“So explain to me again how this all works.” Connor stood next to a pile of books and scrolls and loose pieces of paper. Rae was seated in front of the computer, doing research. She had been in that same position for the last four hours, longer if he assumed she’d been there before he’d walked in the house.
“Connor, please, just – I don’t know – leave it where it is,” Rae snapped at him. She immediately stopped typing and looked up. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be bitchy.” Stretching, she got up from the chair and walked over to him.
Connor frowned. If he hadn’t known her as well as he did, he would think she was just tired, but she looked worn out and she was cranky all the time. “Rosie, when was the last time you ate something?” He asked quietly. Rae paused in front of him, as if trying to remember. Connor frowned, if she had to think about it, then it had been too long ago.
“I can’t remember. But I’m not hungry,” she said.
When he wrapped his arm around her, he became alarmed. She felt too warm. “You’re burning up. Come sit down on the couch.”
“I feel fine and I need to finish this bibliography.” She pushed at his chest, trying to get out of his grip, but he held on. This foolishness was going to end now; she was making herself sick.
“It can wait a day. If you get too sick to present next week, all this work will be for nothing.” He tried to reason with her and sighed in relief when she stopped fighting him and let him lead her to the couch.
The moment he let go, she lay down. “Fine, I am a little sleepy. I’ll just take a quick nap and – ” She yawned and closed her eyes.
Connor looked down at her. Out like a light.
He went out to get some medicine and some soup for her. When he got back, she hadn’t stirred from her nap. He cleaned up and waited for her to get up. And waited. And waited. Every now and then she would mumble something incoherent, but mostly, she slept quietly.
Rae was stuck in a dream world. With Rebecca. It was a weird feeling, like looking through an unfocused lens at images, snapshots of your own life – memory fragments that were being put together to try to tell her something. She could feel what Rebecca must have felt during these events, but couldn’t clearly see the people in them.
The first few images were filled with happiness. Whoever this man was, he’d made her happy. But there was sadness there also, a sense of loss, but not for herself – for him. Rae wished she could see him. He felt so familiar, but she didn’t know if that was another of Rebecca’s feelings or her own.
Rae gasped at a sudden sense of pain, fear and abandonment. She cried out at the razor-sharp feeling slicing through her heart. She was looking at Rebecca crying over a dead wolf. She was confused, why would Rebecca feel these things about an animal?
As that image faded, Rae felt herself being shaken. Someone must be trying to wake her up. She was seeing Rebecca and the man in the cemetery. Again, Rebecca was crying and she was…pregnant? She had never mentioned a baby before, not in all the time she had been with Rae.
Rae tried to read the name on the headstone, but again, felt herself being shaken awake.
The images were coming faster now; Rebecca on the beach with the same man from the cemetery, and now, a pregnant Rebecca was getting married?
And then, for a split second, a picture that was crystal clear – Rebecca and a baby boy. Rae’s breath caught, she felt love, so much love. Then a picture of a full moon, but before it could become clear, or as clear as any of these images would get, she was back in her living room.
“Rae, wake up. Wake up now!” Someone was shaking her, hard.
“I’m up, Jesus, I’m up.” Rae stretched as she sat up and found Connor staring down at her. “What? What’s wrong?”
“You’ve been asleep for two days. I couldn’t get you to wake up. And then you started screaming and I – I didn’t know what to do. Are you okay?” He looked terrified.
Rae reached her arms up and he helped her stand and then he had her in a bear hug. She laid her head on his shoulder and let him reassure himself of her safety. “I’m fine, Connor. I’m sorry I scared you.”
She leaned back to tell him sorry again when she felt a jolt of recognition. He had the same hair color as the man in Rebecca’s memories. She reached up and tilted his head to side, to look at his profile. Gasping, Rae stepped back and raised a hand to her mouth. He looked just like the man in – there was no way. No way in hell.
“Rebecca, come out here now!”
