The music and dancing attracted the other ghosts and they were watching in interest. Several inspected the CD player but didn’t touch it. Enola was giving me a look and I realized I was still frozen from the kiss Ruth gave me. Slowly my ghost muscles loosened and my body slumped a bit. I began breathing again.
I squeaked and jumped, looking sideways at a smirking Thomas. “Um… y-yes… I… I… yes.” I began fidgeting, uncomfortable at the looks both he and Enola had on their faces. “Wh… what? What’s s-so amusing?”
“You look so panicked,” Thomas sniggered, smacking my back so hard that I stumbled. “It’s rather adorable. Sure you’re fifteen and not five?”
“Oh! Let the boy go,” Enola complained, edging her way between me and Thomas. “Like you were any different when you got your first kiss. Boys are all the same. Talk the talk, but then they’re deer in a headlight when it comes to the walk.”
“I walked the walk as much as I talked the talk, thank you very much. I got my first kiss when I was a lot younger than fifteen, too. Mind you, I was the one doing the kissing.”
“I’m sure she was doing the running away.”
I smiled at the sound of them arguing, going closer to Ruth who was still dancing. She grinned at me then wiggled her finger to ask me to join. I shook my head. She nodded and wiggled again and I began backing up. Ruth shrugged then began laughing loudly as she danced, her head tipped back. I was so happy to have made her happy but the kiss sort of…well, they were right. I was freaked out.I had never been kissed before and I had never expected that to… to happen. And just like that, it was out of no where! Maybe–maybe someone more experienced with being around other people might’ve expected it.
What do I do now? I stared at her, her joy of dancing. Does this change anything? Surely it doesn’t. I thought of all the movies I had seen, of the guy and girl kissing and falling in love. Did this mean Ruth and I…? Yuck! Kissing was gross. Maybe… not quite as gross as I once thought it was… but still, pretty gross.
“Chance!” Ruth called out, snapping me out of my thoughts. “Come dance with me, please? It’s so much better with a partner.”
“Really… Ruth–I–I just don’t know–“
“I can teach you, Chance-y. And it is oh so much better with a partner. Don’t be such a flat tire! It’s not hard to learn! Please? Baby?”
“Aw, go on. Baby.” Thomas gave me a shove and I stumbled into Ruth’s arms.
She swung me out and grabbed my hands. “Just follow my gams, baby.”
“I d-d-don’t even know what a gam is!”
For the next several hours, she taught me about her style of dancing which even for a ghost was a bit tiring. It was like nothing I had ever dealt with before. I had seen dancing on TV, and Miracle liked to dance to music but this was just–so wildly different. She let me take breaks though, and I just watched her. Other ghosts danced a bit too, and several asked me to get a certain music group or a piece of music. Many of them wanted to know how I got all this and I just shrugged.
Finally it was close to dawn, and Ruth and I went over to her grave. “Chance, this has been one of the best nights of my death. I have never been so… happy. I feel…” She raised her hands then slowly put them against her chest. “Fulfilled. Goodbye, Chance.”
“What?!” I gasped then noticed she was fading. “N–no! Ruth–what?!”
“Goodbye, Chance! Thank you for this. Never forget me. Goodbye. Goodbye!”
“No–Ruth–please–no! I didn’t… I didn’t mean…” I could see through her very well by now and felt like crying. “Ruth, I’m–I’m sorry, I didn’t think this would–c-cause you to… to move… Ruth!”
Suddenly she was her normal vivid color again, and laughing hysterically. “OH THAT WAS THE BERRIES!” she shrieked. “THE LOOK ON YOUR FACE! AAAAHAHAHAHA!” She doubled over, slapping her knees and clutching her sides.
My fearful look changed into one of annoyance. “Ruth!!! That was NOT funny!”
“You should have seen it! ‘Oh Ruth, no!’ ahaha oh that was simply gut-splitting! Darling! Ohhh I’m sorry but–I simply could not resist such a marvelous prank!” She straightened up, giggling still at the scowl on my face. “Baby. Forgive me? You must confess, it was such a prank!”
“I really thought you were going over to the other side!” I pouted, stomping one foot. “You’re my friend! I thought–I thought–“
“I know.” She leaned in very close, fingers brushing my cheek. “You don’t know how it makes me feel to see how much you do care and what losing me would mean to you. Forgive the old girl, eh?”
I folded my arms, trying to give my best hurt glare but she merely beamed so I knew I was only succeeding in looking cute. “You’re my first real friend. Of course losing you would be, uh, devastating.” I sighed. “I forgive you. If it hadn’t been–been to me, it would have been super funny… yeah.”
