There’s a reason for public service announcements and ads cautioning people against drinking because alcohol is not something one should overindulge in. I learned that the hard way. Zachary and his alien baby were stressing me out and I needed something to help relieve some of that stress. I tried yoga and cardio exercise as my escape but it wasn’t enough. I needed something with a little more edge to help me sleep at night so I would usually prepare a glass of orange juice and spike it with something harder. Tonight I decided to try concealing my new tonic with a mug of oolong tea as I wasn’t in the mood for anything sweet. I was a little heavy handed so that was probably the reason why after half a cup of spiked tea I started seeing things.
Like my dead mother.
And hearing things as well!
Usually, I would feel lightheaded and sleepy when I had alcohol which made it the perfect remedy for my insomnia but I felt just as alert and restless as before. “I probably shouldn’t have mixed tea with alcohol. That’s probably why I’m losing it.”
“You’re not losing it.” The voice was exactly the way Mother’s sounded when she was alive.
“I must be if I’m seeing ghosts. Ghosts don’t exist.” I laughed.
“I exist. I’m here talking to you right now.” She said. She was translucent. I could easily see the furniture behind her body. It was strange. I didn’t want to believe ghosts existed but at the same time, this apparition looked and sounded too much like her for me to doubt it.
“OK fine. I’ll entertain you.” What other choice did I have? If I was hallucinating then I might as well go along with it until it went away. “Why are you here? The afterlife not as wonderful as they claim?”
“I am enjoying my afterlife. Where I am it’s a paradise and I love it there. I got to meet my parents, even my grandparents who I never met before, my brothers, Clay… Everyone that I loved who’s gone now is with me.”
“What about Dad?” I asked with hope. “Is he with you?”
She paused for a while before saying, “I haven’t seen him.”
I wasn’t sure what that meant. Perhaps even in death, she was still holding a grudge against him. I’m sure he is also in the paradise where she is but she just refuses to meet him.
“Well, if it’s so great then why are you here in the middle of the night talking to me?”
“The way death works is that you have the option to fully embrace the afterlife by leaving this world behind for good which means you’ll fully enjoy all the perks of being in paradise and be at peace. The other option is that you can remain in a state of limbo which is where you visit the afterlife for a short period of time but your soul remains attached to the living world. You can move on completely when the time is right for you. I haven’t chosen to completely move on as yet.”
“How can I when you and Leni are still here? You both are my daughters and you mean the world to me so I need to remain in limbo in order to look out for you two.”
“You visit Leni all the way in Windenburg?”
“Yes. I never materialise in front of her the way I am with you right now but I do visit her and watch over her and her family.”
I haven’t seen Leni since the Windenburg trip where it all went wrong. I was no longer angry with her or wanted revenge but I remained curious about her whereabouts. She still lived in Windenburg but she no longer lived in her country home, probably left because she feared I would return to that house and attack her. I wasn’t sure where she was living now and even though I contemplated tracking her down I decided to leave her alone. “How is she?”
“She is happy. Her daughter is growing beautifully, a little rambunctious but still sweet. She and Ayden have a solid marriage. They’re very supportive of each other and he adores her. She still struggles every day with her mental health issues but she is strong and determined to remain healthy and of sound mind.”
She positively beamed while talking about Leni as usual. Of course, Leni had a perfect life while mine was falling apart! “Is this why you’re here? To talk about Leni?” I laughed, amused by the way the conversation was going.
“I came here to give you important advice. I was only answering your question. If you feel bad then that’s your own conscience making you feel that way. But I will admit that it does give me some pleasure to know that in spite of everything you have done to her it is you that’s the one with all the problems. I hope you can see the lesson in this and realise the error of your ways.”
“This is great. Way to rub salt in my wounds Mother!”
“You have always misunderstood me, Gemma. I have always wanted the best for you and yet you somehow believed that I was against you. I never understood why until I died. Being in limbo allowed me to see the whole picture clearly and I realise that there was never anything I could have done differently that would have changed our relationship. You were born the way you are so even if Leni was never born and there was no rivalry between you two, or if I stayed married to Stephan and never got involved with Clay, or if I was tougher on you, or if I was more lenient, it would all end the same. It seems like we were cursed from the start to never have that close mother-daughter relationship that we both wanted from each other because we were made too different.”