Connor reached for her. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Letting out a laugh that sounded a bit hysterical, Rae shook her head. “You have no idea.” Turning around, she said louder, “NOW Rebecca. What the hell is going on?”
He is the love of my life. Rebecca sounded wretched and Rae felt a cool breeze stroke her cheek. He is our soul mate, Rae.
Rae sat back down. “I can’t deal with this. I seriously cannot deal with one more thing. Isn’t it enough to be what I am? If I have to deal with existential BS, I’ll have a nervous breakdown. I swear I will!”
Connor sat down next to her. “Rae? What is it, what’s wrong? Should I call Dr. Gates?”
She glanced up at him and felt such sadness and longing. She was still feeling Rebecca’s emotions. This was so beyond anything she could handle. “I think so. Yes.” She felt the tears well up. Maybe she was having a breakdown.
It took Dr. Gates two hours to get there. Connor had never met the man and was stunned by how young he looked. He couldn’t be older than forty. “Hello, I’m Connor. It’s good to finally meet you.” Connor held his hand out and was surprised again at Dr. Gates’s firm grip. Yeah, something was definitely off with this guy.
“I’ve heard much about you as well. How is Rae doing?” Dr. Brian Gates looked over to where Rae was sitting, quietly speaking to herself.
“She’s been like this since I called you. Talking to herself – arguing actually, and crying. I can’t seem to snap her out of it. I don’t know if this is normal for her.” Connor was shaken. In the four years he’d known her, she had never once had an episode like this. He would sometimes catch her speaking to herself or staring off into space and as her schoolwork got more difficult, those moments had increased, but never had she flat out ignored him and spaced out like this.
Dr. Gates walked over to Rae and sat beside her. “Hello Rae. Is Rebecca with you?”
There was that name again. Who the hell was Rebecca?
Rae glanced up at the doctor and smiled. “Oh thank you for coming! Yes, Becca is here. She’s going through something and it’s affecting me. We can’t seem to stop it. I’m trying to get as much information as I can from her but she keeps crying and then I can’t understand a word she says.”
“Slow down Rae. Obviously her agitation is manifesting through you.” He picked up her wrist and checked her pulse, then flashed a penlight across her eyes. “Your heart rate is elevated and your pupils are dilated. We need to figure out how to calm the two of you down, okay?”
She just nodded.
Connor couldn’t keep quiet anymore. “Who is Rebecca and what’s going on?!”
Both the doctor and Rae looked up at him as if just remembering that he was still in the room. “Could you get me some water, please?”
Connor looked back at Rae, knowing she was purposely sending him away. “Don’t shut me out Rosie. No secrets, remember?” He said it softly, even as he walked to the kitchen to get her the water. He would respect her need for privacy, but he’d be damned if she was keeping anything this important from him. He hadn’t slept in over two days, keeping vigil while she was passed out and fielding calls from her family and her job. He’d even fed Dune and took him through his daily routines. Luckily, Rae had taught him how to care for her horse three summers ago.
Once in the kitchen, he stood in front of the fridge, mentally preparing himself for whatever else she was hiding. Whatever it was, he would find out and he would deal with it. Being with her these last two years was more than he ever hoped to have and he wasn’t letting her go. He’d made that decision the night she told him about her death and it hadn’t changed over the years.
Taking a deep breath, he brought the glass of water back into the living room and sat down on the chair beside the couch. “So, who’s Rebecca?”
Dr. Gates answered, “She is a piece of Rae’s soul. Or more precisely, she is one of many incarnations of Rae’s soul. It’s all very complicated but the short answer is that Rebecca and Rae share the same soul. When Rae died, their souls merged back together into the collective and when we brought her back, we also brought back Rebecca.” He smiled at Rae then. “She is very unique. Most ghosts that come back manifest only one reincarnation because there is usually a body left for the soul to mold itself in the image of. But with Rae, there was no body and so she managed to take on her current form and that of a previous life. Even more miraculous, when she was granted a physical body, Rebecca remained. I’m still trying to figure that one out.” The last part he said to himself quietly.
