Two weeks. Fourteen days. Which turned into thirteen days, and then twelve days–which didn’t really count since that night Lindsey-Morganza came to the graveyard again so I had to spend the night with William in his grave so I didn’t get much time to myself to think (just trade stories with him, me talking about video game battlefields and him talking about real battlefields), and then eleven days when Miracle showed up again to talk–and I had to tell her I still hadn’t decided. Ten days. Nine days. I couldn’t decide! What was I supposed to do? Leave? Stay? How could I leave William? But how could I abandon my family? Eight days. Then a week.
“You are troubled,” William said and I shrugged in reply. “Tis been many days. Is it… because of the young maiden who has been bothering you?”
“Um… not exactly. I just have a lot on my mind, I guess. Thinking about… family and that stuff. I guess.”
He pressed his lips against the back of my hand. “I am sorry you have such heavy weights in your mind. Is there anything I can do?”
“No. Just…” I looked up at him and he smiled down. “Are you able to travel?”
He let go of my hand and his face fell. “Oh.” It sounded forced and rather miserable. “I… see. I suppose I should have… accepted this beforehand.”
“Uhh. Accepted what?” I asked.
He floated a little bit away from me, rubbing his chin. “Tis natural. I understand. I… wish… I… desire… ah, no matter.” He turned around to look at me again. “I cannot force you to do what you do not wish to do. All I can do is… ask… you not to… go…”
I whimpered a bit at that. “I don’t know if I will, William. I–I don’t want to.”
“Then why…?” He picked my hands up again and held them close to his chest. “Why would you ask me to leave with you if you are not going?”
“I just–wasn’t sure if you could or not.”
He shook his head at that. “Nay. I am unable to go far from this place…” He still looked in distress though and the distress seemed to grow as he asked, “Wh… why?”
“I was asking, because I wanted to know if you could and if you can’t then…” I trailed off, thinking about my family again. My heart hurt so much, torn in two.
He dropped to his knees, still holding to my hands tightly. “I beseech thee, Chance. Do not leave. I know you are a Wanderer. But please. I–I have such–such–strong–feelings–I–” He was trembling, I could feel his hands shaking over mine. He then put his lips hard against my knuckles. “If tis true a man can love another man…” Now I was shaking. Oh my goodness, OH MY GOODNESS he was about to–was he about to–?! “I do believe my feelings for you are such.”
Now, I didn’t have a body or bones or muscles but my legs went so weak I somehow couldn’t stand or float. I sank down to the ground as well, gaping at him. “You… what…?” I squeaked. “You–you–you–“
“I love you.”
I made several squeaky, gaspy sounds then wrenched my hands free and flung my arms around him. “William!” I shrieked, unfortunately right in his ear. “William! I–you–we–oh William!” I kissed him multiple times in rapid… repeat…ation… and he looked startled by it, but not unhappy.
“You feel the same?” he asked.
“Oh, yes. I mean, I am quite sure of it. I–I love you too.” I kissed him again. Because I did love him. Very much. Very, very much. At least–I was pretty sure I did. What else would this feeling be, if it wasn’t love? It was strong and happy and buzzy and wonderful.
His thumb traced over my chin, onto my cheek. “I am most happy.” He gently kissed me, his lips hardly touching mine. Then he kissed again, harder. Then a third time, with his tongue in my mouth. That shocked me quite a lot, and I felt very buzzy indeed. I writhed a bit as his tongue rubbed against mine and then I gasped when he pulled his tongue out.
“That was–wow.” I put my fingers against my mouth. “Wow.”
But he was kissing my neck now, my jaw, then my lips once more before moving up to my ear. “Please stay,” he whispered in a raspy voice.
“Yes,” I said. “I will.”
“You shall not wander?” He pulled back, cupping my face in his hands. “You will stay? With me?”
“I’ll stay. With you.”
And we were kissing again and he did the tongue thing again and the buzzy feeling was just completely overwhelming. I knew I probably should tell him the whole story. About the fact I wasn’t a Wanderer and just remind him I wasn’t a normal ghost. But now was not the time, really. Maybe later. I didn’t want to do anything to ruin the moment.
My sister fell back onto the hill, right in the dampish grass. She did not look happy at all. I didn’t blame her at all, really. But I did feel very guilty. I waited for her to say something except she didn’t, and didn’t, and then didn’t. I knelt down and looked her in the eyes. She stared from behind her glasses, her eyes a bit glazed.
