It was well after midnight before William came back. His words were like that sword, cutting into my heart and shattering me to pieces.
“I am most sorry, Chance, but I do not believe we can be together.”
This had to be a dream, or a nightmare. My William–saying this to me? Telling me this? Dropping me like a–a–a—hot potato just because… I was different?
“I think… it would be most… it would….we can not be with one another. It would not be the best thing… for either of us…”
I turned my face towards him, hiccuping slightly as I tried to stop my shaky hands. “You’re dumping me?” I squeaked out.
William looked confused. “Dumping…?”
LEAVING ME! I shrieked in my head. But my voice was barely above a whisper when I said, “L-leaving me, ending our–our–relationship–because I’m d-different?”
His eyes seemed almost soft for a moment and he lifted his hand, then stepped back, his eyes hardening. “Aye. We are not–we should not. Our relationship is best ended.”
“Because I’m different,” I spat out.
“I…” His voice wavered then he snapped his mouth shut, breathing in deeply through his nose as if to steady himself. “Yes. Yes, Chance. We are not. We can never be. I–I am unable to be with you. It is over, and that is all that should be said.”
I drifted forward and slapped him as hard as I could. His face was pushed aside but I doubted I hurt him much. I wanted to tell him I hated him, that he was a jerk and a coward. But all that happened was I sobbed. “How c-could you? How could you?” So much more I wanted to say but I just couldn’t get out.
He gulped. His mouth moved, but no words came out. “Farewell. Ch… Chance…”
“No. Please…no…. c-can’t we at least talk about it?” Surely this was just shock. Nothing but shock, that was it, and we’d talk and laugh and everything would be fine.
“Chance. No. I do not want you.” The words hissed out through his teeth and he backed up as he said them. “Farewell. I will… farewell.” He turned and left me standing near the benches, ghostly tears hitting the ground.
“Yeah… well… you’re… a… JERK!” I covered my face, falling to the ground, and sobbing. This was a nightmare, nothing but a nightmare, this couldn’t be happening, William, my love, my desire, my one true one–he could not be doing this to be, it wasn’t real, it’s not real, it’s not real. Please don’t let this be real…
Worst birthday ever. It was two nights later, and I had not seen any sign of William. I considered trying to approach him in the coffin but was afraid of being shut out. The other ghosts continually stared at me, whispered about me. After the third night, I could not take it anymore. Being here was too much. All I could think of was William and I knew he’d never take me back, he was a JERK-FACE and refusing to accept me because I was different. Well, then that was his problem and I wasn’t going to mope around. I was going to move on. And go back to Sunset Valley.
So I left the graveyard. I headed east, since I knew that was where Sunset Valley was, and I faded into almost nothing so nobody would see me though when I went through the woods I was a little not-quite-as-faded. And I kept going. I felt pretty detached from everything around me and by the time the sun started coming up I wondered if I had done something stupid. My family wasn’t going to visit for a few weeks and I didn’t think I could stand waiting a few weeks in that graveyard. I coulda Drifted but then I woulda missed them coming. And why was the sun rising to my side, shouldn’t it be rising in front of me? Oh crap, had I NOT been going east?
I turned around to face the rising sun and floated along a bit more before I sunk beneath some rocks to sleep through the day. I didn’t really sleep, though. Every time I had tried all I could think was the words William had said. Sure enough this time I barely slept at all and got up before it was quite dark. I drifted away from the setting sun, or I thought I was because after a couple hours when the moon rose it didn’t seem to be in the right spot. I had gotten turned around somehow and I was still in the woods.
Maybe I should go back. Maybe William would change his mind. I curled up under a tree, staring up at the sky as it began lightly drizzling. No. I wasn’t going back to William, and he didn’t love me. If he had dumped me right away in an instant upon the forced realizationness of me being different, maybe. But he actually went and spent a few hours with himself to think about it and he came to the decision that he couldn’t be with me. He didn’t want me back. I didn’t want him anyway.
Okay, so I still loved him so much it hurt. It hurt a LOT. I wanted my family. But I had no clue how to find them. They weren’t going to show up at the graveyard for weeks and I just couldn’t sit in a place full of Williamness for weeks. So, keep going. Where was I though? I got up and started floating again. I tried to keep my eye on the moon but soon it disappeared behind clouds and it began raining heavily. After about half an hour I found myself back at a rock I had rested at not long before. I tried going in a different direction but I knew I was lost. So I threw myself into an empty log, faded into invisibility, and fell asleep.
