What if you became a ghost at the age of 18 and never aged for over 600 years? What if the person who killed you was family? What if there was a way of changing you back, but the sacrifice might just make you lose everything you gained? Would you take the chance? (not completed yet; preview)
Lightning strikes across the black clouds and I sit up straight in my bed and listen to the rain falling down on the roof. The sea roars as if it was disturbed from the thunder that is slowly making its way towards the sandy beaches.
A loud cry fills the air, accompanying the sound of thunder and lightning in a chorus that suddenly sounds like a death song. I strain my ears and listen more closely but the cry doesn’t come again.
I slowly sink back into my warm bed and press my ear against the warm comfort of my pillow, thinking about the day my father married the Witch and how she keeps looking at me like I’m her little piece of prey.
I want to run away, scream into the sky that there is no way she should be my mother, my guardian and the one who will tell me about love and weddings and how wonderful her grandchildren should look like on the day of their birth.
Lightning lights up the room and I feel my breath catch inside my throat. A scream creates itself in the back of my throat and I stare wide-eyed at her.
I sit up in my bed and crawl to the corner of my room while holding my knees to my chest. Please, don’t let her see me . . .
Something silver gleams as the lightning strikes again. I close my eyes so that I squint in the darkness and hope she doesn’t see the gleam in my eyes the light casts into my room.
When I sense that she is moving closer to me I move closer to the door. Just when I’m about to stand up, I turn to see exactly what she is planning on doing. I bite back a scream once more when I see her raising the thin dagger gleaming in her hand and she plunges the dagger in my straw bed. It makes a snapping sound and anger gleams in her eyes.
“You can’t hide from me forever Elizabeth.” I swallow and rise from my crouch and move past the door, heading into the hall. I swallow again and hope that the gut-wrenching feeling in my stomach will pass before I get too close to her.
I hear my father snore in the end of the hall and realise this might be my chance. Bare foot I run towards the front door, biting back the cold that starts biting on the bridges of my feet and my toes.
“Elizabeth . . .” Her voice echoes in a ghostly way from my room. I don’t stop moving, I just hope my feet don’t reach a part in the house that starts creaking.
I grab the trousers that hang on the hook close to the window to let them dry but since it’s still raining the trousers didn’t dry up much. My boots on the other hand was close to the fire so they are dry.
Slipping my feet as silently as possible in my boots, I tie them up and stand just as the words, “I see you” reach my ears. I spin around, blood draining away from my face. I clutch my coat in my hands, tears already streaming down my face.
“Please . . .” A cruel smile forms on her face, a smile that would make any person run a mile without looking back.
The scream in my throat finally breaks free from its chains. It bubbles up my throat like a volcano and explodes out of my mouth. I scream until my throat is raw, then I scream again, tears streaming down my face.
“Liz!” I can’t stop screaming. I won’t. Not until my dad wakes up and sees her plan. “Liz! Wake up!”
Her voice . . . I stop and listen as the voice of the Witch changes into the voice I fell in love with over the years. A voice that comforts my heart and promises me that nothing will ever happen like it had happened before.
“Liz, open your eyes.” The voice is softer now, almost pleading, but I don’t want to, I refuse to. I will not let this Witch trick me. I will not let her fool me into opening my eyes and then she’ll kill me, because that’s what her plan is.
She raises the dagger above her head and I swallow down another lump that forms in my throat. I open my mouth to scream again but something warm wraps around my mouth, almost like someone is closing it, blocking the air out of my mouth. Suffocating me.
“LIZ!” The voice yells just as the dagger buries deep into my chest with a sucking sound. The pain . . . It burns my heart, my insides; it kills my body with pain. Looking down, I watch as blood pools out of my chest and it stains my shirt. Looking up at the Witch, the air thins around me and darkness takes over the pain . . .
“Open your eyes Liz. You’re not dead.”
“Liz, please open them.”
“Liz, you’re dreaming. Come on, just open your eyes.”
I am at peace now . . .
I feel my chest stop moving. The faint pain in my heart disappears and I stare at a ceiling. The ceiling changes from a grassy roof to a Victorian styled ceiling, with twirls and dots covering the edges.
The face towering above me is no longer the Witch’s, but a man’s face, no; a young boy’s face, his dark blue eyes clouded with concern, blond-brown hair standing in all directions, as if he had just woken up . . .
The full red lips I should’ve known changes into a tight straight line and my eyes travel down to see muscles in his tanned skin. Somewhere in the back of my mind it says; from practising. You know he loves to play sports.
Those strong arms wrap around me and they hold me tightly against his chest. I listen to his heartbeat, drumming fast and loud in my ear. He is real and I am leaving.
Finally, after nights of staying awake, wondering when the time will come when she wants to catch her prey. I am no longer in need for the sleepless nights, the tossing and turning and the waiting. I no longer need those plans to escape, hoping that one of them, eventually, will work.
In the end, no plan saved me. He did.
She ended my suffering.
It is all over.
Her whole body is shaking in my arms. After what seemed like hours she has finally closed her eyes after staring at nothing. I wait for her, hoping that when she wakes up, she’ll realise where she is and that she is safe once again.
As the yellow morning sun peaks over the calm dark blue waters of the ocean I open the window and Liz stirs.
I am tired and ready to go to bed, since she woke me up after two in the morning. Slowly the sun makes it way in the light blue heaven, as if choosing wisely where to stay for eight and a half minutes.
Finally the yellow morning rays touch Liz’s bare feet. She is still curled up in a fetal position and her breath is still coming out ragged, as if she ran across the whole world in one night.
She’ll wake up now. She always wakes up at first light.
I wait and close my eyes, hoping. What if last night was the last draw? What if this dream finally sent her over the edge? What if—?
Just as the sunrays get to her knees, her eyes pop open and she flies out of bed, hands ready to attack. When she sees me her arms fall to her side and confusion clouds her face.
It’s the same every night. Her dream seems too real. She thinks she’s back where she came from, where she lived and where she died. Then she wakes up here in her new room in the twenty-first century and she can’t place herself in this room.
I grab her into a hug and then her body slips away from my grasp. I will never learn. It’s the same every morning. . .
She turns into a ghost before my eyes. Her light blue eyes fades to a misty grey, her blond hair turns almost white and everything about her just turns magical in the sunlight. Magical and scary.
She’s a ghost again.
I still want to reach out to her. I still want to feel her body next to mine and wait for her cheeks to turn red. I miss that.
I miss her.
“I woke you up again.” As she speaks, her voice fills the room with a musical sound. I’ve never heard a voice like that in my life and if I lose her, I probably never will hear her voice again.
“It’s nothing.” I say and rest against her desk, taking in her beauty.
“Nothing? It’s not nothing, Josh. If this keeps happening you won’t be able to get your work done during the day.” I just stare at her, hardly listening to her as she rants on about my grades and varsity. She turns around, worry clouding her face, causing deep lines to form between her eyebrows.
Then she does something that I hate and love at the same time. She bites her lip and cocks an eyebrow at me. “Earth to Josh!” I blink. “And what about Amanda? What will she say when she hears you’re comforting me again?”
“I keep it to myself now.” I say and scratch my ear. “She thinks I’m still losing it. She doesn’t believe that my parents and I are the only ones who can see you. If someone told you that, wouldn’t you think they have a few screws lose?”
