It was always the sound of the place that hit her first, the absence of music on the radio and the low murmur of distant female voices.
She wasn’t in the car anymore.
She was in the Sitting Room.
She had failed again.
All Diana had wanted that night was to go home, to admit her mistake and be scolded, to be warm and dry and safe. Her mother had always warned her not to hitchhike, but at the time it had seemed preferable to shivering endlessly in the cold and the wet. She had been excited when she saw the headlights approaching, sure that soon she would be home.
The car didn’t stop until it hit a tree.
She rememebered her death, remembered lying in her own blood by the side of the road and wishing for her mother. It had taken her time to die out there, alone in the dark and the cold.
She had come back to herself in the Sitting Room, as the others like her called it.
The place was full of girls like her, doomed to haunt the place of their death until they somehow earned their way out of the Sitting Room. Diana got one night a year to try and free herself, but the rest of the time she was here. It wasn’t necessarily a bad place to be stuck – it was definitely better than being condemned to haunt the woods like some spectral Snow White – but the knowledge that there was more ate at her. Diana believed in Heaven, and refused to believe that this was it.
The dancing phantom girls – like her friend from Chicago, Mary – probably had the best situation. They at least got to have fun before they had to come back, could dance and flirt and be young women again, even if it was only temporary. They also didn’t seem to be tied to the date of their death like she was.
Her only outing involved shivering in the cold, trying to get home to see her mother, one last time
Diana watched Mary put on her white party dress, and wondered how she could possibly change her fate.
She had another whole year in the Sitting Room to figure it out.