It takes a lot to faze a New Yorker, but when a huge crowd gathers, it's ingrained in all humans to automatically stop, swerve over and join in. So underneath the bleak morning sky, grey diluted by mist, a throng multiplied at the base of a tall apartment with red bricks and rusted fire escapes.
Despite the drizzling rain, each person in the swarm kept a vigilant watch from beneath his or her umbrella. One woman craned her neck and gasped. Without delay, everyone else followed collectively in the same suit.
A slender girl with wet, golden hair stepped out onto the railing. Her eyes dull, she didn't bother to speak. Tears mingled with rain as they coursed down the girl's cheeks and she drifted dangerously close to the edge.
A black news van veered around the corner, jerking to a stop, and a woman in an impeccable, black suit leapt out. After flicking open an umbrella and adjusting her neatly-trimmed hair, she cleared her throat and fixated a grim expression on her face as soon as the cameraman was ready. "This is Wendy Smith here, live at the scene of what appears to be a suicide attempt. A most disturbing story from this typically serene neighborhood: a teenage girl has threatened to throw herself off this ten stories high apartment building. For the past two hours, she has refused all negotiations to come down and –"
A blonde, plump woman with smeared mascara and tears running down her cheeks suddenly grabbed her microphone and screamed desperately, "Please! That's my baby girl up there! Someone help her! Save her!"
Wendy Smith wrestled the mike away and nodded darkly again, "You heard it, folks. Our exclusive interview with the mother of the poor, depressed girl up there has shown a most heartfelt expression of love. Her grief in her plea has touched the hearts of everybody - including my own." The reporter bowed her head low for a second and then waved the cameraman to get a clear shot of the suicidal girl.
The girl calmly closed her eyes and whispered, "Just let me die." And with that, she threw herself off the roof.
Chaos erupted below as everyone screamed at once.
"OH MY GOD!"
"MY BABY! NO! NO!"
"WAIT! OH MY GOD!"
My name is Kaetlyn Worthing.
My friends called me Kae. I'd just recently begun college, but already, I was enjoying the life. Although the work was stressful and I had to start picking up more responsibilities for myself, I was still having fun - my first taste of real independence, you know? Not that I didn't miss my family. Moving miles away from them, it would be weird if I didn't find myself feeling alone and so very, very homesick at times. Sometimes, just hearing my mom's voice on the phone was enough to bring tears to my eyes, which was silly really because it wasn't like I wasn't going to see them again – oh. Right. So I guess I did have sort of a reason to cry now that I'm –
But otherwise, simply put, I was ready to take on the world. As trite as that sounds. I wanted to complete my education, meet new people, accomplish all my goals – and maybe, you know, fall in love. Yeah, I know, cue sad violin music for desperate single introvert. But really, I was ready to start anew. College was what I imagined to be a fresh clean slate for me – a nice blankness that I hoped to fill up with nice experiences, knowledge and you know, just plain niceness in the general. And okay, I'm rambling again.
So why exactly did I commit suicide, you ask? I seem like a perfectly happy, albeit boyfriend-less, little girl, right? Well, here is the really funny part . . . I didn't.
Confused? Yeah. So was I. Replay, anyone?
Kaetlyn Worthing had long black hair that was stick straight and easily manageable, but when it came to running down seventeen blocks like a madwoman, there really was no such thing as perfect hair. Dark tresses entangling behind her, she continued to sprint even as she struggled to breathe. I can't believe you, Kae. Right, I'm going to be all responsible and organized now that I'm in college. Yeah. Uh huh. Good job oversleeping, genius!
She lived in a dorm but last night, she decided to hang out with some of her classmates she'd recently met and visit their off-campus apartment. Somehow, perhaps between the buttery popcorn and the movie marathon, lethargy won over her muscles and willpower and she wound up sleeping over.
She also wound up waking up extremely late this cloudy morning.
A droplet of rain trickled down her arm and she groaned. The clouds opened up into a torrential downpour. Squinting her eyes and brushing away the damp tangles of her dark hair, Kaetlyn picked up her speed and veered around the corner. A blob of colors greeted her. Blinking, she swiped her wrist across her eyes and stared more carefully while slowing her pace to a jog toward them.
Suddenly, there was a loud gasp and people started screaming. Taken back, she almost stumbled in her steps. What the – I don't look that bad, do I?
A man yelled, "WAIT!"
A woman with a bad dye job clapped her hands to her cheeks, "OH MY GOD!"
A police officer sprinted toward her, "WATCH OUT!"
"Huh?" she blurted out.
That was when she looked up and saw what looked suspiciously like a body hurtling down toward her. Instead of seeing her life flash before her eyes, images of an anchor dropping down on a cartoon character darted through her mind.
