Sam was gone. The only people around her were a family waiting on news from their grandmother’s cardiologist, and two parents stricken with angst, as they waited for the pediatrician to come back with their son’s x-rays. Apparently, ten year old Matt thought he could pull an Edward the vampire and jump from tree to tree and land on his feet. Fortunately, the trees outside his house were only ten feet tall, so his fall hadn’t been life-threatening.
Emilia felt envious of the little boy. At least he could go back to his friends tomorrow and tell all about his adventure to the hospital. She, on the other hand, would have to revive the old art of talking to oneself about her own final adventure.
Inevitably, her thoughts flew back to Sam. He had sat in the very chair Emilia was now symbolically occupying, while Dr. Michaels told him all the details about the accident. Despite knowing the outcome, Emilia had felt nauseous, if a ghost was able to feel such a thing.
He looked so sad…….maybe if I hadn’t been so dramatic I’d still be alive and maybe….
“No, you made the right choice. What sucks is that after all those years of your mother drilling into your brain the warning “look both ways before crossing the street” you chose today to ignore it.”
It was still hard getting used to the fact that no one turned to look at her as she talked to herself out loud. Sam’s words cancelled out the conversations around her.
“We had a fight. I knew I had to follow her but I was so mad by the way she snapped out of control, I didn’t. After a while, I paid the bill and went out. God, I was half-expecting to find her there. She used to do that whenever we had a fight. She would send me straight to hell only to come back or wait for me to find her. When I saw the sidewalk outside the restaurant empty, I was even more pissed off. I decided to walk home.”
Emilia had pictured him walking at a brisk and set pace as he made his way back to his place. He lived near the Clarendon metro station. His house was just fifteen minutes walking distance from the restaurant where they had dined at. At that moment, all she had wanted was for time to go back and for her to have waited outside just as he had expected her to.
“I got home and my phone started to ring. I assumed it was Emilia calling so I didn’t even bother answering. I guess I wanted a chance to play jerk of the night as well. I was about to go out for a run to shake off the remnants of the nasty turn of events from the night, when the phone rang again. She used to say, of the two of us, I was always the most mature and usually the one to make her see reason. Emilia is……..” His voice broke as he realized his mistake.
“I mean, was….Oh God….” His hands shook as they pushed away his hair from his face.
“Anyway, I decided to stop being childish and pick up, if only to tell her we should talk in the morning. I never expected to hear this strange voice asking me to come to St. Mary’s hospital because there had been an accident.”
“Yeah well, my childish act cost me my life. If I had just done that and called you, maybe I would’ve been more alert by the time I reached the end of the sidewalk.” Emilia crossed her arms across her chest, the emptiness weighing down on her like lead, heavy and cold.
“All she wanted was for me to stop skirting around the idea of getting married and just do it. She used to be like that, whenever she got something into her head she didn’t stop until she got it. Oh, Emilia, if I hadn’t been so fucking scared and selfish you would still be alive.”
“Sam, no, please. Don’t blame yourself for this.”
Dr. Michaels patted Samuel reassuringly on the back.
“I’m really sorry for your loss, Mr. Clark. But accidents happen. I can assure you the paramedics at the scene and the doctors here did everything they could to save her. You shouldn’t blame yourself.”
Like the gentle caress of snow on her face, Emilia felt the tears fall down her cheeks as she longed for her hands to be able to touch Sam one more time.
Emilia stared hard at the mom and dad with a freckled face Matt as they listened to the pediatrician’s instructions for taking care of his arm. He was looking at both his parents with a combination of a child’s fear for his punishment for misbehaving but also with something she would’ve given anything to feel for herself: plain old gratitude for having survived.
Afterwards, Sam had been taken away to deal with paperwork. Though they never talked about dying, Emilia hoped Sam would have the good sense not to ask her body be put inside one of those small urns, the idea of being stuck inside such a narrow space made her skin crawl. Sam would also have to contact her parents who at the moment were cruising the Mediterranean. They were going to be devastated. The ache around her heart felt as real as if she still had hot blood running through her veins. They would never see each other again. Emilia got up from the small chair and hugged her transparent body with her hands as a deep sense of longing filled the air around her.
What the hell is going to happen to me? Am I doomed to roam these hallways for eternity? Seeing all those who survived walk away?
She didn’t know what she was supposed to do, if she had indeed some unfinished business to take care of. Emilia had taken care of that at the restaurant when she’d broken up with Sam.
So what? Did she still have to finish those monthly reports for Amanda even now? Was that what was keeping her stuck here? Or maybe this was it. The whole it’s-either-the-white-pearly-gates-of-heaven or the-flesh-scorching-heat-of-hell, were just myths like all those stories mothers made up to make their kids eat their veggies.
“Man, I think I would even prefer the doomed fires from hell. At least, I wouldn’t look so damn pale.”
As soon as those words were out of her mouth, some invisible force gripped her from behind, pulling her away from the waiting area and causing the people and rooms to swish by in a blur of white, blue and purple.
It was like being pulled by the sea tide into the deep end. Maybe all it took was for the deceased to say where he or she wanted to spend his or her eternity for the transition to take place.
No, no, no. I was kidding. I don’t want to go to hell, although I probably deserve it for switching Amanda’s low-fat milk for whole milk this whole time and watching her gain pound after pound. But she totally deserved it!
She was still praying silently for a second chance when the world stopped spinning and she found herself standing on an unfamiliar sidewalk. The red brick house with the white door and white window shutters was not one she’d seen before. Certainly not her home, if this was some sort of goodbye ritual before she crossed over.
Her long caramel brown hair billowed behind her. Apparently, it could still move as the late night air blew through the naked branches of the trees lining the rest of the street.
“Unless I am meant to haunt this particular house, I still don’t understand why I’m here.” Emilia said aloud to whatever mysterious force had brought her here. The wind blew stronger now and she could hear the air whisper in her ears the words, go to the window.
The house was higher than the sidewalk so there were several steps lined by dark-iron railings on each side. There were two big windows overlooking the street where she’d been standing. The one to her left was totally black while the window to her right glowed with light coming from the inside. Go to the window didn’t exactly answer her question or make sense, but figuring nothing more could wrong now, she complied.
“It sure beats being stranded back at the hospital surrounded by the smell of antiseptic and those robes.”
Ignoring the way her hand trespassed the solid consistency of the black iron railing, Emilia took one step at a time until she could see into the small dining room and the two people currently deep in conversation. Her firm stance staggered backwards as she noticed the lack of a reflection on the window.
“Of course you have no reflection you moron, you’re dead remember?”
This time she was sure the words she heard were coming from the inside. Something about it made her want to turn back and just get the hell away. Oddly enough, she was glad she didn’t have to hide under the windowsill or anything. For whatever reason, she needed to listen to these two strangers’ private conversation.