Ever since I parted ways with Alazne yesterday, after I got to look into her hazel eyes and kiss her holy lips, I have been tempted to kill myself so I could sneak into Alazne’s apartment as a ghost. I would then find out all the facets of her reaction to how I interrupted her sharp decline towards a lonely death.
However, shortly after I woke up this morning in Asier’s house, my base of operations, an employee of the postal service shoved a letter into my mailbox. At first I thought I could let it fester there; after all, who cares about Asier’s relationships from before I took over his body. But fortunately I was curious enough to find out about the sender. It was Ainhoa, this body’s ex-fiancée. One of them anyway. In her letter she had written that she felt like an idiot for forgetting that I didn’t know her number anymore, because I had lost my memory, and she wasn’t sure whether she should go ahead and keep contacting me anyway. She wrote her phone number in the hopes that I had bought a new cellphone, because my previous one had broken in the crash.
I had indeed bought a marvellous mobile phone that could take photos with astonishing resolution, as well as browse the internet. I can even play games on it if I want. Truly a wonder of the future. I only had my beloved Alazne as a contact, as well as a few treasured messages she had sent me after she got home, but I added Ainhoa’s phone number into it.
Then I figured that I should call her. Ainhoa was glad I wanted to interact with her again, and offered to drive up to my place, pick me up and go for lunch.
My doorbell rings around twelve. When I open the door, I end up holding my breath for a few seconds. Ainhoa’s straight, chin-length black hair looks as healthy as that of a model, and her bangs are neatly tucked behind her ears giving the impression that not a single hair is going to slip out of its position. She’s wearing a silky, azure blue blouse with its neck open to show off a glistening platinum necklace. Her pleated skirt, navy blue, brings to mind that of a school girl from a private institution. It doesn’t reach her knees. Underneath she’s wearing black tights that hug her shapely legs. I get a whiff of her woody perfume.
Ainhoa has dressed to kill. The hesitant, slightly defiant look in her eyes gives me the impression that she bothered to look that good to make whatever remained in me of the previous Asier realize what he had lost. And what he had lost was one well put together, sexy woman.
“Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes and all that, Ainhoa,” I say.
Ainhoa attempts to hide her satisfaction. She’s trying to remain aloof. After she opens her mouth to speak, something behind me attracts her gaze. She cranes her neck as if she wants to make sure of something.
“Asier…” she begins in a worried tone. “You haven’t cleaned the mess in your house? There are papers, books, and other stuff all over the floor.”
I try to look at the poltergeist-induced mess from a normal living person’s perspective. I had embraced the random objects strewn about as charming ornaments, except for the wardrobe that had tipped over in my new bedroom, because it was preventing me from lifting weights on the exercise bench. The disorder also brings me fond memories of many abandoned buildings and ghosts who loved to sling shit around. But I understand that the living are picky about entropy, because they fear someone might point at them and order them to solve the universe’s inevitable decline into heat death. That’s far too much responsibility.
When I turn back around, the sun’s rays are giving Ainhoa’s skin a glow that only makes her prettier. Her eyes are fogged with concern, and her brow is wrinkled.
“Oh, don’t worry about it,” I say. “It’s just a few things lying around. It won’t kill me.”
“Asier, are you feeling okay?”
“Sure! Never felt better, actually.”
Ainhoa dares to step into my house, and I move to the side. She stares at the mess as if I had presented her row after row of piss-filled bottles.
“I don’t think that anyone who is truly fine would tolerate such a disorder,” she says.
“Maybe it’s a guy thing. Or maybe I’m so secure with my masculinity and overwhelming attractiveness that I don’t care about such things anymore.”
“If you say so…”
I scratch my nape, then smile.
“Also, my ribs haven’t healed properly yet, so it’s not a good idea for me to go around bending over to pick stuff. Some rib might snap and plunge into any of my lungs, and then how am I going to justify drowning in my own blood just because I wanted to pick up a book from the floor?”
Ainhoa’s lips twitch upwards.
“God, you’re something.”
“I try my best. So, how have you been?”
“Oh, you know. Good days, bad days.” She sighs, then leaves her purse on the foyer cabinet. “I guess we aren’t eating out today.”
“Hm? Oh, no way. It’s no problem for me, I assure you!”
“Maybe, but it’d be rude to make you suffer this mess. You’re injured.”
“I’m pretty sure I’ll manage. And also, I have been the worst bastard imaginable to you, a completely wonderful ex-fiancée.”
