“How is it, Mrs. Penstone can hear if I shut a door just a little louder than usual… but she slept through everything that happened this morning?”
I looked up in surprise. Specter was supposed to have left for work but he came back into the apartment, clutching some mail in his hand. “Huh?”
“Mrs. Penstone. She didn’t hear any of the yelling, or the–” Specter stopped and blushed.
“The sex?” I offered brightly, and he went darker red. “Well… it’s good she didn’t hear that, right? I mean, she doesn’t like the idea of someone staying with you… right?”
“Only young ladies. So… I’m not breaking the rules, I suppose.” Specter gave me a smirky look that made me go all tingly. “See you tonight.”
“Okay…” I watched as he left again, and within moments he was back inside. “Did you forget something?”
“No,” he snarled. “I mean–yes. I did.” He went to the bedroom and then after a few seconds he came back out and left the house. I started to turn on the video game system to play but then Specter came back inside again. I started to ask what he needed but before I could, he was kissing me. Mmmm. I pressed against him all happy with the kissing. Just as I was getting into it, he was pulling away. Wordlessly, he left the house with a slam of the door. This time he didn’t come back in. I grinned and turned to the TV, getting the game started.
I hadn’t slept much. Specter let me share the bed with him (as long as I stayed as far from him as I could get) and he slept but I stayed mostly awake feeling all… dreamy and happy. I was still dreamy and happy. I couldn’t focus on the game very well I kept thinking about Specter. His scowl, his beard, the feel of his lips on mine… mmmmm… I wished he’d get home from work. I wondered what not-really-friends with benefits would be like. It wasn’t going to be like a regular relationship, except I had only had one of those and it was already very different since… Oh! I realized. William and I hadn’t had sex. Sleeping together in the coffin was just… sleeping. Not sex. Hmm.
I want him to kiss me again, I thought. I wanted him to smile again. And laugh. I liked his laugh. His smile, too. He was really nice… and his grumpiness wasn’t really all that bad. I had grown up with someone with a worse temper than that. If I could survive my sister’s anger I could definitely deal with Specter’s. I wonder if we’ll be together again when he gets back from work. I finally gave up trying to play the video game because I was just way too distracted. I drifted around the apartment for a bit, dreaming and wishing he’d come home. I felt lonely. I felt weird. I was just feeling so many feels… it was making me all keyed up, I just didn’t know how to deal with this. I never felt these sorts of things before.
Do I love him…? I sat down on the couch and stared at the blank TV. I thought I had loved William but my feelings for him when he and I were together were very different from the feelings I was having for Specter right now. Was it not love before? Was this not love? Maybe I didn’t love Specter… but I felt this vast feeling that I couldn’t really figure out what it was that I wondered if it was love. It was a lonely, happy, excited, tingly feeling. When I thought about him a lot I got other strange feelings. Down there. It was a lot like when we had… well…
It was just so distracting! And I couldn’t think of anything else except Specter so I did absolutely nothing between the time he left and the time he got back. When the door shut I flew over to him and hugged him. “I missed you!”
“Get off of me, you idiot!” He struggled and pushed until I peeled off of him.
I smiled. “How was work?”
“Why do you care? I hunt ghosts, you shouldn’t care.”
“Oh, s-sorry. I won’t ask… again. Um. Do you want me to fix you something to eat?”
He sat at the bar and dropped a bag of greasy food down. “No. I have something. And work was fine.” He ate some more of the burrito then glowered at me. Had I done something wrong? But no, he just pulled something out of his bag and shoved it towards me. “Is this the sort of thing you like?”
It was a video game, and it looked exactly like the sort of game I liked. Beaming, I hugged the case against my chest. “Yes! I love it!”
“You haven’t even played it yet, idiot.”
“I know, but I know I am going to love it. Thank you so much!” I grinned at him, feeling all warm and just so incredibly happy. If he hated me, if he really hated me, he would not have gotten me this (um, I think) so even though he was glaring and grumbling I knew he had to sorta like me. Or maybe it was just my imagination and I would always just sit here thinking he maybe sorta liked me. I needed to stop worrying about it and accept how things were. Things were good right now. He wasn’t gonna kill me, he wasn’t going to send me in to be experimented on… and I got to find out new things about… er… adult things… which I really enjoyed. A lot. A lot a lot. I kinda wanted to right now, but he was eating so I didn’t dare ask.
“What the hell are you staring at, ghost?”
I jumped, realizing only then I was just watching. “Oh! Um. Nothing.” I shifted and then gathered up the courage which was very difficult to gather. “Let’s go to bed.”
“I’m not tired.”
“Wh–……” I really didn’t think a person could go that shade of red and I was a bit worried I had broken him. Then he pushed away the burrito and grabbed my wrist, dragging me towards the bedroom. Not that I put up any sort of fight.
