|You’ve heard it all your life; when you die you go to Heaven or Hell. I suppose you’ve never heard of the Waiting Room, which is really where you go when you’ve passed. You stay in the Waiting Room for 5 days, watching your loved ones. Are you missed? Are they glad you’ve finally moved on? Do they even know you’re dead? That’s what the Waiting Room is designed to answer.
On the 5th day in the Waiting Room, you will be judged. Your fate lies in the hands of the Superior. You could live peacefully and frolic through the flowers in Heaven, or rot in your own sins till the end of time in Hell. I am the Room-Keeper for the Waiting Room. All sorts of interesting spirits visit me every day. When I died less than 15 years ago, my sins and good deeds evened out perfectly. So now I record the first 5 days of a person’s afterlife in my never-ending guest book for the next 35 years. When I serve for 50 years or discover which eternal resting place I truly belong in, my service will be completed. I will join the other souls in the merciful, ever-forgiving place called Heaven, or burn in the fiery realms of Hell.
Carliana Patty Robinson, 23-year-old white female, died the morning of December 28, the time being approximately 6:45. Her death was simply a suicide, for she was lost in the dog-eat-dog corporate world. An average, every day steak knife through the heart claimed this woman’s life. The shoulder-length bottle blonde stands before me now, in satin floral pajamas, permanently ruined by the deep red of blood. Her pale blue eyes no longer hold the saddened look she commonly wore. Though softly weeping, her eyes are revealing she is truly relieved to have committed suicide. Her 5 days begin now.
Carliana stopped sobbing and gazed around the Waiting Room. It was not an average room, but a massive hall stretching multiple stories high and numerous buildings long. The interior is a variety of metals and elements with gold on one end to platinum on the other. Numerous benches and doors decorate the room so the visitors can make themselves at home. There is no exterior. Carliana gazed around with a curious eye.
“Where am I? Shouldn't I be in Heaven or something?” she asked.
“Don’t believe everything you see or hear, Carliana. This is the Waiting Room, where you will stay for 5 days. You may look upon your loved ones to see how they will cope. You may send them signs or messages. You may do nothing. the choice is yours. And on the 5th day you will be judged and placed in Heaven or Hell.” I recited for the umpteenth time.
She raised an eyebrow while nodding her head. “How interesting. Since I’ll be spending my first week dead with you, I think we should become acquainted. I'm Carliana, which you seem to know already.”
I nodded my greetings. “Reyana. Reyana the Room-Keeper if you prefer titles.”
“Our names are rather similar. Do you know what yours means?” she asked, trying to strike up friendly conversation.
“Death,” I stated simply.
Carliana’s other eyebrow lifted. “How… appropriate. My name is a combination of Carlie and Anna. The combined meaning is ‘gracious, strong one’.” She paused. “So, what do I do now?”
I shrugged. I’d heard that question so many times, it could drive anyone crazy 3 times over. “Anything you’d like. Check up on family (deceased or living), sit around and mope, talk about yourself, et cetera.”
“Throw a party?” She smiled at the extremely corny idea that just left her lips.
“If you want,” I replied to her stupid question. “But there’s only 7 people able to attend your party. Suicides usually occur during week day afternoons or late at night. Heart attacks and kidney failures seem to happen in the evening, and murders are absolutely random. Usually the victims arrive in the depths of the night. It seems murderers are growing smarter; torturing instead of killing right away.”
The newest spirit in the Waiting Room stared curiously at me. “You’ve memorized the occurrences of death arrivals?” I nodded. “What about accidents?” she quizzed me.
“All depends. “Stubborn husband” accidents are usually around dinner and TV time. So I’d say afternoon to evening all week.”
“What about… food poisoning?”
“That’s only come up twice in the 15 years I’ve been here. The first was an elementary school kid who was poisoned by cafeteria food. That poor boy, he was such an adorable little thing. The adult was an elderly gentlemen who had something he was allergic to, I believe.”
“What about fires?”
“Ah, the pyro-addicts. If it’s for revenge, it’s usually when the victim is home. If it’s a prank usually no one’s home. And if it’s purely an accident, inexperienced brides or elderly people that can’t see are usually to blame. They just can’t learn to turn off the stove when they’re done.”
“I'm all out now. But you say you’ve been here for 15 years? No offense, but you hardly look fifteen.” she stated simply.
I had to laugh at that, and that doesn’t happen very often. Who knew freckles and dark eyes and hair could de-age you? “Thanks, I think. But I'm no where near fifteen. I'm more along the lines of thirty-three. Should be forty-eight, but you don’t age in the afterlife.” Carliana nodded to show she understood. She seemed to do that a lot.
