Page 16

I wondered when he had gone from Ghost Whisperer to Ghost Buster, but I had no choice but to believe him. He was the only person who had experience in this, and the only person who took me seriously. Maybe not entirely seriously, but enough. And he was a good kisser.

He leaned forward and hugged me and that cinnamon smel engulfed me again. Then he said, “I’l cal you tomorrow.”

I would have stayed all night in that cab if I could, but I reluctantly got out. To his credit, he kept the cab waiting outside until I had unlocked my front door, then it sped away into the night.

I tiptoed up to my room, trying to ignore the darkness of the sleeping house, and made it to bed. The slippers on the floor were gone. The pamphlet was back on the table. I don’t know why I was so against having it all be inside my head. That would actual y be glorious. Maybe there never were any slippers. And if there were no slippers, there was nothing to fear.

It didn’t explain a lot of other things, though, but before I could even indulge those possibilities, the evening of wine and tequila folded over me like a breaking wave and I was down for the count.


“Wake up, sleepy head,” Ada’s chipper voice cut into my dreams. My dreams where I was fal ing and fal ing through a red inferno, giant wood bugs crawling up the side of my mind.

I groaned and tried not to move as the events from last night snapped into place. I knew I was hungover as shit and if I opened my eyes and moved a muscle, I was going to pay for it dearly.

“Go away,” I slurred, unable to say anything more.

“It’s a beautiful day outside,” she responded, ignoring me. I could hear her walking over to the window and opening it. “Ahhh, smel that air. Spring is on its way.”

Why was she so chipper? Usual y Ada was a goddess of grump in the mornings.

I felt her sit down on the bed and I bobbed up and down on the mattress. I moaned again and threw my arm over my face. The air coming in did smel cool and inviting but it wasn’t enough to clear the cobwebs.

“What did you do last night? You stink.”

I ignored her and attempted to go back to sleep, feeling my brain getting sucked into the dark weightlessness.

Before I could, she grabbed my arm and lifted it up, forcing the light into my face. I winced.

“I said go away,” I repeated, dragging out the words into a whine.

“Do you have to work today?”


“Fuck.” I total y forgot about that.

I opened my eyes careful y as the stabs of light entered.

It real y was a beautiful day out, but all I could see at that moment was blankness, like I was standing in the middle of the sun.

Then I saw Ada on my bed, holding my phone out, like she knew exactly what was going on. She was wearing a kel y green dress and her hair was tied into a knot at the very top of her head. She looked like a clear-eyed forest nymph. I felt a pang of envy.

I took the phone, muttering “thanks,” and dialed the shop’s number. I didn’t have enough time to get scared or nervous because Shay snapped it up on the first ring.

“Don’t worry about it, Perry,” she explained to me after I apologized profusely for not being there. “We’ve just taken you off the schedule until you get better. You just rest up and sort yourself out.”

I hung up the phone feeling worse rather than better. I hadn’t been let go or fired but this was all too familiar. This was how I almost lost my last job (before, you know, I screwed myself over on purpose). My employers had been worrying about me because I was seeing Old Roddy in my bedroom. Now it was different ghost, same problem. Was this doomed to repeat itself throughout my whole life? Was I never, ever going to escape the dead? I wished I knew what they real y wanted with me.

“It’s because you’re one of them,” Ada said.

I jumped at her voice, forgetting not only that she was in the same room as me but sitting next to me, a foot away.

“Pardon me?” I asked her as my heart quickened.

She rolled her eyes. “I said you’re one of them. I asked why your slacker coffee shop was so understanding and I answered it’s because you’re one of them. You’re a slacker. They need your kind there. I’m just talking to myself real y, since you don’t ever seem to hear a word I’m saying.


That wasn’t true. Not entirely.

“How was last night?” I asked, gingerly sitting up in my bed. I rubbed at my temples as the room spun. I think someone had replaced my mattress with a water bed.

“Do you actual y care to know?” she asked snidely.

I peered at her with one eye. It hurt less than with two.

“Yes, don’t be so emo.”

I could tel she was going to come up with a retort about me being emo, but she swal owed it. It was always a matter of who cal ed the other one that first.

“OK, if you care to know, we broke up.”

I managed to open the other eye so I could study her face better. Her chin was lifted defiantly. She looked confident. “Are you OK?”

She nodded. “Never felt better.”

“So you know you did the right thing, then. How did he take it?”

She giggled, then broke into a huge grin. “He had the nerve to throw it in my face of how long he had waited and now he wasn’t ever going to get any.”

“What a fucking douchecanoe,” I said, wanting to punch Layton’s lights out.

“Total fucking douchecanoe,” she reinstated. “That’s how I total y knew I made the right choice. He was so angry, his face went all , like, red and he was babbling crap and tel ing me I’l never be anything...”