“Don’t.” She gulped and then messed with her bracelet. “Don’t you dare ‘sis’ me. You’re staying here? You’re freaking staying here?!” She shot to her feet. “Why would that be?”
“William,” I replied honestly.
Her nostrils flared quite a bit. “William. You’re staying miles away from your family because of some guy.”
“You moved miles away from your family cause of some guy,” I pointed out.
She slapped me, or tried to; I wasn’t solid so her hand flew through me. “That’s different!” she snarled. “I brought you with me in any case, because we’re supposed to stick together but I guess we’re not, are we. You’re just… Chance, I really thought you’d… What about everyone? Our aunts and cousins and grandpas? They don’t even know you’re gay. They really should know that. And not from me. Don’t you want to–” She stopped quickly and I studied her face, trying to figure out what she wasn’t saying.
“Want to what?” I asked with a smile.
“Nothing, forget it.”
“No, tell me. Hiding things from me isn’t exactly a great incentive to get me to go back home,” I reminded her.
She bit her bottom lip. “I was just going to say, don’t you want to… introduce… him to… the family. Oh don’t give me that look, I wasn’t thinking.”
“I’m dead. He’s dead.” I folded my arms and raised an eyebrow. “I don’t think that’d exactly be a very festive introduction. Especially since they can’t see him. Or hear him. Or really do anything other than stare at a blank spot in the air and take my word for it that there is a totally cute guy standing there.”
My sister’s lips twitched upwards. “He’s cute?”
“Very,” I giggled. “He’s got long hair, he says he used to wear it pulled back but hasn’t really since–well–since he died. And he’s got some stubble.”
“Mhm!” I beamed at her. “It feels really weird against my skin. I like it.”
“How old is he exactly?”
“Um, seventeen. Well more like, several centuries and seventeen. He died right at the start of the um… fifteenth century.” I frowned and scratched my head. “That’s the 1500s, right?”
“Nooo, that’d be the 1400s. The 1500s is the sixteenth century.”
“Oh, well, that’s when he died. And Mira… he… he… he said he loves me.”
Her head snapped up. “Love?” I nodded. “Love.” I nodded again. “You haven’t known him long… how can you…? That’s just silly!”
“Why is it silly?” I asked, deflating quite a bit.
“You barely know him. He coulda been a murderer for all you know.”
I shrugged. “On the battlefield. He killed some guys. Most medieval knights did. Now, if you’re talking about murder-murder… no, but he’s a victim of it. His brother murdered him. And… and… I love him.” Now she looked very sick. “I do. We’ve known each other long enough. Aunt Kaylee and Aunt Emma fell in love pretty quickly, didn’t they?”
“That’s different. They were adults. You’re…”
I frowned. “Too young and stupid?”
“Young. Easily… susceptible to… lust.”
My arms tightened over my chest. “Lust?” I hissed.
“Chance, my first boyfriend… I insisted I loved him, I thought I loved him so much. But it was all a lie. When you’re a teenager–and young–it’s easily to think it’s love but most the time it’s not. Hardly anyone stays with the first person they ever date.”
“Lucky for me, William’s my second,” I growled, extremely angry about this.
Her hands went to my arms, pressing in a little. “Chance. You’re so young. You can’t honestly think you and William will… stay together…”
“Grandpa and Poppop met when they weren’t much older than I am,” I said, hoping I was remembering right–I wasn’t sure if I was. I couldn’t even really remember their faces that much let alone conversations.
“Yeah well, they didn’t get together until they were like, ancient.”
“Didn’t our mom and dad meet when they were… um, young?” I was struggling to remember now. It was giving me an ache in the head.
“Well, yes, but… Look! This isn’t the point. They weren’t both dead when they met!”
“What’s that got to do with anything? Because we’re ghosts it changes how we feel? Weren’t you the one encouraging me to accept the fact I DID have feelings in the first place? So what… now, it’s different? Now my feelings aren’t normal because I’m a ghost? You can’t have it both ways. Or–Oh, I get it now! My feelings change when you need me to do something. Yes. That’s it. Isn’t it?”
She tried hitting me again and her hand went through. “Damn it, Chance! When did you become so–so–vindictive and bitter?”
“I am not vindictive and bitter!” I backed away from her and then stuck my thumbnail in my mouth. “What’s ‘vindictive’ mean?”