Ainhoa smiles, a sad one.
“I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but it truly looks to me as if the old Asier is dead and buried.”
“Gone into the beyond, for sure. With his tail between his legs. A real cowardly move.”
“Hm. Well deserved.” Ainhoa’s face darkens. “I’m so sorry, you know. I should have figured out what was going on with you sooner.”
“Oh, no. It’s not your fault,” I say as I wave a hand. “Besides, you have your own family to worry about.”
Ainhoa sighs, then runs her fingers through her hair.
“Well, we better get to it. I am already hungry, but I won’t be able to keep anything in my stomach if your house remains a disaster zone.”
I guess this turned into a cleaning date, as we share moving from room to room and returning random objects to their approximate places. And by date I don’t mean a romantic one. I’m not pursuing a harem route: I’m team Alazne all the way. I won’t risk my fairy tale future with the best woman in the world just because Ainhoa happens to be attractive and in my house.
Knowing that this stolen body of mine no longer houses the bastard that destroyed Ainhoa’s ability to trust seems to have lifted a weight off her chest, because most of the time she looks relieved and hopeful. Ainhoa is a classic beauty, a proper woman that you would be proud to show off to your relatives, and who would become a patient and kind mother. Close to perfect as a wife. Asier should have thanked his lucky stars that this gal fell in love with him. However, even if Alazne was out of the picture and I still somehow remained alive, I have never been in the market for an Ainhoa type of woman. First of all, if she knew I’m a female inhabiting a man, she would vomit. It would be too weird for her, I can tell. I like my girls lost and hopelessly broken, likely because I can’t properly connect with anyone lacking such desperate fire. For me, love is an exchange of broken pieces. There’s no other way.
As Ainhoa was picking up Blu-Ray cases from the carpet of my bedroom, her phone plays a notification sound. She straightens up, scrolls through her phone’s screen, and keys in some reply. Then she pockets it again, as if she hadn’t answered likely to her husband while she stood in the bedroom of her ex with whom she clearly remains in love.
“Ainhoa…” I say carefully. “Does your husband know you are here?”
“I told him we were going out for lunch in old town.”
“‘We’ as in you and your utter garbage person of an ex?”
Ainhoa stares at me with a restrained expression, trying to figure out my intentions.
“That version of Asier was my ex-fiancée. We were almost as serious as can be. We were in love too, once. He broke my heart, but you fixed it again.”
“By not remembering my horrible crimes?”
“That too. I am in love with my husband, you know.”
“But you didn’t tell him you are in my bedroom, right?” I share my concern, because I fear that I will end up destroying her life merely for spending time with me. “You have a year and a half old daughter.”
Ainhoa puts a hand on her waist as she raises her chin a little.
“If you were the Asier that broke me, I wouldn’t be here. That would be insane. Or the problem is that you would prefer for me to leave?”
“No, I want you here. I mean… I want you to be happy.”
“I am happy. Don’t worry about my husband.”
Ainhoa closes the space between us and hugs me around my waist. I am so surprised about the sudden contact, as well as how her perfume invades my nostrils, that I can’t tell how much it takes her to step back and return to picking up the mess I didn’t want to tidy up. I won’t deny to myself that although she isn’t my type, if Alazne hadn’t blessed my existence, I would try to figure out how to make Ainhoa lose her clothes and let me kneel in front of her warm opening.
As we keep cleaning, I imagine her faceless husband. The guy must have witnessed his wife dressing up carefully to meet the ex who destroyed her. The husband watched Ainhoa close the door behind her as he held their one and a half years old daughter. I have no doubt that if Asier and Ainhoa had gotten married and had a child, she would have stayed home to take care of the kid while Asier cruised the world trying to fuck as many floozies as possible.
Ainhoa’s husband must be sick with worry. How on earth can he justify to himself not telling his wife in precise terms that she should stop meeting her bastardly ex? The guy must be chastising himself for even allowing bad feelings about his wife’s choices to bubble up, because otherwise he would be ‘toxic’ and ‘controlling’. Or maybe he’s one of those men who fantasize about other men ramming their wife. Plenty of those around; in these last twenty years I’ve ended up sometimes walking through a wall only to land into such a situation. Ainhoa’s husband might be waiting patiently at home for his satisfied wife to arrive so he can clean her with his tongue.
