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Danni closed her eyes. She inhaled a gasp of the precious air circulating in this hell they call earth and tried to envision a world where looks, money, and all that materialistic nonsense didn’t exist. It wasn’t that Danni didn’t have these things; she had nice amber eyes, she had nice brunette, pin straight hair, and she even had a nice, yet pale, complexion splattered with nice freckles. But to be honest, nice was all she ever had; her life was consumed by agonizing normalcy. Her best friend, Port, on the other hand, had everything. It was as if Port’s kind of beauty was preserved into one statuesque presence that no one could penetrate. And so, Danni had learned to accept her fate and bask in the shadowy shadows caste by her lifelong friend. And her role suited her, well up until December 9th, the day it all changed.
There are two things you should know about Danni: one- she didn’t believe in magic and two- she never would. Maybe that was what had attracted Dean to her in the first place, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
You see, Danni didn’t meet Dean on December 9th, no that was the day she fell irreversibly and unintentionally in love with him. No, it had been two months since the day Danni first met Dean. She knew there was something strange and inexplicable about his presence, but she never quite knew what that something was.
It was silly, she still felt the same chill from his fingers grazing across her hand, the same harshness from his silver eyes gazing into her comparably dull ones, and the same sense of danger from his crooked, sinister smile. Yet somehow Danni knew he was perfect, despite all the things that told her otherwise.
These were the things she thought of as she walked down the hallway with Port.
“All I’m saying, Port, is you have to be careful. Adam could seriously do some damage and hurt you like you’ve never been hurt before,” Danni warned her. Now, Danni did receive a few curious, but most looks her way were because Port was by her side.
“I know, I know. But Adam is perfect for me. I can feel it,” Port promised, but Danni knew better than that. Every guy Port had ever dated ended up cheating on her, or if they didn’t she found them ‘too boring’ and would leave.
“Ah Port, you’ve said that since Clark- you’re first boyfriend in 4th grade- to you’re last boyfriend- Nick.”
Port shook her head, sending a tsunami of blonde waves everywhere, “this time I swear it’s different.”
Danni looked down. There was no sense in fighting this one. She’ll see soon enough that he’s just like all the rest, Danni, and her ability to overanalyze everything, thought.
It was when Danni looked back up that she lost her breath. There was Dean casually leaning against his locker. In a weird way it felt as if the world was on stand-still, as if it’s quickly spinning orbit had suddenly halted to a stop. Danni knew that sounded cliché and banal, but how else could she put it?
Dean was among the many to look over at Danni and Port, but the difference was he wasn’t looking at Port. No, he was looking directly at Danni. It was as if his silver grey eyes had pierced her, studied her, and mocked her. His dark, chocolate, shaggy hair gently covered his eyes, as if a blanket. Though his hair was gentle, there was a peculiarity to his eyes, one which Danni had always loved. She swore his eyes looked exactly like the moon. They were big and curious; silver with specks of slightly darker grey. They were so intense, that she had to disengage her eyes from his whenever they met.
Danni could never understand Dean, but she would soon learn she wouldn’t want to.
He casually twirled his keys around his fingers when his eyes caught the glimpse of her. He waved and flashed one of those infamous dangerous smiles, coaxing her in. Danni walked over to Dean, leaving Port to tease guys who stared at her as they passed.
“Hey,” Danni greeted, sounding slightly more excited than she had hoped.
Dean just smiled as he continued to stack books into his locker. “Ports having a bonfire tonight, I don’t know if you have plans…”
Dean continued to stack, before looking up. “Great. Pick you up at seven?”
Danni paused for a minute, slightly shocked at his response. “Uhh… sure. But it doesn’t start until eight,” She quietly spoke. She was rather ashamed at how little her voice sounded compared to his dark, luminous one.
“Well, I’ll guess we’ll have to find something else to do for an hour. Unless you’re scared?” he teased. And there it was: his menacing smile, just lingering in her presence.
She just shook her head, stupidly standing doe-eyed before him.
This was the first moment she would spend outside of school with Dean, but certainly not the last. In fact, Danni didn’t know it then, but her last gasping breath would also be spent with Dean.
