Was she always such a knock-out?
Daimhin stared at her across the room. He had not seen her for several years. How old was she now? Quickly he calculated the years in his head – seventeen. She was only a few months older than seventeen.
He could not tear his eyes away from her. She was sitting cross-legged on her bed, reading a threadbare book. He saw the pages curled in at several points. He wondered if these were the pages with her favourite quotes. He wondered what the story was about – he could not see the front cover.
He looked around her room and saw amused that she had moved on from everything pink. Her room had no particular theme as so many other teens had. There also were no posters on her walls. Instead, her walls were decorated with wallpaper covered in a multitude of little blue and mauve roses. The last time he saw anything this hideous was in the nineteen hundreds, somewhere around the sixties. The room was tiny and the noises from outside seeped through the open window. Her metal frame bed stood in the middle of the room, next to the open window. The wind pushed and pulled the curtains. The children playing in the road in front of her council house was rowdy as they played a game of football, using a black wheelie bin as the goal.
Her soft laughter drew his attention back to her. His eyes lingered on her lush mouth when her teeth bit down onto her lower lip. Her lashes were long and threw shadows on her cheekbones. Her dark blonde hair was pulled into a ponytail behind her head but was long enough to still hang over her one shoulder. She was so slim; his hands could span her waist. His palms itched to do just that. Her arms, bared by a short sleeved t-shirt were faintly sun-kissed, their warmth another temptation he wanted to touch.
Startled he stepped back when she looked up from her book. Her green-blue eyes narrowed as she stared in his direction, her lush lips pressed together. She could not see him, and Daimhin felt disappointed. No doubt she could feel somebody leering at her. Daimhin gave himself a mental kick, reminding himself to not stare at her to the point where she could actually sense him.
Taylor looked through him and saw nothing in her room, so she went back to reading her story.
Guilt over all the ways he had failed Taylor seemed to weigh down on Daimhin’s shoulders. Not long now and the ‘Powers who be’ will come for Taylor. They were baffled by the anomalies occurring around her existence. Taylor should have died so many times before, her name has appeared on his list so many, many times. He was amazed it has taken this long for anybody to figure out something seriously was wrong with the universe and especially within the Fergusson family. Her mother should have had a different life, a life without Taylor. With nearly one hundred and fifty thousand people dying on average per day, he never thought anybody would ever find out.
Now, here he was. They had a deal and this morning her name appeared on his list again.
Unexpectedly Taylor spoke, bringing his attention back to her. “Is there somebody here?” Her throaty voice sent sensations up his spine. “Why don’t we stop pretending there is nobody here in the room with me?”
Taylor was right, of course, they might as well get this over with. He would take off his ring and reveal himself to her. Taylor would be shocked, run from him in terror, but then he could proceed to explain everything to her and the tentative plans he had made this morning after he received his list to protect her from death’s inevitable touch.
His fingers wrapped around the ring on his pinkie. The ring that made him invisible to her and the entire human race, until he touched them and escorted them across the great abyss to the great holding area beyond the valley of death. He owed this much to Taylor. He had discussed it with Violet to the point of still not knowing what to do. Daimhin was convinced he would be able to convince Taylor not to be afraid, that he could protect her, to give her a chance at a full life. He needed to show himself to her.
Taylor sat staring unseeingly directly at him. The book lay discarded next to her knee. Her hands were locked together in her lap, her arms pushing her small breasts together. The shadow between them captivated his gaze.
“Is there somebody there?”
His thoughts derailed again. He forced himself to focus on her face, which was not any safer territory with her generous mouth, those intriguing radiant aquamarine eyes. Alarm bubbled up in him and on its heels, irritation. Although she seemed brave sitting there on her bed, asking the empty room if there was somebody there, she would still recoil from him in fear if he suddenly materialized in front of her. She could not possibly believe there was really somebody in her room. Maybe she felt something, but it was impossible that she actually believed there was an unseen entity with her.
After shaking her head, as if she was trying to get rid of a silly idea, she got up from the bed and walked to the dresser Daimhin was leaning against. She stopped next to him and pulled open the top drawer. She pulled out a pair of flannel pyjamas from the neatly stacked pile.
She stood so close to him, he could see her chest rise and fall as she breathed. He wanted to touch her, but touching her would be a perilous thing to do.
Daimhin tilted his head to get a better view of her face. His jawline pulled tight as his eyes dropped to her mouth, lingering there.
Taylor felt eyes on her, and her mouth went dry as her breath caught in her throat. She could feel a shifting in the air around her. Terrifying images crowded her mind. It was as if she could feel the warmth of another next to her, as if she could feel a breath of air brush across her cheek.
For a crazed moment he was leaning into her, her lips mere centimetres away from his own. He was about to kiss her.
Daimhin cursed softly as he wheeled away from her and strode away to the small window. His shoulders were rigid as he merged with the curtains.
At that moment, Taylor felt so foolish, and she was sure she would never pass any test presented by a psychiatrist. Imagine, imagining there were ghosts in her room who wanted to make contact with her. She chuckled softly as she shook her head.