When I woke up and no idea what night it was. It was raining again. Same night? Different night? Had I Drifted in my sleep? Same night, I decided and began wandering again and after a long time when the night didn’t turn into day I knew it was a different night. I finally emerged from the woods, at the least, and began following a river in the direction I THOUGHT was east but then the clouds drifted off and I saw the moon was setting in the direction I was going. West! Not east! I cussed under my breath and turned out, heading back the way I just came and then going to sleep under the large roots of a tree that stuck out over the water.
“Hey…. hey… hey, man, wake up.”
I felt someone shaking me and I slowly opened my eyes to see a bright yellow face leaning over me. I yelped and jerked, splashing a bit of water. “Wh–who are you?”
“Hey man! Take it easy. Catching zees in the water… not a good idea. Trust me.” He grabbed my wrist and hauled me out onto the land. “What’s your name?”
“Whoaaaa!” he breathed out. “That’s heavy, man. My name’s Larry. Gimme some skin.” He stuck his hand out and I eyed it, assuming he meant a handshake. So I shook his hand and he laughed, flinging an arm around my shoulders, yanking me rather close. “What’s your story, Chance-man?”
“Um, just trying to find the way home…”
“Aren’t we all? Just… a metaphor… for the… journey… we all……” He trailed off, staring up at the sky. I coughed, cleared my throat, then elbowed him. “Huh? Oh sorry man, totally spaced out there!” He laughed and then began pulling me along. “You’re a Wanderer, Chance-man, so take a break before you beat your feet some more! Come on.”
We went up over a hill and I was surprised to see a graveyard there, a small graveyard with maybe a dozen graves. I saw two ghosts that died of old age, and one that looked like me. I opened my mouth in surprise. I looked at Larry then back at the ghosts as we approached the fence.
“Hey everyone, look what I found!” Larry announced but nobody even looked. “Found another ghost!” Still, no one bothered to turn their head. Larry sighed and tightened his arm around me. “Man. These guys are such dip sticks. Up and over!”I felt myself being lifted up over the fence and set down on the other side.
“I could have gone through it,” I pointed out as he hopped the fence.
Larry blinked. “Whoa. Yeah, man. Ghosts can… totally do that…” He laughed and shook his head. “Shine it on, man. Shine it on. Hey guys! Look, we have a Wanderer!”
Now the ghosts turned and they were looking at us–well, me. I was introduced to David Ewing, Jill Fields, and Robin Pierce who was the same type of ghost as I was but he didn’t really seem interested in getting to know me. Larry pointed at two other graves and said they were usually out too. Then he indicated a grave and explained that was where I could ‘crash’. Then Jill came over and floated in front of us, looking unamused.
“How long are you staying with us, Chance?” she asked.
“Um, I dunno, a night or two, while I figure out how to get back to Sunset Valley,” I mumbled, running my fingers through my hair. “Any of you know how?”
“Never heard of it,” Jill said with a shrug.
“Nope,” David said, shaking his head.
“I have no idea where it would be,” put in Robin.
Larry smacked my back. “Don’t be bummed, man. You’ll figure it out and in the mean time, you can hang here. It’s Dullsville, man. I need someone gone.”
“G-gone?” I looked at him.
“Gone, man!” he laughed. “Groovy! You know. Neato.”
“Hey Chance, word of advice.” Jill came over and pried Larry’s hand off of me. “Number one word of advice, cause it seems like you haven’t learned it.” She leaned in close. “Avoid the yellows. Like the milkman.”
“Milk…man?” Was this another planet?
Larry growled. “Ignore these nowheres, real ratty skuzzes. Told you not to call me that name. I don’t like it. Lame, man. Come on, Chance, let’s split Squaresville.”
“Okay, I do not know what you’re talking about,” I said, spinning so I could look him in the eyes–or rather, the sunglasses.
“Nobody does,” Jill muttered. “Just ignore him. Come sit over here with us. You can tell us why you need to get back to Sunset Valley.” She backed up and waved her hand at an old, rather broken bench. “He’s just a yellow,” she added, as if that would help.
I remembered someone saying something about yellows before. I studied Larry as if to try and sort out why he should be avoided, or what was so wrong with being a yellow. He wasn’t electrocuted, I knew that. “How did you die?” I asked, and he frowned while everyone else burst into laughter.
“That tears me, man,” he muttered. “Totally uncool.”
Jill grabbed my arm, laughing even more now. “Nonono! Come on, Milkman, tell him the story! Aw, it’s GREAT! A perfect example of a yellow.”
