Copyright (C) 2013 Savannah Hensley
"I can't take this from you, Rosie. It wouldn't be right."
Rosie's heart sunk like a rock to the bottom of the ocean as Chris pushed her gift back across the table. It was a small, rusty skeleton key, tied onto a piece of dirty white ribbon. To anyone else, it was a piece of junk, but to Rosie, giving it to Chris was a step she'd been afraid to take for a very long time - and he knew it. He knew it, and he didn't want it.
"Why not?" Rosie asked softly.
"I know what that key means to you, and I appreciate the gesture - I really do. But to be honest I'm not ready for a happily ever after. I'm not even sure I want one at this point. I still have to finish high school and make something of myself before I even think about getting married."
Rosie wasn't even listening. "Just tell me one thing," she said bitterly, choking back tears as she snatched the key from the table and stood up. "Was I ever anything to you besides a bag of arm candy?"
With that cutting remark, she stormed out of the little cafe and headed straight for home, to the refuge of Grandma's attic.
Now here she was, standing before the window at the far end of the attic. It was an old fashioned window, the kind with double panes, tall enough to step through, that latched together with a small metal hook. In her hand, Rosie held the skeleton key.
She'd been thirteen when her parents got a divorce. It was a mutual agreement, and something Rosie had never expected, having believed that her parents were as happy as a fairytale couple. To watch them separate so coldly, without so much as a single tear shed or a single angry word shouted, was heartbreaking to say the least. And then, to put the cherry on top of the whipped cream and sprinkles, Rosie's first boyfriend and first love, Jeremy, had dumped her on the claims of "I'm too young to have a depressed girlfriend."
Young though she was, Rosie took a solemn vow to never love again. Taking the rusty old key she'd found in Grandma's attic, she locked her heart away and became a social outcast, refusing to even associate with members of the opposite sex; and because of this, rumors of her homosexuality spread like wildfire and therefore she was shunned by her fellow womankind.
That was just until Chris came along. Rosie never could understand his motive, but he picked and pried at her rock hard shell until it cracked, exposing raw, tender, vulnerable flesh. He'd said and done all the right things to make her feel special, giving her hope, hope that love wasn't so futile after all.
And now this. How could she, of all people, have been so stupid to fall for the oldest trick in the book? All Chris had needed was to play the romantic to trick her into believing she actually meant something to him - that maybe he even loved her. That's why she'd tried to give him the key, because she had truly believed he held the metaphorical key to her heart.
Well, maybe he had. After all, he'd gotten her to open up. But this stupid little rusty key was a gift he'd refused. What had she been to him - why had he bothered? Was he really so sick that he'd just wanted to be able to brag to his friends that he'd gotten Rosaline Capulet, the coldest ice queen in town, to fall in love with him?
Oh, who even cared at this point? Rosie blinked away hot tears and reached for the window latch. She was beginning to understand the gravity of the vow she'd taken five years ago - because now that she'd tasted love as an older, more mature woman of nearly eighteen, she realized she didn't want to live without it. She realized that in reality, there is no life without love...and if that were true, she no longer wanted to live. She'd rather take her own life than to keep living it completely and utterly alone.
She stepped out onto the roof, lining her Converse sneakers up with the edge of the gutter, and got a good look at the ground three stories below her. It was a patch of concrete patio, with a glass table and metal chairs on it. Rosie pictured what her death would be like: glass shattering, its shards embedding themselves in her skin; metal rods impaling her body; her bones twisting and cracking; blood gathering around her in pools. It would not be a romantic death by any means.
And that's just the way Rosie wanted it.
She had just begun to lose her balance when someone - or something - grabbed her by the back of her sweatshirt and pulled her back inside the attic. In her startled state, Rosie was so angry that she whirled around ready to cuss out whoever had saved her. But she was shocked into silence when she looked into the transparent green eyes of a very young, very handsome ghost.
"What - what in God's name?" Rosie exclaimed, falling a couple of steps back as she stared at the spirit boy before her. He looked not much different from a regular boy her age - t shirt, jeans, battered converses, messy haircut. The only difference was the fact that she could see straight through him into the attic.
