In the morning I like to go running. I like running because I like the feeling of movement, because sometimes walking just feels too slow. I run in the morning because I'm self conscious, and I'm not a good runner.
So when I heard the footsteps of someone behind me I felt uncomfortable and slowed down to let them pass.
A girl – she looked about fifteen to me – with ribbons in her hair ran up beside me. She was wearing a yellow dress; it had a see through layer on top with yellow flowers embroidered into it. She had no shoes on.
"Good morning!" she said, smiling widely.
"Morning." By that time I was starting to be out of breath already. I found it embarrassing. Someone once told me that I should be proud of it because it means that I'm working, but I'm still embarrassed by it. I don't really know why.
I slowed down even more, to a walk. I hoped she would just keep going, and leave me alone. She didn't. Her bare feet made slapping noises on the pavement.
"Are you just coming from a party?" I asked.
"Why the dress then?"
She span in a graceful circle, the ribbons in her hair flowing about, almost weightless. "I like it." she said. "Don't you?"
"Yes, I like it." I responded, blushing a little. "It's just a strange thing to go running in."
Her face grew serious then. "Oh. Well I wasn't supposed – I wasn't planning on going for a run, but when I saw you I thought you looked so lonely."
I almost told her I wasn't; that I wished she would go away. But she was smiling at me, and she had such a pretty smile. So instead I thanked her and asked, "Where were you planning on going then?"
"My next life."
"Your next life? What are you then, a ghost?" I asked jokingly.
"A ghost?" she repeated, and thought in silence for a while. "I guess I am."
You may think I was crazy for believing her, but stranger things have happened to me, and when she told me, with such sadness, that she was a ghost, I didn't feel like calling her a liar.
And that's how, early in the morning, I started running with a ghost.
She came running with me every morning after that day, always in her yellow dress and ribbons, always in bare feet. Every morning I would ask her why she hadn't moved on to the next life yet, and always she would answer, "The timing just isn't right." and she would smile.
I remember one morning, it was raining. I wasn't going to go out, but then I wondered if she would be out there, alone in the rain, so I ran out to find her. I found her standing with her face turned up to the rain. Her dress was soaked, and instead of floating around her as it should have it stuck to her body.
She didn't ask me why I was late, or why I had left her alone for so long, as I expect anyone else would have done, as I would have done. She just smiled, letting me know she was happy to see me, and held out her hand. I felt guilty taking her hand, but also happy, just to be holding her hand.
I thought I was in love. Looking back, I'm sure I was, in some way of my own.
But just about a week after that she said goodbye for the first time, and she stopped meeting me in the morning. A few months later my mom decided it was time for us to move on too. I hated moving away from that place, but I told myself I was being stupid. I told myself I was stupid to fall for a ghost in the first place.
We've moved to a small town, built like a suburb, but without the city. For a while I stayed inside and moped. I don't think mom really knew why, but she understood and she left me alone. My mom is good that way.
When I finally did go out at first I avoided public places. My heart was too broken to face other people, or so I told myself. Since we live on the edge of town; the suburb of the suburb I like to call it; I could wander around fields and small forests for hours without seeing another living thing, except for a few cows.
This morning my heart felt healed enough. I decided it was time to meet this new I was expected to be become a part of. I decided to go to the general store.
A voice and a bell greeted me as I walked in to the store. Recognizing the voice I looked up to see my ghost, standing behind the counter, wearing a green apron and jeans, but still no shoes. She must have recognized me too, since here we are, standing in shocked silence.
"I thought you were dead." I finally manage to say.
For a second she looks lost and unsure, but then she smiles and laughs. She says: