A Ghost Story

Entry by: Seaside Scribbler

27th May 2016
Part Three - concluding part!

Lights in the Black Black Night

Everything seemed to pause for a moment. I could feel my heart so strongly I was sure he must be able to hear it too. He moved slightly closer. It would be so easy, and Jim would never know, and nobody would ever know...

Stop! I screamed at myself and I pulled back. This would make me no better than anyone else.

'I'm sorry, Helen,' said Rob.

I shook my head, not trusting myself to speak.

Rob took my hand again. 'I just... I really like you. It just felt - right.'

I nodded and looked down. 'I know,' I whispered. 'Just, not now.'

Rob sighed and looked up at the fireflies. 'You're right. But...' He leaned over and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek, a kiss that sent sparks shooting down my neck and straight to my groin. 'One day, if Jim decides he's not good enough for you, I'll be here. Okay?' And with that, he got up and went off into the jungle.

'Rob?' I called.

'Going in search of food,' he said. 'I won't be long.'

I sat and stared at the fire. My body felt as hot as the flames, desire rippled through me and I ached for his touch again. I took some deep breaths and congratulated myself on my steadfastness. Or my ability to let go of moments that would never come again...

Some crashing and swearing brought Rob back to the fire. He'd taken off his shirt - I kept my eyes pinned to his face, not to the fire-highlighted arcs of his muscles. He was beautiful, like some kind of jungle god. Jim didn't look like that, naked... I gave myself a mental slap and looked at what he was holding in his shirt.

'Fruit. Mangoes, bread fruit and some mangosteens. And something I don't recognise but it looks exotic and smells good.'

He tipped the fruit gently onto the floor and - thank God - put his shirt back on. We began to eat. I'd not realised how hungry I was and I tried to focus on satsiafying that, instead of another urge that would be wrong, so wrong.

We broke open the new fruit and I chewed a piece and exclaimed in delight over its new flavours. It was lemony and smooth and tasted like...

Suddenly, Rob made a gagging noise and grabbed at his throat. He stuck his fingers in his mouth and I grimaced as I watched him try to grab what he'd just swallowed, and pull it out.

I swallowed some of what was in my mouth to speak to him.

'Don't eat, that, fruit...' he said, then slid sideways and flopped to the ground.

'Rob!' I yelled. 'Rob! Oh my God!' I shook him. In his hand was a piece of the fruit we didn't recognise. Just then I felt pain rip through my insides. I spat out whatever else was in my mouth as the awful realisation hammered home: we'd eaten something poisonous.

'Shit, shit shit shit,' I muttered, as the cramps got worse and made me double over. Whatever I'd swallowed, it looked like he'd had more. I racked my brains to think about what it could be but had no idea - every week in the market I found things I didn't recognise, some of which didn't have a name that translated into English.

'Rob?' I yelled, but there was no response.

Now I had to get out of here and get him - and maybe me - some help. I stood up, wincing against the pain. It was like a period pain but stronger and more piercing. My throat felt thick, as if it were closing up. I tried to stop the panic building, but I couldn't and I screamed as loud as I could,

'HEEELLLLPPP!' I heard my voice shrink into the jungle all around me and get swallowed up.

I had no idea what to do. I bent down to check Rob's breathing - he was still breathing, thank God - and then stood. I heard a noise and then a miracle: a light, bobbing towards me, through the leaves.

'Oh thank you thank you thank you,' I babbled.

'Helen?' said a voice, incredulous and faint.

'Jim? Jim, is that you?' I asked.

'It's me. Where are you? I can't quite see you!'

His voice was quiet but I could see his torch. He stepped into the glow of the fire and I gaped at him, at the sheer magic of him being here. But I didn't run to him. I was still angry and even in this desperate situation, I couldn't quite forgive him yet. And I couldn't quite forgive myself for what had almost just happened.

I shook the thoughts away.

'I came back to look for you,' he said. 'Everyone said "just leave them til morning," but I had to come. I didn't know if you were hurt, or if you were alone or... or if he was here too. Are you all right?'

I winced, and not just because of the pain. 'Sort of. But he passed out. We have to get him out.'

Practicality helped us move and avoid the inevitable awkwardness. Jim stepped closer and together we managed to get Rob into a sitting position, then to his feet. He was heavy, and my feeling ill didn't help, but Jim seemed possessed of an extra strength. Guilt? And - oh no - what had he heard?

As if reading my thoughts he said, between puffs of effort, 'I heard what happened, or, didn't happen between you two.'

'Oh,' I said.

'I feel like a twat,' he said.

I wanted to add, and you are, but didn't, mostly because it was sore to talk.

