I look up at the clock above the double doors that have finally formed. In just ten seconds she’ll be walking through that door. Taking a deep breath I walk out from behind my podium and wait on the side of the steps that lead from the door. ‘She’s going to be okay. Just guide her as you would any other.’ These words are flowing through my head just as she appears.
She takes careful steps and looks around confused.
“Welcome, Erica.” I say softly. She jumps at my voice and stares at me intently. Her eyes ask questions her mouth hasn’t formed yet. I already know them but I wait for her to ask them herself.
“Who are you? How do you know my name? What is this place? What is going on?” She spews from her mouth rapidly. Each question is asked with intent and blame but when she reaches the last one, her voice cracks and she falls to her knees.
“There, there. Come on, now. Can I ask you to do something for me? I think it‘ll help.” I answer soothingly. She stares up at me from between the fingers concealing her pretty tan face.
“What?” She asks timidly. I smile and answer,
“I want you to close your eyes and think of the place where you were most happy. Where you felt the most comfortable and sure of yourself.” comfortingly by her face. She nods and her fingers close again. While she envisions her happy place I see my workspace form around me.
My clouds are forming into tall oak trees, dark and mossy. They soar so high I can’t see the tops and it’s then that I see the millions of stars floating above me in a open sky. They shine and twinkle in all the right areas before a large shooting star flies across the sky. Grass lies under us and blows softly with a warm breeze at our ankles. Tiny blue and white butterflies fly around the tree trunks and our bodies as though we’re perfect landing areas.
“Erica? Can you open your eyes and look around for me?” I ask her, and with some hesitation she does. Her eyes widen in amazement as she takes in her surroundings. Soon she’s off her knees and turning slowly to clearly see her happy place. One tear falls from her mascara lined eyes and she quickly wipes it away.
“Where do you think you are?” I ask her. She bows her head for a moment before turning toward me and saying,
“I‘ve died haven‘t I?” her voice solemn and quiet. I nod and her eyes close.
“Why don‘t we go lie down?” I ask, reaching my hand out toward hers. She takes it and grips tightly as I lead her under the large trees and help her to lie under the night sky. We watch the butterflies dance around us in the air above before she asks,
“Who are you?” in a soft voice. I smile.
“Whoever you‘d like me to be.” I answer, turning my head to look at her. She stares at my face with confused and sad eyes.
“I can be your friend, or family or even more if you need me to be. Whatever makes this more easier for you.” I continue, keeping my voice soothing.
“Could you be Kai?” She asks, uncertain. I smile again.
“Who was Kai to you?” I ask, curious myself. She looks away and as two butterflies fall and rise above her she answers,
“A dear friend. We had been there for one another through everything. He was my first everything. First friend, first dance…..first kiss.” she finishes with a small smile.
“I can try. If I were him, what would you tell me?” I ask. She ponders on that a moment. The moon goes through it’s cycles three times before she answers,
“I‘d tell you, ‘I thought about you more within the last week than ever in our time together. Or that I missed how you used to hold me when I was having a bad day. Even the night we spent together under this sky and what you said after we kissed.’ ” her voice trailing.
“What did I say?” I wonder. She sighs deeply answering,
“You loved me.” her voice tight with hidden emotion.
“Where did I go?” I ask. Her lip quivers and the tears start before the anguished sounds escape her mouth. Somewhere inside a piece of her just broke and it’s tearing her up.
“You left.” She says with a choked voice. My grip on her hand tightens and she turns to me burying her face in my shirt. I hold her close and stroke the back of head. She grips fistfuls of the back of my shirt and I rest my chin on her shoulder.
“Shh…let me help you now.” I say into her hair.
“If you could go back right now and change anything at all….what would it be?” I ask, choosing my words carefully. Her sobs settle momentarily and her grip on me loosens.
“I would‘ve told you this night that I loved you too and that I had stage three cancer. The words ‘I don’t feel the same and I think we shouldn’t see each other.’ would‘ve left my mouth.” She admits, her sobs calming to a soft cry.
Just starting college and she’s branded with the big ‘C’ sometimes I wonder what the big man is thinking.
“Erica, I have to tell you something. Someone needs your help.” I confess, wondering how she’ll take this.
“My help? Who could possibly need my help? How can I help them?” She wonders, both of us rising to a sitting position.
“Someone dealing with the last stage of cancer.” I respond. She looks down at her lap and wipes her face free of tears and make up.
“What can I do? I‘m dead.” She asks.
“You‘re allowed one last visit. I have your location written down for you if you‘d like to help her.” I ease into her. She nods and I walk over to my podium with her following close behind me.
I hand her a piece of paper with a name and address on it. She takes it and looks down with furrowed brows.
“She could use a friend. Just like you did before you came up here. Think you can handle it?” I ask, looking down at her face. She nods and I lead her to the other end of the forest. Her landscape fades away and my clouds return. Two double doors appear and we ascend the staircase. She turns to me,
“How will I know?” she wonders.
“Just ask for Mel at the front desk. He‘ll lead you to where you‘re supposed to go. Just remember, you can‘t contact anyone from your previous life and you can‘t talk about your life. No one can know you‘re dead.” She nods. She squeezes my hand one last time before the doors open and she walks through.
Sighing deeply, I turn on my heels and walk down the stairs. Two minutes. That’s how long I had to compose myself before the next person walks through the doors.