Little Red Gem
“Quit stalking me, will you?”
    “ As you wish, my lady,” he
said.
    His voice grew soft, and I
turned around in time to watch him bow low and fade into the
bushes.
    “ Wait—”
    I plunged headfirst into
the rose bushes, bursting to apologize for being rude, especially
as I reckoned that in eternity I’d need all the friends I could
gather.
    The sweet perfume of roses
should have washed over me. In death, flowers took on the stench of
the dirt and the bugs and the insecticide spray. Pretty on the
outside. Ugly underneath. For a second it felt as if I was
referring to myself.
     
     

 
     
     
     
     
     

Chapter Five

     
     
     
    The love of my life
stepped out of a car I recognized as the one which had driven me
under false pretences to Prospect to purchase a pregnancy kit. The
car drove off and Leo stood in the parking lot, looking lost and
vulnerable. With lightning speed I burst out of the rose garden.
Anyone who says that absence makes the heart grow fonder has only
experienced half the brutality of absence through loss. I was used
to talking to Leo every day. Now I had lost that connection and it
ached deep into my bones.
    Leo looked dashing in his
suit, though his tie was askew and his shirt crumpled. We’d known
each other since we were six, yet we’d only been a couple for six
months. Every one of those months I’d valiantly tried to get him to
wear a suit – in readiness for Prom night/College
graduation/wedding ceremony – and every month he’d resisted. He
hated them, yet I hated that my death was the event deemed suitable
to finally indulge my wishes.
    Nothing about the rest of
him looked dashing. His face sagged from the dark circles pulling
his eyes downward. His flesh appeared opaque, his lips were
drooped, and his shoulders were rounded. His skeleton appeared to
have been sucked right out of him. When his fingers grappled with
the tie around his neck, as if he was choking, I rushed to adjust
the knot. My ghostly body fell through his warm one and I ended up
on my hands and knees kissing the asphalt.
    “ No. This isn’t fair.” I
bashed my fists into the ground, screaming louder when each
sweeping motion connected with nothing.
    I continued to lay in a
crumpled heap on the road wailing like a banshee even while Leo’s
mom, looking regal in a cream coat, shepherded Leo into the chapel.
Too late I realized that Audrey was right; coming here was a bad
idea.
    A car pulled up a few feet
in front of me. My mother stepped out of the car. The black dress
she wore was one of my favorites. It had sleeves to the elbows and
a wrap-around section. I’d not long ago begged her to let me wear
the dress to a college open day because I’d wanted to appear
sophisticated. Today, the dress hung off my mother’s frame as if
she’d used it for the past year as a hammock.
    I stood still. Even if I
wanted to move, I couldn’t. The buzzing sound, which came from
being so close to a living body, attacked me once more, and still I
didn’t move. Mostly because I wanted to be this close to my
mother. The ache in my bones signaled that I missed my mother more
than I realized I would. We’d had our share of arguments, and I’d
always hated fighting with Mom, but it seemed especially unfair
that I’d robbed her of our mother/daughter fights the moment I’d
died.
    Watching Mom now, I wanted
to tell her a thousand times over how sorry I was for not coming to
her earlier with my problems. She of all people could have related
to the uncertainty and desperation that had controlled my actions.
Even now a sense of desperation controlled them: I knew I should
have returned to the cabin and accepted my fate, but how could I
when I hadn’t yet done everything possible to unearth the depths of
Leo’s love for me.
    If anyone had surmised
that in death I’d found peace, they’d have been badly mistaken.
When a few mourners uttered, “may she rest in peace”, I moved off
to the side. There, I watched the crowd of

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