The dog-eared paperbacks sat jumbled on the beat-up bookshelf. The bookshelves were part of the eclectic furniture so common to the newly married. Jim Langer looked away from the green wooden shelves leaning against the wall. His cats, Yellow-nose and Kuto, lay temporarily at rest in the middle of the floor. Jim knew they would knock the bookshelves over again, leaving the books in a perpetual jumble. He kept thinking it was worth organizing the books again, but the cats had other ideas. It could be cat feng shui. He smiled quietly.
He looked at the books again, thinking maybe it was time to turn some in to the book exchange store. They were paperbacks, but the small amount of credit was acceptable. A year had gone by since Elyse died. It still hurt. Her sudden passing made the small things they did together loom large. He had bought most of the books with her. The paperbacks did not come from just one store. Elyse and he culled all the used bookstores. One book here and one book there, it was the hunt that counted. Ghost stories were the aim. It made the hunt more focused.
“Finding just the right story haunts me,” she would say, and would look at him knowing the joke had worn thin long ago. The memory made Jim laugh and grimace the same way he’d done when she was alive. The joke got funnier and Jim still smiled when he ran the joke over in his head.
The apartment he was in now was different than the one they shared. He couldn't deal with all the memories. The sparse furniture was easy to move and didn't require much effort. The funk he fell into made getting new furnishings one more thing he didn't want to do. Seemed he didn't want to do a lot of things of late.
Besides working, life was him and the cats. He looked at the books and thought of reading some of them. Elyse and he would read to each other, sharing each other’s spirits. She liked puns. She liked to watch the wince and the laugh he would make. No, the books would stay till he knew what better to do. If he parted with the books, it was like giving up the ghost. He rolled his eyes. Her sense of humor was becoming his and that was good. He knew his lack of a sense of humor was a failing. She made him better, he thought, even now.
When he did leave the apartment, other than for work or necessary errands, it was to go to used bookstores or visit her grave site. As time progressed, the visits to the grave site waned and visits to bookstores waxed. Because visits to her resting place dwindled, the promise of her returning, like in their ghost stories, began to seem less likely. He knew she wouldn't, they were just stories, like the ones they read together. There was always a wink in her eye when she read the stories to him. It was entertainment, wishes of what might happen in another universe. For all that, he had still enjoyed the books they bought together. She would use different voices and enact the scenes as if they were real. It gave him comfort. Now, in his dreams, she would transform herself into the different characters and try to fool him. It was always her, a different face.
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