I gazed at the label for a long time. It was Curie’s handwriting. I recognised it from sitting next to her in physics all year. Strangely, I felt nothing. I didn’t know whether it was because I was so spent from all my screaming and crying and vomiting or because this was an experience the human body didn’t know how to process.
The flowers were mine. Like I had died. No wonder I was the only one who could see them. They were for me. They truly didn’t exist.
I pulled the tag off, turning it around and around in my fingers. I walked over to Zed to where the flowers stopped and sat cross-legged on the ground.
I shook my head before I spoke. “I can’t die.”
Zed smiled. “We all die, Amelia.”
“You are dead.” It sounded rude when it came out. “Aren’t you?”
He nodded. “Motor bike accident. My fault.”
“I’m sorry,” was all I could find in my vocabulary to say.
“S’alright. It was ten years ago.”
“So there’s an afterlife?”
“Yeah.” He chuckled. “It’s pretty eventful. Not entirely what you expect I’m sure.”
“I didn’t expect anything. It’s nonsense.”
“Says the girl talking to the dead boy.”
I cringed. “Don’t say that. It’s awful.”
“You can call me angel, Angel.”
“They’re gonna rip you apart for that.”
Breath shot out of me and my eyes went wide.
Zed laughed. “I didn’t mean it like that! They’ll bully you that’s all. We kinda call ourselves angels because that’s the word we were all taught to use as children. We’re actually nothing like angels at all.”
“You don’t have wings?”
“Though I would love to rock a pair of wings, sadly not.” He sighed. “Would you like your long awaited explanation?”
I nodded. “Yes please. Though now I know what it is, not really.”
“As we have already discussed, I am dead. I died ten years back. I am very dead.”
“Can you stop saying dead please?” I rubbed my hands on my arms, feeling cold all of a sudden.
“No one can see the flowers because this hasn’t happened yet. They haven’t been bought. The labels haven’t been written. They haven’t been placed.”
“Because I’m not dead.”
“Exactly.” He smiled and I wondered how. “They can’t see me because I’m an angel. No humans can see us. Some can sense us but not see us. Actually for you, Miss Science, we’re more like spirits.”
“This isn’t science. This is a load of–”
“Cripe?” He winked.
“Yeah. So if what you’re saying is true and you’re an angel or a spirit or whatever other nonsensical thing is happening, how come I can see you? I’m human.”
“Yes. But you shouldn’t be.” He bit his lip. “How to put this?” He tapped his fingers on his leg. “This shouldn’t have happened. There shouldn’t have been phantom flowers here at all. These things here are just because we made a mistake.”
“You should be dead already but the date got pushed back.”
I had to blink a few times and swallow past that. “Excuse me?”
“It sounds worse than it is.”
“It sounds dreadful,” I squeaked.
“That day you first saw the flowers, saw me. I was there because I was looking at what was left of our mistake. I decided it wasn’t a big threat. I was clearly wrong.”
“I didn’t know you drove past them every day. I didn’t know anything about you then.”
“So you’ve been studying up on me?”
He smirked. “A little.” He ran his hand through his hair. “So the day you saw the flowers you started seeing them because that was the day you should have died.”
“What?” That didn’t make any sense at all.
“The reason the flowers are there is because we had to change our plans right before they were carried out. They didn’t think it was fair to do something so catastrophic to Otter and Nathan during their exams.” He rolled his eyes. “I thought it was stupid but whatever.”
“Catastrophic to them? I’m the one dying.”
“I know right? That’s what I said.”
“This is totally ridiculous,” I puffed out.
“Though it all makes sense doesn’t it?”
“Yes. I hate it but yes.”
“You can see them because they’re yours. For no reason other than that.” He offered me his hand and I took it.
I couldn’t process what he was saying to me but even so I had questions. “Why did they send you?”
“They didn’t mean to. I ran into you that day. I was just curious that you could see me. That was all on you. Then I caught sight of your Guardian in the trees and he explained it.”
“Guardian?” I raised my eyebrows.
“So much you don’t know.” There was a smile in his voice.
“How come I can’t see him?” I tried to remember back to that day but we’d been alone in that park as far as I could recall.
“No one alive can see their Guardian Angels, even if they should be dead. It’s the rules.”
“Again, Amelia, so much you don’t know.”
We sat for a moment and I let everything sink in. “So why have you kept meeting me if you weren’t supposed to in the first place?”
“I was told to keep an eye on you and ease your passing if I could, seeing as we have the same type of death.”
“I would never get on a motorbike.” My quick shot of humour hurt more than I thought.
“They’re not very happy with me because I was supposed to be calming you down.”
“Great job on that.”