Connor scratched his head. “So Rae’s soul is walking around invisible to everyone but her?”
“No. Rae’s soul – how to explain? My theory is that we each have a perfect version of what we are. That is the soul, spirit, or atom – whatever you want to call it. We are born, we live and then we die. All of our knowledge and experiences are then collected into the blueprint and the cycle is repeated. So even though Rebecca and Rae are the same within their souls, it is their experiences, the way they lived their lives, that makes them different.”
“So, the blueprint is created by God?” Connor asked.
Dr. Gates just shrugged, “Perhaps.”
Rae looked at Connor. “Are you okay?”
He laughed. “Shouldn’t I be asking you that question?”
“Are we okay?”
He didn’t even hesitate. “We’re golden.”
Rae sat and let Dr. Gates finish examining her. Connor refused to leave and hovered, watching the doctor’s every move. He had taken the Rebecca thing really well. Too well actually and she had to wonder if he would change his mind about being with her once it set in. She’d been waiting for the other shoe to drop for two years. Hopefully they could make it past her graduation. Anything before then and she wouldn’t be able to function let alone present her thesis.
She looked up at him again and he smiled back at her. She loved him so much. “We should get married.”
As Connor just stared at her, silent, she felt her cheeks begin to flush. Dear God, what had she just said? “I’m so sorry. Rebecca must still be – I didn’t mean to – Damn it!”
Dr. Gates cleared his throat. “I’m going outside to make a phone call to a colleague. Excuse me.”
Rae nodded and looked back at Connor, who was still rooted to the same spot, looking shell-shocked. But then he blinked and said, “How soon can we do this?”
“I – I don’t know why I said that. I’m sorry Connor, it’s been a long day. Wait, what?”
“I think we should get married as soon as possible. I don’t want you changing your mind. Is there a specific place you’d want to have it? Do you want a big wedding or a small one?”
She just looked at him, not really processing what he was saying. He caught her staring and sat down to kiss her. “I don’t care why you said it, just that it was said. I love you Rosie and I think we should get married too.”
“Don’t you think we should at least move in together first?” It came out as a hoarse croak; she was so close to tears again.
“My place or a new place? Cuz I’m not living here.”
“What’s wrong with this place?” At his horrified look, she laughed. “Fine, a new place; yours doesn’t have a barn.” She sobered and asked, “Are you sure? We don’t have to do this Connor. I would never pressure you into such a commitment.”
He put his arm around her. “I’ve already asked for your parents’ blessing – which they gave me, of course. I was waiting for the stress of school to be over to ask you. You just caught me by surprise. I’m amazed that you can still surprise me.”
She laid her head on his shoulder and smiled.
Dr. Gates decided to stay until the end of the week, partly to make sure she was okay and to attend her graduation. Between finishing her thesis, planning a move and trying to stay stress free, there was very little room in her brain for anything else, no matter how good at multi-tasking she was. So when she received a phone call from her mother, the last thing on her mind was her engagement. Of course, it was the first thing out of her mother’s mouth.
“When were you going to tell me he proposed?”
“Mom? How did you know?” Leave it to her mother to get right to the point.
“Aunt Wendy told me. Her exact words were, ‘Tell Rae Rose that I have decided to give her an early wedding present, since she will need it before she gets married.’ You can imagine my shock.” Her mother sounded vaguely annoyed.
“Mom, I’m sorry I didn’t call you first thing. I’ve been finishing my thesis paper and I had an episode and – I’m sorry.”
“Wait, you had an episode? What happened, are you okay? Should I come down and visit?”
“Mom, no. I’m fine, Connor took care of me. He called Dr. Gates and everything is okay. I promise.” This was why she hadn’t called her mother.
“Have I mentioned how much I like that boyfriend of yours?” She could hear the laughter in her mother’s voice. It made her smile too.