“In this world? Anything is possible.” She says and flops down on her bed. “Look, I’m sorry—”
“Okay Liz, let’s get one thing straight. It is not your fault okay? Now stop saying sorry for waking me up. I’m a big boy, I can take the punch.” She bites her lip again, then opens her mouth to say something. I give her a look which makes her clamp her mouth shut and stare at the window.
“I just hope I’ll find someone who will break this curse.” The sadness in her voice breaks my heart. Countless times I tried placing myself in her shoes. There were times I wondered — like her — how will someone love a ghost when you can only touch them at night? How will you know that true love exist when the only love you know is from a guy that you believe is only a friend?
I watch her as she walks towards the door, hands slowly trailing on the wall, then she turns back, staring at me with such intensity of sadness that it could kill anyone. “Liz.” I whisper and walk towards her, reach out and realise that I can’t touch her. She gives me a wry smile and turns to leave while saying, “Don’t worry about me. I’ll survive, somehow.”
Don’t worry about me.
It’s very hard not to . . .
Sand fills my cousin’s sand bucket and she stares at me with wide eyes after tipping over the bucket and seeing that the tower has crumbled into pieces. She glares at her bucket, shoves sand back into it and tries again, again with no luck.
Without her knowing, Liz is sitting next to her, examining her every move. Sadness still lurks in the corners of her now grey eyes. I want to hug her and comfort her. I want to tell her that everything will be alright. She’s not entirely gone, but I know why she has a pained look on her face from morning till night.
“Josh.” I blink and stare at Sally’s face in front of me, both her eyebrows raised. For a ten year old girl, she is very intellectual . . . when she wants be. I look at her outstretched arms, the green bucket under my chin. “Can you fill the bucket with water for me?”
I fold my arms teasingly as both Liz and I ask at the same time, “What’s the magic word?”
Sally thinks for a while, the tip of her tongue sticking out. “Abra Cadabra?” Liz smiles a genuine smile as I laugh, shaking my head.
“Uhm, pop goes the weasel?”
“You watched Ice Age again?” Sally smiles and jumps, spraying sand everywhere. “It’s please.”
“What’s please?” Sally asks handing the bucket to me.
“The magic word.” I say, take the bucket and stand up. For a moment Sally stares at me, confusion clouding her face, I almost thought she looks like Liz for a while when she lets out a long, “Oooh” and carries on digging in the sand for the ‘Nile River around the castle.’
While heading down towards the water Liz slowly trails behind me. I scoop some water in and look at her as she’s standing in the water but it doesn’t bother her. She can’t feel at all.
“The dream . . .” I trail off and scoop more water in. Liz turns to look at me, eyebrows raised, creasing her forehead. “Was it about your—?”
“Josh, she is not my mother. She was never family.” I glance over my shoulder towards Sally then turn back at Liz. “She killed me . . . I was her prey, Josh. She looked at me like I was an injured impala and she was the lion . . .”
Before I could say something she walks towards the ocean, the waves never rocking her back and forth, never touching her at all. Sometimes I think she wishes her feeling would move through her like that.
“Sometimes I wish I was still alive. I wish I can walk on the beach and feel the hot sand under my bare feet. Sometimes I wish I could walk into the ocean, and never come back again. Why didn’t I go to Heaven or Hell? Why am I stuck in the Afterlife but still roaming the world?
“You don’t know what it’s like in the Afterlife. You hear voices everywhere you go. Pleads for a second chance, pleads for messages to be delivered. Its ordered-chaos in here! I want out, Josh! I want out . . .”
As if someone had knocked her from behind she suddenly sinks down into the water. Instinct tells me to run after her, be the hero and save her life again but logic tells me that the waves will be tugging on me instead of her. The waves will drag me into the dark blue bowl.
Instead, I just stand staring at the water as the afternoon sun hangs on the top of our heads. Finally, Liz rises up from the water, her eyes even more ghostly than before. She gives me a wry smile and starts walking out of the water, the waves still crashing over her, behind her and next to her. Not even the breeze that picks up blows her dried out hair.
It was like she is part of my imagination.
Suddenly something tugs at my short. Startled, I whip around and splash a little bit of water on Sally who — and without hesitation — shot me a very angry look, set her jaw and reaches out to collect the bucket from my hands.
Liz shows up next to me in a blink of an eye, hands tugging at the strands of her hair. She is studying Sally again, her eyes following my cousin’s every move. Then, as if everything was another piece of my imagination, Liz smiles at me — a smile that could light up the sun — and she heads back towards the castle Sally has been doctoring with her art.
I still stand staring at Liz, staring at her greyish form half drifting in space.
A ghost . . .
When I was fifteen years old she finally had the guts to tell me how she felt about being dead. Not to mention all the hate speeches she threw into the air to ‘the Witch’ whom I still don’t know.
We were sitting in my room on a winter’s day, her legs crossed while she was going through a magazine my mother had bought three years back but still uses for advice. She had braided her long blond hair the previous night just before she went to bed and I — being the teenager I was — couldn’t help staring at her for a long time.
Then she shoved the magazine into the corner and turned to look at me.
She manipulated her own age at that time, making as if she was eleven on that day until the next year. She kept to her birthday though, which was in a few weeks time from now.
“My dream is about her killing me, over and over again just like it really happened.” She had said while staring outside the window.
She talked about her life after that as well and how she wished for just a moment that she could grow old, have children and grandchildren . . . It made me sad, seeing her like that.
Now, staring at her again, the age she will always be from now on, never aging with me, I couldn’t help but share her wish.
I sit back down close to Sally, watching her poking windows into the towers. She sighs when the last tower is done then she turns to the ‘Nile River.’
“Hey!” she whines and both Liz and I frown. “Something drank up all my water!”
“You know the sand doesn’t hold the water like normal sand does after a while, Sally.” I freeze in place and try not to look over my shoulder too fast. “Hey, Josh.” Amanda greets.
Amanda is my girlfriend, soon to be former girlfriend. She is a beautiful girl, don’t get me wrong but she changed the past few months since we’ve been dating. From the sweet caring girl to a full blown Witch. “I can think of a better way to describe her.” I remember Liz saying one night after she read the text Amanda sent to me.
In plain words it said that I should keep my lovely hands off all the wonderful girls in my university or she’ll personally come and break their oh-so-lovely necks. Well she used harsher words but I’d rather not say it . . .
“I missed you a lot these past few days.” She says it in a tone that once had me melting all over the floor, now . . . well the flame has vanished, I guess. Even her kisses, like the long one she gave me now before I could answer. It now just felt like the practice pillow you usually use before you make the first move on a girl, no feeling at all.
Liz studies us for a while after Sally quickly rushes towards the water. “I’ll leave you two in peace.” She says and heads over to Sally. I can’t help but notice the icy glare she shoots at Amanda, who was clinging on me and oblivious to everything around her.
“So did I.” I finally answer Amanda although I can feel bile filling up my throat. Seriously, if you knew her like I did . . .
She studies me for a moment, her green eyes that are flecked with orange specks trying to see if I am lying or not then she smiles and her finger starts tracing my collar-bone which sends shivers down my spine.
“My parents are out of town for the weekend . . .” The nudge-nudge wink-wink conversation. No way am I falling for that again.
“And so are my brothers . . .” She twirls around the hair behind my neck and without a second thought I close my eyes and lazily lay back.
“Where are they off to?” Then my eyes snap open and I realise where this is leading to. “No way! Ah-ah not now Amanda! Are you off your trolley?”
