Two nights after Kaylee found out about Henri, we realized that a single bed just really wasn’t cuttin’ it. I kept knockin’ him off the edge every morning. There was no room for a bigger bed so I took money out of my savings and soon construction started on making my little home bigger. Henri and I spent time out in the woods while the workers were there since we figured it wouldn’t be pleasant for them to be seein’ a ghost. During this time, I started relaxing more and getting my head wrapped around what was goin’ on. And what the future may hold.
“Will marriage work?” I asked one day while stretched out on my back, starin’ up at the sky. “I mean, you’re kinda… dead…”
Henri was on his belly next to me, running his fingers up and down my arm like he used to. “I don’t see why not, we just leave out the ’till death do us part’,” he teased.
I made a face. “I still need to tell my family. First.”
“So we are getting married?” he asked, looking at me with the sweetest smile.
“If you’ll have me,” I replied, proppin’ myself up on my elbows.
He ducked his head, plucking a blade of grass out of the ground. “Yes,” he said and I grinned. “But… that’s the honeymoon.”
I groaned and flopped back. “Perv,” I muttered, but I couldn’t help but grin. Marriage! Me and Henri. Married. My insides went wild at that thought and I decided to tell my daddies the next day.
“I am glad you told us, sweetheart, I knew you and Kaylee had something going on… I figured you’d tell us soon. I am… well, honestly more shocked than anything. But… I think breaking it to us gently would have been a bit… easier on Seb.”
I felt terrible, watchin’ Daddy carefully pat Mom’s face with a cold cloth. “I’m sorry. I got overexcited.” Okay coming in with Henri in tow and shouting that he and I were gettin’ married maybe have been a bit–sudden. “Will he be okay? Should I call an ambulance?”
“He’ll be fine,” Dad said and sure enough a moment later Mom opened his eyes, moaning a bit. “Sweetie, are you all right?” he asked, leanin’ in close.
“Serenity,” Mom croaked. “Did she…?”
“And… is she… engaged…?”
Mom sat up and stared at Henri who had been hoverin’ near the back of the room. “Henri,” Mom whispered. “You really are… a ghost…??”
“Yes sir,” Hen said, lookin’ real nervous. “It’s, um, a rather long story. But I was, erm, brought to this sort of half-life stage and well, brought back to Sen. I–I am sorry she broke it to you so suddenly.” Hen glared at me and I blushed.
“I’m sorry!” I said, spreadin’ my hands out. “I guess I just sort of panicked. Are you really okay, Mom? I’m sorry…”
Of course they both had questions and we answered as best we could, and after we talked a while, finding out what was going on at my home, they offered to let us stay here so we could each have our own bed. “Since the only one living here now is Kaylee,” Mom said. “Serenity, you can either share with her or take the boys’ old room. Henri you could have the guest room.”
The message was clear: we weren’t allowed to share. I was tryin’ not to giggle. Hen was blushing, at least I think he was. Sometimes it was hard to tell. He didn’t really have blood to rush to his face but he did get this look. It was so cute. “Thanks Mom but I think we’ll be okay, it shouldn’t take too long to get everything built.”
“If you want to, I think it would be a nice idea,” Henri piped up. “That way you two can get a bit more used to me being, y’know, dead and all. Plus falling out of bed every morning for a few weeks isn’t my idea of the best of times.”
“Falling out of bed?” Dad asked and we both went silent. Then I reddened and tried to think of an excuse but then remembered: I was an adult!!
“We’re sharing my single bed,” I said, tryin’ to look all cool about it. Both my dads felt a bit annoyed but were able to keep it under control. If you want to stay here, Hen, that’s probably a good idea. Hen and I can just share the guest room, if that’s okay.”
Dad opened then closed his mouth. “All right,” Mom said, smiling. He elbowed Dad who grumbled something that might have been an ‘okay’. I could tell easily why Mom was a little nicer about it. He wasn’t a virgin when he got married. At least, that’s what I assumed from how he felt. EW. “We’ll get the room ready.”
“Then I guess Hen and I will go get our–well, my stuff,” I said, standin’ up. “Maybe we can invite Duncan, River, and Jack over tomorrow night for dinner. When is Mal coming home? Will he be here soon?”
