Home > Cemetery Boys(14)

Cemetery Boys(14)
Author: Aiden Thomas

Julian, apparently having gotten bored with the conversation, had wandered over to a headstone and was trying to pick up a marigold laid across it with no success.

Maritza had a point, but there were still other factors to consider. “Okay, yeah, they’re out looking for Miguel right now, but eventually they’re going to come home, and then what are we going to do?”

“Whoa, one step at a time, Yads!” Maritza told him. “Let’s just get him upstairs first. We’ll deal with tomorrow, tomorrow.”

Julian wandered back, looking equally doubtful. “So I’m staying with her?” he asked, hooking his thumb toward Yadriel.

“Him,” Yadriel and Maritza corrected in unison.

Julian’s brow furrowed. “Him?” He blinked at Yadriel, as if clearing his vision.

Yadriel’s skin grew hot under the scrutiny. He stood straighter, taller. His sweaty palms clenched into fists at his sides. The muscles in his body went taut as he lifted his chin in what he hoped was a look of stubborn determination.

Maritza crossed her arms over her chest, eyebrow arching. “Is that gonna be a problem?”

When Julian didn’t respond fast enough, Maritza snapped her fingers.

Julian’s attention swung back to her. “No,” he said, face screwed up in a way that suggested both confusion and offense.

“Perfect.” Maritza turned to Yadriel with a cheery smile. “Let’s go!” she said before heading for the house.

Yadriel scrubbed his hands over his face. How had he gotten himself into such a huge mess in such a short amount of time? Exhaustion plowed into him like a truck.

Next to him, Julian cleared his throat. “So, uh…” Julian rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet, glancing around. “Where’s your house?”

Yadriel sighed and followed Maritza down the path flanked by squat mausoleums. “There,” he said, nodding to the church looming in the distance. “We live in the little house next to the church.” Smoke still billowed from the crooked chimney.

“Yo, you live in a graveyard?” Julian asked in bewilderment.

Yadriel shifted the weight of his backpack. He was used to the strange looks and laughs that came when people at school found out he was the weird kid who lived in a cemetery. Throw in being openly trans, and he was very used to stares and jokes. “Yeah,” he said, anticipating a similar reaction.

Instead, a wicked grin curled Julian’s lips. “Sick,” he said, nodding his approval.

A surprised laugh jumped in Yadriel’s chest. He gave Julian a curious look, studying his profile as he stared ahead at the church. He had a heavy brow and a sloping nose that ran in a straight line from his forehead. Classically handsome. He looked just like the stone statues that adorned the alcoves of the church. An Aztec warrior reincarnated.

When Julian caught him watching, Yadriel quickly looked away.

“Oh!” Julian said, as if suddenly remembering something. “You’ve got food, right?” he asked. “’Cause I wasn’t joking about being hungry.”

Yadriel huffed an irritated sigh. “Gotta get you past my abuelita first.” He gestured for Julian to follow. “But she’s been cooking all day.”

“Homemade food by your grandma?” Julian burst out, unable to contain himself.


“Oh—” He dropped his voice. “Sorry.”

He moved closer to Yadriel. A chill tickled the back of his neck.

“Wait, can ghosts eat food?” Julian asked in his ear, very concerned.

Santa Muerte, help me.


Yadriel crept up the steps, Maritza and Julian following close behind. Blue light flickered against the lace drapes of the front window.

At least Yadriel knew his dad was still out, which was a relief, and not just because Yadriel was about to sneak a spirit into the house right under his nose. After their blowup earlier, Yadriel still wasn’t ready to face him. His stomach twisted thinking about his dad’s inevitable attempt at an awkward apology.

Julian was actually a welcome distraction, and an excuse to avoid his family altogether.

Said dead boy was currently wandering the front porch and getting way too close to the windows, apparently without a care in the world. Julian reached for the wind chime hanging from the awning, his fingers going right through the pieces of polished glass.

“Hey! Get over here!” Yadriel hissed, waving him back.

On her tiptoes, Maritza was able to see through the small window cut into the top of the front door. “She’s sleeping,” she said with a smug look. “Told you.”

Slowly, Yadriel pushed the front door open, and it let out a low creak. He waited for a moment, but when he heard deep, rattling snores, he knew they were in the clear. Yadriel slid through the door, closely followed by Maritza, and Julian trailed behind.

