Every day the next few weeks, Calum would wait for me outside my house so we could walk to school together. We would sit together at lunch and ignore everyone who would whisper about us. Then I'd go hang out with Luke for an hour or two, sometimes with Mikey too. Then Ashton would sneak into my room so we could talk. Sometimes we'd end up falling asleep next to each other, sometimes he'd leave before I'd go to bed, and sometimes I'd fall asleep on him and wake up with him gone without a trace. On weekends, I'd go hang out at Luke's house in the morning until I got hungry. I learned to take some food with me in case Ashton, Calum, and I didn't go get something to eat. Sometimes Calum was too busy studying his magic to even hang out with us. If my parents didn't allow me to go out, someone would always visit me in my room.
"So your birthday is coming up, right?" Calum asked during lunch. He still had his notebook out as usual.
"Mhmm," I nodded around a bite of a ham and cheese wrap. "Tomorrow."
"We should do something for your birthday." he mused, looking up from his spell studies.
I swallowed before speaking. "Calum, we always do something for literally no reason."
I found it amazing how I easily adjusted to having friends who were dead, as well as friends that were charmed or could charm others. Maybe it was because it never actually hit me. I was still waiting for the trigger for the mental breakdown of "my friends are fucking crazy!" When it happened, I hoped everyone would be prepared.
"Something really special, though," Calum clarified. "Like...I don't know. I'll have to plan with the guys."
Michael and Luke explained that Calum was never actually their friend. He was mostly an acquaintance. But they seemed to notice that after the explanation at Luke's house, Calum was starting to talk to them more. They seemed to like that Calum was joining their friend circle.
"No surprise parties, though," I told him. "After the little surprise Michael had for me, I think I'm turned off of surprised for like...ever."
Calum laughed at me, going back to writing out his spells. I tried asking him once about them, but everything he said was too confusing for me to keep up with. I never asked him about them again.
Calum's phone began ringing from in his bag. He sighed, but dug around to find it anyway. He pulled it out and stared at the screen in confusion before pressing the talk button.
"Ashton?" he asked. As Ashton talked on the other line, Calum's confused expression melted into one of shock. "Calm down. We're on our way. Are you still there?...Okay, we'll meet you there."
Calum jammed his things in his bag and stood up before I had even picked my own bag up. "What's going on?"
"Ashton," he said, putting my half eaten wrap on another table like he had weeks ago with my pizza. He took my bag in one hand and pulled me to my feet with the other before handing me my bag and walking me through the lunch room. "His house is being put up for sale because it hasn't been occupied for a while."
No one had ever actually told me how long Ashton had been living by himself - well, with his ghost family. How long did a house have to be vacant for them to put it up for sale? And why were they selling the house if Ashton still lived in there? You can't take their house unless they don't pay the bills. Was Ashton being evicted for not being able to pay for the house?
"But he lives there, doesn't anyone know that?" I asked as we exited the Main Building and walked across the campus.
Calum looked at me. "Bridgette, Ashton was supposed to go live with his aunt and uncle but he ran away to keep the house. No one knows Ashton lives there and no one can know."
"So what are we supposed to do?"
He shrugged. "We'll have to relocate him."
Ashton stood by the tree he was leaning against when I first saw him. Only this time, he was facing towards his house with his back towards the road. He was probably staring at the realty sign that was staked into the yard with the FOR SALE sign hanging on it.
"Ashton." Calum said once we got close enough. He opened his mouth like he wanted to say more, but he couldn't seem to find any words. What were you supposed to say to someone when they lose their house, ultimately losing their family.
He turned his head to look at us. His cheeks were streaked with tears, and I found myself walking into him, wrapping my arms around his waist. After a pause, I felt his arms embrace me and I could hear his sobs in my ear as his hair tickled the side of my face. I buried my face in him, telling him quietly it would be okay.
Ashton sniffed and straightened himself up. He let me go, but still kept his hand on my back as I stood next to him. Calum just looked over the house like he was looking for something. Ashton's family, maybe.
"Do they know?" Calum asked Ashton.
Ashton sighed and shook his head.
"Are you going to tell them?"
"Ashton, you have to tell them!"
Ashton just grumbled at him and looked away.
"Oh, fucking a, Ashton," Calum said louder, getting frustrated. He walked across the space between him and Ashton and grabbed his sunglasses. "Just take the damn things off so we can talk. If you won't say anything then how will I know what you're saying?"
Ashton's hazel eyes were puffy and red but his black eye had long faded. I hadn't seen him without glasses since the confrontation with Michael outside in my driveway.
"That's because you two have some...weird connection thing," Calum huffed. "You're practically dating!"
Ashton's face flushed and he looked down at the ground.
"What?" I questioned, looking back and forth between Ashton and Calum. "How are you- Why can you-"
"Its not my secret." Calum stated, still looking at Ashton.
Ashton had become occupied by something on the ground and continued to stare at it.
"Just please look at me," Calum sighed. "Tell me what's going on. I can't help you if you don't tell me."
Ashton continued to stare at the ground for a moment before he looked up at Calum. It was just silent for a few seconds, the only sound being the light window through the trees.
Calum began to slowly shake his head. "I didn't know that, I thought they were just selling the house! They're taring it down?"
Ashton's eyes widened as he straightened up at Calum's reaction. He continued to stare at Calum, not wanting to use his voice.
"It never came up before I didn't think you'd need to know about it," Calum rushed, obviously getting worked up over whatever was happening between him and Ashton.
Ashton strode forward and put his hands on Calum's shoulders.
Calum sighed, swatting away Ashton's hands and looking away. "They died in the house so they have the same predicament as Luke does. The problem with that is if the house is gone...then...they're gone."
"My family's going to disappear?" Ashton roared.
He realized he'd had an outburst and formed a thin line with his mouth, squeezing his eyes shut and putting his fists to his head. Calum's nervous gaze flickered to me.
"Michael." Calum called.
"Got it," Michael said from behind me at the exact same second an arm was brought around my waist, leading me away from Ashton and Calum. "C'mon Cooper. You don't want to be around Irwin when he's angry."