“It’s so good to have you home, Beth!” Sheryl cooed as they walked through
the front doors of the house Beth had grown up in. “I was so worried you’d
never wake from your coma, and the doctors didn’t have any idea of what kind
of life you’d have if you ever did.” Her brown eyes shimmered from unshed
tears, but a giant smile split her pale face in two. “Yet here you are, looking as
good as ever with no unfortunate side effects!”
Beth looked around the foyer, recalling from her memory the intricate
details of the bannister she had slid down as a child, and the yellowing
wallpaper that her mother had fallen in love with so many years ago.
“It’s good to be home,” Beth replied, filing away every knick and ding in
the hardwood floors, the greatest place in the house to play floor hockey with
her dad. “Much nicer than being cooped up in the hospital, not that I can
remember very much of the past eight months. Any time I think I remember
something, it begins to feel more like a dream – something really fuzzy that I
can sense, but if I focus too hard on it, it disappears. Like trying to remember a
dream from the night before, but the more you try to explain, the foggier the
dream becomes.” Sheryl gave her daughter an understanding look, head tilted
to one side and concern carving her face.
“I’m sorry that you and Dad had to endure so much over the past while – so
many uncertainties with my condition – and I’m really sorry that you and Dad
got a div-”
Her mother held up two fingers to her daughter’s lips, shaking her head so
her dark, short hair swung in front of her face. “Don’t you worry about that,
sweetheart,” her mother tried assuring her. “We couldn’t help each other cope
after the accident, and we were just making ourselves miserable as a result.”
Sheryl lowered her fingers and stared lovingly at the younger girl, brown eyes
meeting blue with a watery gaze. “I guess after almost thirty years of
marriage, we could never have prepared for this tragedy, so we never had to
figure out how to deal and comfort one another to this degree. The divorce
was our decision, for our mental peace of mind, and therefore is our burden to
bare – don’t every worry about the happenings of what occurred between your
father and I while you were in a coma.”
Beth nodded her head in acknowldgement, not because she totally agreed,
but because she knew arguing would do her no good. “It sure is good to be
home,” she inhaled, breathing in the familiar scents of the different woods that
the house’s entrance room was made from. “Thanks for letting me stay here
for a while, Mom. Not sure I would want to have to look after myself and try
to catch up in all of my classes.” Beth groaned and buried her face in her
hands, thinking about all of the assignments she’d have to catch up on when
she was ready to face school, again.
“I called your school as soon as I could and explained the situtation,” her
mother told her, taking the younger girl’s hands in her own. “Apparently
getting hit by a car and put into a coma for almost a year grants a little bit of
leeway when it comes to completing your courses. When you’re ready to go
back, we just need to talk to the dean and you can pick up exactly where you
left off.
“Besides, this house has been too lonely without you in it! I told you when
you went off to university three years ago that you were always welcome
back, whenever and for as long as you needed! Although your father and I did
make some changest to your room since you were last here.”
Beth raised an eyebrow at her mother, tilting her head to one side, causing
blonde hair to spill over her shoulders. “Oh?” she asked. “What kinds of
changes?”
Sheryl shrugged her shoulders. “Oh you know, tried making the colours a
little bit more neutral in case we ever got guests that needed a spot to stay; we
figured the bright pinks and purples might scare away any relatives or friends
that might decide to stop by for an over night visit.
Beth chuckled a little bit. “And what made you think I wouldn’t decide to
be done with school and come move back in with you two?”
“You started seeing that guy, and things seemed to be moving along well
enough that we assumed you’d move in with him before you ever considered
moving back in with us. Not to say we weren’t expecting you for week-long
visits, or some such, but then we figured, too, that your boyfriend wouldn’t
want to be kept awake at night by all of the bright colours that shrouded your
walls.”
Beth nodded her head, considering her mother’s response. “Seems fair,
enough,” she said, crossing her arms under her breasts. “Although it doesn’t
seem like Derek and I will be moving in together any time soon, afterall. I
don’t remember him coming by once while I was in the hospital, or even
seeing a single card on the counters in my room upon waking up. I guess that
means we weren’t going as well as everybody assumed we were.
“Not that I’d be much fun on a date right now,” she continued, stifling a
yawn with the back of her hand. “I can hardly keep my eyes open at the
moment, and I haven’t done anything all day!”
Sheryl patted Beth’s arm, gently. “You’ve been through a lot, recently, and
the doctors did say that if you were to come out of your coma, you’d need a lot
of rest and relaxation to recover the best you will.
“Why don’t you head up to your room and take a bit of a nap? I’ll wake you
up in a few hours and we can hang out and do something together, just like
when you were little – maybe bake some cookies, or do a bit of colouring in
the living room? What do you say?”
Beth nodded in agreement, shoving a fist in her mouth to try stifling
another yawn, and gave her mother a tight hug. “Okay, Mom, sounds good!”
She turned around and walked up the stairs, dragging her feet as if they were
weighed down by steel plates. She could hear her mother’s voice all the way to
the top of the stairs, telling the younger woman how good it was to have her
home and to feel better with the nap.
At the landing, Beth turned right to head to her bedroom, disappearing
behind the wall, and grinned as her mother’s chatter turned into a happy
whistle that seemed to trail into the kitchen. Beth looked around the room she
had grown up in, taking in the changes her mother had been talking about. The
walls had gone from different shades of pink and purple to a dark chocolate
brown; yellow curtains had been replaced with pale blue, accenting the sheets
on a bed that had doubled in size.
She approved of the changes, all the more because of her mother’s
reasoning behind the renovations, but after over two decades of seeing her
bedroom one way, the transformation that had been done in the past year was
almost more than Beth could fully take in.
She crossed the room to the bed and laid down, not bothering to undress or
pull the blankets aside so that she was under them as opposed to ontop.
Looking out the big bay window, the sun was only just beginning to set as
Beth closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep almost instantly.
***
A short time later, after the girl had fallen asleep, she woke up to a
headache that caused stars to float in front of her eyes. Sitting up and blinking
in the dark to try and make the illusion disappear, she heard her bedroom door
open.
“Just waking up now, Mom,” Beth called out in the general direction of the
door. “You have great timing!”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she heard a startled, deep male’s voice say in reply. Beth
didn’t recognize the voice and sat up even straighter in her bed, pulling
blankets up to her chin even though she was still fully clothed. “I didn’t realize
anybody was in here. I’ll come back in a few minutes.”
“Who the hell are -?” she started, but heard the click of the door as the
intruder left the room and took to the hallway. Beth bolted out of the bed and
crossed the room in three strides – glad that the stars that had disrupted her
vision earlier were gone – and ripped the door open, looking up and down the
halls. She was just about to call out when a hand popped up in front of her
from the floor.
“Hello,” the man said as Beth’s gaze followed the hand to his arm, and
finally to the rest of him, sitting with legs stretched in front of him, on the
floor just off to the right of the bedroom door. “I didn’t mean to intrude, but I
wasn’t expecting somebody in that room tonight.” He stood up slowly, hands
extended a little bit in front of his face, almost as if he expected some sort of
assault from the young woman.
