Waiting for the light in the persistent February drizzle, I rubbed my non-umbrella hand across my swollen tummy, then fingered the jade dragon pendant which always hung around my neck. It would give me the good luck I needed as I approached the hospital for what might be my last appointment before D-day. Except, I didn’t want to induce the twins early. I just wanted to have a natural delivery – at home. The way Geoff and I had always planned when we started our family.
I remembered the amazing night we spent together under the stars at the summer solstice. We hadn’t planned for an evening of star-gazing to turn into passionate lovemaking, but that was exactly what had happened.
Morning had come and we were not done.
“Will you marry me, Clara?” he asked. “I want to have a family with you… children to love and raise with you.”
It hadn’t taken too much to convince me of the benefits of marrying him. After all, he had a good job, could afford to let me be a mother, something I’d always wanted to be. The kids I looked after during the daytime were great practice.
“Maybe we can buy a nicer place in the country,” he suggested. “We can raise goats and chickens.”
That made me happy, thinking about our future life together – in the country, raising children and animals… the way life was meant to be for me.
Then, shortly after the clocks changed, there was a freak, early snowstorm. Geoff had to walk to work. He did it cheerfully, like he did most things – one of the things I admired about him.
It was late that evening when the knock came.
The police car sitting outside in the still-swirling snow was an ominous sign.
“I’m sorry to inform you...” I hadn’t really heard the rest. There was no need; I understood that the unthinkable had happened.
There were so many bad people in the world. Why couldn’t Death have taken one of them instead? Geoff had been so perfect! So perfect for me… so perfect for everyone he ever came across. He was loved by everyone.
“I’m so glad it was a quick death,” someone said at the funeral – as if that was supposed to make it better for me. Knowing that my twins would not have a father… Was it a consolation that my perfect partner died quickly? Early? Young?
“The snow and early darkness were factors in the accident,” another officer informed me at the trial. “The driver was given a citation for careless driving, but is found not-guilty of manslaughter.”
Like it mattered. Would a guilty verdict bring Geoff back to me? Give my children the
father they deserved?
Finally, the light changed. I looked again at the traffic, then started across the street, wet with late winter (or was it early spring) rains, but then, it usually rained in England.
I hurried down the next block, worried about the time now. I didn’t want to be late for my appointment.
Another street, one that was semi-busy, being across from the hospital, but not busy enough to warrant more than a mini-roundabout to temper the flow of traffic. This was the one… I remembered. I didn’t know why Geoff had taken this route that night. Maybe he had gone to visit his sister before coming home, or maybe he had simply wanted to get out of the snow. I would never know.
Then I saw him, standing in the middle of the mini-roundabout, where the circle of white paint marked the centre. He looked at me with the smile he always gave me when he wanted to kiss me. But Geoff was dead! He couldn’t be here! Maybe it was his ghost, caught at the point of death more than three months later.
I couldn’t stop myself. Dropping my umbrella, I ran out to meet him, to find out for myself! I expected to run through his ghost, but instead, I ran smack into him, this man who looked just like the man I had lost.
“My love!” he greeted, holding me firmly to him.
Then I fainted.
When my eyes opened again, I saw an ancient woman waving a crystal around above me, stopping just half an inch above my eyes.
“She’s awake,” the woman proclaimed.
“Is it safe to talk to her?” a familiar voice asked.
“Probably. Try not to let her get too excited though. It would be good to not send her into labour just yet. The twins are doing fine.”
The familiar visage came into my field of vision. “Are you okay, Clara?” the man asked. “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
“Geoff? It can’t be!”
“I am he.”
“How can you be here?” I asked, sitting up. “You died! Right on that roundabout, from what I heard! My life ended that night!”
“Shhh. I will explain everything,” Geoff said, holding me against him. “I have missed your hugs and kisses and… oh, you know!” His warm lips covered mine. He could not be a ghost!
“I don’t understand anything.” How could he be here? My eyes filled with tears.
“Don’t cry my poppet,” he murmured soothingly, kissing me again. “How long was it for you?”
“Three and a half months,” I replied. “You died three and a half months ago. It’s been hell! How can you be here now?! Why did you abandon me?”
“No! I could never do that, Clara!”
“Then where were you, Geoff?! My heart broke!”
“It’s too much excitement for her,” the old woman interrupted, bringing a cup of tea.
“Wait, stella*,” Geoff told her. “She needs to know more.” He turned back to me. “It’s been agonizing for me as well – nearly four weeks. I kept trying to get back to tell you, but either the Guardians wouldn’t let me through or it was the wrong day. I kept turning up at that roundabout, knowing that eventually you’d have another hospital appointment.”
“What do you mean?” I asked again.
“I didn’t die… well, not completely anyway. Just like you.”
“Sometimes, the Guardians let hopeless cases like me through – out of kindness,” he said.
“The portal, child,” the old woman said, coming over with a battered and wet newspaper. “Read this. It’s the best I can do. Geoff obviously thinks you can handle the truth.”
I took the wet paper and unfolded it. It was dated the first of March. I had been unconscious for two days? My hands started shaking as I read the featured article about a pregnant woman getting hit by a lorry on the mini-roundabout across from the hospital. The driver was distraught, having killed the woman on the same spot her fiancé had been killed only months before. Tears blurred my vision as I read about the valiant efforts made to save her life and the lives of her unborn, but they had been in vain.
I looked at Geoff, the tears unstoppable. “Me?” I asked.
“I fainted,” I insisted, clutching my jade dragon – proof that I was the same person – and still alive.
“You died. But that’s okay, because you’re with me now. Death isn’t the end. Our twins will be born soon – safely here. The stella is an excellent midwife.”
“Where is here?” I asked.
“Terrenden. We are alive… together… on Terrenden.”
“No. Very much alive, Clara!” He kissed me again, reminding me that yes, he was very much alive – for me to kiss and love. “I am not letting you go again!”
“Terrenden…,” I pondered, but was cut off by an agonizing pain across my abdomen.
The old woman was there instantly, her hands on my tightening belly. “Get to your feet and drink this tea, Clara. Fetch me my bag, Geoff. Your twins are coming!”
(* Note: a "stella" is a healer and worker of magick on Terrenden.)