“So what now?”
Simon shrugged. He was standing in the kitchen, hands still buried in the pockets of his coat, looking across the room at her. He wasn’t touching anything but the floor, not the counter behind him, not the chair in front; he was just standing in the middle of the empty space in the kitchen. “You could eat.”
Cassidy glanced down at the pancakes. “You made these.”
“Yes. Just like every morning.”
“But you’re dead. I just don’t-“ Cassidy cut herself off with a sigh and picked up her fork. Despite the bizarre start to the day, she was hungry. She started to eat slowly, not really concentrating on the food but instead watching Simon. He didn’t move. “How are you wearing that coat? Shouldn’t it just, you know… go through you?”
“I put it on when I was solid, so it stayed with me,” Simon replied. “I couldn’t take it off now, even if I wanted to.”
“What are we supposed to do now? What if I want to hug you?”
Simon smiled crookedly. “Do you want to hug me?”
“It doesn’t matter, does it? I can’t. Even if I wanted to.”
“Wait until nightfall.”
“That’s horrible advice.”
“I don’t have all the answers.”
Cassidy sighed and kept eating. Simon just watched her, and she tried not to think about how odd it was that he was standing there. A ghost was watching her eat. When she finished, she got to her feet and picked up her plate. “I guess you can’t wash dishes, either?” She walked over to the sink and he stepped out of the way although technically, she realized, he didn’t have to. As she quickly washed off her dishes, she glanced over at him. “Does it feel weird when things go through you?”
“I don’t feel anything. I just thought you’d be uncomfortable.”
Cassidy smiled. “Thanks. That would be weird, I guess. Hey! We should solve your murder,” she blurted out as suddenly the thought came to her.
Simon shook his head slowly. “No… we shouldn’t. I told you, I don’t think it was on purpose and it was twenty years ago so-“
“Aren’t ghosts supposed to be angry and vengeful? Come on.” Cassidy almost tried to grab his arm, but remembered just in time to stop herself. She briskly turned and walked into the living room, where her notes and photocopies about Simon were still spread across the table. Simon followed her warily.
She sat down on the couch with a plop and picked up her notebook. “Tell me what he looked like.”
“It was dark. Do we have to do this? You could get hurt.”
“I came here looking for a story, and I found one. I want to follow it.”
“You want to write a book about my murder?” Simon asked.
“Well, I don’t know.” Cassidy sighed and dropped her notebook onto the cushion beside her. “What else am I supposed to do? Maybe that’s why you’re here. To solve your murder. And then maybe you’ll find peace or however it works.”
“That implies I leave,” Simon pointed out.
Cassidy glanced up at him suddenly. Once again he was standing right in the middle of the room, his hands still in his pockets. “Well…”
“Maybe it’s better if we don’t solve it.”
“But, what about peace? That’s how it always works in stories.”
“Maybe I’m not here to get justice. Maybe I’m here to meet you.”
“Do you really think that?” Cassidy asked carefully.
Cassidy groaned. “This is so annoying. I want to hug you again. Is there a reason you’ve got your hands in your pockets?”
He pulled out his hands and wiggled his fingers. “No. Just comfortable.”
“Well you look forlorn and cold when you stand like that.”
Simon gestured at himself. “I’m dead. I am forlorn and cold.”
“No you’re not. You’re warm and kind. At least once it’s dark.” Cassidy got to her feet. “So you won’t let me solve your murder. Can we go on a walk? Maybe into town?”
Simon hesitated before nodding. “All right.”
Cassidy thought he’d look different out in the sunlight. Faded maybe, or blurry, but he looked just as real as he always did. She noticed that he’d stuck his hands in his pockets again and realized why the closer they got to town. If his hands were in his pockets, he was less likely to try to touch anything.
Since they’d confessed their feelings, Cassidy no longer felt awkward staring at him. So she did. He looked forlorn again. It was the way his hands were buried in her grandfather’s old jacket, the way he looked around as if he was a little suspicious of everything. She wanted to slip her arm through his. It wasn’t fair that she couldn’t touch him after she’d finally admitted to him – and herself – how she felt.