“This weekend, actually,” Dad said. “And Simon’s supposed to be here in a week or two. When are you two, er…” He trailed off and frowned.
“I’m not sure,” I said with a shrug. “I only proposed to him yesterday. We haven’t really talked about it. Hen, you wanna come with me?”
“Sure, I’ll help,” he said. “I can carry stuff to your truck.”
“You man, you.”
It was nice, real nice, sharin’ a big bed and oh my gosh that first night was bad. I wanted to be with him but with my daddies sleepin’ right above us, all we did was snuggle up and go to sleep. In the morning, he stayed firmly by my side. No knockin’ him off the edge which I know he was happy about. Breakfast was interesting, since Hen and I had grabbed some food by ourselves the night before this was the first time my dads got to see him eat. I think they were a bit interested at seein’ how normal it was.
Henri stayed with my dads as I went to take care of the horses. Since it had been a couple days, I saddled up each of them and took them on a short ride. I also set up the practice jumps for Night and Storm. There was a show comin’ up which I knew I should go and win. Put money back in the bank. I just wished it was easier for the horses to be around Henri. Maybe one day they would get used to it. I certainly hoped so, so he and I could go on rides together.
“You’ll be all right, won’t you?” I asked, pattin’ Storm’s neck. He whinnied and kicked up his hooves. I laughed and urged him to go a bit faster which he gladly did. Sometimes I wondered if I should get a professional jockey and put Storm in a race but I really didn’t care, and I didn’t think Storm cared as long as he could run with me which I certainly let him do. It was fun galloping across the land, hair streamin’ back, Storm’s powerful legs churning up the dirt… It was wonderful.
Dinner was awkward, since of course my nieces were there. Thankfully Kaylee was there since she pretty much made any situation better. Duncan was beyond shocked, and I was glad River wasn’t closer to her due date–even so, I was afraid I had sent her into labor from the frightened looks she was giving. Jack looked just as shocked, and stunned. He had never met Henri in the first place. The little girls didn’t seem too scared of Henri, just fascinated with being able to see through him.
“Ghost?” Amy asked when the word came up.
“That’s right, your Uncle Henri is a ghost,” I said, puttin’ a hand on Henri’s arm.
Amy scrunched up her face and looked at Henri who smiled. “Ungle Ohnwi,” she said, trying to say the words right.
“No ghof!” Kelsey shrieked, suddenly fearing him. She reached for Jack who picked her up. “No ghof, no!”
Jack hugged his daughter tightly. “It’s okay, sweetie, Henri is a good ghost. Remember the Red Shoes movie? There is a good witch and a bad witch. There are good ghosts, and bad ghosts, and Henri is a good ghost.” He looked up and gave us a small, anxious smile. “She loves ‘The Wizard Of Oz’,” he added as an explanation.
“Goo’ ghof?” Kelsey asked.
“Ungle Ownwi good,” Amy said with a nod. She got to her feet and toddled over, puttin’ her hands out to Henri. “UP!” she demanded.
Henri obliged her and Amy shrieked with laughter as she was lifted into the airs. She looked down at his hands and marveled that she could see herself through them. “Kel-Kel up!” Kelsey ordered, seeing that her cousin was fine. Henri obeyed her and held both his future nieces in his arms. I grinned, my heart surgin’ a bit as… he looked so nice holding babies that it really made me look forward to the day that we had our own.
“I guess I should say congratulations,” Duncan muttered, rubbin’ the back of his head. “Being… whatever you are, and… getting engaged… to my sister…” He pressed his lips tightly together and I could feel how angry he was. Protective. I wanted to point out to him I was an adult, but he felt the same way about Jack ‘stealing’ River and I knew he’d be mad at whomever ‘stole’ Kaylee. I just wondered how he’d feel if he knew she–well, technically she hadn’t told me yet but I suspected she knew I knew. I wanted to tell her how happy I was she had someone but the congratulations would have to wait until she actually informed us of her relationship.
While Henri played with the girls, Duncan pulled me aside. “Are you guys going to be going to France? To tell his father?”