“Excuse me?” I stand up and fold my arms, staring at her. “You said you love me!”
“Gosh, Amanda. That doesn’t mean I’ll jump into bed with you the first chance I get!” She stands up, her veins in her necks already popping out.
“Someone else changed your mind? Do you love someone else now? Do they make you happier than I make you? Because I can make anyone happy, Josh. You’re not the only man on this planet. Maybe this Liz you keep talking about, even though she is made up, I guess she stole your imaginary heart now.” I feel the anger rise in my chest and I clench my jaw.
“Oh I see now. You think this imaginary girl of yours is better than what I am?”
“With the way you’re acting? Yes! If another guy tells you he loves you, are you gonna jump into his bed and shout ‘Prove it to me then’?” I try hard not to shout the last sentence. I can’t attract attention to us, it would be embarrassing and I don’t want to show Liz or Sally that we’re fighting, once again over something stupid.
I glance over at Amanda’s shoulder and watch Liz and Sally. Liz is standing a few feet away, laughing as Sally runs into the water then runs squealing back out as the waves chase her.
“You said you are waiting for the right time to marry me.”
“Amanda, I want to wait longer. Isn’t that enough for you? Why do you always rush into things so quickly?”
“I don’t rush things!”
“No of course not. On our first date you refused to leave until we had our first kiss.”
“What’s wrong with that?” I sigh and rub my face with my hands. “Look, I’m just impatient because while all the other girls drool over you, you take your time with me.”
“And what if I die tomorrow? Then you’ll start to wonder how it would’ve been like to be in my arms one last time and how—” I put my hand over her mouth, trying hard not to squeeze the life out of her as well. I move closer to her and through clenched teeth I say, “I. Want. To. Wait.”
She jerks her face away from my hand. Grabbing her towel she so neatly placed close to me, spraying sand everywhere she stomps off over the hill. Suddenly she spins around and the wind catches her red hair, making it look like flames dancing across her. “I hope you come to your sense soon!” and then she disappears over the hill.
I fall back down on my towel and look up to see Sally running my way, Liz quickly trailing behind her, her eyes wide with horror. “Since Amanda’s planning on dying tomorrow—”
“Did we talk that loud?” I ask sighing.
“It was hard to ignore.” Liz says and glances at Sally worryingly.
“Anyway,” Sally says, “I came to the conclusion that you should marry Elizabeth.”
“Who?” I ask, still thinking about Amanda’s whole parade and how she thinks she’ll die tomorrow. I guess if it really happened I’d move on quicker than any other person even though we were together for a long time now.
“Liz; the ghost who keeps following me and doesn’t talk much when you’re around us. I don’t understand why though because you always talk a lot when Josh is not around. Anyway, yeah, I think you should marry Liz.”
Coming to my senses I look at Liz who smiles sheepishly and shakes her head and Sally.
I blink and gape at Sally.
Josh walks around my room, anger and annoyance clouding is face. He sighs every now and then pinches his bottom lip, the frown in his forehead creasing more and more. “Can you understand why I am mad at her?”
A while ago both Josh and I greeted Sally as her father hoisted her over his shoulders, thanked Josh for taking care of his little princess and walked off but not before Sally yelled, “I hope you marry her soon!” which made a few heads turn towards Josh on the beach and he even got a funny look from his uncle.
After that we came here because it was getting unbearable outside, according to Josh, and he wasn’t in the mood to tan even more on the beach today. I miss the heat though, but I can’t complain since its summer and the heat usually hits at night, when I don’t miss it at all, and all the covers have to go flying off my bed so I can cool down.
Sally also talked to me non-stop when I was watching her after Amanda so gracefully made her way towards Josh. I can’t say I like Amanda, but I guess if she’s acting the way she is, deep down there must be something going on in the family. Maybe that’s why she’s afraid of dying.
Now that I think about it, I should actually leave her a note that says; Don’t worry, the dying isn’t so bad, but just make sure you live a good life and make sure you don’t get killed by a witch then you’ll be all set. All you have to do then is worry if you’re going up or down. I wonder what she would think if she saw something like that on her desk at home.
Sally had asked me if I felt something for her cousin. What do you tell a ten year old? You can’t explain love because at that age I still remember whenever people kissed I was disgusted and whenever someone talked about me getting married I’d like to show them my special hand language and so gracefully tell them to get off my back. I was young and I wanted to enjoy life.
So what do you tell a ten year old? I didn’t give her the exact answer. Partly because I know she won’t keep her mouth about it and secondly, she’d start teasing me if I ever told her the whole truth.
Two years ago I remember she asked me if I was her imaginary friend. She claimed that she could see me since she could remember and that she kept wondering if I really was real. I told her that if I was imaginary, why can other people see me as well? I spared her the gory details and she accepted me as a lost ghost in the Afterlife, no questions asked.
After explaining most of it to Josh, he only stared at me for a while from the office chair his parents had put in my room — “For one day,” they said — and suddenly went on complaining about how Amanda lost the few screws in her head that kind of helped her think straight.
I wanted to add that she had never had any screws to begin with but I kept it to myself. He might not like her now but she is still his girlfriend and you don’t say something about a boy’s girlfriend while he is venting about her and how she wanted to sleep with him.
“Yes I can.” I answer him and watch as he sighs once again, stops in front of me and stretches out his hands in a kind of a question way.
“I mean . . . Okay, I know it worked different in the fifteen hundred but we’re not in that era for five hundred years now! Are you sure she wasn’t reincarnated and then something went wrong at she popped up in this world?” I raise my eyebrows. “She could’ve waited until I finished with my studies and got the grade I am so hard working on. A grade and a good payable job is what I want!”
“She’s so naïve! She’s been like this since I told her about you! Does she really think I would just disappear out of her life like that? Does she really think she’ll lose me to a girl that is a ghost?”
I know I have to let that one go but it stung, really bad. I look down and play with the small end of the pillow and hear him pause. I look up and see his eyes wide with shock.
“Liz . . .”
“Yeah, no, I get it.” I say waving it aside. Why should it bother me anyway? I have no feelings right?
I look at him as he looks at me, worry clouding his eyes.
“I didn’t mean it.” He says softly, walking closer. “You know I’m mad and—”
“Don’t worry.” I say and stand up.
Maybe he is expecting a hug because his arms are outstretched and he gives me a small smile. Careful not to make him any colder I move away from his embrace and head towards the door. I hear his hands drop to his sides and I avoid his gaze when I move down the stairs.
Why did it sting so much? Is it because I really want him to just quit on her so that we can actually be together? Am I really that in love with him that I got hurt by him so quickly? Am I supposed to feel this way?
For a long time I was only a ghost, then I met him and in the fourth year we’ve known each other I started changing in my human form at night. I was just as surprised as his parents when they came to greet me one night and this seven year old ghost now stood in front of them with solid skin.
In the past before I met this family I had no feelings at all. It was like I was a robot who just did what I was supposed to. Or like someone cut out my heart, fed it to some monster and then it lived with my heart while I was floating around, doing stuff and minding my own business.
It’s not like I want him to like me. Or I don’t even want his love. Why? Because I had my fair share of love and betrayal in one night and I am not going to live through it again. I’m not planning to.
I stand on the porch by the back garden. Flowers all around the garden mark the stone pathway towards the small wooden gate that leads towards the beach. The Indian Ocean glints in the sun and I think back to the time love meant everything to me.
