“Best Friends” by Melanie Tem
From The Devil’s Coattails edited by Jason Brock and William F. Nolan
Cycatrix Press, 2011
The best ghost stories to me are the ones that involve love. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing like reading about someone with a pissed-off, revenge-seeking ghost hot on their tail. But there’s real power in a story about heartbreak and separation, the idea that someone you’ve loved and lost is still existing, somehow, on the very edges of your life – close enough to feel, but impossibly far away.
That’s the feeling Melanie Tem captures in “Best Friends.” Tem writes about Maureen, a woman who lost her best friend Michelle many years ago. She’s still not sure what happened, and that’s sometimes the biggest heartbreak of all – someone who was vitally important to you at one point in your life decides to step away, leaving you with all the doubt and confusion but none of the power to make it better. Years after their rift, Maureen begins to sense Michelle’s presence in her life once again. She doesn’t even know if Maureen is still alive, but suddenly she’s catching quick glimpses of her, and hearing the occasional whisper. For Maureen, these occurrences comprise a haunting of a different kind – the kind that comes in the form of memories good and bad, and regret.
“Best Friends” is a melancholy little tale full of aching, despair, and the very real terror of being left behind by someone you care about. It’s easily the standout story of this anthology so far.