I get the feeling that if I happened to be lying about lacking any memory of Asier’s life, no matter what a hotshot of an actress I would have to be, and I pulled some moves on the elegant woman who is now bending over close to me, in a couple of minutes she would be lying on my bed with her panties around her ankles, regardless of my seductive abilities.
Ainhoa notices that I’m lost in thought, but before she questions me, I bring something very important up.
“I suspect you aren’t going to like what I will tell you, but I have started dating someone. I’m no longer the cheating clown that this body used to belong to, so I will treat my woman right.”
Her eyes twitch, and she can’t prevent herself from tensing up.
“Are you thinking of putting a ring on her finger?” she asks in a thin voice.
“It’s a bit too soon for that, but I promise you she’s the one. She’s just my kind of gal: gentle but passionate, reclusive, severely depressed. I’m very serious about her.”
“I see. Reclusive and severely depressed, you say. Yet you don’t look as if you are joking. You would have never gone for such a woman. I can’t imagine many who would.”
“I know. Still, we have so much in common. I think you would have liked her, if you had met her. She’s not one to bother others with her problems. Or like those who go around starting fires, anyway.”
“If you retained your memories, you would have been able to speak at length about that,” Ainhoa says icily. “You knew everything about leaving a trail of misery in your wake.”
I triggered that bitterness. Asked for it, maybe.
Ainhoa tries a smile, then sighs.
“Let’s finish cleaning the two remaining rooms. Hopefully you can’t hear, but my stomach keeps growling.”
We had left the living room for last. After Ainhoa puts the remaining out-of-place object, a slightly cracked vase, on the dining table, she straightens her clothes. She stands next to the ouija board and the call bell that feature prominently in this room as if I had become a member of the Victorian aristocracy.
“Asier, I can’t picture the dark psychological state in which you must have been before your accident so you thrashed your place like that,” Ainhoa says seriously. “But I would have never expected that you were dabbling in this… esoteric stuff.”
“It wasn’t me, though. The mess was poltergeist-induced.”
Although I had noticed a cold spot following us both around the house, I didn’t expect Kateryna to attack Ainhoa or even intercede in our conversation. Eavesdropping into strangers’ conversations, strangers who can’t even see you, is way too much fun. I know it well. We have been Kateryna’s daily dose of reality television.
I notice a bit too late Ainhoa’s unease, but when our gazes meet, she chuckles softly.
“You know, I was being serious.”
“Of course. I bought the ouija board, a couple in fact, some days ago. They perform their function perfectly, but I guess you need a talented poltergeister on the other end.”
Ainhoa sits down heavily on the chair in front of the ouija board, and looks down at it sideways as if a teacher had presented evidence that her son ought to be expelled.
“You had a strong enough brush with death… Still, being into ouija boards…”
I don’t appreciate her disrespect towards the spirit world. After all, I retain some pride as a veteran ghost.
“I wouldn’t call it ‘being into them’, the same way I’m not into mobile phones just because I need them to call people and receive messages. They are both means of communication.”
“You do realize that by that logic, you are into necromancy.”
Is this a matter of her getting offended because it contradicts her religious beliefs? I never expect anyone local to be religious these days.
“Hey, I would raise the dead if I could. It would make them so happy. But no, this board is just me opening a line of communication with my roommate.”
Ainhoa closes her eyes then stands up carefully, preventing her skirt from showing me anything succulent despite her black tights.
“I’m hungry, Asier. And we can’t prepare anything too complicated given how late it’s gotten.”
“Well, we can have frozen pizza. But I hadn’t finished speaking about the subject, though. My roommate’s name is Kateryna. She’s a lovely gal, lots of fun, and we talk on the board every day. She’s staying here for as long as she wants. I do encourage her to travel the world, but sightseeing as a ghost can get very scary, because there are some ancient, insane spirits out there. It’s not like ghosts can die again, but they will terrify you out of your mind! Some end up following you around for weeks. It’s a fucking mess, to be honest.”
Ainhoa turns around, then she rubs her forehead slowly.
“You must not be right in the head, Asier, and I say that as concerned as I can be.”
I’m getting frustrated.
“It’s not as if I have first hand experience with this ghost stuff, but… I mean, as far as it involves me being a ghost. I have never been a ghost.”
“You need to call a doctor.”
“Pretty sure priests are the ones that deal with exorcisms. But only because they annoy the ghosts so much that they just move on somewhere else.” I imagine that Kat is staring me down with her eyes narrowed, and I turn my head towards the bubble of chilly air. “Not that I would ever want to drive you away, Kat!”
