By M. Books

He could hear the muted ticking of the clock and he knew that there were mere minutes left before she'd return. When the clock struck 2 a.m. she'd be back as sure as hell. As much as he wanted to be anywhere else, he knew there was really no way he could miss another encounter. This was an anniversary he just couldn't avoid. It was the anniversary of the death of this woman he had loved.
Last year he thought he had beaten the curse. When the evening of the visit arrived, he'd gone to a bar and then spent the night with the first woman who had accepted his advances. When he awoke the next morning, he was relieved to find that he had been safe in the strange apartment. No one had appeared to him at that dreadful 2 a.m. mark. His relief faded as the next few days passed.
Much to his dismay he realized that by missing his ethereal appointment, he now wasn't sure what else he had missed. After all, at each visit she not only ripped his soul to shreds, but she also gave him a gift - something he now found that was as important as the visit was painful.
Each year she appeared to him just the way she had been on the day that she died. Of course it was as if he were looking at her through a veil of gauze, and even though he tried, he could not touch her. He remembered trying to reach out to hold her on one visit, but she slipped through his hands like a gentle breeze, leaving only a feeling of coolness and perhaps a slight tingling like a static charge. It had frightened him and he had not tried again. She would look at him and gently call his name. Her voice would cut through him because it carried such an accusation of disappointment. He knew that he had failed her - that he was not with her when she died. He was in his bed sleeping off another drunken night when he should have been at her side. He had been so out of it that he never even heard the telephone calls and the urgent messages being laid onto the tape of his answering machine - in hopes of summoning him to the hospital. She never spoke about how much that must have hurt her soul, and this only made her unspoken disappointment more devastating to him.
She only spoke about what she saw for him in the coming year. Once, she saw a great accolade coming his way, another time it was a promise of a new friend. As each year following the visit passed, her predictions came true. They were always positive things and he was sure they were meant as kindnesses to ease his feelings of loss, and perhaps his guilt. They were meant to heal, but the guilt remained. Nonetheless, the fact that she kept trying was a gift to him.
He looked across the room towards the clock. He had bought this clock with a great deal of thought and recalled the joy it had given her when she had unwrapped it. After her death he had chosen very carefully from her effects to bring only one thing back to his apartment. He had thought at the time that the clock was an appropriate remembrance of the time they had enjoyed together. And now the clock ticked the last few seconds away. He watched not even noticing the tears making their way down his cheeks...watched as her form began to appear even as the chimes began to sound. She smiled at him and gently called his name. Jack hoarsely welcomed her. "Hello Mother."


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