She held the brush very carefully -- her eyes narrowed and her tongue stuck out slightly between her lips as she worked. Her hand moved very slowly, applying the paint to the canvas gingerly, clearly working to create whatever it was she saw so very clearly in her head. A wisp of red hair fell into her face, and with a slight toss of her head, it was back away from her eyes once more. She never stopped working, despite the fact that it was pitch black outside and the clock beside her stated clearly in green digits that it was three in the morning. The only other light in the room began to flicker, and she paused only long enough to pull a lamp near to her and click it on. She'd no more flipped the switch than the over head light cut off, and she made a very slight noise before she began to work once more. Perched atop her stool, it was clear that reality no longer existed for her. No, reality to her had become the painting on which she worked.
His name was Joshua, and he was known only for the fact that he was probably the best looking guy in the class of '06. He had confidence, a great smile, and the prettiest honey colored eyes anyone had ever seen. Of course, those honey colored eyes were the ones he used to get his way around the girls, who must've had some sort of weakness to that particular shade of brown. His tousled black hair gave him something of a puppy-ish appearance, but there was nothing soft about him. He was 'tough' embodied, and that made Chad sick.
Chad, a fellow classmate, had of course always been compared to Josh. The football team's captain had also been more than happy to try to 'toughen' him up, but the attacks in the locker room had done nothing except get them all in trouble since Chad told the teachers and coaches about it. That would serve to get him a rougher attack the next time, and he would simply tell another teacher, getting them another, possibly worse punishment. However, by the time they'd hit their junior year, that sort of thing had fallen away due to a newly found maturity. Instead, both of the young men were content to silently hate one another. Not that they had a real reason to.
Of course, their junior year had been the year that she'd arrived. She was all red hair and black dresses, and it mesmerized both young men. But while both of them wanted the same thing, they each had very different plans to go about getting it. And both of them had been extremely disappointed to learn that she seemed to hold no interest in anyone. Male or female.
None of the class knew her name, and none of them had ever heard her speak. The teachers had always simply nodded to her, her to them, and then the class went about its daily routine. Never once was she required to answer a question, and never once did she offer her opinion on anything. The girls were worried by her pretty face, but they relaxed as they realized she was far too different for anyone's tastes. Anyone except of course Chad and Josh. Those two had become close to infatuated with her, although, once again, for two very different reasons.
The days of school drug slowly on into weeks, and soon, months were beginning to pass. It grew cold and snowy outside, and suddenly she would wear white dresses instead of black, perhaps because it was white outside. If not for her red hair, it would have been difficult to spot her outside. But the cloud of red silk that was always floating about her pale face was like a beacon, begging people to look to see the young angel as she moved throughout the school yards.
She carried a small, black case with her at all times, and it was unmarked, unlabelled. If not for the evident wear and tear it boasted, it would have appeared to be new. Chad had seen her open it several times during break, and she'd always pulled out a small piece of clay or playdough. He guessed it was clay however, because she didn't seem to be the type to simply play with it. Instead, she made things, and he had seen the little figures later on desks of teachers. She made tiny figures and then gave them away, for no reason at all.
It fascinated him, and he became all that more determined to find out more about her. He worked in the office during his fourth period, and he finally took the time to look up her name. He never found anyone new or different in the computer database. All of the names were people he'd known since he was small. He stared at the screen for several moments before looking up at the sound of someone tapping on the countertop. He looked up to meet her lovely blue eyes, and he swallowed thickly before asking her if he could assist her. She wordlessly handed him a note from a teacher and then turned to leave. He could only watch her go.
It was several days before he saw her alone like that again, and this time it was a Saturday. He lived near the school, and only a few blocks from it there was a cemetery. Since he liked the early mornings, he often got up to walk, and on that particular morning, he'd walked by that cemetery. She'd been there, wearing a white dress and a black coat, leaning against one of the angels statues. He'd reached for a camera he'd begun to carry and snapped a photograph of her. Then, trudging up the hill to where she was, he'd asked her if he could photograph her in a few more poses.
She'd looked at him, surprise clear in her face, and then she'd hesitated before shrugging slightly. "Why do you have a camera?" she asked, and her voice made the young man shiver. It was beautiful, perfect like the rest of her.
Gladly, he began to explain about the fact that he was a photographer, or at least, he wanted to be one when he got older. She had nodded faintly, and he continued to explain that he was doing a special project in an arts class. She had nodded once more, and then told him to tell her how to pose. He'd been more than happy to use the entire roll of film that he'd had on her in the cemetery. She had allowed him, and he'd noticed after just a few shots that she never smiled. Her eyes always seemed distant, as though she were looking at something in the past or far away.
When the film was gone, he'd thanked her and tried to convince her to go to have dinner with him, but she'd refused, saying that she needed to get home. When he'd asked where she lived, she only pointed in a vague direction, stating that it was close enough to walk. He'd nodded then and asked her if she'd like a copy of the pictures that he'd taken. She shook her head and left him, seeming to simply disappear into the air. He watched her go before leaving to head home himself, holding the camera as though it were the most precious thing in the world to him.
