This pairing gets too little love. This whole movie gets too little love for that matter. I hope this does something to change all that.
And I hope you enjoy, of course. Song "Little Ghost" by The White Stripes, I own nothing here.
Norman couldn't say he enjoyed going back to school. It was fraught with peril, rife with bullies, and all around hazardous for a gentle soul such as himself.
But as the soft New England sunbeams shined on his street, and he sniffed the breeze of both Summer and Fall wrapped up in one, he could admit this one ritual was a welcome return.
"Good morning, sir!" he quipped, rendering a salute in stride.
"As you were, solider," was the response from the ancient cavalry officer, in the same fashion he had greeted Norman for the past 5 years.
5 years has done plenty for the boy vertically, his body taking the care to shoot up to a lanky, spindly 5'11", more if you measured to the top of his perpetually spiked hair. The ends brushed up against the feet of his downed pilot friend, who still berated him for shooting off the classic "how's it hanging?" line. And so the ritual went on, with the Mafioso, the hair lady, the dead raccoon, friends one and all.
But one thing was certainly not exactly the same in the daily stroll to school. It was one thing in particular that made Norman feel much more at ease with the prospect of rising so early to walk to a confined desk surrounded by much less than friendly company. It was hidden from view until he was just past, like always. He caught the greenish tinge materializing out of the corner of his eye, but he purposely kept himself from jerking his head back to gaze.
"Good morning, Norman," lilted the dainty form of his best…female friend. Her dulcet tones slowed his walk to half steps. He raised his fingers in greeting, still as shy as the day she came back to him after her year's absence.
"H-hi Aggie," he stuttered. "Your dress looks nice today."
It was the same plain, black Puritan dress she'd worn for years, but it didn't matter. She'd changed her form to match what her body should have looked like since she returned, seemingly for no other reason than she could.
Her return…her return one short year after the events that brought them together for the first time had been a mystery for reasons neither could understand, save for there was surely something unfinished that was binding her to this world. Unfinished business. It was nearly impossible to guess what it might be for a young girl who lived centuries ago, but that didn't stop Norman (and occasionally his best friend Neil, who had eventually cajoled the existence of Aggie out of him) from spending an inordinate amount of time trying to figure it out. Any time spent together was a worthwhile use of said time, as far as either Norman or Aggie was concerned.
And as she had been changing forms, Norman couldn't deny that he'd gone from thinking she was "pretty" and "cute" to thinking she was the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen, living or dead. Puritan dress or not. He never asked to develop this crush on the oddest of partners, never saw it coming. Not even when she placed her head so gently on his shoulder, and he could feel her tiny heartbeat and how it soothed him even back then.
It was no use trying to bury it in his introversion anymore; they'd both been taught that lesson long ago. He was certain how he felt now, for better or worse. He wanted to hold her petite frame, with its gentle curves and delicate features, just a bit longer every time they lay under their special tree. He could somehow smell the wildflowers on her silken black hair, or was that something he made up in his head? He wanted to find out if he could taste what a kiss from her rosebud lips would be like, but he kept that thought well buried to keep from daydreaming all day.
Aggie giggled at the compliment, covering her face with her hand in an archaic gesture of etiquette. Norman found it adorable.
"Thank you, Norman," she said, perching atop a "Stop" sign ahead of him. "I, um…your hair is looking extra spiky today." Her face scrunched up in a meek, slow smile. Her eyes shone softer than a dove's down, framed by tired wrinkles from experiences far beyond her years. She leaned forward, arms crossed in a sign of her perpetual shyness.
Norman felt his stomach vault off his heart, and smiled back.
"Thanks, Aggie," he replied. He didn't want to continue past this "Stop" sign. Chatting with his crush, no matter how bizarre it would have looked to the bystanders driving past him, would have been far more preferable. But he knew what he had to do, and decided to make the best of it.
"You…are you going to be there, at the festival?" he asked. Aggie rolled her eyes and huffed.
"I told you already Norman, and I've told you every day we've met for the last month. Of course I'll be there, and I will look forward to seeing you, and I should hope you remember that you promised me a dance before the day is over," she responded, eyes now twinkling in a way that belied the her nature as a witch. She crossed her legs very deliberately and kept her now devlish gaze squarely upon him.
