The apartment was dark and dingy, the only light provided by the rays of light that shone through beige curtains littered with rips and tears.. Kennedy shut the door behind him, hearing the lock slide into place by its click. The boxes he had moved in with were stacked upon each other in a single pile. He had not come with much, nor required more than he needed, his parents both glad yet worried about that case. He walked forward, then noticing the musty smell that plagued the room, though its presence was more comforting than that of his parent’s nagging. The floor creaked dangerously beneath him as he proceeded forwards, turning left to view the kitchen, its counters clean with a few small dents. He laid his satchel that he had brought in with him on the floor, allowing it to lean against one of the boxes. Approaching the bedroom located on the right side, he came face to face with a full length mirror.
Must have been left by the previous owners.
His reflection gave way to an average-size man with a clean face and baggy clothing. He almost looked pathetic. Almost. He looked towards the window on the side, left bare while giving off a bright glow, dust particles seen swarming around it.
He averted his eyes, making his way back to the mirror. If anyone were to ask what he thought in that moment, it would be… nothing. He didn’t blink. Breathe. Gasp. Move. Run. Not even as she, sundress transparent like the rest of her body, extended an arm towards him. Blank-minded, he simply stood there, accepting God had finally decided on his departure from the world and a more able baby would be hakuna matata’d.
He didn’t know what to expect. One would normally expect the hand to pass through. But that logic was almost immediately debunked when he felt coldness seep through his shoulder as her fingers curled around it. It was then reality flooded back him, his nerves activated, feelings rebooted. His back crashed into the wall, his actions controlled by his brain, his brain controlled by his deceived eyes. He squeezed them shut, willing for the madness to clear away. 15 seconds. 30 seconds. 1 minute.
Should he have kept his eyes shut for 2 minutes? Would it have helped to have a stronger will? His lips parted, beads of sweat rerouted from rolling down as it caught onto the edge of his lips.
The woman remained there, her right hand that had touched him held far away as if it were no longer part of her body, her then blank face having morphed into a shocked expression.
Without a word, she glared at him, teeth bared, right hand clutched into a fist. Kennedy curled into a ball, his body as close to the wall as it can get, though it didn’t stop her advancements. She stopped right before him, her eyes cast down upon him, as if already branding him as an inferior creature.
“How can you see me? Why can I touch you?”
Silence met her questions, her frown turning into a scowl. “Don’t you understand me?” she growled, prompting him to tilt his head upwards before bringing it back down, the steps repeated for a few times.
“Then answer me damn it!”
Kennedy raised both his arms up gingerly, left with no other choice but to reveal the unexpected. He pointed to himself first, striking a finger atop another after, and ended it with a hand placed directly in front of his mouth. In case she did not understand, he tried to mouth I cannot speak.
However, he could tell she didn’t understand his actions by her confused expression, where she proceeded to back up. His eyes widened when she landed, and in a surprisingly soft though still guarded voice, she asked, “You can’t speak?”
Out of habit, he pressed his thumb to his index and middle fingers, though he mouthed his answer as well.
“Oh… But you understand what I say?”
This time, he simply reverted to nodding yes, any other effort sure to be futile. All that was heard after that was simply the closing of doors of next door neighbors. During that time, Kennedy’s eyes remained glued on the young lady, her listless floating intriguing. She held a hand to her chin, stroking her hair every now and then, deep in thought. He watched her spin around, flip over; her movements swift and fluid-like. He closed his eyes, a plan of standing up and politely asking if she could leave him alone having already formed in his hand.
He just needed to politely ask if she could leave to find another home with no other people. There’s a journal with a pen in the satchel outside. He can get to it, calm breaths.
Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes, only to stare right into pure white cesspools
with the cream wall in slightly visible in the background.
“So tell me, how can a human like you see a ghost like me?”
Kennedy struggled out of her grasp as best he could, her grip surprisingly strong for someone he presumed deceased. He made a mad dash for his journal, hearing angry cries behind him as the room suddenly grew colder. He dived for it, immediately scribbling the words Please don’t hurt me. I don’t know why I can see you. Please believe me! He whipped the journal around just in time, nearly choking on his own breath when he felt the sharp tip of her nails around his neck before they slowly slipped away.
