Disclaimers: Though they look familiar, theyre mine. This story could contain sex and violence at a future date, though it doesnt now. It does contain potty mouth. If those things offend you, try going somewhere else. Feedback and constructive criticism welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
For now, enjoy .
Darkness. Thats how it started. Then gradually a bitter light that mocked her. Eventually the memories came, brief flashes of light that seared themselves into her mind and eyelids. Opened or closed, those flashes were all she could see until the pain became so great that it returned her to her dark hell.
Then nothing, for what seemed like eons, until the light returned. This time it was not the light that was bitter- it was her. Bitter and angry that the light had left her broken and shattered.
As the early spring rains subsided, Jenna Moss cursed the sky. She raised her fists above her head in a laughable threat and bared her slightly crooked teeth to the ceiling of her small house. She had made that gesture several times that day and it had done her no good. If there was a god up there anywhere, its sole purpose was to make her life miserable.
And miserable she was. The rain and cool weather had started her left thigh to throbbing in the most obnoxious manner. For Jenna, even the simplest movement was complete torture. If it was not the pain of the now healed fracture itself, it was the reminder of the pains origins that constantly barraged her.
And that in itself was hell.
Scowling, she limped back into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of painkillers off the Formica counter. Shaking two of them out into her moist palm, she tossed them back without any water and grimaced. If the day was determined to be so damned rotten, she would spend it in drug induced ignorance of that vile little fact.
Hours later she awoke with a start. She opened her eyes slowly, trying to shake off the dreams that had once again plagued her sleep. Letting out a deep breath, Jenna slowly returned her head to the pillow, willing her body to relax. A loud banging on the door raised her hackles and she stumbled out of bed. She grabbed the bottle of painkillers as she hobbled on her way through the kitchen.
"Wow, look what the cat drug out of bed," Laura Manon chided as she brushed past Jenna.
"Im great, how are you?" Jenna asked dryly as she stood glaring with a hand on her hip.
"Good, thanks for asking. Oh man, you look horrible!" her best friend said through a grimace as she plopped down in Jennas favorite chair. "And hitting the pills already? Isnt that some form of substance abuse?"
Jenna shut the door and sat opposite her friend on the couch. "Its a good thing youre my friend," she growled and eyed the bottle of Oxycontin longingly before sitting it on the dusty coffee table in front of her.
"Im your only friend and your empty threats dont scare me." Laura looked closely at her before continuing. "The dreams again?"
Jenna tucked a strand of shoulder length blonde hair behind her ear and shrugged. "Is it that obvious?"
Laura nodded sympathetically. "Same one?"
The blonde nodded and picked at a piece of lint on the couch. Laura knew all about her troubles, had been there since before they had started, but even still Jenna had a hard time talking about it with her. Things were just too close to the surface and she wanted nothing more than to forget about it. But since the dreams had started six months before, she couldnt even get away from it in her sleep.
"Want to talk about it?" Laura asked her gently.
She shrugged again. "Its the same one its always been," she answered as she thought about the screeching tires and the grinding of metal collapsing in on itself. "Well, except for one thing."
"Matties hair was different. It was black instead of blonde."
Laura frowned and scratched her jean-clad leg. "Well thats new. What do you suppose it means?"
Jenna let out a breath. "I dont know, that Im finally losing whats left of my mind?"
Laura looked at her sharply. "Youre not losing your mind. And Ill remind you, again, that you didnt get brain damage from the coma you were in. The doctors all said so. You went through a traumatic event, it just needs time to work itself out, thats all."
"How much time? Christ, its been a year now!"
"I know, hon." Laura looked timidly at her, then continued. "Have you thought any more about therapy? I know a good-"
"I dont need it!" Jenna cut her off. "Youre right, it just needs more time to work out. Ill be fine."
The brunette held her hands up in mock surrender. "Okay, okay! Just- take care, will you? I worry about you."
"I always do my best."
Laura stood and went to the door, straightening her shirt as she went. "I gotta do dinner with Mom tonight. Call you tomorrow?"