Norman breathed in sharply. "I won't forget, Aggie," he said, with a pure honesty that left a mark on all that bothered to take the time to get to know the boy. "I'd never break a promise to you. Ever."
They stopped to smile at each other a few more seconds before Norman made to continue his walk, stepping forward after checking to see that the road was clear.
"I'll see you later, Aggie!" he yelled as he waved back to her from across the street.
"Enjoy the first day back to your grammar school, Norman!" she replied. "And tell Neil I said 'hi' too!"
Norman could finish the rest of his walk to school with a spring in his step. Alvin tried his best to quash it, but it was too deeply embedded. Norman had a plan, and he was determined to see it through. The weekend's festival would be something he'd never forget, one way or the other.
That day at school was agonizingly slow in its crawl to the long weekend. School had decided to start the week before the Labor Day holiday, and the grand finale to summer that came with it. The town's annual celebration of the occasion was normally a source of stress for Norman, what with its forced social interactions and surefire torment from certain bullies who still didn't quite value his contributions of five years ago.
Norman arrived at his locker to finish the day, which had been blessedly clean of vandalism that might have been left over the summer. His contributions that faithful night of the witch's curse hadn't exactly earned him popularity, but it had at least bought him the peace of being left alone for the most part. Alvin occasionally got bored and saw fit to remind him of his perceived pecking order, but Norman had endeared himself enough to Neil's brother to warrant a pseudo-bodyguard relationship, as needed. Norman figured it was a show of gratitude, both for saving the town, and for giving his little brother a much-needed friend.
As though on cue from the thought of him, that very friend showed up at his side looking especially animated.
"You ready Norman? Huh? I bet you are!" Neil exclaimed, bouncing on his heels. His overstuffed backpack shook with him, no doubt from taking those advanced classes his other know-it-all friend had dragged him into. Norman smirked to one side of his face, glancing over to see the large but perpetually jolly form of his frequent "partner-in-crime".
"Sure Neil," he replied. "Ready as I'll ever be," he added with a sigh. His shoulders drooped gradually as he turned down the hallway toward the exit. Neil began to follow, jittering with excess energy in sharp contrast. Norman appeared as though he were a slowly deflating hot air balloon; Neil looked like the flickering torch desperately trying to bring the balloon back to life.
"Aw come on, don't get this way now!" Neil chided. "You're getting nervous again, aren't you? Don't think I can't tell just because you don't give it away chemically, like me."
Norman choked back a laugh at the frankness of his friend's bluntness, as he had so many times before.
"I know you feel like hurling at the thought of her rejecting you, and never seeing her again, a-and living the rest of your life wondering what could have been if you'd just stayed friends and lived safely as a happy coward!" Neil prattled, gaze drifting off as he ran through his own little world of thoughts. I didn't seem to help Norman's mood much as they made it out the door into the town. "But you don't have everything riding on this! Just one girl. One special girl, who I'm still taking your word on as existing at all…but still just a girl! Mitch always tells me not to worry about girls too much, they're flighty."
Neil's rambling began to eke out a small upturn of Norman's lips, for no other reason than it was amusing to hear Neil's musings when he got on a roll.
"But no matter what, I'll still be there for you! You don't need a girlfriend to be cool, not if you ask me. Nope. Free as a bird is probably the way to be anyway," Neil boasted, with his best attempt at a winning smile. "And besides…that's what we've been practicing for anyway, right? That's gotta count for something. I think you're gonna be fine, buddy,"
Neil clapped Norman on the back, nearly knocking him over. Norman may have grown taller, but Neil was still roughly twice his weight. Still, it was a good kind of "knocking the wind out" of him.
"Th-thanks Neil," Norman said, honestly, with a slight cough to his voice. "You're the best."
Neil smiled, stopping now before his house. "Hey, that's what friends are for. Told you it was a good idea to be miserable and alone together!" And after sealing it with a low five, Neil headed into his house. "See you there on Monday!"