* * * * *
It was exactly seven when Danni heard the piercing doorbell. Has it always been that loud, she wondered. There was no time to think about that though. She had been so preoccupied with looking perfect that she forgot time doesn’t stand still, well except in pictures and movies. She quickly threw on a pair of old jeans and a sweatshirt that was two sizes too big on her.
She regretted her choice in clothing when she opened the door, and saw him standing there in all his perfection. He wore a knit cap on his head and with a jacket across his chest, which hugged his body effortlessly. She never noticed how fit he really was.
“All ready?” he smiled. He was surprisingly gentle in the way he asked.
Danni smiled back and nodded, hoping she remembered to turn off the lights before she ran out the door.
It was fifteen minutes later before she was sitting in the middle of a elaborate restaurant. And yes, still in jeans… and a sweatshirt.
Danni pulled self consciously at her clothes. “Couldn’t you have warned me,” she laughed.
He shook his head smiling. “Sorry. Do you want to go somewhere more sweatshirt friendly,” he chuckled at his own words.
She glared at him, as if to say a playful I-hate-you. Her message was loud and clear. He got up from his seat and held out his hand to her.
She stopped for a minute and looked up, “go where?” She looked over at the clock and noticed it was still 7:20. “It’s not eight yet,” she added.
He laughed. “No, but I know this good diner. I promise there will be plenty of people there, with sweatshirts and all,” he chuckled again.
“Fine,” she rolled her amber eyes and got up from her chair. He waved his hand in front of her, hoping she would grab hold of it, but this time she did her own teasing. She walked past him and his hungry hand and out the door, with him hesitantly trying to catch up.
When they finally reached the diner, things got surprisingly more serious. It felt as if no one else was in the room, mostly because there wasn’t really anyone in the room. I mean, come on, it was a diner in the middle of nowhere. But also because Dean was gazing intensely into Danni’s eyes. This time, he was the first to pull his eyes away.
“Tell me something you’ve never told anyone before,” he requested, as he played gently with the pepper sitting in the middle of the table.
Danni didn’t have many secrets. In fact, she could only think of one.
“Um… sometimes…” It was embarrassing for her to admit, especially to him, who was now looking back up into her eyes. “Sometimes I get jealous of Port. Not jealous, but I feel like… I don‘t even compare. I don‘t even deserve… I don‘t know.”
Dean nodded. He looked back down at the pepper.
“When I was little I would get into all sorts of trouble. My dad was always harsh on me, but my mom told him that I was young and didn’t understand,” Dean spoke more gently than Danni had ever heard him speak before. “But when I was twelve she died in a car accident on the way to my soccer game. I think my dad always resented me for it. I tried really hard to bring up my grades, for my mom, but I was never good enough. My dad told me I didn’t deserve to… live.” Dean paused.
Danni couldn’t believe he had opened up to her so strongly. She didn’t know if she should speak or nod, so she settled for both.
“What did you do?” She asked.
He looked back up at her. “I can’t… tell you.”
She obviously had stepped too far. She just nodded and looked back down. He must of sensed her disappointment because she felt his cold hand on top of hers.
“No Danni, you don’t understand I can’t tell you. I want to but I can’t.”
“Why?” Danni asked, feeling tears come rolling into her eyes.
He looked down and laughed a somber laugh, “You’ll be scared of who I’ve become. The monster I’ve become…”
* * * * *
Danni never found out what Dean was talking about, at least not that night. They both sat there and cried, though Danni didn’t even know why she was crying. She would feel a tear tremble down her cheek and then wonder, wait why am I even crying? But then she would look back up and see her answer: Dean quivering in his own self-pity, his arms shaking from the bruised life he faced. She felt a new sensation for him that she had never possessed before. She knew it wasn’t love, it was just a sensation.
But it had been two weeks since that night and Dean was avoiding her as much as humanly possible, which was pretty hard since it seemed fate had it’s way of always making their paths cross.
