tagNonHumanGhost of a Chance

Ghost of a Chance


Ellen and I were supposed to be soul mates but then I died. I know this- the soul mate thing, because, you know, I found out afterwards. Because it's different now – knowledge that is.

We were high school friends, acquaintances really; the hi-how-are-you?-type friends. But now I know that she liked me very much. She liked my freckles and my longish blonde hair and the way my green eyes shined in the fluorescent light of the school corridor, the one that housed our lockers. She imagined romantic things about us too, and this I know because I tend to hover around her while she writes in her journal. She has quite an explicit imagination and had I known all this I would have been more careful. I wouldn't have let that car hit my bike and I wouldn't have careened over the handle bars and I wouldn't have hit my head on that tree and fallen into the gulley and drowned in four inches of water. It happened on the last day of senior year. I was the first kid in our graduating class to die. Twenty-two years ago.

Ellen bawled her eyes out at my funeral. My girlfriend, Janine Stewart, thought it was kind of weird. She'd thought I'd been cheating on her with Ellen!

She asked her, "Did you love him or something?"

Ellen just looked at Janine with her eyes glazed over in pain. I could tell that she felt embarrassed for crushing on me and for wishing that it had been more.

"No," Ellen said quietly, "He was just…my friend. I might have been the last person to speak to him before the accident."

Janine was so pissed upon hearing this.

She asked, "Oh? And what were his last words?"

Ellen answered, "Maybe I'll see you around."

That's true. Ellen had been the last person I'd spoken to. I remember thinking how pretty she was in that exotic way that Asian girls are. Like aside from her very thick and straight dark brown hair she had virtually no body hair. That day she wore a blue plaid sundress and red suede Chuck Taylors without the laces. She had on a quirky Mickey Mouse watch on a white leather band. I remember what she wore because I'd been thinking about her long smooth legs. Thinking about how she might wrap them around me and lift her dress and show me a baby soft hairless pussy. It was the last thing in my head before I cracked my skull open.

Ellen's thirty-nine and still single. I've been watching her all this time. I don't know why. Like a guardian angel I guess you could say. She has one of those too, and her grandmother shows up now and then. Sometimes when she's upset or lonely she talks to me. Usually she's driving home from work. I'm pretty sure she thinks I'm not really there, you know?

She'll say, "Why am I so alone? Why can't I find someone? Why did you have to leave me, Jeff, and if you're there, why can't you help me now?"

I answer her, of course, because sometimes I think that I can break the rules and, you know, make her hear me.

Three days ago it happened again.

I said, "What can I do?"

Ellen wiped the tears from her eyes.

"You're here, aren't you Jeff? I feel you near me. But you can't help me can you? I just – I just don't want to be alone anymore. It's not too late, is it? Because I want you to find someone for me, O.K.? Someone that I can love as much as I loved you."

I asked, "What 's your criteria for this so-called lover?"

"I want someone just like you," she said as though answering me, "Older I mean. I mean you now, if you were still alive. I don't want to fuck a teenager or anything. I want him to look like you and smell like you and, oh I don't know. I don't know what I want. Maybe that's the problem. I don't know and therefore there's no one. I'm stuck. And I'm talking to myself again. Great, Ellen. You're looney-toons. You're never going to find someone; you're never going to be good enough. No one's going to love you. Get it out of your head right now. It's Friday night, and you have nothing to do. Sunday's Valentine's Day and you're going to spend the day alone. Again. Because you don't deserve to be loved. God doesn't love you. He wants you to be alone. You're being punished for some reason, of course that's it. And why would you think about liking someone? Because he'll die on you. You crush on a guy and then he dies. How many more years of being alone will be proof that that's true?"

Ellen could barely see the road because her tears had nearly blinded her. Thank God I was there because I helped to steer the car.

She said, "Do you hear me Jeff?"

"What?" Could she really hear me?"

"Oh God Ellen, You're an idiot! He didn't even like me," she said. "Jeff, did you even notice me? You didn't even like me, did you?"

I said, "I love you, Ellen."

"Love," she said seemingly absentmindedly. Maybe I was getting through to her.