Beth glared at him while trying to not admire him in the same glance. He
stood roughly six feet tall, dark hair that was just short enough to not be
considered feminine, and facial hair that verged on being scraggly but made
him look rugged at the same time. His eyes were like the seas after a storm,
sparkling as the water would if it reflected the moon.
Taking a grip on herself, Beth inhaled and gave him her best annoyed look
she could muster. “Who the hell are you?” she demanded in a lecturing tone.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing, just barging into my bedroom llike
that? Does my mom know you’re here?”
Her tirade came out all at once, leaving her a bit breathless by the end of it;
she drew a deep breath, preparing herself to shout for Sheryl, when the
stranger threw a hand over her mouth, cutting off all noise that would have
passed through her lips. Beth was so surprised by the action – and the icy-feel
of his skin – that her cry cut off short and she was left with her mouth gaped
open. The guy sighed when it became apparent he’d gotten the desired results
and Beth wasn’t going to call out afterall.
“My name is Jason,” he began, lowering his hand from her mouth, “and I
sort of live here.”
Beth looked at him, confused by such a strange statement. “What do you
mean, your sort of live here? Does my mom know you’re here or doesn’t she?”
Jason sighed, his face scrunching up as if trying to think of how to explain
better. “I mean there was a terrible accident just over a year ago and I moved
into this a short time later.
“As for your mom, I’m not entirely sure she knows I’m here or not; she does
an excellent job of ignoring me if she does know, but sometimes I see her react
to things I do. Usually it’s out of the corner of my eye, just on the edge of my
sight, so I’m not always sure she’s actually reacting to me, but I’m sure she’s
seen proof of my existence at least once or twice in the past few months.”
The young woman just looked at the stranger, trying to figure out how he
could ‘sort of live here’ and how Sheryl could possibly not know of his
existence in her family home – if she knew he was here, he’d know it, but then
why hadn’t Mom mentioned him downstair? She was just about to demand
more explanation when a thought started to materialize in her head – she was
seeing a ghost!
Her near death experience must have given her the ability to communicate
with people that weren’t as fortunate as her to live through their tragic fates!
Or people that had too much unfinished business in their lives to cross over, or
so the saying went. Now it was her responsibility to help these souls figure out
what it was they needed to do before they could rest peacefully until whatever
happened after death was ready to do with them as it wished.
Obviously nobody had used her bedroom since the accident that ended his
life, so that would explain why he wasn’t expecting to find anybody in that
room this very evening. If he was a strong enough entity to move things
around the house, or cause some sort of disturbance amongst things, that
would explain why her mom might give reactions to some of the things he did
– Sheryl was very skeptical of the after life, and anything associated with
ghosts and spirits, which would make her reason out the odd happenings of her
house and give minimal reactions to circumstances.
Beth swallowed a lump that had formed in her throat the moment she
discovered that she inherited a new ability in the accident that almost ended
her life. “My name is Beth,” she started, slowly, trying not to let on that she
knewof his circumstances, “and I grew up in this house – slept in that very
bedroom for the first eighteen years of my life, although it looks comletely
different than when I was living in there.” Jason smirked, at what Beth
couldn’t be sure, so she continued talking. “I went to college a few years back,
and haven’t really been back very many visits. A few months ago, I was
driving home to see my parents when I got hit by a drunk driver and ended up
in a coma.” Jason’s expression grew grave as she spoke, darkening visibly at
the mention of the coma. “I woke up, though, obviously, and my mom has
agreed to let me stay here until I can get back on my feet and continue my
studies.”
Jason rubbed at his beard a little bit, nodding his head as if contemplating
what he had just been told. “I see,” he replied, simply. “So you’re back home,
living with your mom until you recooperate a little bit? What about your dad?
Can I ask what happened to him?”
Beth dropped her head and stared at the green carpet in the hallway. “Dad
apparently went into a state of depression after my accident, and my parents’
relationship deteriortated after awhile. Dad turned to alcohol to console him,
and divorce papers were apparently filed shortly there after.
“My mom says Dad left because he didn’t like the idea of being in a house
where he used to have a family; Mom stayed somewhere familiar during the
uncertainties of the next few months, and in case I did wake up.” She
shrugged, and looked at Jason, continuing her explanation. “I’m glad one of
them stuck around the house – I don’t know how I would’ve handeled a new
house with no time to let the idea sink in, first.”
Jason just stood there, quietly, scratching thoughtfully at his beard,
although Beth could have swore she heard “that explains a lot” escape his lips
once or twice. Probably figuring it out for himself why all of a sudden
somebody can see him and is acknowledging him.
“Beth?” she heard Sheryl call from the stairs. “Who are you talking to?”
Beth’s vision flooded with stars as she turned her head towards the sound of
her mother; she rubbed at her eyes, and was surprised when she didn’t see
Jason standing beside her, even though he had just been there.
I should have guessed, she thought, that as soon as somebody that won’t
recognize his existence came into view, that he’d disappear.
“Who were you talking to?” her mother asked again, worry tinging her
voice. She grabbed at her daughter’s arms, holding them firmly, and looked her
straight in the eyes.
Beth shook her head, shrugging out of her mother’s grip. “Just myself,” she
lied, putting on her most reassuring smile. “I guess I’m just trying to catch up
on all that chatter I’ve missed out on the last few months.”
Her parents used to tell her that every person was only allowed so many
words a month, and that after a person used up all of their alloted words, they
were mute for the remainder of the month. On days she was especially
talkative and annoying, her parents would tell her she was using up her word
count, and that would usually keep Beth quiet for a good couple of hours.
The older lady smiled and pulled her child in for a hug. “Normally monthly
word limits don’t roll-over, Beth, you know that!” She squeezed the young
lady’s shoulders tighter. “Although, I think this particular case is a special
exception to that rule.” Beth giggled into her mother’s shoulder, and felt the
slight vibrations as her mom did the same. “It sure is good to have you home,”
she said again, releasing her daughter. “Now, there’s still seems to be a few
hours left in this night, why don’t you head back to bed? I’ll make us a big
breakfast in the morning!” Beth nodded her head, although she wasn’t sure
how much more sleep she wanted tonight. Her mother kissed her on both
cheeks, then turned around and started heading down the hallway towards the
master bedroom.
Hoping that the absence of her mother would bring Jason back to view,
Beth looked around, eagerly, but the stranger didn’t reappear. Feeling
disappointed rather than sleepy, Beth decided to sneak quietly downstairs to
the study room to read a book in the comforts of her father’s oversized arm
chair. She grabbed her favorite book from its spot in the shelves – a task made
slightly more difficult by the large number of books she didn’t remember
seeing before the accident – and curled up in the soft leather until she fell back
into a fitful sleep.
***
Beth woke to the relieved sigh of her mother as she entered the office.
“There you are,” Sheryl almost squealed as Beth opened her eyes. “When I
didn’t find you in your bed, I was wondering where you had gotten to!” Beth
scrubbed at her face, trying to wake herself up, and arranged herself into a
more comfortable sitting position.
