Five years ago, in the Valley of the Sun...
Heather lived a poor existence. She had a roof over her head and food to eat, but it was her soul that remained unsheltered. Her life consisted of cleaning, cooking, and errands, and it was dark. Not depressing, just without colour. Not miserable, just without laughter.
This life Heather lived soley because of her mother; her mother who told her how to dress, how to speak, how to act. Her name was Katia, but no one called her that.
Some people choose to live in the past because they're scared of the future- Mrs Dementieva was a prime example of this. She always insisted everyone call her by her married name, even though no one had seen Mr Dementieva for years. Heather suspected that her mother had never really been married at all, and it was just a way of keeping up appearances.
That was her mother's way really- it was always about what the neighbours would think. In truth it seemed the neighbours opinions were of more value to Mrs Dementieva than her own daughter's. Heather was brought up to be quiet, be respectful, and never answer back, and if she did she was severly punished.
Mrs Dementieva knew all about suffering. She knew just how long someone could be locked in the dark before they lost their mind. She knew just how long someone could be held under the water before they drowned. Heather could have considered herself lucky in a way- her mother's skill in torture was such that she would always stop at the last minute. She would always end the pain just before Heather would break. It would always stop just before the last gasp.
It was always tricks and mind games. Mrs Dementieva would twist things- try to make Heather think that she was doing it for her own good, try to make her think that it was her fault she was acting this way. But Heather wasn't stupid. Though she had been put down by the years of torment, a fire still burned inside of Heather's heart. Her mother's cruel ploys and subterfuge may have resonated on the surface, but Heather still fought inside. She knew there was more to life; she knew that things could be better. It was just a matter of time.
The day that time came seemed like any other. It was early morning, and Heather was out at the the grocery store pertaining to her mother's demands as usual. She didn't see him arrive, she just turned around and there was light.
From the moment Kale came into her life, Heather felt herself changing. The concept of love at first sight was alien to her, and she still didn't believe it in now. All Heather knew was here was a man who made her smile; who made her feel like she was worth something. For so long she had listened to her mother tell her that she wasn't good enough, and though she had told herself she didn't believe it, part of her still panicked that maybe it was true. Now she knew that it wasn't.
Heather's life was so heavily controlled by her mother that it was difficult to find time to be with Kale, but somehow they managed. It started off with simple gestures; a warm friendship formed and with it came affection. A brief brush of the lips was everything. Kale was like oxygen, and Heather ached for him with every breath.
As their bond grew stronger, Heather knew that Kale would have to meet her mother. She didn't want him to- she didn't like the idea of her sunshine joining with her darkness, but she needed Mrs Dementieva's blessing if she and Kale were to see each other as much as she wished. But, as expected, the encounter did not go so well...
From the minute Mrs Dementieva laid eyes on Kale she was incensed. Animosity boiled inside as she laid eyes on the stranger, because it was then she really looked at her daughter for the first time in a long while. Staring at Heather, she saw the glow about her; the quiet joy that formed a secret smile on her face. Mrs Dementieva told her daughter right there and then that she was never to see this man again, and for once Heather did not remain speechless. It started with one word, a simple 'no' and after that anger was rising. The two sides threw hatred at each other, and Kale found himself caught in the middle.
From that day on, Mrs Dementieva knew she was losing the hold she had on her daughter. Her icy grip no longer bended Heather to her will; Heather was stronger now with Kale beside her, and this made her mother more insanely furious than she had ever been before.
With her fear of her mother dwindling, Heather saw Kale more and more frequently. She shrugged off the rigors previously placed on her and fully embraced her love. Though they decided to keep it a secret, Kale and Heather got married.
They were married at the local city hall for legal purposes, but later that night they slipped away into the woods for their own private ceremony. This is how Kale and Heather wanted it- just the cool night air and each other for company as they said their vows; words formed through breathless lips as they promised their hearts. That night they became man and wife, til death do them part.
With the dawn slowly approaching Heather had to say goodbye. Though she ached to spend the night with Kale, in all senses, Heather had to return home before her mother grew suspicious. They kissed as they parted and went back to their lives, all the while remaining joyful at their secret plans to leave as soon as they had saved enough money.
The following morning Heather was sent out by her mother's instructions to run some errands in town. As she walked towards the shops a coy smile played across her lips as she thought of her new husband. In just a few days time they would be away from this place, safe in Riverview together.
Meanwhile, back at home Kale was thinking about the same thing. He knew that nothing would be able to stop them leaving, so when Mrs Dementieva called and asked him over to the house he couldn't see the harm in going. Maybe she'd changed her mind about them?
