Sleight of Hand

By Emmanuel Yuan
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She was a burst of color, bobbing among the monochromatic dreariness as if she were only here for a walk. That may very well be true; the area was beautiful, sitting atop a grassy knoll, overlooking a pristine lake. Her gaudy appearance and carefree demeanor drew glances from the other visitors, occasionally accompanied by murmurs of disapproval. She strolled on, unfazed, paying no heed to their quiet criticism. Soon she left them all behind, finding herself in a secluded glade. This should be the place that she was told to visit.

She looked around curiously, and a flash of white caught her attention.

A lone headstone and a bouquet atop a patch of disturbed earth marked his resting place. Her finger traced the freshly engraved letters, the testimony to his death.

“Hey.” She greeted him, as if expecting a response.

He looked at her curiously, from beyond the veil. His gaze warmed as he recognized her.

“Why, hello. I was hoping you might visit.” He smiled in welcome, his legs dangling over his tombstone. A gust ruffled her hair, a mimicry of how he used to.

She sighed, berating herself for the moment of naive hope. He grew somber as he realized she did not, perhaps could not, notice his presence.

With a flourish, a violet rose appeared in her hand. “Ta-da.” She gently placed it on the bed of soil.

“Thanks.” He knelt down beside her, examining the rose. He never understood how she could make things appear at will. That is not to say that he had not tried to ask her. A good magician never reveals her secrets, she would say to him. And now, he’ll never know. Then again, never is a strong word for someone who might still exist for quite a while. Perhaps he’ll figure it out, just before he fades into limbo. Satisfied with that thought, he returned to his spot on his tombstone.

She stood there awkwardly for a few minutes, hesitant to linger, but equally reluctant to leave. Taking a deep breath, she decided to sit down, leaning against the back of his gravestone.

“I can’t believe you’re gone.” She pulled her knees to her chest, hugging them tightly. She paused for a moment. “Sometimes it still feels like you’re here.”

“Perhaps I still am.” He shot her a wry smile.

She fell silent. A wren took advantage of the lull to warble, shattering the quiet. They listened to its song, immersed in its emotions, leaving the two of them in tranquil intimacy.

“No one would have blamed you if you didn’t go back, dummy.” She said softly as the wren finished its song.

“But you knew I had to.” He whispered next to her ear.

She smiled dolefully, as if she could hear him in the playful breeze.

“I promised not to cry, so no tears of mine will touch this ground.” She declared loudly, to no one in particular.

He was already catching the tears as her bravado cracked. They shimmered in his ethereal palms like diamonds, though no diamond could ever express her love as much as these. Her shoulders shook as she wiped at her cheeks. He swirled around her, holding her in an intangible embrace.

“I miss you.” She mumbled, abandoning her attempt to stem her tears. Her sobs tore at him, and he cursed himself for not being able to comfort her. In helplessness, he held her, feeling her warmth, but knowing she could not feel his.

She regained her composure as the skies began to take on vivid hues. She shielded her eyes as the setting sun broke through the trees, casting a golden glow on the scenery.

“Heh, it seems like I broke my promise.” She pulled a blue handkerchief from thin air. With it, she dabbed at her reddened eyes, embarrassed. “I hope you didn’t see that.”

“If only you knew.” The amusement in his voice was tinted with a hint of regret.

“They chose a great spot. You always did like watching sunsets.” She gazed at the horizon as she stood up and dusted herself off. With a flick of her wrist, the handkerchief disappeared.

“Well, it’s getting late. I’m afraid I must be off.” She gazed longingly at his grave. “I’ll come visit again.” With a small grin, she sauntered away.

Still perched atop his tombstone, he waved at her back. “Goodbye.”

1 COMMENT

  1. I really enjoyed reading this, great work! The interaction between the “ghost” and the girl was done very poetically. I also enjoyed the internal thoughts of the ghost, as if he was still learning about life in death. Thanks for sharing!

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