I didn’t want to go to a graveyard for a picnic,

…but my boyfriend Jake insisted. He said it would be great, and if any spooks showed up he would beat them to within an inch of their lives. I rolled my eyes at that, and asked if he was just trying to get laid.

“Naw, baby. It’ll be great. Look Val, there’ll be a full moon, it’ll be quiet, we’ll be alone. No one else but us and the ghosts.”

His attempt to be funny didn’t go down well. I told him no, but he was persistent. After a lot of convincing and cajoling, I finally agreed. That didn’t mean I wasn’t nervous about it. 

I asked him, “what kind of person has a picnic in the middle of the night in a graveyard?” Sure, we were teens and doing things we’re not supposed to do was a thrill, but this was taking it a bit far. What kind of boyfriend did I wind up with? I didn’t want to think of him as being a serial killer or anything, but I was concerned about his mental health. 

He said “I heard about it on a website. They say it’s actually pretty romantic.” I had reservations, but still agreed to go. It would be on Friday, after school. He was going to provide everything, all I had to do was give my parents some excuse about staying over one of my friend’s house. I also had to get a friend to cover for me. He would pick me up in his beat-up pickup truck over by Becky’s house, and we would head for the graveyard.

Right on schedule, there he was. The moon had rose early, just after the sun went down. It was still light out, but not enough to drive without your headlights on. I had a feeling he was using this to get me to sit closer to him. That eager look in his eye kind of confirmed this. But I trusted him. He’s always treated me right. Was always attentive, except when he was watching baseball, live or on TV. We were in a good place in our relationship.

I wasn’t sure what would happen after graduation. I was thinking of going to college. It would be nice to get out from home, maybe see what life is like in another place. He said he was thinking about it, but then he would hem and haw and then change the subject.

We pulled up in front of the gate and parked across the street. We got out and he grabbed a paper bag from the back of the truck. A fancy one too, from Macy’s. The chain on the gate left just enough space for us to squeeze through. Once in Jake took my hand and led me in. I was even more nervous, seeing all of those tombstones in the dark. Jake kept talking to me the whole time as I held his arm tighter. He was just fine walking through here. He led me over a hill and down into a small dale. This was where he pulled out the blanket he had in bag. He laid it out and motioned for me to sit. I did, carefully. I was feeling pretty spooked, and if he weren’t there I’m sure I would have run out of there.

He sat beside me and pulled out some fancy crackers, Ritz I think, and some spray cheese. Then some red plastic cups and a bottle of wine. “Where’d you get that?” “My uncle. He’s pretty cool. I told him what it was for and he went to the store and bought it for me.” Jake busied himself with preparing the spread while I watched. It was actually beginning to look nice. I calmed down a bit after he pulled out one of those small electronic candles, you know the ones that flicker like it was fighting against a breeze. Maybe it would be nice after all.

He handed me a cup and poured some wine into it. I was about to drink from it when he said wait. He filled his cup then held it out for a toast. I touched his with mine and we both said “Clink”. I took a sip and smiled at him. The wine was sweet and so was he. He smiled back and handed me a cheese covered cracker. The moon was higher and lit the place in an eerie glow. But I was adjusting. I didn’t think I would, but Jake made the place seem magical. Maybe there was something to that website. I’ll have to ask him about that later.

He leaned in for a kiss, and I leaned into him. His lips were tasty with wine. I think I had some cracker crumbs on mine. He laughed softly, wiping away the crumbs while I apologized. He told me not to worry about it. I moved closer to him as he put an arm around me. We kissed again, his hand moving to my leg while I put an arm around his waist.

“Dude, what’s up?” The sudden interruption made us stop and turn to see his friend Doug standing there with Becky.

“Becky, what are you doing here?” I asked. “I told my parents I was at your house!”

“And I told mine I was at yours. Don’t worry about it, they’ll never know, and they won’t call.”

“Yeah but what if they do?” I could feel my nervousness returning.

“Val, relax. It’s cool. No one is going to call. And if they do we’ll tell our folks we went to Angie’s.”

“Angie’s?” piped in Doug. “She’s here too, with Joe.”

“What?!?” said Jake. “What are you guys doing here?”

“Dude, we wanted to try this too. Joe’s here with Becky, Al’s with Millie. I think Mel’s coming too, and Bishop and Freddie.”

“What? I wanted us to be alone here, man! You’re ruining the mood!” 

“Dude, chill. We’re going over there, by that tomb. And everyone else is going to be spread out. So relax, you’re cool.”

“Yeah, can we go?” said Becky. “I want some of that wine you got.”

“Oh, yeah babe. Catch you later dude.”

They walked off, talking and laughing. Jake watched them go, eyes and mouth wide open. I tried to tell him it was ok, in fact just knowing we weren’t here alone made me feel better, even though Becky lied to me. But Jake was clearly upset. He stood up and looked around.

“Yup, there’s Freddy” he said pointing to the right. “And there’s Mel. And look who just arrived.”

The graveyard was turning into a lover’s lane of sorts. There were other teen couples making their way around the tombstones. One couple even waved.

“Aww man!” Jake turned this way and that, watching as their private getaway was getting more and more crowded.

“Let me guess” I said. “You were all looking at the same website.”

“Well, yeah, but I told the guys I was gonna be here this Friday. I thought they were coming tomorrow.”

I looked at his crestfallen face and tried to placate him. “It’s ok, they’re over there and we’re over here. It’ll be okay. C’mon, sit back down.”

“But I wanted this to be just us. Man…” and he kicked the bag over, letting the contents spill out, including a strip of condoms.

I looked at them like they were a performing act. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. After seeing what he’d done Jake got quiet. It made the silence of the graveyard stand out, save for the random cries and laughs of the others. We remained like this for what seemed forever. I couldn’t look at him, not now. I felt a flush rise to my face. Jake suddenly knelt down by my side.

“Listen, it’s not what you think. I just thought that, you know, we’ve been seeing each other for a long time and maybe this was the night. That’s why I wanted to come here, you know, all private and stuff. I didn’t think the guys would do the same thing too. I just wanted this to be special, just you and me, and, you know, all the other guys are doing it, I just thought that…”

“I’m not ready.” That’s all I could say. I was embarrassed and surprised, and even a little hurt. This is why he brought me out here. I didn’t even see it coming. So I just sat there, finally tearing my gaze away from the condoms to look at my hands in my lap. Jake sensed the moment was over. “Come on, I’ll take you home.” Then he began to put everything back in the bag. When he was done he held out his hand to help me up. I took it, feeling the warmth in it. I stood up, then kissed him on the cheek. “Soon, I promise.”

He looked me in the eyes, then nodded, keeping his head down. Then he led me back to the gate. I wrapped my arms around his as we walked. He seemed to take this as a good sign. He looked at my arms and then looked forward, holding his head a little higher. I think we are still in a good place in our relationship.

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