January 2020

The wonderful thing about Tampa was that it was always warm, no matter the time of year. Even in January, there wasn’t a single snowflake to be seen.

January 28th, to be exact.

Brittany took a deep breath as she opened the gate to the cemetery. This wasn’t the first time she’d been to Tampa, but it was certainly the most sombre. Nick had outlined his wish to not have a funeral, but it only seemed fitting for everyone to gather on what would have been his fortieth birthday.

The grass crunched under her feet as she walked over to his final resting place. She was going to be meeting up with everyone else in a couple of hours, but felt the need to visit Nick beforehand. She’d never gotten a chance to say her final goodbyes. A moment alone with him was all she needed.

She rested her hand on the top of the cool marble. She looked down at it and swallowed the lump in her throat.

Nickolas Gene Carter
Friend, Brother, Singer
All around cool guy

She rolled her eyes. No one else was as morbid as him to have had the inscription on his tombstone laid out in their will, but Kevin had followed through.

“Hey,” she said softly, feeling a little strange talking to a piece of stone. It was a far cry from Nick himself, with his bright smile and mischievous eyes, but it would have to do. “How’re you doing, buddy?” she asked with a slight laugh, if only to calm herself a little from the tears that threatened to fall.

She glanced down at the ring on her finger, wishing Niall was standing there with her. He was waiting nearby, but this was something she had to do alone.

“I really miss you, you know,” she sighed, fumbling with her hands. “It’s not the same without you.”


“I didn’t know what to do with myself after you… you know,” she admitted, shuffling her feet. “I went to the Malibu house like I told you I was going to. It felt weird being there alone, even though I’d been there alone before,” she shrugged.

More silence.

“I was so lonely, Nick,” she said, biting her lip. “I was so lonely. Danielle and Liam offered to come visit me at the house, and I said it was okay. And…” she took a deep breath, even though she felt silly doing so. If Nick was truly watching her from above as she so desperately wanted to believe, he already knew all of the things she was telling him.

Still, it was difficult. After collecting herself for a moment, she continued. “Danielle suggested that Niall come too, and I thought, ‘why not?’ You know? He came to the house, and I don’t know how it happened, it just did. You being gone made me realize life is short and…”

Brittany put her head in her hands as she allowed herself to cry for a moment. Then, she nodded slightly, trying to smile. Trying to put on the brave face for no one but herself.

She held up her left hand as if to show him. “We’re engaged,” she said, smiling through her tears. “He asked me on Christmas. I never felt so happy as I did at that moment. I love him so much…” she shook her head, looking down. Nick’s engraved name was both tearing her apart and oddly comforting her. “I’ve always loved him,” she affirmed. “But I guess you already knew that. Thanks for your letter… and for keeping the bracelet. I’m going to wear it on our wedding day, it’ll be my something old,” she laughed a little.

The wind picked up slightly, but then died down again.

Brittany shivered, even though it wasn’t quite cold at all. She hugged her arms around herself, not knowing what else to say.

“I wish you could come to that,” she reflected. “I know you hate weddings, but I wish you could come to mine. I hope you’ll be there in spirit you know. You’re probably off haunting people or whatever, but I hope that you’ll take the day off to come watch me get married to the love of my life.”

She glanced around, feeling slightly awkward again.

Luckily, the aforementioned love of her life was standing by the gate. She gave him a half smile, and he just nodded to her.

“I really miss you,” she said again. “We’ll all be back later, but I just wanted to come here and tell you that. You were my best friend,” she paused and then shook her head. “You are my best friend. No one’s ever going to replace you. I wish you knew how much you meant to me.”

The leaves rattled, and Brittany watched as a couple of them fell to the ground.

“I love you,” she said finally, wiping the tears from her eyes. It wasn’t a romantic love, but she’d always regretted not saying it the last time she’d talked to him on the phone. “I really do. I’ll come by later, stay out of trouble until then,” she smiled, giving one last look at the stone before walking off.

“You okay?” Niall asked, putting his arm around her.

“Yeah,” she nodded, smiling at him and lacing her fingers with his as they walked back to their hotel. “I think so.”

The two of them walked in silence as Brittany looked up at the sky. The day was clear, and there were only a few wisps of white clouds above them. She smiled and squeezed Niall’s hand a little tighter.

If Nick was watching, she wanted to show him that she was happy.


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