When Dank pulled into the parking lot of the school, I did my daily check for Leif’s truck. And just as the days before it was missing from his spot. Instead of someone taking the coveted parking slip of the most popular guy at school it remained empty. It was as if they were all waiting. Wondering.
The last time I’d seen Leif was the day I’d thought Dank was lost to me forever. Gee, a transporter who was trying to kill my body and force Death’s hand, yet oddly enough became my friend, had managed to get my soul out of my body without Death’s help. Problem was, it was too late. Death had already broken the rules and he had to pay for it. I was left with the decision to either become a lost wandering soul or get back in my body and live. Even though the only guy I’d ever love was burning in Hell like a fallen angel for not doing his job when it was time to take my life. Gee explained that Dank would be tormented even more in the pits of Hell if he knew I was a lost soul. He’d want to know that I lived. That his sacrifice was for something. I’d do anything to ease his pain. I got back in my body that morning and chose life. For him.
Then he’d been at school that morning and I hadn’t even taken a moment to speak to Leif and explain. I’d just run to Dank. After Dank explained everything and then laid the whopper on me that Leif wasn’t human we’d gone to find him. But Leif Montgomery was missing. That was a month ago.
“Don’t frown,” Dank’s voice broke into my thoughts as his hand cupped my face and studied me. He could hear my fears. There was no reason to explain my sudden mood change.
“Will he ever come back?”
Dank let out a sigh while glancing back over my shoulder, “I’m afraid so.”
“Why does that seem to bother you? I know you say Leif has no soul but I know Leif. I’ve spent time with him. He isn’t evil. He’s incredibly sweet.”
Those blue eyes I loved lit up and the glow I was growing accustomed to warned me I’d said the wrong thing. Dank wasn’t dealing well with the emotion of jealousy. It was completely new to him and it wasn’t something he had a handle on.
“Leif is what he must be. He was created Pagan. He did his job. He isn’t sweet. He has no soul.”
I leaned forward and kissed his jaw then whispered, “Easy, big guy. We both know who owns my soul.”
“That’s right,” Dank replied then nipped at my ear, “and don’t you forget it.”
I shivered from his warm breath against my skin.
Banging on my window startled me and I pulled back from my sexy boyfriend and turned to see Miranda, my best friend, staring at me through the window with an amused expression.
“Saved by the best friend,” Dank murmured pressing one last kiss to my neck before reaching for my backpack and opening his car door. He stepped out into the morning sunlight looking like a greek god. The jeans that hung perfectly from his hips cupped his butt deliciously. And Dank could rock a fitted t-shirt and did so on a daily basis. Today the t-shirt showing off his impressive chest was a dark blue. His black boots never changed but I liked them. They were all kinds of sexy. He looked like a bad ass even with my red backpack thrown over his left shoulder. I watched in helpless fascination as he sauntered around the front of his Jeep to open my door. I’d learned the hard way not to open my own car door. He didn’t like it. I could feel Miranda’s eyes on me but I didn’t care. She could watch me ogle my boyfriend. Besides, she completely understood. Miranda thought, like the rest of the world, that Dank Walker was the lead singer of the rock band Cold Soul. Ironic, I know. Dank did sing with the band but he wasn’t with them often. Miranda was a total fan girl.
Dank opened my door and I stepped out finally tearing my eyes off him to meet my friend’s gaze.
“Well, good morning to you too,” Miranda teased, slipping her arm in mine. “I wondered how long it was going to take you to stop staring at your rocker boyfriend like a worshipful puppy dog and notice little ‘ol me.”
I elbowed her, “shut up.”
She giggled, “girl please tell me you aren’t trying to be subtle with your lustful looks because you have failed. That boy knows you want his body.”
“Stop it,” I hissed
Dank came up behind me causing my insides to go all warm and tingly. “She can’t possibly want my body more than I want hers.”
Miranda began fanning herself with her hand, “Dear Lord, have mercy, I think I may swoon.”
Dank’s hand covered mine and he squeezed. “I’ll meet you inside. I’m going to take these to your locker.”
He was always so good about giving me time with Miranda. I nodded, not even caring that I had a goofy grin on my face.
Miranda slid her sunglasses up and rested them on top of her head. Her curls were styled perfectly which I knew from experience took her hours to do. The girl slept in rollers like it was 1980 or something. Her brown eyes twinkled as she watched my boyfriend’s butt as he made his way inside the school.
“That is one fine piece of--”
“Miranda!” I shoved her with a grin because of course she was right. But still she didn’t have to say it out loud.
“Jealous much?” she teased.
I only rolled my eyes.
Miranda’s gaze drifted over to Leif’s empty parking space. I couldn’t explain to Miranda about Leif. She didn’t even know I saw dead people, or as Dank liked to put it, ‘wandering souls’. Until Dank, I’d had to live with my secret.
“I wonder where he is?”
When Leif had gone missing Dank and I decided to lay low with our relationship. It wasn’t until just last week we’d started being out in the open with it. When the authorities and Leif’s parents had questioned me I had told both of them that Leif and I had just broken up. That it was his decision. Which wasn’t a total lie; he did vanish without a trace. That’s is a form of breaking things off. At first his parents called on a daily basis to ask me if I’d heard from him. They stopped after Leif called and assured them he was fine. Apparently, he’d said he needed time away to deal with some issues. Strangely after that call his parents had seemed to be completely at ease with his disappearance. They no longer came around. I’d even seen his mother in the grocery store last week and she’d smiled brightly at me as if she didn’t have a care in the world. Kids at school were slowly doing the same thing. No one brought him up much anymore. It was... weird.
“So, did you study for that trig test?” Miranda asked smiling, as if she hadn’t just been worrying about Leif. Again.. weird.
“Yep. Until late last night.”
