“Come check it out up here, Neve.”
“Paul, I told you, I just don’t see the point. I mean–“
“Just come up.”
“Alright.” She still didn’t see the point, but she hoisted herself onto the lifeguard chair anyway.
Paul was surveying the wide swath of beach, teeming with oiled and tanned flesh that sparkled in the noon sun. “Look at all those people.”
He pulled Neve onto the wooden perch and wrapped an arm around her. She eyed the crowd and tried to get excited. “Paul…” He pushed a hand up under her blouse and nuzzled her neck. A volleyball game was going on about thirty feet away, guys versus girls, and the guy’s team was facing her. Fit young men ogling her as she fooled around — it would have been unthinkable, once upon a time.
Paul kissed her neck. “Come on, baby.” Down the beach, the sun worshippers went on and on. He licked his lips. “Just look at them.”
Neve sighed as his fingers found the bottom swell of her breast. Unlike Paul, who was dressed for the beach in his swimming trunks and unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt, Neve had gone with the sumptuous feel of Italian lace under her beachy attire.
“With all those people out there, someone’s bound to see us. To catch us. Like old times…” Neve wanted to believe his words. Almost anything was possible out there amidst the untied bikini tops and striped umbrellas. Almost anything. It just made the reality of the whole thing more depressing.
“Paul, they can’t see us. We’re dead, remember? In-corp-oreal? Fucking ghosts?”
“Fucking ghosts is right.” His free hand slid up the inside of her thigh, stopping against the edge of her white shorts. She slid away and pushed him back.
“Paul, sweetheart, they cannot see us.“
His hand lost its momentum. “You can’t know that for sure. There must be several thousand out there…”
Neve’s heart went out to him, but they’d been disappointed so many times before. “Gives new meaning to being alone in a crowd.”
Neither of them could remember the exact nature of their death. They knew it had to do with the ocean and that they were together. The first concrete thing either of them could recall was washing up on someone’s private beach, where a morbidly obese woman was sunning in the nude. They pretended not to see her and thought that she had paid them the same courtesy. That was before they discovered the woman couldn’t see them at all. No one could.
“Neve, not today. It’s our anniversary. Remember?”
“One year.” She slouched forward, eyeing the ocean. A sailboat cut along the waves, close enough to the horizon that it appeared unmanned.
“I meant our wedding anniversary.”
“Oh.” Now she felt really badly. In a freaky coincidence, they’d died celebrating their tenth anniversary. The tragedy of it all had felt romantic at the time, when everything was so new. “Feels like forever ago.”
“I still remember sneaking into your changing room before the ceremony.” His hand on her thigh came alive.
“I was all full of nerves.”
“You didn’t want me to see you in your dress–“
She squeezed her legs around his hand before it got too high. “So I took it off.”
Neve smiled. She knew what he was doing. Had heard that story a hundred times. But damn him, it was working. They’d gone at it in the moments before the ceremony, Neve in her white lingerie, Paul with his tuxedo trousers around his ankles. And the most exciting thing of all was that just on the other side of the wall were 300 of their dearly beloved.
It was pretty tame considering the things they’d gotten up to through their married years, but it had been the first taste, and if a ghost can’t get nostalgic, then no one can.
That thrill was their curse now. Unattainable. Being invisible to the world dulled the edge of semi-public sex and the danger of getting caught.
Not that they hadn’t tried. At first, they’d fucked everywhere, at every time. At night, when ghosts were supposedly out. During the day in the midst of lunchtime rush. They fucked on things that could move, only to realize that as ghosts, things didn’t move. They even did it in a fortuneteller’s den while she was giving a “reading.” Nothing. Halloween had been their last great hope. Things had been spiraling downward since. Paul was now on a crusade to expose them to larger and larger audiences, thinking that if just one person could get a peek at them, they’d Move On. He said it just like that, capital M, capital O.
“I wonder why we haven’t met any other ghosts.” They’d had this existential conversation before. Dozens like them. “Maybe we’re in hell.” As she pondered, she watched a lifeguard emerge from the surf with a muscled body that prompted her to think, So they do make them like that…
Paul followed her eyes and frowned. “I was hoping it would be a chick guard.”
“Of course you were, dear.” She couldn’t stop looking at the guard as he weaved through the throng, leaving a wake of smiles from pretty girls. “If ever there was someone who could see us…”
Paul’s fingers pushed into the humid space between her thighs, which she’d opened, unaware. “Is it so bad, being stuck with me?”
The wooden perch shifted as the lifeguard climbed onto its lower rungs. Neve’s pulse would have quickened here, if she had a pulse, and her breath would have gone shallow, if she had to breathe. But she definitely felt something, something nice.
