Olivia.

When I died I thought I would go to heaven, but I didn’t. I didn’t go to hell either, to be completely honest with you I’m still not sure where I went, or where I am. When I woke up after dying, which seems like an insane thing to say, I woke up in a field and the only thing that was there was a picnic basket and a sheet laid on the ground.

“Would you like some tea?” I turned around and squinted as my eyes adjusted to the light. It was a little blonde girl in a purple floral dress.

“I’m sorry, where am I?” I said looking around, nothing but trees surrounding us.

“Well, you’re in my backyard silly. What’s your name?” She said shuffling over to the picnic basket and opening it up.

“My name is Susanna and where is your backyard? What state are we in?”

“Oregon… Do you want some tea?” She asked again holding out a tea cup half full of water.

I walked over towards the little girl slowly and sat down cross legged. “So, what’s your name?” I took a sip of the water, a little warm from sitting in a thermos for who knows how long.

“Olivia.” She said dragging on the O.

We sat there for quite a long time, talking about little girl things. She didn’t ask me many questions and I didn’t ask her many either, she was just a chatty kid. I kind of appreciated that at the moment because I wanted to think about what was going on. Where was I? Why was I here? Is this heaven? Is this hell?

I was snapped out of my thoughts when Olivia asked me if I wanted to come over to her house. I thought for a moment I was probably quite older than her, but I agreed anyway, I could just tell her parents that she was alone and I was worried about her. We walked for about 10 minutes, quite a long way to walk alone for a little girl. I was watching my feet kick the gravel stones around when she started running, I looked up and there was a cute little house. A two-story farm house, off white with a green roof. It kind of looked like a dollhouse, it seemed perfect for this little girl. I walked up the front porch steps and Olivia was holding the door open for me and I walked in cautiously so I could quickly explain what was happening if they were waiting for their daughter.

There was a woman sitting at the kitchen table sorting through various bills and fliers. She didn’t look up when I walked in or when Olivia walked in she just absent-mindedly said hello to Olivia and kept going through mail. Olivia didn’t answer her she was too focused on untying her shoes, placing them on the shoe rack when she was done. She hopped up the stairs quickly.

“Come on Susanna! I want to show you my room.” Olivia said holding out her hand so I could take it.

I could hear her mother get out if her chair and start to walk towards us, “Olivia, who’s Susanna?” She said looking around, obviously worried that there was a stranger in her house.

“She’s my new best friend, see?” Olivia pointed at me. Her mom looked in the various direction that Olivia pointed in. Her expression changed, sort of relieved and held her hand out a foot away to the left away from where I was standing.

“Hello I am Tanya, Olivia’s mom. It’s very nice to meet you.” Tanya moved her hand up and down as if shaking my hand. Why couldn’t she see me? Olivia stared up the stair case again and I followed. Her room was Yellow with a canopy bed and bean bags at the end of it, you could tell that one was sat in more often. She sat down in it and patted the other for me to sit in, I sat down but the chair didn’t move with my body.

“Olivia, can I ask you a question? You may not know the answer to it so don’t be upset if you don’t” I said leaning forward and holding my hands together.

“My dad always says that I’m really smart so I probably know the answer. What is it?” She lifted her feet up underneath her.

“Why can only you see me? Your mom can’t.”

“Oh, she says they are called ‘Imaginary friends’ I’m not really sure what it means but no one can see them except for their owners or something. So, I guess I own you now.” Olivia shrugged and stood up, walking towards her little book shelf.

I whispered, ‘Imaginary friend’ to myself multiple times. “That’s really getting annoying Susanna. Can you stop?” I looked up and nodded. We played for a long time, she even set a place for me at the table. I sat down but couldn’t eat, I wasn’t exactly hungry but also, I physically couldn’t pick up the fork or anything. After dinner, we got ready for bed and went to sleep. I couldn’t sleep though, I had too many questions but no one to ask. The next few days went by fairly quickly and me and Olivia were getting along really well.

One night when we were getting ready for bed I was sitting at the end of her bed and we were talking, I was still having trouble sleeping.  At night was normally when she asked me about my pre-imaginary life. Tonight, she asked me why I became an imaginary friend. Olivia was a smart girl so I’ve learned that child answers don’t satisfy her.

“Well Olivia, to be completely honest. I didn’t choose to become one, I didn’t know that it was one of the options.” I told her, letting her see me be vulnerable. She was the only person I had now so I might as well let her see who I really am.

“What do you mean options? Like what you wanted to be when you got older?” Olivia said sitting up in her bed to listen better.

“Kind of yeah, but you might have heard of Heaven and Hell?” I asked her and she nodded, “Well you have those two options but there’s also one that I don’t think anyone knows about. Imaginary friends.”

