This story is a direct response to the LGBT suicide epidemic that came to national headline news...
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The month was December, and Christmas was merrily approaching.
Wind gusts gracefully hummed as they twirled around the ancient tombstones lining the landscape. Western Meadowlarks nestled into their chipper nests above cemetery, amidst the branches. The winter season was here, and, by instinct, they would leave soon and come back the spring.
The ground was completely frozen, and Montana was engulfed in a treasure-trove of white snow. Everything within sight was bright as freshly-cut paper.
Scarlett O’Hara rumbled past the wrought-iron gates of William Clark Cemetery and came to a screeching halt. In her new zebra stripe boots and skinny jeans, Marissa climbed out of Scarlett as a new pop artist sang Walking in a Winter Wonderland on the radio. She left the engine running and started her ascent up the hill to Caroline’s resting spot.
Caroline’s funeral in late last October was a quiet one. School was dismissed, and the majority of the student body showed up upon the principal’s request.
“Such a young soul, she was,” mourned Mrs. Bryant.
Riley, the boy in the varsity jacket, was there. He said nothing and stood silent, regretting the hateful note he scribbled that one Monday in Honors English, a week ago then.
Caroline’s parents had spent weeks at counselors and therapists, and special time with Marissa and Ms. Seymour. Mrs. Deaton no longer blamed Marissa for her daughter’s death, and in result, came to respect her.
Those who had seen Marissa crying at the eulogy comforted her and gave her good praises for being strong through the entire ordeal. A few even hinted of their own sexual orientations, and noting that through the death of Caroline, the community of Wiley Point became stronger and much more aware.
The temperature, Marissa had seen on The Weather Channel earlier that day, was at four degrees above zero.
Why this day with the weather so frostbiting?
It was Caroline eighteenth birthday today: December 18th.
Marissa wiped her eyes and zipped up her jacket. Dead grass lay hidden beneath the luscious heaps of pearl-white snow.
As she climbed the hill, she passed the seemingly endless rows of tombstones. All of them appeared bare.
Finally, she stopped. The marker read:
Caroline Harvey Deaton
December 18th, 1993– October 21st, 2011
Loving Daughter and Friend
1 Corinthians 13:13
Marissa turned back her head. She had left Scarlett’s headlights ablaze. Quietly, she leaned down and sat cross-legged in front of Caroline’s grave. Marissa exhaled, and spoke.
“Caroline, honey. I got you these.”
Marissa silently laid a bouquet of Allemanda Buttercup flowers aside her gravestone, bowing her head in respect.
Those were Caroline’s favorite flowers.
“Mom and I are better. She is much more understanding. We don’t scream at each other. Your parents too, and school is much better now. We...we had assembly after assembly about bullying and homophobia and tolerating others, and you know what happened? People listened to the message. It’s funny how people start listening when someone dies, you know?”
Marissa lightly chuckled.
People listened, finally.
“We were in all the papers, even the national news. There were protests across the state and the country, and even a giant movement in Helena. We have an anti-bullying law passed, and maybe if we push, two boys and two girls can marry in our state in the future.”
The frostbitten tombstone did not move or shudder. A crow shrieked in the air above.
Marissa looked around. She was not talking to any person. She was talking to a chiseled rock.
Caroline was not on the earth anymore. Her spirit was amidst the clouds, in a better place.
Scarlett’s engine gave a sputter.
“I’m graduating, baby. I have been accepted to a college; a culinary school in Los Angeles. I am out of the closet, and free to do what is right for me.”
Marissa opened her heart and started to weep with a silent glee.
“I...I don’t know what all this is, Caroline.”
A tear appeared.
“I just don’t know what I’m supposed to make of it all. Are we just floating, floating on a gust of wind? Or do you think there is more to it? These past months, I have cried a lot. I have cried more than anyone ever should cry, but right now, these are not tears of pain, but they are...they’re tears of joy! You weren’t bad because you were gay; they were bad for hurting you because you were gay! I love you Caroline; I love you with all my heart.”
She stood up.
“I am strong.”
Something at that precise moment occurred: Redemption.
All that Marissa had endured was behind her.
She was a lesbian, and she was proud and happy.
“If you ever need a friend to talk to, I’ll be...I’ll be here to listen.”
The wind died down.
A calm, peaceful world has risen from the harsh reality of ashes she had experienced, and holding that thought, Marissa walked down to Scarlett.
In the Book of 1st Corinthians, verse 13:13 reads:
"Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails...And now these three remain:
Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these is love."
Marissa stumbled onto the flat road she parked on. As she opened Scarlett’s timeworn driver’s side door to scrape the snow off her boot, a melody invaded her mind. Rob Thomas, one of her favorite modern singers, sung on archaic radio Someday, and the sweet words flew through her nerve-fried brain in every direction.
Marissa closed her eyes and inhaled the cold Montana air. She gripped Caroline’s sacred birthday locket around her neck.
"...and maybe, someday, we’ll figure all this out.
Try to put an end to all our doubt.
Try to find a way to make things better and now,
Maybe, someday we’ll live our lives out loud.
We’ll be better off somehow, someday..."
There it was.
The song came to a close, and Marissa climbed into Scarlett. She turned the knob to switch off the radio, and the heater up to a higher set. Scarlett growled.
California would come another day.
Marissa briskly turned her head to the hill where Caroline lay and whispered to the air, “I love you, baby.” She rolled up her icy window, and started off. The gates said, with her swift motion upon passing them, goodbye.
“I’ll see you again...someday.”
Looking from a distance within the clouds, Caroline watched and smiled with great joy. She allowed Marissa to go on without her, and live life to its full.
That next fall, Marissa would leave her native state and travel to the West Coast, and branch out into the culinary arts, her passion.
She may come back.
Scarlett O’Hara, the dilapidated 1958 Chevrolet Apache, left William Clark Cemetery, and rumbled on home.
Marissa’s tailgate now possessed a sticker. A simple sticker: square, in the shape of a flag. The flag had on it a rainbow.
“Peace, Love, and Happiness” was written across the rainbow, and it was for all to see.