Wordlessly, Charlie turned and left. Ryan watched him get into his car and then knelt down beside Chelsea’s grave. He still held his flower in his hand, and now he laid it gently upon the casket. “I’m so sorry, Chelsea.”
A soft breeze blew as a gentle voice whispered, “I’m not there, Ryan.”
Ryan spun around, nearly fainting as he saw the soft glow surrounding the figure that stood before him. “Chelsea?” he said, shocked at the sight he saw. Was he hallucinating? It would appear so, but here she was.
Chelsea laughed, and the sound was sweet music to Ryan’s ears. “You look so shocked right now,” she managed to say.
“Wouldn’t you be?”
“Yes, I guess I would. I came to tell you how wonderful it is up here, Ryan. I’ve never been more at peace.”
“But I killed you, Chelsea! How can you deal with that? How can I deal with that?”
Chelsea shook her head. “No, Ryan, you didn’t kill me. I died, but you didn’t kill me. It was an accident. It’s not like you gunned for me or anything.” Chelsea laughed at her own joke, a playful expression crossing her face. “Wait… you didn’t, did you?”
Ryan chuckled and said, “No, Chelsea, I didn’t gun for you. This is so cool. How long can you stay?”
She shook her head and Ryan’s heart sank. “He only gave me a minute. I can’t truly rest in peace until I know you forgive yourself, because I do, Ryan; I forgive you.”
“I don’t know if I can do that.”
“You can do anything you put your mind to.” She paused, placing her finger on her chin, in a thoughtful pose. “I heard that somewhere, I can’t remember where.”
“Probably from Amber,” Ryan said.
“Yeah, probably,” Chelsea agreed. “Well, anyway. I have to run now, Ryan. Promise me you will get your life back on track. There are only good things waiting for you out there.” She started to drift away but turned back. “Oh yeah, before I go, I have a favor to ask.”
“Anything,” he eagerly replied.
“You have to take my place at the shelter.” Chelsea looked down at her hands, holding them up in display for Ryan. “They need hands you know, and well… mine are kind of useless now.”
Ryan broke out in laughter. “I think I can handle that.”
Chelsea felt the figure approach and looked to her right. “He’s here now, Ryan; time’s up.” Ryan followed her eyes but saw nothing. He turned back and saw Chelsea begin to wave. Ryan felt a tear stream down his cheek. “Goodbye, Ryan,” Chelsea said. “Be good, have a great life, study hard—and do amazing things with that MIT degree.”
Ryan waved back. The tears came in a steady flow now. “Goodbye, Chelsea. I’ll miss you.”
Ryan stood glued to his spot long after the glow from his visitor faded. He didn’t know how he would go on with his life, yet he knew he had to. He turned to walk away, the very last of the day’s mourners. He didn’t look back. Why would he? Chelsea wasn’t even in that grave. Her spirit lived on. Only skin and bones lay in that casket.
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