I was a failure. By the end of my senior year of high school, I was still not Arvid Bergfalk’s girlfriend. I didn’t get it. I mean, I had done everything right. I was the most popular girl at Stjernelys Secondary School. I was smart – but not too smart. I was funny. I was hot as hell. And I was the official class photographer. Just look at these amazing prom pictures I took!
Everyone wanted to be my best friend. Everyone loved me.
Except for Arvid.
Graduation day came and went. He gave me a huge hug. But not a romantic hug – more like a warm, brotherly hug. Then he ran off to join his current girlfriend, this airhead girl with an overbite who just happened to play drums in his rock band.
I had lost. It didn’t even matter that I had become the perfect girl for Arvid. He just didn’t see me.
For a few months, I sort of drifted in a daze. College classes began, but I was hardly able to focus, and my grades began to suffer. Sternelys, which had once shone for me like a jewel, was starting to feel like a vast frozen void. My flame was flickering out.
Then one night, I was trudging through damp snow in an old churchyard, hoping to find something interesting to take photos of. Well, I found something interesting, all right. It was a ghost.
The funny thing was, I always thought I would be frightened of ghosts. I thought that should I come across a floating, transparent being from beyond the grave, I would freak out and run away, like people do in movies. Maybe it was all those years living in my grandparents’ spooky old house in China. Maybe it was the result of living in a land where families worshiped their dead and honored the ghosts of their ancestors. Because when I came across old Pietr, the wandering spirit in the churchyard, I didn’t feel the least bit of fear.
As a matter of fact, Pietr and I had a long conversation. I spilled my sorrows, and Pietr listened with all the patience of a dead guy with nothing but time on his hands.
“I don’t understand,” he said when I had finished blubbering, icy tears frozen on my cheeks. “You came to this land to start over. To become a newer, better version of yourself, correct?” I nodded. “But instead, you threw away that girl. You chose to become a weak copy of everyone around you, in order to capture a boy’s attention. That is where you failed.”
“What can I do?” I wailed.
Pietr raised a ghostly eyebrow. “Am I mistaken,” he said, “or are you The Phoenix? Time to rise again, little bird.”
He was so right. I left Pietr behind to haunt his little churchyard, and returned to university. In three years, I graduated with honors. Then I got my first job. Okay, a lame job. I was a chef’s assistant in a sushi bar, because apparently, people in Sternelys think that Chinese people are Japanese.
Still, it was a job. I saved up every penny, then went out to splurge on the new me.
Starting with the cutest, most badass motorcycle in all of Scandinavia.