“I wasn’t tired after I woke up last night, when you caught me talking to
myself in the hallway.” Beth was about to say caught me talking to Jason, but
thought better of mentioning her new talent – if her mom noticed the
hesitation, she gave no indication of it. “I figured Dad’s old office was the best
spot to relax with a good book until I got sleepy again; I wasn’t expecting to
fall back to sleep so quickly.” She gave her mother a smile, tilting her head to
one side as she examined the older lady. “Did I worry you?”
Sheryl shook her head. “No, I figured you were in the house somewhere,
that you hadn’t gotten too far during the night, but the doctors did mention odd
behaviours that people sometimes pick up when they come out of comas; sleep
walking is one of them. Even as a rebellious teen, though, you never did get
very far from home, so I tried to reason out where you might be at this early
hour and found you here!”
She smiled affectionately as she walked over to her daughter, gently
running fingers through the younger woman’s blonde hair. “I don’t know how I
got so lucky to have such a great kid!”
“Such a great kid that Dad hasn’t even called to check up on her?” Beth
snapped with more bitterness in her tone than she intended.
“Sorry, Mom, I don’t know where that came from. I hadn’t even really
thought about the fact much since getting home.” Her mom chewed at her
bottom lip, a look of concern marring her normally cheerful face. Beth got the
sinking feeling that her mom was hiding something, but there was no way to
know what without asking some well thought out questions – Beth wasn’t sure
she was ready to know the answers to that interrogation.
“I forgot to call him and let him know you were released and back home,”
was the hesitant response Beth eventually got. “So it’s my fault, not his – I was
so excited to have you home that I wanted to keep you to myself for a few
days, I guess,” she continued, her speech gaining speed as she spoke. “I
haven’t let your father know that you are home, so that’s why he hasn’t called
check up on you.” Sheryl nodded to herself, as if satisfied with the answer she
had given Beth concerning her father’s lack of communication since her
release. “I’ll try calling him later tonight, when he should be home from
whatever odd job he’s picked up for the day.”
Beth nodded her head in an agreeable way. “Okay, Mom,” she said dryly,
not really believing her mother’s excuse for Dad’s absence. “I miss the smell of
his cigar smoke coming from his desk,” she added sadly, turning to look over
at the mahogany desk her father used a lot while she was growing up; she
looked at her mom from the corner of her eye, and noticed she had started to
bite her lower lip again, as if worried about something.
Beth stood up from the chair and hugged her mom “Are you okay?” she
asked, giving the older woman a tight squeeze. “I’m sure Dad has been busy,
and even though the divorce was a shock, I’m mostly over it, Mom. I realize
things might be awkward for you two, trying to interact, especially after so
long, so I can give him a call tonight if that would make things easier for you.”
Her mother shook her head and gave Beth a phony smile. “It’s nothing to
worry yourself over, dear.” She squeezed her daughter back before stepping
away and out of Beth’s embrace. “I’ll call your father, tonight, don’t worry. We
have something in common again, so hopefully there won’t be too much
silence between sentences once I let him know you’re home.
“Are you hungry? Did you want me to make some breakfast?” Sheryl asked
in an obvious attmept to change the subject.
Beth stood there, thinking about the question her mother had just posed,
and shook her head that she wasn’t hungry. When was the last time I ate? she
thought to herself. The car accident and coma must be messing with my
hunger responses – I haven’t eaten since I’ve been home, probably since before
I got home!
Sheryl gave her a smile, a little bit more genuine than her previous one, but
still laced with an unimaginable concern, and kissed the top of Beth’s head.
“What would you like to do today?” she inquired. “It looks like a gorgeous
day, lots of sunshine and a small breeze – we could do some gardening like
when you were little! Goodness knows my poor garden has been suffering the
past few months, and it’s more than my two hands can possibly hope to do
much with!”
Beth nodded her head. “That could be fun!” she replied, forcing a bit of
excitement into her voice. “Just let me put my book away first and I’ll meet
you outside!” Her mother was smiling as she turned around to walk out of the
office, and Beth crouched down to the floor to look for her book. She must’ve
bent down too quickly, because stars suddenly sprang up in front of her eyes,
again, and she squeezed them shut to try and make them disappear.
“Stupid coma! I have to remember to ask Mom about what other side
effects the doctors said I might suffer from,” she said out loud, just as she
heard the door open.
“Do you always talk to yourself?” Jason said as he entered the room and
closed the door. “Or just when I’m around?”
Making sure to turn her head slowly, Beth looked at Jason in irritation. “I
had to make something up last night when my mom started asking questions,”
she retorted. “She seems to have enough to worry about that I don’t need her
knowing that I’m seeing things she can’t see.
“And just where the hell did you go when my mom showed up, anyway?”
It was a simple enough question, but her tone took on a harsher note of
irritation. “I wanted to keep talking to you last night, but when I turned
around, you were gone.”
Jason shrugged his broad shoulders, a look of confusion coming over his
beautiful face. “I figured you would want to talk to your mom in private,
without some stranger listening in on your conversation,” he explained, as if it
were the most obvious thing in the world. “I know how awkward it can be to
have somebody eavesdropping on a conversation, especially when not
everybody knows the intruder is there.” He walked over to where she was still
crouched on the floor, and sat down in a chair opposite the one Beth had
abandoned earlier.
“What are you looking for?” he asked, leaning over his knees to look at
Beth.
Beth sighed and looked around on the soft carpet a little bit for the book.
“A book I was reading last night after our conversation, that I assumed fell to
the floor sometime during the night after I fell asleep in the chair. I can’t find it
now, though – maybe Mom put it away for me while I was still sleeping.”
But how is that possible if she woke me up as she entered the room? She
wouldn’t have put the book away, walked back to the door and then woke me
up, right? Beth scratched her head in confusion, trying to figure out what
could have possibly happened to her book.
“Are you sure you were reading at all last night?” Jason asked in a tone
Beth took for joking.
Beth scoffed, “of course I am. I grabbed the book from the shelf and curled
up in that chair right there,” she pointed, “just like I did when I was little.” She
looked sadly at the chair that she had spent a lot of time in growing up. “Only
real difference is I woke up in that chair, as opposed to my bed because my
dad isn’t around any more to carry me to my room.”
Jason nodded his head. “My dad used to carry me to bed whenever I fell
asleep in odd places, too,” the young man said, almost sadly. “Whenever I was
too lazy to move myself, I would close my eyes and snore loudly, pretending
to be asleep just so my dad would carry me.” He smiled at the remembered
thought. “I always thought he had actually fallen for the charade, but looking
back now, I know he knew I was faking it every time – there’s no way he
couldn’t have known! He never questioned it, though, just grabbed me in his
arms and carried me to bed as gently as possible, trying not to wake the
sleeping kid.”
Beth smiled warmly as she looked over to the stranger. “He sounds like a
great guy!”
“He was a great guy,” Jason corected her, gently. “He passed away when I
was ten from a brain tumor. I’m not sure I’ve ever really gotten over it – my
dad was my hero, my best friend through thick and thin! To watch him
deteriorate before my eyes was the worst experience I think a kid could ever
witness.”
