The light stretched and bent into the glowing silhouette of a woman in a long dress. There were no features or fine details. Just light and flashes of color. “Ambrose.” Her voice was like harp music.
But Ambrose recognized her. “Mother.”
She had no substance, nothing for Ambrose to hold on to. He knew that. He could see it plain as plain.
He tried to hug her anyway.
Her light engulfed him, filling his entire field of vision with color and memories.
Joy and wonder filled her heart as he slept in her arms. “My son.” She stroked his soft silk baby hair and touched his fingers. One small finger at a time. “So beautiful. So perfect.”
She sat by his bedside as he tossed and turned. Helplessness tormented her. “If only I could touch you and take your fever away.”
“Mama? Why’s sky blue?”
“Mama! I don’t want to go back.”
“It wasn’t my fault. Anna told me to do it. She said that the doves would fly right back.”
“I’m sorry, Mama. I won’t do it again.”
“But I HATE dancing. Dancing is boring.”
“Mother?” She opened her eyes and it was difficult. “Ambrose.” It hurt to talk. Hurt to breathe. “My Ambrose.” “You’ll get better. Won’t you? Father said you might if ..if you have something to drink.” She shook her head. “Ambrose. I can’t. My time is ending.” “No! I won’t let it end. I can’t!” “I love you.” Her mouth was so dry her lips kept sticking to her gums. “I’ve always loved you. Know that. Remember that. Don’t forget. Love you.”
He broke away from her embrace. “Why? Why did you bring me here? What do you want from me?”
“Ambrose. It isn’t something you can give me. It’s something I can give you.” She held out her hand. A square black box sat in her hand’s diamond-like light. “Take this.”
“It belongs to you. Or, rather, to the woman you offer it to.”
He took the box and opened it.
A simple solitaire diamond ring lay inside. “I can’t take this.” He looked up at her. “This is yours.”
“I don’t need it anymore.”
“I don’t deserve it. I’m not the man I should be nor the man you hoped I would become. I’ve killed so many people. Father. Our friends. Our family. Complete strangers. Every day. Every single day. If I were staked tonight, I know I wouldn’t become a beautiful spirit like you.”
Her light brightened. “It doesn’t matter if you deserve it or not. Give it to the woman you love. I’m certain she deserves it. Doesn’t she?”
He looked down at the ring and imagined it on Barbara’s finger. “Yes, she does. If she will have me.”