The grass is cold against Jamie's bare feet. Mud soaks through the seat of her coveralls. A cigarette sits perched between the first two fingers of her right hand and a half-empty bottle of wine sits at her left.
Nights come in stages now. There's the darkness and then the light. The grieving and then the healing. The losing and then the loving.
The first part is always the hardest.
Jamie knew the moment she first looked at Dani that that girl was going to be trouble. There was something in those eyes that spoke of drowning. They were clear, deep pools of mystery and merriment, and Jamie plunged in headfirst. Even then, Jamie suspected that theirs might be a doomed love, even then, but that didn't hold her back. After all, all love is doomed in the end. Love is beautiful and brief and terribly, horribly sad. Now, Jamie holds that predicted sadness close to her chest, fights to keep it at bay even when it threatens to tear her apart from the inside out.
Jamie tosses her spent cigarette into a puddle before falling back into the wet grass with a sigh. Moonlight skirts across her body, cradling brunette hair and soft features and the sad set of her mouth. She holds that light in her open eyes for a glimmer of a second before allowing them to flutter closed. For a moment, she fancies that she can feel the earth falling away beneath her back, swallowing both her body and her pain whole.
It would not be the worst thing in the world, coming to her final rest here, at the place that she has haunted since her heart broke.
At least she knows that she'd have company.
Time slips away between her fingers, unnoticed and unmarked. Perhaps she even falls asleep, but it is difficult to tell. There is a certain overlap that exists between sleeping and waking, doing and dreaming, living and dying.
There is a soft hand on her face, a trickle of water upon her cheek, a cold whisper slipping through her ears and beneath her skin. A familiar feeling rises in her chest.
The grief of evening gives way to the thrill of midnight, when Jamie's heart once again opens to the idea of being in love. She does not need to date other women when her wife is here, walking the world.
Jamie's eyes slip open, glazed with love and happiness and moonlight.
Dani seems to gleam silver. She was lovely in life and somehow lovelier in death. Jamie does not know if the feel of Dani's body pressed against her own is sensation or memory, but in this moment, it does not matter.
Dani shifts, leaning back as Jamie props herself up on her elbows, studying her dead wife's face. There is hardly a hint of the other ghost in it, the haunted thing that ruined their lives. This is just Dani. Bright. Perfect. Stunning.
She no longer feels the mud between her toes. Indeed, she almost seems to float slightly above the grass as she extends an open hand and upturned palm towards Dani.
Dani inclines her head, pale waves of ghostly hair that color of water tumbling over her shoulder as she regards the invitation. Long, damp skirts cling to her legs as she steps forward, the picture of elegance.
In the right light, a ghost draped in white almost passes for a bride.
The dead hand finds the living one, and there is barely a moment of hesitation before Jamie sweeps Dani into a dance.
There is no music aside from the hum in Jamie's throat and the fast beat of her heart. Spinning, their feet pass across the ground before entering the lake.
A sparkling reflection of constellations spreads out around them, a gleaming, celestial dance floor. Its surface ripples as the couple moves, charting a path through the stars.
For a moment, Jamie feels as though she is flying. There is laughter on her lips and moonlight in her heart and her wife's eyes locked on hers.
Both of her wife's eyes.
Jamie leans forward -- wild, daring, free -- ready to write her love across her partner's lips, but there is nothing there.
The dream falls away.
The world falls down.
Jamie wakes with a pounding in her head and a stone in her chest. Cautious morning light has not yet begun to slip through the treeline, but the birds are beginning to wake. That means she needs to leave.
Jamie is no longer the gardener here. Visiting this lake means that she is trespassing, and she knows that stories about her dead wife only go so far in winning a judge's sympathy.
Sighing, Jamie stands. Bent grass marks her silhouette in the grass, and though she knows it is temporary, it is nice to think that she, too, has left a little bit of a ghost behind in this place.
She picks up the empty wine bottle and walks up to the very edge of the shoreline. The shallows nipple at the soles of her boots.
"Drink up, Poppins," she says as she upends the bottle. She misses the days when splitting a bottle of wine was a thrill, an invitation for adventure, a chance to upend the world and set it on fire with their love.
Now, it's quiet and sad.
For a moment, Jamie almost thinks that she glimpses Dani's face in the pond, but a clarifying blink proves it to be only her own reflection, a transposition that makes no sense at all, given their differences.
Secretly, Jamie wishes that they might switch places. Jamie could dwell an eternity beneath the waves if she knew that Dani got to live.
But that is not an option.
Instead, she can only shove the empty bottle into the pocket of her jacket, climb the fence, and promise to dance with Dani again once the moon cycles back to full.