by Terry McKee
When I told Jim, my husband that I saw ghosts, he rolled his eyes. “There’s no such thing as ghosts, everyone knows that. You’re crazy, is all.”
While I love Jim, particularly the way he dissects and analyzes his way through a problem, like a mouse in a maze, he doesn’t always see things the way I do, the possible potential. He’s a black and white kind of man, like the cookie, no gray in between. He eats the black side first before starting on the white, never mixing the two in his mouth at the same time.
His intolerance in the inexplicable is unfounded, science is certain, a leap of faith is magical, like the power of three, like things that come in three’s, a hat trick, strikes and outs, spirits (the Father, Son and Holy Ghost) and death.
“They most certainly do,” I defended. “Friendly ghosts are people you knew when they were alive, they’re your angels. Just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean they’re not there. It’s something you just know.”
Kissing me good night, he laughed, “That’s what I love best about you, angel – your craziness,”
I lie next to him waiting for dreams to come, they don’t, but my sister, Annie does. I heard the creak. The wood floor yields to her weight and a small current stirs, parting the heavy still air. I look but see nothing, then laugh, realizing that I don’t need to open my eyes to see her, she’s there, my angel, come to keep me company when sleep eludes me.
Standing in front of the mirror she preens, as always. She replaces a fallen tendril of black hair, while admiring her long, elegant figure she inherited from Mom.
When we were kids, she’d sneak into my room whenever she was lonely or scared, especially during thunder storms, then later, to steal a smoke and catch up on gossip. But sometimes she didn’t say anything; sometimes she came for quiet comfort.
The night our mother died, the air was heavy then too, like tonight. Annie crawled into my bed; we were both scare of the storm and the premonition it stirred in us. If we ignored it, it would go away, but a rolling roar confirmed what we already knew.
I call to her. “Hey Annie, is that you?”
Her voice I hear in my throat and before I know it, her words rise to my mouth. “Yes, your naughty angel has arrived.”
“Because we’re not allowed to look so hot and tonight I’m smoking!” Her chuckle escapes from my lips.
She moves to the bed, perching herself at the end, with one leg tuck up underneath her. She leans her head against one of the posts, as she brings an unlit cigarette up to her mouth. Her slender fingers hold the cigarette awkwardly as she takes a drag. She looks at Jim, who’s naked beside me. She laughs and I know what she’s thinking. It gurgles up in my throat again, this strange laugh, foreign yet so familiar, her giggling like we were kids again.
I stifle a laugh, not wanting to wake Jim. She hasn’t changed at all; her mind was always in the gutter. “You didn’t do any better. Remember, bigger brings boys, and you had two girls.”
“Do you love him?” Annie asks, suddenly serious.
I look over at Jim, on his back and gently snoring. “Yes, he’s the best person I know. How about you? Do you miss Ron?”
“No, I’m happier here; beside he’s forgotten all about me. He’s married to a good woman; she takes good care of little Brittany and Elizabeth . . .” Annie takes another pretend drag and blows out fake smoke rings, then continues. “You’ve broken his heart, you know.”
Shattered by a brilliant flash of lightening, her words fall to floor in a thousand little shards, each reflecting her purpose. Suddenly I know why she’s here. Another bolt comes and I see Annie, as if for the first time, in a different light. She smiles and holds out her hand. I grasp her hand and climb out of bed. This time it’s me who’s afraid.
A loud boom slivers the silence. Jim jumps up startled, “Kim, are you here? I can feel you, I know you’re here. Give me some sign, angel” Jim wipes the sleep from his eyes, and a tear sparkles as it rolls down his cheek. “Please Kim, you weren’t the crazy one. I was for not believing you. . . Please, I miss you so much.”
I want to run to him and hold him but Annie holds tight my hand. Instead my heart breaks because there is nothing I can do to comfort him. I can only watch his heart splinter from a distance.
“Don’t worry,” Annie says, “he has to let some of you go to make room for another.”
Terry McKee has had two pieces published in Clockwise Cat, and a story came out in November, 2008 in Ink, Sweat and Tears. She lives in south Florida with her husband, three dogs and a horse.