“I care about you. I love you. You’re my brother. I just don’t like the idea of abandoning you here. I just–I want you to be happy, but I want you to be safe. I’m worried here isn’t safe for you if no one else is around. There are–ghost hunters and all sorts of crazy people out there, like that girl stalking you.”
“Make me. I mean… make me… not… er, make me go. Cause you can’t. Cause–I’m not going. I’m staying here, with William. Because I love him. He loves me. I mean… we’ve even slept together a few times…”
Miracle’s jaw dropped and her eyes practically popped out of her skull. “You WHAT? You–you–you–you had sex?”
Now I stared at her, wide-eyed and jaw slightly open. What the heck was she talking about? “Uh–wh–sleeping–what?”
“Sleeping together?” she whispered. “Or did you mean something else?”
“No, it’s what I meant…” I was chewing my thumbnail even more. Sleeping together was sex? I thought sex was–was something else completely. But since guys didn’t… they only had half the parts for that… maybe sleeping together was another form of… sexual activity? I squinted, trying to sort it out. It made sense really. I knew… it was… similar… wasn’t it? Married couples and–and couples slept together so… wow. That–wow. I hadn’t thought of it at the time but my sis was–wow. “Yeah. I–I–I… yeah.”
“Oh–WATCHER!” She grabbed my wrists, holding tightly. “Why didn’t you tell me? When did this happen? How–no, I don’t want to know how. But–when? You’re sixteen! Oh my gosh. Oh REAPER! When?”
“Um… a f-few days ago,” I muttered.
“Jeez. I never… thought you… you! You’re so innocent! I thought you… IT was his idea, wasn’t it? He–lovely. Some medieval knight rides in and just takes advantage of you.”
“It w-was… sort of I guess his idea but… he wasn’t taking advantage of me. I wanted to.” I smiled a bit, remembering snuggling up with him in his coffin and drifting into the deep sleep ghosts seemed to have, his arms around me. Twice now, nights that Lindsey-Morganza visited and we were waiting for her to leave. It was really nice, going to sleep in his arms and waking up in his arms. “It’s really nice and when he–“
“Uuung! Stop right there, I seriously don’t want to hear any more.” She angrily pushed her glasses up. “Okay fine. Stay. But don’t expect me to drop this. I’ll be back soon, with Grandpa and Poppop! If anyone can convince you to leave, they can.” She whirled around and stormed off across the grass. I just watched her go, a lump in my throat which dwindled as I floated as quickly as I could back to the graveyard, where William swept me up in his arms and we kissed long into the night.
A few weeks later, Miracle visited and brought the whole family with her–well, Poppop, Grandpa, and Aunt Kaylee. They all pleaded in their own ways for me to come back with them; Miracle was angry, Aunt Kaylee was miserable, Poppop was worried, and Grandpa was calm. I felt awful for refusing but I tried explaining William to them as best I could. Finally, after quite a long time of arguing, Poppop caved first.
“You really love him?” he asked.
“Yes. He loves me,” I said. “And he can’t go anywhere. So you understand, right? I don’t want to leave him. Don’t I get… the same chance as anyone else at love?”
Miracle opened her mouth but Poppop held up his hand. “Love is hard to find,” he said, moving his other hand to hold onto Grandpa’s hand. “It’s hard for any normal person, I imagine it’s harder for a ghost and harder yet for a gay ghost. I… find it uncomfortable not to be able to meet him. But under the circumstances I understand. I say… you stay.”
“WHAT?!” Miracle and Aunt Kaylee both yelled.
“I agree,” Grandpa said.
“Oh that’s only because you don’t want to upset your husband,” Miracle complained.
Grandpa grinned. “That may be a perk, but no. I really agree. Chance will be seventeen and… I think he should make his own decision over this.”
“Leave him alone. In Appaloosa Plains,” Aunt Kaylee said.
“Yes,” Poppop said with a shrug. “If he were a living person he’d be going to college soon.” He reached out with his free hand to put it on top of my head. “I think you’re old enough to be making this decision.”
“He’s seventeen,” Aunt Kaylee said.
Poppop whirled around. “Yes and when you were seventeen you were living with your sister, taking care of her and the house. By yourself.” Aunt Kaylee’s mouth opened and shut but she then clamped it tightly shut. “It’s very far. But we can visit. And when he’s ready to come home–if he’s ready,” he added quickly, seeing the look on my face, “then we can bring him home.”