There was once a time when I thought marriage was all I needed to be cured from a broken family. I told myself every morning that I would never be like my mother who walked away when she heard my father had an affair with the Witch. I promised myself if that ever happened we would talk about it, right? Neither would I find a man who would be as lazy as my father was who told the servants what they should do while he sat back and enjoyed the day and smoke pipe.
No, I’d find a man who would love to work and who cared about the wellbeing of his family and who knew the danger that lurked around every corner while I’ll be a loving wife and mother.
I once thought I knew someone who would fulfil my dreams that I have.
A farmer’s son who lived close to us was looking for a wife. Word had already spread through town but since we lived at the end of the town, it got to us lastly. One day the son passed our house while I was washing my older sister’s clothes that came to visit for a few days with her new husband and to congratulate father on his new wife, much to my displeasure, might I add.
The son was my dream husband, and he knew it.
We got to know each other by going to the market together and meeting his parents. I suggested that we meet them first, mostly because I didn’t want him to meet my lazy father and the Witch.
After we met his parents, they started planning a wedding as quickly as possible. Two days before my wedding I saw that he gave another woman flowers while I was on my way to him. The flowers didn’t seem to bother me because it could’ve been his father who wanted to thank someone for their generous food but when he grabbed her around the waist and started kissing her like there was no tomorrow . . . I refused to go to the dinner.
I planned on going to his folks in the morning to tell them precisely what happened after crying my eyes out. I wanted to call off the wedding and move away from the town, the family, everything.
That night I was killed.
The Witch saved me some trouble.
She also cured my broken heart. For days I never felt the pain what the son had caused on me.
I sigh and close my eyes.
Green grass surrounds the porch and the bed of Moon Flowers — with its oddly star shape during the day — and the bed of bright violet Four O’ Clocks are starting to come out since night is dawning on us.
I enjoy the night. Mostly because I finally get to be in my human form again. The other part of me is happy to finally get some food in my stomach.
“Liz.” My head snaps up and I look straight into Josh’s eyes. I take a step back and turn back to the setting sun and hear him sigh as well.
Yes, I am a very difficult person.
“I’m truly sorry for hurting you like that.”
Should I apologise for storming out while he was venting? No, he hurt me, but I did anyway. I always keep the peace, whether if I was wrong or not, but if you really didn’t bother to even talk to me after a small incident like this then well, NASA always has a rocket for you. I’d be more than happy to pay for you ticket and send you up with a satellite so you can suffocate in space . . .
He smiles brightly then rests against the white wooden fence that covers the porch. There were days where we both jumped over this fence and into the flower beds as if we were the good guys and we were being shot by the bad guys. We had our plastic guns with those plastic bullets and you’d hear shooting from Josh’s gun.
I always had to use my hands since I still struggled to materialise my fingers so I could hold onto solid objects. I got the hang of it on Josh’s fifteenth birthday and accidently sprayed cake over everyone while they were singing to him.
Yes, they thought the house was haunted and yes, as teenage boys they thought Josh’s party was the coolest ever. The girls on the other hand never came to visit again.
“What were you thinking about?” He asks and sits down on the chair his parents had bought for the porch a few days ago. It had soft material for cushion while the back was lined with steel bars and framed with a wooden frame.
I don’t want to tell him, mostly because I want to leave the past where it is; in the past. I want to move on without my broken heart and never look back. “Nothing.” I say and sit down next to him.
“You’re a bad liar, Liz.” I hear the smile in his voice and glance at him. “I can tell when you’re lying you know. I actually grew up with you.” He adds “grew up” in air brackets as well. “So I know when something bothers you.”
I say nothing for a while as he studies me. “It’s not actually something I want to talk about you know.” Since part of me is still angry because you called me a ghost like I am some sort of pest.
So he says nothing, only sits back, glances at me and looks across the small fence towards the now almost vacant beach. I enjoy the silence for a while until Josh’s mother pops her head out of the screen door, a smile pasted on her face.
“Thought I might find the two of you here,” she pauses then turns to look at Josh, “and tell you that Uncle Douglas wants you to watch over Sally this Saturday.” Her eyes flicker to me and I know something in my gut, I just know that is not why she came here. Curious people humans are . . .
I mentally shove the unwelcoming voice as hard as I can on an imaginative brick wall then smile as his mother turns to look at me again. She smiles back, but curiosity glows in her eyes so bright that could actually blind me.
“Sure.” Josh says, his eyes not leaving the beach.
“I’ll leave you two then . . .” She gives him that look I got from my mom so many years ago. The look that says I’ll ask you when he/she is busy and so lost in thought they won’t hear a thing.
Mostly that is when I am upstairs showering and getting ready for supper, since it is the only time of day I finally get to eat. That and if I wake up really early, before the sun shows his face, I can at least get a good breakfast in my stomach before becoming a ghost.
“You’re not going to tell me, are you?”
“Not at this moment.” I notice my words come out as a snap, something I wasn’t aiming for but hey, you asked for it. The only thing Josh does is nod. Maybe he knows he really did hit a nerve a few moments ago.
The smell of chocolate starts to build inside my nose and I can feel my stomach rumbling.
The only upside I have of being a ghost is that I can still smell as well. Basically my five senses are the way they always were, if you count out the fact that I could only start touching things on Josh’s birthday again. My feel sense is not entirely there, especially since I can’t feel the wind through my hair or the sand on my feet . . .
My sixth senses have also been heightened since I died. I’ve learned that if my gut tells me not to do it, I shove everything I am doing aside and leave as it is. A lot of mistakes taught me that. Mistakes that made me suffer the consequences more than I was pleased about.
Coming back to reality I look at the light outside, know it’s almost time and start walking towards my room.
I’ve only materialised in front of Josh once and he made me swore never to do it again. According to him it’s not the prettiest of pictures. He says everything gets heightened, glows and he could clearly see where the Witch had killed me because the wound gushes blood out before I change into a human.
The skin around my body as a ghost also disappears and I stand as a greyish skeleton in front of people for a few seconds before my skin colour wraps itself around my now white skeleton and then my hair sprouts out of my scalp again.
Sounds painful? Yes, that is why I despise the evenings when I am awake because I have to go through the suffering over and over again.
Just as I close my door I can feel my body tingle and the knot in my throat forms.
I am too late to reach my bed to grab a pillow so I take it as it comes. Sinking to the ground I stretch out my hand and try — as calmly as possible — to concentrate on how my hand changes, or better yet, get my mind off this.
When you read about werewolf stories the writer always goes in detail about how painful it is that the human skeleton must now transform into a wolf’s skeleton. If werewolves exist, I’ll give them credit because can you imagine the pain the person has to go through? Can you imagine how hard it is to listen to your own body breaking, cracking and snapping and all you can do is lie there and hope that it will all end sooner than you hope?
My body transforming isn’t as bad as that, but it’s still painful. Everything grows back in the speed of lightning. The nails, the hair and I can actually feel it happening that day if I want to, but who wants to?
A sigh of relief escapes my lips and my stomach rumbles again. Before running down the kitchen I grab a white blouse, leggings and black pumps from my closet then head towards the bathroom right next to my bedroom, switch the water to scorching even though it is thirty two degrees outside and breathe another sigh of relief as the water massages my whole body’s aching muscles.
I climb out of the shower, my whole body numb from the heat. I towel dry my hair and then braid it like my mother used to do on the days when we bonded. I wrap the last piece of hair around the tip of my hair and swallow the lump that formed in my throat.
