The man’s calloused hands smoothed over the piece of paper for what felt like the thousandth time, watching it flatten against the surface of the bedside table before creasing at the center once more. A frustrated sigh escaped Elijah’s lips, before the twenty some year old forced himself to take a step back from the letter. Did it truly matter if the letter was creased? Perhaps, he was going a little overboard — making the presence of the paper just a little too obvious — but at this point, Eli was fairly sure she would be able to recognize that the small set up he had made, was all for her. After all, Shay had never been stupid; a drama queen, eccentric, and a bit of a lunatic… definitely, but never stupid.
A soft smile crept onto the male’s face at these musings, the vibrant memories of a friendship stretching back over a decade rushing to the forefront of his mind with extraordinary ease. The shrieking laughter, the hysterical fighting, the momentous adventures, and — the man laughed at it now, their silly little teenage romance a fond part of his reminiscence — the kisses. That last bit, of course, had been rather short-lived, but nonetheless, it was all there, present in his fondest recollections — thank God. Of course, the circumstances that had led to this sudden bout of nostalgia were anything but wonderful, but after all, that was why he was going to such trouble. Eli was not one to let his best friend go so easily, especially not when he knew for a Shay wasn’t about to let go either. She was around still, checking up on him probably, and complaining about his habits definitely. And for that Elijah was forever appreciative.
Blue eyes flickering up from his uncharacteristically elegant handwriting, the man’s vision settled on the crib along the far wall of the dimly lit room. Strands of dark hair falling into the wizard’s face as he stared, paternal instinct took over a moment later. Long strides sent him forward, towards it’s softly curved wooden structure and — with the devoted curiosity of a still new Father — Elijah made to peer down at his infant daughter. Catarina was sleeping soundly, soft breaths the only noise coming from her crib. The baby was seemingly unaffected by her mother’s absence, as if she knew Gioia would soon be back from her business trip soon enough. Or perhaps she was just unaware. At a mere seven months old, Eli was in no position to blame her.
The man stood, gaze lowered over his little doll fondly, and although Elijah was sure he could stand there and watch Catarina fondly for several hours more, he was not a machine. The man needed to let his perpetual state of fatigue seize him for the night. Ever so gently Eli leaned down over the safety bar to place a kiss on the little girl’s tiny forehead, and it was with in this action, that for a split second, an image of Annabeth flashed behind the man’s blue eyes. Elijah could recall her at the same age, snuggled up next to the softest baby blanket know to humankind, fast asleep as well. Tufts of red hair had begun to be visible upon her head, and for a long time the wizard’s eyes had not left the little girl as she napped. He had been fascinated by her, completely captivated by how small her toes were and how funny her little coos sounded. And if Eli was not mistaken, that day had been the first time he had fully acknowledged, that she was family.
Returning to full standing height, blue eyes blinked in surprise at the sudden anamenesis. Though, under the circumstances, maybe it wasn’t so surprising. The male chewed at his bottom lip for a moment, having to then physically rip his fixed stare off his daughter. Elijah turned to head back to his side of the mattress in hopes that his now racing thoughts wouldn’t be enough to keep him awake. Once more, just for good measure, the man patted at the letter on his table, before climbing into bed and slipping beneath the lightweight covers, failing to turn the lamp off as he did. Eli wanted Shay to read his letter after all, and if she wasn’t able to see it, nor turn on a light, that would defeat the whole purpose of writing in the first place.
It didn’t take long for the exhausted father to drift off, his reflection — far to profound for such a late hour – soon ripening into dreams of times past. The letter lay still.
My Dearest Shayla,
I don’t think you understand how difficult this letter is for me to write, knowing that you will read it, and you will understand it, but communicating any further than exactly this is impossible. I wish it didn’t have to be so bloody unfair, but obviously, circumstances have changed for us. Not for the better mind you, but there’s no turning back time now. Regular people communication unfortunately just isn’t going to happen, not that we were ever really regular people mind you… but you know, at least we could phone. On second thought, that first bit sounds all too egocentric, now doesn’t it? Because I’m sure you will understand how I feel right now. I know this can’t just be one sided frustration, can it? You’re just as irritated as I, if not more. You’re around this house far too often to argue otherwise, and clearly you’re not just hanging around for my cooking, that’s for damn sure.
