Writing Catalog

Jordyn Belko

Grade: 10

Rocky River High School

Instructor: Erin Voight

The Laugh in The Graveyard

Short Story

The Laugh in The Graveyard

The resignation and anguish of grief matched with a flawless blanket of white: that is a graveyard in winter. Barren trees stood weary, another corpse for the land of the dead. The bereaved sat resolute against the crescendos of the wind, tucked away in solemn dread. They hesitated despite their familiarity with this tombstone. Repetition could never feign acceptance.

"Ready?" Rotten turned to the passenger seat. Hart merely unbuckled her seatbelt in reply. Footprints blemishing sculpted dunes and hot cocoa in hand, they drifted toward their original undoing. With the abruptness of sweet fall turning to bitter winter, there it was. The grave. "Florence Hartman" it lamented to all, "Beloved Daughter & Sister".

"It's freezing," Hart murmured into the quiet. Rotten only chuckled at the observation. "We're standing in front of my sister's grave and you're laughing?" Hart chastised.

"Not at dear, Florence! I'm laughing at how ridiculous you are," Rotten beamed, earning a huff from Hart. "It's kinda funny, I was about to say Florence would have wanted us to be happy, even without her. We both know that's a lie."

"Why did I think bringing you was a good idea?" Hart grumbled.

"Because I'm the rotten to your heart, and we're hopeless alone," Rotten shot a finger gun with her gloved hand.

"No, genuinely! Every year I bring you here with me, and all you do is mock everything she stood for," Hart accused.

"Everything Florence stood for? You mean cruelty and narcissism?" Rotten retorted.

"You have an astoundingly selective memory, Rotten! You've managed to forget every time she snuck you into our basement because you were too stubborn to go home and apologize to your parents! Every time she smoothed over an argument you'd picked but couldn't end! Every time she patched you up after a fistfight you'd lost from the start!" Hart ranted.

"Fine, you're right! Florence was kind to me… maybe even gentle. That will never change the million ways she hurt you, Hart. All she did was tear you down. You are so much happier with yourself now that she isn't here. You might be too devoted to admit that, but I'm not. I much prefer the version of Hart that isn't ashamed to exist."

"I was never-!" Hart stopped abruptly, dragging hands to her brow. Rotten watched the struggle for appropriate words unfold before her eyes, and placed a tentative hand on Hart's shoulder. "She wasn't the reason I was ashamed."

"Okay," Rotten replied.

"You disagree?" Hart's eyes glistened now, another lonely star in a sea of millions. Rotten sighed and took a sip of her hot cocoa.

"Before I knew you, Florence was my only friend. I'd like to believe I knew her better than most. Florence needed the whole room to be captivated by her, and that was fine by me. I was perfectly content being a planet to her sun. Getting attention for being enchanting was never really my M.O," Rotten joked but Hart only shivered as the stoic wind cut through bone. "You and I have always been stuck in her orbit, darling. But if I was Mercury, basking in her after-glow, you were a comet getting bounced around the universe. There was no space for you to occupy in a house teeming with Florence Hartmann. So you shriveled up, buried yourself in self-loathing, and locked the closet door. You could never be Florence so why try at all?"

"What do you want to hear, Rotten? That she taught me compassion, and later told me I would never deserve her's? That she taught me how to apply makeup, and then told me I'd need it if I ever wanted a husband? That I still wish it had been me instead because my sister made me feel perfect before she made me feel worthless?" The heat of Hart's fanatical care had withered into sobs, and Rotten could only draw her weary limbs into a mournful embrace. When Hart crumpled to the earth, Rotten fell down with her.


The bereaved sat once more with only unsutured wounds. The absence of an audience's pity had proved a lesson in the futility of noble apathy. Alone, they let their tears paint the stoic canvas of white beneath them.

"She was so... beautiful. Florence was beautiful, cruelty and all. And now she's nothing. How could I ever be worth her absence? Yet alone hate her?" Hart stared at the grave now.

"I don't hate Florence. I hate that she made you believe you didn't deserve happiness.

For the record, I miss her too."

"I can- Would you like to hear my favorite memory with Florence?" Rotten faltered, ever obstinate to the winds of temperance. Far easier to fester resentment than cultivate love.

"Only if you are truly willing to share," Hart replied.

"You'll find this funny: my favorite memory of Florence happened before we even called each other friends," As predicted Hart giggled at the admission. "It was my freshman year and her sophomore. We were at the Homecoming Dance, all dressed in far too expensive attire. It was about forty-five minutes into a three hour event, and "Cha Cha Slide" came on. Next thing you know, two hundred teenagers were awkwardly dancing in a cramped gym. My truly uncoordinated self included. I was mid "slide to the right" when my elbow connected with the person next to me. That person was Florence Hartman, who favored a nice slow dance and would never join the dancefloor by her lonesome. My first one-on-one interaction with your sister, I almost broke her nose."

"How have I not heard this story before?" Hart interjects, lightly scorned.

"It was far too damaging for my punk image. I swore Florence to everlasting secrecy," Rotten quipped. "The unintentional violence isn't what cements this memory though, it's everything that comes after. Upon impact, Florence had blood running down her face. In sheer panic, I grabbed her hand, and pulled her into the bathroom. We started using those lousy school paper towels to clean up the blood, but her dress was ruined. The seafoam green had seen a shark-attack, and I felt so bad. I apologized profusely, and Florence just looked at me. She had me dead to rights, and she started laughing. 'What's done is done', was all she said. Like that mends all wounds. I offered to pay her whatever the dress had cost, but she shook her head no. I was bewildered, I had never met anyone quite as... intangible. Florence eyed the mess I had made of her in the bathroom mirror. She found my gaze there and proclaimed, 'If you're truly desperate to make amends, you can ditch this dance with me and buy me a milkshake'. So I did. That was the night I realized that Florence was so much more than a pretty face."

"Thank you. Your memories of her mean a lot to me," Hart murmured.

"I have a lot more where that came from. A lot of happy memories. I.. I think that makes the horrific ones so much worse. I know she was capable of unimaginable compassion, yet she chose to hurt you," Rotten was losing the battle to tears once again.

"Florence Hartman: paragon of illogical dilemmas and convoluted enigmas. Woe to the sleuths of complex legacy."

"Woe to us, indeed," Rotten laughed.