Beth nodded her head in a sympathetic manner. “That must’ve been a lot to
handle, especially at such a young age. I’m in my twenties and couldn’t
imagine losing either parent!”
Jason shook his head, as if trying to shake away memories he’d rather leave
buried for the time being. “But enough about me and my past! I can’t stand
dwelling on depressing memories of my father, because I know that’s not how
he’d want to be remembered. What about your dad? Any idea what happened
to him after the divorce?”
Beth sighed and heaved her shoulders in a shrug. “I haven’t heard from him
since getting out of the hospital and coming home. Mom says it’s her fault,
that she hasn’t called him to let him know that I’ve been released, but I feel
like she’s holding something back from me – like she’s not telling me the
whole truth.” She inched her way slowly up into the chair she had fallen
asleep in, accepting the hand Jason offered her for assistance, not wanting the
stars to return to her vision and possibly cause the ghost to vanish during this
conversation. Chills went down her spine when her hand touched his, just as
cold as it was the night before, but she tried not to let them show.
Jason leaned back in his chair once she was settled, steepling his fingers
together under his chin. “Why do you think she’s not telling you something?”
Beth shrugged again, getting the feeling she had been doing that a lot in the
last twelve hours. “I don’t know, really,” she said, trying to organize her
thoughts and feelings in a way that would allow her to express them. “After
living with someone for so long, you get to learn their mannerisms and how
they act or behave in certain situations.
“I learned pretty early on that when my mom started to tell a lie, her speech
would start off slow, but then quickly pick up speed as the lie developed better
in her head. She did that just now when I mentioned the fact that Dad hasn’t
check up on me to see how I’m doing.” She stopped and looked at Jason who
was nodding his head as if he understood.
“I just don’t know what Mom could be lying about, especially since she
knows how much my dad means to me. Like, did something happen to my dad
that she doesn’t want to tell me? Is he actually worse off than she initially told
me and now she’s backed into a corner and has to lie to maintain her story?”
Did his state of depression cause him to do something drastic? “I just don’t
know what could have hapened that would make her feel like she has to
protect my feelings.”
Jason stood up and took the two steps to Beth’s chair across from him,
placing a comforting hand on the girl’s arm – at least she was sure it was
meant to be comforting, but a visible shiver shook her body as soon as he
touched her.
“Sorry, not sure why I did that,” he stammered, quickly removing his arctic
palm from her arm and dropping it to his side. “I forget myself, sometimes,
especially when I see someone I think needs comforting. My mom does it a lot
when people are upset, it doesn’t matter if she’s known them for years or
hours, so I guess I just inherited her habit.” He plopped down into the chair
across from Beth again, pressing himself into the back as if trying to get as far
from her as possible.
“I was just trying to assure you that I’m sure your mom has her reasons for
possibly not telling you the whole story. From what you’ve told me, you’ve had
a pretty big week, having been in a coma for eight months and only just
getting out of the hospital. Maybe she doesn’t want to overwhelm you with
trivial details that can be brought up slowly as you recover. Just hopefully
she’s not hiding too much, and her lies aren’t too big that she’ll have more
explaining to do than it was actually worth lying about.”
Beth resisted the urge to shrug her shoulders, giving a small sigh instead. “I
don’t know,” she reluctantly agreed, “maybe? She also has to realize that the
longer she takes to tell me what’s actually going on, the harder it will be to tell
me!
“I’m not a little girl anymore, and I realize that sometimes my feelings are
going to get hurt, but that’s all a part of life. If the lies she’s telling me are too
big, it could be a lot harder for me to hear the truth when she decides I’m ready
for it, or when she’s ready to tell me.”
Beth wanted to shake her head vigorusly, frustrated at her mother’s
behaviour in the last twelve hours, but fought down the urge so stars wouldn’t
blurr her vision and possibly cause Jason to disappear. “I just feel like this is a
very vicious road she’s taking us down right now, and I’m not sure there’s a
way off it.”
Jason bobbed his head in agreement. “That seems like a fair statement,” he
replied. “Any thoughts on how to approach her about your suspicions?”
Beth let out a frustrated chuckle. “Not a clue, and that’s the whole problem.
I don’t want to call my mom out on her lies – not out right, at least – but I can’t
let her continue to think I’m oblivious to them, either! I have to let her know,
subtly, that I’m on to her deceptions, but not let her feel like a fooling for lying
to me.
“Maybe I’ll wait until later tonight, when she’s supposed to call my dad to
let him know I’m home, and see if he checks up on me. Or see if she comes up
with some lame excuse as to why he’s not talking to me.” Her eyes wandered
around the den, taking in the bookshelves lining two walls, the desk her father
used to pour over while doing up finances for the family’s income – she was
startled to realize that there were no family portraits hanging on the two bare
walls anymore, items that her father prized more than any other in the house.
Maybe Mom doesn’t want the reminder of what used to be her family, either
Beth thought glumly to herself. Dad left the house, and Mom just took down
everything that would make her think about her failed marriage.
“My biggest fear is that something happened to him while I was in the
hospital, and Mom isn’t telling me. Maybe he’s in rehab for his drinking
problem and Mom doesn’t want to let me know that he got that bad while I
was stuck in bed. Or maybe he told her before going in that he didn’t want to
talk to me until he was done the program, because he doesn’t want his drunkself to be the first impression I get after not seeing him for so long.
“Or maybe -” she choked, swallowing a lump that had suddenly formed in
her throat at the nagging thought, “-maybe he did something to himself that
can’t be undone, and Mom doesn’t have the heart to tell me he’s…gone.” Beth
couldn’t allow herself to think the word in her head, much less say it out loud,
but Jason seemed to catch on to what she wasn’t saying.
“Wait until tonight,” he assured, “and see what goes down between your
mom and your dad. Hopefully all of your worries will be for nothing and it
really was just that your mom hadn’t called him to let him know you were
home. No point worrying about something that hasn’t even manifested a
problem yet.”
Beth let out a sigh and wiped tears from her face she didn’t realize had
fallen. “I suppose you’re right,” she whispered, her throat tight with unvoiced
frustrations. She cleared her throat and stood up slowly.
“I should be getting on with my day,” she stated, trying to put a confident
smile on her face. “I promised my mom I would help her out in the garden
today, and that was quite awhile ago by now – I’m sure I’ll see you around.”
She made the last part sound more a question than a statement, but she didn’t
want to seem eager about talking to Jason again. The apparation nooded his
head, and as Beth walked past him towards the door, he gripped her arm
gently in his icy grip.
“Remember, try to not stress out what’s going on with your father until later
on tonight. Enjoy this time with your mom, and don’t let maybe and what if
stand in your way of catching up with her – and don’t interrogate her, try not to
let any sort of suspicion show that you think there’s more going on under the
surface than she’s letting on. I really am sure she’s just trying to protect you.”
Beth stared at him, her blue eyes meeting his steady blue stare in return,
before he finally let go of her. It took all of her concentration to not rub at the
cold spot just above her elbow, but she managed – at least until she got out
into the hallway, then she rubbed it until it was simply cool, and not the midst
of winter itself.
