One second I’m sitting on my bed, and the next I’m standing next to my dad in the Shadow District. I’m still in my pink sweats and blue tank top. It’s cold on the supernatural side. It’s slightly warmer here, so the recently dead can make the transition to being…well…dead. From here on, it only gets colder.
The shadows start gathering, sensing the presence of my dad. Whispers of requests drift on the frigid air.
“Lord, save me…”
“I cannot breathe, Milord…”
“Am I really dead?”
“I can’t be dead, sir, I have an appointment tomorrow…”
“Lord, let me return to the living…”
My dad raises his hand. “Silence!”
The power in his voice makes the shadows cower in fear. Even though I’ve seen my dad as the Shadow Lord before, it’s still frightening.
“Ryan, come forward.”
All the shadows start clamoring towards him, claiming to be my Ryan.
“I said Ryan. Ryan, come here.”
The shadows melt back. All but one. Ryan.
“Yes, Shadow Lord?”
My dad looks at me, meaning for me to speak.
I take a deep breath. “Ryan?”
“Nikki!” The shadow that used to be Ryan runs towards me, arms outstretched. It runs through me and I almost start crying.
Ryan turns to my dad. “Why can’t I hold her?”
“Ryan, you’re dead.” The word tastes bitter and foreign in my mouth, even though I’ve been surrounded by death my whole life. A tear rolls down my cheek, freezing on my skin in the cold air.
Ryan slowly turns to face me. I can just barely make out his face in the blackness that he’s becoming. His chocolate hair still hangs in his skater boy cut, his blue eyes winking at me from behind his bangs.
I nod as another tear falls down my face.
Ryan looks down at his new body. “I’m never going to hold you again?”
I shake my head as more tears follow the first two.
Ryan tilts his head and his lip ring glints in the dim light. Was it only yesterday I had felt that lip ring pressed against my lips?
“Nikki, please say something.”
“I love you, Ryan.” The words come out as a sob.
Ryan looks pleadingly at my dad. “Is there anything I can do? Can I have at least one more day with her?”
My dad shakes his head. “The dead are dead and cannot mingle with the living. I brought Nikki here so she could say goodbye.”
Ryan looks from my tear-soaked face to my dad. “Shadow Lord, can I please have one more hour with her? I never got to say goodbye the right way.”
The way Ryan’s face is as he says it reminds me of my dad’s face when mom died.
Dad sighs and gives in. “One more hour. Then you’re back here, Ryan.”
My dad waves his hand and Ryan and I are back in my room. Ryan looks down and sees the body he had before he died.
He looks at me. “Nikki? Is this real?”
I nod. “He gave us one more hour. Then it’s…”
Ryan reaches for me. Slowly, he runs his hands over my body, knowing that this is the last time he’ll ever touch me. His hand travels up my shoulder and to my neck. His hands are warm, like they always were before. Ryan’s fingertips trace my face, memorizing every detail. His fingers stop on my lips.
“I’m going to miss so many things, Nikki,” he says, his eyes never leaving my face.”
“I’m going to miss you, too, Ryan. There’s nothing that can ever replace you, or even come close.”
Ryan smiles. “Nikki, will I be able to kiss you like this? With my extra hour?”
“You can do anything you could when you were alive.”
Ryan hesitates for a second, then moves his hand and presses his lips against mine. Softly at first, then harder when he realizes he can still feel me. He deepens the kiss as his hand slides to the back of my neck. His other arm wraps around my waist and pulls me closer. I put my hand on his chest, pressed half on his leather jacket and half on his dark blue shirt. Tears start sliding down my face. This is the last time I’ll ever be with the living Ryan. My Ryan. My Ryan that smells like leather and outdoors and guitar strings, that tastes like honey. He slowly pulls back and gently wipes away my tears with his finger, callused from the guitar strings he always played.
“Nik, this isn’t the end. I’ll find a way to come back. To…”
He nods. “That. We’ll still be together, I promise.”
I shake my head. “Ryan, don’t make promises. The supernatural world doesn’t obey promises. It rips them apart.”
He’s about to say something when a sudden wind bursts through my windows, carrying the scent of roses and vanilla. Ryan’s face turns from sorrow to terror. I reach for him and scream his name, but the wind carries him away, leaving me alone in my room with only the sickeningly sweet smell of roses and vanilla.