For our one-year anniversary, my boyfriend, Jesse, gave me a necklace as a gift. At first, I was absolutely in love with it. But for two weeks after, strange things had been happening to me. I started hearing a man’s voice saying my name. I lost my job due to sleep deprivation and failing to show up. I’d been having nightmares nearly every time I closed my eyes, about Jesse (or at least, someone who looked like Jesse) screaming at me and demanding I give the necklace back.
Things came to a head when I started seeing things. At first it was just movement out of the corner of my eye, but then one night, I saw a figure crouching in the corner of the living room as I forced down some vodka and ended up falling asleep on the couch. When I tried to take a shower the next day, I ended up hearing the voice again, when he started singing along to a song I was humming while rinsing the shampoo out of my hair. When I jumped out of the shower and attempted to confront the source of the voice and ask him who he was or what he wanted, I was horrified to discover the name, SAM, written in the steam on the mirror of the medicine cabinet. Of course, that was before the necklace my boyfriend gave me conveniently fell off of the shelf of the medicine cabinet and into the bathroom sink, letting me know that it was all somehow connected.
When I ran like hell out of the house, like any sane person would do, I collided with my boyfriend on the front porch. When I tried to explain to Jesse all that had been happening to me and how I felt that it was all connected to the necklace, he somehow managed to convince me to go back into the house with him while he checked for an intruder. When he found the house was empty, and the name on the bathroom mirror had somehow been wiped clean, he convinced me to take a much-needed nap with him.
That brings me to the next part of my story.
Seeing as my shower had been rudely interrupted by some paranormal bullshit a half hour prior, Jesse helped me rinse the rest of the shampoo out of my hair in the bathroom sink. Then, he guided me to my bedroom.
“No,” I whispered, “I want to lay in my mom’s bed. I feel safer in there.”
Jesse, slightly confused, but not brave enough to protest, graciously turned around and half-carried me into my mother’s bedroom.
“Oh, okay…” he said, looking at the slightly creepy painting of Jesus that was hanging over my mother’s bed.
“Shut up,” I said, as I crawled into the bed, and patted the empty space beside me.
Jesse shut the bedroom door, reached for the light switch but stopped when he saw the discomfort on my face and got into bed with me.
“Go to sleep,” he whispered, “I’ll be right here when you wake up.”
That was a lie.
Several hours later, I was awoken by the sound of heavy pounding on the front door. In a panic, I reached for Jesse, only for my hand to fall on the empty space in the bed next to me. I glanced at the alarm clock on my mother’s bedside table and was fascinated to see that it was already 10 o’clock at night. I had slept for at least 8 hours straight.
I got out of bed and found myself still in my bathrobe from my attempted shower earlier. I threw on a pair of my mom’s sweatpants and a tank top, then ran down the stairs to see who was at the front door. To my surprise, it was Jesse. I didn’t even have to open the door to know that he was drunk.
“Jesse! I can’t believe-“
“SHUT UP! Okay? Jus-just SHUT UP CHARLIE!” He stumbled into the house and pushed past me when I tried to help him maintain his balance.
“How could you-“
“How could I? What about you? You’re the idiot who locked the door when you knew I would be coming back! I texted your phone and told you if you woke up, to leave the door unlocked because I’d be back.”
“I didn’t lock the door! I just woke up, just now, from you banging on it!”
“Oh, right, right. So who locked the door then Charlie? Was it- was it Casper, your fucking ghost?”
“His name is Sam,” I whispered, fighting back tears.
“Oh, of course. Sam. It was Sam! I should have known!” he laughed, sarcastically smacking himself in the forehead with the palm of his free hand. In the other, he held a nearly-empty beer bottle.
“I can’t believe you’re drunk! After how far you’ve come and-“
“OH, I’M SORRY! I guess I didn’t know how to cope with the fact that my girlfriend is a fucking nutcase!”
“It’s not my fault! It’s the damn necklace-“
“The necklace! The fucking-“ Jesse whipped the beer bottle at the wall by the staircase, then stumbled up the steps and disappeared in the direction of my mother’s bedroom. He returned a moment later, the necklace intertwined between his fingers.
“Jesse, you’re scaring me.”
“You wanna know where I got your anniversary present, you ungrateful bitch? I picked it up while I was in Chicago. From a local jewelry shop that I follow on Facebook. I had my eye on it for months. For months. And I finally saved up enough money to buy it for you. Then you gave me the bus tickets to go there and I knew I just had to get it for you. And this, this is how you repay me? By going batshit crazy and making up some fucking ghost stories?”
Jesse grabbed my arm and threw the front door open. When I tried to pull away, he grabbed me with both hands and pulled me out on to the porch.
“Jesse, YOU’RE HURTING ME!”
“Shut up. Let’s go.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you! You’re drunk!”
“GET IN THE CAR!”
Scared of what he might do, I obliged when he opened the driver’s car door. Instead of climbing over the console and into the passenger’s seat, I stayed put. “Fine,” I said, “But I’m not letting you drive.”
Jesse stared at me for a moment, thinking. I almost expected him to hit me. Finally, he shut the car door and walked around and got in the passenger seat. He took out his phone and typed in an address. “We have to go here,” he said, handing me his phone.
“To Chicago? Are you crazy? That’s like two hours away! I don’t wanna drive there tonight!”
“Do you want answers about this damn necklace, or not?”
He held up the little troublemaker, letting it dangle on its chain from his fingertips, right in front of my face. I snatched it from him and shoved it into my pocket.
“It’ll be 1 in the morning before we get there, the jewelry shop won’t even be open!”
“Chicago doesn’t really sleep. And that shop is always open. Part of its charm, I suppose.”
I stared at him for a moment, relieved that he had appeared to have calmed down a little.
“Fine,” I whispered, holding my hand out to him for the keys.
I pulled in to the nearest gas station.
“What are you doing?” Jesse asked as if it wasn’t obvious.
“We need gas, Jesse. Your car is almost on empty. Do you have your wallet on you?” I held my breath, hoping he would say no.
“Here,” he said, handing me his card, “Fill her up.”
I sighed, took the card and walked into the little building. I grabbed some snacks and drinks before wandering up to the counter. The clerk eyeballed me, not so much checking me out, more so in a disapproving manner. When I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror on the ceiling behind him, I understood why. I looked like hell.
When I walked back to the car to pump the gas, I found Jesse in the driver’s seat.
“Damn it!” I should have seen that one coming.
I filled the tank, then reached to open the driver’s door. Jesse locked it before I could pull the door open.
“Jesse, I am not playing games with you. I’m driving!”
“Just get in the fucking car, Charlie. I’m fine.”
Tempted to just call the cops, I reached into the pocket of the sweatpants I was wearing and realized I didn’t even have my phone on me. Frantic, I smacked the car window.
“Don’t make a scene, Charlie. Just get in. I’ve driven under worse conditions. I’m fine.”
Furious, I walked around the car and got in on the other side. Before I could attempt to talk some sense into him, Jesse started the car and took off. I desperately reached for my seatbelt, praying the whole time.
“I swear to God, Jesse,” I said, still struggling with my seat belt as he pulled on to the freeway, “When we get back from Chicago I’m breaking up with-“
Just then, the car radio turned on by itself.
Jesse didn’t even seem to notice as I stared in horror, watching the tuning dial move by itself. Then, the volume. I forgot how to breathe as that familiar song found its way in through the speakers.
Jessie is a friend, yeah, I know he’s been a good friend of mine…
“What?” I reached for the volume on the radio, but it turned itself up before I even touched it.
Jesse winced, “What are you doing?”
“I-it isn’t me! The radio, it-“
“Oh come on, Charlie. Don’t start!”
And she’s watching him with those eyes…
“What the fuck?” I pushed the power button, but nothing happened. I kept pushing it, as the volume increased.
You know I wish that I had Jessie’s girl!
“Jesus, Charlie. I know you like this song but turn that shit down!”
“I CAN’T! I can’t even turn it off! It’s like the car is possessed or something-“
“Oh, here we go.” Jesse smacked the steering wheel. “Will you just fucking stop with the ghost shit already?”
I play along with the charade…
“I’m not fucking with you Jesse, I can’t turn it off!”