“Don’t pick up anything tomorrow on the way home.”
“Food. I want to cook you something. Is that ok? I’ll use baggies. Oh! But… does that matter? I mean, you’re covered in my… umm… is that also spiritual residue?”
A snorting sound, and then laughter. “A very special type, I suppose you could say.”
“Do I need to wear those baggies?”
“That would make sex awkward.”
“Noooooo! I mean, for cooking.”
“I don’t care.”
“So, I can cook you dinner tomorrow?”
“Guys wear baggies during sex, I saw it on TV.”
“WHAT?… oh Watcher, you mean condoms? Those aren’t ‘baggies’ those are–oh, never mind. Go to sleep.”
“Ok. Um, Specter?”
“N-never mind, goodnight.”
I had no clue what to cook. I took out several different food items and stared at them for a long time, debating on what exactly to make. Finally I decided on soup. Potato soup. I wasn’t sure exactly how to make it but I tried, kinda wishing I had a cookbook. Maybe Specter would get me one… I had followed the recipe for the cake but it hadn’t turned out real well. I remembered very, very fuzzily my aunt making soup. I dumped water in a pot and then some milk and then potatoes. After it cooked a while I tasted it after it cooled down and decided it tasted really icky to me, so it’d be awful for a person. I dumped the pot out and tried again, this time adding some flour and salt but it was more of goopy grossness than yummy soup. I dumped it out and tried again.
What am I doing wrong? It was probably just the amount. I put in less water and flour, more milk, and some butter this time. I put in some salt and pepper and the potatoes, hoping this tasted okay especially since it was almost time for him to be home. I tasted it and made a face, not really liking it but it was too late. By the time it cooled down enough to taste, he was coming in through the door.
“No!” I shrieked.
He stopped in his tracks and blinked. “No?” he asked. I stood in front of the pot to hide it, forgetting entirely I was see-through. “Is that my dinner?”
“Yes it is.”
“No!” I protested as he came over. I grabbed his arm as he reached for a spoon. “It’s terrible. I failed. I’m sorry! Please don’t be mad. I’ll make you a sandwich or something… you must be starving.”
Specter raised an eyebrow before tasting the soup. He very slowly swallowed and then said, “Tastes fine.”
I wrung my hands nervously, studying his face. “Is it…? I think it’s awful. It is awful, isn’t it? Are you lying?”
His face went all expressionless. “Why would I lie?”
“To make me feel better.”
“Hmph. I hate you, why would I lie to make you feel better?”
I lifted my chin, trying to ignore the feelings of sadness. “I thought you didn’t hate me.”
He jerked and then made a growling, annoyed sound in his throat. “I–I don’t hate you, I guess but… I don’t like you! Stop giving me that look. THE SOUP IS FINE, OKAY?! Look! I’m not lying!” He grabbed a ladle and scooped up a huge amount, swallowing it with a look on his face that looked as though he really didn’t like it. But I knew he wouldn’t eat an entire ladle of it if he truly hated it. I beamed at him and he glared.
“Oh good,” I said. “Let me pour you a bowl.” He slumped down at the counter and was completely silent as I filled up a bowl and set it in front of him. His lips tightened under his beard and then he slowly began eating it. It really looked as if he was forcing himself to eat it… but maybe it was too cold? “Should I heat it up?” I asked.
“Hmph.” He shook his head.
“I’m so glad you like it.”
“Does it need more salt?”
“No, it’s fine!” he snarled, so I let it be.
That night I asked him for a cookbook and he told me no, but the following day he showed up with a bag from a bookstore which held multiple cookbooks as well as a bag of groceries. He told me he decided if I insisted on cooking him stuff I might as well learn recipes. We sat on the couch, him reading, me flipping through the cookbook, a show about haunted places on TV; I kept asking what he liked, trying to figure out the best things to learn. “Do you like steak?” I asked which he answered with a ‘hmph’. “What about chicken?” Another ‘hmph’. “Snow peas? Green beans? Cauliflower? Parmesan?” Nothing but ‘hmphs’ but I finally realized that in his ‘hmphs’ there was certain tones. Were some yes and some no? I strained to listen, trying to figure out which was which and once I figured it out, I went back to the beginning.
His yes hmphs were a bit lighter, a bit huffier, more emphasis on the ‘ph’ part. His no hmphs were a bit throatier, kinda growly, and more emphasis on the ‘m’ part. “You already asked me that,” he grumbled when I asked about steak.
“Oh yeah I forgot,” I lied. “So, um, do you?”