“Thank you Poppop!” I wrapped my arms around him, hugging tightly, then hugging Grandpa. “Thank you both. Aunt Kaylee? Mira?” I looked at them hopefully.
“I am his legal guardian,” Aunt Kaylee said, pouting a bit.
“And you’re a wonderful guardian!” I exclaimed. “But kids grow up and I’ve been on my own for a couple years anyway and… I would really appreciate it if you… agreed to let me stay, to be with a really great guy.”
“AUNT KAYLEE!” Miracle shouted, stomping her foot as she often did. “You’re all batshit insane! How would Mom feel with you abandoning her son in the middle of no where?!”
“Miracle.” Grandpa’s voice was dark and scary and full of intense control. Aunt Kaylee flinched, Poppop withdrew a bit, and I resisted the urge to dive into the ground. Miracle held her chin up, the slight tremble in her hands the only evidence of fear. “Your mother gave up her life for love. She spent the years that others would spend partying and having fun and expanding their horizons, at the bedside of a dying boy because of love. She was broken when she lost him. When she got him back, she had to keep it a close secret–as she did your brother. I think that she would understand this. Unhappy? Yes. Most parents are unhappy when their children leave the nest. But she was a pretty damn big advocate for sacrifices for love. Now, your father, and brother, have had to live a secluded lifestyle due to their difference–and your father was able to bear through it because of love. Doesn’t your brother deserve the same?”
There was a subdued silence, and I beamed feeling so very happy. I knew his speech would help and it certainly did because Miracle was mumbling her agreements, and I threw myself at Grandpa hugging him. After a few more minutes of talking and visiting, I gave everyone a hug and said goodbye. It would be a while before I saw any of them. Miracle promised to come visit again next month, if she could, definitely within the next six weeks.
Then they were leaving. I watched them get into the car and head out, feeling really weird about the fact now I really was truly on my own. No visits every couple of nights from Miracle, no news about my family for four to six weeks–unless something happened and then I knew they’d come and tell me. But I was on my own. Really. Except no, not really. I had William.
I turned around and hurriedly floated back to the graveyard. We hadn’t been at our usual dip in the hill since we weren’t sure if Poppop and Grandpa could maneuver well–it was farther down the hill somewhat near a road. Secluded, at least, and flat. It took several minutes to make my way up the hill and back into William’s arms–where I belonged.
Over the next couple of weeks I realized there was a teensy problem with not having Miracle come by often. I lost track of the time. I didn’t really pay attention at first but when I noticed the moon was full again, I wondered how long it had been. How many days between full moons? It was a coupla weeks at the least. Ah well, I thought with a shrug. My sister wasn’t even sure when she’d be visiting anyway. And when she did, I was outside and able to go visit with her. She was a bit pouty and mumbled a couple of times about me coming home but didn’t directly bother me about it, and when I said something about losing track of the days she said she’d help. She brought a calendar the next night and circled the days she’d be visiting.
I was able to keep track with that, marking off a day or two as they went by. Sometimes it was a couple of days as William and I would spend the entire night in his coffin. We were sleeping together a lot now. It was kinda… strange to think of it… that way… but we were, and it was nice. We would snuggle up in the coffin, his arms around me, mine sometimes around him, and drift into a pleasant sleep. Mostly pleasant. Sometimes I’d have nightmares. Nothing like I used to but on the occasional night I’d wake up screaming and crying, and William would tighten his arms around me and kiss below my ear and promise me everything would be fine.
“Everything is fine,” I replied one night, clutching him tightly. “It’s just nightmares.”
“I must be grateful for I have not dreams or nightmares,” he said and I gulped. Did regular ghosts not dream? I couldn’t remember once Ruth ever saying anything about a dream… and William never did either. “Though… mayhap my memories are my good ones and not distasteful ones invading…”
“Memories?” I asked.
“Aye. When I sleep, I often have memories play out in my head.”
I snuggled close to him again, feeling very relieved. He knew I was different but it still kinda worried me if I was too different. I hated being not really living, not really dead. At least I had a place now–at least I had somewhere to be. If not with the living, then with the dead. Even though I was not quite like them, and I hoped my differences wouldn’t ever change that. Of course I had no idea that one day it would. And how badly.