2018 Writers Holiday Contest Grand Prize 2nd place: Happily Ever After by DisparateDreamer

Jan 16, 2019 at 09:45 am by Submitted

Happily Ever After by DisparateDreamer

It was early Christmas eve, and dark out. The festive glow from the houses strung with twinkling Christmas lights did nothing to lift the sadness from Angie's heart. Every house along this street had bright welcoming glows, families together, sounds of music and joy, but there was no welcome for her here. Nor did any loved ones wait for her back at her own, dark, undecorated apartment. She was barely managing the grief most days, and on this particular night, she couldn't go home to face that unbearable loneliness. So instead, Angie shuffled along the sidewalk, her breath puffing in frosty clouds in front of her. To her imagination, they looked like ghosts, hovering in the cold winter air before fading away. Like Kendra had.

It was several months ago, when Kendra's car had crashed. Everything was totaled-the car, Kendra, their upcoming nuptials, and every bit of joy in Angie's life. Kendra had been her partner. She was the spark of imagination to Angie's stubbornness. She was always filling their apartment with music and light and color. When Angie felt doubt, Kendra felt imagination. When Angie felt worry, Kendra felt hope. When Angie felt dull and boring, Angie was pure wonder. But when Angie fell in love, Kendra said yes. And for a while, Angie was able to do anything, be anything, achieve anything. Until the car crash that stole everything from her. And now she only felt an emptiness, a deep sorrow that no holiday glow could reach.

She could hear her boots crunching over the snow as she walked away from the houses and their happiness, the sounds of Christmas fading into the background. When it was finally silent, she looked up. It took a moment to realize where she was in the dark. When she saw, grief swallowed her so suddenly that she choked, for she stood at the intersection where Kendra had died. She had avoided this spot, taken another route, always taken the longer way home, anything to keep from seeing the horrifying sight of her loved one's body, or being reminded of her sudden loss. Somehow, she'd wandered here. Kendra's last moments were here. She sank to her knees and dug her numb fingers into the snowy ground, wishing she could touch her one more time. She let the tears fall, too overcome to even feel the cold soaking into her legs. She didn't feel the hand on her shoulder, either.

"Angie! Love! Hey! I've been waiting forever for you to show up! Hey, hey! Look at me, will you? ANGIE!" The voice got loud enough that it broke through Angie's cloud of pain. She looked up, stunned. The voice belonged to Kendra, but that was impossible. Yet there stood Kendra, glowing slightly. Angie jumped to feet, shaking.

"Kendra??" she gasped between sobs. "How is this happening? How are you here?"

"Shhh," soothed Kendra, her hands wiping ineffectively at Angie's tears. "Oh, how can I explain? Take deep breaths, sweetie. I've always been here."

"Always been here? You lived here?" sputtered Angie, feeling like her brain was frozen slush. Nothing was making sense.

"No! No, not like that. I mean, I've been here since the crash. Waiting for you."

"Waiting for me? But Kendra, you... you... you're...." Angie's voice cracked. She motioned, unable to form the words. But Kendra voiced them instead.

"Yes, I know," she said, gently. "I'm dead. I can't change that. But I wasn't going to cross over the veil without you! I promised I'd always be there for you. I've been tied to this spot, but I waited for you to come find me." She gazed into Angie's tear filled eyes.

Angie stretched out her hand, her fingers passing through Kendra's misty body. Kendra swirled, briefly, her shape mixing with the frosty air before reforming. Their eyes met, and Angie stammered, "But you're a ghost! I mean... I didn't know! I didn't know you were here! I'm so sorry! I missed- miss!- you so MUCH!"

Kendra rested her ghostly hand over Angie's. "I know, sweetie, me too," she whispered. "I missed you too. But you're here now. And I can finally go peacefully."

Angie collapsed and cried out desperately, "What?! No! There's so much to say! You can't go! Please, don't leave me!"

Kendra reached for her again, and this time, Angie felt a hint of force behind it. "Oh, no, sweetie! I'm going to go WITH you, home with you, to haunt you forever, to bore you with my stories and dreams and songs!" Her own eyes glittered with tears as she smiled and waited, letting her words and love sink in. Time she had, all the time in the world, now that they were together again.

"You... You won't leave? You can come with me? Really?" Angie's voice was filled with her typical doubt, her pain, her fear. But where Angie was fear, Kendra was hope.

"Forever! You better not mind being haunted, because I'm never leaving your side! So no holy water, hear me?" Her words were joking, but her tone was serious, her gaze unwavering.

The gaping darkness in Angie's life shrank and dwindled as joy took hold. Her light was back. "Absolutely no exorcisms, I swear!" A half sob, half laugh rose in her throat. Only Kendra could make her laugh like this, over something so serious. "Oh, Kendra! Honestly, the emptiness without you has been far scarier than anything else could be!" 

As Angie's eyes and heart lifted, Kendra asked, "Happily ever after?" She breathed the question into the air, almost magical with hope.

Yes!” promised Angie, “Forever!”

And the joy of Christmas past was in her voice.

The story started as one thing, and changed as the idea took on it's own shape as I worked on it. Inspired by so many numerous things and wanted to offer some light in otherwise dark instances. Took several days before the plot settled into current form. Bright holidays and hope to all this season!

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