Ellen went to the health club that night and had an impressive work-out. I love watching her work-out. She looks great again after that stint as a depressed couch potato. She's a pharmaceutical sales rep, which means she travels a lot and it's really hard for her to find friends to hang around with, especially now that everyone's married with kids. But then last summer she went to the high school reunion and she began to think about me a lot more frequently. And then she got off her ass and started hitting the gym. She looks way hotter at thirty-nine than she did at seventeen I think. Her skin is freakin' flawless; she's lost the baby fat around her middle, and let's face it, the twenty-first century fashions are killer compared to the 80s, even a dead guy knows that.

She wears teeny-tiny work-out attire. That night she had her prominently displayed camel toe in tight black spandex shorts and she wore a matching bra top that her tits spilled out of. They were fucking squeezable. Of course I've seen her naked before. I've seen it all-the Bulimic puke sessions, the semi-regular bouts with diarrhea, the all night bawling episodes as well as the sensual showers, the getting dressed up in stockings and tight skirts for an important meeting with her manager, the masturbating sessions- God, I love those.

I looked around the room. Usually only losers ventured to the health club on a Friday night but that night I saw a normal looking guy at the lat pull down. He kinda looked like me from the back. Tall with fair skin and dirty blonde hair worn kinda longish, which I thought seemed out-of-style for a thirty-something. Most guys today wear their hair short or like shaved. At first I'd thought it was some odd paradox, like he was me or something. I looked down at my own body. Nope, I was still a pretty transparent ghost.

Ellen sat on the big blue mat and started doing sit-ups. She can do like 600 crunches in fifteen minutes or something like that. And then this guy came over to her.

"Hi," he said, "Mind if I join you?"

"Sure- I mean I don't mind," she said. Usually Ellen is just annoyed by these guys that come on too strong and want to share the mat or want to work in with her when there's plenty of other machines to use. But this guy was different and Ellen seemed more attentive.

He asked, "What's your name?"

"Ellen Murakami."

She looked at the weight belt he held. There were capital letters written in black Sharpie on the suede side of it.

"Is your last name Webber?"

"Yeah. Paul Webber."

"Nice to meet you, Paul."


They shook hands.

He said, "I grew up around here, south of here, actually, but I'm just visiting. I live in South Carolina. I'm just here on business. I fix military software. I guess I'll have to kill you now before I reveal any more of my secrets."

"Nice," Ellen replied, "I don't think anyone's ever used the I'm-going-to-have-to-kill-you pick-up line on me before."

"Oh, I wasn't trying to… did you think I was trying to pick you up? No, I just came over to use the mat."

"Right. Sorry…I…."

"And to ask you out to dinner. I have a Lockheed Martin business Am Ex to throw down on a steak. Any good bistros around town?"

She said, "I'm not much of a meat eater. I have a weak stomach. Kind of just eat bland food."


"Like oatmeal and yogurt and ginger chicken and salad."

"O.K. then," he said, "You pick the place."

Ellen said, "Well there's a restaurant on Court Street. The Beef and Brew? It's not far from here. They have excellent prime rib."

That was my parent's favorite restaurant. Mom had planned to have them cater my graduation party but had to cancel once the funeral was set instead.

Ellen continued, "I heard that tonight there's going to be more lake effect snow coming. You're probably not used to driving in this kind of weather."

"You're right about that. How can you stand it?"

"Well, it's home. My parents settled here. They're from Okinawa originally. They own the Japanese Steak House on Washington Street."

He asked, "What's it called?"


"Your parents' restaurant."

"I thought I just told you," Ellen said, "Japanese Steak House?"

"Oh. I just thought it was a- never mind. Would you rather go there?"

"Uh, no."

Paul said, "O.K. The Beef and Brew it is then. How much longer will you be?"

"With my work out? I'm finished," Ellen said, "I just need to grab a shower. I can meet you out front in twenty minutes."

As much as I'd wanted Ellen to be happy, to stop dreaming about me and start living her life, a part of me was jealous. Yeah, jealous. She looked kinda happy. I wished I could read her mind or his for that matter. I decided to follow him into the locker room. Maybe he spoke his thoughts out loud like Ellen did.

In the men's locker room, Paul Webber quickly disrobed and wrapped a towel around his hips. He hopped into the steam room where he sat on the tiled bench and stared at the door. He cleared his throat of some phlegm then leaned forward so that his elbows pressed against his knees. I tried really hard to hear his thoughts. No luck. I'd never had psychic powers in life- why did I think I'd have them now? He seemed like a nice enough guy. Then I started thinking about that movie I saw when I was eight. Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Could I do that? Could I invade Paul's body and make it my own? I didn't know how. Maybe I could just concentrate, I thought, and just make it happen. I mean, I'm supernatural, right? I squeezed my eyes shut and tried the concentrating thing.

