Amanda opened her eyes and realized she was in a weird place. A vast green meadow with a nice cool breeze. The sky was bluer than she ever remembered seeing it before. And for some reason, she felt a harmonious sensation. Inspecting her body, she realized instead of her clothes, she was wearing a white dress. So thin that she almost could see her brown skin through it.
She tried to remember where she was before waking up. She remembered her best friend Jacqueline confessing her love. Her heart beating like crazy as she walked home. How she stopped at the bridge to cool her head and how she…
“Please, miss, can you get in the line?” A woman with white skin and black hair told her. She was wearing the same white dress and Amanda thought she could see something like wings on her back, but so faint that it looked like it was formed by wind.
“Line?” She asked confused.
The woman pointed with her finger to a big line in the field. Hundreds of people were there and following it with her eyes, Amanda realized several counters lined at the end with a big golden door beside each other them.
Confused and without knowing what else she could do, Amanda did as the woman said and got to the end of the line. The people in front of her looked just as confused. However, even though the line was big, the time she would take to get to the end would be enough to make her think about the whole situation.
The most important of all was what she thought about Jacqueline’s confession. The kiss they shared once had made her feel good, but she never thought much more about it. So her confession coming out of nowhere was a surprise. It made her surprised and startled, but not grossed out. Jacqueline’s face and smile wouldn’t get out of her mind and remember it was a nice feeling.
She thought about the days she slept over at her friend’s home. How they shared a bed. How Jacqueline’s warm body would get close to her. She could almost smell her friend’s shampoo and perfume.
“Ah, I want to see her,” Amanda said suddenly, letting her feelings show.
An old man who was in front of her turned his head and grunted something.
“What place is even this?” She said to herself most than anything. “How I ended up here?”
“You’re dead,” the old man said, turning his head again, looking annoyed by Amanda’s lines. “I swear you young people are always so slow…”
“D-Dead?” Amanda asked startled. “No, that’s impossible!”
“Look here, girl, I was at my death bed surrounded by my stupid sons who wanted nothing more than see my dead body just minutes ago. I’m sure this right here is heaven.”
“Oh,” then the last piece of her memory was restored. The bridge and how she fell out of it. “I died. I’m an idiot.”
“Yeah, you probably are. But now if you’ll excuse me, I had enough of speaking with you stupid youngsters when I had my sons and their children around.”
Saying that the old man turned his back to Amanda again. She didn’t care because the new info she got was now bothering her from inside her head. That she was dead. And probably wouldn’t be able to see Jacqueline again. That was her first thought.
She worried so much that she didn’t realize the line moving and soon it became her time. She was called at one of the counters by a young man with short black hair. He was wearing the same white dress and she thought seeing wings on his back, too. But it was too faint to make sure.
“Miss Amanda?” He said giving her a gentle smile as she approached. “Do you understand what this place is?”
“I’m dead…” She just said in a monotone.
“That’s right. Young people usually take more time to realize that.”
“The old man in front of me told me.”
“Oh, right. Well, that still make things faster. Let me just look at your file to see if everything is okay and you can enter,” He opened a book in his front and started to flip it. “You died of, oh, that’s, uh, tragic.”
“It’s stupid, I know.”
“Oh no. I mean, yeah, it is. But I have seen worse. It’s still tragic for such a young girl to die this way. Anyway, just let me see if you’re okay to pass and we can open the door for you.”
“Ah, is this like heaven? The Christian heaven?”
“Well, Christians come through this entrance. Or at least people raised in Christian families. Well, atheists come here, too. Heaven is for all, but we need to be prepared to answer their questions and those usually has to do with their religion,” he looked a little more through the files before adding. “Well, Christians rarely question that Heaven shouldn’t even exist yet, though.”
“You know,” Amanda said, looking embarrassed. “My friend confessed to me before dying. And thinking about it, I think I’m in love with her, too.”
“Oh, I see. That’s very tragic.”
“No, I mean, shouldn’t I be sent to Hell instead?”
“Huh?” the young man looked confused by Amanda’s question.
“I mean, if I wanted to say yes, I might be gay. So…”
“Ah,” the young man let out a big sigh. “That again. Look, I won’t deny that once homosexuals were denied the entrance in heaven, but that was the old administration. That was what, two thousand years ago?”
