Julie and I dated for about three years before we broke up. Mostly it was my fault. Although we got along great—sometimes almost like husband and wife—I loved her, but I wasn’t in love with her, and that was the problem. To be really in love with someone, you have to want to be with them 24/7. That’s impractical, of course, but the desire has to be there.
It should have been, because like I said, we got along great. We loved a lot of the same things. Even our sex life was great, and yet, there was a spark missing in our relationship; which was why towards the end, she started dating this other guy on the side, at the same time hinting at wanting to make our relationship more permanent. So, when I didn’t step up to the plate, so to speak, she connected with him full-time, and eventually she and he got married.
Even though I understood why things worked out the way they did, it still bothered me, and I thought about her a lot over the ensuing years, especially since I still felt close to her parents. Meanwhile, my own life continued on a mostly even keel. I developed other relationships, though none as strong as with Julie. I even almost got married once, but that was on the spur of the moment during a very intoxicated weeklong trip to Vegas.
And then I received the devastating news that Julie had been killed in a car accident. I say devastating because, it hit me a lot harder than I would have thought. After all, I hadn’t seen or heard from her in over four years. And yet, at the funeral (I had been invited by her parents), I found myself raining tears like leaves off a tree. So did the guy she married.
His name was Ted. Both Ted and I stood next to each other at the burial site. I didn’t know about him, but I wanted desperately to see her one more time before the ceremony was over, especially since it had been a closed casket affair. They said the accident had really messed her up. I didn’t care. Instead, I had to settle for just my memories of her, but as it turned out, that wouldn’t last too much longer. That’s because she visited me one night during a snowstorm.
It was while I was driving home from a bar. Yes, I had been drinking, but it was only two glasses of beer. The accident wasn’t even my fault. I had come to an intersection with a stop sign, but when I went to tap my breaks, the car kept going. There must have been some really slick ice underneath that snow. The next thing I knew, I hit a tree.
Luckily, the front airbags deployed, but so had the seatbelt restraint mechanism. After my grogginess wore off, I found myself practically hog-tied to my seat, which would have been bad enough by itself, but then the seatbelt wouldn’t unlatch. That’s when I began to panic. I could see and smell the smoke that was already billowing out from the sides of my hood. Frantic, I looked this way and that, hoping to see if anyone else was around, but the road I was on was a narrow back road, so for now, it was empty. Once more, I tried unlatching the seatbelt; it still wouldn’t budge. And then to my horror, I heard a whooshing sound and saw flames lick up like underwater seaweed from both sides of my car’s hood.
“No! No!” I whimpered, as I frantically tried again to free myself . . . which was when I heard her voice . . . Julie? Looking to my right, my eyes practically popped out of my head as I stared in utter disbelief at my old girlfriend, who I knew was dead, but was standing right outside the passenger door to my car! NO FRIGGN’ WAY!!
For a moment, I almost forgot about the fire until the smell of smoke brought me back to my senses, and I pointed toward my seatbelt. “I can’t get out!” I shouted at her.
Smiling, she nodded, and then leaned forward, with the entire upper half of her body melted right through the window, door and seat. In total disbelief, I stared at her thinking this couldn’t be real! It had to be a hallucination! Either that, or I was already dead and this was Julie’s spirit come to bring me into the light.
But then her hand grabbed hold of my arm and her fingers, which felt totally solid and real, pulled me sideways. Not only did the seatbelt release, but I found myself floating like a balloon through my car and out into the storm. Now I was standing next to the passenger-side door, with both the frigid air and the heat of the fire hitting me at the same time.
Turning to look back inside my car, I saw that the flames had already reached the driver’s side compartment. A few seconds more and I would have been roasting like a pig on a spit. Relieved, I turned to ask Julie all the questions that had suddenly popped into my head, but she wasn’t there. Once again, I couldn’t help but stare. Had she really been there at all? But then the heat from the fire reminded me of where I was, so I moved several feet away until I found myself standing in at least a half of foot of leftover snow from a previous storm, while large, fluffy flakes showered down around me like New Year’s confetti.
I didn’t even notice the arrival of the police or fire department until one of the cops came up to me and asked what had happened? That’s when I told him about sliding through the intersection. He nodded. “Yeah, that’s a really bad spot. Ice is always building up there.” Then he asked, “Was there anyone else in the car with you?”
“No,” I told him.
He frowned. “Then why are there two sets of footprints outside your vehicle?”
When I looked at my car, I saw he was right. There were two sets of footprints. Obviously, one of them was Julie’s, but I didn’t know what to say to him. So what I said was, “I could tell you why there are two sets of footprints, but you wouldn’t believe me.”
“Try me anyway,” he replied.
“Okay. . . One of them belongs to my old girlfriend, Julie.”
I saw him look around almost in a panic. “Where is she now?”
“She died a long time ago.”
He turned to me and stared blankly for a moment. Then a smile spread slowly across his face and he said, “She saved you, didn’t she?”
I stared at him in utter shock. “How did you know?”
“Because I’ve been involved in several of these things over the past few years.”
He continued to smile, “People rescued by angels, or someone they swore was dead.”
I didn’t know what to say. I just continued to stare at him in utter disbelief.
Later, after taking my information, he offered to drive me to the hospital, but I refused. I felt remarkably free of any aches or pains, which I eventually decided had to be because of Julie. So instead, he drove me home. As he dropped me off in front of my apartment building, he said, “If you start to feel even the slightest bit of discomfort, I’d advise you to get yourself to an emergency room right away.”
“I will,” I told him. But then a thought struck me and I asked, “You think I’ll ever see her again?”
He hesitated a moment then shook his head. “I doubt it. They usually only show up once.” This made me feel sadder than I had in a really long time.
The next day, after contacting my insurance company, I got a ride to the local Toyota dealership, at which point, I put a down payment on a shiny new Corolla. Then I drove over to Julie’s parent’s house.
“Oh, Scott!” said her mother when she answered the door. “I see you got a new car. It’s really nice looking.”
“Thank you, but I had to,” I told her. “My other one was totaled in an accident.”
She looked worried for a moment. “You weren’t hurt, were you?”
“No,” I said to her. Then she invited me inside for some coffee and cake, and to warm up. That’s when I told her and her husband about Julie rescuing me.
Her father just stared at me grim-faced, while her mother got tears in her eyes, and then she told me she too had seen Julie. Now it was my turn to be shocked.
“She came to me the other night in a dream. She said she really missed Harrison and me, but was happy where she was.”
I knew I shouldn’t have asked but . . . “Did she say anything about me?” Her mother just shook her head. “What about Ted?” I asked. “Has he been around at all?”
“He was just here yesterday,” replied her husband. “Told us he’s moving to Los Angeles for his job.”
I couldn’t help but wrinkle my nose a little. I felt as if he was abandoning both Julie and her parents.
This time, it was her mother who spoke. “Listen, if you ever see Julie again, tell her we miss her something awful.”
“I will,” I replied, but remembering what the cop had said, I realized I’d probably never get the chance.
Finally, after having a second cup of coffee, I got up to leave.
Before driving away, I sat in my car a moment, just staring at the house. It was one of the last connections I had to Julie, except for her parents, or course; which was why I wondered if they wouldn’t mind me stopping by every once in a while for a visit? It sure would make me feel a lot better.