Disclaimer: Come on, if I owned the Teen Titans, would I really be sitting here writing stories?
Beginning from the End
Garfield looked down at the grass accumulating on his once-spotless dress shoes. Green streaks ran across the sides and the material was darker around his toes where moisture from the grass had soaked through. He grimaced at the unpleasant feeling of the water beginning to seep through his socks. Attempting to ignore the increasingly uncomfortable sensation and the squishing beneath the soles of his shoes, Garfield looked up into the sky far ahead of him. At least it had stopped raining. The sun pierced through broken-up storm clouds in small rays of brilliant light. The sky over the grassy field on which he walked was still dark, save for one piercing ray of sunshine that made a path down from the heavens to the small knoll he had sought out.
Tears welled up in his tired eyes as they gazed upon the dispiritingly familiar sight. At the top of the knoll, just outside the range of an aged oak tree's shadow, was a stone. This stone had perfectly squared edges and a glazed surface that reflected the sunlight. As Garfield approached it, he noticed the white and lavender geraniums that sat in four small pots at each edge of the stone. A frown spread across his lips when he noticed one pot on the left end lying on its side, the delicate flowers flattened against the ground. He leaned down, turned the tipped pot upright, and scooted it back against the corner of the sculpted stone to match it with its counterparts. When he stood back up in front of the stone, he wiped some remnant potting soil from the cuffs of his dark magenta collared shirt and shoved his hands into the pockets of his khaki pants.
Warm tears started to escape his eyes, slowly sliding down his cheeks. A gentle wind picked up in the aftermath of the storm, cooling the streaks of moisture on his face and ruffling the medium length hair on his head. He forced his eyes shut as he fought against his trembling bottom lip and the subtle shaking of his knees. He didn't want to do this anymore―feel like he couldn't control his body when he came to this spot. He never wanted to have to come here in the first place. Of course, he always wanted to be here to bask in the sunlight or rest under the thick leaves of the old oak tree, to indulge in what wonderful memories he still retained, but he wanted this feeling of breaking down to disappear.
'Why can't I just let go and remember the good things?' he mulled in his head.
Garfield slowly sank to his knees and stared at the grass right below him, not caring that it stained his press-ironed khakis or that the soggy ground soaked right through to his knees. He couldn't muster the will power to keep standing. It was just like before, just like every time he visited this place.
Nine times, once a year. Nine times he had put on the same dress shirt and khaki pants. Nine times he walked up to the knoll with the sculpted stone and old oak tree. Nine times he fought back the tears and dropped to the ground. And for the ninth time, he raised his head to read the engraved words on the beautiful stone.
"In the end, there really is no end―just new beginnings."
A Hero, Friend, and Apostle of Hope
'It's because you loved her,' he thought to himself. 'You can't focus on the good things because you loved her, and nothing seems good without her.'
Barely two years after escaping death once and saving the entire world, it still managed to claim her from her friends, her family. The Titans had a sense of hope, as they did the first time, but as days turned to weeks, and weeks turned to months, they realized that she wouldn't be coming back this time. And with the acceptance of this came the very headstone Garfield knelt in front of today. However, no casket came with the stone; there was no grave beneath the grass. When they lost Raven, they lost all of her, completely, as if she vanished. The stone was just for the sake of having a location dedicated to her memory.
Nine years ago today, death took her from the man who had given her his heart― even before he knew it. Death took her just before she could accept it and give hers back.
Finally, like every other time, Garfield couldn't hold himself any longer. The tears flooded from his eyes as he hung his head back down to the ground. He gripped the wet grass in his hands, tearing it root for root as he squeezed tighter. The shaking in his knees crept like a cancer throughout his every limb, and he despised the feeling.
As his sorrow poured from his soul, the sunlight that previously pierced through the holes in the clouds now spread across the city, out into the distant landscape and the ever glistening Jump Bay which contained a familiar island with a giant T still standing proudly at its center. The gentle breeze picked up more, rustling the leaves in the surrounding trees and the old oak tree by which Garfield knelt. Soon, the dark thunderclouds disappeared into the horizon and the sun had free reign over the region.
Garfield trudged up the stairs to the second floor of the apartment complex. The building was painted white and seemed to resemble a roadside motel instead of an apartment complex. That's how he saw it, anyway. The door to each apartment connected to the outside, all in line next to one another. Rather than having adjacent apartments connected by an indoor hallway, a single balcony-like walkway stretched across the entire span of the building on the second floor. The first floor apartments opened right up to a sidewalk under the balcony just before the parking lot.