She smirked now. “You are so copacetic.”
“I think that’s a good thing,” I said with a bit of a laugh laugh.
“It is.” She touched my cheek again and then leaned in. I panicked and pulled back. Ruth raised her eyebrows. “What’s wrong?”
“Uhhh, n-nothing…” She stepped closer and I backed up some more. “Good n-night, Ruth. Um…g-good morning. I mean. Um.” I kept backing up for several, several feet until I was against the mausoleum. She was still right in front of me. “Sleep well.”
“Are you afraid of me, baby?” she asked, stroking my cheek.
I shivered. “Ahhh–no. No. Why?”
“Then kiss me.”
“Wh… whaa…” I couldn’t breathe very well now. In a weird way. My chest felt very weird and my stomach did too. “I’m… n-not… a kissing… type. I’m… more… of a… laughing… type. Ahh!”
She was kissing me again, hands holding my head in place like before. My arms began flailing and I tried to get away from her. We struggled for a moment then I fell back into the building behind me. I clutched my chest with one hand and covered my mouth with my other hand as I gulped and gasped. I heard Ruth giggling and she floated in beside me. I jumped and prepared to defend myself against another attack.
“Good night, darling.” She blew me a kiss then floated out. I followed suit and saw her slipping into her grave.
I began dizzily floating towards my guest grave. I had no idea what to do about this. It was all happening so… so fast. Maybe the best thing to do was to forget about it. Pretend it didn’t happen. A kiss wasn’t… just… She was grateful. Maybe girls in her era showed gratitude by kissing the lips, and I would just… explain to her… that a hug was just fine.
“Morning, darling. Or evening. Whichever works. Come on, I want to hear the music some more–I want to dance! Where did you put it?”
I got out of the grave, rubbing my eyes and yawning. Ruth was hovering a foot or so off ground, trembling. “I buried it,” I responded. “I couldn’t risk someone living stumbling ‘cross it during the day.”
“Unbury it!” She tugged at my arm. “Play the music. I must dance.”
“Yes, yes, of course.” I got my arm free and went over to the bushes where I had buried it in the box it came in. Ruth hovered over me as I pulled it out. She voiced her fears it wouldn’t work but I assured her it should be fine. I got it out of the box and turned it on. Music came out and Ruth squealed, bouncing happily. I felt her hands on me as she pulled me out. “N-no, Ruth…”
“Please dance with me. It’s so much fun with a partner. Oh! I do wish I had my card still but I died without. If I had a card, your name would be at the top.” Her hands went onto my shoulders. “You shall be the only name on my dance card now. Please.”
I once again spent most the night dancing with her. We did a lot of slow dances this time, her arms wrapped tight around me, her eyes close, her lips in a smile. I sometime feared she’d try to kiss me again but she didn’t that night. When dawn came, she retired to her grave with a happy sigh. Then following night we didn’t dance the entire time, she seemed to be a lot calmer. We danced for a couple hours–well, she did, I only danced a few times, wondering how people could spend so much time doing this.
“Isn’t it just wonderful, Chance?” she sighed when we finally took a break.
“The, uh, bee’s knees,” I replied.
She giggled and leaned against me. “Silly. You know, for so long I never really did much just sort of… did nothing. I really was dead. But now… it almost feels like I’m living again. Not just the music. But… you.”
And she was kissing me again. I stiffened up, wondering if I should try to pull away or just let her get it over with. It wasn’t terrible, really. Not as… disgusting as I once thought. But it was really, really, really weird and kinda uncomfortable. Once her lips were off mine, she was staring intently at me. I gulped. She… wanted me to say something? What the heck did I say? I tried to think of something, but she spoke first.
“N-neck?” She was on me before I could stop her, kissing with a lot more intensity than before. I felt like I just got jumped on by a wild animal that was going to eat me alive! Or… dead… or… whatever it was I was. I began flailing, trying to get her away but she holding my body tight with one arm, her hand planted firmly on the back of my head, face on mine. “Mmmmph!” I managed to push her away finally and she grinned at me. “Ah–ah–ah–“
“You’re so–what’s the word? Adorable? You know, if we were both alive, I sure wouldn’t mind being handcuffed to you.”
“H–what?” She ran her fingers through my hair and I shifted back away from her. “R-Ruth, uhhh, I don’t think–I’m not really–I don’t think I’m r-ready for–um–kissing–or neck–or whatever. P-please…”
“What sort of fellow doesn’t want to neck?” she demanded. “I’m your gal, aren’t I?”
“And you’re my fellow, aren’t cha?”
“Nifty. Now pipe down.” She started to come in again for a kiss and I jerked back. “Chance?”