“Whoa, that’s too much info for someone who didn’t get inside yet. But in short, you can get in Heaven being gay. No problem. In fact, it’s way easier to get in Heaven in general now. So much that Hell changed to make people actually want to go there instead since their numbers were shrinking too much. It’s still a place of torture for really evil people, but it became also an alternative for those who don’t like Heaven much.”
“Still, there’s still something to worry about,” he lifted his head and stared at Amanda. “How much you love her? Or how much would you regret not telling her that?”
“I love her very much. So I want to tell her. I can wait, though.”
“Well,” the man stared at the door beside him and back at Amanda. “Here’s the problem. Can you imagine how many people died since, well, ever? The afterlife is huge and the chances of you meeting someone you want to meet there is way worse than doing it in the real world already. Now, sure, we aren’t heartless. We can make you show up close to someone you want. But we can’t do everything. We can’t promise to do that now for when she dies. If she dies and asks to meet you, fine. But she might live a long life and have more important people she wants to meet until then.”
“You’re saying I can never meet her again,” Amanda said with a disappointed expression.
“Look, girl. I can’t get into details, but behind this door, you have death, not a second life. There’s a very small chance of you meeting her but you shouldn’t hope for that. The afterlife isn’t the place to solve earthly things. Usually, your life on earth will determine how your death goes. Change and evolution is a privilege of the living.”
“So,” Amanda tried to put a brave face. “Can’t I at least go back to tell her? As a ghost or something. She’s a brave girl, I’m sure she’ll understand.”
“It’s not that easy,” he paused, then smiled. “Or that’s what I would say normally. You see, putting things in short, we have rules but not enforcement of it. The administration has better things to worry instead of dealing with every minor break of said rules. That’s why thousands of years ago it was decided that Hell would inspect Heaven and Heaven would do it for Hell. So that both sides would follow their rules.”
“This all looks weirdly bureaucratic.”
“You thought humans had invented that? But like I said, Hell wants more people, so they gave us some ways to break the rules a little with the penalty of sending the person who chooses to do it for Hell. One of those ways is exactly what you asked. We can send you back to earth for an undetermined time until you finish some conditions. If you finish the condition with success, you come back and go to Heaven as intended. If you fail, you go to Hell.”
“That sure looks convenient. Is this okay?”
“It may look like it, but some people decide for crazy conditions. It shouldn’t be allowed technically, but since the ones who can condemn us are the ones giving the idea,” the man shrugged. “It should be easy in your case, though. Not like you would fail to confess…”
“So!” Amanda almost jumped, putting her hand on the counter. “I can choose any condition, right?”
“Well, yeah, but…”
“So I don’t want only accepting her confession. I want to be her girlfriend!”
“That should be,” the man stopped a little, but let out a smile at the end. “Well, that’s fine. If she agrees to be your girlfriend, you can come back…”
“No, you don’t get it. I know! I want to spend all her life by her side. How is that for a condition.”
“Hey, girl,” the man put out a serious face. “That’s the kind of crazy condition I was talking about.”
“So is that possible?”
“It’s not impossible. If you set that condition, that’ll be it. But think about it. I have watched you people for thousands of years. I can tell how this story will end. You people rarely spend more than one year with the same people in a romantic relationship. Sometimes it doesn't last one month. Are you telling me you’ll be together forever? With what conviction?”
“None! But if the alternative is never seeing her again, what am I even risking? If she actually tells me it’s over, that’ll make me feel better.”
“And then you’re sent to Hell and never will be able to meet her again, even if she asks for it.”
“You said yourself, right? It’s unlikely I’ll meet her again if she lives enough.”
The man let out a sigh. He looked at Amanda who had a determined face and it looked like nothing would make her give up.
“Before I agree with it, did you think about your friend’s position? If you tell her you’ll go to Hell if she refuses you or breaks up with you, what kind of pressure she’ll feel?”
“I won’t say anything! If she doesn’t know, she won’t feel guilty once she gets tired of me.”
“I don’t think it’s that simple, but,” the man looked at the young girl. It didn’t look like anything he said would make her change her mind. “Ok, how about this? I’ll give you a chance to meet her then I’ll meet and ask you again. After talking with her again, maybe that’ll clear your head.”
Amanda nodded, unable to hide the smile that formed on her face.
