I could hear him. Low, rough chuckling that would mingle with my own high laughter as he spun me round.
I could smell him. That deep, musky aftershave, with a soft hint of vanilla, that he always wore lingered around me, teasing me- he'd been here moments before.
I could feel him. All rough denim, slick leather and smooth skin, I could almost feel his body pressed close to mine.
I could taste him. The way his mouth always reminded me of strawberry milkshake from the café we went to every Saturday; so sweet, so surprising.
I could see him. There. Long legs tucked in to baggy jeans, trademark charcoal leather jacket over a tight maroon vest with navy writing that matched his Converse. He was sat on my bed, phone held loosely in his hand, twitching as he waited for me. With his tanned complexion, his ice blue eyes stood out, glimmering faceted jewels that winked mischievously from bronze sand. His most characteristic feature? Softly ruffled, brunette curls that framed his square jaw, peeking out beneath a crumpled beanie.
Then everything changed. He saw me and smiled that cute grin of his, the one that lit up the whole world. We ran towards each other, arms outstretched; the perfect cliché of two completely love-crazed teens. He stopped. I frowned. His smile wavered and faded away as I saw what was happening. His curls: they were falling out. Soon the ground was covered in a soft carpet of springy hair, leaving him standing on his own personal battlefield, a conflict of innocence and defiance. I pulled him into my arms and cradled his head.
It cracked in half to reveal a huge lump on his brain. Horrified, I dropped it, and his once muscled body slumped to the cold, hard ground; his eyes forever staring at the sky.
With a scream, I awoke in a cold sweat, to my mum's hushed reassurances that everything would be okay. But it wasn't. It wouldn't be. He was gone. Brushing my mum aside, I stumbled over to the window, gripping the off-white sill stalwartly. In the corner of my eye, I saw my parents huddled in a corner, whispering anxiously, about me no doubt. They had spoken to each other more in the past three months than in the past 9 years.
Of course they would come together now, now that their beloved daughter was labelled as an "abnormality". I had been shoved to the back of a cupboard like an old can of beans, with people turning their noses up at me like I was infectious. My mum stressed that things would get better, just to give it time; my dad argued that if I stopped pretending I could see him then everything else would fall into place.
But I could see him; everywhere I looked he was there. Especially in here. My room. My house. The place he told me he had cancer. The place where we would cry in each other's arms. The place where he died. There was little wonder I dreaded coming home now. The place was plagued with death.
Outside, I spotted him through the glass. His figure blurring and morphing slightly, but his hand always reached out for me.
"Come on baby …" he called softly, patiently, his voice a twisted lullaby. "Don't fear the reaper." My hand twitched nervously, fumbling for the latch. Then I froze. I couldn't jump! I turned, but my parents had gone.
Glancing back, he had disappeared, replaced by an emaciated face. High cheekbones stuck out like the ridges between the ruts of a tractor tyre's tracks. Lank, greasy hair was plastered against a pale face. Parched lips, cracked and bleeding helplessly, the only colour left on this once healthy, glowing face. It wasn't glowing anymore. Glassy eyes stared back at me. Haunted. It was the only way to describe them. Brown, yes. Blank, yes. Lifeless, yes. But these words don't provide the full picture. Haunted, the insensible remains of what were once soulful, warming eyes; eyes that were the colour of melted chocolate, but have now been trampled through mud and left to dry, abandoned, by a dusty roadside. I shrank back in horror, terrified of my own reflection.
Suddenly, his face leered inches from the glass, frightening and irritable at first, but then it calmed to his usual placid demeanour.
"Take my hand," he crowed as my world spun in my head. Frantic thoughts, jumbled words and half-formed memories scrambled for attention, but I couldn't focus on anything, anything except for his pacifying tone. "Don't fear the reaper..." I felt nothing but self-pity as I hoisted the stubborn glass up. He smiled encouragingly as I found a comfortable balance on the outer windowsill.
The fact that I was 4 floors up didn't matter to me, I felt remarkably calm as I grasped his cold hand with both of mine.
"We'll be able to fly. Don't fear the reaper." His voice echoed around the empty passages of my mind. I began tearing the pages out of the book, the book of my life. I was a tiny baby, then a chubby toddler. I grew older, taller and slimmer, the latter especially after I was eight and my parents divorced. Rip, rip, and rip. One page after another, they blew gracefully in the wind, before sprouting wings and fluttering away out of sight. A model I made in class, when I won a dancing competition, chocolate ice cream, my dad lifting me up, the beach, school photos as a teen, my mum holding me as I cry, him smiling, him asking me out, him telling me he had cancer, him holding my hand, us kissing, us laughing… countless memories I wrenched out and scattered across this world.
There was just one page left.
"Baby I'm your man…" He hissed softly, arms around me, as he kissed away my tears. With a sigh, I let him support my full weight, as I tore out the last page from my book. I was blown away by a cold, harsh wind that stole the last air from my lungs. The book clattered to the floor; a young girl, spine cracked, curled up as though she was asleep, dreaming of the love she left to find.