This is just a little tale. Hope you enjoy.
PS This is PG 13, pervs.
The woman did not look as Jack imagined. She couldn’t have been more than 25, with youthfully plump features. Her long auburn hair fell in a long silky spill down her back, and she wore jeans and a plain black t-shirt. Fairly casual for a psychic. Or medium. Whatever the hell she was.
He expected a cackling old woman with a wart and a cane. Tom hadn’t told Jack what she looked like, but he hadn’t mentioned she was so attractive. So young. He felt a little ridiculous coming to a witch as it was; having a girl roughly a decade younger than him peering into his soul was an entirely different matter.The only thing old about her was her eyes. Brown, deep and penetrating, they made him feel unsettled. He fidgeted. Coughed. Scratched his nose. Waited for her to say something. She reminded him of the various shrinks he'd tried out when his family urged him to try to seek solace there. How they'd stare at you, for practically the whole session, either waiting for you to declare you were an idiot or a psychopath.
Maybe he had the wrong place.
He cleared his throat. “Jenny? Jenny Woods?”
“Yes.” Her voice was throaty and strangely rough for her age. Maybe she smoked. He detested smokers.
She leaned against her door, and though her expression hadn’t changed, Jack felt she was laughing at him.
“I’m Jack. I have an appointment with—”
“Yes.” She swept her hair over one shoulder. Jack’s eyes followed the movement. “You’re late.”
“Oh.” That certainly caught him off guard. He did sit in the car for a bit, talking himself into at least making an appearance. He had promised and he wasn't a very good liar. “Sorry. I got a little lost and-”
Jack paused for a minute, looking over his shoulder at his car. With a long-suffering sigh, he followed her into a standard room; there were no crystal balls or multicolored beads. He didn’t smell incense. No spooky portraits or tiny buddhas were anywhere to be found. She didn’t even have a black cat.
A Jimmy Hendrix poster hung over an ancient sofa. Stacks of magazines were plopped haphazardly across the coffee table. MTV was muted on her tiny TV. He was beginning to think Tom had played a joke on him. Any minute he expected the girl to explode with laugher and say "HA!".
He watched her carefully as she knelt beside her coffee table.
“Sit,” she said. She pointed to the couch and Jack caught a glimpse of a skull ring on her index finger. He tried to stifle his eye-roll. The whole mysterious goth image didn’t impress him much.
Once he was seated, Jenny smiled. “I’m glad you decided to come.”
“Yeah. Great.” Jack shifted uneasily, wondering how much Tom said about him.
As if she sensed his discomfort, her smile widened. “First we’ll take care of the business part. A hundred should cover it.”
“A hundred... A hundred bucks? Seriously?”
“Seriously. Talking to the dead takes a lot out of me.” She had the nerve to smirk.
This time Jack didn’t bother hiding his annoyance. He sighed and threw five twenties onto her messy table.
“Give me your hand,” she ordered, without even thanking him.
Jack’s eyebrows jumped up. “You’re doing a palm reading?”
“You skeptics are such pains in the asses. No, obviously not. I don’t dabble in palm reading. That’s total bullshit.” She snorted as if what she did was any less bizarre. “You want to commune with someone who’s passed, correct? I need your hand. Helps me establish a connection.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
Jack was surprised. He thought she'd just race ahead, ask him if he had an aunt with a R-sounding name. “Yeah, of course.”
“Sometimes there are spirits who do not want to be found. Sometimes there are spirits better left alone.”
God. This was beginning to sound like a B-horror movie. “I’ll take my chances.”
She twisted her lips as if she didn’t believe him. “There’s also not always a guarantee we’ll connect with who you’re looking for. You’d be surprised who makes an appearance.”
“Fine. Thanks for explaining.” Jack just wanted to get on with it. Already he was itching to be back in his car, to laugh this all off. He’d go back to work on Monday and tell Tom he was an asshole.
Jenny didn’t say anything else. Her eyes fluttered shut and she was quiet for a long time. Her hand tightened its grasp around Jack’s and she starting whispering things too low for him to hear.
Then her eyes opened. “Ah. I see.”
A few minutes passed but she remained silent.
