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“You remember me, don’t you Redboy?”

A look of utter terror fil ed his face. “W-what?”

“I said, you remember Abby, don’t you?” I gripped his arm for a second and then let go. The strange rush of anger I felt seconds earlier was released. “You told me about her yourself, in New Mexico.”

“That’s not what you just said,” he stammered and pul ed away like he was suddenly scared of me. “You just cal ed me Redboy.”

I had no idea what he was talking about. “Maybe crazy is contagious.”

He seemed to think about that.

“Maybe,” he finally said, his voice low and wispy. A line of fear never left his face. “Maybe.”

“Wel , we saw Abby all over the damn place.”


“Dex and I. We both saw her. In the asylum, on the street, in the apartment.” I couldn’t help but shudder at the vision of her walking across his apartment, dripping blood onto the floor, the thick splats. The wasps. The smel of gin.

“I think she might be fucking with me,” I said slowly. It was like dawn was bursting through the windows and il uminating a very simple problem. “Abby. I think she’s haunting me.”

Maximus nodded but I could tel he wasn’t too impressed with my deduction skil s. Of freaking course Abby was haunting me. That’s what Pippa warned would happen.

That’s why I saw Abby in my dreams, in the hospital. That’s who was knocking on the doors and leaving baby slippers everywhere.

Talking about her was making me feel extremely edgy, like she was perched somewhere on my shoulder, waiting to slip inside through my ears.

“Can ghosts…,” I started, then looked around me. The crowd was loud and the sound of clinking glasses reverberated around the room, but I was stil incredibly conscious of what we were talking about. “Can ghosts fuck with you like that? Like, get inside your head? Can they… take over?”

“You mean like possession?” he asked, and at the word, my blood ran cold. I brought my cardigan around me.

I urged him to continue by gesturing with my fingers.

“It depends on the culture,” he explained. “In some societies, shamans can possess someone. In others, like in Wicca, they can be possessed by the Goddess, wil ingly.

In Catholic society, some believe you can be possessed by the Devil.”

“Do you?”

He looked a bit uncomfortable and fidgeted in his seat, trying to get comfortable. “I don’t know if I do. It’s usual y something else. Mental il ness.”

Oh, of course. Everyone goes for the mental y il angle.

“OK, and what about ghosts. Plain ol’ dead people.

Spirits. Specters. Et cetera. Do you think they can take over?”

He pursed his lips and wiggled them back and forth as he thought. “No. And if they can, if they do, I believe it has to be voluntary. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t get inside your head. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a nasty, revenge-fueled poltergeist on your hands, straight from Seattle, Washington.”

I let out a burst of hot, booze-soaked breath I must have been holding onto for the last hour. So there was a distinct chance that some of the crazy, terrifying things that were happening to me were because Abby had decided to haunt me and make my life a living hel . I felt partial y relieved at having come to some sort of conclusion, but it left me with the overal debilitating sense of what the fuck do I do now?

I mean, seriously?

I had forgotten I had thought of the solution to my predicament earlier. And that was to get extremely drunk.

After the Abby epiphany, I drank more wine and Maximus said we’d take a cab back, and then he got in on a few rounds and shots of whisky.

We stayed at the wine bar until it closed. I fielded texts from my parents and Ada wondering where I was and if I was OK and I reassured them I was fine. But I hadn’t expected to stumble out of the bar at 2 a.m.

We both waved drunkenly at the waiter, who was only so happy to see us go as he locked the doors with a resounding click, and Maximus grabbed my arm and led me to the bike path that weaved its way along the dark, churning river and passed through the open park space where homeless bums slept on the benches. It was cold and a little bit frightening, but I felt safe with his hand on me.

And I felt safer two seconds later when his hand slid down my back and wrapped around my waist.

I gazed up at him as we walked, like we were on a romantic middle-of-the-night strol in the waning days of winter. I didn’t know how I felt about him. I felt drunk, that was for sure. I also felt scared, and it wasn’t just about Abby, or about the weird shadows that lurked in the park, or the fact that I would be going home tonight. It was that I knew I didn’t have to go home tonight, and that scared me too. Because the last thing I needed was to get embroiled with another man, especial y this man. As charming a gentleman as Maximus was, he was stil so tightly woven into the story of me and Dex that I didn’t see how any of this could be a good idea.

And when I started to think that maybe I did like him, like him (as Ada would say), I wondered how much of that was real. And how much of that was because I was scared. And how much of that was because I was lonely. And how much of that was because there was something deep inside me that stil craved one final stab of my own revenge. I wasn’t going to pretend I was better than that, that I wasn’t thinking how poetic it would be for me to sleep with Dex’s ex-best friend.

But that was a bit icky. And when Maximus brought me closer to him, I felt all warm and gooey at the strength of his hands and I couldn’t imagine just walking away with nothing happening between us. Lonely, icky, scared…I wanted him and I wanted him badly. I ached for him.

