I avoided looking at the ghost's nearly see-through eyes. No matter how much time had passed since her death, the grief hit me like a tsunami every time I caught her eye.
She, on the other hand, was much less bothered. Carefree in life and unchanging in death, she didn't seem to notice that she was a dead thing and I was alive. Or was she dead? I could never decide if the soul of a deceased person could be strictly counted as dead. And Naomi's softly glowing spirit felt so alive. Her hazel eyes glowed and her hands moved animatedly as she talked.
The afterlife was mesmerizing, as it turned out.
"-then it's like the sky is lit on fire and you feel as if you could almost touch the clouds. And Cher the waterfall- it looks like liquid gold."
"The waterfall, Cher, I'm talking about the sunrise over the waterfall."
"Oh..." I smiled ruefully. Naomi was used to me zoning out. Lately, my mind had been all over the place and it was getting increasingly harder to concentrate on the ghost of my oldest friend. My chest would tighten and every single time I would desperately want to tell her why, but I could never find the words.
Naomi stared thoughtfully at me for a minute, then she leaned her chin in her hands and laughed quietly.
“Cher, there’s no rush. Take as much time as you need- I’m not going anywhere,” she assured me.
“Don’t you want to move on though?” I asked suddenly. I’d never been able to ask her that question.
Naomi shrugged, “I have to make sure you’re ok.”
I looked directly into her faded eyes, “I’m ok.”
“Don’t lie to me, love,” Naomi reprimanded caressing my cheek sadly, “I don’t want you to be strong for me. I’ll wait for you as long as you need me to. It’s just as much about me letting you go as it is you letting me go.”
I melted into her pale hand, tears running down my cheeks.
“I don’t want to let you go. I want to be with you.”
“Shh, sweetie, I know.”
For the rest of the afternoon, we sat in silence. She wrapped her arms around me from behind and stayed there, slightly warm and very comforting. She always assumed that position because she didn’t want people to think I was insane. Her spirit was anchored to the small cafe we used to frequent in college; we had so many memories in that place that it made sense it was what tied her here. No one else could see her and I was grateful she always made sure I wasn’t acting crazy in public.
“Drink my tea before it gets cold,” she crooned, eyeing the cup of tea that her spirit form couldn’t grasp.
I laughed softly and began to sip her tea, but my mind had already started to wander again and my chest tightened painfully.
I put the empty cup down and wiped the crumbs off the table.
I looked up at Naomi startled. She always faded away instantly once I’d finished drinking her tea. This time she was staring at me and I couldn’t read her expression.
“I didn’t want to ask you this- but really want you to do something for me.”
I nodded. I would do anything for her.
“Just...tell Adam that it’s not his fault...and- just tell him I love him.”
I froze, but Naomi had already disappeared. I sat there unmoving, my heart pounding in my chest.
The sound of my phone ringing broke me out of my reverie several moments later. It was Adam. A cold wave of fear and guilt washed over me and I jumped up with trembling hands and walked several meters away from the cafe before I answered the phone.
I took a deep breath, “what’s up?” I asked.
“You ok? You sound upset,” Adam's deep voice came over the phone.
“I’m fine, I’m on my way home,” I responded, quickening my pace into a speed walk.
“Wonderful,” I could hear his smile through his voice, “I’m grilling chicken for dinner.”
I got in my car and slammed the door, instantly relaxing.
“Sounds good babe, I’ll be there in a minute.”
“Alright, I love you to the moon and back.”
“Adam- you used to say that to Naomi,” I accused. My hands were shaking and angry tears welled up in my eyes.
There was a pause.
“I know, I just thought it had been long enough…”
“I gotta go,”
I hung up and leaned over the steering wheel sobbing. I could never bring myself to tell Naomi that I was in love with her fiance. There was so much about it that was wrong. I was sure that Adam was the reason she couldn’t move on. But the longer she stayed tied to the earth, the longer I could put off letting her go. And if I told her that the love of her life was in love with her best friend, she had no reason not to let the darkness in and become a demon. I didn’t want that for her, but I was also terrified. I felt like I was in the wrong and I was doing something horrible. But not telling her was like eating a brick and letting it decay in my chest.
