Catch me as I fall
Say you're here and it's all over now
Speaking to the atmosphere
No one's here and I fall into myself
This truth drives me into madness
I know I can stop the pain if I will it all away
- Whisper, Evanescence
Annie tugged her silk rapped closer around her body, shivering in the springtime night air. It was early March, and the snow was just beginning to melt in rural Boston. Her breath came out in small puffs of white clouds, but Annie would rather be out here in the cool stillness of the night than inside the stuffy Shaw mansion – so suffocatingly unbearable without him.
Annie walked slowly, dejectedly towards their tree, the one where they had a picnic at one carefree summer, and he scratched her name on the bark with a pocket knife. Tears blurred her vision, but she would know the path to their tree in the Shaw's backyard blindfolded. She cared not if anyone saw her in her nightclothes, outside and alone, she just felt closer to him when she was there.
Robert had been dead for two years.
When she received that poisonous letter regarding his fall at Ft. Wagner, Annie's heart shattered and her soul crumbled to pieces. She was in a state of denial for the first couple of days, but then she grew hurt and angry. She was furious at Robert for leaving her, furious at his overwhelming supply of courage that led him out onto the battlefield, and furious that the sun continued to shine and the planet to spin when he was gone.
There were almost no words to describe what Annie had been through – and was still going through. It was more than a Shakespearean tragedy, worse than Romeo and Juliet. Annie never seemed to get enough air when she thought of him – almost every second of the day, biting her pillow at night to choke down the screaming sobs. The only way to stop the pain was to will it all away, but sometimes, it didn't always work.
Annie leaned against the tree; her beauty was a vision in the misty moonlight creating a hauntingly mesmerizing picture. Annie closed her eyes deeply, a few seconds of luxurious freedom before Robert's name stabbed her through the heart again. She needed Robert like a drug. She needed him more than she needed air. It hurt her like excruciating torture…and she was slowly dying inside.
Annie squinted into the dark, the pale moonlight casting a ghostly glow to the earth, blanketing the Shaw's lawn in a silver, extraterrestrial light. Annie could have sworn that she heard someone call her name, but oddly, there was no one insight. The thing that frightened her most, effecting her blood to pulse through her veins at lightning speed, was that it wasn't a female voice – cancelling out the ability for it to belong to one of the Shaw sisters.
It was male.
It was oddly familiar, but it sounded too young to belong to Robert's father, but it was so beautiful that Annie held her breath to listen for more. If she had to describe it, it sounded musical, almost symphonic, like an orchestra hidden within its soft, velvety surface. Her heart felt oddly calm, in spite of how her brain panicked to get back into the house.
Came the voice again, deep, mournful. Annie took a step forward, her shapely eyebrows coming together in confusion as she peered at the moon, a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas. However, this time Annie didn't hesitate to answer to the voice, tightening her lacy white dressing gown shyly around her body.
"Who's there?" She called out into the night, flinching at how loudly her soprano broke the gravely stillness.
"Annie…" Came the voice again.
Annie gasped as she saw a shadow, and she pressed her body closer against the tree, shutting her eyes tightly, goose bumps rising on her pale skin. "What do you want?" She cried out through gritted teeth, her voice sounding more desperate as her heart soaked in fear.
There was a soft chuckle, almost warm and inviting – almost. "Do not be afraid, Annie."
"Leave me be!" She pleaded, her fingernails digging into the bark of their tree.
"Annie." The voice was soft again, laced with a soothing sensation that made Annie's galloping heart slow to a trot. "I won't hurt you."
Annie nodded involuntarily.
She could hear the smile in the mysterious man's voice. "Open your eyes."
It was more of a reflex, but Annie did as she was told. She was confused when she saw that no one was there, for she could have sworn that she felt a strong, magnetic presence in front of her – and still did. "Where are you?" She whispered softly.
"I'm standing in front of you."
Annie's cheeks burned with vexation. Who was playing tricks on her? "I can't see you!" She spat angrily.
There came a dejected sight, followed by a voice filled with defeat. "I know."
Annie's bemusement elevated, and her eyebrows almost touched her hairline. "Who are you?" She demanded.
"Robert." Came the muted reply.
Pain stabbed her heart at the mention of his name, but anger flashed second. How dare this person use her for their own entertainment? It was true that the entire city of Boston knew how hard she was taking Robert's death, but was that really excuse enough to play with her feelings? Why were people so cruel? Why did they do this to others in pain?
Lightning flashed in her dark gold eyes. "You cad!" She cried out into the blind night. "Why must you play this cruel joke on me? Go ahead, laugh!" She dared, the challenge evident in her voice, that was gradually breaking into a sob. "Go!"
The air around her suddenly thickened, and she felt a gravitational force lock around her waist. She could hear soft, barely audible breathing, and her pulse quickened. "Annie, please don't cry." He begged gently. "I can't bear to see you cry."
There were truth behind this mysterious man's voice, and she reluctantly believed him. But there was only one person in the whole world that spoke like that. "Robert?" She asked unsurely, as if testing her grounds.
This was ridiculous; she was being naïve and falling into some joker's trap. After all, she didn't believe in ghosts. But when he spoke again, Annie didn't care even if it was a trap. She forgot everything except Robert. "Annie, it's me."
His voice was so close; he could have been standing right in front of her. Feeling like a blind man, Annie tentatively reached out, feeling the air thicken alarmingly around her open palms. "Where are you?" Her voice broke pleadingly.
"Your hands are in my stomach." He said quietly.
Annie jerked her hands back wildly, pinning them against her sides. Reason returned to her, and shook her head violently, taking a step back away from him. No. This wasn't possible. "No, no, this isn't real – you're dead. No." She refused to believe it, losing control of her sobs, because if she did, when the pain came back it would destroy her this time.
Annie didn't notice a stray root jutting out of the ground in the darkness, and her foot caught against it, forcing her down as she stumbled to the ground. She made no attempt to get up, her knees pressed against her chest and her arms wrapped around them, rocking back and forth. Annie felt heavy air descend upon her, warm and soothing as his invisible arms wrapped around her fragile, doll-like frame.
"I'm sorry." He whispered repeatedly into her hair. "I love you."
Annie perked up, leaning into the dizzying force. "Why did you leave me?" Despite the fact that she was currently speaking to her undead husband, Annie had never felt calmer her entire life, and the throbbing ache in her heart subsided from the balm of his presence.
"I could never leave you." He murmured, heavy air pressed gently against the side of her face. "And I never will. I will stay with you forever." There was a soft, humorless chuckle. "At least until you want me to leave."
Annie relaxed entirely, turning her gaze to where she thought his eyes rested. "That could never happen." She vowed, her hand plunging into the thickness of his invisible body. "I love you."
Cold, heavy gravity pressed against her lips, and she kissed him back, her eyelids slowly closing over her tear-blurred vision. That night, Annie slept in the arms of her long-lost love, the pain had released its grip on her heart, and reconciliation filtered through her soul, at peace at last.