September 22, 2001
Right after breakfast the next morning, Grant and I got in the car and headed towards the city. I didn’t tell him where we were going, nor did I plan to until we arrived.
Though he seemed to fancy himself a rather patient person, this frustrated Grant greatly. “Come on, April,” he begged. “Just one hint? Please?”
I shook my head, trying my best not to laugh at him. It was way too much fun to have someone be begging me for answers for once.
“No hints,” I said. “That’s a new rule: no hints, about anything.”
Grant gave me a sigh of desperation.
We turned onto Main Street. We passed a slew of buildings, each one seeming to be taller and more colorful than the last. Though it was hidden away from the more industrial parts of the city just outside, it was still very obviously part of something big. All columns and charmingly old-fashioned architecture, it was different from the main streets of most of the towns I was familiar with. Then again, I hadn’t traveled enough to notice many variations.
I slowly cruised down the road until a squat stone house came into view. I stopped the car, looking down at the address on the piece of paper that I had ripped from the hotel notepad. 1914, East Main Street.
Looking up at the sign next to the entrance, I knew that I had the right place.
I opened the door and stepped out of the car, motioning for Grant to follow.
The city of Richmond, Virginia, never wanted their most famous author to become part of their legacy. Knowing this, the city’s residents decided to open a museum dedicated to recognizing his life, — in what just so happened to be the oldest standing house in Richmond. This act of rebellion alone was enough to make me want to visit the Edgar Allan Poe Museum.
Acknowledging the sign, Grant raised an eyebrow at me. “Edgar Allan Poe?”
I pushed the door open. “Why not?”
He followed close behind. “I’ve just never been much of a lit nerd, that’s all.”
“Well, maybe I am one.”
This was a lie. Though English had been my best subject back in high school, I had only read the basic classics in that time, not caring much for the written word since.
Well, I thought, eying the bookshelves in the gift shop, things can always change.
After paying the admission fee, we walked through the museum slowly, eying the remnants of Poe’s life placed around us.
“This is wild,” I said, looking over the glass cases. “They have his clothes. Things he actually wore.”
“Pretty cool,” Grant agreed.
We made our way to a room painted red. I walked up to a large portrait of a woman as Grant examined a white stone bust of Poe. The woman seemed to look down at those walking through the room, cheeks rosy and lips curved into a gentle, close-mouthed smile. Reading the plaque underneath the picture, I realized who she was. Virginia Clemm Poe.
“Did you know he married his first cousin?” I asked Grant.
He turned around, looking back toward me and the painting. “Really?”
I nodded. “It gets worse,” I said. “They got married when she was thirteen and Edgar was twenty six.”
“Wow,” Grant laughed. “That is… wrong, on so many levels.”
“Not in 1836,” I replied. “Back then, you could take your cousin as your child bride and get off scott free.” I motioned toward Virginia’s smiling face above us. “As is apparent here.”
Grant looked down at his sneakers, still laughing. “Jesus.”
“Don’t worry,” I continued. “I think I read somewhere that she died a virgin.”
Grant’s laughter continued. “April, stop. You’re making this… a lot worse, actually.”
“What?” I asked. “Would you prefer it if Edgar Allan Poe had screwed his cousin-slash-wife?”
“No!” he replieed. “In fact, I’d prefer to have no insight into Edgar Allan Poe’s *** life at all.”
“Very well, then.” I turned my attention to another exhibit. When Grant came to the conclusion that our conversation was probably over, I turned back around. “At least he wasn’t her boss, too.”
Grant groaned, burying his head in his hands. “Oh my god.”
After we had explored the inside of the museum, we walked out into the garden.
“This place was inspired by one of his poems, you know,” I told Grant.
“Really?” He looked up from the flower bed he was examining. “Which one?”
” “To One in Paradise,” ” I replied. “I think the poem was actually supposed to be about heaven, but they decided to base the garden off of it.” I stopped walking and began to recite the poem. ” “Thou wast all that to me, love, for which my soul did pine, a green isle in the sea, love, a fountain–” ” I motioned dramatically toward the tall round fountain in the middle of the garden. “And a shrine–” I waved a hand towards the stone house. I threw my head back for my grand finale. ” ‘All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers, and all the flowers were mine!’ “
Grant chuckled, staring at me incredously. “Whoa,” he said. “You really are a lit nerd.”
