She felt like a ribbon streak. A ray of light rich enough to give me youth yet I’m a cold. A shiver down her spine of fear after the sunsets with anxiety and every time she comes back up the fear seems to disappear but—how can she look at me like I’m velvet royalty when I’m just a midnight line of forgotten strength?
I’m incomplete but when she smiles I feel heat. She’s a sunrise and I set– the world on fire… yes. How can she love me when I’m less than lavender and she’s gold?
Many try to forget about the building beyond the hill. Days are more rainy there than sunny but when the first autumn leaf falls- it falls there. I only know because I packed my bag five summers ago, the last days of July, and left in the middle of the night.
My travels led me towards the only bricked road outside of town. The trees covered the rural road blackening the view of ghosts whistling in the night. Perhaps they were trying to say something I couldn’t quite understand. I remember a sign lay on the road saying:
but the last words were covered in the overgrown red grass.
When I crossed the hill that put my home out of view, everything felt cold. The rain fell like hail and my breath was smoke out of my nose. There was a place I could rest in the distance.
I parked my car on the abandoned street and stared at the tiny place, lit with a singular green lantern. Yellow hues line the calm wet street, as I watched a woman walk past the window singing a tune. Rain drops lined the glass, my body shaking with cold as I could only think of how warm she felt inside.
The sign outside the building looked as if it was soon to fall off but I slowly creeped up. Grabbed the door, noticing that the rope on my leg was dragging from my car. It stained red like the mysterious irritation that inflamed my neck. I tucked it into my pocket while cracking the door quietly; I jumped when I heard glass shatter at my feet.
A gray cat ran past me, out of the door, with a cracker in its mouth as the woman yelled for it to leave before meeting me with an unwelcoming gaze.
She wore a black apron over a velvet dress. Her eyes ran across my body as if my baggy brown overalls and hand knitted sweater weren’t professional enough to be welcomed in this place. Yet she was the one with white powder staining her face.
“I just hate it when that cat steals,” she groused, ignoring my presence, stepping from behind the long wooden table. It covered half of the front of the room. Candles lining the corners like she was summoning the dead.
“May I help you?” I question, as she reaches for the broom.
She chuckled slightly, tossing it at me since I stood closer to the door. I had failed to catch it as it fell into one of the five pink bean bag chairs that sat on the floor. I ran my hand over my short curly hair, wiping the water off of my wet hands, nervously laughing.
“That’s what I should be saying. You came into my store.”
She crossed her arms as I had let my eyes scan the room. There was sun & moon tapestry on the walls, lights hanging from the ceiling, and a purple chalk sign that had lists of foods on it as if she was meal planning for the week.
Chalk was something I hadn’t seen in years since a child. People say it’s because the companies had shut down during the strike two decades ago, from today, that chased all the women out of the now male dominated town. I was only a child however and children are raised by their fathers here regardless of if they are born male or female. So, I couldn’t leave but I wasn’t the only one because this neighbor girl understood me too.
I glance up at the women as my heart beats out of my chest. I try to play my nerves off by sitting in the bean bag. Putting my focus on the lavender candles burning against the long wooden counter.
“Would you like something to eat?”
“Uh- just a berry scone and tea.”
“Okay,” she nods, remaining still.
Her gray eyes pierced into my soul as I looked at her confused. She held out her hand. Maybe she didn’t understand me.
“I’m sorry, I can get it myself if-”
“Look I don’t give out things for free,” she interrupts.
“I-I didn’t realize,” I apologized and quickly handed her the cash that I had on hand.
She counted it unimpressed before staring at me hopelessly and just rolled her eyes.
While she was making my tea she couldn’t stop glancing at the dirt that stained my pants. She ran her sharp long black nails along the wood leaving scratches. She’d peek over her shoulder with dormant eyes like sleep was something she lacked. However she felt lifeless when she’d open her mouth to hum, the world around got dark. Crickets had danced outside and dragonflies passed by the window but when she’d start to sing, it was like every creature would stop to listen.
I kept my hand in my pocket to hide my rope and constantly glanced at my car. Anxious about the amount of time that had passed with me having been there, I don’t remember anymore if I had further interacted with her after I took my sip of tea. It tasted like vanilla but was thick like mud, however, I enjoyed it. Burned going down my chest and made my legs feel weak as I walked to my car. Only thing I remember was just an hour before I walked into that store, I was shaking from the cold. I left feeling nothing but a wave of blazing heat rising in my body- did I burn alive?
Maybe from the inside? Maybe in another life?
Now, five years have passed and I now live ten minutes from the building everyone tried to forget. Left wandering in the rural roads with the darkened ghosts whispering to the townspeople who are curious enough to explore the building. The lady I met that night still wore velvet. She wore velvet while I passed out in the middle of the street before I could even drive off. She wore velvet when she pulled the rope out of my pocket and tightened it back around my neck, whispering to me that I was never going to escape. Back meaning that’s how I died once before when I was young. Burned like a witch for love. And she wore velvet when she drove me back down the rural road and tied me to a tree leaving me to die with nothing but the whispering ghosts who all told their own stories of the building beyond the hill. They said she was waiting on someone of the past to set her free.
That sparked my new found curiosity of who that might be.
I walk hidden to the light around me. The midnight gaze of those that pass by in their car don’t even show my existence, but one day a lady came into my store. She lit up the street like gold and maybe I was being too cold. Letting her in was my first mistake. I let the cat get the best of me that once it was time for the woman to leave I didn’t know how to ask her to stay.
She stumbled out like she had been drinking, my second mistake of giving her that scone. I walked to her car knowing she was going to disappear soon into the air. I got scared. Before I knew it I tied the rope around her neck again and told her she won’t be able to escape. Oh amor, whispering that was my third mistake. All because I had remembered your darling face.
You can’t kill a ghost but can you remind the undead that their heart used to race. We fell hard for each other in a world that burned us alive because to them our love was a devils game. So I left to save her life, said I’d come back to another life but shortly died before I could ever say goodbye to her in that life.
Trapped here as just another soul for two decades that I don’t know if my efforts ever paid off. Then five years ago a woman came into my store. Came and left just as fast but for a moment she felt familiar. Felt like I knew her from the past.
I had peeked over my shoulder across the counter at her dirt stains and realized I knew her by last name but– she stared at me like she only wanted to get away. Pity. I’m just another ghost who’s heart no longer beats, making everyone too nervous to eat.
For her I would have lit another candle. One that melts purple instead of blood red. For her I would have hummed a little louder. The tune she seemed to have not remembered I sang before we had to go to bed. For her I would go back and not get so distracted that I use deadly nightshade instead of blackcurrant. Even then I still managed to tie her to that tree because distance is better than letting her learn what I did when she walked into my store.
Now every new year she manages to come back. She is stuck looking for her life purpose but has a memory so short that she doesn’t even know how many times she’s seen my face. Her soul can’t move on and neither can mine so she keeps wandering and I watch her pass by. Waiting for the moment that my cold words will go warm, and I can tell her that we once made each other whole.
On those nights we’d sit by the tree that was in between each other's house. Waved at each other from next door, hoping to see each other the next day.
-I wonder now if my heart shall beat again
when it seems to break every time you come in-