Get inside his body. Get inside Paul Webber's body!

When I opened my eyes I saw only the mist of the steam room. I was alone in there. Had it worked? I reached to open the door and my hand slid through. Nope, still me. Paul had already exited and was now showering. He sang some gay version of Paparazzi by that Lady Gaga person. I thought, Ellen's taste in music is trapped in the 80s just like her heart. Duran Duran- stuff like that. Was he really right for her?

Anyhow I tried again. I took a running start and leapt half way, sorta like a circus tiger jumping through a hoop of fire. I wondered if my ghostly ass might plop straight down to hell for this. I sprang through the shower curtain and hit Paul in the chest, and just ricocheted off landing on the floor near the sinks.

Paul jumped out of the shower stall and shouted, "What the hell? Is someone there?"

He started to breathe a little heavier and clutched his chest. I could tell that his adrenaline level was rising. I watched his cock jump into an erection. It was a pretty impressive one. Hmmm. Maybe I wasn't supposed to steal his body. Maybe I was supposed to help Ellen find her Valentine love.

I decided to see if Ellen was ready. Back in the women's locker room she sat on a stool blow-drying her hair. She'd dressed in the clothes she'd worn to work. It was one of those casual Friday outfits- dressy jeans, boots, a chiffon-y white blouse that showcased her tits, and a brown tweed jacket. I like the way she does her eye make-up. It's like this smokey thing that plays up her flat lids.

She whispered, "Thanks, Jeff. I owe you one. Where did you find him? He's perfect."

I said, "Yeah. You're welcome. Have fun while it lasts."

"Don't worry," she said, "He won't replace you in my heart. Not ever."

She applied lip gloss and smiled. Then she blew herself a kiss and winked. I knew it had been meant for me.

They decided to take two cars. That's my girl, I thought. She didn't trust Mr. South Carolina's driving ability. Parking at the restaurant kind of sucked because the plows had stuck mounds of snow against the parking lot fence so there wasn't a space. We had to park at the curb and walk across the street. I stayed close in case Ellen slipped on the ice but then Paul beat me to it taking her by the hand.

This restaurant has a funny style. Small and intimate with cozy booths, yes, but without waiters so you have to order on your own guest-check and hand it in. Ellen explained all this and then sent Paul to retrieve a couple beers.

I sat across from her in the cozy red booth. This looked like the type of place that was perfect for a first date with my Ellen. I took hold of her hand. I thought she was actually looking at me, and if she could see me she would see a man so completely and totally in love with her- upset stomach and all. Which reminded me that I'd had a ruptured appendix when I was six, and I'd spent my life wondering why I'd been saved from dying back then. Like maybe I was destined to do something great, you know? But instead I'm just a fucking teenage ghost. I noticed that Ellen wasn't looking at me at all. She'd been looking past me. I followed her gaze and then I saw them. My Mom and Dad. Wow, they looked old. I got up and strolled over to them.

They were laughing about something. It was nice to see them happy.

"Here's to forty years of marriage," my dad said as he clinked his champagne flute with Mom's.

She said, "And to forty more."

"Do you think we'll both live to be one hundred, Sarah?"

"Well, we've survived the worst tragedy a couple could- the loss of a child. I think our marriage can survive anything."

Dad chugged down his drink so fast I wondered if he'd become an alcoholic. It made me feel bad to think that my carelessness had caused them pain.

"Had he lived he would have given us grandchildren by now," Mom said.

Dad added, "Sarah, now don't get all melancholy on me. We're here to enjoy ourselves tonight. Remember what the doctor said? Happy thoughts."

"O.K. then, how about the time that Jeffrey won that Science contest for his whacky theory on sound waves? Remember when he'd thought he could hear ghosts in the attic? He'd recorded those sounds and theorized that everyone had a guardian angel?"

"He was nuts."

"What if he was standing right there?" She pointed right at me.

Dad said, "You mean where the waiter would be if this place had a wait staff?"

"Stop it."

"Sarah! Our son, God rest his soul, is in heaven. He's at peace. I've never once felt his presence or dreamed of him since the accident. Have you?"


"Well then, enough said. Our son is not a ghost."