“Move,” Jesse slapped my hand away and frantically started pushing the power button, to no avail.
“See! It won’t stop!” I covered my ears as the speakers rattled from the ever-increasing volume.
Jesse said something, but I couldn’t hear him.
I wanna tell her that I love her but the point is probably moot…
“WHAT?” I yelled at him, no longer able to hear my own voice. I stared at him and tried to read his lips, but it was his eyes that said it all. He stared in horror at the rearview mirror, and I didn’t need to look to know what he saw in the back seat. Who he saw in the back seat.
“JESSE, LOOK OUT!” I screamed as I noticed us drifting toward a truck in the lane next to us and grabbed for the wheel.
I wish that I had Jessie’s girl!
It was too late.
Where can I find a woman, where can I find a woman like that?
Rick Springfield’s voice was replaced with static, as the pavement beneath us was replaced by the midnight sky. Then it was pavement again, then the sky. Again and again and again, until I could no longer differentiate two; until finally, everything went black.
“Sh-SHE’S AWAKE!” I heard my mother’s voice yell, from somewhere in the distance.
“Oh Charlie, thank God!” I could feel her breath as she sobbed into the back of my hand.
I opened my eyes and squinted against the arrogant sunlight coming in through the window across the room.
“J-Jesse?” I whispered.
“He’s still out,” the nurse said, looking at the machine next to my bed, “We weren’t sure if you were ever going to part with that dream you were having.”
“You were humming in your sleep,” the nurse smiled, “You’ve been out for a couple of days, but the song never changed. We knew you would pull through and wake up eventually, you just took your time is all.”
“A couple of days?” I tried to sit up, but the nurse held me down.
“Take it easy. You’re going to be alright. You were in a car accident. The driver-“
“Jesse had quite a bit of alcohol in his system. You are lucky you weren’t more severely injured. You are one of the lucky ones. Not wearing a seatbelt appears to have saved your life.”
“What- where’s Jesse?”
“Your car went off the side of the freeway. It appears you spun quite a few times before you were thrown out the window. Good thing, too, because the car finally stopped with the passenger side of the car in a shallow body of water that had collected in the ditch on the side of the freeway.”
I stared at her, trying to understand.
“What I’m saying is, if you had been wearing your seatbelt when you fell unconscious, you would have been strapped in, and you would have drowned by the time the paramedics arrived.”
My mother was sobbing again.
“Th-the radio. It turned on by itself and distracted me while I was trying to fasten my seatbelt. I forgot to buckle myself in because I was trying to turn the damn radio off.”
My mother looked at me, then at the nurse. “Is she okay?”
“Your memory might be a little fuzzy. You just went through a traumatic experience. You are probably in shock.”
“Jesse! Where is Jesse?”
“He is down the hall. He experienced more serious injuries than you, but for the time being, he is stable.”
“I have to see him!” I tried to sit up again, and the nurse stopped me.
“You are very lucky, but you still suffered from some injuries, aside from your head trauma. You have a bruised lung and some bruised ribs. It’s a miracle you didn’t break anything. You need to rest, Charlie. Jesse will be alright.”
“What happened to him?”
“He is still unconscious. He, too, suffered head trauma. Unfortunately, he also has a broken collarbone and a broken arm. We will inform you as soon as he is awake.”
“Are you hungry?” My mother asked, having finally calmed herself down.
“The doctor is on her way. We need to run a few quick tests, but we can order you something from the cafeteria, it will be here by the time we are done,” the nurse offered.
That night, I had an unexpected visitor. My mother had gone home for a shower and a change of clothes. It took me damn near an hour to convince her to go, and that I would be okay. Not five minutes after she left, a strange woman entered the room and lingered in the doorway. I had never seen her before, but I knew who she was immediately.
“You’re Jesse’s mother,” I gasped. “I could recognize those eyes anywhere-“
“I-I’m sorry to bother you. Charlie, right?”
“I’m Mary. Jesse’s mother, yes.” Her voice was so soft, I could hardly hear her. “I’m sorry to meet you under such poor circumstances.”
“How is he? Is he awake?”
