It hurt to be here in this place, yet it also hurt when he was away. No matter how he looked at it, he was in pain. With a grimace, he turned away from the gates before him ignoring the reproachful gazes of the angels beyond them. In a matter of seconds, he was gone, leaving Heaven behind and appearing on Earth standing in the park. He stepped from behind the trees and paused. The wind blew steadily and he could feel it sifting through his hair, blowing the deep brown locks back. His lashes swept down, his eyes closing and blocking out the view of the city around him. He wanted to feel. To stand still and feel the world as it flowed over him.
“Hey, freak get the fuck outta the way, you’re blocking the path!”
Emerey opened his eyes and turned to face the man who sat on a bike. There was no sense harboring anger at the man, it would accomplish little, instead, he smiled. “Of course, I apologize.” He stepped aside to let the man pass. “Have a wonderful day,” he told the man.
The man snorted. “Yeah, right whatever,” he yelled as he sped away.
He shook his head and watched the man disappear down the path. People could be rude and for little reason, he supposed that was one thing he didn’t miss about Earth. His ability to move between Heaven and Earth was a gift very few possessed and it was dear to him. When he was on Earth it felt as if he’d never left. As far as anyone was concerned, when they looked at him they saw a human teenage boy. To them, he was as alive as they were. He wasn’t, mortality was only a memory for him. Life was nothing but a fantasy to him now, he thought with a grimace. To those around him, the boy walking through the park was a normal seventeen-year-old boy. That mirage kept him safe, that image of life was important. He crossed the street at the corner and made his way over to his favorite Starbucks. Coffee was something he missed. There was no coffee in Heaven. No mocha frap, no caramel mochiatto, nothing. He slipped through the door pausing to hold it open for a man—who was too busy talking on the phone to thank him—and headed for the counter to order.
The cashier sent him a huge, happy grin when she spotted him. “Emerey, how are you? Where have you been, I haven’t seen you in ages!” Her blue eyes were alive with happiness and the knot of her blond hair wobbled atop her head as she gestured wildly.
A smile lifted the corners of his lips slightly. “I’ve been busy, Silvia, that’s all. Can I get my usual?”
“Of course you can! Don’t be such a stranger, you need to come by more often.” She rang up his coffee and slipped him a pastry with a wink before she looked beyond him to the next customer.
He returned her wink and moved down the counter to wait for his coffee. The power he had to move between plains wasn’t the only one he possessed. It seemed he had power over people as well. Seduction, perhaps charisma, or simple charm, it didn’t matter what it was called he had one of those faces that made people want to do things for him. Whatever the power was, he used it with no guilt. Why should he feel guilty? He was trapped. Stuck in Heaven when he wanted to be here on Earth, where he wasn’t welcome. The dead weren’t supposed to be here, Earth didn’t want visitors from Heaven. It would take only a day or two before they found him and shuffled him back behind Heaven’s gates. He wasn’t allowed to be here because they claimed it unbalanced things between the plains. The laws of death and the hereafter said that he was supposed to remain dead and reside in Heaven forevermore. Emerey couldn’t do that. He hated the fact his life was taken from him, that he had been ripped away from his family on a day that had begun with his mother waking him by singing happy birthday. That day had ended with his death.
“Emerey!” one of the employees called as he placed the cup of coffee on the counter.
He stepped forward and grabbed the cup. “Thanks, man.”
The barista sent him a wave before moving away.
He exited the Starbucks and paused on the sidewalk, taking a long sip of his coffee. Pedestrians passed, rushing from here to there as they went about their day as if they had all the time in the world to get things done. All the time to live out their lives and complete everything they wanted to do. It was sickening. No one had the time to do everything they wished to. It all ended too quickly and before you were ready. Life was bullshit and he knew that firsthand.
“Library,” he muttered as he turned and walked down the street. Coffee wasn’t his only passion, he enjoyed reading too, but he wasn’t going there to read for pleasure, not today. There was research he needed to complete. Things he needed to discover about his life and death.
As he walked he turned over the events of his last day on Earth. It was his seventeenth birthday and his parents decided to throw him a huge party. It was perfect. All of his family and friends had been there to help celebrate. Food, music, and everyone having fun. After the party, he and a couple of his friends decided to go see a movie. After the movie, they’d gone to hang out in the park.
That had been a mistake. One he couldn’t take back.
“Dude, seriously happy birthday. To the birthday boy!”
Emerey chuckled as Dane stood on the picnic table holding a beer aloft. “Sit down dumbass before you fall over.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever.” Dane dropped down to sit on the table beside Rick who was currently chugging his third beer or maybe it was his fourth. Emerey had lost count, maybe because he’d had more than four himself.
