See You Then

Brenna R. Singman

"Just hit the dang button," Bernadette muttered to herself as she stared at the beast of a phone. It was a rounded plastic rectangle, its squared screen had gone dark in standby mode, and thick rubber buttons jutted from the device. She dreamt of upgrading to a smartphone, but ghosts handled manipulating physical objects better than digital ones. Poltergeists, on the other hand, Bernadette thought, eyeing her companion drifting in lazy circles over her head. They liked to bathe in the static of the Internet superhighway.

"You want me to just do it for you?" Ghalan said. Her sigh made the screen fog up with pixels. Bernadette gasped, but the message remained unsent.

"I'll do it! Just-this is a delicate situation!"

"No, it's not. Done." This time the screen flashed as it reactivated. Bernadette's message shrank into a box now visible to the recipient.

"Ghalan! I wasn't ready!"

"You're literally dead and you were never gonna be ready. I'm only here because the idea of a ghost on a blind date is hi-freakin-larious! Let me know how it goes. I gotta run. More idiotic mortals disturbed that popular Native American burial ground in Massachusetts. Ciao!"

A shiver slid up Bernadette's spectral spine as the poltergeist leapt into the nearby television along the peeling bedroom wall. It whined with static as it flipped through a few stations and then died again. Bernadette frowned and stared at the screen again. It was the moment of truth. Either Michael would respond with a date and time for coffee or he would turn her down and confirm that even in the afterlife, she was a sad plain Jane.

"Or he might ghost me," she thought aloud, making herself giggle.

Her phone beeped.

"Perfect. See you then."

Bernadette leaned in close, eyes widening. "Oh my god. Oh my god! He said yes! I have a date!" She waltzed around the abandoned loft, gliding a foot over the dusty staircase. She lifted her arms and made the broken chairs spin around her. Glass shards rose up and rained down again, catching the light from the broken window to cast delicate sparkles.

Then she stopped.

"Oh god. How will he know it's me?"

Bernadette stared across the table at the handsome young man, Michael. His crisp button down shirt had the first two buttons undone, and his dark wash denim contoured the muscles in his crossed legs as he leaned back in the cafe chair. He turned away from her to look towards the door where a woman and young child had just walked in. He looked back at the seat across from him with a mild grimace set in his squared jaw. The silver plated watch on his wrist showed twenty-seven minutes after noon. Twenty-seven minutes since Bernadette should have appeared. If ghosts had any blood to blush, her cheeks would be a furious red. She was always punctual in her mortal life. Instead, she remained completely transparent to him.

A server approached, a woman with pinned back blonde curls, mile long lashes, and skinny jeans under her apron. She placed a ceramic cup of fair colored coffee in front of him. He sent her a wink that would have driven Bernadette into a wild fit of jealousy had she any probable cause.

"'preciate it," Michael said.

"Of course!" Her voice broke a little, and she shuffled away towards an annoyed looking gentleman with a manager's name plate.

Michael blew on the steaming cup with the milky white heart design in the foam. It was Bernadette's favorite. He had ordered it for her in hopes she would arrive any minute, yet she couldn't find the nerve to say hello. Soon. She would do it soon.

"No point in wasting it," he said. Bernadette watched as he finally dared to test the drink. He took a careful sip, and the edge of the milky heart melted away between his lips. Her once physical heart twisted as he lowered the cup and licked the foam that stuck to his mustache. "Huh. Not too shabby-"

Michael stopped as he coughed. It was simple at first, just a little tickle from his lungs. Bernadette knew the kind. It was easy to dismiss as the changing seasons. But it persisted. The itch climbed up from his lungs and into his throat, each cough more hoarse until he had to grab the table for support. He knocked the cup of coffee over. The sweet beverage dribbled through the cracks in the vintage furniture. The server screamed and ran to him, pulling out her phone and dialing 9-1-1. Anaphylactic Shock, Bernadette sighed as Michael held his throat and dropped to the floor. If she still had tears to shed, she would be as frantic as the server was as she began attempting CPR. Habit made Bernadette brush at her eye and feel heavy inside.

"What-?" Michael said, looking across the table.

His skin was fading from the handsome bronze to a wispy transparency like hers. His once brown eyes were wide in confusion as he looked at Bernadette, the girl in the simple denim skirt that showed off her knobby knees and the white floral blouse with the ruffled neck that downplayed her chest. The girl who hadn't been there but a minute ago.

"Oh...uh...hi," she said, wringing her wrists. "...I'm Bernadette. I'm your-uh-date."

"My-but I was-holy crap!" Michael looked down at his body that was being carted away by EMTs. "That'"

"Yeeeahh," Bernadette said. "I know it's a little freaky, and I'm timing isn't great, but I want to help. If you'll still let me."

Bernadette reached her hand out to him. Michael took her hand over the tipped coffee cup with the almond milk he couldn't drink. Bernadette was sorry they had to meet in such a way, but she was grateful to be the one to ease his crossing. As they walked out of the coffee shop together, she looked forward to getting him settled so they could have their proper date.