It had been many years since the events I recounted previously. I never did return to the city; the memories were too painful and I wanted a fresh start. So my cat Muriel and I moved into a little cottage on the coast, near the one I’d stayed at after I left the city all those years before. We lived simply; she was happy running around the garden chasing field mice and I was happy going for long walks on the beach and painting. It was a lonely life sometimes, and I wished for human companionship but knew that it was my lot in life to tread my own path. I couldn’t be with another human being every day; it was too much for me. As I knew all too well, my need for solitude had become overwhelming in the past and had led me to resort to desperate measures.
In time Muriel passed away but I adopted a beautiful ginger Tom cat whom I named George. He was a faithful friend to me in my twilight years, providing the companionship I craved without my becoming overwhelmed.
The past continued to haunt me; I saw ghosts everywhere.
One evening, I was walking along the narrow path that led to the beach when I heard a voice behind me. Even though it had been decades, I knew immediately who it was.
“Hello, Duncan. It’s been a while.”
I turned around and saw my wife Julia, looking as beautiful as she had when I last saw her, on the day she died.
“How..?” I gasped.
“I’ve been watching you, Duncan. Everything you, where you go… I’ve been there ever since the day you killed me. I know where you live, what time you go to bed, what you eat for breakfast. All those little details that others would miss. And do you know why? Because, even after what you did to me, I still love you. I can’t rest. I can’t do anything without you.”
“Julia, please. Just leave me alone. There’s nothing here for you.”
“Duncan, tell me you love me. I can’t be without you. Just hold me, please.”
I walked towards her, wanting this to be over. If I held her for a while, maybe she’d leave me alone. I had loved her, but she loved me with a passion that I’d never known before, and it unnerved me. I’d been used to my own space, and I found her desire to spend every waking moment together overwhelming. I must have lost the balance of my mind; that’s the only way I can explain it. I pushed her down the stairs in a moment of madness; I told everyone she’d fallen and they believed me.
My way of atoning for my sins had been to spend the rest of my life in isolation, with only a cat for company. Now, Julia had come to me. She’d been there all along. I suddenly ached to hold her; to make some sort of amends for the terrible deed I’d done.
“I forgive you,” she whispered, as I held her in my arms for the last time. After a few moments, I pulled away, watching as her form dissipated.
I felt strangely empty. The ghosts had finally been laid to rest, but I felt lost without them. They’d been part of my life for so long that I found I didn’t know how to exist without them there. So, a few months later I said goodbye to George for the last time, walked down to the seashore and waded into the water, never to return.
Julia and I are together again. We get on surprisingly well in the afterlife. Our ghosts have achieved the happy harmony that our physical bodies never could.