“This is silly. I…” Ainhoa shakes her head. “I should go.”
“Wait a second, I’m not–“
The call bell startles us both, sounding too loud. We are standing close. It’s not supposed to be used to call people who are already there.
Ainhoa has gone pale, and is gawking at the call bell as if it had threatened her. She witnesses the bell ringing again.
“How is…?” Ainhoa begins, stupefied. “That doesn’t look automated.”
“It’s not, no. You need to push it down to make it ring. A piece of cake for a poltergeist master.”
As if I had asked Kat to, she rings the damn thing again. Ainhoa shakes her head and sighs, but her hands are trembling.
“There must be some logical explanation.”
Some people are just cut from the same cloth, comes to my mind. I don’t like thinking like that about this woman.
“You are being silly, Ainhoa. I told you, it’s my roommate Kateryna. You were dissing the whole afterlife thing, so she wanted to prove you wrong. If you were a ghost you would understand. It’s like having a terrible disease only for random people who don’t have it to say that you are making it up. It’s insulting.”
Out of the corner of my eye I spot the planchette of the ouija board moving. I had already figured out that Kateryna didn’t need me to hold my index fingers on the board for her to move it; she’s too talented as a poltergeistmith for that. Kat enjoyed the ritual aspect of it, though. In any case, I won’t leave my friend hanging when she’s trying to tell me something, so I hurry to sit on the chair in front of the board.
I look over my shoulder towards Ainhoa. She has frozen with her eyes wide and unblinking, her mouth twisted in a grimace, as she stares at the planchette. She’s getting paler by the second. This isn’t good. She may end up breaking down into a panic attack.
“Hey, Ainhoa, don’t worry,” I say in a calming tone. “I told you, it’s just my roommate.”
Kateryna had moved the planchette around to attract our attention. Now she returns it to the center of the ouija board to begin writing her message.
I can stop myself from talking nervously as I follow the planchette’s deliberate movements.
“Yeah, she uses the board to talk. Too bad that she doesn’t have the power to project her voice into a recorder. I won’t get to hear that sexy accent… But at least buying the recorder didn’t put a dent in my finances.”
NOT JUST ROOMMATE.
I wave a hand as I chuckle.
“Of course, we are connected on a much deeper level. There’s also the whole–“
I stop myself. Am I seriously going to open up to Ainhoa, who is this close to freaking out, about that the ghost in my house is another one of my possibly huge list of ex-fiancées? Doesn’t that spell by itself that Asier murdered her? Knowing Kat, she may even suggest it. Ghosts care very little about consequences, because nobody can cause them physical pain.
The planchette spells out DONT GET INTO THAT.
Ainhoa is trembling from head to toe, and her eyes are filling up with tears. When she starts whimpering, I stand up and put my hands on her shoulders.
“I didn’t think it would affect you this much. I guess… I am as careless as the owner of this body used to be. Not as hurtful, maybe, but I can’t judge properly the effect I’m going to have on innocent people. I’m truly sorry, Ainhoa.”
A chill approaches me from behind, and the hairs on my nape stand up. I help the petrified Ainhoa walk towards the hall. She’s not built for my world. She likely only wanted a stable husband, a nice family, and to grow old among grandchildren, but Asier cheated her out of that. Worse, her current family might simply be a replacement.
I rub Ainhoa’s graceful shoulders.
“I wanted this to be a surprise, but… I found out I have quite a bit of money in the bank. It also happens that when I was trying to piece together this guy’s life through the documents I found on the drawers, I stumbled across your bank account details. I’ll give you some thousands. I haven’t earned this money, and I owe you for the psychological damages that this fucker caused you. Go on a trip with your family.”
I open the front door and stop touching Ainhoa. She mutters something over her shoulder, then stumbles forward until she reaches her car. When she finally gets in it and turns on the engine, I almost run towards her to take the keys away from her. In that state she will end up crashing the vehicle. But Ainhoa maneuvers gracefully out of this gated community and disappear past the ivy-covered wall. Muscle memory, I guess.
The previously frozen pizza is stale, and tastes suspiciously like cardboard. I would have been ashamed of feeding it to such a lovely lady.
Shortly after, I get into my bank’s website and transfer fifty thousand euros to Ainhoa’s account. It does sting for a bit. Even though Asier is gone, I inherited his body, and its debts need to be paid.