She tried to clear her head of any doubt and uncertainty regarding her father
as she strode down the hallway, running into her mother just as Sheryl was
exiting the closet the gardening supplies were kept.
“Perfect timing,” Beth beamed, taking some of her mother’s burden onto
herself. “I found my book and realized I didn’t have many pages left before the
end, so I finished it before finding you,” she lied as the two walked out the
patio doors towards the garden. “I wanted to finish one project before starting
up on a new task.”
Sheryl smiled, setting her load of gloves and knee pads down on the edge
of the flower bed. “Not a problem, sweet girl!” her mother cooed, strapping a
pair of neon green pads to her knees and an apron around her waist. “I was just
finishing up some of my own business while I waited for you, and was just
about to get things situated before you caught me grabbing the tools we need.
“How are you feeling?” Sheryl asked, giving her daughter a hand get
properly attired for the task ahead. “You looked like you were feeling better
from last night, and look even better now than you did this morning. Looks
like a little bit more relaxation did you a world of good.”
Beth thought for a moment, before nodding her head, a little bit too
vigorously because stars appeared before her, obscuring her vision, again. She
brought her hands to her head and rubbed at her eyes until the stars faded. “I’m
feeling great, except that when I move my head too quickly, I see stars and my
vision blurrs,” she almost whined, growing frustrated at this impairment.
“Could this be one of the side effects from my coma that the doctors told you
about?”
Sheryl looked at Beth, concerned. “They mentioned so many, hunni, that I
can’t remember all of them, but in my opinion it would make sense. An injury
like yours to the head could have absolutely screwed up the nerve endings in
your eyes, especially when causing them to have to focus too quickly on
something. How often has it happened?”
Beth carefully kneeled down at the bed’s edge on her sky blue pads as she
tried to recall how many times her vision had been altered. “Twice last night
and twice, now, today, so not too often, but still four times in the last few
hours. I just find it annoying more than anything, and because I know it’s fast
movement of my head, I’ve been trying to move slowly – I guess it must’ve
slipped my mind when you asked how I was feeling.”
Sheryl placed a gentle hand on Beth’s shoulder, her touch warm – almost
hot – in comparrison to Jason’s. “I’ll call the doctor later this evening,” Sheryl
said after a moment, “and ask him for his opinion into your complaint; see if
he has any suggestions on how to avoid your spells. In the meantime, I guess
you just won’t be able to skip through the house like you did when you were
little!
“Now, where do we want to begin with this poor garden?” Sheryl asked,
clapping her hands together once while she looked around the area. “The roses
are completely dried up, the tulips are so infested with weeds you’d swear I
meant to be growing those! I don’t even know where my vegetable patch is
anymore-”
Sheryl and Beth got to work, the younger woman taking on the easier tasks
that would require little movement of her head, while Sheryl gave herself the
task of removing burr bushes that had overrun a small chunk of the outdoor
space.
They made small talk as they worked, mostly speaking of years long past,
both before Beth moved out and her university experiences since.
“Oh, Mom!” Beth piped up, having just rememberd something Jason had
said earlier that day. “Can you tell me about a car accident, little over a year
ago, that killed a young man? I think it happened near our house, but I don’t
know for sure.”
Sheryl stopped tilling the dirt in front of her, and stared at the ground for a
few seconds before turning towards Beth. “What are you talking about?” she
asked sweetly, cocking her head to one side and raising an eyebrow. Sheryl’s
voice might have been sweet as honey, but the look on her face was almost
venomous, as if Beth had asked a question that insulter the older lady to her
core. “I’m sure there were plenty of accidents a year ago that killed lots of
people, but I don’t recall any happening near our house. Where did you get
such an impression?”
Beth frowned, a little bit confused. “I – I don’t know,” she stammered,
taken aback by her mother’s reaction. “I thought I had rememberd something I
heard while I was in my coma – guess I was wrong.” She was sure Jason’s
accident must have been near their house, why else would his spirit have taken
up residence there? If he had died only a year ago, he would have no previous
connection with her childhood home to have drawn him back here. “Or maybe
somebody had mentioned it in passing while I was away at school, and I just
thought about it again, now.”
Sheryl shook her head and went back to the task at hand. “Nope, nobody’s
accidently died around here in quite sometime,” she almost barked, but she
said it as if speaking to herself. “Nothing accidental about what happened
here, that’s for sure, not when somebody’s heart was ripped in two.” That last
came out almost as a whisper, but the breeze must have blown just right for
Beth to have caught it as clearly as she had.
“What was that, Mom?” she demanded; her mother’s head whipped around
and looked Beth in the eye. “What happened here that wasn’t an accident?
Does it have something to do with Dad? Tell me -” Beth was shocked when
her mother stood up and sprinted past her so quickly that Beth couldn’t finish
her sentence; it had all happened in the blink of an eye and Beth was left there
with her jaw hanging open and a dozen questions left unanswered.
“Is that what happened to Dad?” she asked outloud, her eyes wandering the
garden as if something would spring from the earth and give her the answers.
“Did Dad end up commiting suicide, or at least tried to?” She stood up,
intending to question her mother and not take vaugeness for an answer, when
her vision sparkled again and she teetered on the verge of falling over.
“Whoa, now!” she heard the familiar voice of Jason say, his cold embrace
keeping her from landing on her face. “Slow down, Beth! Where were you
going in such a hurry?”
Her vision cleared as she inhaled the sweet smell of the man’s cologne, a
strange contrast to the almost unwelcome touch of his skin on hers. “I asked
my mom a question about your accident, and she started talking about how
there was nothing accidental about what had happened here – she was
speaking as if to herself and had forgotten that I was here. When I questioned
her about what she had just said, demanding to know if it had anything to do
with my dad, she stormed off; I was going to ask her more questions about
what she meant, but I stood up too quickly and my vision blurred, stopping me
in my tracks before I made it two steps.”
Jason stared at her, looking confused by her tale. “What accident are you
talking about?” he prodded, carefully.
Beth stared back, trying to keep herself from being hypnotized by his eyes.
“Well, not directly, but you said there was an accident about a year ago, and
that’s how you ended up here. I assumed it was a car crash, and that it had to
have happened place near my house, otherwise why would you have taken up
residence here when you died and not somewhere else? It was the closest
house you could find and you were hoping to get some help to complete any
unfinished business you may have had, like letting your family know that you
were going to be okay.”
The man continued to look puzzled, his eyes seemingly searching Beth’s
mind to understand what she was talking about. “Beth, I think you’re very
mistaken as to exactly what went down around here,” Jason hesitantly spoke,
“and I think it’s about time you heard the truth; I’m just not the one you should
hear it from.
“You should go find your mom and ask her gently about the events of a
year ago, about what really happened that has led us all here, today, at this
moment.”
Beth stepped out of his grip, her arms warming nicely from the heat of the
afternoon sun. “What are you talking about?” she demanded. “What do you
mean ‘exactly what went down’? I know what went down!” She was yelling by
this time, but she didn’t care.
