Rich was staring out the window of a coffee shop when he saw her. She wore a black dress with white polka dots and a black lace jacket that went over her head. She skipped across the street to reach the window he looked out of. Her dark eyes exchanged a small glance with him before she disappeared. Rich stared down at his coffee cup watching the hot steam rise only to disappear before it reached his face.
The coffee shop bell rang as the door opened. The click of high heels bounced off the walls. Rich’s eyes widened. It was her. Her gray fingers lifted her hood off to reveal beautiful light blonde hair. She stood at the counter pointing up at the menu on the wall as she ordered. The young teen behind the counter stared down at the green bill she brought from her pocket. He cautiously took the money with two fingers, trying not to touch hers. She sighed as he set the cup on the counter, not handing it to her directly. She took her cup and turned toward the seating area where customers quickly turned away and tried not to make eye contact. Rich, however, kept his stare and when their eyes met he smiled, lifting his hand to a wave.
“This seat’s not taken.” Rich gestured to the seat in front of him.
She smiled and slowly sat down. “Not many people would offer me a seat.”
“You don’t seem so scary.” Rich shrugged.
They sat there for what seemed like hours talking, joking, flirting, and taking sips of their coffee. When she had finished her cup he offered to buy her another, but she lifted her arm to reveal a watch on her wrist.
“It’s time for work.” She frowned.
“Can I call you?” Rich asked as she slid her chair back.
With a flick of her wrist and twist of her fingers, a small black card appeared in her hand. She slid the card over to him and smiled. “Have a nice day, Rich.”
As her heels clicked away, Rich grinned down at the black card with white numbers. He glanced up out the window as the bell rang. He watched as she stood by the curb to flag down a taxi. Everyone had told him that Death was a cruel man in a suit, but nobody ever told him how beautiful she could be.
On their first date Rich took her to dinner and a walk in the park where she described how lonely her life had been.
“It’s a job that everybody knows,” she explained, brushing her hair back with her hand.
“It’s something everybody is afraid of,” Rich tried. “Instead of being afraid of the actual job they are afraid of the person who does it.”
They stopped on a bridge where they leaned over the edge staring down at the crystal water.
“I’ve never met someone who gets it.” She smiled over at him.
“I’ve never met someone like you.” He smiled back leaning against her, shoulder to shoulder.
Turning to him and stretching up, she placed a small kiss on his cheek. As she balanced herself back on the ground, her eyes grew wide. A small bundle of smoke appeared on his cheek.
“What?” His eyes tried to read her face.
She stared as the smoke ran down the side of his face, dripped off and disappeared before it reached the ground. As the smoke finally drifted away, the side of his face no longer contained the rosy flesh of his cheek but instead bone and teeth. Death gasped as tears began to build in her eyes.
“I’m so sorry!” Her hands covered her mouth. Rich lifted his hand towards his face but she smacked it away. “Hold on.” She wiped away a tear, then placed her hand on the mistake she had made. Letting out a deep breath she slowly removed it, hoping the flesh would reappear. However, only a small grayness appeared like a see-through coating or mist. “I’m sorry, I thought that would work!” she exclaimed as she placed her hand on her forehead.
Rich then carefully lifted his hand but the gray barrier stopped him from the hole in the side of his face. His fingers brushed over the new patch that clearly matched hers.
“I can’t feel it.” He blinked at her. “It’s like it’s numb.” He squished the gray skin, then his other cheek.
“It’s very obvious.” Her eyes went to her feet. “Everyone will know it was me.”
He leaned over the side of the bridge glimpsing down at the water. At first his eyes grew with fear but then with awe.
“What are those?” He pointed down at the water.
Confused, she glanced over. In the blue water were small white clouds of fish swimming but not living. Rich could see their white bones encased in a glowing blue outline that would normally be scales.
“They weren’t there before.” Rich scratched his head.
“You can see them?” Death looked at him, shocked.
“What about your face?”
He studied her blushed face. “It’s something I can live with.” Rich shrugged with a smile as he brushed back a piece of her hair. “I’ll make up a good story for it.”
Although Rich’s new cheek turned a lot of faces, he was introduced into a world he never knew existed. Every day his eyes pointed out something different.
“I thought there would be more of them,” he explained as he poured tea into her cup before sitting down next to her at his kitchen table.
“They can come and go as they please.”
“But I can’t?” He slid the sugar bowl over to her.
“No.” She giggled as she took a cube.
“It’s not fair,” he began. “I don’t get to see you as often as I like.”
“I’m sorry.” She placed her hand on his. “This isn’t exactly the dream job.”
“What if you moved in?” He took a sip of his tea.
“You could stay here, then I would at least get to see you when you get off work.” He set his cup down.
“Really?” She glowed.
“Really.” He rubbed his thumb against her hand.
At first, Death loved the idea of moving into Rich’s place. However, after a couple of weeks, Rich began to notice she was getting depressed.
“Are you okay?” he finally asked.
“It’s just different here. I miss my friends. Everyone on the other side isn’t afraid of me.” She stared out the kitchen window.
“Well, what if we…” Rich was interrupted by a sudden crash outside the apartment.
They both ran outside to find a taxi curved in the middle of the road. In front of the car laid a yellow furry dog, motionless. The cab driver stood over the animal, yelling into his phone. Rich, about to walk onto the street, was stopped by Death who grabbed his hand and shook her head.
“Wait,” she whispered before taking a step onto the road.
A small crowd began to form, watching as she walked slowly towards the taxi. The cab driver opened his mouth as if to say something, but she lifted a finger causing him to close it. She bent down to the dog and began lifting. When she stood the dog was not in her hands but a blue cloud of smoke. Gracefully, Death walked back, past Rich, and into the apartment. Rich turned back towards the taxi to see no dog and the cab driver driving off. The crowd mumbled as they slowly dispersed from the scene. Rich then rushed back into his apartment to find Death sitting at the table staring down at the floor where a dog now encased in a blue glow and made out of bones wagged his tail.
“Maybe this place won’t be so bad after all.” She patted the dog’s head.
Rich took a seat at the table. “You really are something.” He reached down to scratch the dog’s ear only to lift his hand and stare at it. “Why don’t you just do that to me?”
“You know I didn’t mean to do that to you on purpose. I didn’t know that would happen.” She reached her hand across the table.
He placed his fingers on hers and smirked. “You didn’t answer my question.”
“Because it’s not your time.” She stuck her tongue out.
Rich rolled his eyes and laughed. The dog wagged his tail then jumped up onto Rich, giving him a big lick on the side of his ruined cheek. Rich’s eyes grew and his body stilled at the sensation. Rich raised his hand to feel his cheek then lowered his hand and stared down at his fingers. He saw clear slobber on the tips.
Death picked the dog up and grinned as it nuzzled against her. “Because life is beautiful and nobody tells you that when you’re living.”
By Jennifer Zelkovic