“Right. One last thing, though, your friend will be able to see and touch you, but that’s all. No one else will be able to do the same,” the man closed the book in front of him and pointed forward to the vast meadow. “Keep walking that way. Don’t need to run, but don’t look behind either.”
“That’s all?” Amanda said, turning her body to the meadow beyond the long line behind her. “Feels like I’ll walk forever.”
“Just trust me, unless you want to give up, after all.”
Listening that, Amanda shook her head and started to walk. First, she started with rushed steps, but after leaving the long line behind, she started to get tired and slowed her pace. It looked like the more she walked, the harder it was to keep going. Her breath was lacking and her steps getting heavier.
In her head, she kept Jacqueline smile. The only thing she wanted then was to see her again. The more she walked and the harder it got, the more she thought maybe the man had made a fool out of her. She didn’t look like she would get anywhere.
Then suddenly a bright light blinded her. She covered her eyes with her hands trying to block it in vain. It was so strong that made her vision hurt. She crouched at the floor and pressed her arms against her face.
Then it seemed like the light disappeared. She slowly opened her eyes to see the floor under her feet. It wasn’t like the grass she had below just moments ago. It was like the hard floor of a house. After noticing it, she started to hear voices and crying around.
Lifting her body, she realized she was inside a chapel, behind a coffin. She stared inside the coffin, surprised to realize it was her own body. She tried to touch it, but her hand moved across it, even though she could touch the coffin itself.
“That’s weird,” she said, but no one seemed to be able to hear her. “I look good for a corpse, though.”
It was when she heard a sad voice that her heart, or whatever it was, skipped a beat. She stared at the entrance in time to see Jacqueline walking through it, supported by her mother. It was only when her friend was already in front of the coffin that Amanda’s presence was noted. She met Jacqueline’s confusion with a happy smile.
“You go ahead,” Amanda said. “There’s still something I have to take care of alone.”
Jacqueline hesitated a little, but after giving Amanda a kiss, she walked out. Amanda smiled seeing her friend walking away looking so happy. When she disappeared, Amanda turned her body.
“So?” She asked. “Were you spying on us?”
“Please, girl,” the young man she met in Heaven walked to the light of the sun. “I said I would ask you again, right?”
“Sure, but can you leave work like that?” Amanda had a serious face while questioning the man.
“What? You think I spend eternity behind that counter?” The man walked close to a tomb and stared at the photo above it. “These always look funny to me. It has no relevance for their afterlife, but people always take good care of it. I guess it’s a comfort for those who remained.”
“Did you come here for sightseeing?”
The man stared at Amanda and let out a laugh.
“You really don’t want me here, huh?”
“If you are here to take me back…”
“I’m not. At least not by force. It’s how I said, remember? I want to see if you really want to do that.”
“Of course I…”
“But don’t answer so fast. Give it some thought. I know you love her and I can see she loves you. It might sound weird for me to say it, but love isn’t everything. Humans are social beings and while being with each other might be enough at first, you might want to share that relationship with others later.”
“So you’re saying I should give up on her because I can’t show our relationship to others? Our life together is just for us.”
“This is not about you. Your life is over. You’re dead. She has her whole life and will be questioned about her choices. You really want to put this burden on her shoulders?”
“If she tells me to go away, I’ll give up. I don’t think it’s fair with her deciding this by myself.”
The man sighed and let out a tired smile.
“Fine,” he said. “I believe you understand the consequences, so I’ll leave it in your hands.”
“I’m sure you want us to break up,” Amanda said with a harsh voice.
“No way,” the man said, walking away and waving his hand. “In fact, against all odds, I’m cheering for you two. I hope everything works out.”
He disappeared out of nowhere and Amanda was left alone in the deep silence of the cemetery. She stared at the chapel’s direction, but she didn’t want to approach it and see her dead body again. She tried to take a walk through the city she thought she would never see again. But the more she walked, she started to feel a bad sensation, as if something was breaking inside her. She rushed back to the cemetery, realizing she couldn’t get too far away from Jacqueline. Yet, she would wait for the burial to approach her.
15 Years Later
“I’m sorry, dear,” an adult Jacqueline said with a smile to the teenager girl in front of her. “I can’t answer your feelings.”
“Is it because I’m a girl?” the girl said with tears on her eyes.