He retrieved his apartment key from the key ring in his right pocket and slid it into the gold colored doorknob. He took a moment to look at the surroundings just beyond the building. Quiet and suburban summed it up, just on the outskirts of Jump City―unlike anything he would have imagined liking in his teen years. Gently pushing open the door, Garfield stepped into the dark apartment and immediately flipped the light switch on, feeling a little uneasy about the darkness even in daytime. Despite himself, he smiled a little bit when he looked to his right into the kitchen area, which was adorned by a white and black tiled floor, white-painted wood cabinets with gold-colored handles, and a black granite countertop. In the sink sat a pile of unwashed dishes. It tilted slightly from the uneven stacking of different sized plates and bowls. As he recalled dishwashing responsibilities of times already passed, he noted that it needed to be done eventually.
He kicked off his grass-stained shoes in the foyer area by the front door, not caring at the moment about cleaning them (or putting them back on the shoe rack in his bedroom closet, for that matter). He turned left and walked over to his living room area, its white walls decorated by pictured of his friends Dick, Victor, and Koriand'r. A round, black coffee table stood in the center of the area, sporting one stack of old comic books and another of vegetarian health magazines. Two avocado-green La-Z-Boys® sat around the table while a matching couch occupied the wall to the right. In the left corner by a window was a large LCD flat-panel television that stood upon a large black stand containing a sound system and all his T.V., movie watching, and video gaming needs.
Garfield sat in his La-Z-Boy® (the one on the right), put his feet up on the coffee table and sighed to himself. He rubbed at his eyes, trying to rid them of the slight burning he still felt from the tears that had only stopped flowing minutes before. When he rested his arms on the arms of the chair, he panned across the walls and looked from picture to picture, thinking about all of his friends. A blank expression came across his face, his mouth a thin, straight line and his eyelids hanging loosely. While he enjoyed his comfortable and reminiscent living space, it couldn't compare to the life he once knew out on that small island in Jump Bay. Then he hesitantly turned his gaze to the empty chair beside him. He stared at it, his body stiff and his eyes unblinking. It had always been meant for somebody else, but suddenly, he wondered why he even thought of buying it. His expression turned to a scowl and his eyes threatened to water up again, so he quickly turned his attention to the television remote laying upside-down on the coffee table.
But before he could so much as lift a hand to reach for it, a loud ringing came from the front door, causing Garfield to pop into the air over his seat in surprise. As he regained his composure, he deduced that the sound was his doorbell ringing, meaning that… someone was there to see him… unannounced? He cautiously rose from the chair and padded over to the door. Standing in front of door, he stared at it pensively, waiting to see if his visitor would knock or ring the doorbell again. After about a minute and no further declarations of presence from the other side, Garfield figured the visitor might have left. Still, curiosity got the best of him and he reached for the doorknob. However, when he opened the door, he was indeed greeted by his visitor.
Garfield's eyes widened with what looked like sheer terror and he released what had become a death grip on the doorknob to take two frigid steps back. As he gaped, his visitor only looked back into his emerald eyes with a calm demeanor.
It was a young woman of about 18 or 19 years of age in appearance. She was wearing a purely white, seemingly glowing sundress that hugged her slender figure, but loosened as it came down to just above her knees. On her feet was a simple, yet elegant pair of similarly white thong sandals. A white pearl necklace was accentuated against her pale, seemingly gray porcelain skin. Her hair was pin-straight and about shoulder length. It was a dark shade of violet that matched perfectly with her amethyst eyes.
Words of shock and denial scurried across his mind, none of which he catch and form into vocal sounds. His breath was trapped in his lungs, his throat clenched too tightly for it to be caught there. His eyes refused to take in the appearance of this girl―no, this doppelganger. She looked exactly the same. Her outfit was unlike anything she had ever worn, but the girl herself was the same. Nothing was different―the creases of the skin on her face, her piercing eyes, her small curvy frame―nothing. She appeared exactly as Raven did in her final moment, the moment she disappeared from his life.
He felt burning anguish consume his body and all he wanted to do was crawl into bed and cry, cry out in his sadness and anger because this couldn't possibly real. However, his muscles seemed to freeze against his own will and he couldn't bring himself to move. He couldn't stop staring at this facsimile of a girl standing before him.
After what felt like an eternity to Garfield, but what was in actuality only a few seconds after he opened the door, the girl nervously brushed an errant wisp of hair from her forehead, revealing to Garfield that a certain item was missing from the center of it.
"I need your help," she stated tentatively, noticing him looking at her forehead. "I think you can help me understand the memories I have."
The dark green color drained from his face at the sound of the familiar, raspy yet rich voice. And at last, he spoke the one word that hung in the air around them.
Make of this what you will, I just hope you enjoyed it! =)
Thanks a ton for reading and please tell me your thoughts! I'd love to hear what people think will happen next, or what exactly just transpired here. I definitely have my own assumptions about it. *wink*
If I don't end up making this into a full story, I might eventually release a short statement explaining what is really happening here.