"I'm Benvolio," the boy laughed. "You can call me Ben if you like. It's easier."
"I don't care what your name is," Rosie said breathlessly - "What I wanna know is what are you?"
Ben threw his head back and laughed heartily. "Now that is a good question!" he said. "You'll want to sit down for this one though." He walked over to one of the dusty chairs in the attic, piled with old newspapers and sewing patterns; clearing everything away and even dusting off the upholstery, he gestured to the chair. Rosie gave him a strange look and sat down.
"Are you a ghost?" she asked bluntly the moment she sat down.
Ben grinned. "Of a sort."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well, for you my dear Rosie, a ghost is someone who has died, yet his spirit hasn't yet passed on to the afterlife. Me though, I'm not dead at all. I'm alive somewhere this very second - I'm just having a little nap while my spirit stands here talking to you."
"That doesn't make any sense," Rosie said with narrowed eyes. "I'm hallucinating, aren't I. I've gone crazy." Her voice broke a little at the last word, and she bowed her head, covering her face with her hands as she fought back another bout of tears.
"Rosie," Ben said kindly, getting down on one knee and tipping her chin up so he could look her in the eyes, and taking both her hands in his. "You're not crazy. I really am real. This key is what makes it all possible." He drew the skeleton key, still on its ribbon, from her tightly clenched fist.
"Years and years ago, there was a woman living in this house by herself. She was what most people nowadays would call a witch, although she never really did anything very notable - she just performed small acts of kindness, a little like a fairy godmother.
"Now there was a girl living just down the road from here who wasn't much unlike yourself - she had been heartbroken one too many times, and she came to this woman asking for help, because she simply could not bear to live without love.
"The woman knew what very few people do: that all heartbreak leads eventually to true love in the end. So she had this necklace made and placed an enchantment on it to teach the poor girl that lesson.
"After the girl put on the necklace, the next time she was in so much despair she felt she couldn't go on, she met a boy a lot like me, but different of course since he was to be the girl's husband in the future. HE gave her hope, and the strength to believe that someday, she would find her happily ever after. It was a number of years, but she did find this man in the end and she was married to him.
"The necklace is designed to find the soulmate of the wearer's spirit, and Rosie, that is why I'm here today."
"So you're telling me that you exist out there somewhere right now and you're the guy I'm supposed to be with?" Rosie questioned, still a little skeptical - although it must be admitted that she did believe him. Of course she did. She would cling to any scrap of hope now that she was so deathly afraid of being alone.
"That's exactly what I'm saying," Ben said with a charming smile that made Rosie's heart skip a beat.
"So," she said shyly, tucking a strand of her brown hair behind one ear, "now what?"
Ben stood up. "I, my beautiful lady," he said, extending a hand to her, "am taking you out to dinner."
"When you said 'dinner,' I wasn't expecting you to walk me through a drive in," Rosie smiled, as Ben paid the cashier and handed her a giant hot fudge milkshake. They walked to one of the picnic tables and sat down.
"I don't like fancy restaurants," he said with a shrug. "They're too stuffy. I think dates should be fun, not fancy - because the purpose of a date is to get to know one another, right?"
"Right," Rosie nodded, taking a sip of her milkshake.
"Well, if you were wearing a dress that cost about 200 dollars and a pair of high heels, sitting in a fine diner eating ridiculously expensive chicken with a guy dressed in a suit and tie, you wouldn't feel comfortable enough to be yourself, now would you?
Rosie thought about it. "I guess not."
"No, you wouldn't, because you would have to wear a pretty masquerade mask and the date would go absolutely nowhere."
Ben abruptly changed the subject. "So, what do you think of the milkshake?"
Rosie took another long gulp of it. "You were right - this really is the best milkshake I've ever had!"
Ben quirked up one eyebrow. "Just wait until you try the chili cheese fries and the nacho burger. They're the best around, too. I think this place just IS the best since it's family owned."
She had to agree with him after she'd tried the burger and fries as she was told. "I can't believe I've lived here all these years and never knew this place was right down the street!"
