The morning of November first dawned cold and bright as a skull in acid.
Christopher was up even before then, in the small hours of the morning of a day that was so very large for him. He never slept on the Day of the Dead. When the clock struck midnight, he would stand outside for two or three hours, running scales and arpeggios up and down and up and down his bone flute.
When he got too cold and couldn't feel his feet anymore, he would trudge back inside. He would pause before entering his room, thinking that maybe it would be there, waiting for him in the same lightning-struck place that Jack's door had stood.
The first time he saw his door, it had been outside, when he had slipped away from his family's Day of the Dead celebration with a slice of homemade bread in his hands. He had grown tired of relatives asking him about the cancer and treatments, and the sad looks they thought he couldn't see. They probably believed that they would be placing offerings for him the next year.
Right there, almost hidden behind his mother's tall ferns that sat just inside of their fence, was a beautiful door, and Christopher, being a teenager and fed up with the world, grabbed the knob and turned it.
The rest was history, and he wished it wasn't. History meant the journey was over.
So he walked back into his basement room, and pulled out a small makeup bag, setting it in front of Jill's huge vanity mirror.
He spent an hour outlining the bones of his face, gold around his eyes and black as the space in the Skeleton Girl's eyes along the bridge of his nose and the outline of his lips. His own eyes were rimmed in the same black, and then a bright red. Finally, he used an eyeliner pencil to trace a complicated swirl onto each cheek.
When he looked in the mirror, he felt dead. It felt like living.
He was back outside by the time the sun rose, nestled into a grove of trees, inventing even more songs for his betrothed. She loved it when he played for her, and if this was to be the day she called him back to her, he would play her a million concertos as thanks.
Eleanor never forced him to go to classes on this day, on this one day out of the three hundred-sixty-four other days of counting down. He would never be able to focus. He could hardly even think, he was just scanning the horizon and playing, playing, playing.
Sometimes he just fingered his supposed tunes. Sometimes, he brought the bone flute up to his mouth and blew the accompanying notes. Small squirrels, bright and white and perfectly dead scurried up to him, and once he had an audience and assured himself that none of them were human and breathing, marched them down to one of the nearby fields to bury them properly.
Hours later, lunch time must have come, because with it came Kade, holding a picnic basket.
"Hey," he said, setting the basket down. "For the time being, you still have flesh, so would you like to keep it going for a little bit?"
Christopher looked away from the sky blooming with clouds. "Sure." He hesitated, trying to decided if he should ask Kade to sit and eat with him. On one hand, Kade would understand, Kade would be the first to understand that if he saw that door, Christopher would drop his sandwich and run, perhaps even without a word as he was piping melodies to make sure it didn't disappear.
And surely, the Skeleton Girl would still offer him his door if he wasn't alone. Eleanor said that some doors wouldn't allow any spectators. But what if Kade was the one thing today that kept him from his door? What if this was the only time she could open it and he ruined every chance he had of ever getting home because he just offered-
"Do you want to stay and eat with me?"
Kade smiled. "I'd love to."
Christopher opened the basket, and handed Kade one of the sandwiches. He was already being selfish today, he could let Kade eat lunch with him.
"You've told me about Mariposa, but tell me more about your skeleton girlfriend." Kade leaned back, as if trying to soak in as much of the cool sunshine as he could.
Christopher resisted the itch that came over him whenever someone spoke Mariposa the wrong way. When the 'r' wasn't properly rolled, or the 'a' wasn't said just right. At least Kade wasn't calling it "that creepy skeleton world."
"I'm engaged to the Skeleton Girl. She's basically the princess of Mariposa, and she saved me." Christopher's bones hurt even thinking about it. "She's honored in a lot of the festivals. One time, I rode in a carriage with her that was filled with roses, and she wove them into my hair and tied them around my wrists. She said they were beautiful, and when we got to the main plaza, I stood in the middle of the crowd covered in roses and I played the most beautiful songs on my flute, and the crowd danced for hours, days. It was magical."
"And she said she was coming back for you?" Kade's tone wasn't malice, it was meant to be comforting. It just missed its mark, like an arrow just brushing the target and landing beyond in the grass.
"I told her I had to show my parents that I was better. They had spent so much time and energy in the hospitals with me, I had to repay them this way, at least. She told me that when I was done, she would open the door for me again on the Day of the Dead, and I could be stripped of my flesh and properly welcomed. You know the rest."
Kade hummed. "Sounds to me like she really loves you."
Christopher took a deep breath, blowing it out slowly into the empty air. "I love her with all my bones. Coming from me, that's all that's important. Why love someone with your heart, an organ that will decompose pretty quickly, when you can love someone with the part of you that will live forever?"
"Sounds hella romantic to me." Kade skimmed his eyes over their finished food. "I should probably head back into the school."
"Yeah, sure." Christopher helped him pack everything back into the basket. "Thanks for coming out here, it was nice."
"Of course." Kade picked up the basket and took a couple of steps before turning back. "Hey Christopher?"
"I hope I never see you again."
Christopher laughed, and smiled. "Yeah, me too."
Kade walked back inside, and Christopher returned to scanning the horizon, playing ever more silent melodies for his home.