“Yes, you have. Several times, in fact. What did Aunt Wendy send me?”
This time, her mother did laugh. “She didn’t send anything; she is giving you a house. Apparently, it’s been in the family for a while and since she lives in France, she thought you would appreciate it more.”
Rae was speechless. When she finally found her voice, she whispered, “An entire house? Leave it to Aunt Wendy to know exactly what I need before I need it.”
“Yes, my love. She’s something else, that woman. I have to get on a plane soon, but I will call you in the morning and you will tell me everything, deal?”
“Yes mom. I love you and safe travels.”
“I love you more. Be well.”
Well, that was one thing off her plate. Smiling and feeling much more stress free, Rae went downstairs to finish her paper.
Finally, after five years of hard work, she had her degree. Rae looked over at her parents and smiled. They were the most supportive people in the world. They knew that she wanted to go work with Dr. Gates on his research and even though it wasn’t a traditional job, they were okay with that. Granted, they weren’t a traditional family. Her eyes met Connor’s, and he was beaming. He was a godsend and she was blessed to have found him – someone who knew all her secrets and still loved her.
He wanted to get married right away, though she’d wanted to wait until she’d settled into her career, but looking at him now, surrounded by her family, she wanted to make him hers as soon as possible. Why wait?
He walked up to her and kissed her. “Congrats on today Rosie.”
“Let’s getting married now,” she said in a rush.
Connor looked down at her. She was beginning to realize that he never spoke without thinking first, which was a trait she didn’t possess. Impatiently she waited for his answer.
“I’d like to have my family for this; can we have it in Sunset Valley?”
She grinned. “Of course. I wouldn’t do this without your family.”
“Do what?” Aaliyah asked as she walked up to them.
Turning around, she grinned at her mom. “Get married. I’m thinking in three weeks. That should give us enough time to find a dress and a venue and travel down to Sunset Valley.”
Her mother rolled her eyes. “This feels like a pattern. Ade got married quickly, Sarah eloped and now you. Can’t we have just one long engagement?” Aaliyah smiled and hugged her daughter. “Three weeks, huh? I think that’s doable.”
“I’m tired, can we stop and grab something to eat, please?” Rae knew she was whining, but searching for a venue for her wedding was proving more difficult than it should be. Maybe they should just have it on the beach.
Connor looked over at her, a patient smile on his lips. “Sure, I know this great shop on the boardwalk.” He was always so patient with her.
They walked into a flower shop and exited out onto the boardwalk. It was beautiful! “Wow, this is a gorgeous view.”
Smiling at her, Connor said, “I know.” And then, before she could think of a snarky comment, he got down on one knee in front of her.
Puzzled, she asked, “What are you doing?”
“I’m all for gender equality, but I waited a very long time to do this, and I want to do it right.” He pulled out a ring from his pocket.
“I’ve been practicing what I would say to you at this moment for over two years now. I made a list of all the things I love about you and every time I thought I was done adding to it, I’d think of one more thing. The sound of your voice, the feel of your hair, the way you wrap your right leg around mine when you sleep. Your intense focus when working on your research or the way you can sit so still for hours. The way you tilt your head when you’re listening, really listening to something; your laugh. There are hundreds of things that I find fascinating, beautiful, and perfect about you and I wanted to share them all with you today. But now that we are here, now that the moment has arrived, I can’t remember a single thing I wanted to say.
“From the moment I met you, I knew you were special. Before I learned about all the weird and crazy things that have happened to you, or that you were a princess, or that you can speak to ghosts; before all of that, I knew you were special. You make me feel volatile, cranky, obsessed, sometimes insane and loved. You are special because you were made for me Rosie. And I want to bind myself to you forever.”
Then he slipped the ring on her finger and smiled at her. “I would ask you if you’d be my wife, but we’ve already established that. I just really want to see you wearing my ring.”
Rae pulled him up and threw her arms around him. “I love you,” was all she said. All she had to say.