“I can’t believe you’re still obsessing over this girl. Wait, I can’t believe I’m talking to you in the first place. People driving past me must think I’m mentally unbalanced or something.”
“Relax, see that dude over there?”
Olivia’s eyes followed her passenger’s pale finger to a middle-aged man moving his lips and tapping his hand on the steering wheel.
“People will just think you’re singing, too. And since when do you worry what others might think? You’re a high school teacher for God’s sake, not necessarily a job for wimps.”
“Trust me, this has nothing to do with what others think and more to do with my mental sanity.”
Emilia recognized the streets as they drove by in a very ancient Volvo to the supermarket close to Olivia’s house. At least the woman next to her had stopped running away from her. Now all they had to do was figure out why they had been put together under these very unusual circumstances.
What if it has to do with what I heard between Noah and her last night?
What were the odds that the very same day her longtime boyfriend said no to marrying her, she dies and then is sent to another woman’s house only to listen to what she heard Sam say countless times before? Maybe Olivia was right and she was going to die like Emilia did. Or she was here to offer her advice on how to make Noah want to marry her?
Yeah, because I’m a success in that department!
They pulled into the supermarket’s parking lot and went inside. With a list in her hand, Olivia was going through each aisle putting things inside her shopping cart while Emilia skirted around the people milling on each aisle, savoring the food they passed. God, she even missed those fish-shaped cookies that tasted like cardboard.
When they reached the personal hygiene section, Emilia remembered the bathroom with the fluffy pink toilet cover and the fact that despite the size of the house, Olivia lived on her own.
“So what’s the deal with you and Noah?”
“Yeah. How come you haven’t changed your name to Ms. whatever his last name is?”
This was ridiculous. Here she was, pushing her cart not sure whether she should get two bottles of shampoo for the price of one, or just the one bottle and end up paying more, and now she was supposed to start chatting about her life to some nosy dead woman who wouldn’t leave her alone?
“Because it hasn’t.”
“Just because you refuse to leave me the hell alone, it doesn’t mean I have to talk to you. Let alone, tell you intimate details about my boyfriend and myself.”
“It’s not like I am asking you how’s the sex. How is it, by the way?”
The straightforward manner of the question made Olivia stop and turn around to stare at her annoying new companion.
“I don’t think that’s any of your business.”
“I think it is.”
“Unbelievable. Emilia, this conversation is now officially over. Now, let’s just hurry so I can get home and hopefully send you over to the other side.”
But as Sam had told the doctor yesterday, she was relentless and she wasn’t going to give up that easy.
“I mean, from what I heard last night, ten years is a long time for two people to be together and not have talked about marriage.”
Olivia stopped pushing her cart and whirled around to face Emilia.
“You were spying on us?” She asked, indignantly.
“Hey, I wouldn’t call it spying if I’m invisible to the rest of the world.”
“Not the main point here. So tell me, why aren’t you and longtime boyfriend picking up china patterns?”
“Like I said, none of your business.”
“Tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me, tell….”
“Stop it!” Olivia’s exasperation made her voice come out louder than she’d intended. Just as she was about to keep on pushing her shopping cart to the end of the aisle, a deep and very amused male voice spoke from behind her.
“I knew I was getting the wrong one.”
Both Emilia and Olivia spun around at the same time. All they could do next was stare openmouthed at the man in front of them. The blue-eyed woman was sure if she were alive right now her heart would’ve started beating wildly inside her chest.
The man grabbing some sort of can had a look of helplessness plastered all over his face, it was too cute to ignore. If only, it added an extra layer of charm to the already mouth watering package he came in. His eyes were the color of sweet dripping honey with a splash of green around the edges. His hair was short, disheveled and black as night. And his face, the most perfect one Emilia had ever since in both her alive and non alive existence.
Equally dumbstruck, the brown-eyed woman next to her tried to catch her breath but found it an impossible task to accomplish just now. Men like the one staring back at her weren’t just walking around the women’s toiletries section looking sinfully handsome, with no female possessively attached to their arm like an extra limb. As her eyes did a quick check behind him, she noticed he was alone.
Using her other line of communication with the person beside her she asked. Gay?
“Excuse me? What makes you think I’m….Oh you mean him?”
He’s just so….