"Well, now you know," Ben said with a wink, sipping at his milkshake.
There was a bit of awkward silence. Rosie stirred her milkshake with her straw. "So. Um. If you're - you know, real and all, what kind of person are you? I mean, what do you like doing?" She facepalmed herself. "Ohhhmigosh, this is so freakin' awkward!"
Ben laughed. "Don't feel awkward, Rosie. We're getting to know each other for the first time and you don't exactly have experience. I don't blame you.
"As for what kind of person I am, I'm leaving that for you to decide after we've finished up this date. As for what I like doing - I love to hunt. I love camping out in the open, under the stars; I love hiking through the wild; I love watching the animals. I even have a guidebook I keep with me, that tells me what all the wild plants and different kinds of trees are. I love guns, too - not shooting them of course, I just like the intrigue of collecting them, cleaning them, loading them. I guess I do shoot at the animals and there's a little thrill there. But I always miss." He winked. "Don't tell my hunting buddies that I miss on purpose, though. They wouldn't take me with them anymore."
"So you love the wild and you like guns, hmm?" Rosie smiled. She took another gulp of milkshake. "What else do I need to know?"
"I carve," he went on, taking a small box out of his pocket and laying it on the table. He didn't bother to open it, though; Rosie was dying to know what was inside, but she held her tongue as he continued. "When I'm out in the woods I pick up pieces of wood - branches, limbs, pieces of dead logs - and bring them back home. I just hold up a stick and stare at it until I see a shape, and then I bring that shape to life." A distant look came into his eyes. "I like being able to create things. When I'm carving, I feel like I'm making a difference in the world." He kept fiddling with the box until Rosie couldn't stand the suspense anymore.
"What's in the box?" she asked.
"Oh," Ben laughed nervously, coming out of his reverie. He pushed the box forward. "Here, open it. I actually made it for you."
Rosie gave him a curious look, wondering how a ghost of such temporary nature could have made something for her. She opened the box; there was a wooden pendant on a piece of twine inside. When she lifted the necklace out and let it hang between them, she saw it was a beautifully carved wooden key.
Ben kept his eyes on the table, nervously twisting his long fingers together until they cracked. "You might not understand it, Rosie," he said softly, "but you're not the only one waiting for a happily-ever-after. I'm waiting for you, too. So, you take this necklace and wear it, every single day, every single moment - and I promise that someday, somehow, I will find you."
Ben seemed almost reverent as he spoke, his eyes glued to Rosie's. And as crazy as all this was, she had to believe and trust in him. "Alright, I will."
"Here, let me put it on for you," Ben offered, and Rosie handed it to him. She swept her hair out of the way as Ben tied the twine in a neat knot behind her neck. The warm touch of his fingers sent a lovely tingle down her spine.
"Just keep believing, Rosie," he whispered in her ear, kissing her head tenderly.
When Rosie turned around, Ben was gone.
Two years later, Rosie sat at the same exact table, drinking a giant hot fudge shake just like she had before. She was toying with the wooden key around her neck, thinking about Ben like she often did. Even though she hadn't known him for very long, the few hours they had spent together had been enough for Rosie to fall in love. But this time, she was able to wait patiently for the real Ben to come for her. Even better, she was able to open herself up and make friends, both male and female alike. This Rosie was a very different Rosie from the one who had sat there before.
A slight movement - the sound of converses scuffing on gravel - drew her attention to the left. She looked up. At one of the other picnic tables now sat a young man about her age, with a shaggy black mop of hair, a simple t-shirt, and rugged jeans. Their gazes met each other at the exact same time, and Rosie smiled when she saw a pair of familiar green eyes.
Ben recognized her almost at once. His eyes widened and his mouth dropped open in shock. He stood up quickly. "Rosie?"
"Hey," she smiled. "I've been expecting you."
Don't think about the hows or whys, wheres or whens, whos or whats of your soulmate. Every person has been made with a match; God has provided each and every one of us with one. It's written in His divine book of love stories. So don't despair. Someone, someday will come along for you. You just have to believe.