Norman was never sure if Neil knew the charming absurdity of his own statements, but he was grateful for the young man being himself all the same. Whether this worked or not, he'd never be able to repay him enough for being there, always.
And if it did work, he'd owe him even more. They just had to get there first.
The sound of the theme from "Halloween" (Norman's favorite non-zombie movie, if he had to pick) snapped Norman out of his daze on the couch. It was Sunday, the day before the Labor Day, and the day before he'd…make his move. That's what he thought it was called anyway. Courtney would know, which was precisely why he'd asked her of all people for advice, just this one time. He was sure his father wouldn't understand, no matter how much harder he was trying in the last few years, and Mom or Grandma…no, too "motherly" to tell him what he needed to hear. Norman was nothing if not pragmatic. He needed his big sister, and in typical fashion, she had made him wait on her call for when she was finally "free to talk about whatever chess team captain he was crushing on", upon admitting to her that he needed "girl advice", at long last.
Norman picked up and held the phone to his ear with a petulant sigh.
"Okaaaaay Norman, come on over to my room. Let's figure this out before you end up ruining your life forever…" Courtney ordered. She had such a way with words when he was upset, he thought to himself.
Norman trudged over to her room, nearly dragging his feet. He knew he had asked for it, but still…having to talk to Courtney about girls was nearly as terrifying as what he was actually planning to do tomorrow. He opened the room to a pink wonderland of sorts, plush and smelling of what Norman could only describe as…"girl". Just purified "girl", if there ever as such a thing.
"Okay, zombie-brains," she said with a hint of exasperation. "What's your problem?"
Norman starred at her lying across her bed on her stomach, head propped up on her hands. She looked at him expectantly.
"Well…first, zombies eat brains. They don't have much of their own left…so, uh, the nickname kinda doesn't make sense…" he said, voice tapering off.
She stared him down with her most perturbed glare.
"R-right…so, uh, about this girl. She…she's important to me. We're like best friends."
"I thought Neil was your best friend?"
"He is! He's just my best boy-friend. Er, that is, ah, shoot…"
Norman's flustered ramble made her chuckle affectionately. For all the grief she gave him, she wanted to see him happy when it came down to it (if you forced her). She decided to take charge of the boy's jumbled emotions. This was one subject she could actually help him with.
"Let me see if I can figure this out for you," she said, much more gently than how she began this conversation. "You're friends with this girl…even though we haven't heard of her before. Maybe that's who you meet when you run off into the woods for a few hours at a time, hm?"
Norman stared at his shuffling feet, blushing to his protruding ears. He nodded slightly.
"Right. Aaaand…you've fallen for her, huh? And you're worried it might ruin your friendship, you aren't cool enough, she deserves better, maybe you should play it safe, yadda yadda and all that clichéd stuff, right?"
Norman's breath caught in his throat, audibly. He peered up at his sister with pleading eyes. She got up and placed her hand on his shoulder comfortingly.
"Listen…I know it's scary, but…"
She took a deep breath, closing her eyes before continuing with her trademark fire.
"But you've gotta take the bull by the horns here, and get that girl!"
Norman's eyes grew wide. "But-but…"
"No buts, buster! Not now, not ever!" She stood straight up, hands on her hips. "This is important! You need to live life with no regrets, and you need to be a real man about it. I mean, you have to be confident, how do you expect a girl to do 'adult things' with you if you can't show you're a real man?"
"…you mean like kissing?" Norman whimpered. Even at 16, the thought was strange, exotic, and terribly exciting to him, in a pleasantly frightening sort of way.
"Ugh, yes, that's…part of it. Look, Norman," she continued, softening up in her tone again, " you just need to tell her how you feel. That's it. It's no use bottling it up, just be honest, and be proud of your feelings. That'll give you all the confidence you need, okay?" She tilted his head up and gave him one of her rarer, warm kinds of smiles. "Okay?"
Norman thought he could almost see their mother in the look.
"…okay, Courtney. That…actually makes sense. Thanks," he said in earnestly.
And after a brief hug, Courtney saw fit to revert to her more usual ways.
