My premonition is proven true. Even stranger things are beginning to happen and I’m not the only one noticing. Finally, I am the only one in this family that believes it’s the work of Casper. I haven’t mentioned him since I’ve come back from the hospital out of fear that my next “new outfit” will look like Hannibal Lecter’s.
Things are starting to be moved out of there places frequently. I hear the sounds of footsteps in the hallway every night. In the attic I hear things moving around. I don’t dare go back up there out of fear for my life. It’s been a whole week since the day I landed in the hospital. My concussion has healed but my pinky finger will take three to five more weeks until it goes back to normal.
“Where did I put the damn keys?” Papa growls in frustration. We all have been looking for them for ten minutes. He’s gone from annoyed to enraged as he swears he left them on the hook next to the door where he hangs them every time he walks in the front door. All of us have been searching high and low. Everywhere except for the cellar and the attic. Mama is in her room checking in all of his pants pockets. The last time I saw Marisol she was checking the couch cushions; I am currently searching under the chairs in the great room.
“I found it,” Marisol yells from somewhere in the front room. We all make our way to the front of the house. The first thing I see when walking towards the front door is Marisol jumping up and down pointing at the key holder. Low and behold they are right where they belong. Papa walks over and snatches it from the holder.
“Where did you find it?” he asks looking down at Marisol.
“Wight thewe.” She points to the holder.
“It couldn’t have been right there, that’s the first place we all looked,” Mama says.
“Somebody must have put it back and it couldn’t have been Marisol because she can’t reach it,” Mama states.
They all turn to look at me, even Marisol; traitor.
“What, I didn’t do it,” I say flustered by their accusations.
“Then who did?” Papa asks; his arms crossed in front of his chest.
“I don’t know, but it wasn’t me,” I huff. “You probably didn’t look well. That wouldn’t be out of character.”
“It wasn’t there before, and your father doesn’t have time to argue. He’s already late as it is,” Mama says taking Papa’s side. She gives Papa a quick kiss and he hurries out the door. “Whoever did that should know better than to make Papa late for work,” Mama says. Why doesn’t she come out and say it instead of beating around the bush? She’s already implying that it was me. Mama turns on her heels and leaves, leaving me no time to respond further. I watch her ascend the stairs; all the while glaring at her back.
“Want to play?” Marisol asks, tugging on the sleeve of my sweater.
“Not now!” I snap. I turn to look at her. I can see the hurt in her eyes, the tears welling up in them. Damn it. I upset Marisol.
“I’m sorry, I’m not mad at you. Please don’t cry,” I plead, hugging her to my side as I stroke her hair. “I’ll play later, okay?” I say trying to coax her.
“I fowgive you,” she says blinking away the tears. A smile spreads across her face. She hugs me back and then skips away carefree. It’s shocking how she just bounces back.
I lock the door and then I bound up the steps. I make sure that I have a hand on the rail and I carefully measure my every step. All I need is another trip to the hospital. As I reach the top step my cell phone rings. I check the caller ID, just like I thought, it’s Sage. I’ll just wait a few more rings to get it. One, two, three.… “Hello,” I say struggling not to sound mad, but failing.
“Hey, I was wondering if I can come over?” Oh, now you want to. You didn’t have anything better to do?
“Sure, if you want,” I reply coldly.
“Cool, hey I’m sorry I haven’t called.” Sorry he says; sincerity is another thing.
“Hmm, it doesn’t matter. I haven’t really noticed. I’ve been very busy.”
“I’ll be over in ten. See ya then, bye.” He sounded a little glum. Good.
“Bye,” I respond back.
I better go make myself presentable. I hurry to go find a mirror. I cross over to the bathroom and stand in front of the mirror hanging above the sink. I’m surprised the mirror hasn’t iced over since I’ve been so cold to him. What am I so mad at him for? I already had guessed that he wasn’t going to call for a week. All guys play the waiting game. What would make him any different? But it’s been, like, two weeks.
I fix up my hair, twirling my curls around my finger, helping it enhance its natural formation. I pinch my cheeks to give them a little color and I apply some lip balm to give them a little gloss. I evaluate my clothes. PJ’s aren’t going to cut it. I put on a pair of gray shorts and a green t-shirt. I glance once more at the mirror before I walk over to Mama’s room to give her a heads up.