“So, why’d you do it?” I said as casually as possible.
She raised an eyebrow. Apparently she had a habit of doing that too. “Do what?”
“Stab yourself. Usually you have a reason, you just don’t wake up one morning and say ‘I think I'm going to kill myself today.’ That wouldn’t make a lot of sense.” I stated matter-of-factly.
“Oh. Right. Well, I was married to a sleaze of a guy, Norbert. Not only were his family old-fashioned Amish folk, they expected me to change my name to Patrice! And I don’t know about you, but Patrice isn’t exactly a name I'm very fond of. I loved him when we were dating, but after we became engaged I met his parents, and it went downhill real fast after that.
“My job as an up-and-coming paralegal didn’t ease any pressure. Everyone wanted everything done at the same time, blah blah blah. It just drove me crazy! I couldn’t stand it! So this morning I woke up and told myself I was going to do it. And I did.” She had started shaking by the time she finished. I think the realization of what she had done finally dawned upon her. She had done the deed, and there was no turning back.
On day two, Carliana decided to check on her father, who took the news rather hard. Frank Johnby was playing a round of golf, but his face revealed unmistakable grief. Carliana reached forward tenderly as if she could touch his mustached face. Frank took no notice and carried on with golfing. Before Carliana broke down she decided to check on her mother, who was at home crying her eyes out. It didn’t help her mood.
“Why, oh, why, did she do it?” Patricia Johnby kept muttering over and over. I gently patted a sobbing Carliana’s back. Her mother was mumbling again, “Maybe I should do it too. Then we’d be together…”
“NO!” shouted Carliana, moving in front of her mother. “You can NOT do that!”
Patricia stared in amazement as if she had heard something. Then I smacked myself. “Carliana, if you want to talk to her, say her name and then your message. Same thing if you want to make physical contact.”
Carliana nodded and stated “Patricia” then repeated her message. Her mother broke down crying again. “Why, Carlie, why? Do you like me hearing voices? Do you like me feeling guilty? Do you like your father thinking I'm crazy? Why’d you do it?” The questions kept coming and Carliana mumbled simple answers. Finally she’d had enough and begged me with her eyes to stop the communication.
“Say her name again,” I whispered. She did so and the image of her mother on the wall disappeared.
“I’ve had enough for one day.” she said. I understood; the same thing happened when I was first sentenced to the Waiting Room.
Now this is the third day of her stay, and Carliana is starting to make acquaintances with the other spirits. So far she has found Ralph, an elderly man who died of heart failure five days ago, and Serena, a teenager, raped and murdered in the middle of the night.
“I'm being judged this afternoon,” Ralph rasped out excitedly. Carliana nodded and smiled to show her happiness for him. Secretly she was saddened to see him leaving. The hours drug on for the two, until it was mid-afternoon. A bright light suddenly appeared and Ralph slowly walked towards it.
“Ralph, no!” Carliana called out in worry.
“It’s okay, Carlie,” he said, his voice gaining confidence, “I have to go and be judged.” He reached the light and disappeared with it as quickly as it had come.
“He’ll come back,” I comforted. “after he is judged. Everyone is entitled to a few minutes to share their fate with others. Though it won’t be long, you’ll have a chance to say good-bye to him. He certainly was a friendly old soul.”
“Alright,” Carliana sighed defeated. “I suppose I’ll help Serena cope with this.” And with that she left.
Serena is a rather spoiled brat, if I do say so. A punk-rocking rebel, she knows no rules and no consequences. Her parents apparently had no control over her and gave in to her every demand. I'm sorry that she was raped and murdered, but not entirely surprised.
It’s strange that Carliana has chosen her for a friend. Complete opposites, I haven’t heard them agree about anything. However, Serena seems to behave when Carliana is around. Maybe opposites really do attract, or Serena just needed a motherly figure to take care of her. I highly doubt she had one on Earth.
The next morning Carliana approached me. “Why exactly are you here?” she asked.
How random, I thought. I wonder what brought that thought up? “I'm the Room-Keeper. It’s my job.”
Carliana sighed and rolled her eyes. “I know that part but why are you the Room-Keeper?”
“When I died-”
“So you’re dead?” she interrupted.