“I was just interested to see what conclusions you’d jump to, science girl.”
I sighed. “As it turned out, none.” I started turning my bracelet around my wrist. “I’ve been thinking about this for three weeks now and I couldn’t make anything make sense.”
“That’s because this is . . . supernatural did Otter say? You might have reached this conclusion if you’d thought outside the box a bit.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Have you been listening to every conversation I’ve had?”
“Not every conversation, just the interesting ones.”
I shook my head. “This is crazy. It still doesn’t make sense.”
“It makes more sense than any of your crazy Zed has drugged me, Zed is magic ideas.”
I shut my eyes and put my head in my hands. “The afterlife doesn’t exist.”
“Afterlife’s a bit offensive. I’d appreciate it if you stopped calling it that.”
I pulled my face out of my hands to look at him. “What?”
“You make it sound like I don’t have a life. How rude. Just because I’m not alive. You humans.” He crossed his arms.
“This is life.” I pointed to my heart. “Right here, right now.”
“Okay then. What am I doing here?”
“I . . . I dunno.” My brain wasn’t connecting the dots like it usually did. I just wanted to sit on the grass for the rest of the day trying to make this make sense.
“I know you hate it, Amelia. But this is real.” He took my hand and placed it on his chest. “Listen.”
I stared into his face as I felt the fabric of his plain black t-shirt. It was like touching a mannequin except softer. But there was no thumping, no up and down. No nothing.
“But you’re talking to me.” My voice was shaking.
“Because I’m real. This is happening, Amelia.”
I couldn’t seem to take my hand away. “But . . . you’re in a body. But you died ten years ago. This wouldn’t be your body.”
“Nah, that thing’s no use now. I chose this.”
“But . . . you feel real.”
“I am real. I chose to look like this. My former eighteen year old glory.” He took my hand away but kept holding it in his own.
“Can you choose anything?”
“No. Your spirit’s gotta know how to be.”
“What? You sound as crazy as Grace.”
“It’ll make sense later. You don’t have to hear it all now. It’d take all night. And Grace? She’s a very smart kid. Not smart like you but smart as in . . . I dunno what the word is. But she sees things and hears things and understands things none of us could’ve hoped to understand in our time on Earth.”
“Oh cripes,” I groaned. “She’s gonna be some sort of crackpot medium isn’t she?”
He laughed. “You know what I’m saying is true and yet you’re still saying crackpot?”
“I’m sorry.” I shook my head. “I . . . I just can’t accept this.”
“What more do you want? The flowers have your name on them. You can see me and talk to me. Grace pretty much predicted this already.” He pointed to her drawing. “What would it take?”
I shook my head.
He vanished and reappeared again in the time that I blinked, holding a letter in his hand.
“No.” I pushed it away. “I don’t wanna read it.”
“Don’t you wanna know what your loved ones thought of you?”
“Think of me. I’m not dead yet. And no. I know they love me. That’s enough.”
He huffed and sat back down. “You can stay where you are in denial all you want but this is your chance to understand the position you’re in.” He held it up.
“Why is this so important to you?”
“It isn’t. I just think I know you pretty well by this point. You should accept this while you can.”
He shoved the letter into my hands. It was cream and it had Abia written on it in my mother’s handwriting. All I could do was stare at it.
“No. I don’t want to do this.”
“But you do really. Everyone wants to hear great things about themselves.”
“I can’t. I can’t imagine my mother sitting and writing this. It’s not fair! I’m all she’s got!” I squeezed it hard, hoping it was going to disappear like Zed could.
“Fine. But it’s already written. You’re not forcing her to write it by reading it.”
“But it’s not already written.”
“This one is.”
“How?” I shook my head. “It doesn’t make sense.”
“Whether you died three weeks ago or not, your mother’s words are still the same. You haven’t done anything in the past three weeks to change it. Hence, it’s not blank. Otter and Nathan however . . . different story.”
“What?” I looked at him. “Why?”
“You’ve been talking to them about the flowers. They need a whole new letter trying to understand how you prophesised your own death. You’ve made this thing really messy.”
“I . . . I can’t die.” My hands balled up into fists and the end of my shaking arms. “I can’t. It’s not fair.”
“We all have to die, Amelia. Understand that right now.”
“No! No! It’s not fair!” I stood up, still clutching the letter. “I’m only seventeen! It’s not fair!”
He stood up too. “And I’m only eighteen. Or I was. You’re saying that was fair? I had my whole life ahead of me too. I had a family and friends just the same as you. Was that fair?”
“No but you said it was your own fault.”
“There’s a lot you don’t know. There’s a lot you need to hear before you can throw stuff like that around.”