OK, so maybe all this was having an effect on her after all, whether they could see her or not.
“Scoot over, honey.” The bench seat was easily wide enough for three — especially since two of them didn’t technically take up physical space — but Paul had an aversion to actually being inside someone else.
The laws of physics were a lot more polarized when you were a ghost. Things were either solid, like side-of-a-mountain solid, or they were as intangible as a slant of morning light. What wasn’t so hard and fast were the rules of how things behaved. The ground was always rigid (even the sand, which made walking across it really strange). People never were. And some things, like doors and walls and cars, fluctuated between the two.
The lifeguard took a wide-legged seat in the center of their perch and Paul nearly squeezed Neve off the edge in his abhorrence. One of his most unpleasant experiences in the afterlife was the first time his face had passed through a hapless pedestrian’s brain. Blech.
Neve regarded him with a half smile. “How about we do this…” She straddled his lap.
“Much better.” He cupped her little ass and pulled her closer.
“Oh, he’s not that bad.” She batted her eyes at the guard as he stared off along the shore. She reached out as though to touch his beefy shoulder, and her finger disappeared beneath the tanned flesh. Paul shivered, looked away. “Don’t be such a homophobe.”
“It’s not… that’s not…” She was fucking with him and he barked out a laugh. “Should I be glad you can’t actually touch any other guys?”
Neve batted her lashes and finally tore her gaze away from Mr. Baywatch. “After all this time, it’s still weird, isn’t it? I mean, he’s right there.”
A strand of dark hair had escaped from Neve’s ponytail and he pushed it out of her face. She had paper-doll skin and pale blue eyes that always looked supernatural to Paul, even before she became supernatural. And those lips. Full, pouty. Succulent.
Neve took her role of ghost seriously, and while she wasn’t going to run around in a white sheet, she figured that melancholy needed to haunt every spiritual atom if she ever hoped to haunt something of her own.
Paul watched her watch the lifeguard. Could see the will in her eyes like a magician commanding a rabbit from his hat. Just one look. Just one little peek. She might have laughed at his theory, but that stare was one of a believer. And that was pretty sexy.
Paul pulled his shirt off, his torso long and lean. “Am I so shabby?”
“A little pale.” She smiled, but the melancholy was still there. “Don’t get much sun?”
Paul squinted at the sky, unblemished by even a single cloud. “I don’t tan. I burn.” She let him draw her close.
This felt good. Like it had been when their relationship was still new. Or even when their lives as ghosts had just begun. They’d explored the world together like a couple deposited in a strange country. They knew the language, but little else. He’d noticed how great she was, but then the obsession with being seen took over. He was beginning to realize that maybe it didn’t matter if no one else in the world saw him as long as Neve did. Problem was, she wasn’t looking at him now.
The lifeguard had turned away from them to chat up a couple of bikini-clad coeds and Neve was looking a little green. “Sluts…”
“Hey, remember me?” The guy you couldn’t stop staring at as you’d walked down the aisle in a white dress and a smile that made your face glow like something otherworldly. He wanted to see that girl again.
“God, sorry.” She shook her head.
Paul guided her to face him, his hand caressing the smooth plane of her cheek. She nuzzled his palm and their eyes met.
It felt like the first time they’d done that in ages. Neve thought she saw something in Paul’s blue irises — the glittering scales of a fish darting out of sight. When they kissed, their tongues curling together, the oldest of friends reunited. They’d kissed plenty of times over the years, but this was more than a friendly peck or a hasty duel during hasty sex. There were layers under that caress that hadn’t been explored since long before they’d died.
He peeled her top off and smiled at the bloom of pure, white lace. Her wedding day lingerie. “I mean, it is our anniversary,” she blushed.
“Sexy.” He thumbed along the fringe and felt her nipple come alive. She discarded her top, dropping it off the lifeguard stand. It fluttered out of existence before it reached the beach. He was happy to see Neve forget to be sad, but couldn’t help rubbing it in. “But I thought we were observing our funeral.”
“You just want to see me in black.” The bra darkened like an inky stain — one moment it was snow white and virginal, the next it was black and wicked. They’d learned a lot in their time post-death, but most importantly of all, they’d learned not to question these little tricks. They just were.
“Maybe.” He ran a hand up her silky thigh. “Weren’t you wearing stockings, too?” Neve hated stockings.
“Don’t press your luck.” She jabbed a finger into his chest to make her point and lost her balance. Terror was a thunderbolt clapping through her and for a brief second, she thought she was going to plunge off the chair. How graceful.
Then, like a skydiver opening her chute, something stopped the fall. She thought it was Paul until she looked at his face and saw him staring at her, wide-eyed. “That’s new,” he said, although his expression didn’t change.
