"Gwen, it's been three months. You have to tell me why you're always so miserable. What's wrong?"
"Let's change the subject, please."
"Fine, but you have to come to terms with it sometime. The longer you sulk over it will only make you more miserable. Trust me, I know. It feels great to let off steam about some things!"
He gave me a huge grin that always made me smile in turn. I didn't see him smile so much at school, but he always did when we took these walks. It was times like this that I wished I could touch him, maybe give him a hug. For all the time he spent trying to cheer me up, there were so many more moments I desperately wanted to wrap my arms around him and just cry, or even laugh.
"Gwen? You there? Hello? Whoa, hang on; isn't that your mom?"
Speak of the devil. That witch really was here. She looked worse than ever, stumbling along the roadside with vodka in her hand. It just really irked me that even though her whole life should have been flipped over after I died, it didn't seem that anything had changed.
Editor's Note: This is Chapter Five of a short story installment entitled "Dead Girl?" More chapters will appear in subsequent issues.
"Let's leave. You won't like her when she's like this. In fact, you probably wouldn't like her anyway, which is partly why I had no friends. Come on."
I turned to leave, but Liam remained. He glanced between me and my mom, debating a thought. Before I could stop him, he waved at her, a half smile touching his face.
"Excuse me, ma'am, but aren't you Gwen's mom? I just wanted to offer my condolences; I was one of her classmates."
She snorted, then spat on the ground near his feet. Liam didn't move, but the smile fell off his face to reveal the angry, blank stare I'd always associated with him when I was alive. At first, I thought she would just walk away, but instead, she sneered at him and opened her mouth clumsily to speak.
"Stupid girl never did anything right. Hit the road, kid."
Before she could stagger away, Liam threw his arm out in front of her. Pure rage and hate danced over his whole figure, a combination I'd never seen before.
"That's not a very nice thing to say about anyone, especially your own daughter. I'd like you to take it back. Now."
She shoved him, but that had little effect on Liam's nearly-six-foot frame. I could feel the tears I'd cried when I'd been alive, and my only wish was that it would all end. He looked back at me, sitting on the gravel hunched up. His gaze softened for just a moment before focusing back on my mother.
"If you won't take it back, just remember that someday you'll be in your daughter's position, and there won't be anyone crying for you."
With that, he stood aside to allow her to pass. She stared at him, obviously confused, but careened away down a lonely sidewalk. For the first time since I'd met Liam, I wished he couldn't see me.
"This is why you were so invisible, isn't it, Gwen? You didn't make any friends because you thought you weren't good enough for your own mother, let alone other people or yourself. Oh, Gwen, I'm so sorry."
"Please, don't . . ."
He sat across from me, a tear rolling down his cheek now, too. It almost hurt worse to see him cry than to know that he could see me crying. I wiped away a few tears, trying to pull myself together somewhat.
"Liam, I never had a life. My life was taken the day I was born, and nothing can change that. I guess I just want to say thanks, though. You took the time to figure me out, and now you know me better than anyone else in the world. Thank you for being my friend."
"No. Thank you for making me a friend. I never had any friends either, mostly because I didn't picture myself being a good friend. You changed that, and now I feel like I can talk to people without fear of getting close. I'll always be here for you, no matter what. Will you stay with me?"
For a brief second, the future I'd set myself on scared me. Never before in my life had I dedicated my energy to anything but surviving. This felt different, though. I already knew what I was going to say, despite every doubt I could possibly conjure.