I let out an angry laugh. “That’s rich, coming from some dil hole whose biggest accomplishment wil be to get his head crushed in by some lame col ege footbal team.”

“If he’s lucky,” she said, tracing her finger along the pattern on my quilt. “But then I told him it must burn to be dumped by someone like me then. And then I left. well , I gave him the finger. And then I left.”

Even though it hurt my head to do so, I leaned forward and gave Ada a quick hug.

“I’m proud of you,” I blurted out, feeling strangely emotional.

She snorted. “That’s cuz you’re lame.” But I could tel it made her happy, as lame as I was.

“Hey, listen - ”

I was interrupted by a piercing, terrible scream from downstairs.

Our mother’s scream.

Our eyes met for a brief, horrifying instant and we both leaped out of bed as fast as we could. I was only in a long t- shirt but it didn’t matter. I had never heard my mother scream like that before and I prayed that we weren’t going to run down the stairs and find her dead on the floor.

We scampered down the stairs two at a time, with Ada cal ing “Mom!”

“Girls!” she yel ed back, sounding calmer, which relieved me. Her voice was coming from my father’s study.

We hustled our way over there. The door was open and my mother was standing in the middle of the room, a stack of papers at her feet, plumes of dust rising up from them and catching in the sunlight that was coming through the opened blinds.

Her back was to us, her limbs frozen in front of her, like she was stil holding onto the papers. Her attention was on the wal s so that’s where my attention went too.

I gasped. One hand flew to my mouth while Ada grasped the other.

My dad’s study had been destroyed. The wal s had huge tears in them like someone took an axe and just started hacking at it randomly. The edges of the tears were dripped with red and with the same color someone had painted pentagrams all over the wal s, even the ceiling.

Some were as small as your hand, others were the size of a tire. The decorative crucifixes he had displayed were all upside down. That sight chil ed me more than anything else.

It chil ed me so bad that a violent shiver shuddered through me and I nearly lost my balance. I reached out for the edge of the door and hung on.

Ada and my mom took no notice of me. How could they with what they were looking at. Even all the paintings of popes and religious figures that my dad had framed as artwork were disfigured, their eyes carved out so they only had black, inhuman holes.

“Who would do this?” my mother asked in a half- whisper.

Ada shook her head softly.

Only I had an idea of who could have done it, but I wasn’t stupid enough to say it. My parents wouldn’t have believed it was Abby in a mil ion years. But they would believe I was nuts, somehow put the blame on me, and lock me away somewhere.

As if she heard me think that, Ada turned her head to look at me as I leaned against the door for support, trying to keep my hungover eyes focused.

She gave me a strange look, like she was trying to figure something out about me. Like something about me was making her think. I had a feeling I knew what it was too.

I raised my brow and twitched my head ever so slightly.

She frowned and then looked back at the room and at mom.

I know she was thinking that maybe I had done it in my sleep. Maybe I had forgone the nail polish last night and decided to raid Home Depot, picking up cans of red paint before going to town on all of my father’s religious stuff.

I looked down at my hands. There were no signs of paint on them. There weren’t any on my feet or anywhere else either. I doubt I would have been able to clean myself up so well . The thought made me feel better. What stores would even be open at three in the morning? Walgreens didn’t have paint. I wondered if setting up my own security camera there would be a good idea, though, just so I could stop being a scapegoat.

“We should cal the police,” I said, my voice sounding thick.

My mom nodded slowly. It was obvious she was in shock. We all were.

“Where’s dad?” I asked.

“Church,” Ada said, as if she didn’t quite believe her answer.

I straightened up and walked into the room. Hangover or not, someone needed to take charge of this situation and my mother and Ada were too stupefied to do anything.

“Listen, I think we need to cal the cops now. Then when they’re done we can clean it. I don’t want dad coming home to see any of this.”

“But who would do such a thing?” my mom repeated.

Her accent got thicker when she was upset and in that instance she sounded an awful lot like Creepy Clown Lady.

A weird, blurry feeling settled over my brain, as if thinking was suddenly hard, like I had layers to get through.

“You cal them,” Ada said, snapping me out of it and gesturing to the phone in the study. She grabbed my mom by the arm and began to lead her out of the room.

I blinked hard to wake myself up, then picked up the phone and cal ed it in.

After I was done, with the police promising they’d send their nearest squad car over, and placed the phone back in the receiver, two shrieks resonated from the kitchen.

What now? I thought as I raced around the desk and ran down the hal , my bare feet slapping against the hardwood floor.

My mother and Ada were on the other side of the island, staring at the sink. I quickly made my way over to them and froze in my tracks when I realized what they were really looking at.

The wide cupboards beneath the industrial-sized sink were shut and leaking red fluid out of the bottoms and corners. It seeped out in sickly rivulets until it congealed in a crimson puddle on the floor.