Don't believe what they tell you in movies and on TV; ghosts don't haunt people. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying there's no such thing as ghosts, I'm just saying they don't haunt living people – because basically they don't know we're here.
How do I know that? Because I can see them. I have since I was a little kid. But I didn't have a grandmother who taught me how to help people move on, or Bruce Willis as my ghost shrink. Nope, I just got to stand around like a zombie staring at people nobody else could see, wondering if it was me or the rest of the world who was crazy
Then, just when I'd worked out what my version of 'normal' was, and was content with it, Jake came along - the anomaly - the Grey who didn't play by the rules. What was worse, he couldn't be just any old Grey, could he? Oh no, he had to be the most gorgeous guy I'd ever laid eyes on, living or dead. And he was set on rocking my world, whether I liked it or not.
"That's good. I should have brought a sweater if I'm going into your world."
Frowning, Beth shook her head slowly. "I don't think you'll come into my world. I think I'll come into yours. That's the way it's always happened in the past."
"But you've already admitted that nothing that is happening with me is like your past experience with ghosts. And as you look like a Grey, as you call them, to me, then I can't see why I can't do what you do." I held out my hand to her, hoping she was ready to try touching me. "Only trying it out will prove it one way or the other."
Her lovely, very expressive eyes turned up to meet my gaze, locking for a long pregnant moment while she decided whether she was ready or not. Then she nodded and reached out to place her hand in mine.
My hand passed right through hers, but nothing else happened. I felt gutted. I'd been so sure the world would change for us both. This was just plain anti-climactic.
"No, you're moving too fast, as if you're going to connect with something solid. For this to work, you have to accept we are going to pass right through each other and stop moving as soon as we overlap. It might be easier if I sit where you are." She made to shift towards me.
"No. That's too weird for me. Let's try the hand thing again," I said, suddenly feeling unsettled by what we were doing. What would it look like to have her transparent body inside mine?
Nope, too damned weird!
I lay my hand, palm up, on the root that rose from the bare ground between us. Slowly, she brought her small thin hand down on top of my much larger one, so it rested palm down on the root.
The air changed. It got colder. Goose bumps broke out on my bare arms.
I looked around me and saw the sudden differences that had occurred from one moment to the next. The tree was no longer heavy with turning leaves. The startlingly naked branches were just beginning to shoot new growth. It even smelled different; the dusty scent of freshly fallen leaves was gone, replaced by the slight smell of long dead leaves still decaying. Yet there was an energy to the air too, a zing I always felt in springtime. As if life was returning to the natural world.
The kids who'd been talking on the path, twenty or thirty feet away, were gone, but a couple of Asian students were now sitting on the bench facing the admin building, enjoying the sunshine.
The sky was cloudier than it had been, but the fresh sunshine had broken through and I had the urge to be out in it, not sitting in the naked oak's shadow.
I could hear an incessant, mechanical sound – a jackhammer? – coming from somewhere nearby. It grated on my already agitated nerves. But it was exciting, because it highlighted even more the difference between Beth's world and my own.
"Is there construction going on somewhere?" I asked absently, as I continued to stare around me, registering every subtle change in my environment.
It had happened, really happened, and I was so focused on the changes that it hadn't really hit me how shocking it actually was.
I wasn't in Kansas anymore!