“And?” Jack asked. He was going to take his money back if she didn’t start saying something interesting.
Finally her mouth opened, although Jack would soon wish it hadn’t.
“She misses you.”
It hit him in the gut. Nevermind that Tom might have told her, or that she might have made an educated guess. It was something in the way she said it, something that made him feel like she meant it. It killed him.
“She wants you to stop playing the song all the time. Hold on, she’s humming it. I don’t recognize it...” Jenny’s eyes shut again. “I think it’s a Coldplay song. She says it makes you depressed and she doesn’t get why you do it to yourself. And now she's laughing, saying you were always a masochist.”
He became aware he was crying but he was too far gone to do anything about it.
The girl’s eyes opened. They were startlingly direct.
“You’re very stubborn.”
He laughed through his humiliating tears. “Excuse me?”
“You’ve wanted to come here a long time. She’s been waiting for you. She wants to tell you it’s been years. Move on.”
His eyebrows lifted. “Move on?”
“She’s dead. You can’t make her come back by spraying her favorite perfume around the house every time you miss her. It’s lovely that you think of her so often but you’re in the land of the living and you need to start acting like it.” She shut her eyes again. “But she wants you to know she loves you. God, she loves you. She loves you, loves you. More than anything. And she wants you to be happy.”
He wasn’t sure what he was more pissed off by—her blunt manner of speaking, or that Abby had told this girl about his embarrassing and pathetic habits.
Then he realized what he was thinking and shook his head. Tom was going to get his ass kicked. He must have told her about Abby. She must have fished around, gotten their song, made some educated guesses. He reflected on her words... She hadn’t said anything revolutionary, had she? Nope.
He blinked back angry tears and tugged his hand away from her. She jolted as if he shocked her and just stared at him with those eyes. It took him a minute but he started to laugh.
“God. I should have done this months ago.”
Jenny smiled with a warmth that made her even prettier. “Really?”
“It’s fucking hilarious. You pretending to talk to my wife. How funny. You probably convinced yourself you’re doing me a favor, right? Telling me to move on, so I suddenly get over her, right? My life’s not wasted? Tom can stop worrying? Right?”
Her pleased smile faded. “I’m not pretending.”
“Fuck you.” He stood and roughed up his hair. “I cannot believe I’m standing here right now.” He barked out a laugh. “This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever done.”
“Not the tattoo of Betty Boop on your lower back?” Jenny asked.
Jack looked at her as if remembering she was there. The old tattoo, a result of a drunken college party, burned on his skin. Still he ignored her baiting statement and the hopeful gleam in her eyes. “Keep the money. I don’t want to finish the session.”
He stalked to the door and made sure to slam it extra hard on his way out.
Tom had listened while Jack flipped out, ignoring all the insults and curses hurled at him. And still, all he could say after Jack told him about his visit was, “She’s the real deal, man.”
Jack scoffed. “I guess she fooled you.”
“Believe what you want to. I thought it would help you out. I had no idea you’d have such a volatile response and—”
“Volatile? You think this is volatile? You’re so lucky I’m not kicking the shit out of you right now.” Jack shook his head at his friend. “Look, I know you meant well but I don’t want to go to any so-called psychics, anymore, okay? I'm fine. Fine. Okay?"
“Okay,” Tom said. He sounded disappointed. “So nothing she said was true?”
Jack changed the subject. “Hey, you got any white-out?”
He couldn’t explain why he was there. One minute he was drinking a cup of coffee, feeding his dog, watching the news. The next he was grabbing his keys and speeding back to the tiny house. It was raining, of course. He could hardly make anything out, but he stared and stared at the house as if waiting for something to happen.
Then suddenly someone’s knuckles rapped at his passenger window and he jumped.
Jenny stood beneath an umbrella, peering at him through the glass with an expression of amusement. He pressed a button and the window slid down. She leaned her head in and smiled.
“Come in. I put some tea on.”
He flexed his fingers on the steering wheel and looked anywhere but at her soft eyes. “No, thanks. I think—“
“Shut up and come inside, Jack.”