"Now get out of here, I have my own love life to take care of! God, do you think I might like if someone helped me with that for a change! It's like I have to do everything important around here…"
Norman just smirked as he turned to walk out the room, but not before she stopped him for one last parting shot.
"Norman!" she called out to him. "Just remember…it doesn't matter how different she is, or what anyone might think of how you look together. When you find someone special…all that matters is how the both of you feel. In your spirits. Okay?"
Norman's mouth opened in shock. He wanted to ask if she knew, and for how long, and so much more. But her smug, knowing look was intimidating right now, and he didn't want to push his luck. Some things were better left a secret…for now, anyway.
"…okay, Courtney. I'll…I'll remember. I promise," was all he could say in response before finally exiting her room to march back to his own.
The day finally arrived, with a sweltering heat that persisted through the day. As if Norman wasn't already jangled and clammy, he was hot and sweaty on top of it…
He didn't let it on that he was so nervous to his otherwise happy family. Everyone was having a grand old time, and he was content to let them take the lead. They were already used to his shyness, and his laid back approach to social gatherings. He was content to let them lead him around the various sports, games, activities…it was all window dressing to him. His mind was preoccupied on the main event.
He was broken free of his auto-pilot when a certain apparition made her giggle audible to him. She passed in front of him with a mock huff.
"Hello there, Norman," Aggie greeted him, chidingly.
Norman's heart melted. His family continued walking by as he stopped to talk to her. "Oh, hi Aggie…how are you liking this year's festival?"
She pouted before looking down at the ground below her. "You forgot, didn't you?"
"W-what? No, no Aggie! I didn't forget at all! I know you want to dance with me here…and the music is about to start soon…"
Aggie drew her eyes up endearingly. He was already putty. "So…you did remember? You know I never got to dance with a boy when I was alive Norman…my Mommy said it was like-like a kind of heaven, in your own little world…with a prince like the ones she read about in her stories…"
Norman's ears burned so hot, he was sure any fly that landed on them would burst into flames.
"I-I understand if you think it'll get you laughed at, Norman. Because no one else can see me…the last thing I would ever want is for you to be laughed at because of me…" she trailed off, voice choking off with pent up emotion.
"No, that's not it at all Aggie! I just have something even more special planned!" Norman blurted, not sure how she could make him lose his normal sense of calm and control so easily. His family, used to his shenanigans as they were, only looked back placidly from several yards away, as though to remind him to come back to Earth.
"I…just trust me, Aggie. Please? You'll see…and then we'll dance, I promise."
Their eyes locked, and Aggie relented, turning away sheepishly.
"…okay Norman," she peeped. She threw her arms around him in a brief but tight hug, whispering in his ear, "I trust you".
At that, she disappeared into the thin air, and Norman was left stunned. His father's berating broke him out of his stupor, and he practically had to run to catch up with his family.
It was sunset when the stage was finally manned by Blithe Hollow's finest amateur acts. With a kiss of "good luck" from his mother and a hearty clap on the shoulder from his father, Norman made off to the backstage area with Neil to get ready.
Neil sat on a milk crate, tuning his guitar obsessively while Alvin's band did it's best to offend the town's collective auditory sensibilities.
"Ya see I'm hip like a monkey, I'm ready to get funky! Yo ladies it's Alvin and The Homies in the house!"
Norman could hear Alvin's bizarre rap/rock combination attempt at full blast, and Alvin's poor attempts at artistic screaming were putting him further on edge.
"Neil…your guitar sounds fine, don't worry about it," he said, partly because it was true and partly because he just wanted to get his mind on more mundane things.
Neil had learned guitar on the advice of his older brother, to make him "cooler" to his peers. Help him get accepted, make more friends, the works. And Neil did find he enjoyed it, very quickly becoming proficient at the instrument.
And in typical fashion, it didn't help him at all with his social standing. Neil played what he liked, and what made him happy, without a care in the world what others thought. And as should have been expected, what Neil liked to play was vastly different than what his peers might have wanted to hear, and he was left with no one but Norman to "serenade" with his burgeoning craft.
"It doesn't sound right," Neil replied, fiddling with another tuning head.
