Thank you SO MUCH for those reviews, girls! They made my day!
I hope this chapter isn't too augmented from the original sentiment of this story. It has been a long time, and I am doing my best to continue with the flow of the narrative. Still getting back into the swing o' things...
- A f t e r G l o w -
Susannah had made every effort to make the events of the day fun for Jesse. However, there was no hiding her abject sorrow as they walked along the beach in the cloudy sunlight. Her heart was hurting too much to feign delight. Jesse was her addiction, and her dealer was about to cut her off prematurely – she didn't know how she was going to deal with it. What would happen when he was gone? Would he seem like a dream? Would she forget him, in time? Would she be able to fall in love again? It didn't seem possible, when considering the potency of her feelings for him. She was mourning him before he'd even disappeared.
Jesse was not immune to the despondency, either. He could scarcely take his eyes off her, too frightened that she'd be gone when he opened his lids again. A commanding clock hand ticked their seconds away, and tocked in mockery. She'd taken to scribbling down her thoughts in her desperate efforts to communicate something, but her hand seemed heavy and urgent. She was frightened for him.
How will you die? she wanted to know, her black ink shining on the notepaper.
He frowned, taking her hand as he lay back on the sand. She leant over him, a silent siren against the sun. Her eyes, despite their fear, were deeply hypnotic in their beauty. He struggled to recall his thoughts.
'I am not sure,' he mused aloud. 'I will probably just cease to be.'
But, she scribbled, Paul is an asshole –
Jesse laughed. She scowled at him, and continued.
- What if he tries to make you suffer?
His gaze left hers as he hesitated on his reply. To be honest, it was something he had not thought of at all. He wasn't surprised to find that he didn't even care about his second death. He was almost at the point of accepting it now. He had everything he'd ever wanted, and if his life was to end at sunset, at least he could keep this little piece of forever when he died. Susannah cared for him, despite knowing the truth. What more could he have hoped for? It was surely already more than he deserved.
'It doesn't matter,' he smiled with an almost accepting serenity. 'You've given me more than I ever thought possible, querida, and that will sustain me no matter what happens next.'
The ocean rocked rhythmically out at sea, the gulls calling to each other over the crashing of the waves. Susannah turned and looked in fear up at the sun. It was high in the sky – the day was nearly half-way through.
Jesse drew a deep breath, savouring the scent of the ocean that teased the back of his tongue. Such sensory delicacy would be numb to him when he experienced his second death. He doubted very much that he would return as a ghost. Perhaps he ought to have been thanking Paul; perhaps this was what he needed in order to be able to truly move on. Naturally, true rebirth would have trumped his imminent fate – but an entire life with Susannah was too much to ask for. He had never been a cruel person in his life, but he surely had not been so good as to deserve a happiness so complete?
It was fitting, he assured himself with mental resignation. He only hoped that Susannah could forgive him for knotting her heartstrings.
Just as Jesse turned to Susannah with apologies dancing on his tongue, he was surprised to be met with an expression not of acquiescent misery, but of fiery tenacity. Susannah glared at him, jabbing her finger at her notepad.
No, it said simply.
Jesse frowned. Had she heard the echoes of his thoughts? Was she already rejecting his sorrowful regrets of involving her in this?
However, further explanation followed as Susannah withdrew the notepad, scribbled fiercely for another moment, and shoved it back beneath her face.
We're fixing this, she said. We can't give up – I am nowhere near ready to lose you.
Jesse smiled warmly at her, running his fingers through her hair. 'Susannah, it's done...'
She shoved his hand away and pointed at the sun, beaming down at them from its utmost position. Clearly, she believed that there was still room for improvement in their dire situation.
Without warning, she stood up and ran from the beach; sand exploded beneath her feet as she covered the distance to the walkway. Alarmed, Jesse took off after her. Had he scared her with his grim defeat? Was he savagely murdering her ability to hope forever?
'Susannah,' he begged, 'wait!'