“What’s all the shouting?” Sheryl bellowed as she came out of the house
again. “Beth, what the hell has gotten into you?”
“I almost died,” Beth continued, not giving her mom the satisfaction of an
answer, “giving me an ability to see into spirit world and communicate with
people that weren’t as lucky as I was; you did die in a car accident a year ago,
and your soul wound up here because it was the closest house to where the
wreck happened. That explains why you weren’t expecting to see anybody in
my bed last night, and why you aren’t sure if my mom knows of your
existense, yet. She can’t see you, but sometimes she can see the things you’ve
touched and affected.”
Jason took a step towards the irrate young lady, but Beth took a larger step
back. “My dad killed himself, or at least tried to, and that’s why he hasn’t
checked up on me; Mom won’t tell me herself because she doesn’t want me to
grieve over something I had no control over, knowing how hard I took the
news of their divorce. Dad must be at peace with his decision and how his life
ended, otherwise I’m sure he would’ve ended up in this house, just like you
did, Jason!”
Beth snuck a look at her mother, and almost laughed with hysteria at the
expression on Sheryl’s face – the older woman’s mouth was hanging wide
open, tears streaming down her face. “And Mom doesn’t even have the
decency now to defend herself! She’s just standing there with a dumb look on
her face as if what I’m saying is completely insane!”
That seemed to snap Sheryl out of whatever state of mind she was in and
bring her back to her screaming daughter. “Now you listen here, Missy!
Whatever I told you, I said because I was trying to protect you and didn’t want
to upset you! This has nothing to do with the young man standing in front of
you!” She seemed to realize what she had said, and her jaw snapped up, lips
pressed as if drawn together with a powerful magnet.
Beth took another step back, shaking her head and trying to understand
what her mother had just said. “You can see him, too?” she whispered, a string
from her theory coming undone. “How can you see Jason, too, unless you had
a near death experience?”
Sheryl paced towards her, but Jason made it to Beth’s side first. “That’s
what you have backwards, Beth,” he explained gently, almost as if speaking to
a child. “I wasn’t the one that died in a car crash a year ago – you did. I had a
near-death experience when I was little, and I’ve been seeing ghosts like you
and your mother since.”
Beth shook her head, slowly, and fell to the ground before anybody could
catch her. “No,” she breathed. “Mom said I came out of my coma after eight
months, and that’s why I’m here – to recooperate and get myself back together
before I continue with my life.”
Sheryl sat down beside Beth, wrapping a tender arm around her daughter’s
shoulders; Beth pushed the embrace off, putting a sulking expression on her
mother’s face. “I told you what I wanted you to believe,” Sheryl stated, having
the decency to sound embarassed, “but it wasn’t the whole truth.”
“Why don’t you tell her the whole truth?” Jason sternly chimed in. “She
deserves to know the truth, starting from the beginning.”
Reluctantly, the story of the past year came out of Sheryl, starting with the
night Beth got t-boned by the drunk driver. Beth really was in a coma for eight
months – but eventually passed away one night about five months ago – and
her parents really did file for divorce because of a drinking problem that arose
from the grief – but it wasn’t her father that had picked up the bad habit.
Sheryl had turned to the bottle, and her husband couldn’t handle dealing with
his own grief and watching his wife deal with her’s, so he filed the papers;
Sheryl was so torn up the entirty of the situation that she hanged herself from
the rafters in the attic a month later.
Not wanting to live in a house where he had once had a family, Beth’s
father moved out of state and sold the family home to Jason, and it was Jason
that had started making the changes to the house.
Sheryl had been haunting the house shortly after her own death, praying
and waiting for the day that her daughter’s spirit would find its way to a place
of comfort and security. Jason had seen her since he first moved into the
house, had known the tragic story of the ladies before buying the house, but
because Sheryl hadn’t interfered with anything and left him alone, he had
decided to do the same, not wanting to call attention to the fact that she was
dead.
“And that’s the whole story,” her mother breathed, almost sounding relieved
at finally having this huge weight off her chest. “I was so excited to see you,
and you were so happy to be here that I didn’t want to ruin your homecoming
by telling you things weren’t really as they seemed. I’m so sorry, sweety – can
you ever forgive me?”
Beth just stared at the ground, her vision dancing in front of her from
behind tears that eventually cascaded down her face. She was so sure she had
been right, about waking up from the coma with the ability to see the dearly
departed like Jason, that the concept of being dead herself never crossed her
mind. It had made so much sense, why his touch was so icy cold – that’s the
way the movies always described a physical encounter, after all.
“As for your dad,” Jason chimed in, obviously trying to lighten the mood
between the two ladies, “I told him about my gifts when he told me about the
tragedies that occurred in this house, and I have his contact information as of
right now. He made me promise to let him know the moment I encountered his
little girl back in the house, so he could pay his final respects and remind her
how much you are loved. I called him this morning, Beth, before our chat in
the office, and he caught the first available flight here. He should actually be
calling shortly to let me know his plane arrived, and I’m supposed to go get
him.”
As if Jason’s talents extended to predicting the future, a cell phone in the
man’s pants pocket started to ring; he pulled it out and hit the talk button. “On
my way,” was all he said before nodding at the women sitting on the ground,
and headed inside the house.
Beth stared at the ground, seeing from the corner of her eye that Sheryl’s
concerned gaze was fixed on her daughter. They sat, on the edge of the
flowerbed they had started working on only a few hours ago, in slience; even
the usual birds tweeting in the trees seemed to have gone quiet during this
sombre moment. Beth was so focused on figuring out what to say to her mom
that she hadn’t realized her mother had spoken first.
“What?” Beth all but hissed, upset by the fact that her mother had broken
the silence first.
“Can you ever forgive me?” Sheryl heaved, her brown eyes twinkling with
unshed emotions. “I didn’t mean to hurt you like this! You have to understand
that after so many months of waiting for you, not knowing if you had already
crossed over, I just wanted our lives to go back to the way they were for a little
while. I would have told you eventually-”
“I’m sure I would have figured it out before you told me,” Beth sneered, not
really meaning to give her mother so much attitude, but unable to control her
emotions properly. “I haven’t eaten at all since coming home – haven’t even
had the tiniest notion of being hungry – and I’m sure after a few days of eating
nothing I would have started to wonder what was going on.
“You would have eventually run out of lies to tell me concerning Dad, so I
would have figured out a way to contact him myself, and while I have no idea
how an interaction with a phone would turn out, I know something would go
wrong and I’d puzzle it out.
“More and more changes would be done to the house so that it suits Jason’s
tastes more, as is his right as the new homeowner, and what would your
excuses have been then, Mom?!” Beth was looking down at her mother,
having stood up sometime during her rant although she couldn’t remember
making the motions.
“Ahem,” she heard from behind her in Jason’s now familiar voice. Beth
whipped around to unleash a flurry of words on him, too, for helping decieve
her the past twenty-four hours, but then she caught sight of her dad, and all
anger disappeared. “Did I catch you at a bad time?”
