Happily in the Hereafter

As I replied to Jackie’s comment to last weeks’ Retreat to Creativity, I realized  that had it not been for that retreat, I might not have begun writing the short stories that make up SCARY MONDAYS. The work we did that weekend gave me the confidence to put my work out there for people to read. The following is an excerpt from SCARY MONDAYS, an anthology of flash fiction and poems written by me and my daughter KT, now available at www.amazon.com. With our next retreat nearing, I thought this story would be appropriate.

“This is stupid,” Laura complained. “Every year it gives me the same name.  Rafe.”

“Oh, hush.” Susan patted the carpet next to the coffee table.  With affection, she ordered, “Sit your butt down and spin.”

Huffing out an irritated sigh, Laura nudged Kathlyn and Sandy’s rear-ends.  Making space on the floor, she plopped down. Every year their local romance writers group spent a weekend in retreat. Perfecting their craft, they sat through seminars on plotting, characterization, and the business of selling romance. Over the years it’d become a tradition to end the workshop with pizza and wine, gossip, and a goofy game played only by the single members of the chapter called, “Who’s your prince charming?”

“So here’s how it works,” Linda explained to Jennifer, the newest member of the chapter. “We put the Ouija Board on the table.” Linda tapped the board. “But we don’t use a planchette. We use an empty beer bottle.”

“It’s kind of a twisted version of Spin the Bottle,” Meg added. “So you spin the bottle. Each letter the spout lands on spells out the name of the guy you’re going to marry.”

“Who came up with this game?” Jean asked.

“I don’t remember.” Marilyn laughed as she elbowed Jackie, the chapter president. “I just remember being a little tipsy.”

“We’ve been playing this game for thirteen years,” Deanna said. “And for thirteen years, it’s been the same name for Laura.”

“Rafe.” Laura shook her head. “I’m mean seriously! Have you ever met a guy in real life named Rafe?”

“Lots of writers use the name Rafe. It’s sexy,” the other Jackie in the group countered.

“I think it’s Irish.”Ashley grinned and wiggled her eyebrows. “I almost named one of my pirates Rafe.”

“It means Tough Man,” Annie put in.

“Whatever.” Laura rolled her eyes. “Year after year, I get the same name. Why can’t the Ouija Board  give me a common name, like George, or John, or Paul? Someone I might actually meet. But oh, no. I get an exotic name like Rafe.”

Peggy pointed her cane at Laura. “Just spin the bottle, dear.”

With a flick of her wrist, Laura gave the bottle a turn as her fellow writers looked on. Just as it had for thirteen years, the Ouija Board offered up the same name: R. A. F. E. Disgusted, Laura rose, walked over to the kitchen counter. “I need another glass of wine.”

“Cheer up.” Judy patted her shoulder. “This could be you’re lucky year.”

On Sunday morning, they packed their cars, promised to see each other at next month’s meeting, and headed home. On the drive back, Laura’s cell phone began to play her ringtone, Sweet Child of Mine. She reached for the phone sitting on the passenger seat along with her purse. Fumbling the phone, she dropped it on the floorboard. She should’ve safely maneuvered her Jeep to the side of the road. But the phone was just within reach. If she unfastened her seatbelt, she could get it.

Laura surfaced hovering just inches above someone’s nicely manicured front lawn. Confused, she chewed a fingernail. A crowd had gathered. Her Jeep was wrapped around a big, solid oak. Her body had smashed through the windshield. Her head and part of her torso lay on the hood of the car. The rest of her was draped over the steering wheel.  Sirens wailed as paramedics arrived.

“That probably hurt.”

Turning, Laura found herself facing Tall, Dark, and Wow! Just wow!  Mr. Gorgeous grinned apologetically. “I think you’re dead.” He pointed toward the crash. Laura swiveled her head in time to watch the EMTs pull both halves of her body from the wreckage.

Crossing her arms over her chest, Laura narrowed her eyes. “If I’m dead how can you see me? How can you talk to me?”

His smile just got wider and sexier. Laura pointed a once well manicured finger at him. “You’re a ghost.”  She frowned, looked at him, back to the accident scene, then back to him. She tapped her chest where her heart no longer beat. “And I’m a ghost.”

There was no mistaking the attraction in his eyes.  He looked her up and down, eyes traveling with approval over her curves. “Yep.”

She moved toward him, glided, she realized with awe. Hand outstretched she offered, “I’m Laura.”

“Rafe,” he said as he accepted her hand.

She dropped his hand, and started to giggle. Embarrassed, yet amused by Fate’s upturned middle finger, she looked back as the ambulance carrying her body to the morgue drove away. “Of course you are, because this is my lucky day and there are no Rafe’s in real life.” Seeing the puzzled look on his handsome face, she stifled a laugh, waving her hand. “It’s a long story.”

He twined his fingers with hers. “We’ve got time.”

Again, Laura began to snicker. “So tell me, Rafe,” she asked as they began to float away. “How do ghosts have sex?”

That oh so kissable mouth, bowed up. “I don’t know. But we’ve got an eternity to figure it out.”

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