Joanne was incredibly nervous. Her heart was pounding in her chest. Never in her short afterlife had she been more unsure of a choice. She stood on an empty street and stared at a house for what felt like eons. She wanted to go inside. She wanted to speak to someone. She wanted to do so many things but she just couldn’t bring herself to move. It’s amazing how fear can still control someone when they aren’t even alive anymore. Joanne was beginning to realize that the afterlife was a lot like normal life. Just a bit more confusing and a lot more lonely.
The house that stood before her was her childhood home. Her parent’s vehicles were in the driveway and they were inside. Her mother was probably reading a novel about British royalty. Her father was undoubtedly tinkering away on a model of some sort. Joanne wanted to talk to them. She recently discovered she had the ability to speak to the living. She wanted to say something to her family. She wanted to apologize. She wanted to ask forgiveness for leaving them so soon. She wanted to have a conversation about almost anything. She missed them. She hoped they missed her. She wanted so many things in that moment but just couldn’t bring herself to move. Who knows how her parents would react to hearing her voice? They could be happy. Or it could scare them. It could warm their hearts or make them question their sanity. Joanne just stared into the windows of the house from the street and felt a pit grow in her stomach. Until, suddenly, she saw a familiar face appear in the window.
A small, furry, smiling face appeared. A black, white, and brown little dog with his young hanging out looked out into the street. Joanne smiled.
“Snickers,” she whispered to herself. She took a deep a breath. She was going to go inside, and after she spoke to her parents she would reward herself by visiting the family dog. She needed to talk to her family. She wouldn’t feel right until she did. So she went inside.
Joanne stood at the entrance to her family’s dining room and watched her mother reading a book at the table. She didn’t see her father yet. She wrapped her right hand around her left arm tightly and bit her lip. She didn’t know what to say. She was more aware than ever before how lost, scared, and confused she was. She took a deep breath, exhaled, and closed her eyes. She took a moment to think. She still struggled to find the words but she had to say something. So in a calm, cool voice, she spoke.
“Mom,” she said. “Mom, I miss you. I need help. I don’t know what to do. I’m lost, and kinda scared. I don’t know where else to go.”
Joanne waited for a response. None came, so she opened her eyes. Her mother was staring through her, tears pouring out of her eyes, her book neatly closed with a bookmark keeping her page. She stood up, her hands shaking. She put her hands out in front of her, feeling around. Joanne smiled, and put her hands out. As casually as she could, without thinking. She held her mother’s hands and began to tear up. Her mother looked at her hands, and she sobbed as a smile came to her face.
“Joey,” She said. “I love you sweetheart. I miss you too.”
Joanne closed her eyes and whispered.
“What should I do?” She asked. Her mother closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She was trying to hold back the tears.
“I don’t know, Joey,” her mother said, “But we’re here, if you ever need us.”
“Donna?” Joanne’s father entered the room suddenly, startling Joanne. She let go of her mother’s hands, and turned to see her father standing by the door.
“I think she’s here, Ned,” Donna said, smiling. He looked at her, confused. Without a thought, Joanne hugged her father, closed her eyes, and whispered.
“I miss you, pops,” she said. He tried to embrace her, but they slipped through each other. She turned back and saw her parents standing next to each other. Her father’s arms were around her mother’s shoulders, and they looked toward’s her, smiling. Joanne closed her eyes one last time and said what she had realized she needed to say.
“Goodbye,” Joanne said, “I love you. I’ll miss you.”
The three of them smiled, cried, and parted ways. Joanne stopped to cuddle the dog on her way out. She’d earned this one.