“Daddy!” Beth breathed, her heart beating fast with excitment at seeing her
childhood hero after so long. He looked as if he had aged ten years, not just
one, since the last time Beth had seen him, but there was no mistaking him for
anybody else. His once black hair had rather large clumps of gray strands in it
now, and his neatly kempt beard was more homely than Beth could ever recall
seeing in her life. Wrinkles lined his once happy gray eyes, now sad and lost
looking, like he hadn’t known joy for quite some time.
Jason pointed at Beth, and whispered something into the older man’s ear,
and Mark’s eyes twinkled with the same ferocity that Beth had always admired
in her father, as he looked in the general direction that Jason had pointed, his
eyes not quite settling on the spot she was standing. Right, Beth thought sadly,
Daddy can’t see me.
She walked towards her father, stopping to stand right in front of him, and
reached out for his hand, not really knowing what to expect, but hoping that he
would feel her embrace. The moment her hand touched Mark’s, Mark pulled
his hand away as if the feeling was unexpected and unwanted. She supposed
she understood, remembering the first time that Jason had put his hand on her
face and being shocked at how cold his skin felt on hers. She made a mental
note to ask Jason what she felt like whenever he touched her, just for her own
curiosity.
“It’s just Beth,” Jason explained, “letting you know she’s right in front of
you. I wasn’t expecting you to be able to feel her, as most people that can’t see
ghosts can’t feel them either, otherwise I would have warned you what it felt
like.”
“What does it feel like?” Beth asked, taking advantage of the opportunity
before she forgot to ask it later.
“Like a cold electric shock went through my bones,” Mark replied, his eyes
still not focused on his deceased daughter. “Care to try again?”
Beth and Jason both looked at him – Beth in confusion, Jason in wonder.
“so, you can feel her and hear her, but you can’t see her,” Jason mused. “In all
my years of dealing with the afterlife and helping people interact with their
deceased loved ones, I don’t think I’ve ever met a person that believes the way
you do, Mark, at least not from the beginning.”
Mark chuckled at the younger man. “Son, I’ve never been able to let myself
believe that once a person is gone, they’re just gone, no nothing once they’ve
passed on. As soon as you told me about your abilities, my belief in the after
life solidified, and my hope of seeing my little girl again tripled. I’ll admit, I
was starting to lose faith in the past few weeks, not having heard anything
from you about her coming home, but I never once stopped believing that it
would eventually happen.”
Jason nodded his head as he took in the older man’s tale. “I guess the love
between you two must be strong enough for you to be able to interact,” Jason
commented, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt
so useless in a situation like this my whole life!” He chuckled to himself,
taking a step back from the reunited father and daughter.
Mark held out his hand, and Beth took it up, glad that her father could
actually feel her embrace – although truthfully she hadn’t wondered whether
he would be able to or not when she first tried. His hand wasn’t as cold as she
had been expecting, more like a glass of water fresh from the fridge as
opposed to an ice cube thrown down her back, nothing at all like Jason’s
touch.
Mark raised his other hand, and cupped Beth’s hand in both of his. “You
have no idea how much I’ve missed you, sweet girl!” he choked out, his eyes
filling with tears that he shed, unashamed. “I’ve missed you since you first
went into your coma, and missed you more and more every day since.”
“Oh, Daddy, I’ve missed you, too!” Beth sobbed, waterfalls coming from
her eyes and watering the pavement below.
“You’ve all she’s been talking about since she got home,” Sheryl chuckled
as she walked up to her family.
Beth giggled a little. “That’s not entirely true, Mom, but I will admit it’s
pretty darn close.”
“Your mother’s here, too?” Mark asked, cocking his head to the side a bit.
“What did your mother say? What’s not entirely the truth? I didn’t hear what
she had to say, Beth.”
Sheryl’s face took on a look of hurt and anguish as she looked at the man
she had been married to for the past three decades, realizing that the love he
had once felt for her must not be as strong as the feelings he had for their
daughter. She placed a hand on top of Mark’s hand, still gripping his little girl’s
hands, but he showed no reaction that another prescence was there at all.
“He really doesn’t know I’m here, does he?” Sheryl questioned, her voice
taking on a sullen tone as she looked lovingly upon her husband. “Has he lost
so much feeling for me, through everything we went through this past year,
that he can’t bring himself to acknowledge that I’m here?” She leaned towards
the man she loved and kissed him lightly on the cheek – again, Mark showed
no sign of having felt anything coming from Sheryl.
Beth’s eyes filled with tears and her heart ached for her mother. “Daddy,
Mom’s standing right here, holding your hands much as you’re holding mine,”
Beth gently prodded. “She just kissed your cheek, and she’s trying to talk to
you – you can’t tell Mom’s here? Not at all?”
Mark’s forehead furrowed as if concentrating, focusing even less on where
Beth was standing, trying to feel something emanating from his wife; Sheryl
stroked his cheek gently, giving him something to feel while he focused on
her. “Sorry, baby, but all I can feel are your hands in mine.” He gave Jason an
accusatory glare. “What does this mean? Why can’t I feel the prescene of the
woman I loved? The woman I spent my best years with?”
Jason unfolded his arms and shrugged his shoulders as he walked towards
the reunited family. “I’m not really sure I want to give you my theory,” Jason
muttered, looking a little embarassed.
“Please,” Sheryl’s voice was tight in a pleading tone, tears causing her eyes
to shimmer as they caught the last of the setting sun’s light.
Jason sighed, resigning to the request, but he put his hands up defensively.
“You’re not going to like it, but I don’t think Mark feels about Sheryl as
strongly as he used to.”
“Well that’s just-” Mark roared, almost drowning out Sheryl’s “What’s that
supposed to mean?”
“I said you wouldn’t like it!” Jason raised his voice – commanding their
attention more than being angry at their comments – interupting both parents
that quickly lowered their faces to the ground. “Thank you,” he added when it
was clear no more arguements were going to be made.
“I hate to say it, but think about it like this – a spouse is supposed to be
somebody you can rely on, to help you get through the rough times and
somebody you’re supposed to go to when you need a listening ear. Sheryl
turned to drinking instead, shutting Mark out of her life completely, not letting
him help her deal with Beth’s accident, and not helping Mark out while
dealing with his own grief.
“Mark presented her with divorce papers, and in her own sorrow, Sheryl
takes her life instead of realizing and dealing with the fact that she’s losing her
husband.”
“I forgave Sheryl for that,” Mark piped in. “I’m not sure I ever held that
over her head. She did what she thought she needed to do, and maybe it turned
out to be a good thing – she’s helping Beth transition and deal with the events
that occured.”
Jason shrugged his shoulders again, shifting his eyes so they were focused
on anything but the family standing in front of him. “I never said you didn’t
forgive, Mark, or at least you think you forgave – I’m just saying that maybe
because of those events, your feelings of love and adoration for your wife
aren’t as strong as they were. Or maybe it’s because Beth died as the result of
an accident, where Sheryl’s death was on purpose, so you held out more hope
for communicating with Beth, again, because of her tragic demise. You
weren’t expecting to ever hear from your wife again, because you knew her
life was ended on her own terms, tragic and heartbreaking as the situation
was.”
