I don't remember much about the day I died, only the taste of something dark and sweet.
I had planned to get up early, but things took a turn. Glancing at my phone while trying to snooze the alarm, I realize I'm already late. No time for a shower or a shave. In a panic, I throw on clothes. Rushing to the car I drop my keys while trying to juggle coffee, a laptop bag and my lunch. I bend down quickly to pick them up when the awful sound of my pants ripping makes me gasp. Startled, I spill hot coffee all down the front of my last clean shirt. It is at this very moment I realize this will not be a good day.
Arriving nearly an hour late for the third time this week, I wasn't surprised when Mrs. Thompson called me into her office. "Please, take a seat," she says. "I'm sorry for being late. I overslept," I blurt out, hoping to minimize the impact. "Well, now that you mention it, that is one of the reasons I wanted to speak with you," she says with a stern look on her face. "Our customers and partners depend on us. I expect everyone on this team to excel. That means performing at the highest level. Do you know how we do that?" she asks. Without waiting for a response, she continues, "We do that by building on the fundamentals. Now, if you are late, it throws off your performance for the whole rest of the day. Wouldn't you agree," she asks. "Yes, of course," I reply. She continues her lecture about the importance of being punctual. Somewhere in the middle of it, my mind wanders to the birthday party tonight. I completely forgot to get Mimi a gift. Hopefully, I can find something on the way. "I'm glad you understand," Mrs. Thompson concludes. "Yes ma'am," I say backing out of her office, as though exiting a lion's cage. The rest of the workday is a blur.
After staying late to make up my time, I grab a coffee mug, a gift bag, and an alarm clock as I run through the drugstore. Hopefully, the alarm clock will keep me from getting fired. I check the time. "Late again, as usual," I mumble before bolting from my car to the party. "You missed singing Happy Birthday," my sister says, giving me that look she always gives me when she's disappointed. "And cake," her daughter chimes in. "Sorry, I got stuck at work," I say, without looking her in the eyes. "Really? Because I bet you just forgot to get a gift and had to stop on the way, like always," she chides. I lean over and give Mimi a hug as I hand her the gift bag. "Thank you for coming. Are you getting enough sleep, baby? You look tired," Mimi says. "Yes, Mimi. I'm fine," I reply.
I pour myself some punch while listening to bits and pieces of typical party conversations. "I saw you posted something on your social media about Sriracha. Are you starting some new diet?" my aunt says to her sister Emily. "No, I got a new dog. His name is Sir Sriracha," Emily replies. "Oh, that's cute. What kind of dog is he?" she asks. "He's a Chihuahua," Emily replies. My uncle says to my cousin, "What have you been up to?" "Nothing, just working, how about you?" he replies.
"John & I just got a new car," Melody says proudly. No one responds but she continues telling everyone about her new car as if someone asked her to go over it in detail. From somewhere in the living room I hear someone say, "This cake is delicious, it's so moist." Not to be outdone with news about their new car, my youngest niece offers, "I used to go home on the weekends to do laundry but it took forever, mom and dad's washer & dryer are so old and slow. Thank goodness we just got a new washer and dryer set. They are so nice!" I hear someone whisper, "Ugh! She always has to be the center of attention." "This is the best cake! You really outdid yourself this time!" Aunt Emily says. "That's mine! I had it first. Give it back!" a three year old shouts to his older brother as they run through the kitchen.
The noise from all of the different conversations starts making my head hurt. I head towards the patio when my sister appears in front of me. "Here! You have to try a slice of this chocolate cake. It's the best I've ever had! We saved the last slice for you," she says, trying to make up for being harsh earlier. "Thanks for saving me a piece," I say as she hands me the plate. Resting atop the plate is a beautiful wedge of pure chocolate delight. It's a three layer cake with the perfect amount of rich, thick chocolate frosting between its layers. The cake looks like something from the cover of a gourmet food magazine. It is so moist that there are no crumbs left lingering on the plate as I cut a large bite with my fork. My sister eyes me anxiously waiting to see my reaction when I taste it. As I lift the fork to my mouth, I smell the enchanting aroma of chocolate, sugar, vanilla and something else I can't quite remember.
"Oh my gosh! This tastes amazing!" I exclaim with my mouth still full. Before I can take a second bite, a strange tingling starts in my tongue. Within seconds my throat begins closing shut as I gasp for air! "Can't breathe!" I manage to get out before dizziness gives way to black.
"Where am I?" I ask as I awaken, holding my throbbing head. "Well, it's complicated,'' my sister's voice says. "Who's that? Is that you, Alice?" I ask trepidly. "Yes, it's me," she replies. "What happened? Where are we?" I ask. "Well … you sort of died. We're in between, she says matter of factly. "What?! What do you mean I sorta died?! In between what?" I ask, not understanding. "Just in between," she says. "How did I die? If I'm dead, how are we talking? Are you dead too?" I ask in rapid fire. "Your body is dead, temporarily. Don't worry, everything's fine. You won't stay dead. You ate some cake made with enchanted nutmeg," she explains. "What is enchanted nutmeg? How did it get enchanted?" I ask. "I put a spell on it," she says proudly. "What? So you're a witch? I always thought you were a witch. I just didn't think you were that kind of witch," I blurt out angrily. "But why would you do this to me?" I ask. "Oh, relax. It's no big deal, she says calmly. "I did it to teach you a lesson. You always wait until the last minute to do things and I thought it might do you some good to learn something," she says smugly. "So you killed me just to teach me a lesson!" I exclaim. "You won't stay dead, like I already said, so chill out already," she says, sounding slightly annoyed. "So, did you learn your lesson?" she asks. "Wait! What?! What lesson am I supposed to learn, that my sister really is a witch after all?" I say angrily. "Now, now. Temper, temper. It's not a good idea to upset a witch, even if I am your sister." she says, her eyes gleaming. Turning my back to her, with my arms crossed over my chest, I stand there steaming. "Of all the mean tricks to pull," I mutter under my breath. "You know, you brought all this on yourself. Now, don't you think it would be a good idea to start thinking ahead?" she says in the most annoying way that only a sister can. "Truce," she says as she hands me a plate of chocolate cake. "This one will take you back," she smiles. "Why should I trust you?" I ask. "C'mon, get over it already. All I did was teach you a little lesson. Stop being mad and enjoy this amazing cake. It's delicious, she says as she takes a bite. Suddenly, she disappears and I'm left all alone, holding a plate of chocolate cake. I scratch my head, puzzling over all of this. After a moment, I take a bite of the cake. It is delicious! My whole body tingles for a second, and the next thing I know, I'm waking up in an emergency room. "Good thing your sister had that epi-pen. She waves it around like it is a wand. You were having an allergic reaction and your heart stopped for almost a minute. You were dead," the doctor says. "That's one special sister you have," he says. "Oh, she's special, alright. If you only knew." I laugh.