“Yes, I am,” I replied rather annoyed and offended. “But anyway, when I died, I came here like everyone else did. There was no Room-Keeper at the time. So when I was being judged, my sins and good deeds evened out perfectly. Now I serve as Room-Keeper for 50 years and end up in Heaven, or make some “life-altering” decision that determines my fate. Does that answer your question?”
She was silent as she took it all in. “Yeah, I believe it does. I want to see my husband now.”
I led her into an unoccupied room and gave her the instructions. “Think of the place you want to be. Say the person’s name to talk to them. Say it again to stop. Same rules apply for physical contact. To exit completely, walk to the door and open it. Simple enough.” She nodded her gratitude and I closed the door behind me as I left. She was in that room for the entire night.
This is the fifth and final day of Carliana Patty Robinson’s time in the Waiting Room. In 45 minutes she will be judged, at the exact moment she arrived. She exited the room a few minutes ago with a wide grin on her face.
“Are you alright?” I asked a little concerned.
“We did it,” she stated.
That one caught me by surprise. “You mean that’s possible?” I blurted.
She smiled again. “Apparently.”
“You have a little less than 45 minutes before it’s your time.” I said, eager to change the subject.
The smile turned upside-down in half a second. “Serena,” she exclaimed. “I have to talk to her!” And talk to her she did, for the last 45 minutes of her stay in the Waiting Room. When it was her time to go, I waved good-bye. As she was about to enter the light, I called out her name.
She turned around and waved. I called, “Ralph stopped by last night. He made it into Heaven.”
“What a surprise,” she said as she stepped into the light. About an hour later the light flashed and Carliana was back. She was grinning from ear to ear, and possibly a little farther than that. “I'm in Heaven too,” she stated simply.
“Congratulations,” I responded. “I hope to see you there sometime.”
She agreed. “Hopefully sometime soon.” I smiled, and another white flash appeared. Carliana has moved on into her final resting place.
Final destination for Carliana Patty Robinson: Heaven.
Razi Yaro Jirani, 74 year-old African male, died the evening of January 17, around 7:00. The gentle nature of this gentleman prompted his quick, painless death. As it has been for the past fifteen years, this gray-haired man passed away alone, in the bedroom of the house his grandfather built. It is now that his 5 days begin.
Arriving in traditional Kenyan garb, he glanced around before setting his eyes on me. “Hili ni Peponi?” he asked. “This is Heaven?”
I shook my head and explained to him about the Waiting Room. He nodded and sat down at a nearby bench. Razi began mumbling to himself. I asked if there was anything I could do for him, but he declined. “Mama yangu, weza mie shufu lake?” He wants to look upon his deceased mother. I led him into a room and instructed him to state her name. “Deka,” he said boldly.
A shimmer appeared in front of us. Slowly it formed into a woman, a bent over wrinkly one. Razi cried out and hid his face in shame. His mother did the same. Deka was white.
Razi whispered “no” over and over as he tried to fight the tears. He would not accept the fact that this was his true mother, not Deka but another woman. “Why?” he begged.
“Razi?” the woman whispered. He looked up but then back down. “I am Darcy, your real mother. Your father…”
Razi begged her to leave him out of the discussion. She complied and stated, “I'm sorry, Razi.” Razi turned to me and pleaded with his eyes to leave. I told him to state her name again, but he paused. Which name should he say? First he used Deka, and when the spirit still remained, he shouted Darcy to the heavens. He exited the room and made a beeline for the bench. He curled up in a ball and cried himself to sleep. The poor fellow. But it did explain why he was so light-skinned.
On the second day, Razi did a whole lot of nothing. He moped, slept, and constantly dragged his feet across the floor. Everyone was in a horrible mood when Razi was around, and one fellow took it to the extreme.
“Just because you’re having a bad afterlife,” the enraged and mostly irritated man bellowed, “doesn’t give you the right to ruin everyone else’s day. So suck it up, old man, and move on. You’re probably just upset that your wife sold all your precious fishing gear.” And with a huff the angered fellow stomped back to his bench. Razi looked around at the other spirits, and when he did they all turned away. Mortified, Razi cursed the man in Swahili and lay back on his bench.
I was about to speak to him when a soft humming was audible. It was coming from the general direction of Razi, and it was in a language other than English, but it was not him. Suddenly a distorted figure appeared in front of a bewildered Razi. It was in a womanly shape, and it reached a glowing hand towards his face. Finally, it spoke.
“My son, how are you?” it whispered in a soft, soothing voice.
“Mama?” asked Razi, who was tearing up again.
“It is I, your mother. Now how are you?” the shadowy woman replied.
