I awake in the dark, cold sweat trickling down my back. He is still here. The air around the bed is thick and cold, heavy with the scent of musk and citrus. It's nearly tangible. I turn my head to the side and stare across the room. The shadows shift and the wind shrieks outside the window. I shudder.
Something is not right.
The dark stretches out in front of me like a canvas painted black. I see nothing. I realize that the moon has vanished behind the clouds, and I am missing its light.
From somewhere within that darkness a low, thudding sound emerges. My heart slams against my ribs. I'm afraid.
"Hello?" My voice is stilted, soft. It sounds trapped in my throat. I clear it quietly and try again. "Is anyone there?"
I'm not entirely sure I want an answer to this question. It is half meant to be rhetorical, and I instantly wish I'd kept silent as something in the dark bumps against the door.
I sink down under the cover, pulling them up to my chin. Feeling very childish, I scold myself internally but don't make a move to get up. The moonlight reappears, slanting in across the bed lends to an eerie, unreal atmosphere. I'm shaking. I shut my eyes and pretend that nothing is happening. It's as if I can hide from all this. Like I can make it go away just by tuning it out. All I want is for it to stop.
Or is that it?
I'm suddenly torn, unsure of what I want and need to happen. Still shaking, I throw the bed covers off of me and stand up. I have to hold on to the head board for support.
With another shiver I force myself to glance around the room. My vision is blurry and my eyes won't adjust to the dim. Blinking, I squint blindly into the night. Nothing.
"Hello?" I whisper, my voice still strained. I hate that I feel so afraid. "Lucy? This…this isn't funny." I hiss, calling out for my sister.
Accusing her is useless though. I already know she isn't home. In the back of my mind I remember she told me she wouldn't be home until two. It is just now midnight.
The window bursts open. Cold air flies into the room, swirling around me, whipping my hair in front of my face. I gasp, wrapping my arms around myself. It's freezing. I feel as if my body is submerged in ice. It's stealing my breath, the cold. My chest aches with the effort of sucking the cold wind into my lungs. I cough. I'm shaking violently now. For a moment I feel like I will faint.
And then it stops.
The wind abruptly vanishes. I hear the window latch close and lock, and I know now for sure I am not alone. A strange warmth floods my body. Chilled on the outside, burning on the inside. I'm still shaking. I keep my arms locked around my waist. I'll fall apart if I let go.
I freeze, the sound of my name ringing in my ears. I'm hearing things. I refuse to turn around. I'm afraid of what I'll see. I squeeze my eyes shut in disbelief and stand completely still. My arms are covered in goose bumps.
"Are you afraid?" the voice asks, soft but audible. It's gentle, too. Deep and warm, almost melodic. I'm strangely comforted. I feel the tense set of my shoulders release. I keep my eyes shut tight but manage to nod. Yes, I think, I am.
"You've no reason to be," the voice assures, a trace of anger boiling beneath the careful calm. "You know that."
I do know that. I'm not sure how, but I do. I know that I shouldn't be afraid. Still, I am. That voice, so familiar and so strong, rips memories from the back of my mind like a whirlwind. I shake my head, trying to understand. Where had I heard it before? Where…
"Turn around, Sophie."
It isn't a suggestion, it is a demand. Gentle, but a demand just the same. I try to find my voice but can't. And suddenly I know exactly where I've heard the voice. Suddenly I know exactly who's in this room with me.
I want to turn around now, but I'm stopped by fear. The fear that I'll be wrong. The fear that he will be too different now…or worse, that he will disappear again. I shake my head again, panicked.
Don't be crazy, Sophie. I think to myself. He's dead. He's dead, he isn't coming back. Dead people don't come back. They can't. It isn't possible. He is dead.
I'm interrupted in my thoughts by the icy hand cupping my chin, stroking my cheek. The soft, cold pressure is alien to me. A scream lodges in my throat.
My eyelids flutter open, and he's there, no more than six inches in front of me. It is his hand that's pressed to my face. It is his eyes I stare into now.
He is beautiful. More beautiful than I could have thought possible. The scream stifles itself with recognition, and I'm fighting the urge to cry. I blink, dazed, but the image before me does not waver.
"Hello," Noah says, a smirk playing on his lips.