Wraith

Wraith

I never knew a wraith to look so pretty.

With those lavender painted lids pulled down, curtains over wide windows that opened to green and gold irises once upon a time, such a Sleeping Beauty could easily steal a prince's affections. But no handsome knight approaches you now—no sweet boy delivers those dark lashes butterfly kisses or runs lips over that clamped gate of rose petals.

A woman, your mother's boss from the smell of new car on black silk, states that you could have been a model. How very kind of her. She's never seen you before today. If she had, she'd look at your corpse in horror instead of pity. Dead people aren't supposed to look more beautiful than the living. It's not right.

But, for you, it's true.

Worry used to make you ugly, but that's not the case anymore. Lines are smooth and your hair glistens, dew-touched hay spread out deliciously for the line of farm animals. You look like a child again, playing pretend in an expensive white box that everyone has peeked into at least once. And, still, they haven't seen you.

I stand before you, even after your family has abandoned their post beside the flower stands. It's my second circle around the pew filling crowd of raven-clothed specters. Why can't I make you twitch? A part of me thinks you're playing possum. I stare at you like the doting angel must have the moment you blinked your last. I've got some parting words for Death's bride. And you'll take them with you, whether you want to or not.

You've been dead a long time. Years.

I tell you as much, softly. You listen. You must listen.

So this shell is as fresh as two days of decay. It would show if you weren't pumped full of those wicked liquids, holding you together like preserves in a can. And those same old men who pumped you out and filled you back up again laugh at the Egyptians, kind folk who would have wrapped you like a present and sat gold and kittens at your feet. Nevertheless, your parts are inside and all the scavengers who'd like to dig past your flesh and bury their noses in your gray matter are locked outside the doors, held back from their natural way by a building and a padded casket.

But do they, those men who stripped you, those women who painted your face, this party of admirers, know? Does anyone know that you've been dead for so long? They think you died this week. Wrong. How wrong they are. You passed on long ago, probably some time between Algebra I and softball practice. So maybe you could move and talk. Maybe that heart of yours could beat with the life you sucked from those around you. Feeling, though, was a different matter.

You couldn't feel things, not like the rest of us. It was impossible. You were one of the undead, and the undead can't love or care or hate. Your soul was gone before eleventh grade, a weak spirit left to move your body around the high school halls and bleacher steps, one foot at a time. No, you weren't a zombie—no witch doctor cursed your bag of petite bones or stuck a blowfish down your throat. You were a wraith. Pure and simple.

And I'm the person who noticed.

I wasn't even sure of it until the day you saved my life. I'm guessing you did it for your own concern, knowing it was the only way for you to really pass on. Michael thought you did it for him—he suffers because of that, you know.

You don't care. Wraiths can't care.

Michael Fernbank is sitting on the last aisle, just like he was that day in class. He'd been anxious to leave—graduation was coming with dusk, with it, freedom. Mr. Jenkins was droning on, much like your reverend a moment ago, but he was discussing invisible numbers, not heaven. I was watching. I was always watching, never doing.

You knew. You didn't care, but you knew. You knew about the Corvette.

Since the day Michael turned sixteen, I had wanted to ride in his black Corvette. But every school year was the same—he finds a cheerleader or a prize student or a wild vixen to take the passenger's side. He didn't have anyone today. This was the last day. My last chance to have my ride. To have him.

And he looked at me, hand half raised. He was going to ask. He was going to ask if I needed a ride home. My heart—I had one that beat on its own—was in my throat.

Then you came along, wrapping an arm around his letterman jacket.

NO!

NO!
NOT FAIR!

You were supposed to be gone already, supposed to have your mother pick you up, take you to that fancy salon in town to get your hair done before your big night. But plans had changed. No one was there for you, except for Michael and his Corvette.

I was mad.

Furious.

Then I remembered that you were a wraith. That you were dead. So why did you flirt, hold down that short skirt and slide onto a velvet seat cover with a berry-stained smile? Why did you look up at me with a small, wet pout as you drove off? The answer? You had a plan, a wonderfully morbid plan.

The dead know things, when disaster will strike, when everything can change. You knew the time was right for you to leave us. You wanted it to be. So you just sat back, took the ride that I was supposed to take, let Michael speed off straight into a red glow, straight into that truck's mouth.

And he walked away from it. Too bad about the Corvette though. It was such a beauty.

Now, I would thank you, pretty wraith, for saving me from that ride. But it's too late. Those are the rules of the game, you see. Once you're able to see, to spot a wraith, well, you catch that virus. You die. A death of walking, talking, roaming earth. But I'm not the pretty kind, so my afterlife sort of sucks.

I wish my neck had snapped against the pavement, but you were too selfish to let me go.

So, I'll leave you now, let them put you in dirt. But I promise to visit. I have nothing better to do but talk to you and wait and find someone to destroy my body, too. And when that day comes, boy-oh-boy will I have some words for you, Kat.