“So, you died?” Olivia’s voice got quite and more child-like.

“Yes, but it’s not bad, don’t be sad. Now I have got you as a best friend.” I tried to make her hopeful again. She didn’t smile.

“Why did you die?” This conversation took a turn for the worst.

I sighed, and for a moment thought about what my reason could have been. I couldn’t lie to her though, and I decided to tell her the truth. “Olivia, Sugar girl. I don’t want to tell you this because you are too young for this but you’re strong.” I took her hands in mine and continued, “When I was 23, the age I am now, I was sick. Not with a cold or the flu, it was more of a cold in my mind. I was really sad all the time and nothing could make me happy unfortunately. Sometimes I would eat too much and make myself sick or sometimes I wouldn’t eat at all for a very long time.” Olivia was nodding like she understood, I don’t know if she actually did but I continued anyways. “So, one day I was really very sad and I was driving and I accidentally got into a car crash. The thing is part of my brain wanted it to happen.” I felt tears start to fall down my face but Olivia wasn’t crying, she didn’t seem to have any emotion on her face.

“What did your mom say?” Olivia asked getting out from under the covers and sitting on her knees.

I started crying harder thinking about my mom and dad and how they probably reacted. “I’m not sure, I couldn’t see. I assume they cried though, It’s a very sad thing.”

“You know when you have a birthday party and you have a big birthday cake for all your friends Susanna?”

“Yes, why?” I was confused. Did she really not understand what I was saying? Was she thinking about cake this whole time? I knew she was way too young for this story.

“If no one comes to your party you get all the birthday cake to yourself. In your mind you’re like ‘Yay I get a whole cake.’ It seems really exciting but then after you eat a bit you realize that it’s not very good because you don’t have anyone you love to share it with.”

“Okay Olivia, that makes sense but what does that have anything to do with my situation now?” Olivia sat up and wrapped her arms around my neck.

“Heaven is like the birthday party. It seems all great but it’s not. Please don’t go to heaven Susanna.” I could feel Olivia’s tears soaking through my tee shirt.

I nodded.

“You have to promise!” Olivia sat up again and let go of me.

“I promise, I’ll be here forever Olivia.”

 

Olivia is 18 years old now, graduating high school now and happier than ever. She doesn’t see me anymore, she stopped around 10 years old. I’ve been here the whole time though, watching over her. I’ve watched her get boyfriends. I’ve watched her get dumped and I’ve watched her dump people. I’ve watched birthdays go by. I sat next to her when she cried and I stood by and watched her live her life and I always hope that she stays happy.

Even though she can’t see me, I hope she knows I’m still here. I don’t plan on breaking that promise to her.

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I Love You Too.

Five years ago, they were lovers. They were Tina and Karl. Attached at the hip and wanted nothing more than to be together forever. Unfortunately, the saying “Right person, Wrong time.” Is more than true. It was junior year of high school when they got together, meeting in chemistry. Two really smart people, one really dumb relationship. Part of them knew that they have to fall apart and burn one day but they didn’t want to give up on each other, hoping that it would somehow work out.

Senior year they were more in love then they were the year before, still in the honeymoon phase. They graduated, both top of the class. Both honour students with multiple scholarships coming their way. They really should be happy, everyone was happy for them but deep down they knew that it was either end it now and have it end clean, or wait for everything to crash and burn.

They danced the night away, ignoring their friends and family and just danced, for hours. They parted ways that night and the next morning they decided to have breakfast together, a nice breakfast. Neither of them looked forward to it though because they knew what they had to do. He ordered her favourite breakfast for her, for possibly the last time. He got it exactly right, even right down to the amount of pulp she likes. They both stared down at the vinyl table cloth with tacky sunflowers all over it.

“We both know what’s going to happen, don’t we?” He mumbles. He didn’t want to say it but deep down he knew that she wouldn’t be able to and he wanted her to remember him as the gentleman he always was to her.

“We do.” She said folding her hands on the table. Close to the middle of the table, he didn’t know if she wanted him to hold them or not. If she was honest though, she was hoping he would make the decision for her. He put his hands beside hers, he wanted to hold them so bad but he knew that it would only make it more painful.

That was five years ago.

Tina had grown up quite a bit, she worked at a publishing company. She wasn’t the boss or anything but she was at a great level. She was able to read all the entries and pass them along or not, she passed along more than enough because she never wanted to be the person to ruin someone’s dream. Unfortunately, except for her manuscripts she didn’t have any company. She’s stayed mostly single since high school, dating guys for only a couple weeks until either they got clingy, douche-y, or just plain boring.

Karl was living a bachelor’s life, it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t fulfilling. He had plenty of friends to hang out with and went out with them quite often. He played video games and was trying to plan his own video game. He really wanted to have a relationship with someone, like the one he had in high school but every girl he tried to start one with ended in failure.