Razi shook his head. “But you are not my mother. It is another woman.”
The woman shook her head. “I know, Razi, and I have known since the day you were born. I was there when you were born. Your mother did not want you, and I agreed to raise you as my own with your father.”
Razi laughed bitterly. “Is he even my father?”
The woman nodded. “He is. I forgave him for his sins, Razi, and you should do the same. Do not forget, but do forgive.”
“It all makes sense now, Mama,” Razi said. “My name, Razi Yaro, means ‘secret son’. But I could never piece together why my name would hold such a meaning. Now it all makes sense.”
“Release your bitterness, my child. It will do you no good in the afterlife. And now your father wishes to speak with you.” With these words the woman disappeared and another shadow formed. This image was tall and muscular, no doubt a hard-working man. The spirit bowed his head.
“Razi, I am so sorry-“ the man started.
“Don’t bother,” Razi cut off. “Mama explained everything to me.”
The man tried again. “Razi, I love you.”
Razi wouldn’t hear any of it. “Is that so? Then why keep this hidden from me for 74 years?”
The man desperately needed Razi to believe him or even listen to him. If I do say so myself, Razi was acting rather childish. Razi’s father apparently gave up on him ever understanding what really happened. He turned around before he dissipated and noticed I was standing there.
“Who are you? Must you wait there and invade in on this conversation?” he asked trying to clear his mind of his son.
“I am Reyana, the Room-Keeper. Sorry to intrude, but it’s my job.” I responded.
“A Room-Keeper, eh? What is your purpose? The room looks squeaky clean to me.” He joked. A hint of a smile escaped my lips.
“When I died, my sins and good deeds evened out perfectly. So now I'm the Room-Keeper, and I get to monitor every other spirit that passes through the Waiting Room for the next 35 years.” I replied.
“How fun,” he commented. “Have you met my daughter, Furaha? She passed 3 years ago.”
“It was four,” Razi interjected. He has acceptance issues, and temper problems too.
Ignoring him, I responded, “Yes, I did meet her. She was a sweet, gentle woman. In her 60’s, I believe.” Razi nodded. “Hopefully you’ll join the rest of your family there, Razi.”
Razi coughed. “There will be no question about it. I will end up in Heaven, because that is where I belong.”
His father looked extremely uncomfortable. “I must be going. Pleasure to meet you, Reyana.” His voice turned stony. “Farewell, Razi.” And with that he was gone.
It is the morning of Razi’s third day, and nothing terribly important has happened. Razi has not had a temper tantrum for over 4 hours. This is a major accomplishment. He hasn’t been moping around either. Maybe the realization that his mother wasn’t his real mother finally caught up with him. Well, I suppose it’s better late than never.
Not even an hour later my theory was disproved. One of the teenaged girls that reminded me a lot of Serena came running up to me, screaming her heart out. Before she could tell me what the problem was, Razi run up to me too and shouted, “Don’t believe a word she says!”
I wrapped my arms around the crying girl and led her into a room. I glared at Razi and he sat down immediately on the floor where he stood. The door shut and the girl regained her wits. “He- He- That sicko!” Well, maybe she didn’t gain all her wits back.
“What happened?” I asked trying to calm her.
She shuddered before continuing. “That sicko preacher tried to rape me!” It was my turn to shudder. Razi began banging on the door and shouting things about not believing her and that she’s lying. About 15 years ago, I would have believed Razi and not this terrified blonde. But in recent years, more cases have been coming up about older preachers raping the children in their churches. So I believed the teenager.
I opened the door and the girl flinched. Razi ran over to her and was about the grab her hand when I reminisced, of sorts. Acting like I still had the pale blue uniform, the walkie-talkie, the gun, and the handcuffs, I advanced on Razi and tackled him down. I sat on his stomach and stared him directly in the eye. Shocked, his eyes darted around nervously, signifying he was indeed lying. While I was going all commando, the girl slipped out of the room sobbing.
“You’re a cop.” Razi whispered half in question, half in disbelief.
“Indeed I am,” I replied, not wanting to waste any time on this scum. Unfortunately I had no rooms with locks to keep him in. I decided to knock him out and leave him in the current room. After blocking the door the best I could, I sat down on the floor and waited for him to wake.
Mid-morning on day four, Razi came to. However, he flinched when he noticed me blocking the door with my arms crossed, a scowl on my face and an evil glint in my eye.
“That girl is lying, I swear!” he started.