"This is Wendy Smith with another shocking report. It appeared that the girl who leapt off this roof today in the morning has survived with only a broken arm and a broken leg. But while the police officers were busy holding back the clamoring crowd, they were not able to effectively blockade off the right end." The woman gripped the microphone with her lips thinned. "And unfortunately, a nineteen year old young woman named Kaetlyn Worthing had walked in at the wrong time. Cushioning the fall of the other girl, she had died an instantaneous death."
The blonde girl sitting in a wheelchair with paramedics attending to the cast on her arm suddenly waved the other hand, flapping for the microphone wire and she cried, "I just wanted to say, I'm so sorry. I never meant for this to happen, but know that I will remember this exchange of Miss Worthing's life for mine. I will never let this happen again. I continue to live on." She sniffed loudly. "I will live on."
Wendy Smith yanked back the mike and nodded quickly, "Yes, this morning of excitement ended with an unexpected tragedy, but this incident has surely left most of us with the notion of just how important life is and how we should all be reminded to cherish the ability to live on. There is no comment as of yet from the late Miss Worthing's family, but we will keep you updated. Once again, this is Wendy Smith. I wish you all a good day."
Live on? Live on? Man, I want to live on too. I mean, asides from the whole being dead point, this is a pretty crappy way of dying. I don't even have any memorable words people will remember me by. All they'll think of when they hear the name Kaetlyn Worthing is that dumb girl who got killed by someone who was trying to kill herself.
Maybe I should have just stayed home. Damn it, having no social life beats having no life.
But you know what the worst part is? I didn't get to float up to heaven or "walk into the light" - no, I'm still here. Basically, I walk around like a normal person - although no one else can see me and I can't grasp things and I can go through walls - but that's it. Same old me. This is depressing.
Kaetlyn trudged through the streets miserably. She didn't know what to do anymore. She didn't even know where the ambulance had taken her body. It had wailed off into the distance before she could follow it or even catch the hospital name. Nope, I guess I was too stunned from the impact of another body killing me to have lifted my head and read the stupid name. She had no clue where to go. Should she wait around her death spot in case there's something like a dead people collector to come get her?
Should she try to go to her class? Grimacing, she shook her head. Could she become any more of a loser? She glanced around, anxious, trying to get some sort of clue. Should she try to head for her dorm?
There was nowhere more than she wanted to be right now than to be back home, but she didn't know how to go about in finding her way home. Should she just walk onto an airplane? Should she throw herself into a car? But then again, could she handle watching her family fall apart in tears? Would she just drift around watching her funeral take place and the years roll by?
She blinked rapidly, looking away, as she tried to soothe the prickle of tears. So ghosts can cry.
In the end, after loitering around her death site for days, she decided to give up and take a walk. Just around the city or something. Anything besides waiting for what appeared to be nothing.
The walk lasted thirteen hours. She wasn't tired (Guess ghosts don't get tired) so she continued on until she happened across what appeared to be a cozy café.
A wooden sign with pale red letters in elegant script read 'Welcome!' Stepping through the door, a small smile touched her lips for what felt like the first time in these past few days. Small potted plants with fragrant pink buds decorated the small place. A worn out counter, its varnish rubbed off with years of use, took up the center. Small tables with comfy armchairs and stools scattered around sporadically. The cafe was quiet with only a couple of people sitting around, reading or writing. Waiters and waitresses with forest green aprons darted around the chairs with trays balanced skillfully on their hands. It was one of the few places that made Kaetlyn feel warm.
Kaetlyn walked out of the way of a waitress, although she really didn't need to. She looked around for a particularly cozy chair she could plop down on. Yes, thank goodness I can still sit and lay down - I guess the 'going through things' rule doesn't apply to horizontal obstacles.
That's when she suddenly found herself staring into a pair of dark, hazel eyes. She froze and then blinked. They belonged to a guy who looked around her age. Wow, uh, hello. With a strong chiseled jaw perched in the cup of his right palm, he sat in a corner on a stool in front of a small table. He looked tall even while sitting down and he carried himself with an easy bearing that seemed to exude confidence and a certain ambiguity. She wondered then why didn't she notice him the very moment she stepped in. There was a thin scar that slashed across his right eyebrow, but that was okay. It accentuated his masculinity even more. Oh god. What am I saying? I sound like one of those cheesy romance novels. Still, it didn't stop her from continuing to shoot him sidelong glances. He's probably waiting for his girlfriend. A lock of wavy black hair fell into those eyes that seemed to bore right into her.
