Daniel slipped through his window, off to the cemetery again. An envelope of newspaper clippings was in the pocket of his jeans, and a bouquet of slightly wilted white roses was in his hand.
The full moon covered the neighborhood, glazing the street with silver. Silent, Daniel stole down the sidewalk, the roses hanging limp in one hand. His gray jacket flapped behind him.
A wrought-iron fence divided the cemetery from the rest of the world. It was a study in contrasts: black dirt, white marble tombstones. The black figure of a boy walking softly between the sheets of white moonlight. The black writing on the white of a gravestone.
Lily Mains. April 16, 1992 – December 21, 2009. Daniel took the envelope from his pocket and opened it, spreading the white newspaper clippings across the black dirt. He laid the roses against the tombstone and brushed his fingers across the dates.
There were five clippings, two from the Births and Deaths section of the paper.
Girl Born To Mary And Jonas Mains.
Lily Mains, 12, Wins County Spelling Bee.
Six Victims In Critical Condition After Four-Car Collision.
Community Bands Together To Raise Money For Collision Victims.
Lily Mains, 17, Dies As A Result Of Tragic Crash.
A few tears spotted the thin paper and Daniel rested his head against Lily's tombstone. He had never known her in life, contrary to appearances. But he had read the clippings until they felt soft as cotton between his fingers, had Lily's face memorized in his mind. Though the only photos he had over her were the impersonal school shots, he thought he could see some of her personality shining through her narrow green eyes. Her hair was long and silky-looking, a soft honey-blond in the one color photo he had.
"Lily..." he whispered, smiling softly as he closed his eyes, imagining that she was sitting here next to him. He could almost feel her hand on his shoulder...
Daniel was in a strange, vague place, where his thoughts were muddled and incoherent and a light mist coated the earth. There was a carved stone bench in front of him, smooth and gray-white, under the skeletal form of a leafless tree. As he watched, this fog formed itself into the shape of a girl wearing a full-skirted white dress.
Her face was familiar. Though it was no longer smiling or happy, there were the same thin green eyes, the same snub-nose, the same long honey-colored hair.
"Lily!" he cried in surprise. Her sad lips turned up in a slight smile.
He took a step closer, stunned.
"How are you- how can I see you? Is this a dream? Are you a ghost?"
"I don't know. But I'm here, and you're here, right? That's all that matters." Daniel moved forward again. Lily patted the empty place on the bench beside her and he sat down, pulling her close in a hesitant embrace. She leaned into it gladly.
"You're so warm," she sighed.
"And you're cold." Lily nodded into his shoulder.
They held each other silently for a while.
"Why do you come see me so often? I didn't know you, did I?"
Daniel was quiet for a minute. He started to stroke Lily's hair.
"Well..." He wasn't sure if she'd take him as some crazy stalker if he told her the real story. But there was no way he would lie to her, either...
"No, you never knew me. I... saw you in the newspaper. You were... beautiful."
Daniel couldn't find the words to explain further, but Lily seemed to understand.
"I know that sounds creepy..."
"No. No, it doesn't. I'm... I don't know." But she looked up at him and smiled. They sat in silence for a while more.
"I think you're leaving!" Lily cried in sudden alarm, sitting up abruptly.
"What are you talking about?" But he could see what she meant. His surroundings were blurring, becoming more solid. He grabbed Lily's hand.
"Why can't I stay with you?" he said loudly, rebelliously.
"I'm dead, remember, Daniel? You're not. You have a life to return to." Daniel grabbed Lily, around the waist, holding her close.
"What if I don't want to?" he said daringly. Lily's eyes adopted a strange mixture of hope and sadness.
"Then you'll have to die," she said, before fading into the mist.
Daniel woke up, startled and elated, still leaning against the tombstone. All he had to do was die? How could it be so simple? He jumped up, smiling hard. So easy!
Kissing Lily's engraved name, he whispered, "Be back soon, love," and ran out of the cemetery. It began to rain, driving the clippings into the mud and knocking petals off the roses. It plastered Daniel's dark hair to his face and weighed down his clothes. He cast off his jacket and ran faster.
Once home, he grabbed a small orange bottle of pills fro the medicine cabinet and darted with it up to his room. Shaking a handful out, he downed them all dry.
"I'm coming, Lily my love..." he whispered, before falling backward onto his sheets, deep chocolate eyes wide open and hopeful.
He found himself back in the misty country, in front of the bench. Lily was not there, but Daniel had faith that she would come. So he seated himself on the bench and waited, noticing as he did that his soaking wet clothes had changed to a dry suit, black and old-fashioned. It would match Lily's dress, he thought absently.
"Lily?" he whispered into the fog. In swift undulations, it drew away, leaving Lily's ecstatic for standing before him.
With a cry of joy, Lily ran forward and threw herself into Daniel's arms. Laughing happily, he caught her and held her tight. They spun around in a tight circle and fell back onto the bench.
Noticing with concerned eyes that a tear was tracing itself down Lily's porcelain cheek, Daniel wiped it away.
"I feel so bad for taking you away," she whispered into his chest. "And worse still that I'm happy you're with me to stay!"
Daniel took Lily's head between his hands and kissed her on the forehead.
"Never, ever feel bad. Now my life has truly started."
Lily wound her fingers through Daniel's, and they stood.
"Ready?" she asked, and he nodded.
Together, they walked into the fog.