Yes. I wrote that down. Yes to chicken and duck and turkey and pork and… well, pretty much every meat. I wrote all this down in the notes section of the cookbook. He didn’t particularly like veggies, especially green ones, but he did like spinach. He hated carrots, liked squash, and seemed ambig… amb… uncertain about peppers. So instead of being vague I went through the different types of peppers. The sweeter the pepper, the less he liked it. Ahhh. This was going very well. Then a little idea popped up in me. “Do you like potatoes?” Yes-hmph. “Do you like basil?” No-hmph. “Do you like me?”
Silence and then a growl, and then a hmph. A yes-hmph. I beamed down at the cookbook, feeling my chest fluttering happily. That was a yes-hmph! He likes me! I clutched the pencil and tried to keep myself all calm. I didn’t even mind when he snapped at me, saying, “You’re such an annoyance, why do you have to ask questions all the time? Why do you always have to chatter? You’re like one of those annoying toys that grandparents get their grandkids just to annoy the parents. Noisy, and annoying, and pretty much the most bothersome thing in the universe.”
I bit my bottom lip, still smiling as I reminded him, “You said yourself you know how to stop me from talking…”
He began choking on nothing, and I giggled, feeling a bit strange to be saying that but I really liked Specter… and I liked it when we were together in bed because he treated me so differently. Gentle. Kind. Loving. Even if he didn’t love me. Even if it wasn’t as amazing to my body as it was, I still would want to be with him because of how my mind was and my emotions. How he made me feel. Not from the… um, physical part of it but… the rest of it. When he kissed me it made me feel like even if I couldn’t fly that I would be able to, not that that really made sense but it did make sense. When our eyes met… it was if I was the only person in the entire world. I felt as though I mattered. Even if he yelled at me, and cussed at me, and growled at me when we weren’t in bed together…. when we were in bed together I just…. it was…
That vast… grand… majestic feeling… as if anything and everything in the world was possible… as if without him I would cease to exist… as if without him there was no happiness… there was nothing…
Specter was standing up, glaring at me as I stood as well. Silently he went towards the bedroom and I followed. If I had a tail I knew it’d be wagging. This feeling, I wondered as the bedroom door shut and he took my hands. What is it? His lips were against my throat and I faded out of my clothes, wanting to be with him so much, needing to be with him. I want him so much… so… completely… I flopped back onto the bed as he stripped off. When he smiles at me… or is soft with me… I feel as though…. everything in the world is mine… I stared into his eyes as he knelt over me, bending his head so he could kiss me. I feel… I feel…
“OH!” I sat straight up, going through Specter who fell through me.
“How many times do I have to tell you not to freaking do that in bed?!” he snarled, twisting around to look up at me.
I stared down at him, his angry face, his dark eyes. This feeling. This feeling! “I–I know,” I whispered. “I know.”
“If you know then why did you do it?”
“Ohh… I’m… s-sorry.” I moved my own body so I was resting lightly on top of him, beaming up at his face.
“What?” he growled.
“Nothing. I’m just happy. Very happy.”
Because… “No reason.” I know what this feeling is. “I’m just happy,” I know, I finally know, I finally truly understand, “being with you.” Love.
“You’re weird,” he snorted. This is love. “Stop staring at me like that.” I’m in love.
“Yes, sir,” I laughed, burying my head against his chest and reaching up to stroke his beard. This is what love feels like. Surely… because if it isn’t… Why, I just can’t imagine anything happier or more heartbreaking or as beautiful as this feeling.
“Gggggrrrrr–why do you call me sir?”
If love was more than this, nobody would survive because this feeling is so big, so vast, so filling that I can hardly contain it. “I’m sorry. I’ll stop.” I love him.
“No. I mean, whatever. I don’t care.”
I love him. “All right,” I said, nuzzling his chest and running my fingers through his beard which sent shivers down his body. I love him, I love him, I love him.
With a grunt he flipped me over so I was beneath him. “Do you…” He hesitated and my eyes got bigger. “…like…” Yes, yes, yes. “…this?”
“This. Sex. Bed. Us.”
“Oh. Yes. Very much.”
I happily lost myself in the moment, wrapping myself around him, knowing I didn’t want to ever leave his side… and feeling sick with fear that despite the gentle kisses and loving touch… he wouldn’t want me to stay.
I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, in a completely happy daze. Specter had left for work… leaving me alone. We had been together well into the daylight hours and he had only gotten a few hours of sleep. I hoped he wasn’t too tired to work. Mmmmm… I basked in the happiness of the discovery of how I felt for quite some time before getting out of the bed. I phased into clothes as I drifted into the kitchen, wondering what to fix. We didn’t have much… I’d have to make another list, a real list. A proper list.