She shifted uneasily and looked behind her to make sure he wasn't staring at something else. Nope. Not unless he liked the patterned wallpaper here. She turned back around and caught his penetrating, eerie stare again - it was almost as if he could see her. This is ridiculous. You're dead now, remember? He can't see you unless he's that kid from The Sixth Sense. A sudden thought hit her and she started to smile slowly. Yeah, that's right, he can't see you, can he? She was suddenly overwhelmed by the desire to just talk to the guy, to finally make use of the fact that no one can obviously see her instead of feeling so confused and useless.
Maybe then, she'd feel better about her death - that she would be able to do the one thing she couldn't manage not to be a chicken about in life: just walk up to a cute guy and chat him up. She scoffed. Yeah, in a sense. That's the way to go. Who cares about dying when you can be Invisible Girl and talk to men who won't even notice you? Uh huh, there really is no difference from life after all.
Feeling slightly deflated, she walked over to the man nonetheless. But with each step, she grew more and more nervous. It seemed like his eyes were boring into hers every step of the way. Forcing a grin, she took the seat in front of him and folded her hands before her. "Hello." Her voice came out in an unseemly croak and she coughed, clearing her throat as she tried again. "Hi."
The hazel eyes were still on her.
Fidgeting, she babbled, "My name's Kae and I think you're really cute." She immediately turned beet red. Tucking her hair behind an ear, she licked her lips. Courage now. Just because it seems like he's staring at you doesn't mean he can see you. She continued, "Well, I guess that sounded stupid. But uh, hey, you know what, I have a nice idea since you're not busy and all. How about I, uh, I don't know, pretend to be your girlfriend for now? Silence means yes." She added the last part in a rush.
He didn't respond.
She pressed her lips together, unable to help the foolish grin on her face. It felt like she was playing those games when she was younger, pretending that she was a princess and sitting sideways in her chair, holding its back as if she was being carried by a dashing prince. It was all fake and she knew that there was no such thing as princes who'd come in to sweep her off her feet, but at that moment, it felt nice to settle into the imaginary arms of someone who would never let her down. "Okay. Good. Thanks." She cleared her throat. "Hi. I'm sorry I was late. Were you waiting long?" She mentally winced. Okay, that cinches it. I am not cut out to be an actress.
He stared at her. Or right through me, to be more correct.
"Aw, don't be mad. I was just a little delayed. Some girl bumped into me . . . after falling from a building ten stories high. And how was your day?"
"Oh, I like that shirt. Black looks nice on you."
"You're welcome. I also like your eyes. They seem brownish and then greenish and then golden and then . . . yeah."
She stared back into his eyes and bit her lip in frustration. "This isn't as fun as I thought it would be. But according to what my friends had whined to me about, an unresponsive boyfriend is pretty much the real deal, huh?" She grinned. "How about I just blabber on for a while, okay?"
She made herself comfortable, tucking her legs beneath her. "What's your favorite color? I've always been a bit wishy-washy, but I guess I like baby blue. I once knitted a baby blue scarf for my grandmother. It took me forever but it was worth it. Even though it wasn't really all that great, she still loved it." Her smile faltered for a second. "I wonder how she would take it once she hears about my . . . death." Kaetlyn swallowed uncomfortably.
She quickly switched topics. "So what's your favorite type of food? I've always liked Italian. Mom made the best spaghetti - I'm getting hungry just thinking about it - well, not really. I have a craving but I guess ghosts can't really eat, can they?"
And so it went for almost two hours. Kaetlyn was startled when she noticed the sun was setting outside. A pale orange glow filtered through the café windows, casting a warm mellow radiance over everything. She turned to look back at the man and bit her lip sympathetically. "Oh, I'm so sorry. I was talking so much, I didn't even notice the time. Guess your real girlfriend stood you up, huh? Poor guy. If I had a boyfriend like you, I'd latch onto him and - ahem – anyways, it's been fun. Even when I was living, I never talked to a guy the way I talked to you. Thank you. Hope to see you again sometimes, eh?"
She uncurled her legs and as she started to get up, his hazel eyes seemed to follow her every movement. She raised an eyebrow and smiled softly, "How about one last question, huh?" Shaking her head slightly at her own silliness, she leaned in, grinning wryly as she warbled in the spookiest voice she could manage, even wiggling her fingers in his face for the heck of it. "Can you see me?"
To her utter shock and dismay, a lazy grin swept across the guy's lips. Then he responded in a low, husky voice, "Yeah."
The revised version of the first chapter posted June 27, 2008.
© Copyright 2003 Maeven (FictionPress ID:349779). All rights reserved. Distribution of any kind is prohibited without the written consent of Maeven.