The first breath always hurt the most.
The night air burned her lungs, shocking her body back to life. She stood, shaking, arms outstretched for balance. She felt dizzy until she was sick and then she wasn't dizzy anymore. Eventually the shaking subsided and her feet could move. This was the last phase. It took her one day to appear, bit by bit, willing herself back into physical form. From that moment she had a night to do what needed to be done. It was always long enough.
Nobody watches the living as closely as the dead. When people are living, they barely pay attention to one another. When people are dead, they have nothing else to pay attention to. From the safety of death she had watched the man as he became a murderer. She saw him write love letters then saw him set them on fire. She saw him follow the girl who kissed someone else, she saw decision turn his face into a mask, and she saw the murder that had made him a killer. By then, she'd seen enough.
People who only killed once had only one chance to get caught and she felt those deaths hit her like the axe to her gut responsible for ending her own life. The last scream of those victims shook her, woke her, and dragged her back to life. She followed the unfinished thread of the dead girl's story with the first blink of her eyes. The townsfolk would think she had run away. Her body would never be found, and the killer wouldn't be punished for the crime. She moved quickly through the forest, her bare feet slapping against leaves and dirt. Twigs cut her feet but she didn't care; she wouldn't have them for long.
She knew where the house was and she knew he was there. Lifting the axe she found by the woodpile, she silently opened the door he had forgotten to lock. The murderer snored in a nest of empty bottles, slumped over his kitchen table. She ran the edge of the axe across the wound in her gut. Enough for some blood to seep through her dress, enough to put some blood on her hands. She smeared blood onto his hands as well and, after tearing out some of her hair, she tucked it into his fist. Slipping out of the house, she waited until she had put some distance between herself and the murderer before she ran screaming to the inn.
Dripping with blood and tears she pleaded for help. Her voice rasped as she used her vocal chords for the first and last time on this return. The world was a whirl of concerned faces and reaching hands. She felt dizzy until she didn't feel anything anymore. Then she died, like she always did, leaving a bloody trail to a killer. Not her killer, but the living always missed the details.
The last breath never hurt at all.