I shrugged then wrapped my arms around myself. “I don’t know. It’s up to him. He–he thinks it might be too hard on his father, but we both know Dr. Laroche should know. Of course–knowing that one day Henri will die again…” I ran my fingers through my hair. “Though there is the fact Henri now has a life, or a mostly-life.” I stared at my now-fiance and frowned. What should we do? It was only right to tell Dr. Laroche. Perhaps with my winnings of the next show, we could go to France though I had no clue how we’d get Henri on a plane.
Grandma was the next to know, and except for when my maternal dad fainted, she took it the worst. We broke it to her very slowly and carefully, and afterwards she needed to lie down. Henri stayed in the other room while I sat with her, holdin’ her hand and feeling real scared I had killed her. But before long she opened her eyes and stared at me. The hardest part was the tinge of jealousy she felt deep down inside her, that I had my man and hers was still gone. I knew it wasn’t a feelin’ she liked to have and if Grandpa had been brought back instead of Henri, I knew deep down inside of me I’d have the same feeling.
“I am so sorry, Grandma, I didn’t mean to–to freak you out so much…”
“I shouldn’t be so surprised,” she finally said. “I’ve seen weirder.”
“Have you?” I asked with a smile. “Your time in the labs?”
She nodded and then closed her eyes tightly again. “A living person’s soul being put into a doll is at least as strange as a ghost.”
Suddenly she sat straight up. “The Reddings didn’t have anything to do with this, did they?”
“The…?” I blinked and then quickly shook my head. “No Grams, don’t worry. They had nothing to do with this. It was a man from the future, who fell in love with a ghost, and some genies.”
Grandma stared at me and then began laughing, hard. I raised my eyebrows then began laughing as well, realizing how absurd what I just said really was. “Forget I said anything about a doll!” she shrieked, clutching her sides as she laughed even more.
“It is so crazy! But it’s true!” Soon my sides were hurting and we both just grinned at each other.
“I’m so happy for you, hun. I really am. It’s been so long since I’ve seen you this happy. And a wedding, you said! All my grandkids running off and getting married and popping out babies. Making me feel like an old woman.”
I squeezed her hand. “You’re not that old, Grams.”
“Yes I am,” she said flatly. “Don’t lie to me like that. I’m in my eighties. If that’s not old, then what–” She stopped and closed her eyes again. “Pffft, of course, compared to those two, I’m as young as ever.”
“Those two?” I inquired.
“The Reddings. They must be at least a hundred and fifty! When you get to be my age, remember how old they must be, and you’ll feel young again.” Grandma smiled at me and I smiled back. She didn’t feel young, though. Inside. She knew she was getting up there in age and I knew–it wouldn’t be much longer until she joined Grandpa.
“I love you, Grandma,” I said, wrappin’ my arms around her and hugging tightly.
“I love you too, sweetheart,” she whispered, kissing the side of my head. “River wasn’t tall enough but–but if you really want my old wedding gown… then feel free.”
My eyes got a bit watery at that and I clutched her hands. “Thank you. I wouldn’t want to wear anything else.”
“That’s your honeymoon, dear.”
“We have to tell him, Hen. We can’t not tell him. He’s your father.”
Hen squirmed and looked down. “How can I tell him that I am half-alive and my mother–my mother is still gone? How can I tell him, I came back for you?”
I stood up, foldin’ my arms. “I don’t care how, but the point is we do have to. I am going to book a flight to France at the end of the month. I don’t know how we’ll get you there–“
“We can’t,” he said simply. “I can’t exactly go through customs and what, you want me to sit in luggage the entire time?”
“It seems to me you are just looking for excuses,” I said and when he was silent, my arms fell. “Hen! You are? But why?”
“What if he hates me?!” Hen suddenly yelled. “My father is so grounded in what is real, and the living, and helping the living–how is he going to deal with his son being a ghost? He despises superstition, he doesn’t believe in magic or anything. What if he turns me away, what if he’s sickened by the sight of me?”
He slumped down on the bed and put his head in his hands. “I couldn’t bear that!”
I sat down, slidin’ my arms around him. “Your father will love you no matter what. Ghost or not. He loved you so much, and still loves you.”
“He’s moved on,” Henri whispered. “He’s remarried.”
I gulped and my arms involuntarily tightened around him. “How do you know?”
