Chapter 1:

Death, My Old Friend

Grim Reaper


People were crying all around me.


Okay, they weren't exactly "crying". Not how you'd imagine it at least. They were screaming as if they were crying. However, not a single person had a single tear in their eyes. If tears were really coming down, the ladies would be covering their faces completely with a handkerchief, instead of lightly dabbing at their eyes.


I didn't know Duke Fimlim too much before he died, so I couldn't shed a tear for him either. I felt a little bad about that, but it couldn't be helped.


Dressed in all black, a friend...a "close friend" of Duke Fimlim started reading an eulogy. One of those fake ones that emphasis how "kind and generous" the dead person was, and never highlighting their actual good points.


I hate funerals for these reasons. No one is ever sincere when it comes to funerals. No. It's all etiquette nowadays.


"You look sick."


The young boy next to me spoke with a grin. He was also dressed in all black, with pitch black hair and sparkling silver eyes. He was perched on the armrest of my chair, looking amused and very happy. Too happy to be at a funeral.


I sighed.


"Get off," I said.


The boy didn't move. Instead, he crossed his legs and widened his smile.


"Jack. Get off," I said, this time making my voice firmer and glaring directly at him.


He frowned and slowly got off of the armrest, standing next to my chair instead.


"Geez Alice. You're no fun these days. You were a lot more fun and talkative when you were little...not to mention cute..."


I gritted my teeth.


"Jack. This is a funeral. If I speak to you now, I will be tarnishing the Fimlim name."


"Fimlim? You aren't even crying at your grandfather's funeral though."


"That's because I didn't know him very well."


"Are you gonna take over the family business?" Jack asked, twirling a random pencil with his fingers,


"Yes. At least temporarily," I whispered softly.


You're probably wondering who this boy is. Well, he's Death. The Grim Reaper. Whatever you want to call it. He delivers souls to the afterlife (heaven or hell) and makes sure they have no regrets. Sometimes, if the dead person sinned very little in their lifetime, Jack here would try to grant them a final wish.


I glanced at Jack, who was still standing by my chair. Death didn't look as you'd imagine. I'm sure he's very old now, but he looks like an eighteen or nineteen year old kid to me. I guess the saying "don't judge a book by its cover" works well here.


When the funeral was finally over, many people approached me and asked me about the family business. There were many questions I didn't understand, so I did my best to ignore some of the reporters firing their questions at me. Sadly, Jack was passed over several times during this event.


Since no one else can see Jack, they all just pass through him like air. A while ago, he told me getting passed through by mortals wasn't exactly the most comfortable sensation.


***


"Miss Alice, what are your plans after this?"


The bumpy carriage ride didn't help my thought process after the whole funeral.


"I'm not sure Lydia," I answered. Lydia had been my personal maid since I was born. Although I say maid, she does more butler work. After father and mother passed away a few years ago, she's been taking care of me. I have to thank her for all the things she's done for me someday.


Lydia brushed her blond hair away from her crystal blue eyes and gazed at me in concern.


"Alice," she said softly, "You don't have to take over the business. You do know that, right?" she asked. I nodded and looked out the window.


"I know."


As the carriage arrived at the foot of the Fimlim estate (where I live), Lydia and I hurried inside, knowing there would be many letters awaiting the two of us to look over. Most of them about the family business, and other ones about possible marriage arrangements. Even though I was only fifteen, it seems as though lots of families believe they should make early grabs for the family business. Of course, the best way to do that is to marry the heiress.


I sat down at my desk and began sorting out the letters.


"Lydia, could you work on the letters that aren't related to business today?" I asked. Lydia nodded and immediately began reading letters from a giant stack of papers, her eyes scanning through the words like lightning.


I sighed. Honestly I hated reading business letters, but if I didn't read them now, then it would mean I would have no clue how I was supposed to handle grandfather's death.


"Need some help?"


My eyes widened as I saw Jack peering at me from halfway across the room. He was eating the remains of an orange I had eaten earlier this morning. I glared at him and motioned for him to get out. However, he shrugged and put a hand on his ear.


"Can't hear you!" he yelled.


I sighed.


"Lydia, would you mind working in another room? I'd like to leave myself to my own thoughts," I said with a sad smile. Lydia stood up and nodding, carrying the huge stack of mail with her.


As soon as the door shut, I ran over to Jack and stomped my foot.


"Seriously? Can you please go away?" I asked, pointing to the door.


Jack started swinging his scythe around and around.


"Nope. I'm here for special business. Do you know anyone with the name of "Lucille Husting?" Jack asked.


I raised my eyebrow. "Lucille Husting? No."


Jack glared at me. "I've been with you long enough to be able to tell when you're lying, Alice. I need to know who Lucille Husting is. It's her time to go."


"B-But..."


"But what?" Jack asked sharply. He had finally stopped swinging his scythe, but I had lost my grip and grabbed Jack's shirt collar.


"She's six!" I yelled.


_____
Ever since I was a little girl, the Grim Reaper has been following me around every day. At first, I couldn't figure out why no one else could see him, but after my parent's death, everything became clear to me.


He introduced himself as Jack, and acted as a nursemaid for me when I was a baby. He played with me in my crib. I have memories of being a baby and being picked up by him...and even touching his scythe. There were countless occasions where my life was in danger, but no one ever noticed Jack, or his scythe. Eventually, when I was about three years old, I figured out that Jack wasn't like normal people. He could touch objects and digest food, yet I saw that many people passed through him like air...like a ghost.


By the time I turned six, Jack started appearing more and more often. He started asking me about different people. Different names. I'd give them to him with no hesitation. Why wouldn't I tell this person, who's been with me for so many years?


After another year of providing him with names of people I knew, I felt that something was off. I hesitated at times to give him names of people I knew. Why was he asking anyways? Why was he going to find all these people? And for what reason?


And then...when I turned ten...


______


"I see. It's because she's too young to die, right?"


"No! No, please Jack, don't take her life. Don't..."


Jack's scythe disappeared and he placed his hands on mine (which were still latched onto his shirt by the way).


"If you know her, then you should know she's sick. Very sick. She's been suffering for a whole year now. Reliving her of the pain would be the best thing to do," he said, looking into my eyes.


I felt sick. Did she want to die?


I pursed my lips and slowly took my hands off Jack.


"Go."


"But Alice-"


"Go!"


"Alice! I need to know where Lucille-"


"I SAID GO!"


I heard a small pop and Jack had disappeared. Lucille would still be dead either way, but knowing about it and knowing you couldn't do anything about it only made it worse. Will it be a peaceful death? Painless?


Jack. The Grim Reaper. Will he grant Lucille's final wish as well?


I hit the top of my desk in fury.


If only Jack had never latched onto me from the day I was born. If only.


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