Her head rests against the window and she watches the blurry palm trees whiz by. She feels her sister continuously glance in her direction from the driver’s seat, her bob-length braids swaying with every turn of her head. But she chooses not to acknowledge her sister’s glances. She isn’t much in a talking mood. She isn’t normally a big talker anyway, but the current circumstances are especially far from normal.
“Hey, you nervous?” Alika asks.
Teegan doesn’t respond.
“Baby sis,” Alika brushes Teegan’s locs out of her face, then returns her hands to the steering wheel.
“We’re in this together alright?” Alika asks.
Teegan doesn’t respond for a second, then turns her head to finally look at Alika. She searches her big sister’s face for some comfort. Something she has done all her life, but she has found herself doing a lot more lately.
Teegan turns her gaze down and nods to reassure herself, only half convincingly, before returning her head to rest against the window.
Blurry palm trees turn into blurry storefronts and pedestrians accompanied by the sounds of car engines, horns and laughter. Warm air wafts through the window carrying with it the smell of fried dough from the Portuguese bakery and spicy savory oxtail stew from the Jamaican food stand they frequented. Teegan savours this picture of normalcy while she can.
Soon the car makes a turn and the blurry multicoloured storefronts and pedestrians turn into beige concrete walls and dull grey tarmac. The car engines, horns and laughter turns into absolute silence. Teegan sits up and glances around. She’s become very aware of the beat below her left breast.
There are not many other cars in the visitor’s parking lot. Few could afford such luxuries, if that’s what you could call it.
They exit the car, slam the doors shut and head for the entrance.
They are welcomed by automatic doors and a large dark stone-coloured desk with a bunned head peeking from behind it.
“Hello” greets the receptionist with a polite yet condoling smile.
Alika rummages around inside her purse for their IDs. The receptionist’s stands to receive them, revealing a perfectly tailored ash-coloured blazer and matching pencil skirt. Her flawlessly manicured hands grasp their IDs gently before she returns to her seat, the wheels of the chair squeaking as she does so.
“My colleague will show you the way” she says, returning their IDs.
A large bald gentleman wearing a matching slate suit leads them down a long corridor, the tapping of Alika’s high-heels echoing off the walls. The elevator doors open with the steam-like sound of a hydraulic hoist. Once in the elevator, the large man pushes the highest button on the dial before grasping his other hand in front of him, shoulders up right, staring straight ahead, the top of his head gleaming, reflecting the above LED lights. Teegan looks at Alika who returns a slight shrug.
As they ascended, Teegan could hear nothing but the light hum of the elevator and the somewhat laboured sound of the large man’s breathing. Teegan wasn’t expecting it to be like this. So … formal. So dry. So…stale. She wasn’t really sure what to expect though. Thankfully, this is the first time she has ever done this and this type of thing was the first of its kind.
The elevators come to a halt and the hydraulics sound again, opening the doors to present a wide room, with a rich blue carpet and a large glass wall revealing the bustling, unfazed city below. Ironically, this is the first sense of light and life Teegan felt since she arrived.
The large man escorted her and Alika to three white plastic seats surrounding a small round white table. The chairs creek as they both sat down and thanked their escort. Before looking at each other nervously.
Suddenly Teegan wondered if this was a good idea. What were they thinking spending all her hard earned savings on this? What will she look like? Will it even really be her?
Alika noticed Teegan eyes darting right to left and placed her hand, solid and warm, on top of Teegan’s. Their eyes meet and Alika nods hoping to instill one last bit of reassurance. Then Teegan notices Alika’s eyes move past Teegan’s head.
A shiver runs down Teegan’s back.
Stiffly, she slowly turns her head.
There she is.
Her heart stops. Teegan feels a wet drop slide down her right cheek. She cannot look away.
A white translucent figure gracefully glides towards her and Alika. In another circumstance, Teegan would have screamed and ran away. But she is glued to her chair.
The figure lowers to the vacant seat, soundlessly.
No one says anything.
Teegan first looks above her head. The translucent head wrap is tied exactly the way she liked to wrap it. Then she looks down at her feet, the black sandals she always wore! Except, now they were clear with a white outline. The skirt was the striped number she would always wear in the summer. Lightweight, to allow the breeze to blow through. Although, she is sure that skirt weighs nothing now. Then her top, the beautiful halter she had bought on their last trip together. Is it really her?
She is too afraid to look at her face. To look into her eyes. Is she ready for this?
Teegan finally looks up into her mother’s eyes. They were white and translucent with grey shadows, but they were hers alright. They were slightly upturned around the corners, a feature both her and Alika inherited. And her eyelids were heavy with pain. A long enduring pain that both Teegan and Alika know all too well.
Teegan feels her eyes burn. Both cheeks are hot and wet.
“Are you okay?” She croaks.
She wants to kick herself for asking such a stupid question. She is dead for christ’s sake! But she didn’t know what else to ask.
“Yes,” a soft voice echoes from her chalky white lips.
Teegan’s stomach drops hearing her mother’s voice for the first time in months.
“We miss you” Alika chimes in.
Their mother frowns and reaches for her daughters’ hands. Cold. Like a light winter breeze brushing the hairs on the back of Teegan’s hands.
A chill runs up Teegan’s arm. She shudders and pulls her hand away and inspects the area that she touched. That didn’t feel like her.
Alika proceeds to update their mother on the last 6 months. Teegan hears “engagement” and “surprise” but isn’t fully listening. How could Alika be so nonchalant about this?
Teegan shifts in her seat and looks at the blue carpet, eyebrows furrowed. She doesn’t want to be here anymore. This just isn’t right.
But she can’t leave before…
“How did it happen?” she hears the words escape her lips. With a little more urgency than she would like to have let on.
She looks up to see both her mother and her sister staring at her, mouths ajar. Alika looks down then looks at their mum.
She pulls her cold hands away and into her lap, her lips pursed.
“Mum…” Teegan pleads.
Her icy grey eyes, concerned, veer towards the guard.
“Is she not allowed to say?” Teegan asks, sitting up tall and looking the large man dead in the eye.
“Each spirit can say as much as they want about their death.” He says matter-of-factly.
Teegan turns back around.
“So how did it happen?” she says at the edge of her seat.
“Tee!” Alika says sharply.
“What? I want to know! Don’t you?” Teegan retorts.
“But what? We came here to find out, so let’s find out” Teegan turns back to their mother who looks down in her lap.
“That’s time’s up ladies I am afraid” the large man bellows.
“What?!” Teegan exclaims, eyes wide, “we just got here!”
He slides open a white narrow door across the room. Their mother gets up and drifts towards it, head still down.
“Mum!” Teegan gets up, nearly knocking over the plastic white chair. Alika grabs her wrists.
Her mum turns around, looking straight at her daughters. A silver sparkling tear rolls down her face, before the white sliding door conceals her.