I thought Hunter and I would be together forever, that nothing could ever come between us. I was wrong. Death has a way of breaking even the strongest of bonds, and we were about to learn that lesson first-hand.
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With only just under a month left until D-day, I was beginning to get a little anxious. I was going away, on my own, to a strange city, with no Hunter. How was I going to cope? We’d already set up video calling on our laptops and phones, free text and calling and social media. We had pretty much covered everything. Everything, except for facing the fact that we would be five hours apart.
I was going to be so busy with my studies that I wouldn’t have a lot of time to think about him and miss him, right? That is what I told myself anyway, but my confidence was starting to waiver the closer it came to me leaving. I knew he must be feeling it too, but neither of us spoke of it. It was like the elephant in the room, we talked around it.
“Did you want to catch that ghost movie tonight?” Hunter asked. “It might be the last chance you will have for a while.”
He didn’t face me and I knew he was hinting at the fact that I wouldn’t have time for much at all. That I wouldn’t have time for him.
“That would be nice,” I smiled. “I am not going into a convent or prison, you know. I will still be able to go places and catch up with friends.”
He smiled awkwardly. “Not all friends.”
So there it was. One of us had finally brought it out into the open. What was I supposed to say to this? That we could still hang out even though I would be so far away? I knew that was a lie. It was too far for me to come back for weekends and each semester would be 9-10 weeks long. I would be away for at least 2 months before being able to come back home for a couple of weeks. It seemed like a lifetime.
“I know it is a long way away, but we can talk on the phone and video call often. I wish I could afford to fly home for the occasional weekend, but I just won’t have the money.”
He lifted his head and his eyes met mine. “I could fly up there every now and again. My folks would give me the cash.”
My heart skipped a beat and I quickly turned away. “Where would you stay though? I will be in the dorm.”
He shrugged. “I could sneak in and bunk down on your floor? Or I could get a motel room and you could stay with me.”
“I will probably have a roommate so the first idea wouldn’t work.” I couldn’t look at him. I could feel my cheeks burning. Was he suggesting that we shared a hotel room? What exactly did he have in mind?
“Well, it is something to think about anyway,” he said. “So should we go and see that movie then?”
I told my parents where we were headed and we walked in silence for a while. Both of us deep in our own thoughts, until Hunter finally spoke.
“I am going to miss you, you know.”
I nodded. I did know, I was going to miss him too.
“I’ve gotten used to having you around, it is going to be weird without you here.” He reached over and took my hand in his and I felt a shiver run up my spine.
“I’ve gotten used to your company too, Hunter. This isn’t goodbye. It won’t be forever. Who knows, you will probably meet someone else and forget me pretty quickly.” I cringed inside at the thought.
He stopped dead. “Is that what you think? Out of sight, out of mind? I will never forget you, you mean a lot to me.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it. I guess I am not as strong about this as I thought I was.” I was starting to wish I wasn’t going away.
He squeezed my hand. “If anyone is going to be forgotten, it will most likely be me. Once you get to the big city and meet all those smart, sophisticated men, you will wonder what you ever saw in a country bumpkin like me.”
I swallowed the lump in my throat and tried to choke back tears. I shook my head but couldn’t utter a word; the words just wouldn’t come out. How could I tell him how I felt? How could say that I loved him and didn’t want to leave anymore? It wouldn’t be fair and I would sound like a pathetic little schoolgirl.
We arrived at the theatre. Hunter paid for the tickets and ice creams, and we walked in silently to find our seats. I realized that he always paid, he always suggested activities and he always came to me. Just how much did I depend on him? Maybe it was a good thing that I was leaving; get some distance between us and teach me how to look after myself and stand on my own two feet for once, and make my own decisions.
If it was a good thing, then why did I feel so miserable?
Neither of us spoke much during the movie. We were both thinking about the inevitable and how it was going to be such a huge change. I was sad contemplating leaving Hunter, but I was excited about finally getting to the next step in my career. I had been planning for this forever, and I needed to get my head straight about what my priorities were.
Hunter and I were just friends, we hadn’t exactly professed our undying love for one another or even admitted the fact that we were more than just good friends. Was I willing to throw away everything I’d worked hard for, for a relationship that may not even eventuate? It was a lot to take in, and I needed a clear head.
Despite all the thoughts circulating in my mind, I actually found myself getting into the story of the movie. It was a love story about a teenage boy that had died and left his girlfriend heartbroken. Throughout the majority of the story, he was a ghost trying desperately to connect with her; only she didn’t know he was there. Her grief was clouding her senses and she couldn’t feel him, even though he tried in vain to make her see or hear him.
It was heart wrenching, and I couldn’t help but think that if that were me, I would know he was trying to contact me. How could you not? If you were that in love, that close, surely even death couldn’t separate you from those deep emotions. Finally, three-quarters of the way through the film, she saw a sign that convinced her that her dead boyfriend had indeed been around her this whole time. She received his message; that he loved her and was sorry he had to leave. The movie ended with the dead boyfriend seeing a bright light and crossing over to the other side.
I was a mess by the end, with tears streaming down my face. It was just such a sad, sad story. Hunter was amused at the fact I was crying and had believed it could be possible. He didn’t believe in the supernatural, didn’t believe in ghosts at all. Once you died, that was it, you were gone and people believing any different just had overactive imaginations.