They walked mostly in silence, until they reached the town and Cassidy saw the restaurant Simon had told her about. The Battleground. Suddenly something he’d said when they first met came back to her. “You worked there, didn’t you? That’s the restaurant you met my grandfather at.”
Simon nodded. “Creative name, isn’t it? It’s been in the family for generations. My father wanted me to take over after him.”
“The newspaper article I read had a quote from him. He said he was surprised you’d chosen to stay on the island. Sounds like you were a smart guy.”
Simon looked a little confused. “He was surprised? I would have left, if he’d let me. But I didn’t have enough money to pay for university so I ended up doing exactly what he wanted me to do. Working at the restaurant.”
“Oh… Right, grandfather wrote something about you not getting along with your dad in his journal.”
“We didn’t get along,” Simon agreed. “He wasn’t a bad father, not really, we just didn’t see eye to eye. Had a lot of arguments. That’s part of why I became so close to George.”
“Did you see him as a father figure? Like he wrote in the journal?”
“I suppose so, though I didn’t think of it like that back then.”
He looked so sad that Cassidy once again felt the urge to hug him. She silently willed the day to go by faster. Cassidy let the topic drop and deliberately started to talk about happier things. She told him all sorts of stories about her childhood. They wandered more or less aimlessly through the town as they talked. Sometimes Simon would point out a building or a place and tell her about something that had happened there, but mostly he just listened to her.
Cassidy didn’t mind. He seemed to be enjoying her stories; at the very least he started smiling and not looking quite so sad. Cassidy bought a late lunch at Bertha’s Bakery, a delicious homemade sandwich, and ended up getting stuck talking to the friendly woman for almost half an hour while Simon waited outside. Bertha had known him well, and even though it had been twenty years, he felt it better to not directly drawn attention to himself.
Bertha did notice Simon through her window, but since he had his back to the window she didn’t recognize him. “Who’s your friend, dear?”
Startled, Cassidy glanced over at the window. “Oh, him? Uh… He’s…” She felt heat rise to her cheeks and knew she was blushing. “He’s my friend, from home. He came to visit me.”
“Your friend?” Bertha asked with a wide smile.
“Well, why is he hovering out in the cold?”
“He’s-“ Cassidy paused. “He’s allergic to gluten. He doesn’t like being around bread, makes him feel uncomfortable.”
“Ah...” Bertha nodded, but the way she said it made Cassidy realize that she didn’t believe a word of it. “Well, you’d better go join him, don’t you think? Before he gets cold.”
“Right, thanks,” Cassidy picked up her nicely wrapped sandwich. “I’ll see you later, Bertha.”
Cassidy sighed as the door closed behind her, and glared over at Simon. “If you’re going to hide outside, don’t do it in front of a window. Okay?”
“Oh.” He seemed to just notice it. “Right.”
He was so sheepish Cassidy couldn’t help but smile. “Let’s go sit by the water. You can sit, can’t you?”
“I can stand next to a bench.”
“I guess that’ll do.”
They spent the rest of the afternoon the same way they had the morning, just talking to each other and walking around the cute little town. Cassidy had brought her camera, and much to Simon’s dismay, she kept insisting on taking pictures of him. He showed up on the screen – she half expected him not to, but there he was in every picture. Sometimes looking lonely and cold, sometimes looking slightly amused while at the same time being resigned to the picture, and in one, laughing. It was instantly Cassidy’s favourite picture, although he never failed to be attractive.
“You’re very photogenic,” she commented absentmindedly while they started to walk back to the cottage. She was clicking through the pictures on her camera, relying on seeing Simon out of the corner of her eye to know where to go. “You’ve got this, I don’t know-“
“Yes, that,” she glanced up to see that he was smirking. “I was going to say thoughtful, mysterious look. Some of these pictures are fantastic, they’d look really good in black and white. Or sepia. Maybe I should become a photographer instead of a writer.”
Something touched her hand and, startled, she almost dropped her camera before she realized it was Simon. He was holding her hand. She finally noticed that it had started getting dark. Then she turned to Simon.
He leaned forward and kissed her before she could say anything else.