Larry folded his arms and hunched over. “No. Not funny at all. Don’t be a flake, Chance.”
“He–” Jill started but I pulled away from her.
“If Larry doesn’t want to talk about it, you shouldn’t bring it up,” I said.”I mean, I’ve never met someone… with his… ghost… color so I was curious but–“
“You’ve never met a yellow?” David asked with a snort. “No wonder you’re risking letting him touch you.”
“You’re such a drag,” Larry said, looking very unhappy. Then he turned and went over to the fence, jumping over it and then sitting cross-legged on the ground a little bit away from the tiny graveyard.
I rubbed my head. It had been several days since I last had any contact with anyone and now I was thrown into some sort of war. It was too much. “I think I need some sleep,” I said. Jill started to talk but I went over to the fence, leaning over. “Hey, uh, Larry? Which grave is ok for me to sleep in?”
“You–you’re talking to me?”His eyebrows raised high over his sunglasses. “For real?”
“Uh, yeah. Man.”
“Biiiiig mistake,” I heard someone mutter but I just ignored them, feeling a bit better to see Larry looking so happy. It was almost like… well, like the old graveyard and everyone shunning me and William for being gay. These people were shunning Larry for some reason–for him being a yellow?–and I didn’t like it. I wasn’t going to stay long, but at least I could cheer someone up while I was here. Larry happily pointed me to one of the free graves and promised to wake me up the next night. Then he smacked my back and told me I was a beautiful person, and to not flip my wig.
I curled up in the grave, and tried to push aside the miserable thoughts about William. I tried to ignore the gaping, achy hole in my chest and eventually I fell asleep.
I woke up crying. Nightmares. I had horrible nightmares–of William. Of the fact I was dumped because I was different. I was eighteen and alone now. I had thought–I had really thought he was the one. How stupid was I? Miracle had been right–oh JEEZ, I could imagine the look on her face when I told her that. She was right, she was completely right. I should have never stayed. No. I should have never left Sunset Valley–I should have never left home. This was what happened. I left my cage and I was torn into pieces. My little ghosty heart stomped on and destroyed. Some knight. He was just… just… a horrible… miserable… stupid… jerky… wonderful… perfect…
I burst into tears and curled up even more. Maybe I should just sleep to eternity. Give up. Go into nothing. What did I have here on earth? I wasn’t dead. I wasn’t alive. I was in some sort of freaky middle ground. A freak–that’s what I was. A total freak. I didn’t belong anywhere. Not here, not there–not even home. What was I? Just a burden to my family. I’d have to hide out a lot of times. Not see the light of day–or the dark of night–again, unless I made my family move and I certainly didn’t want to do that.
Maybe I should just be a Wanderer. I wondered if I could ever even find Sunset Valley again, without interacting with the world of the living–which I certainly couldn’t. I was an idiot for leaving the graveyard but I had, and now I was… where? In some tiny graveyard, in some unknown place, surrounded by strangers. And did I really want to go back home? I missed them, but not as much as I thought I would. Should I worry too much about getting home? I knew they’d worry about me.
Ugh my head swam, I was dizzy, I was just–ARGH it was too MUCH! I began crying again. Maybe it’s best if I become a Wanderer. I curled up even more and buried my face in my arms. Maybe… I don’t know. I gave up trying to figure it out, and fell into sleep once more.
Larry kept his promise and woke me up. When I left the grave I noticed everyone giving me strange looks, and a new ghost came over and asked if I was seriously hanging out with ‘the milkman’. I looked at Larry then back at the ghost and nodded. “No one’s given me a reason not to.”
“He’s a yellow,” was the ghost’s the response.
I merely shrugged. That didn’t mean anything to me but the way the ghost said it was a lot like how Mike would say mean words about me and… No don’t think about him… but it was too late, and I felt the tears coming on so I turned and drifted through the fence, stopping on a hill and looking down at the river. Larry followed me, looking out at the river as well.
“Chance-man,” he said, “you seem pretty bummed.”
I debated whether or not to say anything and then finally said, “I was just… dumped…”
“Whoa… that’s a downer.” He adjusted his glasses and tipped his head up to the sky. “I remember the last time I was snuffed. Moonbeam and I… had it going… real… good… stuff. You know? We were real good together and then Moonbeam, he got this… job, see… and… man, everything changed.”
“…he…?” I asked, surprised.