As he got to the open front door Kale heard a voice calling him, and by following it he ended up in a room he had never seen before. A long dark pool ran the length of it, and Mrs Dementieva sat in stoney silence in the distance.
It terrified him. For reasons he couldn't explain, Mrs Dementieva's cold quietness made his bones twist with terror. Trying very hard to remember how to breathe, Kale walked up the steps to greet the woman. He waited for her to speak; to explain why she had asked him here, but she didn't. Not at first.
Initially she just glared, eyes barely blinking as she fixed her chilling gaze on Kale's bewildered face. And then she asked him. No, that wasn't right- she told him. She told him to leave this town and never see Heather again.
Kale laughed and turned to walk away. It was a mistake he would not live to regret- he wouldn't get the chance.
Only a few footsteps were able to echo through the bleak room before the pain hit. Kale felt his legs give out as the hot sharp sensation spread from his side throughout his body, and he crumbled into the water. The water gripped him in a frenzy, the liquid pulling him down into its depths. Kale tried so hard to fight it but it hurt so much, and if he just stopped struggling he would be able to relax. There was so much comfort to be found in just giving up.
And then darkness. Black. It was just so black. Dark, coarse liquid forcing its way into his lungs, and forcing life out.
When Heather returned home her mother was waiting for her. She didn't even try to seem sympathetic, Mrs Dementieva just told Heather that Kale had died in a car accident. No commiseration, no sympathy- she even tried to make Heather feel like it was her fault for falling for him in the first place. But her mother's words just washed over her like nothing, because from the moment she knew Kale was dead and she felt her heart slam into her ribcage that was it for Heather. All colour drained from her life and all emotions cascaded freely as the walls of her heart fell down.
Heather locked herself in her room after that- she needed to be alone with her grief, but that wasn't all... Heather may have spent her life serving her mother, but she also spent her life learning. The books she buried herself in had taught her many things, such as the mythology of ghosts.
Many years ago, ghosts had roamed as freely as regular human beings. They had lived a peaceful existence, but one day everything changed. An organisation came into power that decided ghosts were an affont to everything they believed in, and consequently they were banished. Since then, the practice of restoring ghosts was halted and the laboratories burned down, but some books on the subject still remained.
When Heather had learnt of Kale's death she waited for his funeral to pass, and stole his urn before it could be destroyed. Placing it in her room she then waited. And waited. Weeks passed and still nothing, but Heather would wait forever for Kale. Then finally, one night his ghost appeared.
Ghosts were blasphemous, ghosts were a sin- this was what Heather had been taught by society her whole life. But Heather was smarter than that. Her love for Kale enabled her to see past the world's narrowminded judgements. They belonged together, and the fact that he was a ghost was no more important than the colour of his skin or his accent. That night, Kale and Heather were finally able to spend the night together, and it was perfect. In the morning they would leave forever, and that was perfect too.
After returning in his ghostly guise, Kale had spent the night wondering if he would disappear just as quickly as he had materialised. He stayed up until dawn just watching Heather sleep and praying he would not be torn away from her again. He wasn't. Something was keeping him in this world, and Kale strongly suspected that something was Heather.
When Heather awoke in the morning Kale was fast asleep. She got dressed and tiptoed lightly down the stairs where she found her mother in the kitchen. Skipping all niceties and pleasantness Heather told her mother the truth- Kale was alive, as a ghost, they were married, and they were leaving. Now.
How she got from talking to agony Heather was uncertain. One moment she was looking at the mother, the next she was lying on the ground, pain seeping from her broken face.
Kale awoke as he heard the shouting downstairs. He recognised the voice; it was a voice that would forever bring chills to his soul, but what bothered him more was that he couldn't hear Heather's voice too. Racing down the stairs he found his love lay damaged on the floor, with the monsterous Mrs Dementieva hunched over her; her cruel wretched hands inflicting misery on Heather. Feelings of revenge burned through his veins and he could have killed her. But Kale was not that person- he would never be that person.
Kale would have his revenge, but it would not be murder. He would save Heather, he would say everything he ever wanted to Mrs Dementieva, he might even injure her a bit, but he would never end her life. And that was exactly what happened.
Leaving Mrs Dementieva to live her life in bitterness and gloom forever was punishment enough. Kale and Heather would go on, they would be happy, but she would never change.
As Kale and Heather left Sunset Valley they were both bruised and shaken by their experiences. They left a shade smarter; a great deal braver. They had survived oppression, they had survived even death. They now felt they could survive anything.