There was a loud sobbing coming from my living room when I entered my apartment. I looked to my right side, where we’d placed a tiny table. There was an empty metal vase on it. I slightly lowered myself and put my bag down gently. I reached for the vase and quietly grabbed it in case I needed to defend myself from whoever was crying that loudly. While walking slowly and trying to stay quiet, I realized that no one broke in. Did I forget to close the door behind me when I left for work in the morning?
I was trying to encourage myself and not to be scared. Every possible scenario was happening in my head within seconds. I was wondering why I hadn’t called the police or what if it was a homeless person. A hundred thoughts per second. My imagination had never run this wild before. I finally reached the living room. A walk I’d taken thousands of times, but this time it felt different. As if the walk was longer.
Upon entering, I saw that there was a familiar girl crying on the sofa. I froze in my place staring at her. My eyes started to moisten with tears and my fingers loosened on the neck of the vase. It fell to the ground and made a loud thud. Prairie jumped out of her place and her sobbing suddenly stopped. But I was still stunned from what I was seeing. At first I thought that I was imagining her. Maybe missing her affected me more than I’d thought.
Her eyes were red and puffy. It seemed that she’d been crying for some time. Nonetheless, I saw a little smile making its way on her face. Her voice was sad, she said, “You’re home.” When she noticed that I didn’t move, she told me, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
I was back to reality. I shook my head and told her, “No no, I’m not scared. I just wasn’t expecting to see you here.” She was a bit confused. It was her apartment as much as it was mine. To her, that’s exactly where she was supposed to be. I’d imagined and hoped for this, so I walked slowly to where she was sitting. I didn’t want this moment to slip away. She didn’t understand why I was looking at her the way I did. I got closer and pulled her in a tight hug. And she hugged me back. I tried to control my tears and not let her see them. So I let a few silent tears fall down. I don’t remember how long we stayed like this. But she seemed to have needed this embrace as much as I did. After I let go of her, I asked, “Why were you crying? Is there something bothering you?” but I was afraid of the answer I was getting. She took a deep breath and said, “They fired me. And they didn’t even have the balls to tell me.”
I was baffled, “What? What do you mean?”
She told me about how her morning had started, “I went to work and found someone else at my desk. I thought he was new, but no, he was working on my tasks. And when I tried talking to him, he acted as if I wasn’t there. What was worse? My own colleagues and bosses ignored me too. They weren’t even looking at me! Like I was a ghost. I don’t know what happened to have them change like that.”
I was as shocked as she was and didn’t know what to say, “Those assholes!” Then I remembered that her keys were with me and asked her, “By the way, how did you get into my… our apartment?”
She looked around, puzzled, “I honestly don’t remember how I even got to the building, and as to how I entered here, I think the apartment door was open. I didn’t use the keys, I probably lost them.”
Something didn’t feel right. I’m sure I locked my door. But that was not what mattered, my best friend mattered. She was sitting in my living room. With me. That was all that I cared about. I asked her if she’d eaten, to which she said, “No, but I’m not hungry.”
I insisted on ordering her favorite food, but she refused. I ended up eating alone. She was sitting on the other side of the table. I grabbed a slice of pizza and looked at her, “Are you sure you don’t wanna eat?”
An idea popped up in my brain, I swallowed the bite and said, “I think you should stay home these few days. Let me contact your bosses for you and figure all this out. Take some time off.”
She smiled, “Yeah, I can sleep in and binge-watch some TV shows. Thank you, Tina.”
I nodded. She was looking around and sensed some difference. She pointed to the wall and asked, “When did we get this painting?” Then for the first time that evening, I noticed that she too was different. She was thinner and her skin was pale.
I stuffed my mouth with more pizza and gave myself some time to chew. I needed an answer fast. She was looking at me and waiting patiently. When I finished swallowing, I came up with a white lie, “I saw it and thought it would be nice. I got it a few days ago but forgot to tell you. Honestly, I thought you’d notice sooner.” She wasn’t convinced with my answer, but let go of it.
That night, after dinner, we watched a movie together. We laughed and cried while watching it. Like old days, but everything was different. I had to tell her the truth, but I didn’t know how. Pri was my best friend, I never lied to her, yet that night, I couldn’t bring myself to be honest with her. Not yet, I thought.