“Lying will get you nowhere,” I replied flatly. “except maybe Hell.” Razi raised an eyebrow at that thought. A day earlier he was convinced he would end up in Heaven, but now that his secret has been revealed, I guess he’s having second thoughts. “You’re staying in here the entire day,” I instructed.
“All day? But-“ he protested, but I cut him off.
“This is not open for discussion, sir. I’ve made my decision and my decision is final!” I raised my voice towards the end of my statement, asserting my authority like I had so many times in Chicago. Oh, the memories. Defeated, Razi crossed his arms and sat against the opposite wall from me. This went on all day.
Around six in the morning on Razi’s last day, I woke up. The door was open and Razi had escaped. I cursed to myself and ran out to the main hall. The girl he attempted to rape had gathered all the women on one side of the hall. There were about fifteen women huddling against the wall and each other. Razi was alone on the other side of the massive hall. He was pleading to the women to believe him. Whenever he would advance the girls would flinch or back up further. Before something dastardly happened I stepped between the two parties.
“Razi, move your ass back into the room,” I instructed, trying to control my urge to strangle him. “Girls, move to the other end of the Waiting Room. I’ll make sure you are all okay later. I’ve got some business to attend to.” The girls moved quickly, a mob of bleach blonde and dark brunette heads bobbing.
Razi started to explain why he was out when I interrupted. “I don’t care what you have to say. My duty is to protect these souls from anyone and anything. I'm here to maintain peace and some order around here. And if you’re going to mess that up for me, I’ll just call for the Superior to come and judge you now. When I have to make that request, he is not kind in judging. Be warned now.” I stated coldly.
He nodded and followed me back into the room. Quietly he cursed at me and I lost it. I tackled him to the ground again and bent his arm back in an uncomfortable angle.
“I know you are hurting. Everyone here is hurting, either physically or mentally. And the Earth, the afterlife, and the Heavens do not revolve around you. So just get over yourself and act like a normal soul. Weep, cry, mope, shut up, but do something! And what nerve you have trying to injure those poor girls! They are suffering too. And you’re sick in the head. You have some severe issues to work out. So wherever you end up, ‘cause right now I can’t say where you’ll end up, you’ll have something to work on. Do you understand?” I shouted. His eyes grew wider at every sentence I spoke.
Then he said to me in a taunting voice, “You know, you are just trying to scare me. There’s probably no such thing as a Superior, it’s just a figment of your imagination. You want to scare me with all these creative lies. And I never raped those girls, or even tried to. They are all liars, just like you! And-”
“Smile if you’re lying.” I'm sure it’s the stupidest, most idiotic and childish thing you’ve ever head of, but it works. Despite himself, Razi grinned, but then quickly tried to hide it. “You are a liar. That there is a scientific method of proving people as liars or not.” Now it was my turn to lie, but I’ve had over eight years of practicing hiding the smile. I have it mastered, and it’s a necessary skill for a police officer to have.
“Okay, so I lied, but still! I didn’t actually rape them. And can you get off my arm? You cut off the circulation five minutes ago, and I really like my left arm.” he said defeated.
I agreed, and immediately stood up. I commanded him to stay put and exited the room. This time I blocked the door from the outside so he can’t escape again. Hours later, it was time for him to be judged. The strange whitish-yellow light appeared again and I promptly led Razi out of the room. He cautiously approached it and before he could step back the light engulfed him.
Later, Razi returned, crying. “It’s all your fault!” he accused, pointing at me.
I leaned back on one leg and crossed my arms. “Ah, but it’s not. Only you can determine your own fate. Goodbye, Razi. Enjoy the rest of your afterlife in Hell.” He ran towards me but the light gulped him back up before he reached me.
Razi Yaro Jirani: Hell, committing the unforgivable sins of Lust and Anger.
Renée Regina Hill, 17-year-old female, died at 4:10 in the afternoon on April 19th. The 12th grader was in the front seat of the school bus 928 when it crashed into an oncoming 18-wheeler, instantly killing the girl. Renée gazed around the hall until her brown eyes locked on mine.
“Aunt Rey?” she asked, utterly confused. “But… you’re dead.”
I nodded and smiled weakly. “Hey Re-Re. Welcome to the Waiting Room.” Renée ran up and gave me a tight hug, her dark brown locks bobbing as she shook. She looked up at me, her freckled face stained with tears. The dark brown eyes from which the tears were flowing revealed a sense of relief and comfort. Renée had told me I was her favorite aunt, even though I died when she was three. As in normal procedure, I recited all the available options to Renée and she nodded.