"Neil it sounds fine, really,"
"No no, I think I can get it better,"
"Neil, we're going on in one minute! It's fine, honest!"
"Just a second Norman..."
"Dammit Neil..." Norman muttered, in a rare use of profanity on his part.
The old middle school director, Ms. Henscher, came out to the stage to MC the event, ushering Alvin and his band off.
"Thank you, thank you Alvin! Yes-I said thank you Alvin, that will be all. No, no time for your encore, it is time for a triumphant new act to take the stage and regal us with their dulcet tones!" she bellowed, dramatically and with heavy exaggeration. The audience continued to applaud politely.
"Now please direct your attention stageward once again!" she continued. "I would like to welcome to the stage…Mr. Norman Babcock and his accompanist, Mr. Neil Downe!"
This was it…it was here, and there was no backing out when your name was now put on the line for the entire town's entertainment. Norman wished he could remember what gave him this idea in the first place. He vaguely remembered seeing something like it in "Dying of The Dead"…
"Let's go Norman!" Neil hushed, trotting onto stage with that best attempt at a million-dollar smile again. Norman breathed deeply, following him out onto the stage.
He walked up to the microphone as Neil plugged his guitar into the amp.
"Um…hi everyone," Norman started plainly. He was never the best public speaker, not like his cheerleader sister. But he had his moments when needed. He tried to tap into that same spirit now, that drove him to talk down a mob all those years ago…
"We…we're-we're going to sing you a song now, and-"
In that moment, he saw her. Out in the crowd, hovering above his family's head ever so slightly. There for him, not giving up. Never giving up. Just as he never gave up on her. Like Neil to his side, ready to help him in whatever way he knew how, like old times being re-taught to him all over again. He continued to fuddle with his tuning, but Norman found it reassuring in this new light. And Aggie continued to hover there, in her gentle almost-smile, patiently waiting for what he promised her. Just like the promise to see her mother again, to pass on at last, she waited patiently out of…
Norman couldn't bear handle the thought of finishing that sentence. Not now. For now, his newfound resolve would do.
"We're going to sing you a song, which goes out to a special friend of mine. Thank you to everyone who's stood by me to give me this chance, and…um, just, thank you to everyone! Here goes," he finished, picking up his tambourine and nodding to Neil to begin.
And so it began, with Neil strumming out the opening chords with great gusto, and Norman joining him with the tambourine's rhythm. Neil stomped the stage to simulate the bass drum, and it was just as they rehearsed, until Norman took a breath and opened his mouth to sing his heart out to the object of his Earthly and un-Earthly affections.
"Little ghost, little ghost , one I'm scared of the most, can you scare me up a little bit of love?"
Norman kept his eyes closed at first, not wanting to see her reaction just yet. He could hear Neil harmonizing the bass part well, which made him feel a bit more confident. They sang of his first meeting with a very special little ghost, and through the second chorus, finally opening his eyes to see her.
"…and I see my little ghost, wond'rin' if it's really her that's lying there…", like so many times he'd woken up to see her goading him out of bed to keep him from being late, Norman thought to himself.
He looked out to see her transfixed, in a daze hovering above his father. She seemed to sit on his head, as if she needed a chair in an ancient habit of her past life. He couldn't tell if it was a good kind of shocked, or the worst kind, but all he could do for now was keep singing. Neil's guitar played on, strong as ever. He seemed to be having the time of his life playing on stage with a captive audience for once.
They continued on, through the admission that he was too scared to kiss her (that had been true so many times by now), through more choruses, and through the admission of his efforts to keep it a secret (now shaken, after his sister's cryptic message, but that would have be addressed later). They arrived at the climax.
"No one else could see this apparition…"
Neil strummed furiously now.
"But because of my condition…"
That was one way to put it, Norman mused.
"I feel in love with a little ghost and that was all!" Norman rang out, solo on that all-important line. He looked straight into Aggie's stare as he sang it, speaking directly to her.
They finished with the last chorus, Norman practically pouring out his heart and soul as he pleaded out the final lines,
"No it's not yet time to meet the Lord above!"