Jenna nodded. "You know I will be here. Tell Mrs. Manon I said hello."
She went to the window and watched as her best friend backed her silver Honda out of the driveway, then pulled the drapes shut. Turning, she crossed the living room and grabbed the bottle of little blue pills. Pouring one out into her hand, she got ready to pop one into her mouth but stopped. Maybe she did need to lay off them. She growled and out the pill back, then flopped down on the couch. She reached down on the floor and found the remote in its resting place, and clicked it on. Maybe TV could take her mind off the train wreck that was her past.
"Jenna " It was a whisper, like a leaf carried on a warm summer breeze. It caressed her and brought a brief moment of peace. She turned around and there was Mattie, perfect as a spring flower. And her hair was still black.
She smiled in greeting, and Mattie smiled back.
"There you are."
"Here I am," Jenna replied playfully. She looked around, noticing for the first time that the vague nothingness that usually accompanied Matties presence was replaced by a field of meadow grass that dipped and waved in the wind in an eerie manner. Above her, the sun hung bright and yellow in a clear sky. It reminded her of the last time she had done acid, as if time was blurring. She finally returned her gaze to Mattie, who was now walking away from her.
"Where are you going?" she called to the tall womans back.
"But you dont know how to swim!"
Mattie with black hair turned and smiled at her. "Of course I do, silly!"
Jenna opened her eyes and looked around. There was the TV, her recliner, and the coffee table with her pills on it. Home, sweet home.
"Fuck that was weird," she murmured as she rose painfully from where she had fallen asleep on the couch. A glance at the clock told her it was two am and she laughed, glad now that she had not taken another pill. Otherwise, she might not have awakened for three more days.
Jenna emptied her bladder and paused in front of the mirror before leaving the bathroom. She traced a finger over the v-shaped scar that started below her left nostril and curved sharply back up toward her ear. It had taken a heavy regimen of antibiotics for it to stop festering and oozing, and even then, it had hurt for months. In fact, on cold days it still felt like a hot poker was stuck in there. She ran her finger over the valley it left in her cheek once more before leaving the bathroom.
Shutting the light off, she headed across the hall to the spare room she had turned into her office and booted up her computer. She had put work off long enough, and the gods only knew how bad she needed her last two accounts to keep paying her. As a web designer, she appreciated the odd hours she could keep. But lately, her hours had grown so odd that her last three accounts had fired her. She set to work and forgot about the dream.
The next morning was chilly and a layer of frost blanketed the ground. As Jenna peered thoughtfully through the window, it dawned on her that she had not been outside since the last time she had trudged across town to the pharmacy to get more pills. That had been almost two weeks ago. She made a mental note to go outside later if it warmed enough. Maybe she would take a short walk to the river. The sun would feel good on her weary bones.
She thought about the dream she had the night before, of how Matties appearance had changed. Jenna thought about the way her silky golden tresses had felt on her fingertips. Suddenly she missed Mattie more than she had in a long time. Jenna had heard somewhere that the dead could hear the thoughts of the living. She wondered if Mattie ever lent an ear in her direction. She wondered if Mattie would ever forgive her for causing her death.
The phone rang, interrupting Jenna from her thoughts. She squeezed her green eyes shut in irritation and waited for the answering machine to pick up.
"Jenna," she heard Lauras singsong voice say. "I know youre there, so dont try and act like youre busy. Its not like you ever go anywhere."
Laura paused and the silence was expectant. Jenna didnt move.
"Okay, Im coming over. Be ready because Im dragging you out of that house before you overdose on those damned pills. Tootles!"
Jenna groaned. She had not planned to go out just yet, and she certainly was not in the mood to be dragged about. But she knew her friend and that it was futile to tell her no, so she ran to hurried to her room and dug her hiking boots out from under her bed. She found her coat and returned to the living room, taking a pill before Laura could get there. If she was going to be forced out, they were going to the river where the prying eyes of the town would not be watching her in question.
