AGH!!! What the---where am I?
The darkness that clouds my vision is suddenly doused with light, rushing in, arousing my senses, returning my vision and life. I jump to my feet, and almost cry out at the pain in my skull. I reach up and grab my head.
The pain vanishes. Disappears as if it was never there, and leaves me breathless.
I lower my hand.
I'm breathing heavily now. My eyes search for something familiar, but all I see is brightness. What the heck is going on here?! Where am I??
"Turn around, Tom," a powerful, yet tender voice says.
I spin around and almost fall flat on my back.
And there He was. God Himself.
I stood, motionless, breathless, and my legs gave out beneath me. I fell on my knees and bowed to Him. There was nothing else I could do. The power of His presence left me feeling speechless, and worthless.
His hand grabbed my shoulder and pulled me to my feet. "Tom," He says, pushing up my chin with His finger. "I forgive you for what you've done."
Tears well up in my eyes. I don't know what to say. Heck, I have nothing to say. Period.
"Am I...in Heaven?" I ask. All the other questions in my mind are far too prying and stupid to be spoken out loud. Besides, He can probably already read my mind.
God stares at me for a moment, silent.
Is that a tear rolling down His cheek?
"No, Tom. You are not in Heaven."
I feel a piece of my heart give out. "Hell?"
"Hell doesn't exist yet, Tom. The resurrection is not yet."
I don't understand, but I nod stupidly.
"You're here because I want to give you a second chance."
I say nothing. What could he possibly mean by that? And why did he put emphasis on you?
"What I mean is," he says, smiling slightly. "I'm going to let you try again."
My eyes shoot up. He can't be serious. "What?!" I practically shriek.
"Tom, I've never allowed anyone to have this option before."
The tears that had welled up in my eyes only moments ago begin to stream down my cheeks. "But why me? What makes me so special?"
"Everyone is special, Tom. If they weren't, why would I die for them?"
"But why?! I'm a terrible person and I am the last person to deserve a second chance!"
"Tom, I'm answering a prayer."
. . .
He sighs and turns into the clouds that surround us.
Suddenly, the clouds begin to move. Wind blows my hair backwards as the clouds accelerate. Where are we going?
Before I have the time to ask, the clouds stop, lurching me forward into God's arms. He pats me on the back then points into the mist.
Is that . . . Chrissy?
I can see Chrissy through the mist!! What is going on?
She's talking, she's talking... what is she saying? I can't hear!!
"You can't hear because your thoughts are louder than her voice, Tom," God says quietly. "Listen."
I take a deep breath. I lean forward and cock my head.
Then I heard her say - practically scream - these words:
"God! Please, please, You have to help me.. the Bible says You love me, so if You do, please answer me! Why did Tom kill himself? Why?! Now I'm left all alone with this baby, I have no one to go to! And I'm not ready to move on! I still love him! Please God....bring him back!! PLEASE!!! I'm sorry for all the wrong things I've done! I'm sorry I don't go to church! I'm just so alone now and You're the only one I can turn to!!"
She sobs into her hands for what seems like hours. I'm sobbing too. Convulsing. I feel like my heart is about to give out.
The image suddenly vanishes.
God turns to me. "Tom. I will give you one more chance to set things right. Live your life the right way. Do not make the same mistakes you made before."
I wipe away the tears and swallow the guilt, and try to speak before it crawls back up my throat. "How are you going to---"
God threw out his hand, and I suddenly felt a whirlwind hit me, launching me back into the clouds. Whiteness. Everywhere.
My face plows into something hard.
"Ouch!" I yelp.
I throw up my head.
"Class," the teacher yells, just as everyone is starting to stand. "Don't forget to write your essay!"
Realization washes over me as I see classmates begin to shuffle out of the room. I'm here. All those months ago. The day I met Chrissy. This is where it all happened. Where it all began. My eyes zoom across the room, examining everything that has changed so much. Rhea is now walking out of the room. I look at her differently now. She just seems like a friend.
A best friend.
But not anything more. And that's the best feeling I've had in a long time.
Then my eyes fall on Chrissy.
And guess what? She doesn't seem like just a friend. She seems like my girlfriend - no, my wife. We have - or had - been through so much together... she was - or is - so beautiful. Even more beautiful than when - well - I died. Why is that? Was - is she more . . . pure?
