by Jim Bell

There it is again, the overwhelming scent of lavender. Can you smell it? It’s her scent, her perfume. I’d know it anywhere. She’s here. I know she’s here.

Why are you looking at me that way? You think I’m crazy, don’t you? I must admit, I thought I had lost my mind at first. But you might think the same yourself if you experienced what I experienced. Perhaps I should explain. If you’re willing to listen. And, if she doesn’t interrupt us. Oh, you don’t want her to interrupt us. Why, you ask? Let me explain.

Her name is Janice. She was my wife. Or, she is my wife. I really don’t know what to think anymore. I still see her. In fact, she visits me regularly. Pops in when I least expect it. There’s just one problem. Janice is dead.

I first felt the presence of my deceased wife when the overwhelming scent of lavender, the distinct aroma of Janice’s perfume, drifted through the bedroom one evening. The smell, not unpleasant, seemed to move through the room, wandering. It started near Janice’s makeup table, then moved to her dresser. It lingered in the air like a morning mist, then dissipated after several minutes. The scent returned occasionally. It would linger for long periods of time, then vanish. Had my mind been playing tricks on me? It could have been wishful thinking on my part. The mystery would soon be made clear.

Late one afternoon, I started to prepare dinner. The bright rays from the setting sun hung low in the sky and streamed through the kitchen window, warming the air and bathing the room in a natural brilliance of light. Ingredients for my meal lie on the kitchen counter. Cooking for myself had become a learning experience for me. Janice controlled the kitchen when she was alive and I enjoyed the fruits of her labor. Her death had forced me to move beyond a steady diet of frozen dinners and macaroni and cheese and learn to cook healthier meals. The recipe for the evening would be another step in my culinary development.

I reached for an onion and placed it on the cutting board in front of me. At that moment the scent of lavender filled the room. I had never experienced the scent so intensely before. It overpowered my senses. My head swooned. My limbs sagged and lost their rigidity. My body swayed like a limp branch, easily tossed about by the gentlest breeze. The bright sun burned through the window to become a blinding, searing light. I covered my eyes and turned away as I grabbed the surface of the countertop to steady myself. I shook my head, trying to clear the drenching aroma that held my senses in its grasp.

I lowered my hand from my face. My eyes remained closed as I tried to focus my thoughts. Pull yourself together, I thought. I turned around and leaned back against the counter. I slowly opened my eyes. I blinked. Then blinked again. This can’t be happening! There, in front of me, mere steps from where I stood, appeared the image of Janice.

She remained motionless for what seemed like an eternity. I expected the image to disperse like a morning fog, burned off by a rising sun. But the image did not disappear. Janice looked at me. Looked right at me! I could feel a steely chill run through my body. I froze. I could not have run if I wanted to. How could this really be happening? Then, slowly, ever so slowly, she glided toward me. Janice did not walk. Carried by some unseen force, she moved closer. I tried to shut my eyes, to turn away, hoping that she would disappear. But I couldn’t. Her cold stare locked my senses on her countenance.

I leaned back to avoid the approaching apparition, but I had no escape. Janice moved forward and her gaze penetrated mine as if she were trying to reach deep down inside me and grab my very soul. My chest tightened. I struggled to breathe. My heart pounded against my chest in a desperate attempt to keep blood moving to my brain. I sensed the battle would not last long. In a matter of moments, I would pass out.

When Janice finally reached me, her hand reached out and grabbed the knife sitting on the cutting board. Slowly, the arm rose high in the air, the blade of the knife gleaming in the sunlight. I stared at Janet. As the knife rose higher, a slight smirk appeared on Janice’s face.

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