Dad must have left the porch light on for me before he went up to bed. I stood in its yellow glow and fumbled with my bags as I searched my pockets for my key.
“Do you hate me now?” Alastor’s voice echoed in the darkness.
I didn’t look up, afraid I’d see him materialized somewhere near me.
“I don’t hate you,” I confessed.
He was close to me. I could see his shadow on the concrete, achingly familiar. He moved closer so that our two shadows became one.
“Would you walk with me?” He asked.
“It’s not far,” he pleaded.
I shifted the bags in my hands, “What am I supposed to do with these?”
His shadow motioned toward the house, “Put them inside.”
“I can’t,” I sighed. “I don’t know where my key is.”
There was a deep chuckle and the shadow at my feet disappeared. Before I could even look around, I heard the lock turning, and the front door opened wide.
Alastor stepped out into the moonlight, solid enough I could hear the sound of his clothing moving against his skin. He smiled a crooked grin and cocked one eyebrow.
“You were saying?” He teased.
“Thank you,” I whispered as I placed my purchases inside the door, careful not to touch him as I moved past.
“Being dead does have its advantages.”
I looked up at him, taken back that he would make light of his own death. Alastor only bowed and swept his hand wide.
“Shall we?” He asked.
I didn’t hesitate this time. I stepped off the porch and back onto the stone walk with him at my side.
“So where are we going?” I asked.
“Follow me, my love.” He purred.
Hearing his voice in that exact moment, I knew I would follow him anywhere.
I walked beside him, acutely aware of how solid he was at that moment, knowing that anyone would be able to see him if they looked out their windows. He was beautiful in a way that made my heart ache.
“Alastor, can I ask you something?”
He looked up into the night sky, the shadows from the streetlight playing across his face, “Of course.”
“How are you doing it? How are you this real? Why are you suddenly able to touch me? Why was everyone able to
see you that day at school?”
He smiled, “I don’t know, perhaps it was a one-time thing.”
“I have a theory,” he said. “I feel stronger when we’re together, especially when you’re thinking about me as a man and not as a ghost, but it makes me very tired to be this real for you.”
“So will you ever be able to stay like this?”
“No,” He sighed and looked out into the darkness again. “I told you, it’s just an illusion. It’s not real.”
We walked in silence. Our strides matched one another. It was easy and natural, like a forgotten memory that wouldn’t go away.
Alastor was perfectly at ease, completely comfortable in the darkness. He walked only inches away from me, if I turned my hand just a little we would touch
It was strange to be so close to him when he was this strong. I couldn’t help but to steal a look at him as we walked along. He looked straight ahead, glancing at me only occasionally, I suppose to make certain I was still with him. He had the sleeves of his shirt cuffed up to his elbows, and his forearms were surprisingly muscular in a lean sort of way.
There was something about those naked arms made me blush and look away.
When I looked up at him again, he met my gaze. He was looking down at me, watching me closely for some reason. Whatever it was brought a sad melancholy to his eyes.
“What?” I asked.
“Where are we going?” I demanded.
He smiled down at me, making my heart flutter. “It’s just ahead.”
We turned and stepped up to a set of iron gates. I looked up and read the arching letters.
CEDAR HILL CEMETARY
“What are we doing here?” I demanded.
He didn’t answer. He walked through the gates in silence, not even looking back to see if I was following. The darkness of the night seemed to just swallow him up as he moved away from me.
I stood for a moment in the pale glow of the solitary streetlight, unsure if I should follow or not. In the distance I heard a dog barking in a backyard nearby, but other than that the night was unsettlingly quiet.
Not wanting to walk home alone, I followed him up into the cemetery, allowing myself to be consumed by the dark.
“Alastor?” I called to him, “Where are you?”
“Over here,” he answered to my right.
I turned toward his voice and I could just make out his ebony silhouette against the black sky. I stumbled over to him, eager to stand near his solid form and suffer the sweet torment of being so close to him.
“So why are we here?” I asked, feeling the slight chill in the air for the first time. I crossed my arms over my chest.
Alastor pointed to the headstone in front of us, “This is where my body lies.”