The last time she saw him, he couldn’t even look her in the eyes. She couldn’t take it any longer. She had told him parts of her life and he had told her parts of his. It could be more than just one night, she thought.
“Dean, what’s going on? You hardly even look at me anymore,” She demanded as she saw him starting his car at the end of the day.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dean sighed.
“Then look at me,” Danni demanded, gently grabbing his face and holding it up to her own. Dean’s moonlike eyes looked dead and his face looked even more pale than usual.
“I just don’t want to hurt you…” He sighed, looking back down.
“You doing this is hurting me Dean!”
Danni couldn’t take it. She dropped his face and walked away, leaving Dean sitting alone in silence.
That night Danni tried desperately to sleep, but her thoughts wouldn’t let her. She rolled out of bed and began drawing the snow outside her window. She alternated between gentle lines and harsh ones as her irritation grew more and more. Finally she threw the pencil down and got up, starting to pace back and forth. It was then that she saw headlights peering on the road outside her house. The car looked familiar, and so did the owner: Dean. Danni shook her head, slightly annoyed at why he would come this late.
She quietly crept down her steps and to the front door. Her boots were still soaking wet leaning on the ground, but she took the risk and put them on anyway. And so with a tank top, shorts, and boots, she leapt head first into the snow. Literally. She was so angry at his nerve that she tripped on her own two feet, sending her face first into the snow.
Dean, slightly amused, ran out of his car to pull her up, but she quickly pushed him away.
“Why are you here so late?” She demanded, as she began to shake from the winter storm brewing all around her.
He smiled gently down at her, taking off his jacket to drape it around her shoulders.
“Can we talk?” he pleaded.
“Really I thought that’s what you’ve been trying to avoid all week.”
“Danni…” he pleaded even more.
“Alright, fine,” she quietly agreed. She was obviously overruled by the harness oh his eyes; those eyes she couldn’t resist.
“Look,” he sighed. “I’ll tell you, but you’re not going to believe me.” Danni, confused at his suddenly serious attitude, looked at him questionably. What could be so important, she wondered.
“Remember how I told you my dad said I didn’t deserve to live?”
Danni just nodded.
“Well, he meant it… One day when he came home from work he was really mad. He had been drinking and my report card just came in; I was failing calculus. He got so mad he started throwing things…” he paused for a minute to look down, as if he was picturing the whole thing all over again. “I came downstairs to see what was going on, and saw my report card opened on the table. Before I could sneak back upstairs, he saw me. He yelled my name and I came down slowly, afraid of what’d he would do. I should of ran that night… but it was too late,” his voice faded as he spoke.
“I don’t understand,” Danni whispered into the night.
“He grabbed me by the collar of my shirt, and pushed me against the ground. Once I was down there was nothing I could do. He was twice the size of me and twice the anger. He kicked me and punched me, until I was covered with blood… My heart… well, it gave out that day.”
Danni stood there confused. It didn’t make any sense.
“What do you mean?” she finally asked.
“I’m a monster because I’m not real, Danni. I’m a ghost.”
Danni was confused. She was about to smack him for lying about the whole thing, but his face was in such pain that she wasn’t sure she could. So she just stood there instead.
“I was supposed to go to heaven like everyone else, like my mom. But I guess I was so young that there was more I had to find in life.”
Danni stood there in shock. She never believed in ghosts, and weren’t they supposed to be see-through and invisible? She didn’t know what to say.
“Danni, say something,” Dean begged.
“… I think I should get some sleep,” she answered. Robotically they hugged, before Danni stepped out of the snow and back inside. It was funny, she forgot how frostbitten her snow soaked body was. She even didn’t realize she was still wearing his jacket. But nonetheless, she trudged upstairs, confused and suddenly hauntingly tired.
The next day was another snowy Saturday morning. Danni awoke to the smell of breakfast wafting from downstairs. What happened last night? Did I just dream that whole thing, she questioned, as she rolled out of bed. She looked down to see a heavy coat lying across her stomach. “Guess not,” she mumbled to herself.
