“You make me happy,” his breath brushed my ear as he whispered the words, his tone soft, gentle. Brandon had spent the day at my house, charming compliments escaping his mouth every couple of minutes. He’d picked out the movie himself, a romantic comedy, plenty of excuses for me to feel his silky lips on my own. “You really do, Zoe, you make me happy.” My body tingling, I forced a limp smile curling myself up, shielding my face behind my arms, not wanting him to see the teardrops that had begun to form in my pale green eyes. Countless memories drifted into my mind as I replayed the words. I could hear his voice so clearly in my head, the raspy sound like music, an acoustic ballad, a beautiful melody. I pictured the thousands of crinkles that grew by his eyes when he smiled, the twinkle in them reflecting the light, the joy spilling out from inside of him. I remembered him saying those exact words. He’d tell me almost every weekend over our Sunday roast dinners. The whole family would drive over; getting ourselves lost every time, without fail. We would be starved by the time we squished into the one bedroom bungalow in the middle of nowhere. Mouth-watering aromas wafted into my nose as I’d see the feast laid out on the table, the excitement of tradition exploding inside of me. Grandma made everything except for the gravy. That was Granddad’s speciality.
“You add a hint of orange,” he’d whisper, just for my ears to hear. He never gave his secret away to anybody else. I’d help him mix in the rest of the powder, spilling it all over the countertop, a brown mist of dust coating my face as I choked from laughter. That’s when he’d say it. The exact words. “You make me happy.”
I refused to wear black. He wouldn’t have liked it. He’d look down in shame, shaking his head, disappointed. I couldn’t stand that. Orange was his favourite. There was no question about it. I stood out like a sickening raisin cookie in a tub of delicious chocolate chip, everyone stared. I couldn’t meet their eyes, the tears blurring my vision. I spoke to no one that day, choking on the words I could have said. I held the paper firmly in my hand, protecting it from the harsh gusts of wind winding through the forest. He loved windy days. When the service came to an end, I couldn’t stop the tears from drowning the soil as I crouched by the grave, reaching out slowly and tucking the note under a rock. “You make me happy,” it read.