The following is a brief excerpt from my second release called The Yearning.
I figured posting an excerpt of something that’s already available is better than a teaser of what I’m writing now, which may not see the light of day for months, if at all. Feel free to tell me what you think! Compliments are appreciated, but so is constructive criticism. How else will I learn?
The story is told from the ghost, Eric’s point of view.
“Babe, it’s just dinner with Darren. He won’t notice your clothes,” I say, floating five feet above the ground, lotus style. “Not that I mind you getting undressed so much in front of me.”
Justin’s standing in front of a mirror in his clothes-strewn bedroom, scrutinizing his fourth outfit. He frowns, turns and stares at his ass. I make a sound of appreciation and offer up a prayer of thanks to the makers of Joe’s Jeans. Apparently he’s going with this ensemble, a button down shirt in a velvety wine color that drapes his lean frame well, bringing out the warmth of his eyes, and jeans that display a perfect bulge to ass ratio. I watch as he gathers up the discarded clothes and puts them away.
He’s a flurry of activity, buzzing around his apartment in an effort to straighten up. Through our link, I feel the hum of his energy, getting quite the charge out of it. The feeling amps up when the doorbell sounds. Outwardly, Justin looks calm and composed, ever the relaxed and smooth friend he pretends to be. Inwardly, he’s a quivering, raucous mess of butterflies.
He’s always like this around Darren.
At first, I didn’t mind it. The boost of energy from his excitement had me feeling like a superhero, but the more I’ve come to care about Justin, the less I like it. I realize it’s stupid to be jealous of the living, especially Darren since he’s so oblivious to Justin’s feelings for him that he’s harmless. Unfortunately, even in death, logic isn’t my strong suit.
For my own amusement, I lean hard against the door as Justin tries to open it. My boosted strength makes it stick, and he grunts with effort. “Darren?” he calls out, hands pulling uselessly on the knob.
“Yeah, buddy,” Darren calls from the other side.
“Door’s stuck. Can you push while I pull?” Justin bares his teeth with the effort and I sigh, easing up on the door to place a kiss at the corner of his mouth. The door yanks open violently and Darren spills over the threshold, through me and straight into Justin’s arms.
“Well that backfired,” I mutter, turning away to keep from seeing them disentangle.
“Have to call the property managers about that,” Justin says, trying to look nonchalant while inspecting the door. I hear him open and close it a few times while I’m busy in the living room messing up the magazines he neatly stacked on the coffee table. He frowns when he sees them scattered on the floor. I check out his ass again when he bends over to pick them up.
“So where are we going?” Darren asks, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. Dressed as he is in a t-shirt and jeans instead of his EMT uniform, he looks a lot younger and more playful, his dark eyes warm and eager. I roll my eyes at him. They do dinner together every week, usually Wednesdays, and it’s Justin’s turn to pick the venue.
“Actually, I, uh… thought maybe we could just stay here, order in. I, um… have something I want to talk to you about, and I don’t think it would be good to be overheard.” Darren and I both snap our heads up to look at Justin, his face curious, mine horrified.
“What are you going to tell him?” I demand at the same moment Darren speaks.
“What’s on your mind?”
Justin freezes as if he heard us both. He listens for a tick, ear cocked in my direction then asks, “Well, is staying in okay with you?” He pulls out a Chinese food menu from the place a few blocks away when Darren agrees.
“You went to a lot of trouble to look nice for only lounging on the couch all night,” I mumble, annoyed.
They place their order and Darren makes himself comfortable in the oversized chair beneath the window. Justin disappears into the kitchen for drinks, and I’m relieved to see him return with beer instead of wine, a date-like drink. I’d be forced to knock one of their glasses over. The way things are going tonight, I’d end up spilling it on one of them, forcing whichever one to take off his shirt, and who knows where it would go from there?
Yes, I’m a little dramatic. It’s a flaw.
Justin sits on the end of the couch closest to Darren’s chair and clears his throat, fidgeting. The air in the room grows heavy with expectation, but Justin doesn’t speak for a long moment. Finally, Darren leans forward, elbows on his knees, hands hanging down.
“You know, you can tell me anything, Justin. Even if it’s completely ridiculous and I laugh at you, I’ll still be your friend.”
“I’m just hoping you won’t think I’m a lunatic,” Justin swallows, his Adam’s apple bobbing repeatedly.
“I already do. It’s one of the reasons I like hanging out with you. Never a dull moment, right?” Darren reaches over and lightly punches the side of Justin’s leg. “Out with it.”
“Okay.” With a big sigh and a wince of embarrassment, Justin plows ahead. “I think I’m being haunted.”
That is so not what I expected him to say, and relief floods over me, quickly followed by elation. He knows I’m here. He can feel my presence. I knew there was a spark between us. Granted, I’m more of an expert on compatibility since my death because I can feel it immediately when I anchor to someone, and no one has felt as right to me as Justin. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. I stop my celebration dance in the corner of the room and tune in again.
Darren seems to be recovering from his own surprise and I wait for him to laugh, to tell Justin he’s nuts. Here’s where my confusion sets in. If Darren says he never wants to see Justin again; that he’s crazy and needs help and until he gets that help, Darren can’t be his friend, I won’t be shattered by the disappearance. But a wave of guilt rises at wishing, even moderately, that Darren would do or say those things. The look on Justin’s face right now, the hope, the fear, how devastated I know he’d be if Darren left in a huff, all of that conspires against my self-centered soul. Hope that Darren’s as good a friend as he professes to be springs in my chest.