“He came to the mausoleum ages ago–or maybe now. I don’t remember.” Henri rubbed his forehead. “I don’t know how many years I had been in there. I’d say maybe… three? Ish? So seven years ago–he came in and told my mother that he had met a wife, he brought her there. She put flowers by my mother’s urn and by mine. She told me she had seen pictures of me, and that she wished she could have met me. They got married. Papa–my father–came by after that… a couple years… maybe five years ago now, saying she was pregnant. That they were going to have a son.”
Henri put his face in his hands and began weeping. I clung to him and whispered, “He still loves you, darling–“
“I know he does!” Hen gasped. “But how can I do this to him? How can I go back to him, with his wife and their son and possibly another child by now and say ‘Hey papa, I am a ghost now’! How can I do that to him? He couldn’t let go of my mother until I was gone. He couldn’t, and I don’t want to go running there and possibly causing problems. I know… I know he should know but… I’m scared of what might happen if he does.”
I held him, kissing his hair and lettin’ him cry on my chest. I tried to imagine if I was in a situation like that. I couldn’t even, it was hard enough to think of what I would do if I had been with someone else when Henri came back to me. That was different, of course, but still a scary thought. And if I had loved someone who died, and we had a child who died, and that child came back into my life after I started a new family… it would be hard, at the least. It would make things difficult, but not impossible, to get through.
“All right,” I said after getting up and pacing for a moment. “We won’t go to France until you’re ready.”
The money I won a couple weeks later was put into the bank for my wedding, which was going to happen after the house was done. Which was going to be soon, and I wound up having to call Simon and askin’ him to come home before he had planned on it. I didn’t tell him exactly why, just hinted there was something big going on. Mal took the news in a different way than everyone else: after shrieking, he pushed at Henri’s middle until his arm went right through. “Cool,” he said.
“Get your hand out of him!” I snarled. “That’s not nice!”
“It doesn’t hurt him, does it?” Mal asked.
“No, I am fine,” Henri said.
“THAT ISN’T THE POINT!” I grabbed my brother and hauled him back. Mal giggled, Henri grinned, and I glared. “Brat.”
Not long after, Simon was home and like most everyone was in shock for a while then accepted it, with a hint of annoyance. Seriously, why were brothers so damn protective? Kaylee, River and I were all fine! Of course… I had felt annoyed at almost all of Duncan’s girlfriends… and wary of Jack marrying River… and sometimes checked in on how Kaylee was doing with hers… but that was different completely.
I felt sick and all jumbled up the mornin’ of my wedding. As soon as I woke up, I drove out to my home to take care of the horses. Even though the house was done, Henri and I were still stayin’ with my daddies until… well, this night. My wedding night. I was lookin’ forward to it, but a bit anxious about what was going to be happenin’ between then and now. A small wedding, just the immediate family of course. My daddies, three brothers, two sisters, one in-law, two nieces, Grandma, two aunts, two uncles, and twelve cousins–okay, maybe not so small. Why did my family have such big… well, families? My daddies, six kids! Aunt Vi and Uncle Claude: five kids. Uncle Zari and Aunt Julie: seven kids. Sheesh. Whatever happened to 2.5?
I returned to my childhood home and began gettin’ ready. Kaylee and River–a very pregnant River at this point–were helping me. I knew somewhere in the house Duncan was helping Henri. Grouchily helping him. I wondered if Henri had gotten a suit, as he still had trouble changing his clothes. He managed nakedness, to shower, but I had not seen him in anything other than the one outfit.
“You look beautiful,” Kaylee said, fixin’ my hair.
“I can’t believe you’re getting married!” giggled River.
“Me either.” I rubbed my stomach and tried to ignore my nerves. I was ready for this.
I felt like a lucky girl as I had two daddies to walk me down the aisle, one on each arm. They both gave me kisses and then handed me over to Henri. He held my hand and I held his tightly, smilin’ at his transparent visage. He had managed to get changed into a suit, and he looked so handsome…
We were also lucky we didn’t need to convince an officiator to marry us, as one of my cousins was officially an officiator. Cousin Nick, Uncle Zari and Aunt Julie’s second eldest. He began the ceremony and the words were rushin’ into my head and I felt dizzy. In fact, I began to feel even dizzier and suddenly I wanted to faint. I tried to throw up my shields but it was too late. All I could think of before faintin’ was, Watcher I am so stupid.