tried to talk to me but I haven’t really paid them any attention.
And here I am in the graveyard. It’s raining again and it’s getting late. But she said she was going to try and come back again, and I believe that she can. I’ll wait here all night. I’ll wait here every night.
Yes, we're back to short stories. The story behind the title of this tale comes from another project I'm working on with Ben Sheppard: Anna Land Comes Home. It's a horror script and our friend Iain McGibbon decided to write some music for a horror film. He sent us a 9 minute collection of short themes, with the title "Do You Still Love Your Dead Girlfriend Now That She's Alive Again" and the alternate title of "Do You Still Love Your Girlfriend Now That She's Dead Again?" I pinched the second title, like a thief in the night, and I went about a bit of horror writing.
I thought about writing a zombie short story but I honestly couldn't think of a good way to approach it. Stories of girlfriends coming back from the dead have been done in brutally funny ways in the TV shows Misfits and Being Human lately, so I didn't want to include any body horror. I thought about including a sexual element but I couldn't think of a way to improve on the episode of Urban Gothic called "Necromance" that has a schoolgirl figuring out the best way to compete with her mortician boyfriends' bits on the side. So the idea I had was to write a sort of sweet, Goth, shoegazing romance and that's basically what I've tried to do. It was quite nice to write something that didn't go dark or horrible. If anything it gets nicer. While still being quite dark. You can decide what CD they were listening to.
I'm going to repeat my appeal for short story titles. Either leave them in the comments section or on Facebook or Twitter or whatever. I think it could be quite a fun experiment. I'll start pestering specific people for titles soon but if you're reading this and I don't know you personally, feel free to leave a title below.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. Here's a bit of Nick Cave.
Oh go on, one more. This time with PJ Harvey