Later, when I was laying in bed. Sleep didn’t come to me for a long time. Instead, memories with Prairie surfaced up. I remembered things that had happened more than a decade ago. One of my favorite memories of her was when we first met. We’d both moved to a new school and were strangers to the other kids. She sat behind me during Math lesson and passed me a note, “Bunch of losers!” she’d written. Pri had noticed that I wasn’t happy among the other students, and her note made me smile. I knew she’d be my friend for life.
We tried a lot of things and learned so much together. We laughed and cried together. We had our ways to understand each other without even talking. We meant life itself for one another. Imagining life without each other felt impossible. We couldn’t do it alone. Or that’s what we had thought.
Lost in a sea of emotions, sleep slowly slowly crept in. The next day, I prepared myself and left for work quietly. I didn’t want to wake her up. At work, I could hardly focus. Even when I wasn’t thinking about Pri, I had that weird feeling in my stomach. I asked if I could leave early, my boss said, “Okay, if it’s urgent. But you have to finish everything. Once you do, show me that it’s all done, and you’ll be free to leave.” This motivated me and left by one p.m.
By the time I got home, I called out for Pri, “Hun, I’m home early.” But there was no sign of her. Something felt wrong. I couldn’t sense her presence. I started to breathe hard and I looked around. I ran to the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedrooms, but there was no Prairie. Was she gone again?
She didn’t have her phone so I couldn’t contact her. I couldn’t call the police. I couldn’t have explained anything to them. Was I alone again? How can you report a missing person in this case? After some point, I sat on the sofa, sick to my stomach.
I tried to calm myself down by having a cold shower. I took my time and thought that by the time I’m done, she’d be home. I was wrong. I took a nap, hoping she’d be by my side when I woke up. Again, no sign of her. I started to make dinner, hoping she’d appear any time and eat with me. The sky outside started to turn orange, and slowly slowly turned darker. I made enough food for the two of us. But since she was still not around, I served myself a bowl of fried rice. I opened the spoon drawer to grab one, and my eyes caught Pri’s spoon. One that had the first letter of her name imprinted on. I got it for her two years ago. It immediately became her favorite spoon. My stomach tightened and my hands found their way to my eyes to wipe the tears away.
Maybe she was gone for good. Again. And again, like the last time, I didn’t get to say goodbye.
I grabbed the bowl of fried rice and went to the living room. The air felt cooler than usual. June is usually warm where we live. Then I remembered that the day before, when Pri was here, the weather was also cool. Lost in these thoughts, I suddenly heard her voice behind me. As if she’d popped out of nowhere. I looked behind, startled. She seemed as if she’d been crying. I rushed to her, “Where have you been? I was so worried.”
She looked at me. Her sad eyes met mine. “Let’s sit down.” There was something about her tone and her look. She can’t possibly know.
“I know it all,” she said.
I didn’t want to believe what she was about to say. I was going to tell her. But I thought we needed some more time. “What do you know?”
“I know that I’m dead. And I know how I died.” She looked me dead in the eyes.
The tears started running down my eyes, I was sobbing but managed to say, “I’m so sorry, but it was an accident. I promise. I didn’t want any of this to happen. I didn’t want you to die.”
Her gaze softened a little and said, “I know. But here we are. I’m gone because of your accident.”
“But you are here. You can stay with me. Not many get second chances like this.” I tried to form a smile but I was too broken to manage that. My face was wet with tears. Pri handed me a tissue.
“Why didn’t you tell me yesterday?”
I wiped my tears, and told her, “I wanted to, but I was waiting for the right time. Are you angry for not telling you?”
She looked at me with warm eyes and said, “Look, I’m not angry at you. Not even for the accident. Tina, you’re my best friend, and I love you.”
I reached for her hands, and we held hands. “I love you, too. And I’m happy that you are here.”
Her expressions changed again. I couldn’t read them. She took a deep breath, “But I’m not really here. I’m a ghost. Only you can see me and there is a reason.”
“What is the reason?” I asked her with a worried tone. Ghosts don’t appear for good reasons.
“It hurts me to tell you this but remember when we were teenagers we made a pact.”
I immediately remembered which one, and she knew it. We’d promised to stay together forever. This time she started to cry, “We won’t find peace as long as the pact is broken.” My heart started beating faster. I shook my head, “No, this isn’t really happening.”
She looked at me and I knew what she meant. She didn’t want to do it, but she had to. I couldn’t move from my seat and it was hard to believe what was happening. Pri leaned closer for a hug and said, “I’m so sorry.”
I felt a sharp pain running through my body and after that everything turned black.
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