She had lied to me. Back then.
“It’s only for four years,” she said. “And I’ll visit lots.”
And I the fool had believed her. I lay in my bed wondering if I could will myself to not be a ghost. To fade away into the darkness. Would the Grim Reaper take me if I just faded away? The door to the darkness beckoned. I could loose myself out there forever.
The distance was too great and I couldn’t summon the effort to move even that far. Perhaps I was finally fading away. I checked my hands. Still as brightly transparent as every. My arms flopped back onto the bed.
She was back tonight. I could feel her in the house. I could always feel her when she visited. But what did that matter? She wasn’t going to stay. aShe never stayed. I was like a toy from childhood that she’d grown too old for.
Another stood by her side now, where I had once been. Breana. I hadn’t liked her back when Julia first gushed about her friend she’d made. And now Breana had everything. They were living together. And they weren’t going to be here. My heart had shattered when she first told me. My mind numb.
“James, please listen!?” Julia pleaded.
I turned away – if I couldn’t hear did that make it not happen? She’d only just come back from college and now she was telling me she was leaving again? For good?
“It’s just down the street. I’ll visit all the time?”
Like you did in college? I wanted to shout back, I wanted to be angry, but there was nothing. I felt nothing. Without Julia why did I even exist?
How long ago had that been? Time was no longer important. There was only the now when Julia was in the house, and the longer now when she wasn’t. I hadn’t joined her since that night, even though I could feel her waiting for me. She had left me alone to linger forever in between. I had nothing to say to her.
Julia felt a knot in her stomach. Come on, her inner voice chided. It’s just family. She glanced over at Bre who was also picking at her dinner halfheartedly.
It felt good to know she wasn’t the only one. And really this had been her idea. To make a big deal of it, invite everyone over. Bre had said they should just send a card or invite them over to their place. Sure it was tiny, but they could fit everyone around their table. No need for it to be here. No need to do it twice, once here and once with Bre’s family. Get it over all at once. Julia shook her head. It had to be here. Bre hadn’t understood, but she’d acquiesced.
She hadn’t seen James in years, but she kept trying. Every Sunday she had dinner with her parents here. With or without Bre. Every Sunday she stayed as long as possible hoping. It was almost worst than before. When he was missing. She knew he had to be there, but he never showed. He said he always knew when she was in the house. Why didn’t he ever appear?
Just as they started to pile the dishes to take into the kitchen, Julia stood up. Clearing her throat and tried not to panic. How hard can it be? Her sisters looked up at her curious. They were getting so old, only a few more years and they would be in college. Her mom looked a bit confused, but her Dad was smiling. Did he know what she was going to say? She focused on him.
“Um, everyone. I wanted to thank you all for coming here tonight, and for allowing us to come here,” she amended trying to grin at her father. “As you know my first book of Poetry – Between the Leaves – was just published-”
Her sisters cheered quietly and her parents grinned. It had been a lot of work, stealing time between shifts at the Golden Plum waiting tables and trying not to murder the customers.
“But that’s not why I wanted you all here tonight,” Bre’s hand found her and she was grateful for the support. “Bre and I – are – she – ”
“We’re getting married,” Bre finished as Julia realized the words weren’t going to come out.
This time, everyone cheered.
“About time,” Lara commented dryly over the clapping. “It’s been what, five years?”
“Do you have a date?” Her dad, ever practical, asked.
“This summer,” Julia said and sat down quickly, relieved it was over. She turned and grinned at Bre who had the same idea. Or not. She was pulled suddenly into a kiss admit her family’s cheers. She was blushing terribly as they parted.
“Julia?” Bre was calling up the stairs. “Coming?”
Julia looked around her room desperate to see something, anything. Please, she thought. I know you must be angry, but… The room was dark and empty. A guest room devoid of anything personal. Any evidence that she had once lived here.
“Be right down!” She called back and then straightened her back. She had to try.
“I’m sorry James,” she said into the empty room. “But – ” how could she explain now why she hadn’t moved home for good, why she had left after college. “I miss you a lot.” She missed her best friend. Couldn’t they still have that even though she wasn’t always there? “I wanted to tell you – ” she stopped again.
Would he care that the bush was doing well? That buds had appeared on the branches? Did he think she’d given it all up when she had moved out? How could he think that? How could he think he wasn’t on her mind at least once a day. Even now. She hadn’t seen him in four years, but she missed him every time he failed to appear on Sunday.
“I’m getting married,” she finished in a rush. “I wanted you to know.”
She closed the door softly and headed downstairs to meet Bre. Her spirits lifting with every step as she approached the woman she planned to marry.
“Ready to go?”
Julia nodded. They headed for the door. “Can we get married here?” Julia asked suddenly.
“In your living room?”
Bre searched her face, probably wondering why she was so insistent. She couldn’t explain, but it had to be here. Bre shrugged. “Sure, why not? Beats the hell out of paying through the nose for a wedding venue.”