As if picking up on that vibe I was emanating from my lady parts, he stopped at a part of the path that jutted out in a semi-circle, where people would stand on sunny days to take better photographs of the river. I stopped with him and he put his other hand on my side and faced me straight on.

My goodness, he real y was a tal guy. The wind off the river whipped up his hair, messing up his Elvis-like do, and it looked colorless in the cold lights of the city. His eyes were stil green somehow, like a liquid forest, and they stared down into mine. It wasn’t intense or dramatic or even particularly romantic, but I could see the feverish want in them fighting against his ever-present need to be respectful.

“Are you going to kiss me?” I whispered, my voice catching on a damp gust.

He grinned, that sly, lazy smile that only worked one side of his mouth. “I was thinking about it.”

I might need a ladder, was my last thought before he leaned over and placed his lips on mine.

His lips were slightly rough, but they were large and pil owy and stirred up tickles on my tongue that traveled down to the base of my spine. He put one hand behind my head and held me there, the back of my head feeling very small , and I had the image of a baby bird being cupped between two hands. It was a weird mixture of feeling desire and feeling safe and the longer we made out in that park, his hands never straying from my head or the dent of my side, the safer I felt. Like nothing could touch me except him and as long as I was around him, I would be OK. Dex used to make me feel that way with everything. Except my heart.

I lifted my hands and placed them inside his leather jacket, which was open slightly. I could feel his muscles underneath his silky shirt. He wasn’t rock hard; instead, he looked predestined to carry weight rather than lose it, but his body was stil a pil ar of strength and the more my tiny coral-painted fingers pushed and prodded against him, the more I felt like nothing could knock him over. He was as rooted as a tree. I wanted to borrow some of that strength, take it from him. Just thinking it made my kisses faster, more frenzied.

Final y he pul ed back and moved his hand around to the side of my face. It was warm against my cold cheek that was braised by the chil ing wind.

“It’s getting late,” he said, his voice uneven. He cleared his throat.

“It already is late,” I whispered, not wanting to stop.

“And cold,” he said as he pul ed my cardigan around me. “You need something warmer than this.”

“You’l do,” I said. I was surprised at my boldness.

Maximus was too.

“I’m pretty hot, I’l admit that,” he said slyly, then chuckled at himself. “But we need to be inside a warm cab before you get pneumonia.”

He gave me a quick peck on the lips, then took my hand in his and led me back to the path. Now that the makeout session was over, the terrors and shadows that lurked in the back of mind were free to play. I didn’t want to go home.

I couldn’t. Abby would be there.

But I couldn’t bring myself to say any of this to him as we cut across the park, the damp grass brushing against the bottoms of my boots, the bums who lurked beneath the trees. I probably would have felt safer snuggling up to the guy who slept under his garbage bags ful of beer cans than alone in my room.

We hailed a cab fairly easily once we got to Burnside Street – it was the weekend and downtown Portland was in ful swing with people spil ing out of hole-in-the-wal bars, music venues with shitty bands, and late-night dives. I wanted the night to keep going. I wanted to line up with the masses at Voodoo Donuts and feel like the city had my back.

But instead we both got in the cab. At least Maximus made sure to drop me off before him, even though he lived way closer to downtown than I did.

As the cab pul ed down my familiar street, he asked, “Do you have a big day tomorrow?”

“I was scheduled to work,” I said, feeling a pang of embarrassment, anxiousness. “But who knows what’s going on with that anymore. I guess I’l just get haunted.

Maybe I’l take up knitting. Baby slippers seem to be pretty popular.”

My voice was shaking slightly at that last bit and I swal owed back my tears. My house loomed in front of us, the cabbie reciting my address.

“Perry,” Maximus said, reaching for my hand. “I know you’re scared. But so far, nothing real y bad has happened.”

“What?” I snapped at him. I briefly eyed the cabbie in the rearview mirror and he quickly looked away, none of his business.

“Abby is taking it slow. Knocking and slippers, painting your nails.”

“And taking over my body!”

I could sense the cabbie was looking back at me again, wondering who the hel these weirdos in his cab were.

Maximus lowered his voice. “We don’t know yet if it’s connected, remember? I don’t think it is. In fact, I know it’s not. You’re stil you, Perry. One hundred percent.”

“Oh, well , if you’re so smart, why don’t you tel me what else it could be?”

He gave me a small smile, immune to my anger. “I don’t know. I know you don’t like to hear that it could all be in your head-”

I gasped at that. Appal ed.

“But,” he continued, “you’ve been through a lot. So I would at least consider it, if I were you. I’m going to come over in the next few days and we’re going to figure this out and start from there. One thing at a time. Abby won’t be a problem, you’l see.”