As the two women navigated the riverbed, a cool wind began to blow. The new grass bent and dipped in the wind, and it reminded Jenna of the dream that shed had. Wondering what it meant, she told Laura about it.
The brunette shrugged and stopped, glancing at the brown water. "I dont know, Jenna." She turned her glance to her friend thoughtfully before continuing. "Maybe it means you need to lay off those pills."
Jenna rolled her eyes. "Its not that! I know you and the rest of this crappy town think I am nothing but a junky, but Im not. Do you have any idea how bad this leg hurts since it was shattered? If you did, I dont think you would say such things."
"Jenna, I know that leg has bothered you to no end. But do you know what bothers me? Ever since that car wreck, you have become a different person. Youre sullen, crotchety, and you are becoming a hermit! And I worry about how many pills you take because Im scared that one day Im going to go into that cave you call a home and find you dead. How do you think that makes me feel?"
Jenna dug her hands deep into her pants pockets and stared at the ground. "Probably nothing like it makes me feel to know I killed someone."
Laura wrung her hands in exasperation. "You know damned well that you didnt kill Mattie! It was the person that fell asleep at the wheel and hit your car. There was nothing you could have done! If you want an excuse to throw your life away over, you better find one a little closer to the truth!"
"It is the truth!"
Jenna looked up to see Laura stomping back on the trail they had come by. She thought about calling after her or even chasing her, but let it go. She didnt have the energy to fight about it. The web designer found some low-growing grass and sat down, wishing she had brought the oxycontin. Her cheek and thigh were screaming at her and she could barely think as the memories came flooding back. She was sure that if she had only paid a little closer attention to the road or swerved left instead of right that Mattie would still be alive. She layed back in the grass and cried for the emptiness in her heart.
The sound of splashing water made Jenna open her eyes. She sat up and squinted down to the muddy riverbank. A shadow passed in front of the sun and she looked up to see a dripping figure standing in front of her.
Water cascaded down the wet form of Mattie, or at least who she thought was Mattie. She couldnt tell for sure because of the angle of the sun, but she was sure this sightly woman had blue eyes.
The woman took an uncertain step back as Jenna got to her feet.
"Jesus, arent you freezing? Its only April, what are you doing in the water?"
Jenna took her coat off and walked toward the bikini-clad woman but stopped as her eyes clouded with fear. "Whoa, whats the matter? I wont hurt you. Here, take my coat so you dont catch your death," she added gently and held out the coat.
As the woman watched her with great unease, Jenna took the opportunity to study her. Matties body looked the same, right down to the small scar above her right ankle that she had got as a child. She had the same bronze skin, the same aquiline nose, and the same full lips. But Jenna had been right- her eyes were now blue, where in life they had been a rich, velvety brown. And her slicked back hair was still black.
"Mattie? Whats happening to you?" she whispered, unsure she wanted to know the answer.
"I should go," the drenched woman answered and turned away.
"Wait! Dont go!" Jenna pleaded, hugging her coat close to her body.
Mattie stopped, but did not turn around.
"Can you forgive me?" Jenna asked as tears welled up in her eyes. As they started rolling down her cheeks, she watched Mattie go without another word. As she watched her go, Jenna wondered dimly if ghosts could have such large bruises on the back of their legs before she woke up.
"Dear God!" she cried out as she struggled to her feet from the wet ground. Staggering back to her house, she could not shake the overwhelming feeling of guilt regarding Mattie. She was the sure the dream was an indication that she was not forgiven for her death and probably never would be.
Tears streaked down Jennas wind-chapped face as she entered her house and grabbed the bottle of blue pills. Taking three, she lay down on her bed and finished crying herself into oblivion.
As daylight broke the spell of night, Jenna groaned and opened her eyes. She yawned, then padded into the bathroom, pausing in front of the mirror.
"Jesus, you look like shit," she told her reflection.
She tried hard not to notice the bruise-like circles under her eyes, or the sallow color her skin had taken on. She didnt want to think about any of it, not the fact that Laura had not spoken to her that day at the rivers edge. For that matter, neither had Mattie. She had not dreamed of her in over a month now.
