May’s shoe box flat was icy on that February morning and she simply could not stand the idea of pulling the duvet back. The steely ring of the alarm on her phone blared on for a minute or so before she let out an almighty, defeated groan and reached her hand out from the warmth to turn it off.
May hated Mondays. She was an ‘aspiring’ writer, which meant she wrote all the fucking time but just never got any bloody recognition for it, which further went on to mean she had to work five days a week at a dingy little coffee shop that had been choked up on the corner of the market a block from her flat. She enjoyed writing about sunsets and parties and wonderful colourful worlds. The grey mix of customers that would appear in the store, losing the camouflage of the dirty grey pavement for a moment to stare right through her and buy overpriced, bitter coffee never inspired her, funnily enough.
Ginny, in contrast, was up early, flinging open the door to her wardrobe and collecting her long black jacket with bright enthusiasm. By now, she thought, May would be getting ready too, pulling on that ghastly bright yellow raincoat she had seen in the picture supplied in the case file. She was a pretty thing, this May, with a head of curls and a scattering of forget-me-not freckles. Ginny was excited to meet her.
When Gin arrived at the coffee shop, May was running down the road with her yellow coat billowing behind her, late for her shift. Smirking, Gin took to patiently reading the menu, stood outside the window and glancing across the range of drinks with a detached interest.
“I definitely recommend the chai latte Ma-am, today only it gets you two stamps on your loyalty card.” May sang, out of breath as she fiddled with the key in the lock and let herself into the cafe. Ginny jumped, her gut lurching at the sound of May’s voice, undoubtedly aimed at her.
“What?” she whispered, turning around as if on a wire, mouth forming a perfectly shocked ‘o’ as she raced to follow the young girl into the store. She felt her cheeks burn red as the young barista stopped to look directly at her face.
“Uhhh. the chai latte. It’s.. it’s good.”
Suddenly, the coffee machine exploded, as May’s case file had said it would, at 8.36am. The explosion rang out as the the plastic casing shattered in a brilliant, fiery blast.
A huge shard of sharp plastic came straight for May’s lovely, lovely face.
Gin was staring, watching it all happen, a lifetime seeming to rest itself in those few precious seconds. She just couldn’t help it. Within a moment she had tackled the poor girl to the floor and out of harm’s way.
“Oh, fuck.” she hummed, rolling off of her immediately and stumbling to her feet, “I’m so sorry. I should not have done that.”
“You saved my life” May breathed, trying to collect her breath in loud rasps, “You just saved my life”.
“Oh shit, I did, didn’t I? Oh that’s shit, oh fuck, so much fucking paperwork.”
You see, no one usually spoke to the Grim Reapers unless they were, well, dead. Which May would have been at roughly 8.38am, if the Grim Reaper assigned to collect her hadn’t intervened. She was meant to die almost immediately due to a bleed on the brain created by harsh damage to her frontal lobe.
Gin wasn’t meant to get involved.
That was the punishment. No one ever became a Grim Reaper by being good. She didn’t remember even a fraction of her past life but whatever she had done, she was now paying for it with an eternity of solitude. No one ever saw Grim Reapers until death and the only conversation Ginny had received for hundreds of years were the dribbles of conversation she had grasped at in accompanying souls to their next life.
And then there was May.
Ginny had heard the rumours in the spaces between life and death, fragmented whispers passed from other Grims. The cliche of the one true love breaking the ‘spell’. The fairy-tale love story. There’s one person that can see a Reaper and give them a shot at normality and love.
She’d laughed it off.
And then there was May.
She was picking herself up off the floor now, her pink lips split and swollen. Her blonde curls were all in disarray, curling upwards in little funfair loops.
Gin instinctively reached out her hand and helped her up.
“Are-are you okay?” she mumbled, still gripping onto the other’s slim fingers.
May remained silent, her eyes scanning gently across Gin’s startled face.
“You aren’t hurt at all.”
Grim Reapers sit at the doorstep of death everyday – acquiring injuries at every small explosion just wouldn’t be ideal. Gin smiled and shook her head dismissively, “You’re bleeding, you know.”
“Funnily enough, I’ve never felt more alive.”
Gin laughed in disbelief, “I know what you mean.”