It was Thursday night, Tina’s “Wine night” as she called it, where she invites her 2 best friends over and they drink at least a bottle of wine each. Bethany was the light weight and you could always tell when she was feeling it because she would bring up Tina’s love life. Which according to her was “Completely awful and tragic.” It wasn’t that bad in Tina’s eyes though. They fought about it almost every Thursday. Her friends always begged her to try Tinder, the extremely popular “dating” app, it was more of a hook up app. Finally, she gave in and signed up.

She sat there swiping left over and over until she came across one profile. Karls. She paused for a moment and looked up at her friends, she didn’t know whether or not to tell them. She opened her mouth and shut it again deciding that it was probably best not to tell them. Without Bethany looking up she asked what was going to be said.

“I found Karl’s profile…” She trailed off quietly.

“Oh my god! Swipe right!” They both yelled at her. They argued for a couple moments, Tina trying to think of reasons not to swipe right, her friends not having it. Bethany grabbed Tina’s phone and ran as Carly held Tina down.

“It’s been done.” Bethany said darkly grinning.

Tina started tearing up and her friends tried to cheer her up until finally they all fell asleep in a wine drunk heap. They all woke up to a phone notification, the ding of hope. Karl swiped right on her as well. They started texting. Talking about their past, their future, their present.

They talked for a couple of days and it felt just like senior year. Until finally he asked her if they could meet, she felt an insane amount of nervousness. It was weird, she wanted to see him so bad but she was so scared that it wouldn’t be the same and all she wanted was to remember that last breakfast. She agreed to meet up with him, and they agreed on the iHop that was located relatively close to both their apartments.

When she got there and he was already there waiting with her old pancake order, she didn’t have the heart to tell him that it wasn’t the same anymore. They sat and talked for an hour and half but it wasn’t the same as it was over text and it wasn’t the same as senior year. Tina rested her hands on the table cloth the same way she did the day after graduation. This time he held onto her hands. It wasn’t what she wanted though, it didn’t feel right. They both knew it too because when he touched her hands, she flinched. It broke Karl’s heart and it also broke hers as well.

“This isn’t what it was before, is it?” She said. Pulling her hands onto her lap.

“I didn’t expect that you would be the one to start THIS conversation.” Karl laughed an awkward laugh.

“Well Karl as much as I love you, and I still love you so much, a part of my heart will always be with you. This isn’t the type of relationship I want. I can’t live my life in a relationship where it’s all about the past. I am successful and I don’t know about you but I really am happy and you’re so sweet and I would love to have a relationship with you but I can’t and I am so, so sorry Karl. I love you.” Tina stood up and put some money on the table to cover the pancakes that she barely touched. Then she walked out.

“I love you too.” Karl whispered.

Letters to Andi

For the first time in my life, I knelt down and prayed. Prayed to a god I wasn’t entirely sure I believed in. But in that moment, on the pavement of a run-down gas station I was willing to believe anything.

The only sound other than the sound of dry sobs breaking the air was a tin can of Dr. Pepper rolling down the parking lot towards the street. For a moment, I thought the world stopped spinning because in elementary school my friend told me that if the earth did stop spinning it would be hard to breathe. I always thought that I would be okay though even if it was hard to breathe, because I was “incredibly good at holding my breath”, at least that’s what I thought. Now the world was crushing me, crushing me until I couldn’t handle the weight and I collapsed. Grabbing at the pavement and shutting my eyes so tight, I saw stars.

I’ve had anxiety attacks before, where my hands go numb and I can’t completely tell if my eyes are open or closed. This was nothing like an anxiety attack. I was anxious, scared this was not one of those, it was a million times worse.

Who knew that one day could flip your entire perception of the world. One phone call. It was more than words but the words he said were the only ones that bounced around my brain for days.

“I really wish that I never left you, I really do. I never meant to hurt you. I am so sorry, I love you so much Mary.” Then the phone made the gut wrenching noise that said he was gone.

Memories exploded in my mind.

The time we drove around purposely getting lost so we didn’t have to go back home. We showed each other all of our favourite songs, realizing later that he made a playlist on his phone.

The time we bailed on a funeral to get matching stick and poke tattoos. Chocolate and vanilla, written in faded black ink on our hips.

Lying in the grass staring at the stars as they spun because were too high to stand up. All we had to hold was each other to keep ourselves on the face of the earth.

Each memory colourful and vivid. Knocking the wind out of my lungs as every detail came rushing back.

 

I went through the emotions pretty quick, within moments really. Now they are stuck on a repeating loop, and if its none of these emotions it’s like concrete. Cold and hard. There’s always one emotion that triumphs the others though, Denial.

