I made the mistake of telling Blythe she was a ghost and compounded it by adding in the fact that she was dead.
It all seemed so plain and logical at the moment but it never occurred to me that from her perspective she considered herself to be as alive as I was.
My off-hand remark both silenced and deeply disturbed her—of that I could be completly certain as I watched the implications of my words work through her consciousness.
After what seemed an eternity, she began to shake and waver unsteadily on her feet.
I ran instinctively to her and grabbed her arm to support her, and to my surprise, she was not ectoplasm, but flesh and blood—her skin as warm and solid as mine.
“You’re real,” I gasped.
“I’m not feeling very real,” she said, “help me sit down.”
I helped her to a dining room chair and sat down beside her at the oak table.
“Are you okay?”
She placed a finger to my lips to silence me, looked deeply into my eyes and gently kissed me.
I had never been kissed like that before. The blood was rushing in my ears and I was breathless and tingling all over.
“Are you satisfied?” she whispered.
I stared at her but couldn’t speak.
“I think you must know by now that I am not dead,” she smirked, “and I can tell by your reaction that you’re certainly alive as well.”
Again, I found myself blushing like a schoolboy.
“This is awkward, Blythe.”
“What is awkward—your ineptitude with women or our meeting across time?”
I colored again. “I’d hardly describe myself as inept with women. I have been married you know.”
“Ah, I see—you ‘have been married.’ Delightful. How long did it last?”
“Two years. What’s that got to do with anything?”
“And how long have you been single again, Mr. Wesley?”
“Please, call me Theo. And it’s been six months—does that matter?”
“Well you used the present perfect tense to describe an action that took place at an unspecified time. I just like to be accurate.”
I decided to take the initiative. “Are you married?”
I had to ask—I couldn’t recall any details of a specific man in her life.
Her face fell and she grew somber. “You don’t have to answer that,” I said, feeling miserable for asking.
She lifted her chin and said haughtily, “No—fair is fair. I asked you and now I have to answer. I have never been married—nor ever been in love.”
I was devastated. That certainly wasn’t the picture the media created. She was portrayed as the consummate femme fatale.
“You’re surprised?” She laughed softly, “Don’t be. I encouraged the public to see me as a Siren. I thought if I could create the mystique of being a libertine nobody would notice how lonely I was. It worked. I locked myself while appearing to be elusive and mysterious.”
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. I wanted to take her in my arms and hold her, but suddenly felt shy.
“You see that cedar chest there?” She pointed to the very article Stella and I purchased. “I put all my mementoes and keepsakes in that cedar chest and that became my hope chest. I turned the key and locked them away. Then I did the same with my life. I sheltered behind the walls of this house, turned the key and locked myself away.”
“But why, Blythe—did someone hurt you?”
“Not any one person, or any one thing. I became disenchanted. Yes, I’d say that was the reason, Theo. I was disillusioned. The right man never came along.”
I shook my head and stared off into space, realizing that was how I felt now—I wasn’t ready to settle for second best.
And it occurred to me in that moment that perhaps romantic deprivation somehow brought us together in a limbo in space and time.