Having grown up on a ranch, Jesse knew a thing or two about chasing wild horses when they escaped from their confines. Susannah proved to be a near match for their speed, but he soon caught up to her. When he finally seized her arm and pulled her to a grinding halt, he turned her around to find her face shining with tears.
Jesse's newborn heart fractured further. Never, in all of his whimsical fantasies of life, had he ever anticipated that he would be the cause of his querida's pain. His throat choked at the sight of her.
She just shook her head at him constantly.
We're not done, she wrote.
- A f t e r G l o w -
Paul lounged luxuriously on his bed, flicking with great interest through one of his countless volumes of ancient shifter practise. In the corner of his room stood the ghost of a man, seemingly frozen in time. Around his head, a glowing crown of sharp white light buzzed suspiciously.
'It may seem harsh, what I'm doing to you,' Paul drawled at the ghost. 'But don't worry, buddy. In a few moments, you won't feel a thing.'
The ghost moaned pitifully, unable to form coherent words.
Paul stared intently down at his chosen text. 'Dr. Slaski theorised that ghosts are mere imprints of our memories of life,' he said, biting his lower lip. 'So one can only conclude that removal of those memories will result in the removal of the ghost itself...'
Paul snapped the book shut. 'My gramps was a smart guy in his day, but he never had the know-how to put most of his theories into practise. So just think of your sacrifice as a step toward a brighter future.'
The ghost twitched in a apparent agony. Paul remained unmoved.
'Well... it won't be your bright future,' he remarked wryly. He pounced off of the bed and began to encircle his victim, monitoring his behaviour closely. 'You've stopped struggling as much... That means it's probably working. Soon, if all goes well, you'll just... fade away. No more pain. No more memory. And, most importantly, no more annoying ghost gaying up my room.'
Surely enough, the ghost began to flicker like white noise. Paul smirked, greatly impressed with himself.
'Of course,' he said to the diminishing ghost, 'This isn't exactly the method I have in mind for getting rid of Enrique-Envy. This is kind of like ghost euthanasia. But the difference between you and him was that you did nothing to piss me off. I'm perfectly happy for you to go this way. It's almost pleasant for you. But he's not going to be so lucky.'
A spasm of anger flashed through Paul's limbs as he reluctantly remembered how Jesse had snaked his way into Suze's heart, setting up a rigid residence there. This little memory removal would be a perfect remedy to Suze's recent affliction of masquerading love. He wouldn't go too far, of course... Suze was too hot to become a vegetable with no brain activity. But he'd rewind that mind of hers, just enough to allow him to pick up where he left off...
Unfortunately, that'd probably mean she'd forget her Shakespeare monologue again. Ah well – she hadn't been the brightest bulb in the classroom to begin with. But she was a coveted acquisition, nonetheless.
Just as Paul reached for his current tome, eager to find a Slaskian theory of a punishment befitting his undead rival, a knock sounded at his door.
'Paul,' called the overly cheerful voice of his grandfather's day-nurse, Greg.
'Fuck off,' Paul snapped dully, as was customary whenever that sunny twat interrupted him.
There came an uncomfortable cough. 'You have a visitor,' Greg replied through the door. 'She seems to have laryngitis. Maybe offer her a lozenge?'
Paul stopped dead. Well, not as dead as his cornered victim, but something alike. Laryngitis? Unless Kelly Prescott had screamed herself hoarse from a night with the football team and was over here for a quickie, he had a nasty suspicion of who his visitor may be.
Scrambling across his bed, he yanked the incandescent crown off of the ghost's head; at his touch, it dissolved. The ghost jolted, looking around blearily.
'I don't have time for you to fade,' Paul hissed scathingly; with a flick of his wrist, the ghost erupted in an explosion of black dust. His distant wail of pain succeeded him.
Making up for lost time, Paul launched over to his bedroom door and found an impatient Greg waiting there beside...
'Suze,' Paul said delightedly. 'What a pleasant surprise.'
