PARTY LIKE IT’S 1999
With the lights dimmer and the dance floor covered with smiling souls, the party was really turning out to be a hit. And Vernon, good ol’ Vernon, played nothing but the best. All the classics from Otis Redding to Al Green back up to Bruce Springsteen and Aretha Franklin, and even some Elvis Presley. Most of the souls in the building that declined invitations were unable to ignore the good time vibes that were coming from the library and decided to join after all. Eventually, almost everyone except for Valentine was there. Lydia was having so much fun she decided to skip out on the party favour flowers, but that didn’t stop Caleb from indulging. He was having a trip in a corner with a newer young woman he met on the dance floor. Her name was Emily, and see seemed innocent enough but she was one of
those innocent looking girls that was anything but. Her demise came after a string of stints with police and some time in juvi. A fight with a girl she shared a room with left her with a terrible head injury that she didn’t recover from.
“You know, the afterlife is almost better than living. So, living isn’t really something we want to do, so basically what we want to do is be reincarnated so that we can die and come back here so that we can be in the afterlife again, you know?”
“You make total sense, you know. More sense than like, anyone I’ve ever met.”
Of course, they only made sense to each other, because they were the only two that decided they needed the flowers in the first place. The party on its own was enough to make everyone happy, and it was enough to just exist without the added benefit of a skewed sense of reality. Lydia and Aiden watched and listened to their conversation for a while, laughing at all the ridiculous things they were saying.
“But what if this is life, and when we’re reincarnated, that’s actually death?”
“You just, you totally just blew my mind. I can’t even.”
The reminded Lydia of cartoon characters in scenes where they were supposed to be playing drunkards and how they would be become the best of friends in a matter of seconds and everything was mind blowing. It made her laugh, but it also made her feel slightly sorry
for Caleb. He didn’t seem the type to be drawn into such mediocre fun, but then again, she didn’t know him that well. Not for the person he was, anyway. She began to feel less like mocking him and more like saving him from his situation when Aiden broke her from her despair.
“Hey, you okay? You went away for a minute.”
“No, yeah. I’m fine. They’re idiots. Let’s dance.”
Aiden took Lydia’s hand and led her to the dance floor and just when he did, the song California Dreamin’ started playing.
“Do you remember that vacation we took the summer before we died? We drove down to California on a whim without even thinking about it and had to sleep in the car for the first night because we were so lost.”
“Yeah.” Aiden was smiling. He remembered that trip fondly. It was on that trip that he realized he was going to ask Lydia to marry him, but never got the chance.
“And it was the most uncomfortable sleep we had ever had, so when we woke up in the morning we were both so cranky and just in the worst mood that we fought about almost everything for the first half of the day. We couldn’t even agree on where to get coffee. Do you remember that? I remember being so mad at you that day. And for no reason at all. And then we went to the beach to try to calm down. And we just walked along the shore line and to make all matters worse it just started pouring on us.”
“Yes, and we both just burst out laughing like idiots. Like the whole trip was the worst idea in the world and the best joke we’d ever heard.”
“Yeah. So, we ran around on this beach in the rain. And it was like our beach. All the people with brains had gone home, but not us. We danced in the rain. And it was one of the best days I’d ever had.”
“Me too.” He looked down at her grinning as she grinned up at him. “That was the weekend I decided I was going to propose to you.”
She gasped. “You never told me that! Wow. So technically, we’re kind of engaged,” she joked.
“Engaged, married, it doesn’t matter Lydia. We’re soulmates. There’s nothing stronger than that.”
“I don’t think anyone has ever said anything more romantic or sweet than that in the existence of love.”
“Well I wouldn’t go that far but...” Lydia cut him off.
They held each other close and continued to dance the night away as the souls around them did the same. They almost forgot they had a plan for the evening because of how connected the party made them feel. For the first time since they had been in the middle, they just took the time to really be together and enjoy the fact that they knew what they were to each other, and that was all they needed. It wasn’t about needing to be immortal or getting eternity together. It was about these
moments that they were spending together, just like their trip to California. A tap on the shoulder woke them for their harmonious dream.
“I can’t find Caleb and that girl, what’s her name, Emily? They were right there. Now they’re gone.” Quincy looked worried, which alarmed Lydia because she had never seen him with even a flicker of worry in his eyes.
“When was the last time you saw them?” Aiden asked.
“I can’t be sure. Couldn’t have been any longer than ten minutes ago, I swear they were just right there.”
“Okay, stay with Lydia. I’ll be right back.”
“No. I’m going with you.” Lydia grabbed Aiden’s hand and wouldn’t let go. “If you go, I go.”
“Fine, but you stay behind me Lydia. I’m not letting anything happen to you. Q, how many of those flowers did they eat?”
“The whole pile is still right over there, so they couldn’t have had any more than two each. No one else even had any.”