She shook her head and went to the living room where she cast a gloomy eye to the sunshine outside. It looked to be a beautiful day but she didnt care. She did not have the heart left in her to care. As far as she could tell, Mattie had taken it with her when she had walked away without forgiveness.
Jenna pulled the curtain closed again and went to the kitchen. If the day would give her no comfort, she would find it in the form of a little blue pill. Or three, since they were small.
A week later found the weather unseasonably warm. To match, Jennas house had become too hot to bear and she found herself driven outside to escape the heat.
"This must be what vampires feel like," she muttered, donning her a pair of scratched up sunglasses and wishing she had planted a tree in the front yard when she had bought the place.
A ticking noise drew her attention to the street. Two boys rode on bicycles down the sidewalk with cards rubbing against the spokes of their wheels. As they neared her house they slowed, turning their attention to her pale form.
"Look Gordie!" cried the first boy. "Its the witch! Lets go before she turns us into frogs!"
"Ill show you a witch!" she yelled after them, infuriated at the nerve of people who had nothing better to do than talk about others.
She watched them speed away then turned on her heel toward the river. She ignored the pain the move had caused and continued on her way, wanting only to reach the solace that she had always found there. After the wreck and Matties demise, she knew she had been reclusive and that the town had been talking about the incident. But what she could not understand was why they could not let a person alone to their grief, why they had to make up such lies to pass the time.
Shaking her head, she put those thoughts aside as the river loomed ever nearer. Once at its side, she sighed deeply and sat on a rock. The soft trickling of the water soothed her troubled mind and got her thoughts away from the pills that sat on her kitchen table. She felt her body relax and her eyes grew tired.
Only for a second, she thought as they drifted closed in the first peace she had felt in a long while.
When again her eyes had opened, Jenna realized that she was not alone. She looked to her right and stifled a scream at the sight of Mattie.
"You scared me!"
Blue eyes gazed intelligently back at her as the woman rose and went to the waters edge. There she turned to Jenna and watched her warily as a wild animal might. Bruises in the shape of fingerprints covered Matties arms below her periwinkle blue t-shirt. Jenna stood to get a closer look but stopped when the brunette stepped back in obvious fear.
"Why are you so afraid of me, Mattie?" she asked as a wave of tears came out of her eyes. "Whats happened to you?"
"Mattie?" the other woman asked in apparent confusion.
Jenna bolted upright as water ran over her legs. She had fallen asleep too close to the river and considered herself lucky not to have drowned. She looked at the sky, wondering why after a month the dreams had come back. What significance did the water hold? Or was it her anguish?
Maybe it was just the pills, she thought wryly. But the more she thought about it, the more she wanted to go back, to see Mattie once more if only just for a moment. She wanted to ask about the bruises, and the haunted look in her dead lovers eyes.
"Dead being the key word here," she laughed at herself. "Im losing my mind," she whispered to the water, then turned in her soggy shoes and squished her way back home.
Another week found Jenna in a completely vile state. She had run out of pills two days earlier and had a nasty case of the sweats and shakes. It had left her almost completely useless. She considered calling Laura, but thought better of it after remembering their last conversation. Her best friend had known that she was taking too many pills and she didnt want her nose rubbed in it like an animal that had waited too long and had no choice but to shit on the rug.
Knowing she would have to make it on her own, Jenna lay back on the bed and waited for it to pass.
She awoke hours later, the smell of her own sweat overwhelming. She shed her clothes and went to the shower, feeling almost human for the first time in weeks. As she toweled off, she thought of Mattie and the fear that her eyes had held. It pained her soul more than she could have ever thought, and she knew she had to do something about it before she truly lost her mind. And Jenna didnt feel she had far to go.
The river, she thought as she pulled khaki shorts up around her thin waist. A nice walk, some fresh air and well see what we can see.
A soft whisper in the back of her mind told her that she was being damned crazy. Mattie was dead and that was that. No amount of grief or pills could change that.