She turned and left her room to walk down the hall. She could smell pork sausages frying downstairs in the kitchen and she felt her stomach grumble with hunger. She decided to have a quick shower, put on her pyjamas and then go downstairs to see if her mum needed any help preparing the rest of dinner.
Daimhin walked toward Violet. Her name matched her image perfectly. Her hair was coloured a brilliant vivid purple and her eyes were a clear violet with a dense indigo outline. She was in the process of escorting a bewildered soul across the threshold from the living world to the next. Daimhin stayed in the background while Violet reassured the elderly man stooped forward as if gravity was pulling down on his forehead. He knew it was harsh and unfeeling, but escorting this old man across was natural, as it should be. How could he be expected to escort Taylor, touch her and take her away from her mother? Granted he had escorted a lot of kids round about her age, but Taylor was different.
Violet interrupted his thoughts, “Did you escort her?”
Despondent he returned her gaze and she sighed. “Honestly, Daimhin?” She asked exasperated. “You must go back there now. There is still a couple of hours left in her day. Her clock has not yet ticked over to tomorrow. Luce is coming next week to audit the books himself. Did you think you could get away with this indefinitely?”
Daimhin leaned against the wall behind him and slid down until he was sitting on his haunches. He rested his face in his upturned palms. He felt helpless.
Violet continued, “How have you not realized that this is your purgatory? Your punishment and if you mess it up you will get a one-way ticket to a place you do not want to be.” She pulled his hands away from his face. “Get up, Daimhin and go get her. We have discussed this, a million times. You messed up everything!” Violet turned away from him abruptly and demanded as she walked away from him. “Fetch her and take her across. You have no choice in this.”
Daimhin arrived at her home, just as her mother was dishing up their dinner. Bangers, mash and mushy peas. Her mother looked sad, and her young face was lined with worry lines. He wondered as he looked at her how her life would have changed if she had walked into that pink room all those years ago to find a baby, dead in a pink cocoon.
He watched them as they spoke. Her mother asked concerned, “How do you feel today, Taylor?”
Taylor smiled up at her mother reassuringly. “Good.”
“Remember, tomorrow we need to be at the hospital early. Must I wake you?”
“No, I’ll set my alarm. I am glad I washed my hair tonight though.” She pulled her fingers through her wet hair, hanging over her shoulder. “It needed a good wash.”
Her mother looked at her with a worried look in her eyes. The tiny lines around her eyes pulling in onto each other. “I wish you wouldn’t wait to wash your hair, when it is already so late, Taylor.”
“Come on, Mum. I am sure in the big scheme of things it really does not matter when I wash my hair.”
Her mother stood up from the table and while she walked to the basin with the dishes, she sighed as she said, “You could catch a chill.”
Taylor stood up and followed her mother to the basin. “You should stop worrying so much, Madam.” Her voice took on a pleading tone. “Please.” She wrapped her arms around her mother’s waist and rested her cheek against her back.
They stood like that for a while. Her mother was staring absent-mindedly through the small window over the basin, small glistening tears appearing in the corners of her eyes.
“Go on. Go and dry your hair, before it gets any later.”
Reluctantly Taylor moved away from her mother. “Do you need any help?”
Her mother turned away from the basin. “Taylor, you need to get to bed. Please.”
Taylor turned away from her mother. “Honestly, you are such a nag pot. You should stop being so worried every time we go to the hospital. Everything is fine, I’ll know when something is changing.”
Taylor walked slowly up the narrow, creaky stairs and she considered how much she would miss her mother when she was gone. Why was it that you only start missing things when you know it might soon be gone?
Daimhin was waiting for Taylor in her room. He watched her walk into her room, across the floor toward her dressing table, where now, for the first time, he saw a chemist decorating the surface.
He followed her to the dresser and looked at the multitude of bottles. With her standing beside him, he watched as she reached for a small white bottle and open the lid before she dropped two pills in her palm.
Inexplicable terror filled him. Quickly frustration, misgivings and second thoughts started piling up in his mind. The beautiful late May afternoon, with its golden sunshine and brilliant blue sky, out there, on the other side of the window, might as well have been a dreary, grey sky. Although he had not seen her for the last eleven years, since the last time her name appeared on his list, thoughts of her occupied him far too much.
A delicate floral scent drifted toward him and he closed his eyes as he once again contemplated taking off his ring. How would she react when he suddenly materialized in her room? Would she even recognize him? He wanted to know why her mother was so worried and why did she have to go to the hospital? Why was she drinking so much medicine? He wished he knew what circumstances would have explained her death if he touched her, as he was supposed to.
He did not expect her to turn and when she brushed past him, he felt it curling up his arm, nesting in his chest. An ache settled in his heart. He wanted to pull her into his arms, to hold her and to feel her arms around him.
He stood in the corner of her room when she climbed into bed. She leaned over and she switched off her bedside lamp. Motionless he watched as her mother came into the room to tug her in after she had already fallen asleep. As midnight approached, he was shocked to see her trash around in her bed, her blankets knotting around her legs, her pained moans clenched tightly around his heart.