A chuckle puffs from Darren’s mouth. He looks at his hands, shakes his head, looks around the room, takes a swig of his beer, and then bravely meets Justin’s eyes.
“Justin, babe, you’re a mortician. I would be surprised if you weren’t haunted. Doesn’t it sort of come with the job?”
The air in the room lightens considerably on the gust of breath Justin releases in relief. His lips tug up at the corners and his eyes dance. I can practically read the thought on his face: Darren called me ‘babe’. Much as I would love to gather all the energy I have and punch Darren in the face for that, I can’t. Justin wouldn’t have it.
“If you believe in ghosts, sure, I guess it does come with the job.” The self-deprecating chuckle Justin emits makes him look adorable.
“So why do you think you’re being visited from beyond the mortal veil?” Darren leans forward, and I watch Justin’s pupils dilate as he draws nearer.
“Well, for starters, things around my apartment are out of place when I know I didn’t move them.” He gestures to the magazines. “I picked up before you arrived, and yet these were scattered on the floor a minute ago. I hear sounds, footsteps when I’m alone. I’ve seen doors open and close by themselves. Just now, I thought I heard a voice from that corner,” a finger levels in my direction. “I feel watched all the time.”
“Do you think it’s a good ghost or an evil ghost?” Darren asks, warily eyeing the room.
“It’s probably more than one. Like you said, my job lends to being haunted. I do feel a familiar presence often, though. Last several months, at least.”
“Maybe it’s Judy Garland?” Darren suggests hopefully, and I bark out a laugh.
Justin snorts. “Why on earth would she deign to visit me, let alone repeatedly?”
“Maybe she’s determined to help your fashion sense,” Darren quips, standing to get another beer. Justin looks down at himself.
“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”
“Nothing. But all those fugly shoes and stupid hipster t-shirts in your wardrobe leave a lot to be desired.”
“You’re one to talk. You own six of the exact same black t-shirt and jeans ensemble. If anyone wants a closet to haunt –” Justin’s voice cuts off as he hears something. I smirk, amused. It’s the ice maker, not me.
They investigate and return, satisfied that they’re still alone.
“Maybe we could try to talk to your ghost. Find out what it wants.” Darren looks a little spooked, despite his attempts at lightheartedness. Sparks of energy erupt around me, euphoric little fireworks that surprise me. They both look around the room as if they feel the charge. Interesting.
“Talk to it how?” Justin asks cautiously. “I’m not whipping out a Ouija board. No fucking way. My luck, we’d end up talking to that murder suspect I worked on last month, the one who shot his whole family and then went on a rampage through his neighborhood and died in a hail of bullets.”
“Yeah, good point. But it would be nice to know what this ghost wants. Unless it just likes to look through your GQ and Men’s Health magazines. Or maybe he is expressing distaste that you’re not reading Out and Unzipped.” Darren’s eyes flash with mirth.
“He? And please. Who says I don’t have a copy of Out in the bathroom and Unzipped hidden under my mattress?” Justin asks, dramatically rolling his eyes.
“Hidden under… Do you still live with your mother?” Darren grips Justin’s shoulder and adopts a falsely supportive tone. “Justin, you are a grown man. It’s okay to have your wank material out in the open, or at least easily accessible. You have much to learn, young padawan.” Justin’s hand disappears into his pocket, his expression challenging and flirtatious. Darren drops his hand and covers his eyes, crowing dramatically. “I didn’t mean for you to fist the mister right here and now, in front of me!”
The urge to step between them and push them apart is dampened by my own amusement. I have learned more slang from Darren and Justin’s sophomoric conversations than anyone else in my decades of anchoring to people. When Justin simply whips out his smart phone, I exhale in relief and chuckle.
“I have my wank material easily accessible. Internet access. Kindle app. Megaupload . It’s the information age, Darren. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?”
“That’s it!” Darren exclaims, jumping up from his chair.
“What’s it?” Justin asks puzzled.
“Your phone.” He gestures wildly to the device in Justin’s hand and I begin to think he’s really lost it.
“What about it?” The puzzlement on Justin’s face mirrors my own – if my face could be seen by anyone.
“Modern day Ouija board, doofus,” Darren says excitedly, abruptly sitting so close to Justin their legs touch. Darren takes the phone from Justin’s hand, taps his fingers to bring the screen to life, slides it open to reveal the keyboard, and sets it on the coffee table in front of them. “We can ask questions and the ghost can answer on it. They say spirits get energy from electronic devices anyway, so it might work better than a stupid board and plastic arrow.”
A look of nervous anticipation crosses Justin’s face, but it’s nothing compared to the thrill coursing through me in that moment. I barely stop to wonder if the thrill is from another burst of energy at Darren’s close proximity to Justin. The prospect of communicating with Justin blots out all else. I position myself on the opposite side of the table, staring at the phone. It has little squares with letters on it, and I know how it works from years of watching people use them, but it never occurred to me to try to manifest a message through one.
In that moment, I really like Darren, despite him nearly sitting on Justin’s lap.
“Well?” Darren asks after a few moments of silence while waiting for Justin to ask me something.
“Uh…” Justin hesitates. “I’m not sure I want to know.” This is said quietly, and disappointment floods me. “I’m a little freaked out by the idea of being haunted, you know?”
“Okay,” Darren says slowly. “Well, look at it this way, if you know for sure, you can also ask if he means you harm. If he’s friendly, there’s nothing to worry about, right?”
“I guess.” Justin’s dark eyes flit back to the phone before him, and he lets out a gasp. A message slowly appears beneath my careful fingers.
I mean you no harm.