“Shit,” Lysithea curses under her breath, looking down at her phone. It’s past midnight and her roommates are going to have questions. The car icon on her screen steadily approaches where she is, and when she looks back up, surely enough there’s a pair of headlights heading her way.
She flags it down, and oh, goddess, there’s something haunting about the woman’s eyes. Something sad, perhaps? But her smile is so wide and her bright orange hair looks like fire and Lysithea can’t help but smile back at the woman.
“Lysithea?” The woman asks, and oh, her voice is cute too. “Annette. Well, a cute girl like you can call me Annie.”
Lysithea honest-to-goodness giggles at that. She cups a hand over her mouth when she realises what she’s done, and— woah. The woman is even cuter when she laughs.
“That’s me,” Lysithea says, stepping into the backseat of the car.
Annette plays cute chiptune instrumental music all the way home. It was a very pleasant drive, all in all. She doesn’t say much except good night, and when Lysithea slides over to get out of the car, she whiffs a faint smell of cinnamon and… incense?
Weird, but she’s seen weirder things.
By the next morning, she has forgotten all about it.
Another late night at the laboratory, Lysithea laments, sighing. The trains have stopped just a few minutes prior, and suddenly she’s regretting the cupcakes in her hands.
(Curse Leonie for putting a whole bunch of them in the pantry fridge. She’s going to get an earful later for tempting her to snag some and go home right after the last train has departed from the station.)
There’s a pleasant kind of surprise when the app on her phone notifies her that Annette is on the way.
Suddenly the cupcake tastes all the sweeter.
Annette’s hair is down tonight, and Lysithea can’t help the thoughts that come tumbling into her brain: pretty, pretty, pretty.
Tonight’s music is some sort of bubblegum pop tune that Annette sings along to. She has a nice voice. She gets so into the song, and when Lysithea catches her gaze through the rear-view mirror, she smiles fondly at the woman driving her.
She ends up offering a peach-flavoured cupcake to Annette, who accepts it with a wide smile and wide eyes. It was ten minutes well spent, she thinks.
Lysithea doesn’t mind late nights as much these days. Not when she gets to spend ten minutes with a pretty girl. She learns that Annette is also a grad student. She could use the extra money, she says, so why not become a driver?
“But why nights?” Lysithea asks.
“I’m just more active at night,” Annette answers, smiling. “The cupcake from the other day was amazing, by the way — I’d love to show you this bakery my best friend runs. She makes the best sweets.”
It makes Lysithea pause. Is she…? Is Annette asking her out on a date?
They arrive at the destination, and Lysithea is so flustered she forgets to answer before she gets out of the car.
(The next morning, Lysithea tumbles out of bed, hair messy, a trail of dried drool down the side of her mouth, and sees cupcakes on the kitchen counter. She remembers Annette. She remembers Annette’s question.
Oh, goddess, how she wants to go to that bakery with Annette.)
The goddess has a weird sense of humour, Lysithea concludes.
Suddenly for three whole weeks her workload in the laboratory lightens up and she doesn’t spend as much time there. She’s at the library polishing up whatever’s written of her thesis, poring over books and looking for more sources to cite.
“Methodology,” she recites as she types. “The instrument used was…”
Lysithea rummages through her notebooks for the brand and model, but she doesn’t find anything. It’s still early. Perhaps she can stop by the laboratory to check.
(She ends up staying for over an hour making sure Hilda is doing her part of the project. And then another when Leonie comes by with a tray of cookies and the three of them chat. And then another hour when Marianne tells her there’s something wrong with her samples and Lysithea has to check them for contaminants one by one.)
When she’s finally heading home, it’s past midnight, and the trains have stopped for the night. Her friends have all gone home. She takes out her phone and orders a taxi.
Annette is as pretty as always. A huge smile on her face, even though her eyes betray a kind of exhaustion that Lysithea doesn’t quite understand. This time, Lysithea finds herself leaning into the center console, enraptured by Annette’s voice.
She’s feeling a city pop kind of mood tonight, she says, and Lysithea admires the way the street lights illuminate her features in the dimness of the car, from the softness of her cheeks to the fiery orange of her hair. Even from this distance Lysithea can’t tell for sure what colour Annette’s eyes are. She can see, however, how pale the woman is.
She pays it no mind.
“So,” Lysithea starts. “About that bakery…”
“Your best friend’s bakery. I’d like to go, if you were to take me.”
“That,” Annette says with a sheepish laugh. “It’ll have to be around midnight though.”
Lysithea studies the sudden twitch in Annette’s eye. “Midnight?”
“It’s… only open during the nighttime.”
“That can’t be good for business!” Lysithea says, incredulous, leaning back. “Who has their opening hours when the world is asleep!”
Annette’s laughter is nervous as they pull up to the driveway. “I’d like to show you something, but you have to promise not to freak out,” she says.
“Alright,” Lysithea says, wary, stepping out of the car with her things.
“Okay, hold on.”
Annette doesn’t open her door. She doesn’t step out.
She phases through the metal chassis. She floats out and stops in front of Lysithea, hovering in place.
Lysithea blinks once, twice, thrice, trying to make sense of what she’s seeing. Her jaw drops to the floor, along with the books in her hand. She almost faints. She almost cries.
She, however, can not manage to stop herself from letting out a small scream as she backs away. She closes her eyes when she walks into a wall.
Finally, finally, she finds it in herself to speak. “You… you’re a ghost ?!”
Annette collects Lysithea’s things and floats over to her with the same haunted eyes and it finally registers with her how absolutely tired she looks, sagging shoulders and all. She wonders if Annette had had a more cheerful stance when she was alive.
“You’re short,” Lysithea remarks with a chuckle. “You’re floating, and you’re still shorter than me.”
Lysithea laughs, full-bodied, doubling over. Annette is nice. This is nice.
“Would you still like to go out with me?” Annette asks, shy. There’s a hint of pink across her deathly pale cheeks, and Lysithea absently wonders if that hurts.
She will not let something so trivial as death get between her and a date with a pretty woman.
(Especially someone as lovely as Annette.)
“Yes.” She pulls out a pen from her pocket and tears some paper from one of the notebooks in Annette’s hands. “Text me,” Lysithea says, passing her the paper after she’s scrawled something down. She takes her textbooks and oh, the kiss she presses onto Annette’s cheek feels so weird.
Her skin is so cold, but the smile Annette gives her afterwards is all kinds of warm, and it makes Lysithea’s insides tingle all the way over inside.
Opening the door, Leonie greets her with a knowing, teasing smirk. “Pretty girl.”
“Yes, very pretty.”
“She the one who wants to take you to that bakery?”
“She looks like a nice girl.”
Leonie’s smirk grows into a smile, watching Annette lean against her car and smilingly look down at her phone.
“She is,” Lysithea agrees easily, looking at the text Annette has just sent her. Ghost girl reporting for duty.
Lysithea watches Leonie squint her eyes, trying to get a clearer look at Annette. “Is she…” Leonie leans into the glass. “Is she floating?”
“Yes, Leonie, she is! I’m going to go to bed now. If you’re going to get those cupcakes again tomorrow please get an extra peach one? Annie likes peach.”