“Freaking gorgeous? Yeah, I know! This is when I say damn my luck.”
Apparently, while her silent exchange had been taking place, the newcomer had asked Olivia something. When he took a step closer, Olivia held on to her cart as if her whole life depended on it. Just like any hot-blooded woman in her position, she was a hundred percent sure she was doing a good job at making a fool of herself.
“Are you okay, miss?”
“Oh for God’s sake. He asked you if maybe you could help him find something for his niece. Which to me means, he’s straight and single because he would’ve said wife or girlfriend instead of niece.”
That doesn’t make any sense at all.
“Says the woman having a mental conversation with a ghost, not to mention that you’re seconds away from drooling at his feet.”
Emilia raised one eyebrow but she, too, took a step closer to this man.
What the hell?
This time, something told her she knew him from somewhere.
Olivia blinked twice before she could form any sort of reply.
“Yes! I mean, sure I was just……..distracted. Sorry, you said something about your niece?”
“Yes. I sort of offered to run errands for my brother and his teenage daughter and somehow forgot you women are very specific about certain things you use. She asked for deodorant. First of all, I see a million different brands, and second, I don’t know if she wants it in a stick or with the little ball at the top. I was wondering if you could help me. Also, is there such a thing as a math class deodorant?”
Sweet. Olivia couldn’t stop from thinking. For such a big, tall, muscular man, he looked terrified of not taking back what his niece had asked for. A simple request for a girl, a daunting task for the man before her.
“Yeah, very.” Emilia cooed.
“Not unless there’s algebra involved. I’m guessing math class comes after gym, hence the deodorant.”
“You have a point there. And,” the stranger added, his lips tugging at the sides, and Olivia had a front row seat to a pair of dimples appearing on each side of his face, “you’re a girl.”
She smiled and as she moved past him, Olivia caught the smell of fresh aftershave combined with an earthy male scent that caused her knees to wobble.
“I’m glad you noticed. Now, I guess she meant a spray deodorant, which you just spray on like perfume, that way you don’t have go on smelling like someone’s hairy armpit for the rest of the day.” Olivia blushed at her blunt description. “Sorry. Here,” Olivia picked a pink can and gave it to him.
“I can’t help you with the brand but I’m sure this is what she meant.”
“I appreciate it. I was about to humiliate myself and go find one of the ladies with the red vest.”
“Well, I’m glad I could help.”
Had she seen him before? Emilia mused. Somehow his eyes were very familiar. He reminded her of someone.
“Oh you’re so lucky.” Emilia sighed.
Oh shit, that one was meant for you not him!
“Is that supposed to be a trick question?” The stranger’s eyebrows drew together.
“This should be interesting.” Emilia eyed Olivia with a glint of mischief.
Olivia’s head searched frantically for a way to get out of this in a graceful manner.
“Wh-why are you doing errands for your niece?”
“Really? That’s the best you can come up with?” The other woman asked in disbelief.
“Well, she called me complaining about the and I quote “tons, and tons of homework” unquote, all of her teachers gave her today. So I, being the loving uncle that I usually am, offered to come by when she also said she had forgotten to pick up a few things.”
“That’s nice. And I wouldn’t worry about the tons of homework. I’m a teacher and that is usually code for damn I won’t be able to watch America’s Next Top Model because I have to read an assignment I was given two weeks ago.”
And just like that, Olivia’s whole world turned upside down when this stranger smiled at her again. Those dimples were back again and every bone inside her body dissolved.
“He shouldn’t be allowed to do that in public. I think I’m going to faint.” Emilia mimicked fanning her face just to prove her point.
“Well, I’m glad I ran into you then. You certainly are knowledgeable in many important areas. I’m Michael, by the way.”
“I’m Olivia.” The moment they shook hands the rest of the world around her ceased to exist. Her heart did a huge lurch as she felt herself being drawn to this man. For a second, Olivia could swear he felt it, too, for his eyes went dark and frowned as he stared at their joined hands.
Utterly mortified by her reaction, she pulled her hand back and tried to let oxygen back into her lungs.
Fascinated and confused, Emilia looked from Olivia’s flushed face to the man’s narrowed eyes, as he continued to study the hand Olivia had just let go.