“Yeah, man. Moonbeam, he was… tuff… but man turned out he was a shuck.. I was real torn up… but… but hey, I just see it as… a bump in the road of life.” He lifted his hand and spread it out. “You just have to keep traveling down that road and… well… man, I guess it doesn’t work as well to dead folks.” He laughed and elbowed me. “But getting your heart broke. Man! What a bum trip. Way out there. Totally the pits. I dig ya.”
I blinked. “You know, I have no idea what you’re saying.”
He just laughed. “My jive… it’s from when I was alive, man. I–I just… don’t feel right talking any other way. I can town talk, yeah, but man it don’t feel right. It don’t feel right.”
I decided to switch the conversation–if we were having one. I honestly wasn’t sure. “So you–you’re… gay…?”
Larry rubbed his chin and shrugged. “Nah, Chance-man. Homosexual. Heterosexual.” He spread his arms out. “Skirts and cats all deserve love from Larry!” He then leaned in rather close. “Let me tell you, one night with Larry…” He jerked his hand swiftly through the air. “You’ll forget all about the chick that hurt you.”
Was he…. Oh. Oh dear. Did I have some sort of SIGN on me? Did every graveyard I go to NEED to have someone in there wanting me?! Ruth, fine. Will–oh… William, very fine. But this was ridiculous. I didn’t think he was so much as… asking me out… as asking for… more… well… stuff that… William and I didn’t do until we were really close, but STILL come ON! “Thanks but–but I’ll be fine.” I didn’t really want to hurt him too much. He seemed nice. A bit crazy, but nice.
“Hey, right on, man! Whatever makes you feel good. I say… go for it.”
I looked up at the sky. “I don’t think I’ll ever feel good again. I was hurt. A lot. Very recently. Ummm, within the past month.” Yeah I had no idea what day it was.
“Awwwww man, that’s just… she’s a bomb, man. A total flake.”
“He. And no, he’s wonderful. Brilliant. Totally… the bee’s knees.”
“Mmm. Cat’s meow. Keen.” I sighed, putting my chin in my hands as I thought of William, his arms around me, his stubble brushing against my chin as he lips ran along my face. Mmm. “Perfect.”
“Cat’s meow, man? You totally sound like the rents.” Larry shook his head.
“Parents, man! My mother! She talked a lot like you, it’s creepy. She called my old man ‘bee’s knees’ like… always.”
“I learned those words from a friend who died in the 1920s.”
“Aw, man, yeah totally.” He then turned his body towards me and cocked his head, staring at me in what felt like an intent way though I couldn’t tell cause of the glasses. “You just into cats?”
“Guys, man. Men. The ah, male species of the gender.”
“You mean the male sex of the species?”
He snickered. “Yeah man. You dig my vibes?”
I can’t even. I wasn’t sure if he was even saying real sentences or just throwing in random, made-up words together in an effort to sound like he was trying to talk to me. Ruth’s slang was weird but not like this. “When did you die?” I asked.
He frowned. “How I died?”
“Oh!” That cheered him up. “Yeah. Nineteen… seventy… uhhhh… four. Yeah. Or three. Maybe one. Or five. Somewhere in there.” He paused, his finger still in the air. “Maybe six. Or zero. Something. Yeah. How ’bout you?”
“I never died,” I said, lifting my chin and trying to sound serious and stern, kinda challenging. Yeah challenging. I tried to sound challenging. “I was born a ghost.”
Larry stared at me, then smacked my shoulder. “Totally deep’n heavy man, real groovy.”
“Are you for real?”
“Naw. I just… my personal motto is to go with the flow.” He wavered his hand through the air. “Goooo with the flooow. You know, lil’ Chance-man, I think you’n I are gonna be real tight. I hope you’re staying a while. No one there talks to me but you don’t care that I’m a yellow. I like that. Totally beautiful.”
I looked back up at the sky once more. “Yeah. I’ll stay for a while. I think I’d like that. Maybe some time here will help make some of the pain from my heart torn out go away.”
A light breeze rustled and there was this wonderful second or two of peace where I actually imagined maybe one day feeling better–and then Larry said, “Totally, man. Ol’ Larry will help his friend, anything you want, man, like a… ray of… the uhhh… sun… yeah. Ray of the sun.” So the moment ended and the pain came back into me, but I couldn’t help but giggle. Nice, yes, but Larry really wasn’t the brightest… errrr… how did that saying go? Bulb! Yes, the brightest bulb in the box. Then again… I wasn’t exactly the smartest person around (but not dumb enough to dump someone just because they were DIFFERENT). So this could be interesting.