But hey, there’s a point to bring up right there. The fact that I know when you’re around, Shay. I don’t know how to explain how I know, but I just feel it in my bones, constantly. Maybe it’s because we’ve been friends for so long or something? I really don’t know how it happens, but it does. Sometimes I can smell your perfume, sometimes objects have been moved slightly… sometimes I can even feel your eyes on me, but when I turn around you’re not there. It’s bloody exasperating! You know what, I wasn’t planning on mentioning this, but to hell with it. I’ve even heard your voice before, and I definitely heard you laugh once too. It was when I opened the dishwasher too early and practically flooded the kitchen. I was panicking, you watched it all, and you were laughing… just like old times. C’mon Shayla, just because we have similar dishwasher difficulties doesn’t mean you have to laugh at me in my own house.
Anyways, I’m thinking as a ghost, or whatever it is you prefer to be called, (A spirit maybe? Does that sound nicer? More politically correct? I don’t know.) you probably hold most of the control in your own apparitions. Perhaps with a little bit of practice you’ll actually be able to make yourself visible. Wouldn’t that be cool? I think it would, but maybe that’s just the optimistic believer in me making a spontaneous appearance. I just thought it might be nice for Catarina to grow up with a guardian angel aunty she can actually talk to. Is that really cheesy? Shit man, this is why I need you here. I’m getting syrupy with age.
By the way, in case you haven’t heard it in English yet, which is entirely plausible, that baby over there in the crib is who I’m talking about. My baby girl, Catarina Faye Mulkins. She’s seven months old now and without question, is the best thing I have ever done. Having a daughter is exhausting, Shayla. Exhausting, and amazing… but mostly exhausting. Though obviously you of all people knew that. Hell, even I knew that, I just kind of… forgot for a bit. Funny how quickly that happens. You know that I considered Annabeth my daughter right, Shay? It’s not like I never explicitly said it outloud, would have seemed strange at the time you know, but I did entirely, and still do in fact. I thought maybe when I heard the news, that Annabeth was at daycare, or at nursery school or something like that. Anything like that. It would be terrible, horrific even, but she would come live with me and Gioia in the end. We would all recover, never forget per se, but recover and heal together as a family. I would have two daughters, Anna and Cat would be the best of friends, it would have been remarkable, I would have been able to live up to my godfather duties.
But I guess that wasn’t what fate had planned for us. It’s okay, Shayla. Sweetheart, please don’t blame yourself, I know how much you loved her and how much she loved you. I miss her more than I can express but it’s a good thing she’s with you. Our Annie is just a little girl still, and she needs her mummy. Tell her that Uncle Eli still loves his baby girl, even though he can’t visit anymore. Okay?
Seriously, please do not let her forget me.
And Shay, I need you to know this, so please, keep reading. I miss you so much it physically hurts me sometimes. So much that I can feel pain shooting through my chest like that nasty little rust dagger we found behind the bar at the Lions Head. So much that somedays all I want to do is curl up in my bed and cry. I have my wife and my daughter, but you, Shay, you were a special lady. You are special. You are my best friend, you are my rock, you were there for me even when I lost it. We have so many memories… so many fucking beautiful memories, and it is that, my dear, that keeps me going even though you are elsewhere now. The memories, and the hope that I will see you again someday, because we all have to go, right? I will see you again. We will hug it out for an entire minute or two and reminisce for ages after that. We’ll talk about our antics in school, and our life as roommates, and everything else that happened in between. There certainly was a lot of in between. It’ll be good, I look forward to that day, though I don’t think it should happen too soon. I still have some unfinished business here.
You taught me so much, Shayla. You made what would have been a completely shit childhood, pretty damn good. More often than I’d like to admit I’ll look up from the living room and expect you to come sauntering into the flat ranting about some imbecile at the market. I would love for that to happen, but it’s just not going to. However you are around, you are still keeping an eye on me, (as you should be) and I can honestly say it puts me at ease. Thank you, darling, for sticking around.
I love you so much and I’m missing you always, please do not ever forget that.
Eternal love and gratitude,
Houses are not haunted. We are haunted, and regardless of the architecture with which we surround ourselves, our ghosts stay with us until we ourselves are ghosts.