“Mama, is it all right if Sage comes over?” I ask, leaving out the part that I had already said he could. I’m standing at the entrance of Mama’s room, fingers crossed. Mama’s re-hanging the pants she had strewn across the bed from earlier.
“Of course, of course,” she says ecstatically, all signs of her ill-temper are now gone. She’s been asking me constantly if I had heard from him. I look at the time on my cell. Two minutes until he shows. I decide to go and sit in the living room and wait for him.
A couple minutes later there’s a knock on the door. I walk over and open it.
“Hey,” Sage says.
“Hi.” I look at Sage’s apparel, he’s dressed in jeans again and he’s wearing a forest green shirt. Our eyes meet. His eyes almost match the color of his shirt. I notice he has red in the white of his left eye and it looks as if his black eye is still healing. No, I realize this is a new injury to the same eye as before. He turns his eyes away abashed. I do the same.
“Oh, I almost forgot.” He pulls out a single crimson rose from behind his back which he then hands to me.
“Thank you.” I lean my head in and take a whiff. The rose smells glorious.
“I’m glad you like it.” He stands at the door waiting for me to invite him in; great manners.
“Come in and I’ll go and find a vase for this.” He steps in and I lock the door after him. I turn and head for the kitchen; I can hear his steps behind me.
“There,” I say as I take a step back and look at the effect of the rose on the middle of the dining room table. I can sense his unwavering gaze. I turn and I look at him and see that he’s grinning. “What’s so funny?” Did I put my shirt on backwards? I look down and check. No, that can’t be it. I look back at him waiting for an answer.
“I see you’ve been busy tripping over things,” he says, gesturing to my finger and the bruises on my face. He can only see the bruise on my forehead as I had pulled my hair over to cover the gash on the crown of my head. His levity at my expense angers me tremendously.
“What, did you trip down the stairs?” he asks with a smirk.
Suddenly, I’m filled with a passionate rage. I didn’t trip. I was pushed by a ghost… Ghost! The gears are spinning in my head.
The last time Sage came over he wanted to look for a ghost so we went down into the basement. We were sitting in the dark when he said…
“I have an idea, hey ghost! Prove yourself! You don’t scare us!”
“What are you doing? Don’t piss it off! You’re not going to be the one to deal with its wrath,” I had replied.
“I thought you said it isn’t real?”
“Let’s, for a moment, say that I’m wrong and you’re right. Do you think it’s going to be “happy” that you bothered it, because I sure as hell don’t.”
That was the day that my world went into a downward spiral. It’s his fault! He pissed it off. If he hadn’t pissed off “Casper from hell” in the first place he wouldn’t have came after me. IDIOT!
I grab him from his shirt collar and I pull him down to my level. This fazes him.
“I was only joking,” he says trying to tear my hands off his shirt.
“This is all your fault! Because of you a ghost is out to get me!” I’m about to swing but he escapes my grasp. I swing again, but I can’t get in a good shot since he has his hands in front of him, parrying each blow. Funny, just like Papa taught me to block. He starts to laugh. I stop for a moment seeing that my assault is to no avail.
“For your information, that freaking ghost pushed me down the stairs!” He stops short, at the same moment he relaxes his hands. Perfect. I take a shot at him but he catches my wrist.
“What do you mean pushed?” All traces of humor are wiped away — he’s stone serious. He looks aghast as I show him the gaping wound on my head for emphasis. Are his eyes watering?
I give him the short version starting with my bath and ending with the roaches. I made sure that he knew about his whole part in the mess he had caused and how much pain I’ve endured through it all. He doesn’t interrupt me once until I have finished.
“Are you all right?” he asks worried. The skin in between his brows are creased in concern.
“No thanks to you.”
“How badly were you hurt?”
“I cut my head open, had a minor concussion, a broken pinky, spent two days in the hospital under observation, and was black and blue for a week; not that you were around to notice.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know. I would have come and visited you.”
“You’re right, you should have.” I’m still not over that. I’ll just let him feel guilty, since this was his fault.
“I’m sorry I haven’t called you.” He takes a deep breath and looks away as he speaks. “When I got home from your house my stepdad, Bubba, was waiting for me drunk as usual. It was my night to cook dinner since my mom was working late. He laid into me pretty hard. He grounded me to my room, took my cell phone, and wouldn’t even allow me to go to work. I almost lost my job. He made me watch Oscar all day, everyday, so my mom could waitress extra shifts at the bar he works at. His usual babysitter just happened to be out of town for two weeks. I don’t mind watching Oscar but we don’t have a landline at the house or even cable. My mom wouldn’t even let me use her cell phone fearing Bubba’s wrath.