Greg turned on his heel and left the two teenagers alone. Susannah nervously entered his room. Paul noted the empty notepad and pen in her left hand, and laughed openly. He turned from her.
'If you've come to plead your boyfriend's case, I'd save your breath. Or... should I say ink? You're not getting your voice back until those sexy, breathy sighs of yours are being whispered in my ear. But don't worry – I predict that that'll be around ten o'clock tonight...'
When he turned back, he expected to see Susannah crying. Or even raging silently, a mime of fury. What he did not expect was for his visitor to fall into him, pulling his lips down to hers.
Paul may have been a sociopathic megalomaniac, but he also happened to be a guy. Before any scepticism was around, all he could do was respond to her very forward advances. The notepad and pen tumbled from her hand as she seized the belt loops of his jeans, moulding herself against him.
A familiar lust ached deep within Paul. He could feel his hunger mounting – something he hoped Susannah would be doing to him shortly. But as the reality of the situation began to enter him, he smiled against her frenzied lips.
'You're still not getting it back,' he breathed callously.
Susannah paused. She pulled away, breathing hard. Then, she pointed specifically at her heart, before prodding his own.
You, she mouthed.
Staggered, Paul's eyebrows soared. '...What?'
She repeated the action. Paul could decipher no other meaning other than the only explanation – after such numerous displays of wretchedness and betrayal, she'd finally ditched the ghoulie in favour of some warm blood. His warm blood, to be precise. His warm blood, which wasn't exactly rushing in the direction of his brain.
'Well,' Paul exclaimed, bewildered but ecstatic at this fortuitous turn of events. 'Finally, the world is making a little more sense.'
At which point Suze grabbed his waist, urging him into her. She turbulently pulled him into his ensuite bathroom, slamming the door closed behind them.
The sound of the slamming door notified Jesse of his cue to enter the room. He desperately tried not to think of what Susannah was doing in that bathroom as a means of distraction. He figured, the quicker he found his answer to the dilemma he was facing, the quicker she'd be out of there. Another darker thought crossed his mind. What if she wanted to be in there? It had, after all, been her suggestion. Was she simply experimenting with her underlying curiosity?
Furious with himself for contemplating such things, Jesse snapped out of it and went to work on his hunt. To his great relief, Paul Slater's bed was littered with the same myriad of books it had been when he had first approached the boy. He swiped up the volume that lay open on the comforter, scanning every second page in desperation. After a minute or so, his eyes landed on a title that made his blood curdle.
His dread was only born of his fear that he was actually considering the idea of putting Susannah through this. But... it may have been the only chance they had left. And if this worked, well...
But how could he explain why he so desperately needed her to have her voice back before sunset? He could he knowingly put that pressure on her? He knew she felt great affection for him, and for that, he was exuberant. But love? Was hers true? Would it be enough to save him? Was he being entirely too selfish?
A loud bang from the bathroom jolted Jesse to his overimaginative senses. He wheeled around, fully expecting to become face to face with a livid Paul Slater, but was relieved to see Susannah slinking from the bathroom, ceramic toothbrush holder in hand. Jesse took one sweeping look at her weapon of choice to the unconscious Paul, sprawled dumbly on the floor next to his pearly white toilet, and let out a bark of uncontained laughter. He stopped laughing when he saw Susannah pulling her shirt down a little. She noticed his stare, and shrugged sheepishly. When Jesse continued to grow pale, Susannah sighed and approached him, kissing him softly on his lips. Without words, she told him everything he needed to know.
You are worth this, she said.
Still dizzy from her fragrant proximity, Jesse hastily tried to recover from the loving beauty of her kiss. It helped a little that he had second-hand saliva on his mouth; that jolted him from his reverie.
Getting down to business, Jesse said softly, 'I may have found a possible avenue...'
He wondered if Susannah would continue to kiss him with such profound love when he told her his plan:
Namely... to ask her to die for him.
- A f t e r G l o w -
Please review! 3