Her granddaughter was looking at her with pitying eyes.
Aurora hid a smile. "Don't worry, Addie. I'll be perfectly fine."
Addison stifled a frown. "But Gram-"
Aurora brought up her finger for a flat 'no'. "Go out and enjoy your time with friends. It's my day to have tea with Lorelei."
Addie sighed. "Gram, you know she..." She hesitated.
Aurora tilted her head slightly, the perfect picture of innocent confusion. "Yes?"
Addison sighed. "Nothing Gram. Say... Hi to her for me?"
Aurora smiled, the wrinkles on her forehead deepening despite. "Of course, Addie. She adores you."
Addison nodded, then stood up, shooting a glance at the attendant at the door. "Please let her have tea." She told the woman in white.
The woman smiled a practiced smile and moved behind Aurora's wheelchair. "Of course. Mrs. Atwater will have a wonderful day, ma'am."
Addison nodded again, moving to Aurora for a parting kiss on her sagging cheeks. "Goodbye, Gram. Have fun with Lorelei."
Aurora smiled widely and raised a shaking hand, giving a perfunctory wave before dropping it back in her lap. "I'll have a brilliant time, darling. You go have one too, you hear me?"
The younger girl huffed, but left with a grin on her face that reminded Aurora of simpler times.
The woman attending to Aurora began to silently wheel her towards the terrace where a small table was set up. Tuesdays were Aurora's, and the one day of the week she got to meet Lorelei.
Her attendant propped her chair tucked into the table and patted her shoulder. "Nona will bring you the tea, Mrs. Atwater. Would you like company?"
It was Lucy's customary question, asked almost thoughtlessly, as if habit, for Aurora always declined.
One day, Aurora decided with a silent laugh, she would prank the woman and say yes.
But as for today. "I'm fine as is, darling. I'm going to have a smashing time with Lorelei."
Aurora heard a sigh. "... Of course, Mrs. Atwater. Chamomile today?"
"Hmm... I believe I'd prefer Earl Grey."
Lucy hummed an agreement and left.
Ten minutes later, breaking a calm Aurora seldom experienced, a young intern squeaked past and placed a cup of steaming dark tea in front of Aurora and scampered away with a sharp 'goodbye'. She was getting better, though. The first time she had barely looked before bolting.
Aurora smiled sadly as her left hand reached up to trace the ugly scar on the side of her face. It was mostly healed over now, faded and dying, just like her.
But the shard of disfigurement remained and would always remain.
"You're looking spry," a tart voice announced, and a large smile slipped onto Aurora's face.
She let her eyes slip back into focus, and they landed on a pale, translucent figure who seemed to have lost more colour than Aurora had. The once vibrant auburn locks had faded to what looked like a matted black, her eyes had lost the shine that they used to boast decades ago, and her beautiful brown skin was now chalky white. Aurora hummed. What a downside to her condition, no? "Lorelei! You look absolutely... dead."
Lorelei rolled her eyes. It was awkward when she did that - Aurora could see past her into the street, and that was discomfiting. Just a smidge.
And, of course, that was why Lorelei did it.
"Oh," She began mockingly. "You look completely alive, Aura, dear. Are you sure you don't want to exchange places with me? I assure you; ghosting is no discomfort at all."
"Ah, in due time, darling. In due time."
They stared at each other, and for a second, Lorelei's eyes seemed to regain the colour they once had in life; a deep emerald green that sparkled with tenacity and strength
They burst out laughing.
Lorelei smiled a sweet, sad smile and raised a hand to caress Aurora's face. There was a cold splash of something and yet nothing on the old woman's aged skin. "Oh, Aura," Lorelei breathed. "Where did our days go?"
Aurora chuckled, though her laugh fell like a wheezing cough from her lips, a crass confession of her dying throat. "They moved on."
Lorelei shook her head. "I didn't."
There was a lull as the smile slipped from Aurora's face and she looked down, eyes reaching for a solid support. The cup in her hand began to shiver and rattle. She placed it down on the saucer with a tinkle and set her hands flat onto the oaken platform. They were frail, now. Wrinkled and shrunken from years of use.
They were like her - Old. Dying. Alone.
Her lips trembled.
Lorelei sighed and quickly put her hands on top of Aurora's. They passed right through, but the gripping cold was a jerk back to reality and Aurora gasped.
Lorelei glared, her eternally youthful face stern and disapproving. "Aurora Atwater, how dare you try to guilt yourself?" She demanded. "We promised that was behind us."
“How could you put it behind you?” Aurora asked tremulously, though her tears had dried up as soon as Lorelei had approached. “No one else did.”
“Because those idiots are stupid!”
“Besides,” Lorelei continued. “Some of them are already dead and cowering behind a gentlemanly veneer of respectability. Trust me, all of them got a taste of my brilliant scolding skills.”
Lorelei smirked. “I learnt from you. You did, after all, raise Addie to perfection.”
Age seemed to slip away with every second she spent with her old friend. “Addie is the very image of you,” She said. “Without the snark.”
Lorelei burst out laughing . “Oh, Aura, you have no idea. She snarks the hell out of her friends. It’s just you she respects.”
“You make me blush.”
“Of course I do. I’m amazing.”
Aurora sighed and shook her head. “I am sorry.”
