When Hall came home that evening, the wind was raging so hard it slammed the front door shut behind him.
“Holy crap!” he yelled as he jerked the hood of his sweater off his face. I don’t think he intended to wear his sweatshirt like that. “I almost blew away today! Was it like this in New York?”
I smiled from my fauteuil. “No. It was lovely in New York.”
“Well, I’m jealous. I’ve had nothing but wind and rain today.”
“Stayed local, eh?”
“Hilmar,” he informed me as he brushed some leaves out of his kinky curls.
“And..?” I moved my stack of paperwork off the couch next to my chair. I have this terrible habit of leaving what Hall so affectionately calls “piles” around the living room. The contents range from paper work to sewing projects to dirty dishes. He frequently gets on my case about it.
“And what?” he replied smiling as I tried to slide the pile behind the couch with my foot. “I saw that.”
“Saw what?” I responded in a sugary sweet voice. He took the spot I cleared for him. I continued. “And where else did you go today? I mean, Hilmar isn’t that big. Oh but there is that GREAT Portuguese bakery on—”
“I was just in Hilmar all day.”
“Okay.” I waited for an explanation. Hall doesn't usually cut me off like that.
“Head on collision,” he informed me.
“I’m sorry, Hall.” I reached over and placed my hand on his knee as a gesture of comfort. “All day… it must have been… I’m sorry.”
Liar. He always tries to convince me that car accidents don’t get to him, but they are one of the few things that really hit home for Hall. We’ve been partners a total of twelve years. You’d think he’d be less guarded about it with me. And in a way he is. I allow him to act all distant and nonchalant for a while then he’ll come into my room later that night and have a good cry about it. Well, honestly, it’s usually just him telling me what happened and then I cry about it. Sometimes he does too. Once he told me that seeing me express grief in a way that he was still too shocked to do helped him move from denial and onto acceptance. We deal with eternal things, my people do. We see death as a passage from one life to the next. That doesn’t mean we’re immune to grief. I once heard a prophet say that the only way to avoid grief would be to not experience love. Then he so aptly explained that “it is love that gives life its richness and meaning.” A big part of who we are is love. So yes, we grieve as well.
“Was the job finished when you left?” I inquired, probing to see if he wanted to talk yet or if he would rather move on from the subject entirely.
“Yes,” he sighed. “Thankfully. The accident happened around eight a.m., so we finished everything today.”
“How big was your crew?” Sometimes when there are multiple souls, or multiple jobs, a group of us is assembled for one day.
“Just three. Me, Adam, and Mackenzie. Adam and Mackenzie escorted the fatalities.” His eyes started to glaze over. Uh oh, today was bad.
“If you didn’t escort, did you comfort?”
Ooooohhhhhh man. Hall hates containment almost as much as I hate surveillance.
“Was it a stubborn spirit?”
He blinked twice. Whenever he got this pensive about a job his hazel eyes turned a greenish grey. It was amazing really. The kid didn’t need a mood ring; just pay attention to his eyes.
“Yeah. The problem was he saw his sister and mom get escorted to the Room. He saw NO reason to get back into his body. There was nothing left for him.”
Containment can be a job that requires steel will and lots of negotiation. If Hall was there all day then he probably used both. Mortality is HARD, and as soon as someone has a taste of escape from it, it’s difficult to make them go back. Why would we do that? Everyone has missions to accomplish in this life. And if you haven’t finished what you came to do, then you are preserved until that point. I have had assignments where the spirit was supposed to see the world beyond this one, then go back and either change their life, or help others realize that death was not the end. I’m okay with those ones. They remind me to have an eternal perspective in my life. But today… today was a hard one for my friend.
I looked my partner over and tried to assess how much this had really sunk in. His posture was slack and his eyes were definitely grey. I hated to see him look so sad, but I knew better than to try and cheer him up. He’d let me know when he was ready. I removed my hand from his knee and settled back into my chair, preparing for the heavy silence that accompanies Hall’s processing moods.
It was a good five minutes before he spoke again.
“I sent a request to headquarters to have his memory erased. The scene was so… violent. And we stood there for hours. He got to see everything from… well, everything.”
“That was a good idea,” I encouraged. “I’m sure they’ll grant your request.”
“Unless he’s supposed to remember,” Hall said, quashing any comforting I had tried to accomplish.
“Well, in that case, you know it’s for the best.” I didn’t use a sweet and soothing voice this time. Reassurance wasn’t breaking the pit he was sinking into so I figured realistic views would. “When was the last time headquarters did something that wasn’t the best for your ward?”
Yup, that did the trick. Hall looked over at me, and smiled.
“Touché.” He sat up straighter and the cloud in his eyes dissipated. Good. Pits of despair were slippery slopes. He’d process more before he’d be ready to talk about it. Suddenly he looked over at me and half smiled. “How was YOUR day, Lina?”
