"I want you to stay with me."

Poppy frowned at the woman sitting opposite her, trying to think of a proper answer to her request. She'd been contacted by the woman a couple of days ago, and arranged this meeting at a coffee shop to discuss what she wanted. The woman – her name was Anna – looked about thirty, average face, dark skinned, with beautiful curly hair. She didn't look like someone who would hang out on suicide support chat rooms, but that was how she had found Poppy.

Poppy had been a Reaper for a couple of decades now, and somehow she had become well known among suicidals. One of the first men she had granted a wish to had been contemplating suicide until she met him and filled his request, and he had gone on to spread her name around. It was a legitimate way of becoming known, and Poppy knew of other Reapers who purposely went on and gave their contact info to people who were depressed or contemplating suicide, but she had never intended to become one of them. She was never one to become attached to her customers – what she did was a job, and she didn't need to be friendly to do it. She didn't like to get personal, but with the suicidal customers, they tended to become attached, to want to have contact with her, to owe her their lives. It made her uncomfortable. Humans had their own lives to live, and she had hers. They were too different, in life spans and in knowledge, to really be together. She knew of Reapers who fell in love – who hadn't heard the story of Josie and Curtis? – but she found it highly irresponsible. Maybe it was all right for Curtis, who was powerful enough to keep his lover alive beyond her years, but for everyone else it was simply unfair and impractical.

Poppy pushed aside these thoughts impatiently – she was with a client; she should not be thinking of other things. "I'm sorry, you'll have to clarify that request for me," she said.

Anna nodded, and folded her hands on the table. "I'd like you to be with me, until I die," she said seriously.

"I'm afraid I can't do that. I still have a job to do."

"I don't mean you have to be with me all the time," Anna said, laughing a little. "I just mean – come live at my house. I won't hold you to any schedule. It's just… I'd like to have someone else there, another person to take care of, to get my mind off myself. Plus I'd feel safer."

Poppy considered it. It wasn't really such an unreasonable request, when she put it that way. It wouldn't require her to use any power either. She looked at Anna again. She would live another forty, maybe fifty years, if nothing happened to end her life prematurely. Not so very long, on Poppy's time scale. She nodded. "Very well, I will grant your wish. I won't be getting emotionally involved though, you understand."

Anna laughed again and raised her hands in a gesture of innocence. "I understand. That's not what I asked for!"

Poppy stared at Anna. She laughed more than Poppy's usual customers.

Poppy held out her hand. "Then it's a deal."

"Deal." Anna shook the offered hand.

Poppy packed her bags and went to the address Anna gave her. It was an apartment building downtown, on a busy street. Poppy pressed the button for 1013, and Anna's voice answered her. "Hello?"

"It's Poppy. I've come with my things."

"Oh! Just a second, I'll come down and help you up!" Anna answered.

Poppy looked down at the two bags in her hand and shook her head. "No need," she said, "I don't have much."

But the line was dead, and in a minute Anna was down at the front door, opening it to let Poppy in. "Let me help you," she said.

"That's fine, I can carry it," Poppy replied.

"Is that all you have?" Anna asked, eyeing Poppy's bags. "You sure move lightly through the world don't you?" She led Poppy to the elevator and pushed the button for the 10th floor. "Did you find the place alright?" she asked.

"Yes. The directions you gave me were good," Poppy replied.

"Oh good." Anna looked relieved to hear it. She led Poppy down her hallway and to her apartment. "Well, this is it." She opened the door onto a small living room, packed full of stuff. There were two large bookcases along the wall, stuffed to breaking with books and DVDs and CDs. There were three mismatched chairs about the room, a sound system hanging from the ceiling, and various potted plants strewn about. Shelves on the other side were full of various figurines and knick-knacks, and through a curtain Poppy could make a balcony, also covered with plants and a patio set from what she could see. She understood Anna's surprise at what little she had brought with her, and wondered where she was going to fit even those two bags.

"Um… I only have the one bed," Anna said, showing Poppy into the bedroom, "but I'll be happy to sleep on the couch until I can get a second one."

"No, this bed is big enough for two people," Poppy replied, looking in on a bedroom just as cluttered as the living room. "It will do."

"Do you even eat?" Anna asked, in the kitchen while Poppy put her bags in the bedroom.

"I don't need to eat very often, but I will eat with you, if you wish it."

Anna smiled. "I do. When you're here anyway, I'd like to cook for you. Cooking for one is… Well."

Poppy frowned. She had never minded cooking for herself. At least she always got to eat what she wanted. She shrugged and sat down at the little bar area in Anna's kitchen. She had never promised to understand Anna, only to live with her.

It turned out she rather liked living with Anna. She never made demands on Poppy's time, and was always happy to cook for her. Sometimes they would go out for dinner, or drinks, and Anna would always pay. Anna worked for a pharmaceutical company, and she was in and out at odd hours of the day too. Sometimes a week would pass in which Poppy rarely ever saw Anna, except when she came to bed.

One thing about Anna was that she asked a lot of questions.

"Have you ever been in love?" she asked Poppy once, while they were eating lasagna out on the balcony.


"I was once, I think, but it seems so far away now. The feeling is so weakened that I'm not even sure anymore that it was real. It didn't work out anyway," Anna said with a shrug. "Obviously."

Poppy watched her and listened. Mostly she just listened to what Anna had to say. She never had much to add, having never been in love, or addicted to a TV show, or a groupie to a band. "You're lonely," she said.