Yes I am. Why was I hearing this? It seemed an odd conversation for me to stumble upon. A part of me wanted to stay with them and follow them home but something inside me forced me back to Ellen.

"I'm embarrassed to say. It's Love's Baby Soft? I've been wearing it since high school," she was saying.

"I like it."

"Thanks," she said smiling, "How's the prime rib?"

Paul replied, "It's really good. I don't think I can finish it all. And your Cobb salad?"

"It's fine."

"I'm glad we met, Ellen Murakami," he said, "It's like kismet."

Ellen asked, "What do you mean?"

He offered, "It's like a force beyond my control suggested that I go to your gym tonight. And there you were."

"Are you staying at the Carriage House?"

He answered, "Yes, how did you know?"

"Because it's affiliated with the health club," Ellen said rationally, "It wasn't kismet, Paul, but thanks."

"For what?"

"For pretending to have a belief in magical thinking. It all can seem magical, meeting a great guy on Valentine's Day weekend, him staying at your favorite hotel and looking like-"

"I look like someone you know?"

"Sorry," she said, "I shouldn't have said that."

"No, now you have me interested. I have a doppelganger?"

"Well, not really. Not anymore. He died."


An awkward pause emerged and Ellen took the opportunity to take another bite of her salad greens. She has a habit of chewing like a zillion times before she swallows, no doubt so that when she throws up it will be in tiny bits.

Paul Webber broke the silence with, "So the Carriage House is your favorite hotel? Does this mean that you do this often? Pick up guys from your gym like a modern American geisha?"

I think he knew that hadn't been a cool thing to say because in essence he'd called her a whore. Paul rushed to correct his mistake.

He added, "I'm sorry, that was rude."

"It's O.K."

Ellen looked down at her plate shyly. She took another bite of her salad and washed it down with her beer. She never drinks so I wondered if she needed liquid courage. Despite Paul's comment about the prime rib being big he scarfed it down pretty quickly.

Ellen said, "The Carriage House is where they held my high school Senior Prom. Jeffrey was alive then."


"Your doppelganger?"

He asked, "Was he your prom date?"

"No, just a friend. I shouldn't have brought it up. I don't know why I did. I think about him a lot for some reason."


"I just do, I don't know why," she said, "It's like his memory is all around me."

"Like a spirit or something? That's weird. I shouldn't tell you this because it's going to make me sound like a big weird-o, but I had a strange experience in the locker room. I had the feeling that I was punched in the stomach when I was in the shower."

Ellen said, "That is weird."

Paul asked, "Is your gym haunted or something?"

Just then my Mom and Dad approached the table.

Dad said, "Is that you, Mr. Webber? It's nice to see you again. This is my wife, Sarah."

"Ellen Murakami, this is Mr. and Mrs. Brayden. I met with Mr. Brayden at Pro-Soft today."

"Hello, Ellen," Mom said.

"That's weird," Ellen whispered.

Mom asked, "What, dear?"

"I'm sorry," Ellen said, "We've met before. I knew your son, Jeff. As a matter of fact I was just talking about him."

Mom, curiously, blurted, "Really?"

"As were we," Dad added.

"I…I dream about him…a lot," Ellen managed.

"Thank you for telling us, dear," Mom said, "That means a lot to know that his memory lives on in his friends' hearts. How kind of you to share it."

She turned to Dad and I could see a little tear form in her eye.

To him Mom said, "You see, darling? Maybe our son is around us after all. That makes me feel very comforted."

Mom turned back to Ellen. She said, "It was good seeing you again, Ellen. Please give your parents our best."

Mom shook Ellen's hand and then Paul's and Dad followed suit.

After they'd left Ellen said, "You're like a good luck charm, Paul. I don't know why."

He replied, "Well, the night is still young. How about a night cap in my hotel room? We can stop at the ballroom if you want to rekindle more high school memories."

"I'd like that."

In all the years I'd been following Ellen I'd never experienced a night so filled with coincidences. Ellen seemed different somehow. Much more confident I guessed, as though she was certain that Paul was "the one" and I was merely the matchmaker. But I knew I hadn't been. I was curious to see whether or not she'd go through with it. Fucking him I mean.

Ellen followed his car to the hotel.

I said, "I've got a good feeling about this if you're still on the fence. To fuck or not to fuck?"

Ellen started playing with the buttons on the radio. She does this a lot whenever she's about to make a big decision. Like when she decided to put the offer on the little Wheelock house near the lake.

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