The Other Side of the Gate
by Chelsea Thornton
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
“You can’t do this, Jerr!” Henry stood to his feet, slamming his hands on his desk, the sound reverberating around the library. His eyes bored into those of his son’s who sat in the chair across from him. “You have to let her pass on. You have to choose!”
“But then I’ll lose her forever!”
Only Jeremy could see her. She stood beside the window in that pale blue dress, the golden rays of the sun hitting her hair and appearing like a halo around her head. Jeremy stared at her longingly as he felt a pressure building behind his eyes. It was as if she was really, physically there, but he knew she wasn’t. He wished he could reach out and touch her, but he knew he couldn’t. She smiled sullenly at him.
“I’m sorry, Jeremy, but you already have.” His father’s words were soft and full of sympathy, but the tone of them didn’t matter. “You have to let her go.”
“No!” Jeremy stood up so fast that his chair toppled over backward. “She’s still here, and she’s not going anywhere!”
“You don’t have a choice!” Henry walked around his desk to stand in front of his son. “We are Gates. We have a duty, an obligation. To choose their fate and allow them to pass through us. It is our responsibility. You have to make that choice and let her pass on. She’s nothing more than a ghost here. You cannot keep her here forever.”
“Your father is right, Jeremy.” Her words were tender, but they still pierced through him like the blade of a knife.
Jeremy ignored her and glared at his father, turning that sharp edge on him instead. He shook his head and spoke harshly. “Watch me.”
Henry’s gaze and temper became pleading. He placed a hand consolingly on Jeremy’s shoulder. “I’m sorry for what happened to her, Jerr. Truly, I am. It breaks my heart to see you like this. But we all lose people we care about. It’s part of life. At some point we have to learn to let them go. You must choose.”
Jeremy’s attitude remained hostile as he reached up to hit his father’s hand away. Through clenched teeth, he said, “Never going to happen,” and he headed for the double doors.
Henry caught up to him and came to a standstill in front of him once more, blocking his path and persisting in his appeal. “This is a mistake, Jerr. There will be consequences. Don’t do this.”
Jeremy continued around him, bumping into his shoulder with a display of animosity. It was the only mask he had to conceal his despair. “Sorry, Dad.”
* * *
“I’m so sorry, Dad.” This time, Jeremy meant it. His voice was weak as he leaned over in his seat, his head buried in his hands. A sob escaped his throat. Tears slipped through his fingers and splashed onto the carpet at his feet. “You tried to warn me.”
Henry knelt to the same level as his son and spoke comfortingly to him. “You’re back, Jerr. That’s all that matters now. You lost ten years. In a way, I did, too. Now we can both move on. And so can she.”
Dropping his hands into his lap, Jeremy’s glossy, green eyes snapped up to meet his father’s. He held his breath. “She hasn’t?”
“She’s been waiting for you. You’re her gate.”
Jeremy peered over toward the window, somehow knowing he would find her there. It was as if nothing at all had changed. The dress she wore was the same, and not a strand of hair was out of place. Her soft, angelic features brightened with her usual smile. The halo she wore dimmed with dusk.
“It was like she was asleep,” Henry said reassuringly. He stood up and stepped back to give him space. “She didn’t feel time passing. This was your punishment, not hers.”
Jeremy could attest to that. He felt as though he had relived the nightmare all over again after being forced to forget. He had forgotten it all. The wreck, her death, even himself. Remembering it was like reliving it, and the pain was as fresh in his mind as it had been the first time around. Standing, his knees threatened to buckle beneath him from the weight of it all, the weight of his guilt and his loss. Words were lost to him as he slowly approached the beautiful ghost by the window.
Her smile grew when Jeremy stood in front of her. It was as if she had only been waiting for a moment. “Hey, Jeremy.”
“Silver.” Her name was an earthquake, shaking his entire world as soon as it came out of his mouth. Why did he have to lose her? Why did losing her have to be his fault? “I’m not sure what to apologize for first.”
“You blamed yourself after the accident,” she said knowingly. “It was your guilt and your love for me that wished to keep me bound to this earth. But it’s time to let go of all of it; it’s time to let me go. As long as you hold onto the memories of me,” she continued, lightly touching her fingertips to his temple despite the fact he couldn’t feel her, “then you’ll never truly lose me.” Her words ended with her hand over his heart.
“I will never forget you again, Silver. Not for as long as I live.”
“That’s a long time.” Her smile turned sad.
“But not forever. Even feathers eventually fall.”
The halo around her head faded with the setting sun that had dipped below the horizon, but her glow remained. There was the promise of an eternity in her eyes, one spent together, even if it was nearly an eternity away itself.
Jeremy took a step forward, his arms surrounding her in an embrace. In that moment when he made his final decision to let her go and choose her fate, he could feel her. It was only a fraction of time, the briefest touch. Her smile was the last thing he saw before her spirit faded away within his hold and vanished through him. He was left with his arms wrapped around his own torso, clutching tight as though attempting to keep the pieces of himself glued together.
The grandfather clock sounded louder than ever, the grim chiming that marked a new hour reminding him of time, the time he would have to endure without her. Above the clock’s face was a plaque, its words taken from Virgil’s Georgics. It read, Fugit inreparabile tempus. “It escapes, irretrievable time.” He hoped that was true.
The view outside the window had turned dark. Jeremy knew that the sun would rise again, but he felt even that was too far away. His gaze was drawn to the wrought iron gate that designated the entrance to the property where a glow appeared to emanate just on the other side. Even if it was only in his mind, Silver was with him and was waiting for him.
As though reading his thoughts, his father spoke from behind him. “She’s on the other side of the gate, where she belongs, Jerr. One day, when our work is done, we’ll get there too.”
Copyright © 2020 by Chelsea Thornton