“Okay. Well we’ve got to find them. And I think I know where they’re going.”
“The arch,” Lydia muttered. Aiden just nodded.
“You guys, no. If you go to find them there it will not go over well with Valentine. You have to stay here with the party. I will go. I got the party favours, I will go find them. It’s as simple as that. You two still want to walk through that arch, and you two are still lucky enough to have found the one you can safely do so
with. So, I’m not letting anything happen to you. Not trying to save those idiots, not on my watch. I’ll find them and I’ll bring them back. I promise.”
“Fine, but if you’re not back soon I’m coming to find you and that’s non-negotiable.” Aiden said sternly.
“Fine, but you stay here and cover for me if Valentine shows up.”
“Be careful,” said Lydia.
“I’m always careful, darlin’,” Quincy said, trying to give a convincing smile, but failing.
Lydia and Aiden walked back into the party trying to act as normal as possible as to not draw attention to the fact that their friend was missing—and possibly disintegrated. Any bad energy coming from them would surely be picked up on by Dexter, wherever he may be, and they just couldn’t deal with any explanations, at least not while Caleb was still missing. So, they danced.
A clearing of the throat came from the doors to the library and Lydia froze immediately, staring at Aiden concerningly, knowing who was standing behind her.
“How’s the party going, you two?”
“Valentine, I thought you couldn’t make it?” Aiden asked.
“I thought I’d try to make an appearance. And check up on you of course.”
“How thoughtful of you.” Lydia tried to make herself sound friendly but the words came out
robust and overly confident. “It’s going swimmingly, I can assure you!”
“I’ve been assured by you before, Ms. Ashes. I see there is some awaken flowers over there. You guys have gone all out, haven’t you?”
“Well, we tried to.” Aiden laughed nervously. “Turns out the party is so good no one even needed them! Quite proud of myself actually. Set the whole thing up myself.”
“Did you? No help from anyone? What about your good friend Caleb? Is he enjoying the party?”
“He is, yeah. He is—well he was over by the fire place.” Aiden scrambled to look around pretending he was as shocked as Valentine was to not find him anywhere as Lydia gripped harder on his hand.
“He must be around here somewhere. He met a lovely young lady. They must have retired to one of the bedrooms. You know how Caleb can be, the ladies man.”
“Yes, indeed.” Valentine stood there without saying so much as a word and just stared at Aiden and Lydia as if he knew exactly what they were thinking but was giving them the chance to spell it out for him themselves. He had this power, this forceful glare that once met could move mountains, literally and figuratively.
“Well, it seems that everything is fine here. But I will be going upstairs to usher Caleb and Emily back downstairs. I will see you two upon my return.” And with that he was gone.
“Shoot. Oh, no. He’s going to look for Caleb. What do we do now? And how did he know he was with Emily? You didn’t say Emily, did you? Did you? Aiden?”
“No, I didn’t. I definitely didn’t. Something is up here Lydia. And I don’t think either of us are going to like it. We have got to find Quincy. Now.”
“But what if he comes back?”
“He already knows where Caleb is. Clearly, he doesn’t need us to spell anything out for him. There’s a lot more to Valentine than we will ever know. That is becoming more obvious by the minute, and if we don’t get to where were going soon, we may lose our chance altogether. This isn’t about Caleb anymore. This is about us. And Valentine, he knows. He knows what we were planning to do. Why we threw this party, why we have become friends with Quincy and exactly what can happen if we go through that arch. We don’t have much time. We have to move now.”
“No, Aiden we can’t. We can’t do it in this spur of the moment rushed kind of way.”
Lydia was starting to question the entire thing. She began to feel her temperature rise, which was a first in a long time.
“If we become immortal, what next? We’ll be here, yes, in the middle, but for eternity? Together in the middle for eternity, which in theory sounds fantastic because we get to be together, but stuck with Valentine and the higher power? Imagine what they’ll try to do to
us if they find out. And what kind of control can they even have over us? And what if we can make it back to earth as immortals? What will we exist as? Humans? Ghosts? Nothing at all? There’s too many unanswered questions we need to know before we go through that arch Aiden. How do we even know it will work?”
“Because we’re soulmates Lydia! Why are you fighting me on this?” Aiden was screaming now, and the party goers started to perk up. In a whisper he said, “Don’t you want to be with me forever?”
“Of course, I do but...”
“Then that’s it Lydia. We do it now.” He didn’t wait for her to finish her sentence. There wasn’t time for waiting. It was now or never and like a stubborn bull he didn’t care about the consequence of the mysteries. He was aware of what he knew and that’s all that mattered. He grabbed Lydia by the wrist and started pulling her out of the room.
“No, wait,” she whined. “I love this song.” But he kept pulling and the music grew silent as she was ripped up the stairs by a face she barely knew.