“Let’s dance some more!” I offered my hands hopefully and she just gave me an amused look. “I want to dance. Teach me something else.”
“Another dance?” She held onto my hands then pulled them back around her waist. Then her hands looped up to my shoulders, and she kissed me. “This is a fine dance.” And then again. And would again, but I ducked down and stumbled back. Ruth blinked, putting her hands on her hips. “What’s all this?”
“I’m f-fifteen, I’m not–ready–for a gal!” I protested. “I’m not–I’ve never–you–“
“I’m your first?” she asked, eyes going real big. “In life and death?”
“Ever. Ever, ever. And I’m not–“
“Oh Chance!” She flung her arms around me again but this time she was just hugging me, thankfully. “You’re just such a sweet guy. I just knew you were something special. I’ve always wanted someone like you. I only ever ran with older fellows, never someone younger. It’s so–such an adventure! Don’t worry, darling, I’ll be gentle.”
“I NEED TO GO TO THE BATHROOM!” I took off flying as fast as I possibly could, swinging around the mausoleum. I pressed against the stone, panting for air. What the heck was going on? What was all this–fellow and gal thing? And the kissing? I rubbed my eyes and wondered if I could hide out somewhere until she calmed down. Obviously she was just… overtaken or something. Out of her mind. It was like a video game. Possessed by something, or a love spell or whatever. It would pass. Right?
What if she really has feelings for you…? Like Mira and the guys she’s been out with? I pushed my hair back and then slid to my butt, sitting on the ground. So this matter about fellows and gals, she thinks we’re dating? Are we dating? I thought of Miracle and how much she was happy with dating. If I told Ruth we weren’t then she’d be like Mira after her first breakup, probably. And then what? I liked Ruth. A lot. Did that mean I liked-liked her in the way of dating? How was I supposed to tell the difference between dating-like and friend-like? Damnitall why wasn’t there a handbook or something for this sort of thing?!
Well… I spent lots of time with her. I liked being around her. I wanted her to be happy. But–the same could be said about my own sister. This was so confusing! I needed to talk to someone but… who could I talk to? I didn’t think another ghost was the right choice but my family wasn’t supposed to show up for a couple more days… so another ghost had to be it. But who? Thomas? He seemed to think it was funny I was so new to all this sort of thing. Enola? Someone else? Maybe one of the other ghosts would be best. But who?
I cautiously looked around the building. Ruth was pounding at the CD player trying to get it to start. I bit my bottom lip and went over.”Uh–hey, Um, I have something I need to do so… uh… here.” I poked the play button and she smiled. “I’ll be back in, um, a bit.”
“All right, darling.” She blew me a kiss then began dancing.
I went across the pond and gazed around, trying to figure out who to talk to. Finally I decided on Richard Pier, a guy not too terribly older than me–just ten years–who had died in a car accident. He wasn’t always around but tonight he was, so I went over and sort of hovered nearby until he looked my way. “Hi,” I said.
“Hey, uhhhhh, Charlie, right?”
“Chance,” I said with a smile. “Do you mind if I ask you something? Some advice? About… um, girls?”
He began grinning back now. “Sure. I’m a bit of an expert on girls, if I do say so myself. What do you need?”
I toed the ground, kicking up a bit of dirt. “How do you know if you and a girl are, um, good to date?”
“I… don’t understand.”
“Ruth–I think she wants to date me.” I turned my head to indicate Ruth who was doing the spasm-dancing again. “But… I don’t know. I’m–confused. About how this, uh, works. I mean–she’s my friend. We’ve been hanging out for a few weeks. But… uh… I mean…”
Richard laughed. “I get it. How old are you?” he asked and I told him. He began nodding. “Man, I already lost mine by fifteen.”
“Lost your what?” I asked.
He stared. “Oh. My. Watcher. You uh… must’ve lived a very sheltered life, I’m guessing.”
“You could say that. Why?”
“You uh…” He looked at Ruth then back at me. “Go for it. Ruth’s a good choice. Hot girl, tiny boobs though. I think she could… help you.”
I frowned. “But how do I know if I like her? I like her as a friend, but do I like her more? There has to be a difference–doesn’t there? I don’t want to say yeah we’re dating then me not actually like her, but–“
He put his hands on my shoulders and gripped firmly. “Listen here. That’s part of dating. Gettin’ to know a girl. You’re dead now so there’s no risk of anything. Have fun. Okay?”
