In life, he never took her hand, but when her foot wavered over the threshold, there he was. He held her hand like an old-fashioned gentleman to help her step across the flat and barely discernible divide. She was astonished to see him, looking idol-handsome like the rock star he was in life. His megawatt smile would have taken her breath away if she’d had any. She looked quickly behind and beside herself, but no, his warm eyes were focused on her. How strange, she thought. Why me? Why now?
He had been the high school musical rival of her older brother back in the days of the prolific garage bands. She had been the sometimes girlfriend of his philandering older brother. In the high school halls, their only acknowledgment of each other was a flickering glance. Nothing verbal. He was much too cool, and she was, well, much too ordinary.
In later years when she heard his songs on the radio, she had to stifle tears. If she was in a good mood, she’d change the radio channel because she didn’t want to endure the mysterious sorrow his songs always brought her.
He led her several steps into a park rich with lush foliage and flowers. She felt perfectly comfortable. It was the ideal temperature and climate. The gentle breeze didn’t sway a strand of her hair.
“You look beautiful,” he said. Those were the first words he spoke, and to her surprise, she nodded in silent agreement. She felt beautiful.
They walked to a cushioned bench, and she wondered if the cushions would get dirty or wet outside, but when they sat down, the bench was the only way it could be: perfectly comfortable.
He took her hands in his. “Are you surprised to see me?” he asked.
She could only nod. Her tongue was thick in her mouth and couldn’t follow directions to speak. She was nodding and grinning stupidly, but he didn’t seem to notice.
“Well, I guess you remember me? You know I like music?”
“Of course I remember you. When I was young−”
He interrupted. “And you still are.”
Looking at her hands, she saw it was true. No age spots or wrinkles, just smooth lovely skin. Surprises were stacking up like children’s blocks.
“Go on.” He encouraged her with his megawatt smile.
“When I was young, you hardly noticed me. I was shy around you.”
“I noticed you. I wanted to go out with you in high school, but you were my brother’s girl. The one who broke his heart.”
“Broke his heart? Hardly! He’s the one who quit dating me!”
“Only because you wouldn’t put out.” He grinned at her. “Sex is always on the minds of high school boys. He wanted you, and it crushed his ego you wouldn’t give in to him. So when Donna practically threw herself at him, he went with his hormones instead of his heart.”
She pondered this. Years of self-doubt and missed opportunities because of her bandaged broken heart paraded through her mind. Her bruised self-esteem had swollen and festered into an unnatural shyness−a fear of being rejected, again, by others. She suppressed that wound at any cost.
“I wish I’d known,” she said. “So many things might’ve been different.”
“I’ll say. I’ve had my share of heart break too.”
“Absolutely. Starting with you, really, though we never kissed. Say,” his eyes brightened, “we can remedy that now.” He leaned toward her and pressed his soft lips against hers. His breath was sweet and his touch was warm. She didn’t have time to feel self-conscious.
He put his arm around her shoulders and slid closer to her on the bench. For the first time in her afterlife she experienced true contentment. Maybe love.
“Now, let me tell you about this place,” he said. “We will be spending a lot of time together. That is,” he turned his statement into a question, “if you want?”
It was her turn to flash a diamond bright smile at him. A lifetime of no’s turned into a resounding “yes.” She felt perfectly comfortable.
Ghost Stories, SEZ Publishing.com, October 2020
© Candace Armstrong