Wasn't that the truth? It wasn't time yet…for whatever reason, it wasn't time yet. And Norman liked to believe…wanted to believe, so badly that it was because she had unfinished business with him. It wasn't time, he couldn't imagine a world without her anymore…even though he'd gladly destroy that happiness with her in a heartbeat, if it meant he could give her what she wanted and return her to her mother in paradise. All the same, there was a part of him that was practically begging the powers high above to let him keep her in his life, just a big longer…that was the part which he had just shouted on the figurative rooftops out to the whole town.
Neil looked at him confidently. "That was awesome, Norman," he said. "We killed it, man."
"Yeah," Norman said with a grin. "Thanks again Neil."
They were oblivious to the applause, mainly coming from their loved ones in the center, recording everything.
"Great job, son!" Norman heard his mother shout. He could hear his sister in a whooping cheer of sorts.
But the one he really wanted to see was not in her former spot when he looked up. He scanned the crowd desperately, for any sign that she had like what she heard…and instead found her backing away, in the back of the mob, eyes glistening with tears and looking ready to burst. When his gaze caught up with her, she bolted away with a yelp, straight for the forest.
Norman's heart was ready to shatter to pieces, if only his former teacher's roar didn't snap him awake and off the stage.
"Thank you, thank you gentlemen! Very rousing! Very rousing indeed," she said, rolling her "r's" longer than the actual time it took to say the rest of the word. He willed his legs to move, one after another, off the stage.
"So, so? Did she hear, was she there? Did she like it? She did, didn't she? And you can't wait to see her, you sly dog you!" Neil chattered, punching him lightly in the arm in what he thought was a congratulatory pep talk.
"Well…I don't know yet Neil,"
Norman sighed, and drooped his head. "I said…I don't know yet. She…she went away."
Norman began dragging his feet into the crowd, away from the backstage area. He could already hear Alvin firing insults about his singing.
"What kind of real man sings that high anyway? Huh, lover boy? Who's the unlucky girl?" His posse sniggered maliciously.
Neil matched pace with his friend, throwing his free arm around Norman's neck and hoisting his guitar on his shoulder.
"Come on, buddy. Let's go find our folks…"
Norman sighed again. "Yeah…yeah. That sounds good Neil."
He glanced up at the twilight sky in front of him. He hated to think it was twilight for so much more.
"I just hope…I find her again. To find out…what she thought about our singing, anyway."
Once sufficiently congratulated on his performance by his loved ones, and told to be home by curfew for the umpteenth time, Norman ran like he never had before. He knew the route like he knew Romero's entire filmography, but he felt an entirely unwelcome déjà vu. The air was charged with…bad magic. The wrong kind. He'd felt it way back then, and he'd only felt it occasionally since, when Aggie saw fit to cut off the antics of a new bully that was picking on him under her watch…and even then, he told her he didn't want her to get that way. He wouldn't want her indulging that darkness, not for him and not ever.
He thought he could see the trees laughing menacingly at him, but he dare not look back. He thought the ground was biting at him with jagged spikes of bark, but he just ran harder in hopes he could out run them. He just needed to get to the tree, their tree. All he needed was the full moon above him to light the way.
After what seemed like hours of running his legs clean off, he arrived at the clearing. Her grave. His heart leapt into his throat with the thought of such a sweet and wondrous girl being hurt like the way she was, and buried for no one to find her…
He approached carefully, knowing that she could sense his presence.
"What are you doing here, Norman?" she asked, her voice echoing with dark power like the old days, but not quite so angry and belligerent. It sounded…afraid. Softer, like she just finished crying. Like she was as conflicted as he was.
"I…I just thought I should check on you, see how you're doing…what you might be up to…" he prattled non-chalantly. The parallels to their first meeting didn't make him feel any better. "The festival is over now, and uh, I was wondering what you thought…of our singing…you know, me and Neil."
His world was drawn into a fantasy realm, his vision burning away like his previous haunted visions. This one was new, like a distorted version of her peaceful world, the one where she could finally fall asleep. It was more foreboding than that, but not entirely lost. The sky was tinged auburn, and the trees were alight in the colors of Fall. They were flush with leaves, but they looked as though a stiff breeze would knock them off any second now, and never allow them to regrow. A world of change, and transition, that could still go either way.