I bowed my head. Not exactly the advice I was thinking I’d get but I suppose it made sense… Er, I think. But maybe yeah that was part of dating. Getting to know her. But what about the kissing? I wasn’t sure how I felt about that–maybe I’d just… grow to get used to it. I was told that before. When I was older… and now I was older. And still unsure. So maybe if I just let things develop I’d grow to… like the kissing.
So Ruth and I became a couple. Which was… weird. It involved a lot of dancing and a lot of kissing. It wasn’t so bad just a bit awkward. It’s not like I hated kissing as much as I once thought I would–it’s just, it wasn’t as awesome as everyone insisted it was. Maybe because I had always been a ghost. All the ghosts that told me how nice it was to kiss, they were once living. All the living people–well, they were alive. Even my father who surely liked kissing, and other married stuff, was once alive to know what it felt like. But not me. Maybe that was why I just felt…
Okay, I felt nothing. I didn’t tell Ruth that. But I really felt nothing. And I suspected it was because I was born a ghost. I didn’t dare tell anyone about it, especially not anyone in the graveyard. When my family visited, I kept my mouth shut about it since I did NOT want them teasing me. I knew they would if they knew I had a girlfriend, and they’d want to know all about her. I wasn’t sure but I had the feeling they wouldn’t really approve of her. I knew Aunt Emma was very anti-smoking, while Ruth was very… anti-anti-smoking. Plus they couldn’t see her at all. That would make a meeting a bit strange. So they didn’t know, but everyone in the graveyard did and they certainly teased me.
“Hey Romeo,” Thomas said one night when Ruth dragged me from my grave. “Going to go disappear for a few hours?”
“Dancing first, as always, then the check gets cashed,” Ruth laughed, holding onto my arm tightly.
“Good thing you kids aren’t alive,” he snorted. “Otherwise Ruth’d be off in the countryside for a few months with–what was it? A weak chest?”
“You–are–AWFUL!” Ruth screeched, right in my ear. “You are a terrible man and deserved something more painful than just old age.” She squeezed my arm tightly. “Don’t mind him, darling, he’s just a pill. A liar, too. You’re awful, Thomas.” She pulled me off to the section of the graveyard where I kept the CD player buried. This time as I dug it up she just stood there with her arms crossed and an annoyed look on her face.
“I’m sorry,” I said, once I got the player out of the box.
“A weak chest?” I turned to face her, eyes wide. She looked even more annoyed. “Is that what caused your death?”
“No. I was poisoned.” She tapped her chest, at the strange glowing globs floating inside her. “That’s what my coloring means, and these things. I was poisoned. Murdered, really. Not a weak chest. Just ignore Thomas, he was being horrible. He was… alluding to something else…”
I had gasped when she said it and took the pause in her words to make sure I heard right. “You were poisoned?”
“Yes.” She sat down on top of a tomb and crossed her legs, fumbling for a cig. “My eighteenth birthday. My parents killed me. I was too much of an embarrassment for their… perfect family.” She tossed her head back as she sucked in a deep breath of smoke. “I was always upsetting and distressing them. The night before I turned eighteen, I snuck out for most the night. I came back home early in the am, and my mother was still up. I thought she’d fly at me but she just told me she was disappointed in me and offered me some tea. I declined but she insisted, said we needed to chat. I relented.” Ruth laughed and kicked her feet through the tombstone. “Resulted in my death. Three sips of the tea, and I died. I think my family told the police it was nerve pills, that I took too many since I was so worried all the time about finding a husband. I was… ossified when I took them, see, and it clouded my judgment.”
I stood still, staring at her. Her own mother poisoned her? It made me want to cry. A few tears did drip down my cheek. I thought of my parents, or at least tried to. It had been so long since I saw them that it was a bit hazy. But I thought of them, and thought of my aunts, and all my family, and how much we all did for one another. “I… I’m so sorry…”
“Chance?” She slid off the tombstone and tipped her head so she could see better into my face. “Darling, stop those tears. No use crying. It was ages ago. I don’t care anymore, you shouldn’t either. No love lost there. It is a shame I left the land of the living so early on but…” She blew out some smoke then kissed my cheek. “Darling, things happen and that’s that. Now we’re together. I’ve got myself a great petting partner. So stop crying and let’s listen to some music while we pet.”
I wiped off my eyes and turned on the CD player. Ruth’s lips were on mine before I could protest, her hands sliding on my chest. I didn’t want to kiss but I knew more than ever she wanted and needed to. She told me her story and said she didn’t care but she did. She wanted to think about something else, and that’s why she was kissing me now instead of dancing. I put my arms around her and held her a bit uncomfortably. After a while, she stopped, put her head onto my shoulder, and cried. I held onto her more tightly then, no longer uncomfortable, grateful I could give her what she needed.