“I must really be losing it. I could have sworn I heard you talking to Sarah.”
Lizzie looked over Jessica’s shoulder to where Sarah was hovering. She had a pang of guilt. She really wanted to tell Jess just how right she was. She wanted to confess to her that their best freight was there and standing right behind her.
They were both sitting outside. The day had warmed up to where it wasn’t uncomfortable and many of the cafes and pubs had opened their front areas to outside seating. Someone from colder states might have felt it a bit chilly, but Jessica and Lizzie were born Wisconsinites and the chill was refreshing.
It hadn’t taken them long to get to the cafe as it had been just around the corner, and they been able to quickly walk there. It went unsaid that neither of them wanted to ride in a car.
“Oh, come on, can we just get some food for take out.” Josh groaned. He had made his opinion clear that he didn’t want to sit around while a bunch of damned women jibber-jabbered, his words. He wanted out of there. He didn’t want to be there or anywhere.
He was coming to terms with the fact that he killed himself. He’d been high, drunk, and stupid and had gotten the gun from his security case. So, he deserved to be… somewhere. He didn’t know if that meant hell or just an eternity of nothing. It didn’t matter. What did matter was that he wanted it all to be over with. He wanted to slip into the dark and let the world around him go away. His family was gone, what did he have to exist for?
“Lizzie, earth to Lizzie.” Jessica said, snapping her fingers. As she did, the waitress was lowering their salads in front of them. Lizzie looked briefly at it, thanking the server before looking back at her friend. She’d gotten so used to dead friends around her always talking amongst themselves, it was getting easier to just zone out when someone living was talking to her. She knew that wasn’t a good thing. She’d have to work on getting better about that.
“Sorry about that?”
“Drifting off there. My mind keeps doing that lately.”
“I’m sure. It’s been hard on all of us, and well, we’re worried about you.”
“Some of the sisters. I know you didn’t get into the sorority, but my sisters still care. And Dennis, as well as Tammy and Cynthia. You have friends you know. We’re all here for you.”
Funny, as Lizzie couldn’t remember the last time she’d talked to half of the people on Jessica’s list and the sorority had made it clear that she had not been good enough stock to be one of their sisters. Though Lizzie wouldn’t say anything about that to Jessica, she couldn’t do anything about the comebacks and the thoughts that festered.
“I know,” was all she said, keeping her eyes downcast, studying her salad. It was what she’d ordered and normally she loved the Mediterranean salad with grilled chicken, but she was losing her appetite. Hearing Jessica talk about all these artificial friends as though they were people who cared about her made her wonder just how much Jessica cared. After all, it’s been nearly two weeks before they had even seen each other and even now something was off. It was like there was this rift between them now, and Lizzie wasn’t sure what to say anymore.
They sat in silence for a minute that stretched into another.
“Come on, this is bullshit. Let’s just get out of here.” Josh said. He kicked at a chair, and it fell over. Sarah looked at it shocked, but Lizzie didn’t notice it. Elisabeth and Josh were gone again, walking somewhere nearby. More and more they seemed to go off to be on their own.
Lizzie looked up and saw that Jessica was looking at something. She turned and saw that Jessica was looking at the chair toppled over. She didn’t see Josh standing there but Lizzie saw as he squatted near it. He looked puzzled, like he wanted to reach out and touch it but kept pulling his hand back not daring.
“That was odd.” Jessica said and Lizzie looked back at her. She had a far away look like she was thinking about something. “You know, it’s weird but sometimes I feel like Sarah hasn’t moved on. It’s almost like I can feel her and know she’s here with us.”
Lizzie felt another stab of guilt and looked at her dead friend. Should she tell Jess? Lizzie highly doubted that Jessica would believe her. She knew she wouldn’t had if positions had been reversed. Just how would she take it? She knew she wouldn’t get Jessica committed, so that was off the table. She didn’t think she’d think her friend was messing with her, but she also didn’t think she’d believe her.
No, she knew what she would do, and her passive aggressive nature was probably to blame. She’d listen to her friend, tell her it would all be okay, and over the course of the next few days or weeks, stop calling and asking to hang out. She’d distance herself until months down the line they would find themselves getting together and she would casually ask, “So hey, you still seeing dead people?” and if she said yes, would drop her out of her life completely.
She looked at her friend who was reading something off her phone in one hand, holding the fork in the other, and munching on some of the salad. She was completely oblivious to Lizzie across from her and her inner turmoil.
“I know what you mean.” Lizzie said as she pushed around a radish until it fell out of the salad bowl.
“I think we need to get out of here.” Josh said quietly into Lizzie’s ear. She recoiled from it as he had never been that close to her before. It was kinda freaky.
“Liz, I think he’s right. Did you see what he did? That shouldn’t be possible,” Sarah said.
“I keep saying we need to get out of here and read that letter. Somethings gotta be in there about all this.”
She felt something pinch her butt and looked at Josh who was on the other side, both hands in view.
What the hell? She reached back and found the letter, that stance bump in the envelope right where she had been pinched.
“Dennis just texted, wondering what you’re doing tonight.”