She turned and made her way through the rain. He followed, unthinkingly. Both of them were drenched once they were back inside her house. The kettle whistled and Jenny rushed over to turn it off.
“I’ve been waiting for you.”
Jack snickered. “Why? She told you I was coming?”
“No. I mean I’ve been waiting for you a long time.” Jenny didn't explain the mystery of that statement. She just brought over the tea and put it down on her coaster. “I knew you’d come sooner rather than later.”
She helped him with his coat. She tried to shake out the rain, tutted, and then disappeared down the hallway. He wasn’t sure what to do, so he sat down and picked up the cup of tea.
When Jenny came back out, he watched her move some clothes she must’ve been folding and curl up in her chair.
“What did you mean, that you’ve been waiting for me?”
“It’s not a big deal.” She swallowed and he watched the movement through the pale slip of her skin.
“Yes, it is. What are you talking about?”
Jenny sighed and put her tea down. Then she approached him, but something was different. She wasn’t just walking; it was as though she were floating. Her eyes threw sparks at him and, God help him, his heart pumped faster.
She sat on his lap. He opened his mouth—his mind knew this was too much—but no words would form. Then she put a hand on either side of his face and kissed him. Kissed him. His entire body jolted as if he’d been awoken from some long, mind-numbing dream.
Far too soon, Jenny’s lips were gone and she was back across the room, sipping her tea. “Did you feel that?”
Jack lifted his fingers to his lips. They felt numb and swollen. Abby’s face flashed before his eyes. He wanted to lie. But he couldn’t. “Yes.”
He didn’t recognize his voice.
“But it’s too soon,” Jenny sighed.
He cleared his throat. “Look, I don’t think—”
“Shush! My favorite show is on.” She picked up the remote and turned up the volume.
He sat there quietly, watching the moving images on the TV, and all thoughts of leaving fled.
It went on like this for a few weeks. Jack would show up at Jenny’s house. She’d welcome him in, sometimes with a smile that made his heart beat a strange rhythm. Sometimes she’d hardly look his way, and gesture at some meal she’d left for him on the table.
They watched TV in silence. On occasion he peppered her with questions.
He laughed one afternoon as she bound some crystals together.
“Doing a spell?”
She half-smiled to herself. “I don’t do spells.”
It was a sunny day for a change and golden sunlight spilled into the living room. She wore a simple red dress and it occurred to him for the first time she had a very nice chest.
He cleared his throat.
“Then what is that for?”
She looked up to the ceiling as she thought of a way to explain. “It’s sort of a cleansing thing. Don’t worry, I’m not hexing you.”
She got up to head for the kitchen, and as she moved by him she stroked his hair. It was a thoughtless gesture, as if she did it every day, and that's what made it even nicer.
When she came back in the room, she sipped on a glass of ginger ale with ice in it. The glass's dripping condensation was traveling down her wrist, but she didn't seem to mind.
He tried to keep his mind on safe topics.
“So, how does your, like, sight work?”
Jenny plopped on the sofa next to him, too close. She either didn’t notice his discomfort or ignored it. “I don’t think I could explain it in a way you’d understand.” When he gave her a look, she giggled. "No, I'm not implying you're stupid. It's just something you need to experience to fully get."
“Try me.” He turned his body more in her direction.
She wore wing-tipped eyeliner that day. It suited her, and made those large, omniscient eyes even more ethereal.
“They just visit me, Jack. They visit me in my mind. They tell me things, or they complain. They gripe about their loved ones. Some want me to seek out their kids or their spouses, or even their neighbors, and yell at them for all their misdeeds. Those are the fun ones.” She sighed and rested back against the couch, putting the iced glass against her forehead.
“Do you have a headache?”
He knew she got them sometimes. She'd explained it "came with the job" when he asked one day.
“I’m fine.” He was going to say something else but she continued. “Mostly, there’s just a lot of peace. I don’t know how it works, either, sometimes. A lot of the spirits have unfinished business. ‘Let so-and-so know I love them,’ and ‘Make sure my kids know I’m watching,’ or ‘Tell Rick to go fuck himself,’. But then there’s peace. Spirits just traveling by, noticing me noticing them. They smile at me. Comfort me. They usually know when I need it, too.”