'I've been an idiot. I've been, erm...'

'Unfaithful?' I coughed out. 'We need to move, Jim. I can't hold him up very long. How far have we got to walk?'

'It's not far. I've been here on a recce run. I know the way back. But I need to say this.' He paused, whilst we managed to get Rob hefted between us and moving forwards. Jim held his torch under his free arm and supported Rob with the other. 'I'm so sorry, Helen. I have been a complete idiot. And I wanted you to know, nothing has happened.'

'Really?' I muttered, in between breaths.

'Well, almost nothing.'

I was glad Rob was between us or I'd have clocked him there and then, pain or no pain. I shook my head to myself. This was it, then. The beginning of the end. Another sob story, I'd have to go home; he'd stay here with his 'mistress.'

'I mean,' he carried on, 'I've not - er - made love to anyone. But I have - and I'm so ashamed of this, Helen - thought about it and planned for it and begun to - er - work towards that.'

There was a jungle silence which wasn't a silence at all, but a space filled with insects and drips and rustles and strange echoey cries. Rob was getting heavy and I knew that if I stopped, I'd end up lying down, just like him. It was knowing he was a good person and knowing we may be his only chance to get out, that kept me going. My stomach heaved with this knowledge, with the effects of the fruit, and I tipped my head back and gave a manic screech. It surprised me as much as Jim. He stared at me, his eyes wide and afraid in the poor light.

'Stop fucking talking,' I hissed, anger now spurring me onwards. I now wished with all my heart that I'd kissed Rob. Serve my stupid husband right. But then, I'd have been using him, and that wasn't me, either. I suddenly felt a flash of tenderness for Rob, and I stopped to check he was still breathing okay. His breath came in gasps and stutters, but he was still with us.

'We've got to keep moving,' I said.

'He's a good man,' Jim mumbled. 'A bit of a gentleman. Not like me. Helen. I - er - kissed this woman, and-'

'Jim, I don't want to know,' I said, as fiercely as I could.

He carried on, though, and I let him ramble as we struggled on. 'Listening to you and Rob back there, I thought what a fool I'd been, an absolute stupid twat of a fool, and I want to ask for your forgiveness. Becasue I'm so sorry, so so sorry, for turning out like all the others I used to laugh at, we used to laugh at, when we first came. I'm no better than any of them. I am just so sorry.'

I stayed silent. In the distance, I could hear voices. The car park? I hoped so. I wasn't sure I could support Rob much longer.

'Helen, please? Before we get back there? Before you get in someone's car and go with Rob - as you absolutely should - to make sure he's all right, please, forgive me? Say you'll at least think about it?'

I knew right then we were over. But there was no point in dragging this out. He'd let me down, I'd recover, I'd move on. I was so tired, right then, I didn't actually care about anything except getting back to the cars. 'Jim, I'll forgive you, okay?' I said it in a voice that meant it was blatantly obvioud that I wouldn't, and didn't, but he seemed satisfied.

'I'll run ahead and get help,' he said, and he let go of Rob... We both slumped to the ground and Jim leant down to me.

'Thank you, Helen, for all the good in my life. And I'm sorry,' he said. I reached out for him but he was gone, torch bobbing ahead, until I saw a lot of other torches coming towards me.

'I'm here!' I tried to shout, but then I felt hands picking me up, saw Rob get carried away, felt myself give into the sleep that had been pulling at me, all of the way back.


I woke up in a bright white room and knew immediately I was in hospital. I turned to the side and saw Jen and Patty, my two closest friends here, smiling at me.

'Welcome back,' said Patty. 'No, don't try to talk. I'll tell you. You and Rob ate some fruit that made you both sick. Nobody's quite sure what it is as it's being tested now, but there are a few possibilities. You are both gonna be fine. Thanks to you, Rob will live. He was in a much worse state - some kind of allergiv reaction, they said. But he's going to be fine. How the hell did you get him back to the car park? No, don't try to speak. There's something else, too.'

She looked down at her hands and Jen looked at me.

'It's Jim,' she began.

There was a silence, and I knew what was coming. Sometimes you just know.

'He... he didn't make it back from the hash. At first we thought all three of you got lost together, so nobody was that worried, but then when you and Rob got out of the jungle, without Jim, they went to look for him. They found him miles away. Already - dead. He had a heart attack'

I stared at them, trying to make sense of their words.

'But, but it was him...'

And then I understood. He had to tell me. He had to say he was sorry.

'All right, Jim,' I whispered. 'I forgive you.'

Under the confused stares of my friends, I let the tears come. But amongst the tears there was a smile, too, which I hoped Jim could see. A sad smile that said everything was all right.