After eating, Danni spent her afternoon watching old re-runs of Ghost Busters and watching documentaries on ghosts. Something then suddenly occurred to her, is Dean the only ghost hiding in our school. She tried to remember if anyone else had his captivating eyes, or his chilling touch, or his sinister smile. But no one came to mind. Maybe, just maybe she needed faith. And that was what she would give him: faith… and his jacket. She reached for her phone and slowly but surely dialed his number.
* * * * *
It was three weeks later, December 9th, when Danni and Dean were driving home from the movies. The sky was dark, more than dark- it was obscure. The lines on the road became a blur to Dean, who was trying his best to read signs as they passed.
Danni was looking down, something was on her mind. “Do you ever wonder when you’re life will suddenly be complete… when you’ll leave me?” she asked him.
Her eyes were beginning to water as she choked back tears.
“Danni, I’ve been wondering when I’ll leave for three years now. This is the first time in my life that I don’t want to leave,” he said as he grabbed for her hand.
His hand was still chilly after all this time, but slowly felt warmer to Danni. Danni smiled and whispered, “I wish you didn’t have to…”
Dean didn’t know what to say back. He looked at her eyes with a new found sorrow. Danni had always found the moon to be a proud and dignified symbol, but at this moment it had completely let down all of its defenses. She wondered when he would leave her, but Danni was about to get her answer.
A drunk driver suddenly appeared in the middle of the narrow road. Dean looked up in a state of shock, like a deer in headlights. No, he wasn’t afraid of his life, after all he had already lost his. But he was scared to death of losing the precious cargo he carried.
The last thing Danni saw was the head beams dance across Dean’s neck. Not even getting the chance to look forward, she was plunged out the car.
Dean, of course, had no damage. His head lying on the steering wheel, he slowly opened his eyes, but no one was in the passenger seat next to him.
Dean, who was even slightly stiff from the force, thrust his body weight into opening the door. The entire door was crushed and collapsed onto the road. Dean dizzily tumbled out of the car, stumbling as he walked. He looked around.
The other car was completely destroyed. Dean couldn’t even distinguish the guy who had caused his world to plummet.
But he finally found what he was looking for lying on the road: Danni.
“Danni!” he cried. He cried it so loud that if they weren’t in the middle of nowhere he swore people would awake to his screams.
Dean ran over, kneeling down by her side and supporting her body onto his. He brushed stray hairs out of her face.
Danni’s weak eyelids opened to see Dean. She wasn’t sure why, but she let out a painful laugh. “I’m fine,” she struggled to say, as she grabbed her side to hold in the stinging pain she felt. It felt as if she was falling apart, and as she reached her hand back up to reveal blood, she realized she truly was.
“Danni…” Dean sighed. “Let me go get help.”
“No.” She tugged his shirt with every once of strength she had left. “Don’t go.”
And with this, he stayed. He let out a deep sigh. How cruel life could be.
“Danni, I never knew why God still kept me here, on earth I mean. When you found me I was rotting away, hoping whatever it was it’d come and find me. And it did. Now I know what it is he wanted me to find: you.”
Danni closed her eyes, but Dean continued to speak.
“Maybe I died too soon, too soon because I never met you. Maybe you were meant to come with me. Maybe… but Danni, seeing you now, like this… I rather be alone forever, a ghost forever, than take this all away from you.
With this, Danni opened her eyes gently.
“Dean…” Danni managed to let out a gentle laugh. “Take a look around,” she whispered.
Dean did as she said, taking in the death all around them.
“I’m not missing much,” she promised quietly. “People here they… they…” Danni was too out of breath to continue.
“They read of love and things society has built up for them, but they hardly ever experience it,” Dean finished for her.
She gently nodded, gasping for air.
“Please let me get help. I can’t lose you,” Dean pleaded.
“Don’t you see, Dean… you finally have me.”
With this, her heart slowly let go of the world it knew, and together they found what Dean had been waiting three years to find: heaven. But it seemed ironic to her, this whole time she was completely imperceptible. The world she lived in had always been dark and gloomy, and she was just one of the many bodies making do with what they were given. But now it was clear to Dannie: all along it was the silly ghost who had taught her to become visible.