“So you say you’ve come to give me important advice but you just stated how different we are and how damaged our relationship had been from the start, so exactly why do you think I should listen to you of all people?” I chuckled.
“Because you might think differently from me but you’re not stupid. At least, I hope you’re not. Let’s sit down and talk. You need to hear what I have to say.”
Mother was a determined woman even in my hallucination and too stubborn to take no for an answer so there was no refusing her even if I’d prefer to finish my drink and head to bed. I think that’s where I got it from. “Fine, let’s have a seat.”
She sat next to me on the couch which was remarkable to see since she looked like she could fall right through it. Without wasting any time she began, “I know everything you have done so don’t lie or feign innocence.”
“Ok, I won’t. It’s not like you can tell on me to the cops. You’re dead.”
“Exactly, but I was planning on doing just that on the night I died. You were very lucky that my time was up before I had the chance to make the call to my detectives.”
I shook my head at her. “But you had enough time to tell Leni what I had done so she could ruin my life in your place.”
“Gemma, stop playing the victim all the time. You need to learn to accept responsibility for your actions and own up to your mistakes. You were the one who poisoned your sister and made her insane so I would pick you over her as the heiress and then sabotaged her relationship out of jealousy because she was getting married before you. Your actions made her turn against you. You were the one who accepted Stephan’s offer to launder his money and then killed an innocent man to protect him and yourself. You were the one who decided to assume Stephan’s position as boss which is what ultimately landed you in prison. You were the one who continuously lied to your husband, pushing him away to the point where he ended your marriage. You were the one who set him up to be kidnapped but it backfired because now he has a baby that he wants and you don’t. You are the reason why you have a contentious relationship with your daughters because you enforce your demands on them instead of getting to know them for who they really are. You, Gemma, you are responsible for everything bad that has happened… and it has to stop!”
It felt like my head was spinning so either the alcohol was giving me that reaction or it was because no one had ever called me out on all the bad things I had done before. Then again, no one knows everything I have ever done… except for her, it would seem.
“This is the important advice you wanted to give me? You want me to stop doing bad things. Fine, I’ll be a perfect angel from now on. Happy?”
“This is no joke.” Her tone was more serious. “You will lose everything you care about if you continue down this path!”
“Look I’m not doing anything illegal anymore. No laundering, no harassing Leni, yeah I could be a better mother and I probably shouldn’t have done what I did to Zachary but that’s in the past now. I’m gonna try to be nicer to the people around me. Obviously, the way I was before was not enough so there I recognise that I need to change. Okay…”
“Then you’re not going to do what you are planning on doing tomorrow are you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I responded plainly. How the heck did she know what I was planning on doing?
“I told you, I know everything.”
“I still don’t know what you’re talking about Mother.” I denied.
“What you’re planning on doing will have dire consequences for you and your family. You should not go through with it otherwise, you’ll lose everything! I’m serious. You will lose everything!”
Obviously, she knew the truth so there was no point in continuing to deny it. “I’ll gain back everything I lost! Don’t you see? I need to do this! I need to set everything back on track so that my husband and children will love me again.”
“But if they find out, they’ll hate you.”
“It’s a risk I’m willing to take,” I said firmly.
“You don’t have to take the risk, sweetie. Zachary doesn’t know that you betrayed him by setting him up to be abducted. All you have to do is just accept the situation for what it is, accept Gabriel into your life, and move forward. Trust me, if you do that, things will turn around… you’re not even listening to me anymore.” She realised that I had turned my head in the other direction and assumed I had tuned her out. I was still listening. I just didn’t care for what she was saying.
“I feel like I wasted my time coming to you. You really are stubborn you know…”
“Like mother, like daughter.”
“Touché,” she sighed, appearing disappointed. “I hope you reconsider. I hope for once you’ll listen to me. Please, Gemma, please heed my advice. I love you, I’ll always love you.”
I blinked for half a second and she was no longer sitting next to me on the couch. “Mother?” I called out to her hoping she just went somewhere else but then it occurred to me that she was gone.
Why did she leave like that? And why did I desperately want her to come back so I could continue ignoring her? What is wrong with me?