“What did your parents think about the ghost?” he asks changing the subject.
“They didn’t believe me,” I say not hiding my aggravation.
“They think you tripped?”
“They think that I’m capable enough.”
“I can see why they think that,” he says shrugging his shoulders.
“Shut up, it’s your fault!” I hit him with my good hand in the arm; not hard enough. I keep trying.
“I still don’t understand —,” he says as he easily blocks my shots, “— how’s it my fault?” I stop trying to hit him.
“‘I have an idea, hey ghost! Prove yourself! You don’t scare us!’” I quote him using a thick Texan accent. I attempt to lower my voice a few octaves.
“I don’t sound like that,” he says glowering down at me — his arms are folded. His eyes now match the color of his t-shirt.
“You totally do,” I laugh. Why did I laugh? I’m supposed to be angry. “So, are you going to help fix this mess or not?” I ask changing the subject. I rest my hands on my hips as I tap my foot impatiently. He shouldn’t take so long in answering. It was a simple question. Either you say yes or you say no, easy.
“Let’s go somewhere and talk some more. I don’t feel safe here.”
“We’ll take my truck.”
“Before we go I need to ask Mama.”
We head for her usual haunt, the kitchen.
After discovering that she is neither in the kitchen nor anywhere downstairs, I decide that she is probably upstairs in her bedroom.
“I’ll wait here,” Sage says, standing by the front door.
Walking past my bedroom, I’m reminded of Marisol, weird. Where did Marisol go? Come to think of it, I haven’t seen Trevor either. I find my bedroom door opened a crack. I peer through and I find Marisol taking a nap on the bed. It’s not her naptime? Oh, I get it. Mama’s giving us some privacy.
I slip into my bedroom and I quietly walk over to the armoire and open it. I slip out my laptop bag, the whole time looking over my shoulder. That’s when I hear the footsteps coming from the attic. I quickly put the laptop bag over my shoulder and I give Marisol a quick kiss on the forehead. She stirs a little, so I’m forced to tiptoe out of the room as fast I can without making any noise. I leave the door how I found it and I head over to Mama’s room at a hurried pace.
I find Mama on the bed reading a book. Her back is propped up by several pillows. She’s wearing reading glasses — the print is too small for her aging eyes to see. With her free hand she strokes Trevor’s back.
“Mama,” I call out, as I walk over to her bedside and I sit down beside her.
“Marimar, what are you doing here? Where did Sage go? Is he gone? Why did he leave so soon?” she asks while taking off her glasses and laying them down on the bed stand beside her.
“He’s waiting by the door. We — I mean, I wanted to know if we can go out?”
“Where are you going?”
“We’re going to go check out the library.”
“Go ahead, have fun.”
I lean over and give her a kiss. “Thank you.” I head towards the stairs. As always, I find myself looking over my shoulder for Casper. I run downstairs to Sage. I lock the door behind us, glad to be out, but I can’t help feeling guilty about leaving them in there with it.
“Where to?” Sage asks, after we put enough distance between us and the house.
“I was thinking we should go to the library. That will probably be our best bet if we want to dig up some information. We might be able to find out what we’re up against.”
“Good thinking,” Sage says, pointing to my laptop bag.
“Thanks,” I murmur.
“Why do you gather it’s in your house?” Sage asks, continuing on with the conversation.
“I think it would like to make my life a living hell.”
“You know I’ve heard that sometimes ghosts will haunt a place because they have some sort of unfinished business. Like maybe its life was cut short.”
“I’m beginning to think that it’s trying to cut my life short.”
“Hmm.” Short pause. “Are you cold? I could lower the air conditioner if you want.”
“I’m fine, thanks.”
“Does it hurt?” Sage nods towards my hand.
“Not as long as I don’t move it.”
“That’s good. What have you been up to?”
“Healing.” He gives me a look as if to say, “Smart Ass”.
And so ends that conversation. We listen to the radio for the rest of the way.
Sage finds a parking place on the second row. He puts the truck in park. We unbuckle our seatbelts and head over to the entrance.