He wouldn’t do that. It is just some sick joke. There was absolutely no possible way he could do that. If he didn’t think that he should be here, what was keeping me. I could literally be a one of the stars that you look up at on a clear and beautiful night, the nights where you enjoy your life.

He always told me that I was perfect. Said that the sunsets were nothing compared to my eyes. My mind enclosed more than the universe, as he said. He lied. There is no way that he could say all this and then do what he did.

That day was an amazing day, I spent the day at my grandmother’s place and sat on her porch talking about the past, the present, and the future. Everything was going great until she asked a single question, “How is Andrew doing?” Andrew, or better known as Andi, was my ex-boyfriend.

Andrew.

Sometimes I still think he’s my soulmate, of course that isn’t true because we aren’t together and we never will be together. We had a relationship that seemed like it could withstand the force of the earth smashing into mars. We were together for 3 years, thick and thin. We only could see each other about once a week because of the distance between us, which already put a huge strain on our relationship. One day we snapped, there was no fight, there wasn’t anything that really caused it, we were just done. We accepted it and thought nothing of it really, except everyone asked questions non-stop.

To answer my grandmother’s question, I told her the same old thing I told her every time. “He’s doing great.” This time it was different, I was used to everyone asking how he was and what he was doing and I’ve learned to lie about it. I’ve never had to deal with someone asking who he was, until my distant uncle asked, we rarely saw him, talking to him just seemed like a burden to me because he would never remember what I told him because I only saw him every 5 years. It took me by surprise but I was okay with telling him.

I pulled out my phone and I started to look for a picture telling him that he was my ex and why we broke up, basically the run-down of our relationship. The first place I checked was my camera roll, nothing there, so I moved onto Snapchat, no saved photos in our messages but he had a story. Posted only 8 minutes ago.

My breath stops in my throat. I stand up. Grab my keys tightly in my hand leaving the jagged edges imprinted on my palm. As I walk to my car I can hear my uncle and my grandmother calling me, asking me what I’m doing, if I am okay and to be completely honest, I’m not okay but I won’t tell them that.

“What are you doing? What is going on with you? Are you okay?” My mind starts screaming questions at me and I can’t answer any, because I can’t fully understand what I saw. I stay silent as tears well up in my eyes. Everything was silent for a moment, just the sound of my 18-year-old car rolling over pot holes and gravel, I swallow a couple times trying to get down the lump in my throat but it doesn’t go away.

Between deep breaths and not taking my eyes off the road, I blinked away tears. Before I know it I’m sitting in the parking lot of a gas station one town away because I can’t drive anymore.

 

I called him 37 times before he picked up. Even though he was talking, it wasn’t him, his voice was drained and he sounded exhausted. I still hear the conversation in my mind.

“Hey Mary… I was just thinking about you… You’re such a nice person you make my heart get big” Andi laughed weakly, it seemed to take all of his strength. I tried to say something but I just kept stuttering, I don’t remember what I said at the time. My hands were going numb and my vision was fading from panic.

“Why aren’t you talking Mary? Did I hurt you? I’m sorry I never meant to hurt you, ever.” I could hear him start crying on the other end of the phone, which made me snap back into reality.

“No Andi, you never hurt me. You never have and there’s only one way that you will.” I heard a weak “huh?” come from the other end and I let a few tears fall because it hurt to hear someone I love hurting so much. “Andi, please stop what you’re doing, call your sister or your friend or whoever. Just please stop.” I begged, trying to keep the pitch of desperation out of my voice.

“That’s why I called you though, I need you. I love you.” He said, it sounded like he was moving the phone around, away from his mouth.

“Alright I’ll be right there, as soon as I can okay? Just be safe and don’t do anything bad okay?” I wanted to keep him talking to know that he was okay and so he knew that I was there.

“No, it’s okay I understand now. I really wish that I never left you, I really do. I never meant to hurt you. I am so sorry, I love you so much Mary.”  And he hung up.

 

Within the next four days, I dumped my boyfriend, making up a stupid excuse about having to focus on things that I was neglecting. I started calling into work sick because I couldn’t walk too much without being unable to breathe. I locked myself in my room listening to “our playlist” on repeat.

Then I got a text message.

“Hello, thank you for worrying about me. I am alive, don’t worry.”

I messaged back, just to get something more. Get him to say my name or get him to say something that was more like him, but I never got an answer.

Now there’s an old file folder that my grandma gave to me filled with wrinkled pages. Plain white paper or loose leaf. They were all letters to Andi that I’ve wrote. One for every day since everything happened, and even though he’ll never read them he’s the only person I trust with my feelings and secrets.

 

It’s been 276 days. I still write to him. I see him on social media living his life and he truly seems happy. So I should be happy, Right?