I drove for a few miles, hyperventilating, checking the rear-view mirror as if he would follow me. And maybe he would. Maybe he’d appear in the passenger seat beside me, and I’d have to talk to my hallucination of my dead husband.
I’d lost it. Grief had really and truly made me crazy, made me insane.
Pulling over to the side of the dark road, I put it in park and locked the doors, just in case, as I tried to catch my breath. Skin clammy, hands shaky, I met my own eyes in the mirror.
I looked crazy. And scared.
My mind had fractured from sorrow. Maybe it was because I’d had no chance to say goodbye. He’d gone to work one day, just like always, and never come home.
But that night, when he hadn’t come home, I’d known something was really wrong. I couldn’t reach him, he didn’t call. I’d sat up all night worrying, and when the sun had risen on the next day without him there, I’d sobbed on the floor in the kitchen.
Because it had felt like something had been torn from my soul. I’d known he was dead.
Maybe right then was when my mind had snapped. When the call came, I’d only felt shock.
But he’d seemed so real, just now, in front of me. I could still hear his voice calling my name, desperate, begging. I gripped my hair, hard. Because I wanted it to be him. I wanted him to be a ghost, or an apparition, or an angel that had come back to see me. As long as I could see him again. I wanted to feel him again, hold him again, kiss him again.
Maybe I wanted him back so unbelievably bad that I’d made him appear outside our door.
He’d looked awful, but it had been him. Or rather my delusion of him.
Could delusions push a door against you? Would a delusion block headlights from going into his eyes?
Maybe it was his ghost?
I leaned my head on the steering wheel, laughing as tears fell.
There were no such things as ghosts, and my husband couldn’t come back to life no matter how bad I wished it was so.
But what if…?
What if he hadn’t really died, and something else had happened to him instead? The casket had been closed. I’d stared at the smiling picture of him on top of it, unable to believe he was inside. What if he hadn’t been inside. Maybe they’d been wrong, and it had been someone else killed on the job.
I’d spent over a month wishing, praying this was a horrible nightmare that I’d wake up from. Praying that there’d been some kind of mistake, that it wasn’t my husband who’d been in that awful accident. Maybe my prayers had been answered.
But where had Grady been since then? Why hadn’t he come home?
Why was he wearing the suit I’d taken to the funeral home?
I didn’t have any answers, but I was certain of one thing; whatever happened to him, wherever he’d been…
If he could come back to me, he would.
He loved me more than anything, and he told me every single day. Part of what hurt so bad about his death was that it felt like he was still here, when he wasn’t.
What if he had been? If by some miracle he was alive and had come home, why was I running away?
So I wiped my tears, put the car in gear, and made a u-turn towards home.
I have to know if it was him, or I’d imagined him. I have to know what happened, or if I was crazy.
I have to know.
When I get home, the garage door is still up. Everything else looks normal and undisturbed. The front door was closed, and no shadows moved behind the curtains.
I sit in the car, fighting off disappointment and fear.
Maybe I’d been dreaming, sleepwalking. I’d gone back to sleep quickly after the neighbor’s dog quit barking, but then I’d awakened to some sounds outside. Rustling, and the trashcan lid. There’d been some feeling in the air, a weird pressure, but I’d ignored it, thinking raccoons had gotten in the trash. I’d turned on the light to chase them off when I’d heard the scraping at the door. When I’d heard him say my name.
Shaking, I turn off the car and shut the garage door behind me. I wouldn’t run again. This was my chance to see Grady again, even if it was all in my head.
Breathing deep, I get out of the car and quietly entered the house. The lamp was still on in the living room, and I stepped toward the warm glow. As I round the corner, I see him, and stop. My knees weaken under me and I sink into a chair. “Oh my God.” He’s lying on the couch, looking gray and dirty and thin and just as dead as he should be.
But then he opens his eyes and turns his head toward me. “I’m sorry I scared you. Can we talk?”
However he appeared, whatever he is, my dead husband is lying on our couch talking to me.
CONTINUE TO PT. 9 (COMING VERY SOON!)