She was hovering. In midair. A foot off the edge of the lifeguard seat. “This is pretty fucking cool!” Even her ponytail started to drift around her face, deciding that gravity wasn’t so important after all.
Paul loved that look of girlish delight on Neve’s face. Here was the girl he’d fallen for. She floated up a little, twisting in the air above, one leg bent. She looked over her shoulder and caught him staring at her ass, encased in white shorts. With the change in lingerie color, he could see the plunge of her thong through the tight material.
Pushing her thumbs into the waist of those shorts, she slid them down her hips and dropped them into his lap. “This strip show isn’t just a one-way thing, honey.”
Paul took the hint. Never taking an eye from the lingerie-clad specter, he lifted his hips and shucked his swimsuit as Neve released her breasts from the bra. He circled himself, feeling it rise as he watched her.
“I think I can really see some advantages to this whole undead thing,” Neve mused. She pivoted, the slope of a naked breast teasing him. “Paul, come join me.”
He stood, cock still in hand. Something shifted. The world yawned in colorful hues. Things were hazier. More surreal — if anything in this strange existence could be considered surreal anymore. And just like that, he joined Neve in her weightless world.
They embraced, his knife-like body hard and slender against her softer form. They kissed until they forgot that their feet had left the ground, and then kissed some more. Neve’s hand took over on his erect manhood, pumping it as his fingers slid into the back strap of her thong.
“I want you…” One of them said it, the other heard it, but speaker and listener immediately blurred. Paul rolled her panties off as she steadied herself on his shoulders. He glided his fingers across her bare sex, teasing the smooth skin of her mound. “Uh…” She didn’t want to be teased. She wrapped her legs around his waist and pulled him close.
He missed on the first pass, glancing across her wet channel and igniting her swollen clit. She was ready. So fucking ready. The second stroke found its mark.
Gravity ran up at her and Neve’s stomach dropped. For a second, she thought she was falling, but Paul was there to catch her. He filled her, solid and still growing. Their eyes locked as she rested her forehead on his. The beach, the chair, the lifeguard all faded a little more. The whole world was whiting out. Even their kiss, wet and laden with tongue, lost its edge.
“Neve, baby, I love you so much.” He was lost in her caress. In the sweep of her back and the soft knots of her nipples. He squeezed her buttocks, feeling her taut muscles flex with each drive. He felt buoyant. He was a pocket of air released at the bottom of the sea. Rising. Rising. He drove his hips up, meeting Neve. Rising inside her. Through her. Dark water was speared with light. Life. It teemed.
Neve watched Paul through slits. Saw the stretch of his life with her — cocky when he’d challenged her in a graduate level course on Nietzsche that she had no right to be in; nervous when he’d waited for her at altar, dressed in a tux and radiant smile. She saw the familiar face that she’d woken up to every morning of her too-short life. The guy she wanted to be with forever. And if this was the curse she had to live with, she laughed at the morality that had damned her.
“You feel so good, Neve.” He drove faster and faster into her. They tipped back and Neve found the chair behind her. She braced them on it as Paul thrust home. She felt the wood start to lose its form, its jarring rigidity. For the first time in her ghostly experience, an object began to ply.
It barely registered. She couldn’t take her eyes off Paul, although he was almost too beautiful to look at, his skin a milky bioluminescence. She thought it was just him, then saw her hand on his chest. Saw him through her hands. She looked away, down at the girls who’d been flirting with her lifeguard. They were staring. Staring at Paul and Neve.
“They can see, baby.” Her voice wasn’t her own. It was sub-vocal. It was their shared song. “They can see us.” It was as terrifying as the first time she’d done this. In the church. On their wedding day.
Paul heard, but didn’t understand. He was still rising. Almost at the surface. He saw light. Saw it leak from Neve’s pours and shimmer across her sweat-washed skin. Her heels dug into his backside, holding him inside her. He felt himself expand. Felt his balls tighten. He couldn’t see anything else anymore. Only Neve. Neve against him. Neve watching him as everything tightened around him.
“I love you. I love you. I LOVE YOU!”
The world was washed in white. He felt her join him, sharing the bliss, getting lost in the feel of their union. And then–
When it was over, when she finally opened her eyes and stitched the tattered remains of her senses together, Paul was gone and the rest of the world was covered in a white film. The lifeguard was staring at her from below, his beautiful face faded out like the picture on a television viewed in direct sunlight. His square jaw hung slack, his eyes comically wide.
She hoped her smile came off as flirty.
“Come check it out up here, Neve.” Paul didn’t sound disembodied, despite the lack of a body.
The ghost rolled her eyes and resisted the temptation to say, Boo.
“Alright,” she said instead.
And Moved On.