I giggled nervously. “Oh boy.”
A full smile erupted onto his face. “That good, eh?”
“How much do you want to know?” I always asked him that. I’m never sure how much Hall wants to know. I often feel like I tell him more than he desired to hear or really even be aware of. He tells me I’m stupid for feeling that way. I just can’t shake it, though, so I always ask.
“Tell me everything.”
I didn’t get the chance, however. At that very moment, Benjamin walked through the wall, television, and coffee table.
“Dude. Evelina. Alice’s sister is going BALLISTIC! This is NOT going to help her. We need to do something!”
I stared at Benjamin with disbelief. “What were you doing in New York? I told you to stay AWAY from ALICE! You’re going to screw yourself over if you are too strong of a presence around her. She’ll never move on and you’re little quest for perfect-husband-man will FAIL.” I must admit, even after Benjamin was reassigned to me, I decided that professionalism was just not going to last. I wasn’t going to play polite anymore. It had the desired affect at the moment. Benjamin shrunk back a little.
“I didn’t. Her sister lives in Le Vésinet. In France. That’s nowhere NEAR New York.”
“In Ile-de-France?” I heard another voice ask. It was at that moment that I remembered that Hall was in the room. I looked over at him and saw that he was fixated on the tall young spirit in before him. Benjamin nodded.
“Yup! Right by Versailles,” Benjamin declared.
Hall backhanded my arm. “Lina! I forgot to tell you!”
I was stuck in incredulity land, however, and wasn’t interested in hearing Hall’s news.
“I’m wondering why you’re not surprised by a tall skinny blond in our living room,” I said. Hall shrugged.
“I dunno. I figure, he walked through a wall, so… it’s not like anything … hinky is going on. The dude has no body…”’
This time I wacked him.
“Hall! Why would you assume that a man in our apartment MUST mean that he’s my secret lover or something?”
He looked offended, a dramatic expression of defense on his face.
“Did you not just hear me? I just said I knew it COULDN’T be anything like that because the dude’s a spirit!”
Grrr. He was totally missing the point. Or I was. Oh heck, I don’t know. Benjamin just pissed me off and made my ability to reason really crappy apparently.
“My name’s Benjamin Holden. I’m dead.” He walked over and stuck out his hand. Hall shook it. Oh, maybe I should explain: it’s not so much that I can’t touch Benjamin that assures Hall that we’re not involved. I, being the being that I am, have the ability to touch spirits as if they have a body. But it’s impossible for someone who has a body and someone who is dead to have a relationship unless it was established BEFORE the deceased person died. So if a random chick spirit showed up in my apartment, I’d know that Hall wasn’t dating her. Well… that’s the super simplified version. I’ll explain more later about the enduring family ties that have to be officially established before death in order to remain valid. But suffice it to say neither Hall nor I have made these official ties with anyone of the opposite sex. Ensuring that any spirit is not attached to us in that way.
“Alright already. Benjamin. You need to leave Alice and her family alone. I know it feels like you’ve been dead for weeks, maybe months, already. But time moves faster for you as a spirit than it does in the mortal realm. You barely died this morning.”
He looked slightly deflated.
“That gives me an advantage, right?”
“It means you have to be patient and allow certain things to happen before we can proceed with your little project.”
Sighing, he crossed his arms and slouched to a degree that I did not know was possible. Man, this kid was like Gumby. Except his eyes weren’t so buggy.
“I like that suit, Ben. Where did you get it?” Hall asked. Yes. That is Hall. Asking my ward where he got the suit he died in. Benjamin straightened up enough to preen a little.
“Call me Benjamin. You like it?”
“Yeah. And that tie is killer.”
“The tie was only five euro. Yves Dorsey. Totally worth it.”
“Was that during Soldes?”
Such girls. These two grown men were discussing clothing like I do with Kim.
“And the suit?”
“Now that I got during Soldes—”
“Okay, sorry to break this up, gentlemen. But my head hurts.” I stood and turned to Hall. “Any requests for dinner?”
He shook his head. “No chicken. I can’t look at chicken for a week at least.”
“Why you hatin’ on the poultry?” I asked.
“The collision was with a truck from Zacky Farms. A truck with live chickens.”
“Okay. Red meat it is!”
I started to walk towards the kitchen. Instead of explaining why a strange male spirit was in our home like I expected to, Hall and my newest annoyance were discussing Paris fashion. But honestly… it was comforting to listen to. Hall loves clothing. And I know Benjamin is going to be around for a while, so it’s better that the two of them get along. I eavesdropped for a while as I cut up the zucchini for dinner…
“Now Brice has some pretty great deals during Soldes, especially in Les Halles…”