Lacey hadn’t planned on doing this.
In fact, she probably shouldn’t be doing this— not when things were going so well between her and Nick. She should probably just march right back to hotel, snuggle up with her boyfriend and pretend the thought never even crossed her mind. Nick was probably still snoring in their hotel room, exhausted from shaking hands and being social all throughout the graduation ceremony at which he had been one of the “honored speakers.” He hadn’t been exactly excited about the prospect of returning to California, especially not when it was to speak to a group of quote “snot-nosed undergrads with a collective IQ of a poodle,” but after reminding him that not only was the trip all expenses paid, but that she would have ample opportunities to try out some of her more risqué swim suits, he finally relented.
Hopefully, he would find the note saying she had gone for a walk, which, in her defense, wasn’t a total lie. It had taken her a good forty minutes to find the right cemetery and another fifteen for the right grave, and now that she was there, she started to question why the hell she thought this was a good idea in the first place. Fortifying herself, Lacey knelt in front of the polished stone, daisies still in hand.
“Uh, hi,” Lacey nodded at the stone, “I’m Lacey French, and I, um, brought you flowers. Sorry they’re a little wilted, the only place that took travelers checks was a corner store about six blocks from here and this goddamned heat, wait, can I say that here?”
Jesus, this was awkward.
She hurriedly replaced the dead flowers that Nick had probably left there before he moved to Storybrooke with her own wilting blooms.
Gloria Rush, beloved wife and daughter.
“I don’t normally do this sappy, emotional shit, you know.” Lacey picked at the grass beside her, wondering briefly if she should just leave now before she damned herself even further to hell. “Nick doesn’t either, but he usually makes an exception for you and me, so I thought ‘when in Rome’?”
Lacey tossed some of the blades in the air, watching the warm California wind sweep them away. Jesus, she hadn’t been this uncomfortable since she tried on her first thong. Was there a certain protocol for telling your boyfriend’s dead wife that you were sleeping with her husband and desperately trying not to fuck it up?
“He doesn’t know that I’m here by the way, Nick that is. Which of course I’d be talking about Nick, loving that idiot is probably the one thing we have in common.”
“No shit,” the stone seemed to say with its silence.
“I do love him, you know. I don’t always say it, or show it right, but I do. And I’m pretty sure he loves me too, which is…nice.” she finished lamely. “And it’s not just because of the sex either, even though it’s really, really good—though you probably remember that and I probably shouldn’t be talking about sleeping with your husband. I mean, he is technically still your husband, right? Or since you’re, you know,” Lacey waved her hands awkwardly toward the stone, “does it not count anymore?”
“I kind of wish you were still here sometimes. It’s twisted, I know, but I do. We could get a beer or whatever it is you classy people drink and talk about Nick or you or just how hard this whole love…thing is.”
Lacey paused before quietly adding, “I think you’d be okay with me and him if we did. Nick doesn’t talk about you much around me, which is probably better for both of us, believe me when I say he royally fucked up the last time he said your name around me. Sorry if you had to see that by the way. But sometimes, I don’t know. You got to see him before…”
Lacey threw the rest of the grass in her hands down, suddenly angry at the indifference of the grave.
“It was real shitty— the way you left him. I know it probably wasn’t your first choice either, but you have no idea what it’s like seeing the person you love the most—who loves you the most— just fade away, leaving you behind and alone and knowing there’s nothing you can do to stop it. You just watch…” Lacey trailed off, remembering all those nights seeing her mother slip farther and farther out of reach in her small hospital bed. Belle remembered too, and was just as devastated as Lacey had been when Collette had finally passed, but Belle still had Dad. Belle was Dad’s Petal, and Lacey was Mom’s Little Butterfly. Lacey sniffed, realizing a little too late that tears were running down her face and ruining her make-up.
“Sorry,” she murmured as she scrubbed the the last of the stubborn tears with the back of her hand, “I didn’t come here to yell at you for dying. You kind of—in a roundabout way—gave me Nick so I should probably thank you for that. It’s just… he loves you still so much and you took a part of him with you that I won’t ever get to see and that really sucks because I want to see all of him even the parts that belong to you.”
Lacey paused for a moment, letting the truth of her words seep into the open air of the cemetery and the thick skin she had cultivated around her heart. She did want to see Nick. She wanted to see him, to know him, to love him. She wanted him to be happy more than she wanted to be happy. She wanted all of it more than she had wanted anything in her entire life. There had been a time not so long ago that the mere thought of any of this would have sent her fleeing into the nearest bar or bed, but now it filled her with a sense of anticipation, of excitement. Nick was an adventure, forever oscillating between intense brooding and bouts of sincere sweetness, and she didn’t want to miss a second.
Lacey’s internal pondering was rudely interrupted by her phone’s squawking. She looked down at the time and swore. Scrambling to her feet she turned back to the headstone, feeling weird about ending the one-sided conversation so awkwardly.
“That was Nick. He wants me to meet him for breakfast back at our hotel.” Lacey nodded in the general direction from which she came. “And I don’t have to tell you how moody he gets when he’s hungry.”
She smiled, thinking that Gloria would be rolling her eyes in agreement.
“You aren’t too bad, Gloria. I didn’t really like you at first but now…” she trailed off, not really knowing how to finish. Could you say that you liked talking to someone who was dead?
“Maybe one of these days I can talk Nick into bringing me with him when he comes here,” Lacey instantly flinched at her words, thinking of her current level of discomfort (though lessening) and then multiplying that with Rush’s astounding level of social awkwardness, “Then again, maybe not. All couples should get some alone time.” Lacey waggled her eyebrows, as if trying to prompt a laugh from the stone.
“Speaking of which, I’ve got a little deal in mind for us: If you promise not to, like, haunt me or do any weird ass ghost shit if I screw up with Nick again or watch us having sex (not that think you’d want to, but just in case), I promise to do my best to make him happy no matter what—even if that means coming back to California every so often to say hi.” Lacey smiled and nodded to herself, thinking she had made a pretty fair trade.
With another buzz from her phone, Lacey gave a small pat to the headstone, hoping that wasn’t condescending, and started back toward the path which led her there.
Suddenly she stopped, doing a half-jog back to the grave.
“I swear I’m leaving, but I wanted to ask a favor first if you don’t mind,” Lacey inhaled quickly, “If you ever see a woman up there with my hair color and eyes, her name’s Colette and she’s—she’s the best person you’ll ever meet. If you could just tell her that her Little Butterfly is doing better now, I’d really appreciate it.”
Lacey pressed two fingers to her lips before laying them on the gravestone, gentler this time, knowing that if Gloria was half the person Lacey or Nick thought she was, she’d do it.
And if Lacey was into all that poetic crap, she might have thought she felt someone smiling back at her as she walked back to the awakened street.
But she wasn’t, and so it was probably just the sun.