As I continued skimming through my newest piano piece, I could hear the unrelenting tone of the late-night news blaring downstairs. Dad must've fallen asleep on the couch. Again. Ever since my mom abandoned us, it seemed that my dad never left that damn couch (except to visit his psychopharmacologist every now and again). Slightly disheartened by the derisive television, I shuffled off to my room, hoping that sleep would encapsulate me as quickly as possible. As I threw my limp body onto my bed, a familiar chill invited itself into the room. "Well, look who picked a great time to visit," I barked into the dimly-lit room. Without response, the chill inched its way closer to me until it was too cold to bear. "Would you stop that?" My voice sliced through the brisk, overbearing air. "Today has already been as shitty as it needs to be."

"Okay, okay, relax Natalie." My brother's voice half-heartedly comforted me as the chill lifted. My head fell back onto my comforter as I slowly regained my regular body temperature. In the awkward silence that followed, I thought about the unusual circumstance my brother was in. He died 16 years ago as an 18-month-old baby, but still managed to "live" as a ghost of his 18-year-old teen self in our house now. Leave it to the Goodmans to lead this not-even-next-to-normal, dysfunctional life. As my ghostly brother yawned next to me, I picked myself up and leaned against the wall, clutching a pillow against my chest. "Dad's still a mess, huh," the voice next to me announced rather than asked. We both knew the answer.

Just thinking of my family's past made me shiver. As much as I tried to cover it, my brother noticed my body's contortions and lifted his arm to offer me his warmth. I quizzically searched his face to see if this was just another one of his jokes, but his face was serious and almost serene as he looked back into my eyes. Normally, I would object anyone who felt I needed to be "rescued," but what the hell, what about this family, my life, was normal anymore? My brother was the only one who understood exactly what I was going though. After all, he was enduring the same hell I was. The thought was strangely comforting as I scooted closer to the ghost of my brother, whose earlier chill faded into a surprisingly consolatory heat. A toned, apparitional arm gently draped over my left shoulder, and soon my head fell onto his chest. He was being oddly considerate while I rested by his side. As the night wore on, my head dropped lower and lower until I was lying across my brother's lap. "You need to sleep," he scolded. While ghostly fingers caressed my arm, my eyelids slowly drew to a close, aided by the gentle warmth of his hand rubbing my side.

When my eyes fluttered open at 3 in the morning, I was surprised to find him still sitting above me. He didn't notice that I was awake, and I could hear him sigh empty-heartedly as he looked around the room, imagining the life he could've had. His eyes darted around the room until they suddenly came to rest upon my face. He didn't say anything, only a small smile crawled across his face. The full moon's light shone through my window, giving my spectral brother a light blue glow. I never realized how his features fit so perfectly together, how his dark brown hair gently caressed his face, how his deep blue eyes could pierce right through you. I didn't even realize I was leaning toward him until I was 2 inches away from his face. I quickly came to my senses and sprung away from my brother to collect my thoughts. This couldn't be happening. He was dead. He was my brother for fuck's sake! I couldn't even put into words how wrong this was. That was, until I looked back at him.

His piercing blue eyes worked their magic as he inquisitively stared me down. We both knew what could happen was wrong. The questions burning in my eyes reflected off his moonlit baby blues. That off-balance smile slowly crept onto his face as he inched toward me. I backed away as far as I could until I was pressed against the wall behind my bed. Those rebellious blue eyes dared me to question why this shouldn't happen and suddenly, in that moment, I couldn't think of a single reason. As cadaverous hands crawled their way up my bed, my mind raced, screaming at myself to stop allowing this to happen, screaming at him to stop coming onto me, but my stupid heart commanded me to sit there like an awkward statue waiting for her undead brother to carry her away.

What a great fucking picture. Wait until I tell our zombie children.

He soon made his way to where I was sitting, where I finally had the courage to speak up. "This really isn't—" my objections were quickly shut up by the swift force of his lips pressing against mine. My eyes flew open, and I tried to push away, but the wall behind me had become my barrier, pinning me between a rock and a hard place—or rather a wall and an extremely attractive ghost-brother. After a few moments, my brother pulled away from me, daring me to dive after him. When I refused to budge, he picked me up and spun me around my room before playfully tossing me back onto my bed. As if he wasn't already being cheesy—and adorably annoying—enough, he started to tickle me before I could leave my awkward, just-thrown-onto-a-bed position. "Stop, honestly," I announced only half-seriously in between laughs. "It's like you're five years old." Then he began to laugh, which made me laugh more, and before I knew it, we were just sitting there laughing.

When the laughter finally subdued, I gazed into his eyes and noticed a reflection of my desire for this to happen in them. None of us ever just laughed anymore. No one ever made me just sit and laugh for no reason. He put something fun into my life. I needed him. He must have realized that I was yearning for his touch, his kiss, his…anything, because before I knew what was happening, I was lifted into his lap and held by my waist right before him. My fingers gently ran through his chocolate brown hair as his strong hands tightened around my waist. I was quickly pulled into an intense kiss that both satisfied and left me wanting more. As we kissed, our bodies began to pulse in a synchronous rhythm that left us intertwined. The heat radiating off our bodies made me start to sweat, and the next thing I knew, he was fumbling to get me out of my shirt! Suddenly feeling confident as hell, I yanked at his shirt until there was nothing between me his incredible abs. My fingers raced across his chest as our kiss continued. I felt his ghostly hands running up and down my back, giving me goose bumps, as his lips intensely pressed against mine. Our lips eventually broke away, and his mouth began to explore its way down my neck and onto my shoulders while I sat in bliss and disbelief at what was happening. I began to moan, and before I knew what happened, I clutched his hair and yelled out his name: "Gabe!"

The kisses stopped. I let go of his hair.

I had never said his name before.

I couldn't believe what was happening. Like an emotionally-perturbed child, I began to cry. Gabe turned to face me, confused, excited, and worried. I couldn't even talk through my tears. "Look, it's okay, it's okay," Gabe confusedly comforted me while still firmly holding my waist. With each tear, I received another kiss from the phantom boy in a failed attempt to shut me up. I continued to babble, still lost in mid-cry, until Gabe pulled me into his chest, where I calmed into a peaceful, silent state of self-loathing. Gabe soon repositioned us so that we were both lying down on my bed. With his strong arms around me, I leaned into his chest, ready to fall asleep, half-hoping this all was just a dream. My eyes were just about to close when one word pulsed through my head:

Henry.


Chapter 2 will be up shortly!