“You know, you could’ve just gestured to the journal instead of doing… what you just did.”
Casting his eyes down to the ground, he rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, embarrassed that even he, who has been subjected to countless acts of bullying couldn’t keep a somewhat level-headed mind.
“Anyway, it’s fine. I’m not mad that you can see me or anything, more like confused. But it has been lonely without anyone to talk to for 16 years.
He whipped his head up at the sound of that, and with an eyebrow raised, he pressed pen to paper. He hesitantly raised it back up, her reassurement not having had the utmost effect on him.
“What happened to you?” she read, the corners of her mouth dipping downwards moments after. “Why should I tell you anything?”
Please, will you at least tell me your name? Mine is Kennedy…
“Daphne…” she revealed after a moment’s thought. “It’s only best I tell you that since I’ll be stuck with you for a while. Not like I can leave anyway. Wouldn’t want you to refer me as ghost girl every time.”
In her eyes was a defiant look as she landed back down once more, her delicate feet hitting the floor without a sound. Kennedy had no choice but to nod along. Even if he wanted to run out and immediately contact a housing agency, which even God would have known by now, he wouldn’t have the funds to do so.
He excused himself a moment later, quickly shutting the bedroom door behind him. He wreathed his fingers through his hair, breathing heavily. What was happening to him? He slumped down by the door as he wrapped his arms around his knees, head enclosed between them and his chest. There was no telling how long he remained in that position, but when he finally looked up, the gold light that had illuminated the room earlier was now white. He walked over to the window, glancing up at the full moon, taking comfort in the soft light.
He walked over and opened the door, his back crying for the mattress that leaned against the wall opposite the kitchen. But just as he had exited the room, he came across a mystical sight. There she lay, as bright as the stars above, an arm casted over her face, stretched out on the couch.
He carefully made his way across the room, careful as to not disturb her, although he couldn’t help but cast another glance her way. She was absolutely radiant, the thought embedded in his mind even after he collapsed onto the mattress after pushing it into the room. Even after he closed his eyes and a dark void opened up.
The morning gave way to a buzzing in his front pocket, where he involuntarily reached towards it to shut off the aggravating chime. He remained on the mattress, hair disheveled with his shirt raised halfway up, abdomen revealed. His blanket had been kicked towards the bottom of the bed, the result of a plaguing nightmare. It ran through his head throughout the night, a white-eyed otherworldly woman. It had felt so real.
His face twisted into an expression, in which he could only picture being disturbed, hands in hair as they worked out the still-gelled strands. He squeezed his eyes shut and willed away any other thoughts besides that of getting ready for his first day at work.
The suit and tie he had carefully folded was in pristine condition, left in its exact position in the box of which he’d labeled clothes. He’d put the other clothes into the closet later. Button-down shirt, then slacks. Suit over, loop the rabbit into the hole to secure the tie. Satchel on hand. Left shoe. Right shoe.
His fingers curled around the door handle, ready to twist downwards and expose his room to a brief amount of sunlight before a sinister feeling washed over him. It surged throughout his body, brain attempting to register the events of the night before, though it only led to a sharp pang, followed by nothingness. 1 2 3. 1 2 3. 1 2 3.
If counting up wouldn’t work, would counting down do the trick? 3 2 1. 3 2 1. And look. He didn’t know what to expect with his heartbeat echoing in his ears as he took in the view of his empty, gloomy living room filled with what he only realized was horrible olive green furniture. A closer observation revealed a case of mold wedged between the cushion and the leg. Perhaps it was his perfecting sense that drew his attention, making a mental note to purchase new furniture later.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, he advanced into the open, the lock in place once the door fully closed with the key tucked away in his pocket.
Were a university not seen up close, the scale would tend to depict a much smaller structure. But to see it in person, it was a different story. Even the parking space seemed as if it stretched out for miles on end, but even so, a majority of the slots were filled up. Once he pushed the gear shift into park, he leaned back into his seat, his car ceiling all that was in his sights. His confidence was lacking, but wouldn’t theirs be if they were in his shoes. What would the students think? How will they treat him? A quick glance at his phone ended his silent pity party, effectively sending him across the campus in a flurry, papers and all.