“Turkey te…tra…zini…” I read from the cookbook. We had everything and it was very simple, very easy. I’d have to be careful… I wanted it to be perfect. A first real meal for him, actually made correctly and not just slapped together like the potato soup which he at least liked. I’ll have to write down how I made it for the future, I thought as I set out the non-fridge items I’d need for the meal and was just arranging them in order of needed when there was a thumping sound. RIGHT BEHIND ME!
I whirled around, grabbing the book like a weapon and at first didn’t see anyone but then when I looked down I found myself looking at the black cat that belonged to Mrs. Penstone. “Oh… hi kitty… how did you get in?” I looked around and finally noticed the curtains near the front door were fluttering just slightly. I went over and bent down, being careful as I peeked. The window was open. How did that happen?
The cat bumped against me and I picked him up, prepared to go not-solid if he tried scratching me but he just stared at me face in a creepy way. He had a pink heart tag that proclaimed his name as Mr. Fluffy. “Mr. Fluffy…” I began scritching him behind the ears, pleased at the purring sound he made. “You’re so adorable! I wish I had a cat. Or a puppy. A pet. Really. Anything would be nice. Mmm, if I left the window open would you come visit me again?” I buried my face in his fur, enjoying the softness; I began giggling as he purred louder.
Since there was loads of time before Specter got home, I turned on the TV and sat down with Mr. Fluffy in my lap. He purred as I pet him, my happiness level at a pretty high point at this simple act. I really enjoyed having a pet with me and felt a bit terrified as I heard Mrs. Penstone calling outside, sounding right outside the door. I went invisible and the cat screeched at that, leaping off of me. Hmmm–did that mean he could or couldn’t see me when I was invisible? I would’ve sworn he could but with him acting so scared–unless maybe my going invisible didn’t make me invisible to him but different.
“Where are you?” Mrs. Penstone called as Mr. Fluffy ran to the window. He gave me a strange look, meowed once, then out the window he went. I floated over to take a peek outside. “Mr. Fluffy! I told you you’re NOT allowed in there. What were you doing?”
“Well let me close this window… I’m sure he didn’t mean to leave it open.” I watched as the window was shut and then she said something I could quite hear (something about the window not being locked maybe?) before she headed down to her own part of the house. I waited several minutes before I dared move the curtains so I could lock the window.
I needed to remember every minute of every day spent here that someone was living below, someone who was really nosy and someone who could hear well. Or sorta heard well. She seemed to have stopped complaining recently and I knew we weren’t any less quiet than we were before. Specter still sometimes yelled at me, slammed doors shut and stuff like that. I wondered if there was an easy way to make the place soundproof or something. I didn’t want to get Specter in trouble. I wasn’t a young lady but since Specter was gay, wouldn’t that mean Mrs. Penstone wouldn’t want any young men staying over…? Did that sort of thing work that way?
Dinner was slightly cool by the time Specter got home. He was, as usual, in a grumpy mood and just made hmphy sounds as he sat down to eat. I offered to warm it up but he just shook his head and ate. I ate my own plate, nervous about if it was good or not but he ate the meal and asked for seconds so… yay. I made a second successful dinner! Afterwards we watched some TV. I watched TV. He read. I wanted to lean against him but kept my distance on the couch since I didn’t think our relationship was quite in the ‘cuddling is nice’ stage. Honestly, I really didn’t know if we had a relationship.
I wondered about it for a couple days until finally I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to ask. “Specter?” We were on the couch, this time both of us watching TV (another show about ghosts) and I was nervous, not sure if I should even ask.
I looked down at my lap. Through my lap, really. “Are we… a couple? You know, like… boyfriends…?” I bit my bottom lip hard until it hurt. “If not–you know, it’s fine. I’m just curious. Because… I really like you and I just want to know, and… yeah.”
“Oh. Okay.” I wrung my hands and squirmed. “I do like you.”
“I have no romantic interest in you,” he growled. “It’s just sex. Okay? Got it? Don’t bother me about this again. No love, no like, no emotions. Just purely a physical… coexistence. We’re not a couple, we’re not boyfriends, we’re not even lovers because there is no ‘love’.”
“Oh.” My chest squeezed painfully. “Okay. Um. Do you want me to stop liking you…?”
“I don’t care. Do what you want, but don’t expect it to ever be reciprocated.”
“Oh. Okay.” I squirmed more, thinking and trying to figure out what he meant. I couldn’t, so after a moment I asked, “Um… what–“
“It means returned.”
“Okay.” I watched the TV, trying my best to ignore the pain welling up inside of me. I knew he probably wouldn’t really like me but I had to ask and now that I knew… could I stop liking him? I didn’t think I could. Not easily. And who knew, maybe one day he would feel differently because I knew he didn’t hate me. I settled back on the couch, clutching desperately to that thought, unable to think of any other way our physical-only-coexistence could go because I just couldn’t accept any other way.