I spend a lot of time with friends. I have this idea that it will help me move through grief more easily if I have people around me.
Grief has its own rhythms and pacing. Give it time, and don’t look for the silver bullet.
Mara Nix is growing up, and she comes over often.
She asks me if I’d paint something for her.
“I just want a painting to hang in my room,” she says. “I think it’s classy. And you’re a good artist, plus you’re my friend, so I thought I’d ask you.”
I agree and tell her I’ll have it done in a week or two.
Before I get a chance to work on Mara’s painting, Beatrice Crumplebottom invites me over.
“I’ve been writing a book of spells,” she tells me. “You might be interested!”
“But I’m not a witch,” I reply. “I don’ really have much use for things like spells.”
“Nonsense!” she says. “Everyone can use spells! Besides, this is Moonlight Falls. You’re living among magic, dear. It’s high time you start embracing the magic of your own self.”
Later, when Mara and I meet up at the library to look through some art books for inspiration and ideas for her painting, I tell her about my conversation with Beatrice.
Mara gives me a strange look.
“You know, my parents always thought they could ignore magic,” she says.
“And can they?” I ask.
“They deny it. You know how Mom is. When I’m with them, I keep my focus on the boring stuff. But I’ve got to tell you, Cathy, I’ve seen things, things I can’t deny.”
When we finish looking through the art books, we head outside and play some frisbee.
“Does it bother you,” I ask, “being one of the few regular non-magic people here?”
“Who says I’m not magic?” she replies. “I think old Miss Crumplebottom is right, and there is magic in all of us, and living here gives us a chance to discover that!”
That evening, Doreen Caliente stops by.
“I feel a little like I’m living in a postcard,” I tell her. “Like nothing is quite real.”
“Oh, give it a break,” she replies. I wait for her to say more, but she’s playing video games, and our conversation stalls out while she battles the zombie hordes.
After she leaves, I settle into bed. I’m still not completely used to sleeping alone in the house. Dante and I never shared a bed long enough for me to register that as normal, so I can’t blame my insomnia on missing him beside me. But I still miss him. And even though I’m grateful that Chauncey and Jin have moved out, I miss having other people in the home, especially late at night when the moon casts strange shadows.
Not being able to sleep, I get up and clean the kitchen. My thoughts keep returning to Dante. It feels almost like he’s near me, like I can hear him breathing and smell his spicy aftershave.
I wonder if, wherever his spirit is, if he ever thinks of me. I don’t know if it works that way. Where do we store our memories of another person, in our brains? In our consciousness? In the cells of our body? Or somewhere else, in that part of us that continues after our bodies fade away?
As the grey light of dawn arrived, I feel Dante so strongly.
When we feel someone’s presence, it means a connection. Go ahead. Reach out.
“Dante?” I ask.
The air is filled with the sound of a beating heart and an inferno’s roar.
Before me, red vapors coalesce into a form. It’s Dante.
“Are you real?” I ask.
“Was I ever?” replies his voice, as if it’s coming through a tunnel, echoing from someplace dark and far away.
“Can I talk to you?” I ask.
“We’re talking now,” he says. “I missed you. You’re my OTP.”
We talk into the morning. I feel shivers when I look at him–I can’t help it. Deep inside me, fear stirs and I feel repulsion. But once the chills pass, I see that it’s still Dante, still the one with whom I shared a love that was prophesied to outlast even the earth itself.
“It sounds like some kind of music is coming from you,” I tell him.
“Oh, yeah,” he says. “I don’t know what that is. I hear it all the time. I think it’s perhaps the music of the spheres, or something.”
“But why do you hear it? Why does it come from you?”
“Who knows?” he replies. “There’s so much I don’t understand. I get that now. Anyway, how’s your garden? You still selling a lot of produce?”
I fill him in on the crops. I’m making good money growing coffee. It feels odd to be talking with him about such ordinary things, and yet I feel really happy, too.
“Did you mean it when you said we were an OTP?” I ask.
“Sure,” he says. “Don’t you think so?”
He has to leave when the sun streams in through the window.
“Will you be back?” I ask.
“Yeah,” he says. “I think it’s true, what that Love Machine said. What we’ve got outlasts it all. I’ll see you soon.”
After he’s gone, I sit in the sunlight pouring through the window and draw sketches for Mara’s painting. For the first time since Grim came for Dante, I feel peaceful, and for the first time since moving to this strange town, I feel at home.