I stare at my reflection and imagine my mother behind me, stroking the few lose strands of my hair and smiling at me. My mother looked a lot like me, only her hair had a darker shade of brown than blond. Her eyes were far lighter than mine and she was a thin woman. Somehow she always looked a bit sick when I looked at her.
I move back to reality as a knock on the door echoes through the bathroom. I button the last button of my shirt, straighten my leggings and slip in my pumps while rushing to put everything back into its place.
I open the door in a rush and almost tumble into Josh’s arms. He looks at me, smiling shyly. “I wasn’t . . . I just thought . . .” his eyes travel down my body and I feel a shiver run through my body. Josh clears his throat, glances over his shoulder and then says, “Dinner’s ready.”
I nod, thank him and throw the towel over my door to dry. I check if everything is in place then head downstairs.
The sharp smell of aromas of spiced steak reaches my tongue and I feel my mouth water. The smell mixes with pumpkin and the familiar clicking of spoons against a glass bowl tells me there is a salad part of the main course.
A cork is popped and the chugging sound of liquid filling glasses makes me suddenly wonder what the special occasion is for. The steak pops and sizzles in the pan just as I enter the kitchen and I glance at Josh’s mother who wipes her floury hands in her yellow flowered apron.
“Liz,” she asks, reaching over the bowl to crack four eggs into the bowl, “can you do me a favour and put the wine with the wine glasses on the dining table?”
“Sure,” I say hesitantly and take a few glasses. “What’s the occasion?”
“Amanda and her parents are coming.” Josh mumbles behind me. I glance at him, hoping to see the playful face but he just stares at me, a crease on his face.
He follows me into the dining room where three different white and black covered plates are stacked on top of each other — starter, main course and pudding — different forks, knives and spoons glint in the dining room’s candle. Suddenly, I couldn’t place the glasses down fast enough.
I feel my stomach drop to the ground.
Everything . . . just how everything is placed neatly, carefully, in place and the whole starter to pudding . . .
I swallow and suddenly I am in dire need of fresh air.
“Liz, are you alright?” I glance at Josh who studies me for a while. “You look a bit green, you know?” I move past him and shove open the screen door.
Why does it bother me so much anyway? Josh is happy with Amanda and even though they had a fight today — and every other day for that matter — I shake it off. Were Sally’s words finally sinking in my mind, making me wonder if I actually wanted — No.
Besides, come off it, it’s not the fifteenth century, but the feeling still lingers, still reminds me, still scares me to death (pardon the pun).
I unclench my fists and take another shaky breath. The taste of salt clings to my lips and I quickly lick them. I stare up at the dark night sky and inhale as the scent of the various night flowers’ scent fills my nose, somehow calming me.
“Liz, you need to tell me what is bothering you. I hate that every time I try and comfort you, you shove me away. How can I help you Liz?”
“I don’t need help. I just need to get my old life back.” I say and turn around, looking at him. “Nothing I say to you will make you help me because it’s impossible. Helping me is just plain impossible.”
“Nothing’s impossible Liz.” I ignore his optimism and glance up at the half moon.
“I just want to help Liz. I just wish I could help you.”
“There’s nothing you can do Josh. This is something that needs to be sorted out and broken.”
“I’m half dead, half alive. I’m in the Afterlife. I—”
“I know Liz.” I sink down the fence and stare at my shoes. I watch Josh move closer then he sits down next to me, grabbing my legs and making my head rest on his shoulder.
I freeze just as his lips connect to my forehead.
My lips still burn after I kissed Liz a few minutes ago. Before one of us could say anything my mother showed up and said that the guests have arrived, now we’re sitting at the table and she keeps avoiding my gaze and somehow that really makes me feel super bad. Kissing her really seemed to be a bad idea, but it was just a moment that passed us and I can’t stand seeing her so sad.
Amanda is hanging on my arm since she set foot over the doorstep. I just hope she won’t follow me when I am in desperate need of the bathroom. I now have the urge to just shrug her off and tell her to give me some space. Breathing in and out while clenching my jaw, I count to ten.
After a while of silence around the table, Amanda’s mother suddenly looks at me and says, “Josh! Why don’t you come with us to the theme park tomorrow? I know Amanda would love for you to come with.” I look at her mother, her smile seeming abnormally large on her face while her red curls dances in the breeze that picked up through the screen door.
“I have to—”
“Only Josh by the way. I’m afraid the theme park only allows two kids per couple.” Amanda says before I could decline. Liz looks Amanda straight in the eyes, calmly places her utensils down and smiles.
“It’s alright. I don’t like your company anyway.” I smile just as my mother chokes on her food and starts coughing hysterically.
“Amanda!” her mother says through clenched teeth. Liz, oblivious to Amanda’s mother rising up from her chair, glances at the kitchen a few times. Just when I’m about to turn back to Amanda, Liz raises up as well, taking her plate to the kitchen.
Both my parents look at me before following my gaze towards Liz in the kitchen. My father is about to stand up when I shake my head slightly, my eyes begging. The last thing I would want now is for my dad to say something horrible and make Liz feel even worse.
“She needs a little bit of time alone.” I say as Amanda turns to look at me, eyebrows raised. Why do I have to explain everything to her? Right now it is not my place or my right.
“Time alone? Sure, that’s—”
“Amanda, can I speak to you in private?”
“No mother, whatever you want to say, you can say it now and get it over with.” I thought her mother’s head was about to pop. She clutches her napkin so hard in her hands I thought it was going to crumple into strings any moment.
Her mother moves her chair out, walks all the way over to Amanda, clutches her arm tightly and whispers in her ear, “Gooutside, now!”
Amanda tries getting her mother’s grip off her arm but to no prevail. “Amanda!” her mother says louder and when she doesn’t budge, I could’ve sworn she actually just picked her daughter up and shoved her in the direction of the front door.
“How long have you been looking after Elizabeth?” Amanda’s father asks, his eyes never leaving Liz who is still in the kitchen.
“We call her Liz, Deon. She’s been in our family since she was three years old. We found her hiding in the bushes in our backyard.”
“Does she have a real family?”
“They don’t want her.” I say. Deon’s eyes move to me so slowly I actually thought he might freeze in place. Then he turns his attention back to Liz without my parents noticing. It actually looks creepy the way he is looking at her. I shrug and shove the idea out of my head before it could surface.
“Does she like it here?” Does it matter? I want to ask him. She has a home. My parents glance at each other before turning back to Deon, nodding. He doesn’t notice though because Liz is making her way back from the kitchen but she moves towards the screen door, takes a deep breath and disappears into the darkness of the porch.
A soft breeze enters the dining room just as she disappears and I can feel my stomach drop. My mom’s hand lingers close to the porch light and we both exchange a look.
Either we are all going to see something not one of us really wants to see or Liz would have somehow disappeared. She could have jumped over the fence but then she would make a noise because we have no steps leading to the back garden, except through the kitchen door.
Suddenly, the soft padding of her shoes walking up and down the wooden porch tells me she is actually pacing up and down. I nod at my mother who shoots another glance my way and she switches on the light.
Liz looks at us, tears streaming down her face. I slightly rise from my chair when my own words fly back at me. She needs a little bit of time alone. I sink back in my chair and play with the fat I had cut off from the steak.
