The thing that pissed me off the most about being dead was seeing my boyfriend with another woman. The lousy, no good jerk hadn't even waited a week before finding someone else to warm his bed. And not just any someone else. Melissa. My Best Friend Since Fourth Grade. Betrayal sliced through me, making me want to double over from the pain, but I refused to give in to the emotion. I'd learned a lot about my former life in the week since leaving it, and this new knowledge did not fill me with warmth and comfort.
The people I cared about, my friends, were nothing more than a bunch of shallow, backstabbing twits who didn't understand the meaning of working for something they wanted. Old family money, every last one. In my social circle, 'job' had been a dirty word.
I used to be one of them, but my viewpoint had done a one-eighty since my death.
A week was a long time when a girl had nothing to do but spend endless hours reflecting on past dreams and mistakes. It had taken me exactly two days to come to the realization that I hadn't been a good person. I would have given anything to change that, but real death had nothing in common with Hollywood blockbuster death. I couldn't atone for my sins. Couldn't turn back time, return to my old life, and make things right again.
But apparently I could get my body back.
If I accepted a very unusual offer.
A grunt snapped my attention to the scene playing out on the TV screen in front of me. I turned away, shifting my butt--which had long ago gone completely numb--on the hard metal chair. "Okay. That's more than enough, thank you very much."
Way more. Watching them for any longer was wrong on so many levels. Having just become solid again, burning my eyeballs out of my head didn't hold a lot of appeal.
The woman sitting next to me picked up a small silver remote and aimed it at the flat panel TV. The screen went blessedly blank, the room thrown into silence.
"Are you ready to accept?" she asked me, one pencil-thin black eyebrow arched.
Accepting her offer would be akin to admitting clinical insanity. That was how crazy the whole thing sounded. Part of me still hesitated, sure her offer had to be some kind of sick prank. "I don't know."
"Well, Miss Nevins, you'd better decide. I can't wait all eternity." Her blood-red nails clacked on the metal table in a rhythm that made me want to reach over and break her fingers. But I took a deep breath, leaned back against the chair, and tried to banish the lurid and somewhat disturbing images of Tony and Melissa from my mind.
"This is a huge decision you're asking me to make. Don't you think it would be fair to give me a little more than ten minutes to think about it?"
The eyebrow shot higher than should have been possible and a corner of her mouth rose to match. "Fair? You're worried about what's fair? Did you ever worry about what was fair in your lifetime? Did you ever even give a second thought to other people while you were so busy thinking of yourself?"
I put my palm to my forehead and let out a frustrated sigh. She had a point there, as much as I hated to admit it. Funny thing was, a couple weeks ago I wouldn't have thought twice about my selfishness. Now she'd forced me to face everything.
Death sucked. There was no other way to describe it. And yes it sounds cliché and probably a little escapist, but I blame the whole stupid mess on my mother. No, scratch that. I blame it on my great-grandmother. My mother had just been following tradition.
In case you're wondering how I ended up in this situation, let me take a second to fill you in.
I'd been raised by a woman who taught me my greatest achievement in life would be to marry a rich man, like she had, and her mother and grandmother had before her. Rather than encourage me to do well in school and get into a good college, she convinced me that clothing, makeup, and the fine art of styling my hair were what I needed to perfect.
Nevins women did not, under any circumstances, leave the house looking anything less than their best.
With that single fact drilled into my head from the time I was old enough to hold a tube of lipstick, I bided my time until my eighteenth birthday and set out to find myself a suitable husband. Growing up pampered, spoiled by my parents and never having to get a real job had fed the Find a Rich Husband Soon mentality. Why should I work for anything when I could have it handed to me on a platinum platter?
By the time I hit twenty-six and was still without a fiancé, my mother had started to get worried, so she took matters into her own hands. Enter Dr. Tony Gilmore, my father's colleague and number one pick on my mother's list of Men Kendra Really Needs to Tie Down.
And that was when everything went wrong.
For a year I did as taught and cultivated the relationship, slowly nudging Tony closer and closer to the edge of commitment. One more little shove and he would have toppled. He'd been hinting around that he was ready to make a Big Decision, but fate had a funny way of never letting me get what I really wanted.
The setting was perfect. A candlelight dinner at one of the city's most exclusive and trendy restaurants. The champagne just kept flowing. I'd worn the dress to end all dresses--a low cut, slinky number in my favorite color. Wine.
The color of blood. I should have taken that as an omen, but in my bliss, I'd ignored the signs.
The evening started off like the fairytale I'd always envisioned. Tony was my blond, blue eyed Prince Charming and we were going to live happily ever after and have a bunch of blond, blue eyed clones to make our lives complete. We'd live in a huge house in a gated community, send our children to the best private schools, and host dinner parties that would have everyone talking for months.
Now that I'd had a chance to think I realized, had my dreams come true, my life would have been an exact replica of the life my shallow and petty mother lived. At the time, all I'd been able to think about was the fact that my world would finally be complete.
The noises had dimmed around us, the other patrons fading into the background until it was just the two of us in the room. He got That Look in his eyes, the one that told me I was the only woman for him, and I knew it would happen. The moment I'd been waiting for. Tony would finally propose.
I was probably glamorizing the whole situation, seeing a romance that really hadn't been there, but what can I say? I'd been dreaming about the day my boyfriend proposed since I was barely out of diapers. My mother swore my first words were 'I do'.
"So, Kendra," Tony had said, his voice soft and loving, full of an emotion I'd never heard before.
I leaned forward and took his hand in mine. "Yes, Tony?"
"I've been dying to ask you something."
And I'd been dying to answer. A smile crept up the corners of my mouth and if he didn't ask soon I might do something juvenile like giggle. "Yes?"