“That’s not it, dear. You’re just a kid and you’re my student. We just can’t…”
“I’ll wait for you, then! I’ll get old and graduate, then…”
Jacqueline patted the girl’s head and let out a reassuring smile.
“I’m sorry, dear. I can’t wait for that.”
“O-Of course you can’t. I knew it,” the girl said and couldn’t resist anymore. She started to cry.
Jacqueline gently held the girl and let her cry in her arms until she calmed down. After that, they talked to each other, with Jacqueline acting like the adult and giving advice to the girl. She was very clear about how the girl’s sexuality shouldn’t be seen as a problem.
When she got home later, she was tired. Amanda followed her inside the house. For some reason, her body had matured together with Jacqueline, and now she looked like an adult.
“Are you sure you didn’t want to accept her?” Amanda asked. Jacqueline threw her a perplexed look.
“Dating my student?”
“She said she would wait. You could.”
“What are you saying? I have a wife already.”
Jacqueline smiled, but Amanda stood there with a serious face. Both women were standing in the middle of the kitchen and Amanda didn’t look like she would move. Jacqueline approached her and caressed her face.
“Are you okay, love?” She asked with a worried face.
“Jackie,” Amanda’s voice was weak. “Are you sure you want to keep doing this?”
“That again?” Jacqueline smiled. “Yeah. I want to have the woman I love by my side. I’m sure of it.”
“I’m being a burden for you. You’re wasting your life.”
“Wasting my life? How come?”
“Your mother called again, right? She asked about marriage again. You could be with someone you can show to your family. You could be on dates and...”
Jacqueline sighed but kept a smile on her face.
“No, I couldn’t,” she said with a clear voice. “Amanda, I’m a teacher. There’s a lot of children with conservative parents at my school. Even if I would find another girlfriend, I would have to keep her a secret. And I’m sure I would never date a man.”
“I’m not even alive.”
“But you’re here.”
“You can’t even know if I’m real.”
“But I’m still happy.”
Amanda didn’t say anything else for a while. She looked sad as she stared at her wife.
“Be honest with me. Are you afraid of losing me?”
“Yeah,” Jacqueline answered without delay. “I’m always afraid of letting you go. When we fight, I always try to make up because of that. Because I feel that if I lose you again, I won’t get another chance.”
“But that doesn’t change the fact that you being here makes me happy. You’re not a burden. And even with the possibility of you not being real, I don’t mind. Because I know for a fact I’m happy with you.”
“But because of that, you’ll never get over my death.”
“Who knows if I would ever do? Maybe I would just follow you if you left me. You still don’t tell me anything about the afterlife, but since you’re here, I know it exists.”
Then Jacqueline clapped her hands suddenly.
“That reminds me. Next week it’s our anniversary. Since we started dating.”
“Also the day I died.”
“Yeah, let’s not think about it like that. But, huh, let’s do something special. What do you want to do?”
“Like a date?” Amanda said with a faint smile. “J-Just kidding.”
“A date? That looks good?”
“How about a picnic? I can drive to a beautiful place the teachers were talking about. Well, you heard it.”
“Not deadline coming up?”
“No. But you might need to go talk to my editor this weekend about some changes I want to make.”
Jacqueline chuckled and Amanda looked at her confused.
“What is so funny?”
“You were talking about being dead and being a burden, but you’re even working. You feel more alive than a lot of people I know.”
“Not like I would just spend all these years looking at your face, right? You’re beautiful, but there’s a limit. And I have to do it during dawn because I can’t even touch the computer if someone else gets close.”
“That’s fine. Your typing makes me sleep better. And I love your stories. You were never that smart, but you sure have imagination.”
“Well, sorry for being dumb,” Amanda said with a sincere smile. Jacqueline smiled relieved.
“Well,” she said turning away. “I have some work to do, so…”
But she was stopped by Amanda grabbing her wrist. Jacqueline just stared at her in silence.
“Just,” Amanda tried to avoid her eyes. “Just promise me again.”
Jacqueline sighed and turned to her wife.
“Fine, fine. If I ever get tired of you. If I ever stop loving you, I’ll tell you and let you go.”
“You don’t look like you’re taking it seriously.”
“Well, I mean,” Jacqueline pulled Amanda’s arm and hugged her body, giving a kiss on her lips. She stared in her wife’s eyes and whispered. “I can say it as much as you want. But I know for sure that’ll never happen.”