Miranda groaned and flipped her hair over her shoulder. It was one of her dramatic mannerisms that made me laugh.
“If I fail my parents are going to lock me away in the attic for life. You’ll have to come slip me food under the door.”
“I doubt it will be all that bad. Besides you did study, right?”
She rolled her eyes over and glanced at me, “A little. Yeah.”
“You watched Pretty Little Liars last night didn’t you?”
With a deep sigh that caused her shoulders to move up and down she replied, “Yep. Last week’s show and this week’s. I can’t help it. I have a thing for Caleb.”
Grabbing her arm, I pull her inside. “Come on. To the library. We have thirty minutes and you’re not going to get locked up in an attic for life.”
Miranda beamed at me, “I love you.”
Hopefully, the library ghost would be somewhere else today. The soul who always wandered around in there was distracting.
I watched as Pagan led Miranda up to the library. She’d be busy for awhile and I had somewhere I needed to be. There was a soul I didn’t want to leave waiting for me. I needed to be there for this one’s actual death. Once Pagan entered the library and I knew she was safe for the time being, I left.
Before Pagan, I hadn’t understood love. Before Pagan, taking souls had been easy. Now, I knew emotion. I knew pain and the feeling of loss and it made my purpose harder. Especially with the young ones. Even though I knew they’d get another life soon enough I understood their family’s pain as they lost someone they held dear. Because although the soul of that child would return it wouldn’t be the same. They wouldn’t know the child they loved was once again with them when the soul returned in a new life.
“It’s time, isn’t it?” the little boy looked up at me as I entered his hospital room. I’d been to talk to him before. Several times actually. I wanted him to understand he would be dying soon but that if he followed my directions then he’d be given another life. His soul would live on. This life would just end. His bottom lip quivered as he stared up at me.
“Yeah, it’s time.”
“Will it hurt?”
I shook my head, “I promised you it wouldn’t, didn’t I?”
He nodded and pulled the dark green dinosaur closer against his chest tucking it under his chin. It had been a week since I’d last been here. His face was more drawn and the circles under his eyes were darker. The sickness was taking over.
“Mommy thinks I’m going to get better. I tried to tell her I wasn’t.”
The tightness in my chest appeared. This used to be so easy.
“Those who love you don’t want to accept that your body in this life has grown too sick to continue. But remember: you’ll come back. You’ll be born into a new body and you will return to this family. Maybe not tomorrow or the next day but one day you’ll return.”
He sniffed and rubbed his nose against the stuffed animal he obviously loved.
“Yeah, but you said I wouldn’t remember this life. I’d forget who I once was. I don’t want to forget Mommy and Daddy. I don’t want to forget Jessi, even if she can be mean sometimes, she’s my big sister.”
This was why Death wasn’t meant to feel emotion. I wanted to cuddle the kid up in my arms and make false promises. Anything to ease his fear but this was his fate. He’d be back soon. I’d already asked about his soul after meeting him the first time. His sister was sixteen. In six years she’d give birth to a baby boy who’d she name after her brother and this soul would return.
“I know but you have to trust me. This is the way life works. You may not remember this life but your soul will always be attached to the ones you love. Your soul will be happy and although you won’t remember, your soul will feel like it’s come home.”
The little boy nodded and set the dinosaur down. “Mommy just left to get me some ice. Can we wait until she comes back? I want to tell her bye,” he choked on that last word.
I nodded and stood back as the door to his room opened. In walked his mother. She was also thinner since my last visit and the sorrow and fear rolling off her was breathtaking. The dark circles under her eyes looked almost as if she were the one dying today.
“Sorry it took so long, baby. I had to go to the next floor to get the ice you like,” she hurried to his side. The wrinkled clothes hung on her frail frame. She was already grieving. She knew. She may have told her son he was going to get better but she knew.
“Mommy,” his weak voice said with more strength than I expected. I watched as the small child reached for his mother’s hand. He was about to comfort her. His body might be young but his soul wasn’t. He had an old soul. One that had seen many lives. At the moment of death the soul began to take over. Even though his mind was that of a five year old his soul knew that his mother needed him to be strong right now.
“I love you,” he said and a sob rattled her body. I wanted to hug her to help ease her pain but I couldn’t. Death wasn’t meant to comfort.
“I love you too sweet boy,” she whispered squeezing his small hand in hers.
“I’ll never really go away okay. Don’t be sad.”
He tried as so many others had to explain to the ones they were leaving behind that they would return. But like all humans she began weeping and shaking her head in denial. Facing the loss of her little boy was too much for her mind to comprehend.
“Don’t talk like that baby. We’re going to fight this,” she said with a fierceness only a desperate mother could muster at a time like this.
“No mommy. I need to go now but I promise, I’ll always be here.”
I stepped up beside him as his mother covered his small body with hers. His small hand reached out to mine and I grasped it. He nodded and I took his soul.
“You always summon me for the tough ones. Why is that? Hmmmm? Cause your girlfriend likes me so you’re getting back at me?” Gee grumbled as she strutted into the hospital room.
“This isn’t about you Gee. It’s about the kid. Take his soul now. He doesn’t need to see the rest. He needs to go on up.”
Gee glanced down at the mother weeping over the body that had once housed the soul. Her sobs were getting more intense and the nurses began rushing into the room shouting. Immediately Gee took the soul’s hand and left without another word. She might be a pain in my ass but she wasn’t heartless. That’s why I always sent for her when it was a death like this one. With one last glance back at the grieving mother I left the room. She’d love her grandson one day and hold him close to her as she told him all about his uncle. The soul might not remember that life but he’d know what a fighter his uncle had been and that the life he’d only experienced for a short time would never be forgotten. His next life he’d grow old with his own grandchildren to tell stories to.