Hello. The white words on the board were met with a chorus of cries, though all mouths were shut when he raised his hand a palm up, a silent indication of “stop.” Instead, he waved his hand once, a swift motion from right to left, a gesture repeated by the rest, though he made it easier for those right-handed by allowing them to wave from left to right. One step down, another year’s worth of content left, as well as an exhausted left arm as he erased the word and wrote down his next instructions.
Kennedy remained in the empty classroom, jotting down the last of his plans in his agenda. The translator he requested would not be available until the next 2 weeks, and until then, his left arm would take a drastic blow. Just as he set his pen down, a chime of his phone drew his attention towards it, with an involuntary smile curled upon on his lips when he read the message.
Hey honey. The two of us feel like going out to eat tonight. Pick a restaurant?
Let’s go to Bourbon Village, your favorite. I’ll pick you guys up.
Sounds great (:
Placing his papers and books back into his bag, he slung it over his shoulders and turned off the lights as he left the room, a satisfying click behind him as the doors shut.
The Bourbon Village’s dim lights simply added to the romantic vibe, while casting a luminous glow upon his fiance’s, Lavender, stomach. The bump was extremely noticeable, other guests moving cautiously aside as they passed through to their table. The restaurant wasn’t at its most popular at the hour, a good thing in his opinion, a table facing the marvelous stained window still open.
You look beautiful today Lavender, he wrote in his journal.
“Thank you darling. I actually have a bit of a surprise for you today.” Her red lips formed a delighted smile as she stroked his hand. “I understand that you’ll definitely need it.”
He removed his hand from underneath her’s and replaced it on the top, wrapping his fingers around hers before she slowly pulled it out of his grasp. Kennedy didn’t find it was abnormal , until she wrapped her fingers around a shadowed figure behind her.
Anyone could see that his face didn’t betray his emotions, and if they needed a push in figuring out what he was feeling, his actions would have helped as he slammed his hands down onto the table and stood up.
“Honey, I’d like to introduce you to the father of the baby.”
He gripped the tablecloth, the silverware clashing against each other. “Oh don’t be mad. I’ll have you know that I fairly enjoyed the one night with you, but he’s better overall.”
Why would you pretend all along?
“Darling, I’m surprised you haven’t figured it out yet.” Her smile returned, but this time, she resembled the Evil Queen whose desire had been satisfied by Snow White’s delivered heart. “Your money of course.”
Kennedy took a step back, and immediately the world blurred before his eyes. “Don’t worry man. We’ll put the ring you gave Lavender to good use, the pawn shop being our next stop of course.”
The bottles on his seat rolled and clanged against each other, the sound echoing in his ears. He was surprised with the silence of the night, sirens not heard yet. He made a right turn into the parking space of what he made out to be his apartment complex, the restaurant scene swirling in his mind as he did so. He had stumbled out of the restaurant soon after, with Lavender and her lover having left before him. The staff attempted to reassure him, having offered him a free meal, of which he denied. Instead, he made his way to the nearest liquor store instead.
His head threatened to split under the pressure, the dark room of the apartment welcoming after he had stood outside, the keys refusing to enter the slot for what felt like hours.
He looked up to see an angelic view in front, white hair and all. So she’s real. It wasn’t all a dream that night.
“What happened to you?
Before he knew it, he burst into tears, the ground cruel to his knees when he collapsed. His stained cheeks were once again replaced with fresh, new streams. He felt chills running through his face as two gentle thumbs wiped away his tears.
“Don’t cry. Calm down. Don’t go around reminding me of me.
The words seemed foreign to him in that moment. All he could register were the soft hands that so delicately held him together. Leaning into one, the touch was so foreign, but safe at the same time and he clutched to it hungrily. He cracked open his eyes and the world swirled before him.
Everything aches. Even the chirping of the birds caused him to wince, a headache manifesting. He peeked his eyes open, immediately determining it as a terrible idea, though it didn’t scar him compared to the event last night. He moved his right hand slightly to the side, expecting the soft bedding. Instead, he found a solid, cold, white arm, to which he responded by frantically moving back until he ended up hitting the wooden floor.
“Keep the noise down won’t you? You weren’t the easiest to deal with last night you know?”