“I'm just really tired, Aunt Rey. Is there anywhere I can sleep?” she asked wearily. I smiled and led her to the nearest unoccupied room. She smiled gratefully and lay down on the bench inside. She curled up and soon drifted off to sleep.
A few hours later, Renée groggily exited the room and sat down beside me on a bench. “Couldn’t you make these seats anymore comfortable?” she grumbled, still half asleep. I laughed a little and she glared at me. Her gaze softened when she asked what I was doing here.
“It’s my job, Re. I’ll be here for the next 35 years. You'll go on to Heaven in five days, but I’ll still be here. Maybe you can visit me sometime.” I informed her. Renée shook her head disbelieving. Then she started to cry.
“It wasn’t fair, Aunt Rey,” she managed to say. I pulled her against my side to comfort her. Immediately I knew what she was talking about; I had listened in on her prayers and complaints while I was just visiting the Waiting Room. I tried to shush her but Renée wouldn’t hear it.
“You shouldn’t have gone like that. You were so young! I didn’t know the full story until I was a little older, but it still came as a shock to me. And Mavie- life was unbearable for him!” Renée sobbed, referring to her uncle, Maverick, and my husband of two years. I smiled at the thought of Maverick, or Mavie, as we all called him. His longish dirty-blonde hair and green eyes caught my attention, but his lop-sided grin and love of life held it.
“…and that man should have known you weren’t going to shoot him! It was just procedure to pull out your gun. I mean, he had hostages, right? So you tried to save them, but the man got scared when you pulled a gun, so he shot you. Right?” Renée continued, pleading to me with her eyes. I nodded and she sighed. There was no way I could tell her the real truth. She wouldn’t be able to handle it. I quietly praised my sister and Renée’s mother, Lola, for the fake cover-up story she had invented for Renée and her brother, Xander.
“Can I see them now?” Renée piped up. I replied of course, and led her back into a room. I instructed her to state her mother’s name to bring her image up, and again to end the conversation. She boldly said, “Lola Hill,” and her image appeared. Renée was the spitting image of Lola, minus a couple inches and add skimpy clothing. Lola was talking to Mavie and Renée’s father, Palani. Palani was Hawaiian, and had a bit of an accent. They were making funeral arrangements.
“…think she should be buried in a white dress. It’s fancy and she’ll look beautiful.” Her mother boldly stated.
Her father disagreed. “Renée should be dressed in something she is comfortable in, that she would wear every day. She was not one to wear extremely fancy things; she was always wearing jeans and a t-shirt insulting blondes.”
Renée smiled, the tears building up in her eyes. Palani and Lola stared expectantly at Mavie. When he realized they wanted his opinion, he shook his head and backed away. “Oh no, I'm staying out of this conversation. I'm just here to set up the place, time, and her grave site.”
Lola looked down, brought back down to rock-hard reality. Palani placed his callused hands on her shoulder and pulled her into a tight hug. Mavie, feeling awkward, patted Lola’s back. Renée reached out to the wall and lightly touched her mother’s cheek.
“Mommy,” she whispered, as her cheeks grew wet. Renée hadn’t called Lola “Mommy” since I was alive. Lola looked up.
“Did- Did you hear something?” she asked not wanting to seem like a fool.
Mavie nodded. “I thought it was the wind.”
Palani stared around the room in amazement. “Could it be Renée? Could it really be my daughter?”
“Daddy!” Renée wept. “I love you so much and I miss you and I- Even Aunt Rey is here!”
Mavie’s eyes widened. “Renée? Is that you? With Reyana?”
“We’re here,” I whispered softly. Renée couldn’t take all the excitement anymore. She ran out of the room, tears of joy streaming down her freckled face. Since she didn’t repeat Lola’s name, the image on the wall remained. It had been fifteen years since I last spoke to my family, and I didn’t know what to say.
“Rey? Are you there with Renée?” Lola asked, her blue eyes shining again. I called out my greetings, and she sighed. Palani raised his eyebrows, and black hair fell over his tanned forehead. He crossed his beefy arms and smiled. He pulled Lola into another hug, and she leaned on his shoulder.
Locked away in their bedroom, no one else knew what phenomenon was taking place. The couple inched towards the door as Mavie took a seat on the blue queen bed. “It can’t be,” he kept muttering over and over. My sister and I shared a little small talk before she ushered Palani and herself out of the room, closing the door behind her. At last, husband and wife were reunited.