The entire time Jason was explaining his theory to his attentive listeners,
Sheryl never seized the gentle stroking of her husband’s cheek, tears streaming
down her own face. By the time the young man got to the end of his tale, Mark
shifted his head slightly towards his wife’s hand, as if pressing his cheek
deeper into that loving touch. Sheryl let out an audiable gasp, her breath
catching, as she stopped her hand in mid stroke.
“Did you feel something?” Beth almost squeaked, perking up a bit at the
thought of her dad knowing Sheryl was there. “You moved your face exactly
like you did when Mom would stroke your face, like you craved more of her
touch.”
Mark moved his face away from the motionless hand. “I thought my cheek
went a little bit cold as Jason told us his guess, but it might have just been a
breeze.
“What he said makes sense, though, I suppose,” Mark’s voice lowered as he
looked in the general direction of where the embrace was felt. “I didn’t hold
out much hope for Sheryl, because I didn’t think her death as tragic as Beth’s;
she chose to go out the way she did, regardless of the why, she made the
decision to hang herself.
“Beth,” he choked, “Beth was taken too suddenly for me to believe she’d be
okay with how she went. I had hoped beyond imagine that she’d make her way
home, especially after finding out what you can do, Jason.” Mark removed his
hands from Beth’s, wiping tears and sniffling. “I knew Jason was a sign that
you were okay, Beth, and that he’d help lead you back to me. I honestly never
expected your mother to hang around, too, although I guess I should have,
knowing how much she missed you, too.”
Sheryl smiled as she stared adoringly at her husband. “I took my life on a
selfish whim, not believing in ghosts and spirits – not like you do, Mark – and
when I realized I had become that which I didn’t believe in, I had to stay and
make sure our baby was okay. I’m so sorry for hurting you, my love!”
Mark nodded his head, slowly. “I know, Sher,” he sobbed, pressing his face
back into the palm of her hand. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help to you when
you were still around – I just didn’t know how to tear you away from the bottle
without causing you more grief and I couldn’t watch you waste your life like
that any longer. That’s the only reason I wanted a divorce, because I was being
selfish and didn’t want to see your hurt any more.”
Sheryl pressed her hand tenderly into the face of her husband and Mark
closed his eyes, as if focusing his soul attention on his wife’s touch.
“See, Dad?” Beth forced out around the lump in her throat. “Now that
everything has been cleared up, you can sense Mom, and everyone knows that
everything is alright.” She wrapped her arms around the waists of her parents,
and was glad when both of them wrapped their arms around the other two
family members. They all squeezed each other for all they were worth, and
then her dad let go and brought Jason in to join the group hug.
“Thank you, my friend,” Mark whispered as the four people let each other
go. “Without you, none of this would have been possible. I never would have
gotten my closure with the two people that mean the absolute world to me, and
I would have spent the rest of my life wondering if they were okay, even with
as much faith as I had that I would see Beth again.”
Jason bobbed his head and took the older man’s hand in his. “I’m just glad
you took me at my word, and never once questioned whether or not I could
actually communicate with the dead. You sounded so sincere when you told
me you believed me, and wanted to know as soon as I could manage about
your daughter, that I wouldn’t have dreamed about not telling you.”
All of a sudden, Beth gave a jerk as she felt a tug at the back of her shirt, as
if an unseen hand had grabbed at her and was pulling her backwards. Sheryl
must have felt something similar, because she gave a jerk back at almost the
same time. “Are you okay?” Jason questioned, looking at both ladies.
“I think so,” Beth answered, confusion tainting her voice. “I just felt
something grab at my-” She jerked again, a little bit more violently again.
Mark’s face grew concerned. “What’s going on?” he demanded, reaching
out as if looking for a hand to grab. “What did you feel, Beth?”
Jason grinned sadly. “Now that things have all been sorted out, your girls
no longer have unfishined business here in the livining world. Sheryl knows
Beth is safe and sound, and Beth has gotten her closure by realizing she’s
passed and knowing that you’re doing well. They’re being called to the other
side, now, to rest in peace as they should have from the start.”
“But I’m not ready to go!” Beth screamed frantically. She grabbed for her
dad’s still outstretched hand, but only touched finger tips as she felt another
tug that pulled her back a few feet. “I don’t want to leave you, Daddy!”
Mark stepped forward and somehow managed to find his daughter’s hands.
“It’s alright, sweety,” he all but cooed. “I know where you’ll be now, and I
know Mom is going to take care of you, now that I know she’s with you, too,”
he sniffed. “I’ve got what I need to carry on without regrets now, and I would
hate to lose that peace of mind knowing you’re still hanging around here, all
because you can’t let me go.
“I need you to let me go, Beth,” he urged, letting go of her hands and
stepping back. “Rest in peace, the way I’ve wanted you to since it became
apparent to me when you weren’t coming out of your coma.” He chuckeled
softly, “I was almost hoping to not find you, that you had crossed over with no
problems; I’m glad I got to say good bye to you one last time, though. A
proper good bye that I know is the last one.”
Beth felt the jerk again, and let herself be dragged away from the first man
she had ever loved. “I love you, Daddy!” was the last thing she said before
Mark and Jason blinked out of existence.
***
“I love you, Daddy!” was the last thing Jason heard before the two women
blinked out of existence. He was certain that Mark had been able to see them
at the end there, just before they disappeared, by the way the older man’s face
lit up for just a brief moment.
Jason planted an arm around the other man’s shoulder, and gave it a gentle
squeeze of comfort. “Are you going to be okay?” He knew his tone sounded
strained, trying to sound confident that he knew the answer already, but
concern came through the question anyway.
Mark shook his head as if trying to organize his thoughts. “Yeah, I think
so,” he said absently, his expression drawn in on itself as if thinking about
what had just occurred before him. “I think I got what I needed to move on
with the rest of my existence; it was a hard battle I fought, but I couldn’t have
asked for a better outcome.”
Jason nodded his head in understanding before releasing Mark’s shoulders
and clapping his hands together. “Why don’t you come inside for a bit?” Jason
offered, nodding towards the house. “I’ll put on a pot of coffee and we can talk
a bit before you have to get going.”
Mark shook his head as he gave a small jerk backwards. “I don’t think that’s
going to work,” Mark joked. “Now that I know my girls are okay, I can be at
peace myself.” Another unseen force – whether a pull or a push, Jason couldn’t
know – caused Mark to take another step away from the young man. “It’s time
to reunite with my family once more, and live out the rest of forever with
them.
“Thank you, again, my friend,” Mark called, once more being jerked back.
“Thank you for making all of this possible, and take care of the house! I’ll sure
miss it!”
Jason smiled and waved at his friend, promsing to fix the house up right
before Mark blinked out of existence, just like the two women before him. He
let out a long sigh, content in the knowledge that he had reunited a family that
was torn apart by three separate fatal incidents – a car crash, a suicide, and a
raging cancer that took the older man’s life only weeks before today.

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