Lorelei’s mouth tightened. “Aura-”
“I’m sorry,” She interrupted. “That I took so much time in learning to let go. That I wasted so many years mourning you that I couldn’t celebrate our children getting together. That I couldn’t be happy when Addie was born. That you had to come back and face this world which disappointed you so much just because I couldn’t let go.” She looked straight up into Lorelei’s eyes, not past her, but right into her naked soul. “I’m sorry, darling.”
Lorelei’s nostrils flared, and her eyes solidified. She began to glow with emotion, trembling and quaking despite her translucent intangibility. “Aura, stop. You are not a burden, okay? I came back because I wanted to! Not because you couldn’t move on from me! Do you have any idea what it felt like when everyone except you forgot me?” Tears glistened on her eyebrows. She couldn’t cry, not really. But right here? Right now? “You never forgot me, and I’m sorry it was because you blamed yourself. But I’m selfish, and I loved that you remembered me despite losing so, so long ago.”
The two childhood friends stared at each other, lost in the other’s eyes, in a sea of memories that bound them tighter than any chain.
Aurora inhaled deeply, closed her eyes and centered herself in that moment. “I guess we both needed to get that off our chests,” She announced brightly after a while.
Lorelei nearly choked. “You ‘guess’?” She stood up, floating on a high of freedom. “Aura, Aura, Aura. What is the world to do with you?”
“Allow me to take over it.”
“You’d destroy in a second.”
“At least give me two.”
They grinned and fell into another mutual bout of laughter, the sky preening in response to their mirth.
It was amidst that laughter that Lorelei once again became solemn. “Aura, please don’t give up on life.”
Aurora took a sip of her now lukewarm tea. It was still delicious. “… Why do you think that?”
“Because you are my best friend, Aurora Atwater, and I know you better than anyone.”
Aurora sighed. “You saw me write it down and scratch it off, didn’t you?”
Lorelei didn’t have the decency to look ashamed. “You already knew I had a problem with privacy.”
Aurora rolled her eyes. “I’m not giving up on life.”
Lorelei raised an eyebrow.
“I thought about it at one point,” Aurora admitted. “I guess you saw me then. Did you see what happed after?”
The ghost tilted her head in a no.
Aurora smiled softly. “Addie came in.”
The gloom washed away, and Lorelei smiled, pushing her cheek into the palm of her hand. “You say she looks like me, but she acts so much like you.”
“She brought her friends to meet me,” Aurora continued. “They were slightly uncomfortable, but Addie didn’t feel embarrassed by me. She didn’t feel like I was a nuisance.” She exhaled. “She still comes every week, sometimes twice, once alone and once with her parents. She is a treasure, and I don’t intend to make her cry till I can no longer stop it.”
“Seems Addie beat me to the pep talk.”
“Well, that, and I would have to spend eternity with you. It horrified me into another hundred years of life.”
Lorelei couldn’t hide her smile. “You’re learning! I like that burn. Did Addie teach you?”
Aurora’s smirk turned cynical. “Addie, unfortunately, thinks you are a figment of my imagination.”
“So does every other person you know,” Lorelei said dryly. “Didn’t stop you from meeting me for tea every week.”
“Tea you can’t drink.” Aurora pointed out.
“Pish posh, Aura. Semantics.”
“Technicalities make up the world.”
“Yet technicalities,” Lorelei rebutted. “Don’t particularly make the front page of a newspaper.”
Aurora pouted. “How did we end up with newspapers when we started with tea?”
“’Tis called topic change, my dear friend.”
“You need to stop spying on the young people. I already know too much about them from you and have been told I’m too old to be cool.”
Lorelei snorted at Aurora’s deadpan gaze. “You’re never too old to be cool, Aura. Haven’t you learnt? People with scars are immortally ‘cool’.”
“Not when others run away.”
Lorelei waved her hand about. “Oh, that’s just Nona. She’s scared around everybody.” She hesitated, and her eyes fell to the scar she had just been talking about. “I’m sorry, too, you know, Aura.”
Aurora raised her eyebrows. “Whatever for? You’ve done nothing but good for me. Despite my less that cheerful disposition five years ago.”
“I gave you that scar.”
“… Oh.” Aurora’s hand leapt up to touch her wound again. It felt the same as it had nearly twenty minutes ago. Like it felt every day. “Don’t worry,” She said instead. “It scares away the people I don’t want to talk to. Plus,” She grinned. “I was complicit in your eventual death, so we’re even.”
“Ah, nothing like a good death in revenge of a wound,” Lorelei hummed. “I should warn everyone else about your sociopathic tendencies.”
“Be my guest, darling. If, that is, you can make them see you.”
Lorelei chuckled. “I see now. I befriended a monster.”
“Once again, you make me blush.”
Lucy knocked on the door. Aurora turned her head to see her holding up five fingers.
“Our teatime is at an end,” She mused. “I did have fun today, Lorelei. Thank you.”
Lorelei sighed, and her body began to fade away. “Thank you, Aura, for never forgetting me.” She waited just a moment before vanishing fully, and donned a frown. “I love you, Aura, and you are not complicit in my death. Good bye.”
Her image faded from the naked eye, and all that was left was a cold breeze that tickled Aurora’s face. She sighed. Lorelei always did like to get the last word. “See you next week,” She murmured to the empty air.
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I loved this! It's so sweet! Other than the small typo on the 'less that cheerful disposition' bit, it was absolutely perfect!