Dinner was good. Adam always soothed my fears and managed to shove the guilt into a pocket in the back of my mind. He had the same warm strength as Naomi, only distinct and a force of its own.
He looked up with his mouth full and grinned sheepishly.
“I think I need to tell you something.”
I couldn’t keep it hidden anymore.
Adam's face fell, but he waited for me to continue.
“Adam,” my face was pleading.
“No, Cher it’s been long enough, you have to let her go and move on.”
“Please, just let me tell you,” I tried to swallow the horrible lump in my throat.
“Cher, don’t make me listen, please,” he ran his hands over his face and then continued, “I’m so tired of being heartbroken. Sweetheart, you already fixed me and as much as I miss Naomi, I’m in love with you and I want, I need you to be ok. You can’t feel guilty about her- hell we probably would have fallen in love even if she hadn’t died. Naomi would have wanted us to move on and be happy. She would have been so relieved to know that we’ve become each other’s strength and we’re getting through this together.”
“Adam, stop,” I had begun to cry midway through his speech and now I was blubbering miserably, “I love you baby, but I feel so damn guilty for not telling her about us.”
“What do you mean…?”
I stared at him.
“Aren’t you the one anchoring her here??”
Adam's face went pale.
“Cher, what are you talking about?”
My head was whirling and I felt nauseous.
Oh god… he wasn’t the one holding her here.
“Adam, I have to go,” I stumbled to the door and grabbed my keys.
I was already halfway to my car.
The wind was roaring and the fading sky looked ready to burst. A huge storm was coming and I was driving right into it.
I glanced back as I drove away. Adam was standing out the door with his hands running over his face. He looked helpless and terrified and it made me hate doing this to him.
The lump in my throat swelled and I became more and more hysterical as I drove to the cafe.
The first drops of rain hit my windshield as I got out of the car and hurried to the table we always sat at right outside the cafe.
“NAOMI” I screamed, tears streaking my face and hair blowing everywhere.
“Naomi I need to talk please please be here,” I wailed.
“Cher, sweetie, hey you’re ok, I got you.”
Naomi’s familiar warmth was behind me in an instant, wrapping her translucent arms around me.
I pushed her away from me.
“I’m not ok, it’s not ok,” I sobbed incoherently.
She stood quietly, waiting for me to unload my burden.
“Naomi, Adam and I fell in love after you died.”
Her face went paler if that was possible. I waited for dark cracks to appear on her face and her eyes to go crimson; the telltale signs of a spirit turning dark. Nothing happened. She didn’t move.
“He knocked on my door that night in the pouring rain. I couldn’t tell where his tears ended and the rain began but I didn’t mind because I was crying too.”
Silent tears slid down Naomi’s face and she moved her hand to cover her mouth.
“He said he was lost without you and I said I was too. We watched Disney movies and talked about you until morning.”
Again I waited.
I squeezed my eyes shut, “Naomi if you want to let the darkness in and possess my body, you have every right to. I won’t fight-”
“Shh,” she pressed her finger against my lips and I melted into her touch like I always did.
I opened my eyes and she was right in front of me, smiling through the tears.
“You’re ready to let me go, honey.”
I stumbled back.
Her face was radiant and her body glowed like it had been filled to the brim with light. She gasped in delight and clapped her hands together as her clothes became snowy white. Great wings trembled for a moment and then unfurled from her back with a gust of wind.
Naomi was an angel.
I gasped, “it was me, wasn’t it? I was keeping you here because I needed to tell you about Adam.”
Naomi just smiled. It was beautiful. Everything about her that had been beautiful in life was serene in death. Her eyes shone like melted stars and she looked so happy.
“I think I have to go now,” she whispered, joy barely contained in her voice. She clasped my hand in hers for a moment, “I’m always here for you Cher, love. You’ll understand when it's your time.”
She moved back and hovered in the air, ready to soar off into the bright light.
Then she turned and her laugh sounded in the air like bell chimes.
“I love you,” she said, “I love both of you.”
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Your story has a good flow, it kept me interested. It is well written.
Thank you! :)