I didn’t want to look where he pointed, but my eyes were drawn to the headstone. I had seen it once before, but now the sight of it stirred something deeper inside of me. It wasn’t the grave of a faceless person anymore; it was the final resting place of the being standing next to me.
“You did that to me,” Alastor said flatly without accusation. “Even that was less painful than this.”
I looked up at him confused. He met my gaze with soft dejected eyes.
“Is that why you’re back?” I asked, “Be honest. Have you come back to get your revenge?”
Alastor chuckled and gave me a gentle smile, “It’s always a battle with you. It’s been that way from the first day that I saw you.”
He moved so he could lean back against the headstone, “You hated me at first or maybe you just thought I was a pest. I guess it wasn’t so different than it is now.
A vision of Alastor flashed behind my eyes. I could see him long ago, alive and whole. He was dramatically bowing to me, the sun giving his hair a slight copper glint, and I could remember that other me thinking that he was a fool.
Alastor nodded as if he could hear my thought and memories.
“Then one day I said something, I don’t remember what, but it made you smile and I knew then and there that I wanted to spend the rest of my life making you smile.”
I looked up at him in the darkness and tried to remember back to that me from another time. I could picture myself walking down the sidewalk and seeing Alastor up ahead. I remembered thinking I should ignore him, but there was a little skip in my heartbeat at the sight of him.
In my memories, Alastor stood near the edge of the street. I lifted my chin as I walked by, ignoring his greeting.
“Good morning, ma’am.” He had said as he watched me approach.
Just as I was about to pass, while trying to perform one of his ridiculous bows, he stumbled and fell backwards into a water trough.
I giggled in the darkness at the memory of it.
“It wasn’t anything that you said,” I whispered. “You fell into a horse trough.”
Alastor smiled and looked down at his feet, “I was hoping you wouldn’t remember that part.”
We were quiet for a moment and then another cold breeze came to remind me that it was getting cooler and I was standing in a cemetery at night.
“Alastor, why are you back?” I demanded, “And why did you bring me here?”
“When we got married, I thought that we’d be happy forever.” He said with a sigh, “Then I went off with the army and everything changed.”
Alastor turned and looked down at his own grave, “I was supposed to shoot and kill men that were not really much more than boys. You could hear them crying and calling for their mothers as they lay dying. Even when I came home, and the war was over, I could still hear them crying.”
I never knew that ghosts could feel pain, but as I watched his luminous blue eyes filled with tears. I felt the frustrated helplessness and wondered if this was how I felt back then.
Alastor turned his watery gaze on me, “Then came the whiskey and the women.”
“I don’t want to hear about that.” I snapped, feeling the familiar burn of jealously, “It doesn’t matter now.”
“Yes it does!” He said with wild eyes, “I am here because of you, don’t you understand that?”
My heart fell to the pit of my stomach, “Of course I understand it. I killed you and now you’re back to get even with me.”
Alastor was next to me in a flash. It hit me then that I may very well die then and there.
“You don’t see,” he said. “I am here because of you. I was a horrible husband, going into the beds of other women and being a shameful drunk, and I drove you to what you did.”
I looked up at him, trying to understand it all. He didn’t blame me for his death? How was that even possible?
Alastor took another step towards me, almost as if he were about to take me into his arms, but then changed his mind.
“I saw you when they arrested you,” he confessed. “I tried to go to you and tell you that I forgave you and that I was so sorry for everything that happened, but I only seemed to frighten you. I think I frightened you so badly that you took your own life and it broke my heart that you were then damned.”
“I knew you were damned because I never saw you after that,” he said. “I waited here for so long, but you never came until that day I heard you call to me and I knew that you had returned.”
“The séance…” I whispered with realization.
Alastor nodded and smiled, “And that’s when I knew.”
“When you knew what?”
He came around to stand behind me. I could feel the cold energy radiating off of him.
“That’s when I knew that we belonged together. War, adultery, and murder have been unable to tear us apart.”
I felt a tingling sensation on my head as he stroked my hair.
“No matter what,” he whispered. “You belong to me.”
Before I could say anything, there was a blast of frigid air and he was gone. I turned in a circle, searching the darkness, but I was alone.
I sighed and began my walk home, knowing he was watching me from somewhere and also wondering how this could ever end happily.