Keeping Melissa

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Summary: You need to believe that she’s still around, that she isn’t all in your head.
Rating: PG

1st Place – 2004 Spooky Award for Outstanding Vignette

Classification: VA
Spoilers: None
Key Words: ScullyAngst
Archive: Gossamer, please. Email me before archiving elsewhere–I don’t see why I’d refuse.
Disclaimer: Not mine.

For sisters everywhere.


It isn’t the same as missing someone, or even grief. It’s more like being haunted.

You wake in the middle of the night, searching your brain for her until she’s on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t quite speak her name.

Sitting on a park bench, reading a newspaper, you catch a glimpse of her from the corner of your eye.

You glance in a reflective shop window and see her face staring back at you.

Only sometimes do you allow yourself to think about her.

When you concentrate, you can see her so clearly, but only pieces of her. A pair of grubby, delicate hands with bitten nails, dancing across piano keys. A swirl of grandma’s old wedding dress along the attic floor, and a girl’s voice, high as a bird’s call, crowning herself the fairy queen. A flash of vivid eyes and red hair, fleeing away from you as you pant, your legs straining, trying to catch up.

You find yourself jogging faster in the mornings, pushing yourself. Maybe she’s right there in front of you, just around a corner. Just out of sight.

Her presence is almost tangible, as though if you reached out, you could brush the ends of her hair with your fingertips.

There was always a certain scent around her, of cinnamon, of crushed snowdrops and sunlight. An atmosphere almost, like the auras she started describing, later on, when she tied a crystal to the brass lamp above her bed.

You wake in the middle of the night and promise to take her seriously. You promise to listen to her and respect her opinions, as she talks of earth goddesses and astral projection. You promise to laugh at her odd jokes, make daisy chains with her and read all of the purple prose she writes.

And you torture yourself with memories of how you really treated her.

You scoffed at her ideals. While you were slaving over your med school textbooks, imprisoning yourself for a perfect score, you completely ignored her. You smirked at her flowing, flowery dresses, almost like robes, and her medieval hairstyles and jewels. You began to see her as flaky and self-righteous.

You told yourself you were wiser.

You worked yourself into the ground, had a tawdry affair with your professor, and stopped eating for a while.

When you finally slowed down enough to quit medicine, your father said he was disappointed in you, and you willed yourself not to cry. You started smoking again, and had another tawdry affair. This time, you managed to convince yourself it was love, until it ended.

You didn’t need to build walls around yourself. They were already there, like a castle moat waiting to be drawn up, or an iron maiden waiting to be slammed shut.

You still keep the postcards she sent you, from her quests to “find herself”.

At the time, you barely bothered to read them, but now, when you allow yourself to think about her, you take their shoebox down from the back of the linen cupboard. You pore over every line.

She calls you Dane, and says she can tell you’re going through a rough time, because of a ‘dark vibration’ emanating from you.

She tells you about waitressing in greasy diners, camping in Yosemite with some ‘peace-loving people’, and roller-skating along Venice Beach.

She tells you she’s met a Steve, a Frederick, a Leif, and a Horatio. Finally she settles on someone called James, who shares her love for roasted pistachio nuts and shuns pina coladas.

You don’t cry over these fragments of her, but you are wary of them. Her words feel alive somehow, like they might snake off the page and slide into your skin. She is still present here, in these silly messages of hers, these casual expressions of affection. Her smile hangs over them all, somehow sinister, like the Cheshire Cat’s grin.

So you quickly shove her letters into their shoebox, and push it to the back of the linen closet.

Dreams are the only place where she appears whole, albeit somewhat changed.

In most she shimmers into being, draped in robes sewn with golden Celtic symbols. You realise she has become one of her pagan goddesses, her eyes shining luminescent green and silver, magic radiating from her fingertips.

But in some other dreams, she is a walking corpse in a tattered wedding dress, struggling through a sandstorm. Her mouth is twisted, her eye-sockets empty and decayed. You wake in a chilled sweat.

Then there are the other, occasional dreams, where she is you and you are her. You look down at your hands and see her chunky silver pinky ring, her Russian wedding ring, and a coiled serpent ring around your thumb. Her skirts rustle around your legs, trailing along the floor. Her golden-ruby hair flows down your back, and for an instant you understand the truth of her beauty. For an instant, you remember how you loved her.

After she returned, she was more subdued. She would take long, quiet walks with you, in a park near her apartment.

“What happened to James?” you almost asked her, more than once. She never told you.

She worked two jobs, on alternate days. One as a massage therapist, the other as a tarot card reader in the shadowy, incense-swirling backroom of a New Age store.

She no longer tried to tell you about her beliefs, but she once offered to read your cards. Of course, you refused. She teased you then, saying you’d already met your tall, dark, handsome stranger. You rolled your eyes at her as you blushed.

Sometimes you took her out to lunch, or you both went to mom’s house to chatter over dinner. The three of you, the Scully women, spoke to each other more than you ever had before.

Your walls were lowering, inch by inch, as a weight began to lift. Your life began to spool back together, interwoven with love.

But you took it for granted. You were careless with it, and you didn’t pay attention.

Until you stood by her empty hospital bed, too late.

There is an idea that she is lost, that she isn’t coming back.

You refuse to believe it.

She used to steal your Easter eggs. She let you paint her nails neon pink. She often jolted you awake with a flashlight in your eyes, wanting to trade romantic ghost stories. She once put honey in your shampoo.

Surely she still exists, at least in some other dimension. You imagine her as being whole and happy somewhere, safe in an alternate reality that brushes against your world every so often, like the edge of a breeze.

Although logically you know that it doesn’t make sense, you can’t help believing it. You need to believe that she’s still around, that she isn’t all in your head.

You don’t want to grieve, or to miss her. Really, you just want to be haunted.


“do you have a sister?

would you lay your body
down on the tracks for her?

stand on one tiptoe
in hell for her?

don’t you have someone
you’d die for?”

— belly, ‘someone to die for’