AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is the last chapter. Because I worked within the Ghost Whisperer format, there won't be a sequel. Thank you so much to everyone who read and reviewed. I really appreciate it. :)
"How are you feeling?"
AJ shrugged in response to Melinda's inquiry. "I've been better…and I've been worse." His head was bandaged up, but he appeared to be resting comfortably. The hospital staff was obviously taking good care of him.
"He has a concussion, two broken ribs, and stitches in his forehead," Karen quietly informed Melinda. She was seated in a chair next to the bed, watching over him as she had after the crash.
"There's something I need to talk to you about—both of you." Melinda pulled the door closed behind her for privacy and sat in the chair opposite Karen. "Kurt's been arrested."
Karen nodded smugly. "I told you he was guilty."
"Arrested?" echoed a stunned AJ. "Why?"
"Because he murdered Karen. He attempted to kill you, too. Here." She handed AJ the article she had clipped from a local newspaper. "Kurt knew you two would be traveling together, and he drained the brake fluid to make it look like an accident."
"Everybody said it was an accident," AJ murmured once he had finished reading. "Everybody. I believed them, too. How could I be so stupid?"
"You're not stupid," Melinda and Karen said at the exact same time.
"Only Karen knew the truth," Melinda added gently. "She convinced me to talk to the police, and I persuaded them to reopen the investigation."
It took a few minutes for AJ's glazed eyes to return to normal and for him to recover from the shock.
"Is that what Karen needed your help with? Bringing Kurt to justice?"
"Among other things." Melinda glanced at Karen, whose expression had turned sour. She knew what was coming, and she didn't like it one bit.
"I really appreciate what you did for me." Karen's icy tone matched the piercing glare she directed at Melinda. "However, I won't be needing your services anymore, so you can leave now."
Melinda didn't move a muscle, nor did she respond. Instead, she focused her attention on AJ. The majority of ghosts agreed to cross over with a good enough reason, and she had a suggestion that would please everyone.
"When a person dies, they're supposed to go into the Light. But sometimes they have unfinished business and choose to stay earthbound."
AJ frowned. "You say that like it's a bad thing."
"Actually, it is. Earthbound spirits are stuck in the past, watching life go on around them and unable to communicate with their loved ones."
"You've got a point," Karen reluctantly conceded. She studied her lover's face with great sadness and reached out to lay her hand on top of his.
"I don't want Karen to be miserable." AJ's voice was so soft that Melinda barely heard him. He avoided meeting her eyes and gazed out the window, biting his lip.
"She doesn't have to be." Melinda took a deep breath and hoped for the best. "If Karen doesn't cross over, things will go back to the way they were when I leave. You won't be able to understand what she's saying."
"Stop it! Can't you see you're upsetting him?" a distressed Karen pleaded, leaping out of her chair.
"But there is a way you can talk to each other without me. Isn't that what you both want?"
Her words seemed to calm Karen somewhat—even intrigue her. "What are you talking about?"
AJ was equally confused. "I-I don't understand…"
Melinda looked to Karen appealingly. "Spirits who go into the Light can come to their loved ones in dreams. You'll be able to visit AJ whenever you want, as well as your friends and family members. You can talk to and hold them again."
"Even my children?"
"Even your children."
"That sounds wonderful," AJ sighed.
Karen was almost entirely convinced, but Melinda sensed some remaining doubt. "I can still watch over them from the Light, right?"
"Yes, you can," Melinda assured her.
"Good. I'd hate to miss out on anything important." Karen surprised Melinda with a fleeting grin, although her tone betrayed her inner grief. "I'll go, but I have a few things to say to AJ first."
"Tell him to be there for Kyra and Kody and tell him to share stories about me. They should know how much I love them." Her delicate features twisted in anguish. "I need AJ to protect them from the truth—at least until they're old enough to handle it. I don't want them to grow up bitter and hateful because their father is a monster."
"Karen wants you to be a part of her children's lives and to share memories with them," Melinda translated. "She also wants you to help them understand what happened to her, but not until they're older."
He nodded somberly. "I promise. I would do anything for you, Karen." AJ suddenly blinked back tears. "You know that."
"I know." She glanced at Melinda again. "AJ was there for me when I needed a friend, but what we had was so much more than that. It was true love. He made me feel beautiful and special. And, even though we didn't have much time together, every second of that time was precious."
"She says thank you for being there for her. Karen really loves you, AJ, and she's grateful for the time she had with you." Melinda had a hard time passing along the message without crying. No matter how many times she did it, it would always affect her emotionally.
"I'll never forget you, Karen. You changed my life forever."
Karen smiled at him, then moved towards the window, staring at something that neither AJ nor Melinda could see. The bright sunlight streaming through the half-open blinds was an appropriate metaphor for the Light, however. She put a hand to her mouth and looked at Melinda, amazed.
"I can see the Light," she whispered excitedly. "It's so beautiful…"
"She sees the Light," Melinda told AJ.
"You've suffered so much, sweetheart. You deserve to be at peace," he said softly, his gaze following Melinda's.
The ghost walked over to the bed and stood next to him. Her eyes were shiny with tears, too, but she was beaming.
"Thank you," she said to Melinda, then leaned down and kissed AJ tenderly on the lips. "I'll see you again someday. I love you, AJ."
"I love you, too," he murmured, as if he had heard her, and brushed his fingers across his lips in awe.
Karen turned her attention back to Melinda. "Tell him that he really is phenomenal."
Melinda nodded and managed a smile of her own. "I will.."
With a new spring in her step, Karen gracefully walked—more like floated, actually—in the direction of the window until she disappeared within the Light.
Melinda wiped at her tear-streaked face. "She's gone."
"No." AJ shook his head, but, to Melinda's amazement, he looked happy. "Not really. She'll always be here as long as someone loves and remembers her."
She reached out and gave his hand a quick squeeze. "Karen was right about you. You really are phenomenal."
To My #2 Fan, Melinda,
Thanks for everything!
Allen "AJ Styles" Jones
Melinda looked over the autographed eight-by-ten one more time and smiled as she placed it back on her dresser. Although her calling was always heartwrenching and sometimes even dangerous, being able to bring closure to both the dead and the living was immensely satisfying.
"Hey, Melinda! There's a strange—very strange—man here to see you!" Jim yelled, cutting into her thoughts.
She made her way down the staircase and opened the front door. Professor Rick Payne waited for her on the doorstep. He gave a little wave and smiled sheepishly.
"Hello, Melinda. Hello, Melinda's husband." The professor entered before either had a chance to welcome him inside. "I know I'm supposed to be the expert in this department, but has Hell officially frozen over? Because I could've sworn you—you, of all people—invited me over to your house to watch wrestling. And, well, it's Thursday night and here I am."
"I think the temperature dropped a few degrees," Jim muttered dryly.
Melinda laughed. "Come on. The show's about to start in a few minutes." In her line of work, stranger things happened all the time.