“Shouldn’t you go talk to her? It looks like she is in desperate need of company.” Deon says, still staring at her. I grip the end of my fork, suddenly imagining how I can almost rake his eyes out with it. I take another deep breath and repeat what I had said earlier.
“She needs time alone, Sir.” My jaw is aching from all this clenching. Even my hands are starting to throb. “She needs her privacy, just like we all do.”
“Yes, and just like us all, she needs to be comforted and she needs company.” He gives me a knowing look. I only smile a little and turn my attention back to Liz.
My father catches my attention and he makes a small gesture towards the porch. Knowing he has something up his sleeve, I sigh, thank everyone for everything and walk to the porch.
Just as I place my foot over the frame of the door, thunder rumbles closely and lighting cracks about five kilometres away. Liz — who had her back to the door the whole time, hands loosely holding onto the railings — turns around and gives me a weak smile.
I walk closer to her, my hand reaching out towards her, almost pleading. “Tell me.” But she only shakes her head, her eyes darting up and down the porch, a worried look on her face. “Liz.”
“No.” There’s panic in her voice. My hand is still outstretched towards her but I have a feeling this is not turning out very good. I try again to open my mouth but she shakes her head again, eyes pleading.
“Liz, please. I’ll even close the screen door—” I spin around just as the soft click of the door behind me closes. My parents aren’t even in the dining room anymore. Not even Deon, his wife or Amanda seem to be in the dining room.
The hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I feel goosebumps form on my arms. Then I make the mistake of looking over at Liz. Her blue eyes are wide with horror. Her face whiter than when she is a ghost and her arms are stuck to her side, with only one hand clenching and unclenching.
She promised. I tell myself and watch her left hand.
Her head snaps to the ceiling. I want to follow with my eyes but I can’t. My head’s frozen in place. Slowly her hand moves to a place where she no longer stored it.
Because she promised.
“Liz, can you at least—?” My voice was enough to make her dive towards me. When we both hit the floor in a loud *thunk* noise I felt her hand going over my mouth before I could curse in pain.
I look up at Liz who is staring down at me, one hand on my mouth, the other hand close to her mouth, her index finger over her lips.
I frown but before anything else could be said or done, a big monstrous shadow moves across the roof of the porch, hissing, screeching and whispering at the same time. Something dark drips on my head and I feel myself squirm.
“Stay down.” Liz whispers so softly I almost didn’t hear her.
We stay there a while, both of us breathing as slowly as possible, eyes locked on each other. I have my eyes on her because her blue eyes keep me calm. Maybe she’s just looking at me to make sure I don’t jump up and start yelling like a twelve year old girl.
Despite the mysterious screeching still lurking above our heads, an odd feeling shoots through my body every time Liz breaths in, pressing her chest against mine.
I feel my cheeks heat up but if Liz notices, she doesn’t show it.
Another loud clap of thunder and lightning finds its way through my closed eyes and the warmth of her body suddenly disappears.
Shaking, we both move against the railing, both too numb to move a little bit farther than we are now. After scanning the roof and wiping off whatever was on my face, I look at Liz again who is clasping her right arm tightly.
“What . . . What was that?”
Awhile goes by while Liz stares at the ground, clutching her knees tight around her chest, arms and legs shaking. I’m giving her time to answer but this is just getting nerve-wrecking.
“It’s a weather monster.”
“A . . . what? Sounds like its coming from something out of Scooby-Doo.”
“I only wish it did.” She sighs. “A weather monster looks almost like a goblin. Only this goblin in the size of a bull, skin colour between the colours black and brown, black eyes and big sharp teeth that prey on lost souls and those who trespass their territory.”
“Then what’s it doing here?”
“Seeking out lost souls or it was sent by someone.”
“Why would it . . .?” I slowly trail off and understand now why Liz was so white. Even though she would like to disappear from the Afterlife, I don’t think she’d be happy dying a painful death once again. “You’re the lost soul . . . aren’t you?”
She nods slowly and clutches her knees tighter around her chest. “Josh, I have to break this curse soon. What if the next time I won’t be so lucky as to escape?” That’s when she starts shaking uncontrollably and the tears flow down her cheeks even quicker.
I scoot closer to her and wrap my arm around her, holding her tightly against me. She slowly leans on my shoulder and I can smell the spring on her. She smells like one of those Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow flowers my mom has in the corner of her garden . . . Or maybe it is the flower I smell.
I listen to the sound of thunder slowly dying away, the sound of the waves calming down and the crickets go back to their normal routine of shouting at each other from a few miles away.
Suddenly the screen door opens and Amanda stands in the door, hands on her hips and eyebrows raised. She glares at me first, then she turns to Liz, her glare deepening.
“I see you’re falling for this sad thing.”
“Not now, Amanda.”
Ignoring me she carries on looking — glaring — at Liz. “My dad says he can help you find your family. He knows people who would help search and—”
“Everyone in her family is dead, Amanda. Those who live,” — which are none — “wants nothing to do with her. Tell your father he can go ask and prey on some other girl.”
Amanda took a step back, mouth popping open. “Excuse you. Are you saying my dad’s a paedophile?”
“Yes.” I say, having enough of her tantrums, every day is enough to drive me crazy. She looks at me disgusted.
“You know what tonight was for?” she snaps, spit flying from her mouth.
Before I could answer, Liz lifts her head that was still resting on my shoulder and calmly answers, “You were hoping Josh would fall in love with you even more so he could do anything but resist you, but you knew how he worked so you called his parents and arranged everything, hoping that somehow he would realise his mistake of letting you down this afternoon and asking you to marry him as soon as possible.”
Gaping I look at Liz then turn to look at Amanda, smiling wickedly. “The sad thing has a brain, even if it is just a tiny one.” Liz only stares her down from where she’s sitting.
After a while Amanda grunts something and turns to walk away. “Oh, Amanda, before you go . . .” Despite everything, Amanda turns around, a smile playing on her lips but soon breaks when the next words leave my mouth.
“I think it’s better if we don’t see each other anymore.”
Last night I went to talk to Josh. We didn’t say much though; I only wanted someone to talk to because I couldn’t sleep at all. After a while of staying in silence I did fall asleep on his bed.
Now, the sunlight is shining through the large window of Josh’s room and I’m once again in my ghost form. Still in a haze of confusion I stand up and look around, making sure where I was. Just then the door opens and I stare at Josh, casually walking into the room, towel draped over his waist while water is still dripping off his hair.
We both freeze, staring wide eyed at each other, then realisation kicks in and Josh starts turning a shade of red. “I didn’t know you were awake.” He says and avoids my gaze by fishing through his closet for a shirt.
“What would be worse Josh?” I ask, trying hard not to laugh loudly. “If I am awake now, or I wake up in the middle in your undress and dress time?”
“You have a point.” He says, his cheeks still bright red.
We both stay silent as Josh pulls a red shirt over his head. “I actually feel very free.” He says behind me as I stare at the light blue skies, no cloud in sight and the light blue ocean. Every so often a dark blue wave crashes to the shore and I have the urge to run into the water like Sally usually does and just play in the water.
“What do you mean?” I ask, turning my attention back towards Josh.
“Not being with Amanda anymore. She actually suffocated me.”
“I could’ve told you that the minute you two started dating.” He only pulls a face and heads towards his closet where he takes out a light blue denim short. I leave him so that he can dress and start studying.
“I hope you feel better today Liz . . .” he trails off and studies me another few minutes.