I smiled at him. In reality, I had only found the poem on the Internet while researching places to visit in Richmond. Once I found the Poe museum and saw the pictures of the garden, I had to read the poem that it was based on. I had latched onto it, vaguely reminded of the field in which I had seen Amy in my dream. Though there was no sea, fountain, or shrine, the flowers and serenity of the field were close enough.
I couldn’t tell Grant any of this, of course, so I changed the subject. “I’m hungry. Think you’re about ready to go get some lunch?”
With that, we went back to the car.
After lunch, Grant smiled at me. “Well, that was fun. I suppose we’ll be heading back to the hotel now?”
I shook my head. “We aren’t done yet.”
He eyed me quizzically. “We aren’t?”
“Nope.” I looked back at the second address on the notepad. “We’ve still got another stop.”
And so I drove, looking for the place I had seen online. Within twenty minutes, we arrived at our destination.
As soon as Grant got out of the car, his demeanor changed. Shoulders slumping, he eyed the looming metal gate with a look of reluctance. “I don’t know, April,” he said. “Don’t you think it’s a little morbid?”
“It’s not morbid.” I closed my car door, looking at the entrance with eagerness rather than hesitance. Surrounded by flourishing greenery and vintage charm, it was easy for me to find Hollywood Cemetery just as beautiful as the garden we had just been in, if not more so.
Looking at Grant, however, it was clear that he didn’t share the sentiment.
“It’s not just any cemetery, you know,” I told him. “A lot of historical figures are buried here, mainly Civil War veterans.”
He returned my gaze sheepishly, hands in his pockets. “Too bad I’m not much of a history buff, either.”
I sighed, brushing past him into the graveyard.
Walking through the cemetery, I felt an odd sense of peace. There was a strange beauty to how vast the place was, as well as how personal some of the graves were. Intricate mausoleums and statues depicting everything from angels to animals surrounded us. The further we ventured down the winding walking path, the more obvious the waters rushing below us became. Looking down at the James River as I passed countless filled plots, I was happy that I was the type of person that could revel in such bleak loveliness.
“That’s James Monroe right there.” I pointed towards a tall black mausoleum that contained a white coffin. “He was the fifth president of the United States, in case you didn’t know. And if we keep looking, we can probably find John Tyler, too. He was the tenth.”
“That’s cool,” Grant said. The tone of his voice made it apparent that he wasn’t impressed at all.
It was only when we were almost halfway down the path that the truth came crashing down on me, in the form of a regular person.
Though I didn’t know Amelia Orwell, something about her final resting place caught my eye.
Perhaps it was the rose carved onto her headstone, or the way the glass of a picture frame someone had placed on her plot shone in the late afternoon light.
Whatever it was, it drew me in enough to bring me to my knees in front of the grave.
Only when I read the words carved into the stone did reality hit me like a punch in the gut.
AMELIA ROSALYN ORWELL
JUNE 10 1923 – DECEMBER 12 1931
Eighteen. She was eighteen years old when life’s cruelty decided to tear her away from this world.
My breath hitched as everything began to fall into place. There was nothing refined about finding comfort in the company of the dead. I was just that broken, never able to move on from the things that had ruined me long ago. In an attempt to finally break the shackles that had held me down for years, I had just ended up back in the grasp of the monster I was running from.
I broke out of my trance to see Grant kneeling next to me, eyes full of concern. “Are you alright?”
“Fine.” I stood up on shaking legs, not feeling like looking for John Tyler’s grave anymore. “I’m just tired, that’s all.”
Grant nodded, though I somehow got the sense that he didn’t believe me.
“Let’s go back to the hotel,” he said. “You can get a bit of rest before dinner then.”
I smiled weakly, slowly walking back up the path towards the parking lot.
“I think it’s time we make a new rule.”
Grant looked at me as he got into the passenger seat, closing his door behind him. “What’s that?”
I looked back at the gates in front of us. They didn’t seem so pretty anymore. “Whatever else we do on this trip, none of it can be centered around death.”
“No more death,” Grant said. “Got it.”
I grinned. “You swear?”
“On my life.”
Reaching for my hand, he hooked our pinkies together as if we were children. I laughed, not pulling my hand away from his for some time.
In that moment, the intertwining of our lives birthed a promise.