Aggie looked normal, beautiful as ever. But her eyes flickered, just barely, with the yellow glint of rage he feared would overcome her again. To think had driven her into that kind of pain would tear him apart inside.
"Do you really think I care about your singing right now, Norman?" she asked pointedly, eyes flickering more. The wind picked up, rattling the beautiful trees and sending leaves tumbling all around them. Norman cringed, but kept inching closer to her.
"Um…yes?...Maybe?" he squeaked out.
Aggie's glare softened again. The setting grew peaceful, the wind stopping and sunbeams shining through. "You sounded really nice. Your voice is pretty…I wish you would sing more." She gave him a slow, shy smile before her head fell away again, and she began to walk away toward the tree.
"Why'd you sing that song, Norman?" she asked, point blank. "Why-what were you trying to say?"
Norman walked closer to her, with measured steps. His hands were buried in his pockets, shoulders rolling around aimlessly.
"I don't know…" he began listlessly. "Wait, no. I do know, it's just…" He remembered his sister's advice, ringing in his mind's ear. This is what she meant, after all. "I guess I just wanted to share what I felt about you, and about us." He walked around to her front, leaning down and pulling his hands out to sit on her shoulders. "About all of…us,"
Aggie lifted her head to look him in the eyes again, her gaze blinking back and forth between bitter yellow and serene blue like an old, short-circuiting TV set.
"That's what I'm talking about!" Aggie exclaimed, her voice quivering with the echo again. "There…can't be any more us, Norman! It's crazy and you deserve to not be made fun of the rest of your life and…and it scares me!" She shook herself free of his hold and crouched at the base of the tree. Tears were rolling down her face now, leaving black, streaking stains.
Norman's hands hung in the air, unsure of what to do with them, much less what to say. He stood planted to his spot. His eyes roamed around the landscape, watching for any sudde nchagne in scenery. It remained charged with tension in the crisp air, but steady.
"Is it…because of that thing? You know, about…we might be kinda sorta related? Like…50th cousins or so, a few times removed at least? 300 years…I mean, that's a long time Aggie…" he rambled. "We had a president who married his fifth cousin, and I'm pretty sure my teacher said that worked out okay…"
"That isn't it Norman!" she interrupted, snapping her head around and causing her hair to fan out wildly. "It scares me because I don't know what it all means for staying here…for seeing my Mom…for how I feel about you…" Norman's stomach flipped. He kneeled down to try and get closer, but she crouched into a tighter ball, hair draping her petite form like a barrier to him. "It's hard enough to deal with missing Mommy, and not knowing why this is all happening. It only gets harder if I have something I want to keep close to me here, something that…" Her voice shook with emotion now, lightning crackling around her. "Something that I can't even make sense of! That I don't even know how to deal with…how can I let myself fall for a living boy at all…" She finally turned her head back to look at him, eyes wide and vulnerable.
"Doesn't…doesn't falling in love scare you at all, too?"
Norman paused for a long moment before responding.
"…yes. It does. More than anything, even more than when I faced you down when you didn't like me very much."
His joke managed to get a chuckle out of both of them. It was a start.
"I've been scared too, Aggie…scared that you'll disappear into the ether again, even though I want you to be happy more than anything. I've been scared of telling you that I'm scared of losing you, but more scared of not telling you that…that I care so much. That I'm sorry I ever called you a 'horrible old witch'…"
"I'm sorry I beat you up like a 'horrible old witch', too…"
They both smirked at each other, Aggie's form relaxing as Norman sat next to her. They leaned against the tree like old times, side by side, slowly falling into each other as they relaxed.
"I guess," Norman continued, the scenery breaking free of the storm clouds that had been gathering and reverting back to a more peaceful autumn setting. The leaves fell softly around them. "I guess we've both been scared, but it's just like we found out back then. Like what my Grandma said: just don't let it change who you are." Norman leaned in closer to her. "And…trying to let that fear make me pretend I didn't feel anything…that was as good as letting it change a big part of who I was after all."
