Title: Ghost, a love story
Summary: The dead are always with us.
She’s so beautiful, even after all these years.
Her hair is silver and her face is lined, but her eyes are still bright and her mouth still a cupid’s bow. Her voice has a slight quaver but it still reminds me of syrup over pancakes, husky and warm and soothing. Her hands aren’t as steady as they once where, but she hasn’t wielded a scalpel in years. Nowadays her hands mostly cook and caress her grand-nephews and -nieces, tend her roses and linger over old photographs.
I watch her and she doesn’t know it. I watch her read or garden or watch her beloved old movies. I watch her slowly brush her hair, her eyes far away and dreamy. I watch her eat and sleep and talk, and I marvel at how little she’s changed.
I know when she’s thinking of me. Her smile grows bittersweet and she looks out the window and sighs. Sometimes her fingers will tap the steering wheel to a song only she can hear, but that I recognize. Her grand-nephew Danny reminds her of me, and sometimes he’ll say something or get a look on his face, and I know she’s remembering. I’m glad that she remembers me fondly.
I hate that I can’t touch her. I want to. Her skin is so delicate, her hair is like spun sugar. When she sleeps I kiss her face and tell her how much I miss her. I tell her how I would make things different if I could, and what I will never change. I think, maybe, that I give her good dreams.
Her family worries about her living alone, and she tells them, “I’m never alone. I’ve got too many memories.” She senses me, but of course she doesn’t believe what I really am. I’m just a memory. The memory of my fingers on her back, my lips on her hair, my hand in hers. Remembering I promise I made long, long ago, to never leave her. She doesn’t believe that I’ve kept it.
I wonder sometimes if this is a haunting or if I’m in heaven. Every moment of every day with her. Watching her grow into a satisfied old age, where she is safe and loved and cared for. I wonder if I’m a guardian angel.
Sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself in her mirrors, and it always startles me, how little I’ve changed too. No wings. I guess I’m not an angel, then. It doesn’t seem fair, that she has grown old and I have not. She should be the one eternally young. Clyde Bruckman told her she would never die. I wish it were true.
There’s a picture of us, the one she likes best, that she keeps by her bedside. I don’t remember when it was taken, but it was sunny day, outside on the grass. I’ve got her around her waist and we’re both laughing. We look happy. We look right together.
When I died she held onto my body and scolded me. “Don’t leave me, Mulder. You can’t leave me. I can’t do this alone, Mulder. Fight, Mulder, fight, for me. Please. Please don’t go, Mulder.” But I couldn’t stay. Even for her. My blood was on her hands, on her suit. When the EMTs told her what she already knew, I felt her shut down. Her face went completely still. She turned inward visibly, going to whatever place inside her made my death bearable.
She was so quiet at my funeral. So quiet. She held onto my mother’s hand. She wore black, and didn’t cry. She placed a rose on my coffin, a white one.
She still puts white roses on my grave. Every Saturday she comes. Sometimes she talks to me, always with a look on her face like she feels ridiculous and knows she feels ridiculous, but is also helpless to stop herself.
“Mulder,” she tells me, “I’m still hearing from people from the field, telling me how sorry they are. They treat me like your widow at the office. It’s so strange. I go into the office and still expect you to pop up from behind your desk and tell me some elaborate story about where you’ve been. I miss you all the time.”
“Mulder,” she leans her head against the gravestone. Her shoulders shake with sobs. “Mulder. I need you. I miss you so much. I hate being without you. I miss you. I miss you. I wish I could believe you’re somewhere happy and safe, but I don’t know anymore. I need you. I need to be with you.”
“Mulder, I’m leaving the bureau. I can’t do it on my own. I’ve had job offers in the private sector. I’m staying here in Baltimore. I’m so glad your mother let me bury you here in Maryland. I don’t know what I’d do if she wanted you somewhere else. Or if she’d wanted to cremate you. I’d hate that. Though,” she smiles, “I guess maybe I wouldn’t mind having your ashes on my mantlepiece. In a nice tasteful urn . . . or even a tacky one. From Graceland. With Elvis angels painted on the sides.”
“Mulder, you’re not going to believe this. Skinner proposed. I hardly believe it. I don’t know what to tell him. I care about him but it’s not . . . it’s not a marriage type of caring. We’re both lonely people but . . . oh, I can’t. I can’t. Even to not be alone anymore. It’s not right, not when I don’t love him. It wouldn’t be fair to him. You don’t hate me because I’ve kissed him, do you?” She laughs softly. “No, I guess you wouldn’t. Everyone tells me I should move on . . . I feel that I have, really. I have a job and a house and friends . . . but I can’t leave you behind. My life has two parts: before I knew you, and after. Well, I guess now it has three.”
I send her kisses on the breeze, and she closes her eyes and faces the wind. That’s my Scully. Even when she leans against my gravestone and sobs, she always leaves with straight shoulders and an upright head. I know how weak she feels sometimes, but even at her lowest points she’s still so strong.
I miss her too.
These are the bad days. She wanders around the house, picking up knickknacks and putting them down, until the early hours of the morning. She curls up into her bed and sobs uncontrollably. She flips through the many TV stations for hours on end, not staying on any one station longer than a minute or two. She eats too much ice cream and doesn’t answer the phone. I follow her as she wanders, or I lie down beside her and spread myself over her. I give her what comfort I can.