Kennedy pushed himself up with the help of the wall behind, Daphne having got up herself. She floated over the bed and landed in front of him, but made sure to keep her distance. “Are you okay?”
He faltered at those words, giving her a confused look in reply.
“Do you remember what happened last night?” A nod.
She placed a hand on his shoulder, garnering a wary expression from him, but faded at once when he looked into her eyes. “Whatever happened, I’m sorry.” Her wispy eyes held stormy, thundering clouds behind them.
Whether it be by instinct or a gut feeling, he suspected that she had gone through a similar ordeal. Suddenly, he was even more curious now, the fear of death the last thing on his mind. To be honest, he wouldn’t mind it at that point. But he had to know. Why was she here? What happened to her. Perhaps the heartbreak established this recklessness within him, but he found himself stroking her jaw with his finger, trailing it down until he reached her chin. He brought her eyes, glued to his finger in shock, up again to his, willing her to reveal her own story.
A blink, and he caught himself. He let his hand fall limp against his side. What was he getting himself into? A heart can only be shattered into so many pieces.
He pushed her aside, his back turned on her while he made his way into the living room. Whatever she felt of his rude manner, he didn’t care. Nobody was ever there for him, the excessive belittling, the snickers behind the money, the false perception of barriers broken through the once love of his life. A mute person like him had no one else to lean on beside himself. Now, he was determined to keep it that way, even if it meant maintaining a cold expression to the world.
All she did was stand by his bedroom, her eyes strictly focused on him, even as he slipped on his shoes by the door. It made him uncomfortable, the thought that she was challenging him to relinquish his silent vow.
“Kennedy. You better tell me what happened when you get home. And I expect you not to drink while driving home this time.
Not wanting to make eye contact, he merely stared at the ground in front of her, first noticing the scratch on the wood, then her petite feet. Was it worth telling her? Perhaps he should, only as an exchange for the assistance the night before, nothing else. After that he was done.
A nod sealed his promise and the day repeated itself as it did.
This was silly. The apartment door stared back at him, amused and confused as he could imagine, with his keys dangling in his hands. It had been 45 minutes since he had made his way home. 20 since he turned into the driveway. 15 since he approached his door. Room 105. This was it. So why couldn’t he go in? Because he was all too sure a ghost by the name of Daphne would be standing by, awaiting his story. No longer was he extremely frightened of her, but the thought of recalling the incident would lead to the toilet becoming his throne for at least an hour. To throw up of course.
Maybe it was the 15 deep breaths he took, the children and their parents gawking at him strangely when they entered their own rooms, or the fact that it was 67°F outside, but the keys eventually entered the slot. As expected, there she was. Sitting cross-legged on the couch, she declared, “You’re late.”
He set his satchel down and pulled out the journal, writing only Traffic jam. Sorry.
“Hmm, yes, those can slow you down alright,” she drawled. “Now why don’t you start telling me about what happened, so I can attempt to help? I would hate to have to stick around a body found dead from alcohol poisoning. It’s just not my thing”
He grimaced, not knowing whether to take it as a willingness to help or an insult. Nonetheless, he began writing, and 10 pages later, it was over. Since having begun, he glanced up, surprised to see a tear drip down from her own cheek. From that moment on, two tales of broken hearts plagued room 105, and a pure relationship sprung from the chaos.
Daphne Nguyen, a once cheerful 30 year old, deeply in love with her boyfriend of 4 years. Moments with him were lustful, tantalizing, and romantic. Having abandoned her vow of purity until marriage, she had offered herself after much begging from him. One fateful day, the calls she had placed were not going through, and worried, she rushed over to his place. Unbeknownst to him, she knew where his spare key was: hidden behind the thorny rose bush in the front yard. But how she wished she hadn’t entered, but if she hadn’t, then she would have only continued to play the fool. There they were, in open view to whoever opened the door. A woman near her bursting point and… him. That sight will remain with her forever, but 2nd on the list to what he did next. Refusing to accept her departure, he dragged her back to the apartment, and demanded almost all the money she had be wired to him, all with a lethal weapon of course. A few days later, the police found a bloodied knife and bathtub after a call from worried neighbors.