Lita sat in her armchair in front of the TV, head leaned back and mouth wide open. Yadriel closed the door behind them as quietly as possible.

Meanwhile, Julian just strolled right inside. “Whoa, when’s the party?” he chuckled, looking around at all the stacks of decorations.

A sharp snore from Lita made Yadriel and Maritza jump. Yadriel froze, heart pounding in his chest, but she only stirred a little before falling back into the sawing rhythm. A telenovela played on the TV.

“Santa Muerte,” Maritza whispered, pressing her palm to her forehead.

“Julian, shut up!” Yadriel glared at him, cutting his hand through the air.

He ducked, holding his hands up in concession.

Yadriel led the way to the kitchen, motioning for the other two to follow.

The small kitchen was still warm with the smell of cinnamon, sweet bread, and pozole. A huge Crock-Pot simmered near the sink. Trays of pan de muerto and colorful concha took up all the counter space. A large clay pot sat on the stove from an earlier batch of café de olla.

Julian’s eyes went wide and he sucked in a breath, but before he could make another outburst, Yadriel shot him a glare, holding his finger up to his lips. Julian nodded, his eyes roving over all the treats.

“Seriously, what’s all of this for?” he asked in a whisper. Or in what was apparently a whisper by Julian standards, which wasn’t much of a whisper at all.

“Día de Muertos,” Yadriel said as he started to load up on food. “It’s kind of a big deal for us.”

“Oooh, right, right, right,” he nodded.

Maritza crept to the stove and peeked under the Crock-Pot lid. “Is any of this vegan-friendly?” she asked, giving the pozole a sniff.

“I think it’s all got chicken in it.”

Maritza wrinkled her nose. “I’ll keep a lookout,” she said, returning to the living room.

Julian hovered over the pan de muerto, practically drooling over the round sweet bread. Each bun was adorned with bone-shaped details. Some were covered in cinnamon sugar, while others were dusted with pink sprinkles. Yadriel figured it was the only food Julian could actually eat. He left the pozole alone. He doubted trying to feed a spirit soup would go well.

“Does your family celebrate?” Yadriel asked as he picked out some pan. They were still warm. His stomach growled.

“Nah, not really religious,” Julian said with a shrug, wandering over to some bound stalks of sugarcane in the corner.

Yadriel took a detour to the fridge and put some ice cubes in an empty glass. The cut on his tongue was puffy and starting to throb.

With an armful of food, he led the way back to the living room. He poked Maritza’s side to get her attention and nodded toward the stairs. He motioned for Julian to follow her. “That way,” Yadriel told him. “My room is the last door on the left—”

The creaking of Lita’s armchair made Yadriel stop short, but this time, she didn’t settle back into sleep. She let out a tired groan and sat up in her chair.

Maritza stared at him, wide-eyed, and Yadriel frantically shooed the two of them toward the stairs. In a panic, Yadriel moved to shove Julian, but his arm sunk right through the spirit’s back.

It was like being plunged into cold water, ripping a gasp from his lungs as one of the conchas fell to the floor.

“¿Quique?” Lita called, the nickname she used for Yadriel’s dad. Her voice was thick with sleep.

“It’s just me, Lita!” Yadriel called back, breathless as ice pulsed through his veins.

Lita yawned and pushed herself up out of her chair.

He flapped his hand frantically at Julian, who raced up the flight of stairs. Maritza took off after him.

Lita limped over to where Yadriel stood, conchas balanced in one arm. Maritza and Julian froze, trying not to draw her attention.

Lita frowned at Yadriel. “I was worried.”

He did his best not to look guilty, urging his heart to stop beating so fast. “Sorry.” He bent to scoop the fallen concha off the floor. “I just needed to…” He trailed off, waving the bread in the air, not knowing how to finish.

Lita nodded, bracing her hands on her hips. “I know, I know,” she told him.

He seriously doubted that.

Lita opened her mouth to say something, but then stopped short and shivered.

Yadriel’s heart leaped.

Brow furrowed, Lita rubbed at her arm.

Yadriel held his breath and forced himself to not look at Maritza and Julian on the stairs. If Lita saw Julian in the house, sneaking up the stairs with Maritza, he was screwed.

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