These are the good days. The children come over, Scullys by the score, filling up the house with noise and laughter and light. They play games in her backyard or tell stories in front of the fireplace, and sometimes she tells them about our crazy days together. They think she’s making much of it up. Or she wakes up smiling, takes a mop and a dustrag to her house, or goes into the garden and gets up to her elbows in seeds and mulch. Sometimes when she’s gardening and I stand nearby, she leans back her head and looks at where I’m standing and I could swear-swear on all that is sacred to me-that she sees me, if only a glimpse of my shadow. But that is why we’re called shades, now, isn’t it?
It didn’t hurt when I died, not like how I thought it would. There was pain, and breathlessness, a dizziness and a blackening of everything around me, and Scully’s voice pleading with me not to leave her. And then there is no pain. I stand on the street and look down at Scully holding my body, and I feel . . . nothing.
That only lasts a moment. My sorrow and regret that I will never be able to do everything with Scully that I’d wanted to, hold her and love her and keep her safe. There wasn’t enough time for me to tell her I love her before I died. My last words were to the suspect who shot me.
But there is peace, too, knowledge that I lived a good life and can move on, if I want. I stand on the street wanting to hold Scully and soothe her tears, and I see Another like me, who holds out his hand to me. He says, It’s time to rest, Fox. His smile is kind.
I go to him and hold him, and he holds me. He says, Come home, Fox. You can come home now.
No, I say, even though I am weeping with joy at his touch. I can’t leave her. And he understands, and leaves me again, through the tunnel of bright whiteness that I am aware of the moment I realize I am dead.
So I stay with Scully. I comfort her as best I can. Sometimes I do things, though there’s little I can do. Open doors. Move pictures. It takes so much concentration and afterwards I’m wiped out. At one of her lowest points I manage t
o pluck a rose from her garden and lay it on her pillow as she sleeps, and have to rest for weeks afterwards. But her smile is worth it. It is the first time she realizes, I think, that she really isn’t alone.
I lie beside her as she sleeps and stroke her silvery hair. “I love you so much. I will never leave you. I love watching you every day, Dana. If I had lived, do you think we’d be together like this?” In her sleep she smiles and turns her face to my touch.
I see others like me all the time. Some are bitter and angry, wanting so badly to still be alive that they go through the motions of their lives, growing more and more frustrated. Some are oblivious to their deaths. Some play tricks on the living, enjoying themselves. And some are like me, just watching over the ones we love because we are helpless to do otherwise.
I see some, too, who make the choice to move on. I do not envy them.
I wonder if it’s true, if there is a circle that souls travel, if when my watch is over Scully and I will move onto the wheel and return here, together again, but different this time. Maybe if we’re together again we’ll really be lovers this time, lovers in body as well as in spirit.
She is tired. It takes her so long to get up in the mornings. When her visitors come she has to rest more often. Her family is worried, and talk about nursing homes or in-house care. She refuses them. She says she’s fine.
Danny, her favorite out of all of them, comes over every day now. He makes sure she has enough to eat and that she’s taking care of herself. She accepts his fussing with good grace, letting him think he’s taking care of her. She’s slower, it’s true, but we both now she is managing.
She is becoming more aware of me, too. She pauses when I stroke her cheek, smiles when I whisper to her. She talks to me more freely, and more often.
“Mulder, I think we should have peaches and cottage cheese for dinner. I’m glad I kept my teeth. Can you imagine having to live on applesauce every day? Or dentures? Yuck.”
“Mulder, I read the most interesting article this morning. There’s some debate about who’s going to run the country while the President gives birth. I never thought I’d see it. I think CNN is going to broadcast the birth. The First Baby. But the Constitution doesn’t cover maternity leave.”
“Mulder, you must know that I don’t regret a thing. You must know that. Not a thing. Well, maybe a few things. . . I regret we never acted on-oh, listen to me. An old woman with too many memories.”
She is so frail. Her family worries about her falling and breaking a hip. She’s taken to using a cane. Sometimes there’s a wavering around her face, and I get the sense that death is close. At night I hold her and tell her she has nothing to fear, that she’s faced this journey before so bravely.
I know she isn’t afraid. Not my Scully.
I come into her bedroom from wandering around, and she smiles at me. Something is different about her today. “Scully?”
“Scully? You-you can see me?”
“Of course I can. Mulder.” She hold out her hands to me. I come to her, I take them. I can touch her, and that makes me gasp, and her laugh. “Mulder,” she says again simply, and kisses me.
“Scully?” I run my hands over her hair. And then I realize what it is. Her hair is red again. Her face is smooth. “Scully, are you-did you-“
“I think I died, Mulder.”
We both look at her bed, where her body quietly lies. She looks asleep. She’s smiling.
And in my arms she’s smiling, too, broadly, joyfully. “Mulder? Let’s go.”
“There.” She points behind me, and I turn. It’s the tunnel. The whiteness. “Are you ready to go?”
“I’m ready. I’ve been ready a long time.”
I hold her face in my hands and kiss her firmly. “I’m ready.”
“I’ve missed you so much.”
“I’ve always been right here.”
“I never want to be apart from you again.”
I look at the light waiting for us. It looks friendly and restful. I kiss her again and say, “I don’t think we will be.”
And then we go.
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