“Thanks for this, guys. I mean the party my parents threw was great, but it’s nice to hang out with you guys and celebrate.”
Rick slapped him on the back. “We are happy to accommodate.” He waved his empty beer can around. “And so is my brother, even if he doesn’t yet know I stole his beer!” Rick’s words were slightly slurred.
Emerey chuckled. His phone went off and he glanced at it. “Shit, it’s late I need to get home. My mom is already asking where I am.”
“To the chariot, we must away!” Dane shouted before leaping from the picnic table, tripping and falling on his face. “How’d I end up here?” he muttered.
“You ended up there because you’re a drunk moron,” Emerey told him as he helped him to his feet.
Rick was running across the park singing the theme song to what Em thought was She-Ra, but he couldn’t be certain since the words didn’t seem to make sense. By the time he helped Dane into the back seat, Dane was almost unconscious. He chuckled and climbed into the front beside Rick.
Rick grinned and started the car. Before he pulled out of the parking lot he turned the radio on and began singing loudly, again with the wrong words.
Emerey grinned. His friends were goofballs, but they were his best friends and he didn’t know what he’d do without them. “Rick, watch out!” he shouted as a deer darted across the street.
Rick screamed, swerved and the car skidded off the road and took a nosedive downward. Emerey’s world tipped as the car began to roll into the ravine beside the road. It was too late to regret their evening of drinking, too late to worry about the fact he hadn’t put on his seatbelt. Too late for a lot of things. Glass shattered, the world was a whirl of motion and he felt himself soaring through the air. He hit the ground and then there was nothing.
With a shake of his head, he shoved the memory back and pulled open the door to the library. With his head down, he made his way over to a table in one corner where he was usually left alone. As he set his coffee cup down, Mrs. Montgomery stopped beside him.
“And how are you today, Emerey?”
He smiled at the head librarian. She was always very nice to him. He supposed seeing a teenager who enjoyed reading was a novelty for her these days. “I’m fine, ma’am, how are you?”
She chuckled. “I’ve told you before that calling me ma’am isn’t necessary. I’m fine, it’s good to see you again. Enjoy yourself.” She emitted a groan when she spotted two boys chasing each other through the stacks. “Gotta go, duty calls!”
He grinned and watched her go after the boys. He wiped the grin from his face and turned away with a glower. Becoming attached to anyone on Earth wasn’t an option because he was nothing. As real as he seemed to the people here he was nothing, he no longer mattered.
“Time for research,” he told himself and moved away from the table to search for books that might help him find his answers.
Some forty minutes later he was seated at the table pouring over the books he’d found.
His head snapped up at the sound of the girl’s voice. “Uh, hi,” he answered. She was pretty and around his age or rather the age he was when he died.
Her smile was tentative. “Do you mind if I join you? There’s no empty table and you appear to have plenty of room.”
He’d rather be alone, but what choice did he have? It wasn’t in him to be overtly rude, even if he wanted to. His mother would kill him. Again. If he acted that way. “Sure, take a seat.”
She gave him another smile and took a seat across from him. “Thanks, I have this English paper I need to finish by tomorrow and our Wifi at home decided to stop working. If I don’t turn in this paper I’m doomed.”
He’d already gone back to his books and dismissed her from his mind. “Yeah, uh-huh, sure,” he answered absently.
“You didn’t hear a word I said, did you?” she asked with a giggle.
He glanced up with a frown. “What?”
She wagged a finger at him. “You should pay attention when someone is speaking to you, it’s good manners,” she told him.
“I’m busy, I need to work on this and I certainly didn’t ask you to sit here and talk to me,” he snapped before looking back down at the book he was reading and ignoring her. He didn’t need this, he had things to do and he wasn’t here to entertain her. This book might have his answers and he needed to concentrate. He dismissed her from his mind. Choosing to ignore her and he thanked the Heavens when she didn’t attempt to speak to him again.
Delaney rolled her eyes, though she figured he missed it because he was concentrating so hard on his book. It must be damn interesting for him to ignore everything around him. She was an idiot. She’d spent a good twenty minutes working up the nerve to come over here and speak to him and he was a complete jerk. Well, the good looking ones usually were. With a sigh, she flipped open her English book, she might as well get to work on her English paper. She hadn’t lied about the fact it was due tomorrow or that the Wifi at home had gone out. She opened her laptop and stared at the screen, her mind blank, she threw a last look across the table before releasing a deep sigh. Yup, it was a shame he was a jerk because he was cute, deep brown hair that hung in waves and even deeper brown eyes. He had those classic square-jawed looks of the movie stars of the golden era of Hollywood. English paper, she reminded herself and got to work.