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The Girl Next Door: Part 4

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"And that's how I got here," Victoria concluded. "I don't know why I didn't really go on to Heaven or Hell."

"So you're stuck with one foot in Heaven and one on Earth. I think I know why."

"Really?" she gasped.

"Well, I've done a lot of reading about the afterlife. I think you're still partially here because you missed something. You really wanted something, and you didn't get it. If you could figure out what that was and then get it, you could move on."

"Wow. I've been dead for so long and I couldn't figure that out. Somebody up there must pity me," she said as she looked up to the clouding sky. "I don't know who to thank."

I subconsciously reached for her hand. Of course, it went right through. She looked at me.

"I don't know if I want to move on."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because . . . because I couldn't be with you."

A thousand emotions and words flew around my head. She really loved me. She really, REALLY, loved me. I knew it all along; the writing on the window and the times we had shared confirmed it. But somehow I still felt surprised.

Suddenly, she vanished.

"No. No! NO!" I shouted. Feelings of isolation started circulating through my body, straight from the heart. She was gone.

But then she reappeared. She collapsed into my arms, but, of course, still went through me.

"It almost happened," she said. She sat up. "I almost moved on."

We stared at each other in amazement. "It's because you love me," we said simultaneously. I stared into her eyes. Her heart was with me . . . but her head was in Heaven.

"I thought I had lost you there," I sighed in relief.

She buried her face in her hands. "You don't understand."

"I understand that you're here now."

She looked at me grimly. "Really, you don't understand. I can love you forever, and I'll be in Heaven . . . literally. I can never love you on Earth without moving on."

How could I have been so blind? I was supposed to be smart! And yet something so obvious had passed right before my eyes, and I missed it.

"What are you going to do?" I asked her.

"I'm not sure. I . . . I don't think I could stop loving you. But next time you see me, I'll have my mind made up."


I waved goodbye and climbed back over the fence. Whatever she chose was sure to hurt. I couldn't believe that everything between us was going to end so quickly. I just sat down in my back yard and cried for a while. It wasn't the way I wanted things to be.

I decided to go inside because I was cold. Every part of me felt frozen . . . especially my heart.

When I got inside, I saw that my mom had gotten home from work early. She was standing in the kitchen, tapping her foot impatiently.

"Where were you, young man?" she inquired sternly. "You had me worried sick! You can't be doing these things when you're ill."

"Just outside," I answered.

"You were next door again, weren't you? I thought I told you to stay away if you saw that girl again!" she shouted. "I can see I made a few mistakes when I was raising you as a child, but you need to listen to me!"

"Mom, relax. Ok? I just needed some fresh air."

"And the tearstains are from . . .?"

"I just finished a sad story."

I wasn't lying. What happened with Victoria and me was the saddest thing I'd ever been through.

She didn't say anything more. I could tell that she was disappointed in me, but she let me go upstairs anyway.

Warm, salty tears fell on my pillow as I continued to cry. I had gathered all the blankets I could find, layered them on my bed, and burrowed underneath them. But yet I still felt so cold. Victoria's chilled soul was infused with mine. I fell asleep that night hoping that she felt warmer.

Days went by. I never saw her in any of them. Despair built up. It started to sink in that I was alone again.

Nights became endless and dreams rarely ever came. When they did, they were nightmares. I cried myself to sleep more times that month than I ever had in my life. My world slowly became a living Hell.

I felt so much emotion in the rain. I knew Victoria loved the clouds and the showers. I stared up at the sky at night and wondered if she was looking back down at me.

I dressed in black a lot. Nevertheless, the other people at school stayed away from me even more than before. None of them understood. None of them knew what I had gone through. None of them could feel the pain of a breaking heart.

One night, I was graced with a dream.

I was sitting in Ms. Smith's garden, and Victoria drifted towards me. She was more beautiful than ever. Her blonde hair shone radiantly like the finest gold. Her dark eyes had changed to a beautiful light blue. Her skin had a more fleshy color, and she had stunning white wings sprouting from her back. She kept every trait of grace and beauty that she already had and emphasized them.

"Hello, Michael." she greeted me. I was speechless.

I touched a hand to her gentle face. It was solid. I moved my hand from her cheek to her hair and ran my fingers through it like a comb. It was like she was really there.

"I guess you can see I've made my decision. I've moved on, but I haven't forgotten you. I could never do that after all the tears you cried for me."

"So you saw that?"

"Yes, and I cried, too. I knew I could never force myself to stop loving you. You gave me things I never thought I'd get. You gave me trust, respect . . ." she paused and smiled, "and love."

"You deserved it," I told her. "You had a rough life, and I'm glad you were finally able to move on. I'm happy that I could help you do so."

"You're a wonderful boy. That's why I want you to keep going and find another girl to share your heart with. Love her like you love me. I don't want to stop you from living your life. Just promise me you'll never forget me."

"I promise."

The dream faded. When I woke up, my heart lightened, and I knew everything was going to be ok.


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