Before either of us could speak, the image dissipated. I supposed Renée had been in such shock when she ran out, she had just remembered to say her mother’s name so it would be over. Sighing, I exited the room and went out to see her. My suspicions were confirmed, and she was happier than ever.
“This is the best day of my life, Aunt Rey!” she sighed happily to me.
“Afterlife,” I corrected.
On the second day of her visit to the Waiting Room, Renée did nothing but jump and fritz around happily. She would sing the religious chorus songs she hated. Or at least that’s what she told me. Then she would dance some ballet she had learned from her friends. Once she started Tae-Bo, I immediately told her to stop. It was just not right for someone to enjoy that. Yet Renée carried on, and even annoyed the other spirits. It was almost like she was alive again.
After many hours of prancing around like an idiot, Renée slept. She slept and slept and slept. It wasn’t really any wonder that she slept for over 14 hours, except to her. She was on her third day without even knowing it.
“Ohmigosh, I'm so excited! I can talk to all my friends now, can’t I?” she asked excitedly. I told her she could and she screamed. An older fellow glanced in her direction with a mean glare. “So that means I can talk to Bethany, and Jordan, and Tracey, and- I forgot about Caden. He’s my boyfriend. Well, he was. For like, a year and a half.” Renée rambled on, but her voice softened and her tone grew less excited as she went on about Caden.
“…and we were supposed to be married. He was gonna propose on our graduation night. That’s a little less than two months away.” Renée looked down as she thought about her boyfriend.
“You can still see him,” I suggested. “Just go into a room and say his name.” Renée eagerly accepted the offer and danced across the hall to a vacant room.
“Caden Voglen.” I heard when I finally caught up to Renée. The scene appeared on Caden and another girl enjoying a picnic on the beach. Renée’s mouth dropped at the sight of her ex-boyfriend and almost-fiancé. She turned to me. “How? Why? How could- Why would- Who’s the girl he’s with?” she stuttered. I shrugged and we glanced back at the fall. Seeing Caden had destroyed Renée’s mood. It would be a miracle if she ever fully recovered. I'm almost positive she’d kill herself if she had that option.
“Vanessa, I can’t tell you how much you mean to me. Since Renée, well, died, you’ve been there to support me through all this. I can’t thank you enough.” Caden said to the redheaded girl. He grabbed her pale hand in his tanned one. His black hair contrasted perfectly to the girl’s red hair. After he said that, I thought to myself, Maybe he’s not such a bad guy after all. That theory was quickly disproved.
Caden continued, “Not only are you prettier than her, you are sweeter and a better girlfriend. All Renée ever did was nag me constantly. I can’t believe she thought I’d actually propose to her. Yeah right!”
Vanessa laughed, and in a sing-song voice replied, “Too bad she doesn’t know we’re getting married after graduation.” Both shared a laugh, and I looked to Renée. She was sobbing uncontrollably and shouted out, “Caden Voglen, I hate you! I loved you while I was alive, but now that I'm dead, I'm going to make your life a living hell! I hate you!” Caden and his date looked up and around nervously, and Renée made the image disappear.
I tried to console Renée, but nothing was working. I felt her pain; I knew exactly what it was like to have all your life’s dreams shattered. Mavie and I were trying for a baby when I was murdered.
The rest of Renée’s third day was spent weeping and moping around about Caden. She walked around as if she was sleepwalking. And it wasn’t even sleepwalking. It was more like sleep-dragging-your-feet-on-the-ground. Her face was expressionless, and my heart went out to her. And then I had the sudden urge to see Mavie. I couldn’t, because that would be selfish and inconsiderate. It was my job to see that the visiting spirits’ needs were taking care of. Not mine.
On the morning of her fourth day, Renée regained herself. She was smiling and dancing again, Caden a forgotten memory on the far side of her brain. Renée had formed an acquaintance with an older fellow named Eddie. He had died peacefully of old age, like Razi. Only Eddie was still a good person, even in the spirit world. After talking to him for an hour or so, Renée stalked over to me.
“I'm bored.” She stated and then heaved a sigh. Eddie laughed in the background.
“I’ve never heard that before, girly,” Eddie said chuckling, with a bit of an Irish accent.
“That makes two of us, Eddie,” I replied grinning. “and I’ve been here for fifteen years.”
Renée rolled her eyes. “That still doesn’t help my situation. What can I do in this place?”
I shrugged, and my urge from yesterday came back again. “You can check in on Lola again. I'm sure your parents are dying to hear from you.”
She glared at me. “That’s not funny.” I raised an eyebrow, confused, but then caught on.