Sometimes it amazed me at how different we were. At times our bond was so strong that I could almost hear what he was thinking, but at others we were worlds apart. My heart ached as I imagined myself in that poor girl’s position, or that of the dead boyfriend trying everything he could to let her know he was okay and to say goodbye. I needed Hunter to take my feelings seriously and not make fun of me.
“We should have a code or a sign in case one of us dies,” I stated. “Something that no one else would know about except us. Then if one of us died, we could leave a message for other one to let them know we are alright and have moved on.”
He frowned and then eyed me suspiciously as if I had just escaped from the loony bin. “Except,” he said, “the person that had died would not be okay, because they would be DEAD!”
I pouted and broke away from him, walking quickly ahead. Sometimes he drove me crazy. Sometimes he just didn’t get me at all. I was being deadly serious here and he was making a joke out of it as usual.
“Riley, where are you going? I was just fooling around. I’m sorry. Come back and we will talk properly.”
I ignored him and kept walking.
“C’mon, I’m sorry. Just stop for a sec and let me apologise properly.” He sounded sincere enough, so I decided to give him a chance. I stopped and turned around to face him, my arms crossed, glaring at him.
“You really need to be a bit more open to other people’s feelings sometimes, you know. So you don’t believe in mumbo jumbo as you call it, but I do, and I think you could at least respect that. Humour me, okay?”
He grinned broadly and ran to catch up to me. “Okay, but if you really believe in ghosts we should go and check out the old Andrew’s place.”
All the blood must have drained out of my face, as it suddenly felt numb. I was terrified of that house, and had no intention of going there, ever. “Why would I want to do that? Just because I believe in ghosts doesn’t meant I want to go and hang out with them and be all buddy, buddy. Let’s just go home.”
He grabbed my hand and started to drag me off in the direction of the haunted house. “Nah, let’s go and check it out. Then I can prove to you that there is no such thing as ghosts, and we can end this debate once and for all.”
My heart was pounding in my chest. I really just wanted to go home, that place gave me the heebee geebees. Rumour had it that a young, teenage girl killed herself in that house after discovering her boyfriend’s betrayal. Allegedly, he’d been caught canoodling with her best friend and the broken-hearted, girl couldn’t take the pain and jumped out of her two-storey bedroom window. I was in no hurry to run into her.
“Hunter, really, I just want to go home. I’m tired and not up to ghost hunting.”
“You’re not scared, are you? Cos that would just be silly. There’s nothing to be scared of, and besides, I will be there to protect you.”
He put his arm around my shoulders and pulled me close, squeezing me. I liked the thought of him protecting me, and decided to relent and follow him to the creepy manor. I would be sticking to him like glue though; I had no wish whatsoever to be left alone with some dead girl searching for her cheating boyfriend!
“Promise not to let me out of your sight and not to do anything stupid like try to spook me while we are there? That place really creeps me out, and I am only doing this for you.” I stated, sternly.
He grinned like he always did when he got his own way. “You have my word!”
He released me from his death grip and grabbed my hand instead. I had to admit I felt quite brave being attached to Hunter. It would certainly be a different story on my own. I would never consider stepping foot inside that place alone. I kind of liked the way my hand felt in his too. I really was going to miss him.
We walked in silence for a few minutes before Hunter spoke. “So why are you so convinced that ghosts exist? The whole thing about dying and then coming back in spirit, sounds so far fetched to me. I cannot understand what makes people believe that it can actually happen.”
I shrugged. “I don’t know exactly. It’s just a feeling. Like intuition or visions. Not everything can be explained away by science, so many things are still a mystery. I believe that ghosts are people that have died leaving unfinished business on earth. They come back to try and get closure before they move on. If they never get that closure, they are left to wander the earth for eternity. Sad really.”
“But how are they supposed to take care of their unfinished business if they are invisible and cannot communicate with the living?” he asked. “It is kind of pointless really, and another reason why I think it is just people wish for thinking.”
“They could talk through mediums or clairvoyants,” I replied. He rolled his eyes, he obviously didn’t believe in those either.
“A total bunch of frauds feeding off of their victims grief!” he declared.
“Some are,” I had to agree. “But there are some legitimate ones out there, I’m sure.”
“What if they cannot contact a medium or their loved ones are skeptical like me? Are they destined to roam the earth and never find peace?”
“Maybe,” I was deep in thought now. “You would hope that the people left behind would notice signs, or maybe they can communicate through our dreams?”
“Ah, but how would you know that it wasn’t just your subconscious playing tricks on you? Signs can be pretty vague, it would have to be something pretty concrete to convince me.” He said matter-of-factly.
I laughed. “You mean like hitting you over the head with a lump of concrete? That should work. Though I am not sure if spirits can move things, especially not things that are really heavy.”
“We’re here,” he turned to me and smiled.
I looked up and realized that we were, in fact, outside the old Andrew’s place. I felt a shiver run up my spine and wanted to change my mind, turn and run far away from here.
“Riley, you’re trembling. Are you honestly that afraid?” he really did appear to be concerned.
I nodded. “This place terrifies me, Hunter. The vibes I get when I look at it are overwhelming. I hate to think what it will be like inside.”
“We don’t have to go in, I was only teasing,” Hunter said, apologetically. “I didn’t want to scare you, just prove that there are no such thing as ghosts.”
“I know,” I replied. “We should go in. I need to face my fear. What’s the worst that can happen?”
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