“Really?” Jessica looked up from her phone, setting down the fork. “With Who?”
Great. Open mouth and insert foot. Lizzie did not want to tell Jessica that she was going with Roland to a show in Milwaukee. She should lie. It was the only way. She should just up and lie.
“Roland. We’ve had tickets to see Ed Sheeran.” Dammit. What is wrong with you?
“For fuck’s sake, will you just open the damned envelope” Josh screamed. She tried to ignore him.
“Wait, What!? You’re going with Roland? I thought you dumped him because he was fooling around with that Natalie tramp.”
“Yeah, well..” Lizzie fidgeted more with her salad. Now it was starting to feel like old times. These were the conversations she remembered having with her BFF’s. Though she did wish she wasn’t the one to be on the hot seat discussing how she was going out with the ex-boyfriend she had just broken up with a short time ago. She did deserve it. She was the idiot who had said yes to going.
“Yeah, well what? I mean come on. He turned you into a wreck. You’re still trying to get over him and now you guys are going back on a date. He already cheated on you once.”
“It isn’t a date.”
“He’s picking you up?”
Lizzie nodded, not trusting her mouth anymore. It seemed to have become too honest for her own good.
“And you’re going to a show together. How is this not a date?”
“I don’t want it to be. I can’t stand the asshole. We just… We got the tickets and I really want to go to the show.”
“So go by yourself or hell, take me.”
“It’s not that easy. He showed up at the apartment and he’s-“ her phone started buzzing and she flipped it over from how she had put it on the table to see that Roland was calling. “Shit.”
Jessica stood so she could look down at the caller ID from the other side of the table. “Here, let me talk to the son-of-a-bitch.”
Lizzie clicked on the side of the phone, silencing it until it went to voicemail.
“We’d bought the tickets when they went on sale. He’s held on to them, and God, I just want to see my Eddie. They’re really good tickets.”
“You’re Eddie huh.”
“Yes, my Eddie. He’s going to look down at me from that stage and realize how much he needs me in his life and going to take me off to tour with him.”
“You are a dreamer.”
Lizzie threw a carrot at her.
“Someone kill me. Again. And again.” Josh said as he started slamming his fist into his head. “This is hell. There is no big mystery. I’m just in hell.”
Lizzie’s phone buzzed again, and she looked down, this time to see the text message Roland had sent.
“Rdy to pick u p.” She saw on the screen, and she quickly mentally translated to ‘I’m ready to pick you up.” She shook her head and turned back over the phone. She wasn’t ready to deal with him again. Not yet.
And you still have to survive a three-hour car trip with him.
“So, tell me how is this a good idea?”
Lizzie winced, shrugging in acknowledgment that her friend was right. “I get to see Ed Sheeran and try to have him run away with me so I can have wonderful, beautiful babies with him.”
Jessica lowered her head, shaking it. They were both giggling.
“You dumb bitch!”
Lizzie was getting used to Josh cursing and yelling at her that it took a moment before she realized that wasn’t Josh yelling. For Jessica it hadn’t taken so long, and she had quickly looked up and past Lizzie to the screaming behind her. By the time Lizzie did turn, she had been just in time to see the man a few buildings down as he slapped the girl he was with. Lizzie assumed he was with. He had his other arm wrapped around hers possessively and was pulling her along.
That was all it took for Jessica as she was already up and rushing to the two strangers. She had looked at Lizzie as she rushed past. Had those red rings returned to her eyes? Lizzie wasn’t sure but she remembered them and thought about how close Jessica had nearly come to getting killed.
What if…? What if something was killing her friends or those close around her. It was crazy but just what if? It was killing them and leaving their spirits with her. It was targeting those she cared about. Jessica was someone she cared about. What if that red ring was some kind of marker…? Then Jessica could be in danger.
That’s a lot of ‘what if’s’. There’s also the what if that she could be crazy and imagining all of this.
As Lizzie stood, she noticed that the few others that had been dining outside had looked but were now focusing intently on their food. Everyone seemed to be actively ignoring what was going on.
“Now get in the car and let’s get home.” The man was yelling. Lizzie was paying more attention to him as they were getting closer. He was taller than them both and muscular. Lizzie didn’t find it attractive, but she could see other girls fawning over him, though he had that Magic Mike vibe and damn, that was such a turn off. He stood hovering over the shorter dark-skinned woman. He was leading her to his car, door open for her.
“What does she think she’s doing?” Sarah yelled. It sounded like she wasn’t that much farther than Lizzie, hurrying behind her.
“This woman’s crazy.” Josh said and Lizzie could swear she heard him laughing. This was her friend they were dealing with, and that asshole is laughing. Lizzie would have to talk to him later.
“Read what’s in that envelope and he won’t be so ornery. It’s all he’s asking for,” her inner voice told her. It was far calmer than she thought it should be as she was running on full alert chasing her friend.
“Hey asshole.” Jessica said. Lizzie cringed. She had no idea what her friend was going to do. He was a beast. Jessica was a fly when it came to him. A fly on the wall and Lizzie sensed she about to get swat.