Aggie looked upon him with those big doe-eyes, face inching closer to his. She nodded shortly, making a vague noise of agreement. They stayed that way for awhile, trying to read the other but content to just enjoy the closeness of their bond again.
"But Aggie...I just…wanted you to know...that you're..."
"What? I'm what, Norman?"
"Y-you're, uh...special," he finally breathed out. "You're special to me."
Agatha's breathing became heavier. ""I've...never been...special to someone before. Not like this."
Norman brushed a stray hair back from her face, in a stroke of pure tenderness. "Me neither," he whispered, smiling his warm smile again.
"Then…can...can we be special to each other? Together? If we aren't afraid anymore?" she said, voice now barely held together.
"If you want…"
Their faces had been drifting ever closer together, but now she stopped to give him that second guessing glance, as she had right before she fell asleep at their first meeting. This time, she would make up her mind.
"N-Norman...I think you're special to me, too."
It was sealed with a kiss, soft and gentle, and filled with the love they had once promised to each other existed in this world.
They planted several more sweet kisses, unsure but reveling in the newfound sensation of being so close.
"Norman…" Agatha said as she pulled away, "why do you think I woke up? Why do you think I'm still here?"
"I don't know for sure Aggie," he answered truthfully. "But I think…maybe there's something left here for you."
" Something you're supposed to have before your spirit passes, my dear one," said a voice that surrounded them, penetrating in its steadying strength. It was rich and soothing, like…a kindly mother.
"Aggie…dearest, please. All is right. This is your second chance…at that which all pure souls deserve…we will be united again. When you have finished your story here…when you have finished your second life, and second great love."
The voice left as soon as it came, but Norman could see the emotion washing over his newfound girlfriend. Then he could see the relief, as her tightly knit eyebrows and shuttered eyelids relaxed, as though a burden lifted from her soul. But to his relief, she did not disappear into the mist. Instead, she held him close, and they let the hole in her heart begin to heal at last. Norman held her back, as though she were the most precious thing in the entire world.
They stayed that way until Norman finally, and sheepishly, suggested a dance. And in a promise kept, they danced, to the beat of their own elated heartbeats and laughter at what they'd found in the most unlikely of places, through three centuries and death itself.
When the music in only their ears finally finished, and they kissed goodnight, Norman found himself waking up in the middle of the forest, woefully past curfew. He stopped his mad dash back home only to make sure Neil knew: it had all worked out, just like he said it would, and that he owed him big time. Neil was grateful, and nearly woke the whole neighborhood with his heartfelt congratulations. He would never have slept soundly without knowing for sure, after all.
The next evening, though officially grounded, Norman found his "sentence" commuted as a reward for his sterling performance the night before. "Manly character demonstrated", his father claimed. Thus, Norman was allowed to keep his one night-a-week ritual of choosing the family movie in the basement. Zombie horror, naturally. His sister only gave a hearty "blech" out of habit at this point, she was slowly warming up to them according to Grandma (still sitting in her usual spot).
And to Norman's right, as he sat in his usual position right in front of the screen, was what appeared to be…nothing at all. Just Norman clutching the air next to him, as though pantomiming holding an object. Or maybe a hand?
"Er, son… what are you doing there with your hand?" his father asked.
"Oh, that's just Aggie Dad. Remember, I told you she visits every now and then?" Norman replied without batting an eye or skipping a beat. He could hear a groan from his sister right after the involuntarily squelch of joy.
"Ah, okay, and I guess Aggie is another gho-er, 'spirited person' friend of yours, right?"
"Yup, that's about right,"
"…and what's Aggie doing…here, tonight?"
"Oh. Aggie is my girlfriend now," Norman said as though telling him the time of day.
"Isn't that nice?" his mother remarked with a proud smile.
"...right. Way to go, squirt," his father relented.
"She's a pretty one you got there, Norman. Chip off your ol' Grandfather's block, you are," Grandma remarked approvingly.
"Yeah," he replied, feeling a ghostly peck on his cheek and trying to stifle a blush, "she's…special."
So was the way his little ghost scared up a bit of love, for both of them.