“I’ve offended you?” I scoffed. “I’m still alive aren’t I? I don’t plan on doing anything stupid, Zed!”
“You have no idea what you’re going to do. Neither do I. Just believe this is bloody happening will you?”
“How can I!” Hair was whipping into my face and I was struggling for breath.
“How can you not? I’m telling you the absolute truth. Everything I’ve told you makes sense. This. Is. Happening. How else would I know your name, Abia Amelia Angel, huh? Answer me that.”
“You.” I gulped for air. “You could’ve talked to someone.”
“No. I couldn’t. You’re the only one who can see me.”
This couldn’t be real. This couldn’t be happening. No. I couldn’t believe this. It went against everything I thought I knew. No way could something like this exist. Science would know. There must’ve been more people like me who could see things that no one else could. There had to be an explanation. One that didn’t include angels and spirits and funeral flowers.
Zed growled. “What will it take to make you believe?”
“I won’t. I refuse.”
“Do you believe I’m dead?”
My voice was quiet. “No.”
“You felt my silent heart right? Or lack of feeling at least. Do I need to stand here and hold my breath for you to believe? Because by the way, I don’t have to do that either.”
“Why does it even matter?”
“Because you’re going to ruin your last days.”
“What’s it to you?”
“The last thing I remember before getting on my bike was arguing with my friend. If I was in your position I wouldn’t have said all the things I said to him.”
“If you were in my position you wouldn’t have got on the bike, Zed.”
“It doesn’t work like that.”
“I don’t care how it works! It’s not real. I don’t believe you because I can’t.”
“I told you I hadn’t lied to you, Amelia. That still stands. Why would I make something like this up?”
“I don’t know but you must be.”
“This is so frustrating!” He grabbed some of his hair. “I could just leave you here!”
“Then why don’t you?”
“Because I’d feel guilty for leaving you with this. You’re going to drive yourself crazy and ruin what everyone thinks of you.”
“It doesn’t matter!”
“For god’s sake!” he snarled. “You watch this, Abia Angel, and you watch good.” He turned to the road and started walking.
“Wait.” My heart was in my mouth, beating in my ears.
He kept on walking.
“Please, Zed. Don’t do this.”
He stopped on the curb and turned back to look at me as cars shot by oblivious to him. “Do you believe me?”
“If I say I do will you come back?” I could hardly breathe.
“Only if I believe you.”
“Do you believe?” A lorry was making its way towards us, getting closer every minute. Too close.
“Come back,” I pleaded, shaking my head. “Just come back.” The lorry was seconds away.
“I thought not.” And then he walked into the road.
A scream leapt out my throat and rattled my lungs. Tears sprung to my eyes and I raced to the side of the road, searching for him. The lorry was still passing, roaring by. “No,” I whispered, searching for him. “No.” I felt sick.
When it was gone there was only silence. Zed was standing in the middle of the road, arms crossed, tapping his foot. His clothes weren’t even ruffled. “You believe me now?” he called over to me. A small red car raced past and went right through him. He only flinched a little.
“What?” I said through tears that wouldn’t stop.
I watched the driver in the next car that went by. He didn’t even blink, just shuddered as he passed through Zed.
“You . . . you . . .” I swallowed. “You’re an angel?” I felt like an idiot saying it aloud but he was right. Everything he’d said made sense. Plus, if he was right, it meant I wasn’t insane. That was worth the leap of faith.
So I leapt.
He came back to me and when he was far enough away from the road, I threw my arms around him. He stumbled back a step but his arms found their way around me too. Zed was the only tall and thin person I’d ever hugged so it was awkward at first. I didn’t know where to put my head until I found myself resting it on his shoulder.
“I was never in any danger you know,” he said as he held me, his tone hushed.
“I didn’t know. I thought you were crazy,” I whispered back. I pulled away to look at him, trying to ignore the unease of my sudden display of affection. “How come I didn’t go right through you and fall to the floor?”
“Like I said before, my choice.” He shut his eyes and breathed for a moment and then opened them again. “Try now.”
I didn’t have to reach far as we were almost chest to chest. I went to take his hand but passed through like he wasn’t there at all. A shiver ran all the way up my back as I did it and I yanked my hand back.
“This is my natural state on the Earth realm. I’d never been physical in the Earth realm before I met you. Haven’t needed to.”
“If you were physical when the lorry hit you, what would’ve happened?”
“I would’ve ended up on the ground or over there somewhere.” He waved in the direction the lorry had been going.
“Would you be hurt?”
“That’s a complicated question.” He bit his lip. “Are you ready for the answer?”
“You just got hit by a lorry I think it’s pretty clear you weren’t lying.” I took a deep breath. “I believe you.”