“If I could hug you I would, but . . .” I say and gesture at my ghostly body. He only smiles and I close the door then head downstairs. I am greeted by Sally who slides off the barstool and runs towards me, arms high in the air.
Suddenly she stops and sighs. “I can’t even hug you.” I laugh and follow her back towards the barstool. “Has Josh asked you to marry him yet?” Josh’s mother looks over her shoulder, frowning at Sally.
“Can you see her?”
“Everyone can.” She says casually and looks at his mother.
“Not everyone can, dear. Your father can’t.”
“He has no active imagination.” Sally says then turns back to me. “So has he?”
“He’s too young Sally,” Josh’s mother says, looking sternly at her niece. “He has to study and get good grades, get a job and then think about marriage.” And not marry Liz was written on her face.
I couldn’t help but feel the stab of pain. I know that I will never marry Josh but his mother could at least have softened it up to me and not give me the evil eye while talking to her niece.
Just to be clear, if I steal your son’s heart, technically it’s not my fault. It happens. I want to say but I just nod when Sally looks at me.
It really hurts to think that I can’t marry at all. Even if I do find someone who loves me for me, how will they ever be able to live with the fact that they can only touch me at night? What if it happens that I don’t even change into my human form while I’m with the person I love?
Three hours after watching Sally, she and Josh’s mother eat lunch, clean up and watch TV. Josh finally shows up and starts rubbing his temples while he walks down the stairs. His mother quickly gets the leftover food she hid from Sally and gives it to Josh. He thanks her with a small smile then starts gobbling at is food like there is no tomorrow.
He walks outside with me and Sally after he ate and swings her in the air a bit, then turns to sit down next to me and we watch as Sally chases butterflies and then lets out a playful squeal when bees come buzzing her way.
“I’ve been thinking . . .” Josh says, his eyes never leaving Sally. “You said a kiss would change you into your true form. What if your true form is not human?”
“What do you mean?” I ask, turning my attention towards him.
“Think about it. You’ve been dead for over five hundred years. What if by your true form, she meant you change back into a ghost but this time you’re not stuck in the Afterlife. What if you finally reach your final destination?”
I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while now but I never wanted to mention it. It’s a subject I am willing to avoid at all costs because I can’t imagine not being on Earth anymore, even though, sitting on the grass now, tons of whispers already fill my ears.
I try to block them out by turning my attention back to Josh who is staring at me, eyebrows raised. “If it happens, it happens.”
“But what about m — the guy that loves you?” I study his wide eyes with pain in my own. I know the sacrifice both of us would be willing to take, though I didn’t say it out loud, for now.
“What if he kissed you so he could be with you? What if not kissing you is the only way to keep you with him?”
I sigh and look at Josh, knowing that the decision I made last night while his snores filled the room had to be made quick. It was a take it or leave it now opportunity and I was going with taking it now. I had to; I kept telling myself before I fell asleep.
“I need him to make the sacrifice for me Josh. It’ll keep us both out of danger.” I see the argument forming on his face and I carry on before he can interrupt me. “You saw what showed up last night! I can’t guarantee that the thing won’t come back. To keep you safe, to keep him safe and to keep everyone else safe I need him to sacrifice his love, even if it means losing me forever. Some day he’ll move on.”
A frown forms on his face. “You think so?”
Silence. Josh stares at me while I direct my attention back to Sally. “When you died, your emotions for him died with you, right?”
“I lost my feeling for him when I saw the other girl.” I say flatly. Why did this conversation turn from kissing to my five hundred year old, dusty, ex-fiancé? I readjust in my seat.
“Exactly! Which means your heart broke but since he broke your heart so quickly, you couldn’t care less. This guy will be heartbroken for a very long time because he promised you that he will protect you and now he has to try and forget you.”
I let the words sink in, because I have to. Every possible solution must be put in my head for when the day arrives. Before both of us can say anything else Sally runs up to us, a big smile on her face. She opens her hands in front of Josh and yells, “I found loot!”
I peek over his shoulder and see a silver ring with a dark blue sapphire in the middle. Josh smiles and takes the ring from her. She turns around, peeks over her shoulder and says, “You should give it to Liz to show her how much you really like her.”
Josh stares at Sally as she hops away and then turns to look down at the ring before placing it in his pocket.
“Getting back to the whole ghost thing.”
“That is just cruel. The conversation is over Josh.” I say and shake my head as he tries to convince me to talk about it again. He sighs and lies down on the grass. Taking out the ring again he smiles once more and throws it a short distance in the air.
“I stole this ring from my mom’s jewellery box when I was three and I made a little treasure hunt for myself in the backyard. It was my mom’s family ring and since she never had a daughter, she couldn’t pass it on so she placed it in a special box. I didn’t know about the family thing until you showed up and I couldn’t find it.
“My mom saw you as a blessing. She thinks you are the daughter she always wanted and when she wanted to give you the ring, she couldn’t find it and I couldn’t remember where I placed it so we gave it up as a bad job.
“I even told myself I would use this ring and give it to the person I love, you now, start a new tradition but I guess my mom would want this back now.” He sits up and looks at the ring once more. “Or maybe Sally is right.”
I ignore the last part. Suddenly Josh’s words make sense; of course his mother wouldn’t want a girl to marry her son when she sees the girl as her daughter. But you’re not blood related! Shut up annoying voice!
“Go give it to your mother Josh. She might’ve changed her mind about me being her daughter over the years.”
“Oh please.” He shakes his head and points at me. “I know if she gave it to you, you would find a way to give it back to her.”
“Well I would.”
“Miss Chamberlin, the one who always has to do the right deed since fifteen-oh-nine. The five hundred and something eighteen year old.”
“That made no sense.” I say laughing. “Besides, you learn a lot of things when you’re a ghost all your life.”
Josh scowls and looks at me. “I’m friends with an old lady.” I materialise my hand and punch him on the arm while laughing.
I’m really going to miss our conversations.
Everyone is quiet when we start eating. My mom and dad exchange a few short sentences but then the conversation dies away and we eat in silence. I glance at Liz who only pokes her food with her fork, one hand resting on her cheek.
Liz even refuses to look my way when I ask her to pass the salt. I frown as she only looks down, takes the pot and while still staring at her food, gives the salt pot to me. My dad raises his eyebrows my way and I only shrug.
She’s been acting rather strange for a few days now but the last few minutes before sunset, she acted even more strange. Even when I think I have all the answers, she surprises me by being more mysterious and continuing to give me the silent treatment. On one hand I want to sit down with her and ask her just to spill the beans, no more secrets. On the other hand I know she’ll refuse because she is so secretive.
Tonight, it will change.
When everyone’s done eating Liz quickly places everyone’s plate under hers and she quickly heads towards the kitchen. Before questions start flying my way I quickly head towards the kitchen as well and take her arm. She peeks over her shoulder, staring at my hand then gently tugging so she can move away from me.
“Liz, will you just—”
“No.” I stare her down but she moves past me and takes the steps two at a time. I head back to the dining room where my dad is collecting the ketchup and all the other sauces we usually place in the fridge. He turns to look at me after watching Liz rush upstairs and that look says it all.
“She needs space dad.”
“How long are you willing to give her space, Josh? How long will she try and keep it in until you decide she had her space. I can see the way you look at her, son. Go talk to her.”