Jack’s arm moved slowly, without his permission, until it was wrapped around her shoulders.
Another day he took a look at the shabby house and sat on the sofa, watching her sitting Indian-style by her coffee table as she ate dinner.
“How long have you lived here?”
She chewed her pizza, eyebrows lifted. “Do you really care?”
“I asked, so I must.”
“People ask all kinds of things they don’t care about.” She put her pizza down and stood, stretching out her muscles. Her shirt rode up slightly and he could see the flesh of her stomach.
He averted his eyes politely.
“I’ve lived here all my life. When my grandmother died, I inherited it.”
Jack looked at her more closely. The shape of her was being filled in bit by bit by facts. He wanted to know why her grandmother raised her, where her parents were, but he thought they were questions for another day.
“How old are you?” He’d been dying to ask her that for a long time.
Her eyes popped open and she breathed out a laugh. “Why?”
“I just feel… pervy, hanging out here with you. You look so young.”
“People say that all the time. That I look young.” She brushed her hair away from her face and stared at him for a long time, those large brown eyes absorbing all the secrets of his soul. “I’m almost 27.”
“Huh.” He took a sip of his beer. “I’m 34.”
Jenny grinned. “I know.
“You never want to hang out anymore!” Tom said, leaning against Jack’s desk. “What’s going on with you? We’re all worried.”
And he was fine. For the first time in a long time, he whistled when he did things. He sang in the shower. He picked up a good paperback now and then instead of watching brainless TV. He did actual grocery shopping instead of ordering out. He was making steps.
Tom must caught a bit of Jack’s vibe because a small grin crossed his face. “Dude! You’re seeing someone!”
Jack’s smile faded. “What? No.”
“You so are. Who is she?”
“She’s no one. There is no one. I’m not dating anyone, Jesus.”
Tom held his hands up. “Sor-ry. Just thought… nevermind.” He began to walk away from Jack’s desk but then paused and turned. “But you know, if you were, it would be cool. With everyone. It’s time, Jack. Abby wouldn’t want you to have— You know what, that’s all I’m gonna say. Just think about it.”
Jack drove over to Jenny’s that afternoon and grumbled under his breath about the weather. It was raining so hard he could hardly see, and her place was so out of his way. He was half-convinced he should turn around and go home. Their visits were pointless. He didn’t even really enjoy himself there, and she acted as if his presence was just expected, which annoyed the shit out of him.
He was about to pull into a gas station to turn around when a new song came on the radio. Coldplay. Their song. His and Abby’s. He got honked at because of his hesitation, and ended up going straight, bypassing the gas station altogether.
A strange thought, as if it were something else speaking in his head, went through his mind: You've waited long enough.
And then he was running through the rain to the house. He banged on it and it quickly opened. Jenny had her hair in pigtails, and she was wearing overalls.
“Hi, come in!”
She stepped back and let him in. He shook the rain off his jacket and she ran to get him a towel for his hair.
“I heard a whisper you weren’t coming today. Wouldn’t have blamed you with that downpour out—”
“Do you want to go out on a date?” he blurted.
Her head whipped back. “What?”
“A date. With me. Tonight.”
Those large eyes studied him. She leant against the wall and took a deep breath. “Are you sure you’re ready?”
He reached over and brought him to her, giving her the most passionate kiss he could muster being soaking wet and cold. He'd even lifted her on her tippy-toes so it would be proper and romantic.
Then he set her down. She looked as if she'd seen a ghost, which was an amusing thought.
Then he laughed and shook his head. “No. Are you?”
A little smile flirted with her lips. “I've been waiting for a long time. I still don't approve. You aren't ready."
“I mean, is anyone ready?”
“Don’t get philosophical on me, Jack. You’re supposed to be the reasonable one.”
Jack moved closer to her and pushed one wayward piece of hair behind her ear. “Have dinner with me.” When she looked as though she might protest, he said, “Have dinner with me, you crazy psychic.”
“So you believe me now?”
“What do the spirits tell you?”
She closed her eyes and took a long, deep breath. Her eyes popped open when she exhaled.
“Where did you have in mind?”