I stand. Should I talk to her? Start the romance we had before and risk having the past repeat itself?
I sigh deeply.
I walk towards her.
"Hey." The word dies on my tongue.
She looks at me. Her eyes immediately widen, but then recede. "Uhh...hi?"
I gulp. This was it. I try to remember what I had said before, so I won't change anything. Then I remember. "I'm Tom."
"I know," she says quickly. Then she adds, "Christina. You can call me Chrissy if you want."
I nod and smile. The smile came naturally, as it usually did when I was with Chrissy. "Well, I kind of wasn't listening in class."
She nods, not understanding if I remember correctly.
I blink, then repeat what I had said before, those many months ago: "What I mean is, I don't know what the assignment is. The essay thing."
Chrissy nods, a smile suddenly appearing on her face. "Ahh, I see."
I stare at her for a second, waiting. She doesn't add anything. Awkwardly, while also trying to conceal a smile of utter joy to see her again, I mutter, "So, uhh, what is it?"
Her eyes widen as if my words stir her from some day dreaming. "Oh, right, umm...sorry. I was just---well, you know---the essay, right. Uhh..." She begins to dig through her backpack. She suddenly pulls out a piece of paper. "Here it is," she declares. "It's a one-thousand word paper on death and dying and how it affects people. Can you remember that?"
I say nothing. Death and dying and how it affects people?
. . . I could write a million words on that. After...well...you know...
"Yeah, thanks," I say quietly, thoughtfully. What a coincidence. Death and dying. And the effects it has on others.
She smiles sweetly at me and then shoves the paper back into her backpack. "No problem."
Just then, it came. That voice in my head that always used to tell me what to do. I hated it because it would always make me say stupid things. It does it again. I say, "Just in case I forget though, maybe I should have some way of contacting you."
That sentence must have surprised her, because she almost jumps out of her clothes. "Oh! Well, of course. Yes---well---will my cell do?"
Do I really want to risk ruining her life again? If I walk away now, she'd find someone else, and this whole thing would have never happened. Everyone's life would be better.
I snap out of it.
I make my decision.
"No, actually, nevermind," I say, stuttering. "I don't think we should stay in contact."
I turn quickly and start shuffling away. I take one last glimpse back at Chrissy. Beautiful Chrissy. She looks so...disappointed.
She'll get over it. She has to.
My feet stop.
God's words echo in my head. "You're here because I want to give you a second chance."
Now I know why he put emphasis on you. Because this isn't only a chance for Chrissy. This is a chance for me.
I spin on my heel.
"Chrissy," I snap, just before she can walk out the door.
The bell rings.
Chrissy stares at me as if she wants to stay, but knows she can't. "I really got to go. I'll catch up with you later, okay?"
I catch her arm before she has the chance to escape. I swing my other arm around her waist and pull her close to me. My lips press against hers and I kiss her. Deeply, and emotionally. I don't care if Chrissy doesn't like it. I need this. A pure kiss. One that isn't diluted by sex and impure thoughts. Just purity. I press my lips even tighter against hers, and move my hand up to her cheek. I stroke her hair affectionately.
"Mr. Parker!" the teacher says angrily, standing.
Chrissy stares at me, wondrously.
The teacher marches over to me and grabs my shoulder. "You're coming with me!"
I smile slightly. Chrissy is still in shock. But she looks happy.
I sigh as the teacher begins to drag me away. "I'll call you."
Chrissy snaps out of it then nods. "Okay, sounds good!" She stands there for a moment, motionless, then comes back to reality. "Oh! But you don't have my number!"
"I have it memorized," I say with a chuckle, just as the teacher grabs me by the ear and pulls me harder.
Chrissy frowns. "But---how?"
"That doesn't matter, Chrissy." I push the teacher's hand away from my ear. "All that matters now is this: I love you. You won't be able to understand this. And I don't know if I'll ever be able to explain it. But I love you. I truly do, Chrissy. I love you, and not anyone else. Understand?"
Chrissy says nothing. She just stares. "I may just love you too, Tom Parker."
Parker? She must remember me. Kind of, at least. I never told her my last name. But it must be vague, because she still looks confused.
Just then, the teacher grabs my ear and pulls me off again. Right before I enter the principle's office, I look up to heaven and mutter, "Thank You."