“Okay so…..I’m glad I could help. Have a nice day.”
Without waiting for an answer, Olivia quickly turned around and began pushing her shopping cart toward the register lines. Spotting the least full, she made a dash for it and hoped she could be out of here by the time the hot guy with the spray deodorant came by to pay.
“Olivia, are you okay?”
Of course, I’m not okay. I managed to make a total ass of myself! And I’m having these mental chats with someone who probably is only a fixture of my imagination, which would mean I’m suffering from some brain tumor and I have only a few more months to live.
Oh come on, who does she think she is? Izzie Stevens from Grey’s Anatomy? Exasperated, Emilia crossed her arms across her chest and said in a solemn voice.
“Fine. You’re right. I am here to tell you that you’re going to die.”
Olivia felt the color drain away from her face and she swayed, almost knocking down the magazine rack at the entrance of the register line. The woman who was paying for her groceries gave her a poor-drunk-woman look, before she stepped farther away from her.
“Man, I was joking. Well, not about the dying part. You will die, one day anyway.” Completely unabashed, Emilia carried on. “Now, back to more important things. What the hell happened back there?”
“Hey! I’m dead, not stupid.”
Absentmindedly, Olivia began placing her groceries on the automatic rubber strip, ignoring Emilia. All of a sudden, her mind and body felt exhausted. Her emotions had gone through a roller coaster in less than twenty-four hours. First, Noah’s lack of enthusiasm at her let’s-talk-about-our-future conversation, then her being able to see and talk to a ghost, who by the way had a very dark sense of humor, and now her entire body was still shaking because of some random guy’s touch. A guy she’d just met at the supermarket, of all places.
Could this day get any worse?
“Excuse me, Olivia?”
Apparently, it could.
Michael was standing behind her in line. His face an unreadable mask, despite the fact that she could feel him studying her intently. Trying to pry back the confident, easy-going person she usually was she said.
“Don’t tell me you need help paying for tampons for your niece?”
When Emilia cracked up, Olivia wanted to slap both their faces and dig a hole so she could hide from both ghost and man. So much for confident, easy-going, she thought.
“Oh no, I draw the line when it comes to that and boy-talk. I just leave it to her father.” Michael replied, undeterred by her words. “I was wondering if maybe, as a way to express my gratitude, you might want to go out for dinner, sometime.”
What? Both women exclaimed at the same time.
Then, her brain kick-started again and it all became clear. This Michael was probably one of those guys who hung out at supermarkets, or at the mall, and put on a well-rehearsed skit. In this case, using the loving uncle angle, just to score some good time with a poor, naive, unsuspecting woman.
Well, she wasn’t one of them.
“As a sign of my deep, heartfelt gratitude.” He continued.
Glad she’d caught him in the act, Olivia leveled her gaze with his and asked in a cold voice.
“Tell me, Michael, does that trick work for you every time?”
“Trick? What trick? Since when asking a beautiful woman to dinner is considered some sort of trick?”
God, that was the worst line ever.
“I think it was a compliment.” Emilia pointed out to Olivia.
Oh, shut up.
“Beautiful, you say? Well, here’s another piece of knowledge for you, pal. Just go back to the bar, I’m sure many women would gladly fall for that sad and pathetic line.”
Michael’s face became one of those magic sketch pads, the ones where you draw then give them a shake and start all over again. First he was lost, then he shook his head and understanding appeared, until finally with a final shake, fury became the final picture. The green around his eyes sparked up. Strangely enough, instead of intimidated, Olivia felt the attraction increase a notch.
“You think I made the whole issue about my niece just to get into your pants?”
“It was a really good performance, I’ll give you that.”
“Olivia, what are you doing? This guy isn’t like that. He is just being nice.” Seriously, Emilia was beginning to wish her hands were made of flesh and bone so she could slap her repeatedly.
“So is that a no to dinner?” He said in between clenched teeth.
Digging out cash from her wallet she paid for her stuff and started to make her way toward the automatic exit doors. Olivia looked over her shoulder and found Michael following her with his gaze. The heat coming from him was enough to cause her pulse to quicken again. Almost running, she got to her car, put the groceries inside and sped away to the safety and comfort of her home. If that was even possible with a ghost sitting next to her on the passenger seat.