I save my arguing for when I talk to Liz. Somehow, even the simplest of words could turn into an argument with her. She’ll tell you the pros the cons and everything meshed in between. Then when she is done she will take a deep breath and ramble in a very annoying voice, “In conclusion I . . .”
My dad made a joke once when he heard us arguing. He said, “If you keep on going like that, when you finally are human in full I think you might want to study at being a layer, then you can work for me.” Liz only laughed because we both knew at that time the chances of her changing back into human forever is ten to a hundred.
I pause in front Liz’s door, put my hand in my pocket and take out the ring. I did talk to my mom about the ring. Somewhere between “Im not sure Josh,” and “You know she’s not your real sister” my mom gave in so that I can give Liz the ring.
I open the door of her room, watching her as she whips around, a grey hoodie in her hand and other pieces of clothing on the bed.
“You can knock you know.” She says acidly and stuffs the hoodie in a duffel bag.
I meant to say I’m sorry but the words “You’re leaving” roll over my tongue before I could stop it. Liz calmly just looks at me, not saying anything, then turns back towards the clothes and stuffs them into her bag.
“Why?” I ask and move closer, the ring heavy in my pocket. Can I still give it to her? Will she accept it if I give it to her now or will she tell me that she doesn’t want it?
“I’m trying to protect you and keep you away from danger.”
“Liz, we all knew the danger long before we decided to make you part of our family.” I quickly close the door behind me and sit on her bed. “Please don’t go.” I whisper as she sits down, her hands clenched on her legs. Her eyes turn to look at me, then they drop down and look back up.
“I won’t let you go through pain.”
“What pain?” I ask.
“Oh please Josh. I know how you feel about me.” She says, standing up and putting the last piece of clothing into her bag. I gape at her, unsure of what to say. How did she know? “I won’t be able to live with myself.”
I take her hands in mine and tilt her face towards me. She keeps her eyes downcast and without noticing I start trailing my finger across her lip. She pulls her face away, closing her eyes.
“How long have you been planning this?”
“Just when you and Amanda started dating.”
“Why tonight then?” I ask and I can see her looking over my shoulder. She doesn’t want them to know, I get that, but was she just going to leave without an explanation?
“It’s for your own good.” She says and wriggles her hands out of my grasp.
“I’m coming with you then.” She stares at me with wide eyes, which is practically to her a shaking of the head and yelling “No” so the whole world can hear that I’m not allowed.
“No Josh. I need to go alone. I have to. I need to find someone and break the curse.”
“I’ll do it then.” I say, reaching out for her again. Sadness fills her eyes as she takes her bag, scoots away from my arms and she shakes her head.
“No, Josh. You can’t.” She turns around to take something else but I spin her back to face me, our faces inches apart.
“Tell me why.” I whisper, my voice barely audible.
“I won’t be the cause of your heartbreak.” I bite my lip and watch her as she tries to free herself, her eyes never meeting mine. I can feel the knot forming in my throat already but I take a deep breath, exhale and force her to look at me again.
“You won’t.” I say softly.
I see no emotion in her eyes when she sighs. “So what you are saying is you’ll kiss me to prove that you have no feelings for me, yet you’re still hoping to break the spell?” I stare at her while biting bubbles. “Thought so.” She says and smiles faintly.
“But I do have feelings for you.” I say after finding my voice again. “But tell me in my face that you don’t love me.”
“Are we in grade two now?” she asks, eyebrows raised.
“I . . .” she takes a deep breath, clutches the duffel bag in her hand tighter, making her knuckles turn white, “have to go because the feelings I have for you will hurt you even more.”
“I DO LOVE YOU!” She looks stunned by her sudden outburst. I blink and look at her, not sure if I should hug her or kiss her.
“How long have you—?”
“It doesn’t matter.” She says softer. “If my feelings for you get even stronger I will be the cause of your death.”
“Then I’ll die with you.” She looks at me and her eyes say it all. No matter how hard I fight to keep her here, she won’t stay.
“Liz—” She scoots past me and opens her door. Glancing back she says the words that I never wanted to hear her say.
I don’t think I would ever hate myself more than I do now, except for the time when I haunted my dad . . . I let my head steer clear from that subject and mentally punch myself but in the same breath I know that it was something that I had to do.
I had to protect them, protect myself.
I run down the street, furious tears flowing down my face, heating my cold cheeks. My lungs pain but I still keep running, I can’t look back now or I’ll change my mind.
One foot in front of the other . . .
I had placed the ring on the coffee table on my way out after Josh “secretively” placed it in my jean pocket. I felt it, but didn’t say anything.
His mom doesn’t see me as her daughter anymore. Whose daughter allows her brother to fall in love with her? Saying the words like that actually make it sound worse than it is . . .
Josh won’t be happy when he sees the ring, if his mother doesn’t take it back before he can—
My thoughts are cut short when something hard slaps me on the back, sending me through the air and my duffel bag flying in front of me, its laces freely outstretched, and ready, like me, to hit the solid grey paving. I skid face first on the paving, feeling the rocks gnaw at my cheek and I silently curse while spitting rocks out of my mouth.
I grab my bag and jump up but it throws me off balance for a second before I regain my feet again. I swing the second strap over my other arm and brace myself for another hit.
The thing screeches at me, blood dripping off its long yellow sharp fangs and I shiver. Whatever it ate, I don’t want to connect with that blood on his fangs, thank you very much.
I see the familiar walk of the person I once vowed to take revenge on, the swaying of hips and the head held high.
“Come to take back what you lost, Amber?” I yell, the familiar long flow of drapes giving her away as well.
“Oh, I never lost you, Elizabeth.” Her tone is like mine; mocking and daring. “I just thought I’d drop by and congratulate you n a job well done.” She spits my way.
I give a short laugh and yell, “You had nothing to do with my decision.”
“No?” mocking me again, like always. Everything I say has to be mocked by this woman. “I did warn you about falling for that boy though. Looks like it finally sunk in.”
“You are not my mother!” I yell while whipping my dagger from my left sleeve, where I promised Josh I wouldn’t keep it anymore, even though I desperately needed it that night . . .
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Amber says calmly when she sees me circling with the creature. “Eighteen years of hiding your weapon and magical abilities from this boy has made you weak.” I clench my fists and bare my teeth. “Besides,” she says lazily and walks around the monster, stroking him, “I just want to talk.”
“You never want to talk.” I say, my eyes not leaving them.
“Oh, don’t lie Elizabeth.” I despise the way she says my name.
“What do you want?” Let’s get this over and done with. You are the last person I would have liked to see now.
“To talk of course.” She repeats and strokes its slimy head, making it purr like an oversized hybrid cat. “I want you to come and work for me again.”
“Listen. I need to tell you something about your ghostly powers,” she pauses and looks over her shoulder, “But we can’t do it in the middle of the road.” I eye the monster and cross my arms over my chest. Its beady black eyes follow me as I move to the right and it starts hissing.
“Whatever you want to tell me, tell me now and I’ll be on my way again. I don’t have time for your endless ranting about stuff I already know.”
“It doesn’t work like that Elizabeth.” I clench my jaw and look at the monster again.
“What if I don’t want to talk to you? What can you do?” She gives me a look the locals would give a person speaking German.
“I just need you to come with me for a while.”
I give her a long look and finally feel the sting of the rocks in my cheek. Giving the monster another look I place the dagger back in its sheath, rub my hands on my jeans and put my bag more comfortably on my back.
“I give you till dawn to explain.”