Rachel Fawcett was only four years old when her father died.
She remembers, vaguely, the funeral. Glimpses of men and women dressed in all black, speaking to her empty condolences she didn’t yet understand. She remembers clutching her mothers hand, being led to the open casket and saying her goodbyes. She remembers that black clad corpse more than she remembers the man himself.
She also remembers leaving the funeral home, and seeing an old man, dressed head to toe in funeral attire which, looking back, seemed more akin to something from the 1920s than the 90s. She had waved at him, and after a moment of standing and staring he had waved back. She remembers the smile on his face, a mix of shock, relief and joy dancing on his lips and she remembers the weird look her mother gave her as she lead Rachel to the car.
Rachel Fawcett was 8 years old when she realized she could see ghosts.
For years, Rachel spent weekdays after school being looked after by a friend of her grandmother’s, while her mother was at work. She was an older Ukrainian woman, around 70, who lived with her husband.
Unbeknownst to Rachel at the time though, her husband didn't live with her. Of course she found it weird that Anichka only ever spoke to her husband when she thought Rachel wasn't paying attention, but she knew better than to ask questions.
It wasn’t until one Friday afternoon, when Rachel had bumped into the man, stumbling to the floor and muttering an apology only to be met with a look of shock and confusion from the two adults, that she discovered George had been dead for upwards of ten years.
Anichka had taken her by the shoulders and lead her down into the old house's basement, a place Rachel had never been allowed before, opened an old book and told her the truth about herself.
“Between the realm of life and the realm of death,” she had explained, “There lies the realm of the spirit. In death, those spirits who do not move on, stay there. They can see the living, but with few exceptions, cannot interact with them. And most living beings cannot see or interact with the dead, not knowingly at least.”
While Anichka explained, George had fiddled with the ends of Rachel's long hair. At the time she found it a bit weird, but looking back she understands how strange it must have been, to touch something real for the first time in a decade. Had she known then, she would have offered to hold his hand.
“Some people, like myself,” Anichka had continued, “have a limited ability to interact with the spirit realm. I can see George and hear him, but not touch or smell him. It’s the most common type of clairvoyance.”
“But, some very special people like yourself,” she had said, reaching out to tap Rachel on the nose, “experience the spirit realm with all five senses. They walk the two equally.”
And so everyday after school, Anichka and George would teach Rachel about her abilities. How to live with them, how to use them, and how to hide them. Eventually Rachel could tell ghosts from the living with ease, her mother being relieved that she had gotten over her ‘imaginative’ phase.
Years later, when Anichka was dying in the peace of her own home, Rachel would watch as she reunited with George and they both moved on to the realm beyond.
Rachel Fawcett was 16 years old the first time she saw someone die and stay in the spirit realm.
It was her highschool girlfriend, Julie. Julie always had heart problems, ever since she was born. She could never do the same activities that the others did in P.E class and was equipped with a constant heart monitor. They met when they were both sitting out from a game of basketball, Julie because of her heart and Rachel because of her asthma.
They had been dating for a year when, during a fire drill, Julie had collapsed. Rachel had held her hand, her spirit's hand, and explained everything she had kept hidden for the past eight years. It wasn't until the paramedics carried out her body, that Rachel realized Julie wasn't going anywhere.
For the next two years, Julie followed Rachel to classes and they would talk at lunch in the school bathrooms. In class Rachel was praised for how well she was handling her best friend's death —having never had the courage to tell the truth about their relationship— and at lunch they would kiss in the bathrooms, like they would when Julie was alive.
Julie moved on the night of highschool graduation, after walking the stage with her mother, who was receiving Julie's honorary diploma. Julie had thanked Rachel from where she stood on the stage, for the effort she had put in to get the whole thing to happen and was suddenly sucked into the realm of death.
Rachel had broken down, sobbing, forced to face the reality that she hadn’t been handling the grief well, she simply hadn’t handled it at all. It was while she was laying in bed that night, numb and heartbroken at the same time that she accepted her offer to study political science at Cambridge. Not because of her father, the reason she had applied, but because of Julie, who had dreams of running for office on a platform of gay rights, so that she and Rachel could marry one day.
Rachel Fawcett was 34 when her mother died.
Margot had been fighting cancer for 3 years, but both mother and daughter knew that her time was coming to an end.
Rachel had been clutching her mothers hand, when Margot said her last words, “Well, I guess it's time for me to see your father again. The bastard better have missed me.”
It wasn't a surprising sentiment. Rachel knew her parents' marriage hadn’t been bliss. She knew her father wasn't around much and she knew about his affairs. Margot was many things but she hadn’t been a liar. But even knowing all that, Rachel never doubted that her parents had loved each other and that her father had loved her. “I was married to that man for years Rachel,” Her mother had once said, “I could read him like no one else and I know he adored you, he was just shit at showing it.”
No, what had Rachel had been thinking was if her mother was going to see her father. Rachel knew that sudden deaths were the most likely to trap someone between life and death. It wasn't the first time it had crossed her mind either. She was a grown adult, she could have visited Julian Fawcett’s place of death ages ago, but to be truthful she had been scared. Scared that he wouldn’t be there, that he would and he wouldn’t want to see her, and selfishly that her showing up would cause him to move on.
But as she held her mothers corpse and watched as her soul left the realm of the living, skipping right over the spirit realm, she made up her mind.
Rachel Fawcett is 34, and she is going to meet her father for the first time in 30 years.