“Come on, you just need to catch it.”
“Which is much harder than you seem to realize,” Simon complained.
“How else are you going to practice?” Cassidy had a handful of pebbles, and she tossed one towards Simon. He reached out for it, only to watch it fall through his palm. They’d been at it for about half an hour. Nothing seemed to change, but Cassidy was determined to keep trying and Simon was patiently going along with her.
It was a beautiful, bright sunny day. They stood on the beach, facing each other. The wind was whipping Cassidy’s hair around, but didn’t affect Simon in the slightest. Cassidy found it a bit unnerving. His hair should have been ruffled, and his edge of his t-shirt should have been fluttering.
“Throw another one,” Simon said.
Cassidy threw one of the larger pebbles. Simon tried to cup it with both hands, but of course it plopped into the sand near his feet.
He stared at it for a moment before sighing. “I’m not emotionally invested in this. Isn’t that your theory?”
“Sure, but I’m making things up as I go along,” Cassidy pointed out, tossing another pebble towards him. “And when you first changed yourself, you weren’t emotionally invested, were you?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“I was confused and scared. There were emotions,” Simon said. “I’m just not sure if they made a difference.” Yet another pebble slipped through his hand. “This isn’t working. Can we go for a walk?”
Cassidy dropped the rest of her pebbles and grabbed her backpack. “Ok. I do think this will work, though. Eventually,” she said as she walked over to join him.
“And if it doesn’t?” Simon started towards the path that would take them up the cliffs.
Cassidy shrugged as she followed him. “We keep trying to find something that will.”
“And if we can’t?”
“I guess we just live with it,” Cassidy said.
They walked in silence for a while, the narrowness of the path meaning they couldn’t walk side by side. Even when they reached the top of the cliff and the path widened, they stayed quiet. Simon seemed lost in thought and Cassidy didn’t want to interrupt him.
They walked until they had reached the highest point of the trail, and the two tombstones. Simon paused and Cassidy stepped up beside him.
“Why aren’t you here?” Simon said suddenly, startling Cassidy and confusing her until she realized he was talking to the stones. “You’d know what to do, George… or at least you’d have an idea.”
It was a question that had been troubling Cassidy, too. The question of who became ghosts, and why. Why Simon and not her grandfather? “Maybe he wanted to go, and be with my grandmother,” she said quietly.
“He had a choice?”
“I don’t know, maybe. Maybe it has something to do with how he died. Maybe he was calm and accepting and so he just went,” she said slowly, thinking out the theory as she spoke. “And maybe because you died violently, you weren’t at peace so you stayed. I just don’t understand why it took you twenty years to appear.”
“Maybe I was waiting for you,” Simon said.
Cassidy smiled at him. “Maybe.”
Simon returned the smile, and sat down. “In his journal, George wrote that he’d visit my grave and tell me stories. I think it’s my turn to tell him a story.”
Cassidy put down her backpack and settled down beside him. She pulled out her notebook, and when he raised an eyebrow in question said, “I’m just going to make some notes. Go ahead and talk.”
He rolled his eyes affectionately, but started talking. He told the whole story from the moment he’d woken up in the same alley he’d died in. Cassidy made jot-notes, just in case there was a detail they had previously overlooked. Occasionally Simon would glance over at her, but for the most part he was caught up in the story.
Cassidy understood the desire to talk. After all, she had done the same thing when she’d first visiting the tombstones. In fact, there was a seagull hopping around nearby that she thought might be the one she’d shared her bread with. It certainly wasn’t afraid of them.
By the time Simon was finishing his story, the wind was beginning to pick up. Despite the bright sun, Cassidy was getting a little cold.
“And so that brings us to today,” Simon said. “We’re trying to figure it all out, and we’ll let you know how it goes.” He paused when he noticed Cassidy shiver. “Should we head back?”
She nodded. “I think so.”
Simon got to his feet, and after tucking her notebook away Cassidy followed suit. “Goodbye, George,” Simon said.
“Goodbye,” Cassidy echoed. “We’ll be back,” she promised, while slinging her backpack over her shoulder.
The next few weeks passed in almost exactly the same way. Simon spent time trying to hold things, sometimes with Cassidy’s help and sometimes without. Cassidy looked over her notes, tried to make connections, and desperately wished she had more sources to work from. Or maybe the internet.
Cassidy stayed up late and took the occasional nap during the day to make up for it. Simon made breakfast, she made lunch, and they worked together to make dinner. In the evenings they relaxed in the living room. They found old books in the basement and Cassidy would read out loud while Simon tended a fire.
They left the cottage to go grocery shopping, and to visit the graves every few days. Cassidy usually brought food along, and they would sit by the tombstones and have a picnic of sorts, even though Simon couldn’t eat in broad daylight. The seagull was always there, eager to eat some of her bread. Cassidy knew it was the same one, it was young and some of its feathers were still brown.
“What about Gulliver?” she asked one day, while tossing a bit a bread towards the bird.
“You’re naming it?”
“Why not? He’s always here,” Cassidy pointed out. “We can call him Gully.” She pulled out her camera and took some pictures, trying to see how close she could get. She accidentally got a little too close, and the seagull clumsily flapped a few steps to get away from her. Cassidy laughed. “Sorry, Gully.”
“You’re set on that?” Simon asked. “Ok then, Gully it is.”
Cassidy put her camera away and dropped a few more pieces of bread before gesturing at the sky. “Looks like it might rain, we should get back.” She got up and brushed the bread crumbs off of her pants. “See you again in a few days,” she said to the tombstones.
There was a sudden gust of wind, strong enough to knock her off balance a bit. She regained her footing, but in that moment Gully took off, flying right past her head and startling her into taking a step back – onto her backpack. Cassidy fell backwards, hitting the ground heavily at just the wrong spot.
For a second she thought she was going to go over the cliff. She had fallen on the only sloped area, and the crumbled rock was causing her to slide closer to the edge. In panic she grabbed for the little weeds, the only things she could reach.
Then her hand was grabbed and she stopped sliding just as her feet reached the sheer cliff edge. Relief flooded through her as she felt herself being pulled back to safety. At first it didn’t even occur to her to think about how she had been saved. She backed away from the sloped ground as soon as she could, her heart racing, and she tried to calm her nerves.
The realization came suddenly and made her entirely forget about how terrified she’d been. Simon was holding her. He was still holding her. She spun around in his arms. “You touched me!”
“You were falling-“
“You’re still touching me!” she threw her arms around his neck, his solid neck, and pulled his head down for a kiss.