It didn’t take Lizzie long to realize though, her friend wasn’t a fly. She was a full-on hornet. She ran right at the man and as he turned, she slammed her fist straight into his jaw.
Lizzie stopped and felt a force and a crushing instant headache as Sarah slammed in behind her, but it couldn’t be helped. She was left awestruck watching the blow and the cascading effect of the shock registering on the large man’s face.
“What the fuck.” The man spit out blood from his new busted lip. “You fucking hit me. What the fuck you dumb bitch, you fucking hit me.”
That was all the man was able to say. While he had staggered back, spitting out the words with blood punctuating the curses, Jessica had moved with the momentum. It the distance she had moved to rush the guy, she had kicked off her heals and now moved with the grace of a dancer as she sidestepped the guy, lifted her knee high, and brought her foot crashing down, hard, into the side of the man’s knee. The large man crashed to the ground, first with a crunch on his ass and then Lizzie watched as his head smacked the pavement with a loud crack.
She held her breath as Jessica stood. Did they just kill the man? He wasn’t moving. What kind of trouble would they be in? They had attacked this random man on the street surrounded by witnesses. Jessica murdered him. She could go to prison. They’d send her away with the death penalty. What was the law in Wisconsin? Was it life or injection?
Then the other thought hit her like a fist to the gut and she quickly looked around at the surrounding crowd. What if he did die… and came back like the others.
She didn’t see him in the crowd. Yeah, she didn’t see him, but all the others had come back in the middle of the night. He might not come until she was asleep.
“You okay?” She heard Jessica saying. She looked at her, about to reply when she saw that Jess wasn’t talking to her. She’d walked over to the other girl and was looking at her. The girl was crying but she still nodded.
“It was my fault. You shouldn’t have hit him; he’ll only be upset when he gets up. It was my fault. I had forgotten to pay the cell bill and his phone was turned off. I shouldn’t have forgotten.” The woman was in tears, backing away from Jessica as Lizzie approached. She was shaking her head vigorously back and forth. It was obvious that Jess wasn’t going to get anywhere with her.
“Fuck!” The man screamed from the ground. He started rolling back and forth grabbing at his head. Tears were streaming down his cheeks.
Well, at least he wasn’t dead.
Lizzie moved to help the girl, moving slow as the girl backed against the wall of a corner grocery store. She saw inside how people were gathered near the window watching the commotion outside. Sure, and none of them were willing to come outside and help. Assholes.
“It’s going to be okay.” Lizzie said. Jess must have realized she was not being any help as she turned away from the woman and walked back to the man on the ground. Lizzie didn’t turn around, but it didn’t take long before she heard him screaming.
“She shouldn’t be doing that. It was my fault.” The woman said, almost in a whisper as she hugged herself and backed away from Jessica.
“I know. She’s a mean person. It’s going to be okay.” Lizzie said to her. She reached out to the woman to gently touch her arm, but the woman quickly recoiled, moving a few steps away from Lizzie.
The woman wouldn’t look up and Lizzie again tried to ease herself close to her. The woman kept her eyes locked on her boyfriend. She was a mess, but Lizzie could see that when her makeup wasn’t smeared and she wasn’t hiding herself in this pity, she was beautiful enough to be a model. Maybe she was. She was rail thin, had that long brunette’s hair that was perfect even with all the craziness going on around them.
Lizzie almost admired her. But then, how could someone this beautiful be with such a jerk. Did she not see how amazing she looked? She could go out and find anyone better than this piece of shit with no problem, but here she was.
Lizzie was finally close enough to touch her again, and gently lied her hand on her shoulder. The woman’s eyes focused on her for the first time, and shot wide open with a look of sheer terror. It was like the touch electrified her. Her mouth started moving wordlessly and she pushed herself away. She was desperate to get away, pulling her shoulder back from Lizzie’s hand, and nearly falling in the sudden jerky motion.
Finally, she found her voice as she whispered, “moun ki gen madichon.”
“Madichon. Madichon!” The woman hissed it at her, then spit to the ground. Before Lizzie fully realized what was happening the woman turned around and ran. She didn’t just jog away, she ran at full speed like she was running for her life, to get away from Lizzie.
“What the hell was that?” Jessica asked. She stepped up next to Lizzie as they watched the woman running across the street nearly getting hit by a car.
Lizzie looked over at her friend. Behind her she could see the man getting up. He was staring at them with venom, but he was also holding his side and could barely stand. She didn’t think he was going to start anything, and he didn’t as he stumbled and climbed into his car.
“Don’t know,” Lizzie said and then cocked her head back in the direction of the man. “So, where you learn all that?”
“Remember that guy Dennis told you about. Well, he’s one hell of a self defense teacher… and he teaches a little boxing on the side.” Jessica said with a wry smile.
“Excuse me. Excuse me. Are either of you going to pay or do I need to call the police?”
They both looked over to the waiter who was standing next to their table, their checks in hand.
Both broke out in laughter and walked back to the table.
Sarah and Josh were already there, sitting in their abandoned chairs. Where the hell was Elisabeth and Chuck and how had they missed all the action?
Lizzie was going to have to ask them if they ever returned.