He didn't develop the film right away, because once he'd gotten home, he'd looked out the window to see her walking by. Dropping the camera on his bed, he rushed out the door and followed her, wondering why she was heading to the school. He noticed then that Josh was following her as well, and he'd struggled to get ahead of the football player. However, Joshua had noticed him, and he'd broken into a run after her. There was no way for Chad to keep up, but he tried. To his credit, he most certaintly did try.
But by the time he reached the school gate, Joshua had already locked it and was inside somewhere. Chad clung to the gate, and he started to try to scrabble over it when he noticed something odd. On the roof, he saw two people, one in a white dress, her face clouded by red hair. The other was Josh, and he had his back to her. The young man at the gate watched, his eyes widening as the girl stepped around Josh, touched the side of his face, and then leapt off the school building. Joshua shouted and followed her. Chad closed his eyes instantly, and when they opened again, he saw only blood and a single body.
He ran back to his home, shouting for someone to call an ambulance, that Joshua had jumped from the school building's rooftop. Within moments, flashing lights were all around and the school's gate had been opened and paramedics were everywhere. Chad watched as they carried the bloody figure of Joshua away, and he swallowed thickly. When he looked back at the spot where Josh had fallen, he noticed a small lump of clay. It had been stained red, but it still held the shape it had been given.
It was of a young girl, and she was looking up toward the sky. A chill ran down Chad's spine as he looked more closely at the figurine. It was her. The girl who'd entered their lives at the beginning of the school year. The girl who'd very slowly become an obsession for both young men. The girl who'd killed one of them.
He hid the figurine from everyone, sliding it into his pocket the instant that he stood up. His eyes were drawn heavenward, and he watched a white dress billow in the wind. Her blue eyes were surprisingly cold as she watched him, but a small smile then quirked her lips. Behind him, he heard the police speaking amongst themselves. Not another one, they were saying, talking about it have become a tradition for a young man to jump every fifteen years.
Chad watched her walk out of the building, and she brushed past him. For once, her touch was cold, and he turned as she pushed through the crowd, parting it like a chilly, frozen wind. She looked back only once, and she blew him a kiss as she did. He felt his skin crawl, and then glanced back at the glistening red sidewalk where Josh had hit the ground.
It was sometime later before life returned to normal, and he finally got the chance to develop the photos that he'd taken in the cemetery. He'd been shocked when they'd come out with no girl. There was nothing in the pictures except for a faint, blue smear where she'd been standing. It'd baffled him, until he'd developed the last one. He'd saved his favorite for last, the one he'd snapped candidly. It showed her in a smear of white, black, and red colors, but there was no true form underlying the picture. Instead, there was only a formless blob.
He'd also been shocked when no one seemed to know the girl once school started again. The clay figurines were still on the desks of teachers, but he was apparently the only one who saw them. It'd taken forever to convince them that he must've made a mistake, and it drove him half mad for the rest of the year when he would be walking the halls and he'd catch a glimpse of red hair and he'd chase it only to run into a dead end. She had, by all accounts except for his and Josh's, never existed. And of course, Josh's account didn't matter much since he'd died the night he'd fallen.
Chad slowly withdrew into himself, becoming more introverted than he'd ever been before. That was before he finally cracked. No one knew what did it exactly, but they'd finally decided that it'd been the painting. There was a painting in the library of the school, hidden in the back near a shelf of old reference books. Not many people noticed it, but Chad did the day he snapped. It was pretty abstract as far as paintings go, but the young man knew exactly what it was. It was a painting of a girl and a boy who'd jumped from the top of the school building. When he'd asked the librarian about it, she'd only sighed and told him then of a girl who'd once attended school there. With wild red hair, she'd worn only black or white dresses, and she'd been an artist.
She'd painted the picture that Chad was so fascinated with, and then she'd leapt to her death from the school roof. Her boyfriend who was supposed to have joined her backed out at the last minute, leaving her to jump alone. And she had.
Chad simply sat then, sat down and began to laugh. He laughed so hard and for so long that he began to cry, and he cried so long that blood began to seep from his eyes with the salty fluid of tears. He'd been taken to the hospital and sedated so that he could sleep. The first thing he saw when his eyes opened again had been a lock of red hair, and pale lips in a small smile. She'd been sitting behind him, her dead, frozen hand touching his living, warm one.
"You're dead," he whispered to her, and she nodded wordlessly. It took him a moment before he noticed the small lump of red clay in her hand, and he recognized it then as the figurine he'd found the night that Joshua had jumped. "You killed him."
"Eternity is lonely," she finally whispered back, and she leaned down to touch her lips to his forehead. "A kiss," she told him as she drew back, her smile fading. "You'll join us soon." Behind her, he noticed Joshua, and then others. Others that she'd presumably lead to jump to their deaths as well.
"I'm not jumping," he said, and then she nodded once more.
"I know." Her hand touched his chest, and he felt his heart skip a beat, then two. "But you will join us, Chad. It is your... destiny." She smiled, and he gasped in horror as his heart began to slow, still missing the occasional beat or two. "A kiss," she whispered once more, leaning down to touch her lips to his, "from one ghost to the living. A kiss before you die." As soon as their lips touched, his heart stopped.