“Sorry, but I'm being serious. Or some of your other family. Even those friends you talk about all the time. Tracey, and Bethany I think you mentioned.”
Renée’s eyes lit up. “Hey yeah! I'm going to call on Bethany. She’ll be on the phone with Tracey and Jordan anyway. So it will be like, a long distance four-way conversation!”
Eddie and I laughed. As I led her into a vacant room, I heard Eddie say, “That lass. If she’s this wild and crazy, I can only imagine what her friends are like.” Renée excitedly stated Bethany's full name, and as she predicted, Bethany was blabbing on the phone to someone.
“…so Renée would just love my prom dress. Hey Trace, can I call her then call you back? What, what do you mean she’s away? On vacation or something? Oh yeah. She died. Oh Tracey, I miss her already!” Bethany sobbed into the phone. I glanced over at Renée and she was grinning, the tears threatening to tumble down her face.
Looking back at the screen with Bethany in her pink bedroom, I saw she put the matching pink phone on speaker. Tracey’s sweet voice filled the room along with Bethany's. “I'm gonna call Jordan, okay? We can have a heart-to-heart girl talk, k?”
Bethany sniffled, and blonde hair fell over her green eyes. “Sure, yeah okay. I suppose it will do us all a little good to talk about her.” I heard a click and then the dial tone as Bethany lay down on her pink bed. Moments later her phone rang and she made a mad grab for it.
“Hello?” she said breathlessly. She placed the phone back on speaker and reached for a box of tissues. She knew it would be a heartfelt, tear jerking conversation.
“Hey,” Tracey’s sweet voice replied.
“What’s up?” an unfamiliar voice, Jordan, said at the same time.
“I miss Renée.” Bethany stated simply.
“Yeah,” Jordan replied softly. “We all do.”
Smiling to myself I quietly exited the room. The friends had a lot of catching up to do, and I didn't want to intrude. Everyone needs a little privacy, and this was a prime example of it. Hours later, Renée emerged from the room. “Well, well, well, that’s one way to pass the time. You only have tomorrow, and then you’ll leave.” I stated casually.
Renée looked panic-stricken. “What? But, I don’t want to go. Can’t I stay here?” she begged. I kindly told her no, that I had no way of deciding that. Defeated, she sighed and sat down beside me. “Can I see my parents?”
“Aren’t you tired of talking yet?” I asked, sighing.
“Oh alright,” Renée said glumly as she heaved an overdramatic sigh. “I’ll visit them first thing tomorrow morning.” I felt my heart flutter as Renée lay down to sleep.
It’s bright and early on Renée Regina Hill’s fifth and final day in the Waiting Room. She waited expectantly by the door to an available room until I okayed it. I did and she immediately strolled in. Hours later she reappeared in front of me. I asked how it went and she said Mavie requested my presence. Curious, I strolled into the room with her, and Mavie’s heartwarming smile met my eyes.
“Mavie?” I asked.
“Reyana,” he said, sounding relieved. “I didn’t get to tell you last time. So I'm telling you now.” Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Renée slipping out of the room. “Rey, when you were shot, we were trying for a baby.” I agreed, and wondered why he was stating the obvious facts. “I found out the results from the medical examiner and-”
Renée burst back in the room and informed me breathlessly that Eddie had disappeared in a white light. I informed her that that was normal procedure and that he was going to be judged. Relieved, Renée exited the room. Before Mavie could continue, Renée asked me to leave so we could have an aunt-niece bonding session. Severely disappointed, I nodded my head, but not before glancing back at the image of Mavie, the tears rolling down his face.
For the rest of her stay in the Waiting Room, Renée told about her childhood and her favorite memories. Then she informed me about the college she was enrolled at in northeast Virginia. She planned on majoring in psychology and minoring in a music class. She told me about her dream husband because obviously Caden was out of the picture. Renée went on and on about her hopes and dreams for the future, and her hopes and dreams of the past.
“When I was seven, I wanted to be Wonder Woman,” she told me with a smile. “When I eight I learned that she was a fake and I cried my eyes out. So I decided I wanted to be the Tooth Fairy. Later I found out she didn’t exist either, so I decided to be an environmentalist. Then I found out what that meant.” And on and on she went, right up until 4:10. Then the white light surrounded her and she was gone.
Moments later, she returned, all smiles. “I'm gonna see you in Heaven some day Aunt Rey.” She said with confidence.
I smiled at her as she disappeared once more. To myself I whispered, “I hope you’re right.”
Resting place for Renée Regina Hill: Heaven.