The coldness that seeped into his bones did not compare to what he had to do. They remained intertwined in each other’s arms for the rest of the night, and after that, they found only smiles and relief with each other.
It was a beautiful fall night, the orange leaves lit up by the overhanging lamps of the shops that lined the street, as the weather was satisfyingly cool. Nearly a whole year had passed, and they had grown closer, offering solace to the other. But he was happy now, an emotion he thought would have been long-gone a while back.
“Hey! Stop! That’s ours!”
The near empty street served in the cries reaching his ears, and after a moment’s hesitation after determining the source to be the alleyway, he eventually made his way after hearing more pained and aggravated shouts.
A dim, white street lamp above the scene, the face he thought he would never see again was revealed in its disgusting triumph as she viewed the elderly couple cower beneath her and a group of other men. One of which was the bastard. Just as he prepared to stomp down on the old man, Kennedy intercepted by ramming his body into him. To say that whole gang was surprised would earn anyone an A+, but to guess what they did afterwards would lead to extra credit. It didn’t take long for two of the men to corner him, as they entrapped him between their arms, but only after he had ushered the elderly couple out of the way.
“Well, well, well. If it isn’t my old darling. Nice to see that you costed us about $1000.”
“Now honey, he couldn’t have known that we’ve stalked that old couple enough to know they usually carry big bucks around.”
Her lover circled her like a snake, loyal to its master, while planting kisses on her face and rounded stomach.
“We’ll just have to teach him a lesson, so he knows his place. Boys… break ‘em.”
By the time the police arrived, his throat hurt from the attempts at screaming, fingers broken down to the metacarpal bones themselves as the doctors would say later.
The hospital room held an aseptic smell, familiar and nostalgic. Reminded him of when his parents did everything they could to replace his vocal chords before they eventually gave up. He didn’t know how long she would be able to stay, but it would be ideal were she to make it soon since the nurse had forgotten the key piece he would need in his room.
“Kennedy? What happened?”
She floated beside him, her eyes brimmed with tears and it didn’t take long for them to begin leaking out. “Oh, your hands.”
Her lithe fingers stroked them cautiously, as though she feared she would only worsen the pain were she press a bit harder.
He grasped her attention by wheezing, the only option left in communicating, a primitive technique indeed. She faced him, attempting a weak smile to give him her attention. It soon faded however, her eyes having followed his eyes to the scalpel left on the tray on the bedside table, while he gestured to neck using his bandaged hands.
“No! I won’t do that! You have so much more to live for!”
“How,” he mouthed.
“Well… You can communicate through body language, your eyes, your… your…” The little stream on her cheeks developed into a raging river. “No, no, I can’t. You can’t,” she repeatedly said, her head fixed on moving left to right. “I can’t be left alone again.”
He raised up a hand, brushing away her tears with his bandages as best he could. He gave her a reassuring smile, shaking his head “no” himself, albeit for a different reason that he knew she understood. Without his hands, he couldn’t do anything. There would be no jobs available while his hands were in that condition, and it would surely take many years for them to remotely begin healing, in which he’d have to stay with his parents, the last thing he wanted.
After much coaxing, Daphne finally brought herself to grasp the scalpel, the shaking evident. Her hand trembled as she brought it to his neck, the cold metal soothing his burning neck in the overheated room. Taking another look at her eyes, he pulled her in and planted a kiss, making sure that their final moment together would be worth remembering forever.
Leaning back, he closed his eyes, and trusted that she would make it as painless and swift as possible.
He felt different. Lighter. Free. Kennedy opened his eyes to see Daphne lying atop him in tears.
“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! I wish I could just join you. But instead I’m here… Why… why couldn’t I just join you?!”
“But then you wouldn’t be with me after all.”
If she was surprised, he was even more so. He thought that those words were merely spoken in his head as they usually were, but for once, they were heard.
He floated up, eager to stand as he embraced Daphne in his arms, drawing her closer once in an upright position.
“Why don’t we go back to the apartment?”
Together, they rose up through the roof into the night sky, leaving his body and past
behind as they planned to mend their wounds as one, hand in hand.
Featured Image – photo hummerliz0 2013© (CC0 1.0)