But something was wrong.
Jenna laughed wildly, startled at the sound it made. Yeah, something was wrong all right, and it was with her.
She ran a brush through her blonde hair, avoiding her reflection in the mirror above the sink. Taking a deep breath, she squared her shoulders and shut off the bathroom light.
"Well just see what we can see," she whispered to herself and set off.
The small blonde-haired person followed the partially hidden trail through her back yard and went to southern end of her property. She passed under a blooming apple tree and stopped to small the delicate flowers before continuing on the dense game trail. Wild roses with tiny buds swayed as she passed by them and she remembered with brief joy why she had bought the property. It was too beautiful too pass up.
She wound her way slowly to the river, trying not to think about what she was doing or the reasons why. She was afraid of what she would discover, and at the same time afraid that she would not find anything except that she had truly lost her mind. Shaking her head to clear those thoughts, she made her way carefully through a blackberry patch and found herself at the waters edge.
Jenna stood still for a moment. The bright sun was glittering on the murky brown water like stars in the night sky. Jenna looked to the rock she had fallen asleep on the last time she had dreamed of Mattie. It was too much to think about so she made her way further along the muddy bank of the river.
She passed cattails and went into the grass that had grown so much taller since the last time she had been there. Finding a clearing, she sat down and drew her good leg up under chin. She stretched her bad leg and ignored the dull ache that felt like it would soon become a roar.
"Well, here I am," she whispered to the warm air, perfectly aware that what she was doing was without a doubt aiding and abetting lunacy.
Why not? she thought to herself. The whole town already thought she was a witch, so what was wrong with adding crazy to the description? What she could not figure out was why she had been branded with that label. She never left the house, never bothered anyone. The only time she was ever disturbed from her lonely hell was when Laura came over, and lately even that had ceased. All Jenna could figure was that none of the senseless fools could understand grief and pain. She even wondered about her best friend these days.
No use dredging that up that crap, she thought to herself.
Sighing, Jenna stretched out and lay back on the grass with her eyes closed. Mattie never came unless she was asleep, and those thoughts were not getting her any closer to it.
After lying there for what seemed like hours, Jenna finally grew tired of waiting for something to happen. It was clear to her now that she had been crazy to think that the river had anything to do with Mattie. In fact, it was crazy to think it had been anything other than those fucking pills.
She laughed mirthlessly and tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear. She needed to call Laura and get it over with because she needed someone to talk to. She needed to talk soon, before she went too far to come back.
"Is something funny?" came a low voice behind Jenna and she nearly screamed in fright. Scrambling painfully off the ground, Jenna turned around to see Mattie.
"Son of a bitch," she mumbled in awe. Mattie was as beautiful as ever, and the black hair and blue eyes only made her seem all the more so. All, that was, except for the shiner that almost hid her right eye.
"What happened?" Jenna asked, all the while searching for signs that Mattie would turn and bolt as she always did.
Mattie raised long, slender fingers to her bangs and fussed with them until they covered the eye better. Shrugging, she answered, "I ran into something."
Jenna raised an eyebrow but didnt push the issue any further. She thought it damned strange that a ghost could get a black eye but decided a change of subject was in order. It was obvious the other woman did not want to talk about it.
"Nice day, isnt it?"
Again Mattie shrugged. "I suppose so," she answered, the beginnings of the usual fear becoming apparent.
"Well I think it is. This is the first time Ive been out of the house since " Her voice trailed off and she looked at the ground. "Since the last time I saw you," she finished quietly.
Mattie played with a piece of string on her white blouse but gave no other sign that she cared. "Do you come here often?" she finally asked, avoiding Jennas eyes.
"When I feel up to it. Ever since the wreck-" she bit the words off in horror before they could continue spilling from her lips.
Mattie looked at her curiously but gave no indication that she even knew what Jenna was talking about. It was then that Jenna had a revelation. This was not Mattie back from the grave to torment her. This was someone entirely different.
"Who are you?" she asked in utter confusion as she stepped closer to the taller woman.
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