She sighed. “Can I come in?”
“Yeah, yeah of course!” I tried to sit up in bed and winced.
She entered the room slowly, then took a seat in my mother’s chair beside my bed. She truly was a beautiful woman, even with her hair a mess and the shadows under her eyes nearly as dark as my own.
“Jesse seems to be improving, he still hasn’t regained consciousness though, unfortunately. But the doctor says there is hope.”
She lowered her head and started playing with something in her lap. “I’m glad you’re okay, Charlie. I’m so sorry my son put you in that position. I just hope I don’t have to lose him, too.”
“I’m so sorry, this must be really hard for you, I can’t imagine-“
“I um, I just needed to ask you something.”
She raised her hands from her lap, and I saw what she was playing with. The necklace. The damn necklace. It looked as beautiful as ever, its chain woven between her fingers.
“Your mother and I met yesterday, and we were trying to piece together what had happened. I guess when the paramedics arrived, they searched you and the crash site for your phone because they were trying to figure out who you were and contact your family. Jesse’s uncle Roy was able to confirm your identity, but before all that, I guess they found this in your pocket.” She set the necklace on my blanket.
“I just, I was wondering if you could tell me where you got it?”
“Oh, Jesse gave that to me a few weeks back, for our anniversary. It’s what started this whole thing, actually.”
I noticed the tear collecting in the corner of her left eye.
“What? What is it?”
“Oh,” she wiped her eye with the sleeve of her cardigan, only for another tear to fall from her other eye. “I’m sorry, it’s just, um,”
I grabbed the box of tissues off of my bedside table and handed them to her.
“Thank you. This necklace, it is my most prized possession. Someone broke into my home a few weeks ago and stole it. I thought it was suspicious that nothing else in the house had been touched. I assumed it must have been Jesse, but I was hoping it was just a terrible coincidence. I haven’t seen or heard from him in a few years, since he moved here with his uncle, and-“
“Jesse stole that from you?!”
She grabbed a wad of tissues and blew her nose. “I’m sorry. This necklace, it’s just so important to me. For reasons Jesse doesn’t even know about.”
She paused to wipe her eyes again.
“Charlie, I know I was a horrible mother to him. After he left, I cleaned up my act. I have been sober for two years, but he wouldn’t answer my calls. He wanted nothing to do with me. Can’t say I blame him. But yes, I figured he came back and stole the necklace because he knew it was the one thing that would break my heart.”
At that point, she was sobbing. Uncomfortable, I handed her another wad of tissues in an attempt to comfort her.
“Jesse lied to me, he said he bought the necklace from a jewelry store in Chicago. I’m so sorry! I had no idea!”
“It’s alright, it’s not your fault,” she whispered, still wiping her face.
“Um, Mary? This is going to sound crazy, but…do you know a Sam?”
She froze tissues in hand and stared at me through the tears. The look in her eyes sent chills down my spine.
“How do you know about Sam?” she whispered.
“Please, don’t think I’m crazy. These last two weeks, since Jesse gave me that necklace, strange things have been happening. Jesse and I were on our way back to Chicago so he could show me where the necklace came from… Now that I think about it, maybe he was going to drive us to your house.”
“Have you seen Sam, too?” she asked, grabbing my hand desperately.
At that point, it was my turn to cry. All I could do was nod my head yes.
She held up the necklace. “Do you know what this is?” she asked.
I stared in silence.
“It’s a memorial necklace; Cremation jewelry, that’s why it’s so bulky.”
My jaw dropped. Suddenly, it all made sense.
“Jesse doesn’t even know this,” she continued, standing up, “But this necklace contains the ashes of someone I loved very, very much.”
“Sam,” I whispered.
“Yes,” she started crying again. “Sam, my first son.”
“Jesse had a brother?!” I thought back to the nightmares I’d been having, of the man who had resembled Jesse so closely, only appearing a few years older, with heavier facial hair. Why hadn’t I thought of that before?
“Yes, Jesse had a brother.” She was pacing now, at the foot of my bed, winding and unwinding the chain of the necklace between her fingers.
“I never told him this, but the night his father died in the car accident, he wasn’t alone.”