Anna looked at her in surprise, and then she laughed. "I thought that much was obvious, from my wish."

"I suppose that's true," Poppy admitted. "I can't…" she sighed, unable to express herself easily. "I don't often think about the reasons behind a wish. I am simply here to grant them."

"And to collect souls."

"As you say."

Anna leaned towards Poppy, curious. "What do you do with all these souls, you Reapers?"

"They're a source of energy for our world."

"Ah, you're like the monsters in Monsters Inc. then," Anna said.

Poppy frowned. "I don't know. What is Monsters Inc.?"

Anna laughed, and they watched the movie that night. Poppy could see the similarities, superficially. She wondered who had written the story – if they had had an experience with a Reaper themselves.

One night, while they were lying in bed Anna asked Poppy if she could hold her.


Poppy turned over and Anna wrapped her arms around her torso and buried her face in her shoulder. Poppy hadn't expected her to be quite so warm, or for it to feel so nice to hold someone like that.

"Don't you ever feel the crippling indifference of the city?" Anna asked. Poppy didn't answer; she didn't think Anna was really looking for an answer that night. "Doesn't it ever weigh you down? I feel like I can't move, like I can't breathe in the clutter some days. I think – no one will ever be able to find me in this mess. In this crush of people, I will always be lost – alone."

"You're not alone," Poppy pointed out. "I'm right here."

Anna laughed. "Yeah, but you're not really here, not the way I want you to be."

Poppy didn't know what to do, whether she really should do anything else. Anna had wished for her live with her, not for anything more. She hadn't asked for attachment, and Poppy wasn't sure she could give it to her, even if she wanted it. So she said nothing.

Time passed and things stayed the same, until they didn't. Anna met someone at a conference, and she kept meeting her. She was happier, and she stopped asking Poppy so many questions. She stayed out of the house more often, went out for drinks with her girlfriend instead of Poppy. Poppy meanwhile kept working, but she wondered if she would be able to fulfill Anna's wish after all.

Finally came the day when Anna asked her to move out.

"I'm going to ask Leslie to move in," she told Poppy. "Not right away, I mean, I'll give you time to find a place to stay, but um…" She fidgeted, uncomfortable with what she was asking for.

"You don't need to worry about it," Poppy assured her. "I'll be quite alright."

"Oh, good," Anna looked relieved, and Poppy remembered the first day she had moved in, standing on the doorstep to the building with her two bags. She looked around the apartment. She wouldn't have anything more to leave with than what she had arrived with. She moved lightly through the world. After all, this wasn't her world anyway.

"So, have you taken my soul already, or will you come back for it someday?" Anna asked shyly.

"I haven't taken it," Poppy replied. "And I haven't fulfilled your wish, so I won't take it."

"Oh, that hardly seems fair," Anna argued. "It's not your fault I managed to find someone to love before I died. Tell you what, come back later, when I'm soon to die, and you can fulfill my wish then and take my soul without a worry."

Poppy nodded. "Very well. I'll see you then."

Anna smiled. "I look forward to it."

Poppy packed her things and left in the morning before Anna woke up.

She received a message fifty years later. All it said was, 'I'm ready for you,' along with an address. In the years since Poppy had served many people, but she knew exactly who had sent her the message.

The address led her to a senior's home, and she went to the front desk to ask for Anna. The nurse looked her over suspiciously and asked her to wait while she went to ask Anna if she really knew a Poppy, and if she wanted to see her. She came back after a few minutes and led Poppy to Anna's room.

She looked very different, after the years had taken their toll on her, but when she smiled Poppy could see the same woman who had first met her in a coffee shop so many years ago.

"I wasn't sure I would ever see you again," Anna said, holding out her hand to Poppy. "You look as beautiful as ever."

"We Reapers don't age as humans do," Poppy pointed out. She sat down next to Anna's bed and took her hand.

Anna laughed. "Evidently."

"Where is Leslie?" Poppy asked, wondering why Anna was alone.

Anna smiled gently. "Leslie passed away several years ago now."

"Oh." Poppy was going to ask why Anna hadn't contacted her then, to come back and live with her, but she felt suddenly that she shouldn't. It seemed cruel to her somehow. She wasn't used to thinking about these things, and she wasn't sure how to act in this situation, so she decided the best thing was to be quiet, and let Anna lead her.

"So, have you come for my soul?" Anna asked, almost cheerfully. "Is it time for me to leave this Earth?"

"Not just yet," Poppy answered. She had no way of knowing when Anna would die, but that wasn't important. "I have come to be with you until that time comes though."

"Don't you have to work?" Anna asked.

"I cleared my schedule."

Anna eyes teared up, and she squeezed Poppy's hand. "Thank you."

"Would you like me to hold you?" Poppy asked.

Anna laughed. "I'd like that very much, if you don't mind getting in bed with this old woman."

"Not at all. I find you as pleasant to be with as ever," Poppy answered. Gingerly she climbed into bed with Anna and put her arms around the old woman's shoulders. "You're quite a bit smaller though," Poppy noted.

Anna covered her face with her hands and leaned into Poppy's chest, sobbing quietly. "I missed you," she said. "I'm so glad you're here with me."

Poppy squeezed Anna a bit tighter, careful with her now that she was so fragile. This was why it was so unfair. She kissed the top of Anna's head, still quite thick and curly, though nearly perfectly white now. "I'm glad to be here too."

I'll always miss you.