“I HATE Miss Clark! She is SUCH a DERP!”
I looked up as my sister came slamming into the house, throwing her bookbag on the ground and flinging her shoes from her feet. When she saw me looking at her, she stuck out her tongue. “You’re so lucky, Chance! I wish I could be homeschooled again! It’s not FAIR! AUNT KAAAAYLEEEEE! It’s not fair!!!! Why can’t you teach me too!?”
“Because I barely have enough patience to teach Chance and he’s fifty zillion times calmer than you,” Aunt Kaylee said from her seat on the couch.
“I’m sorry you had such a bad day at school, sis,” I said, popping up out of my seat and going over to her. I didn’t say that I wish I could’ve gone to real school too instead of being locked up with Aunt Kaylee all day. Especially since Aunt Kaylee was pregnant. She was so scary right now, particularly when she craved ice cream. I had gotten the fetching time down to an absolute minimum.
“You’d have a bad day too if your teacher was a derp!” Miracle said, scowling at me. “She said I had to read the book! I have to read it!” She stomped over to her backpack and pulled the book in question out. “No way am I reading this! I thought I was in middle school! This is a baby book for, like, Chance!” She threw the book at me and it went through, hitting the wall behind me.
“Mira!” Aunt Kaylee struggled to get up off the couch. “Apologize to your brother this second! And pick up that book, it’s a library book. And I don’t care if you think it is a baby book, you have to read it for school.”
“I’m sorry, Chance,” Miracle said as she picked the book up. “But there are like, a bajillion pictures in here! It’s boring! I’m twelve, not two! It’s not fair! I could read this crap with both eyes closed.”
“How could you see, then?” I asked and she looked so angrily at me that I cowered back. “S-sorry! It was just a question…”
“Miracle Danevbie, what have I said about using bad language in this house?” Aunt Kaylee demanded, hands on her hips. “You are getting on my last nerve. Crap is not the kind of word I like to hear around here, or anywhere else except, you know, in a place of gambling but you are far too young for something like that.”
“All MIMSY were the BOROGOVES!” With that, my sister stormed out the room and we could hear her stomping up the stairs.
I looked at Aunt Kaylee who folded her arms and shook her head. “I swear, your sister purposely thinks up stuff to drive me mad. Then again, she is twelve. That age. Most kids are like that at twelve. Except you.” She came over and picked my hat up off my head so she could kiss the top of my head. “You’ll be the sweetest twelve-year-old ever, won’t you?”
“Yep,” I said with a smile. I wouldn’t want to ever do anything to upset her, or my other aunt. They did their best for me and Miracle. Miracle was nice quite often but sometimes she got in these moods that Aunt Emma said were cause of growing pains and girl troubles. I felt bad I didn’t understand completely, but I supposed that was cause I was the only boy in the house. Secretly I hoped my aunts would have a boy.
“All mimsy, indeed.” Aunt Kaylee hefted herself back into her seat. “I swear, that girl is too much like me.”
I grinned as I sat back down. That wasn’t the first time that complaint had been said. Wouldn’t be the last, I thought as I looked down at the math problems I was supposed to do. I didn’t like math, it was annoying and confusing. Fractions. Yuck. I was supposed to figure out how on earth to add one-EIGHTHS with three-FOURTHS.It was impossible. four-twelfths wasn’t the answer. Maybe if I reduced. That sounded right. Math liked reducing. I penciled in two-sixths and then moved on to the next one I got wrong. Seven-tenth plus two-fifth was not nine-fifteenths. Uuuuuugh. I erased my answer and began trying to figure out how best to reduce it. Three-fifth. That was it.
I looked over at Aunt Kaylee who was busy watching TV and rubbing her big belly. I licked my lips and carefully set my pencil down. Quietly, I slipped forward through the desk and wall, going into the dining room on the other side. There, I thought triumphantly as I drifted towards the hallway and headed upstairs. Miracle was in her room blasting music, some boy band she loved, so I went into my room and found my handheld game system. I wriggled under my bed and turned the game on, happily ignoring everything around me as I went to save Princess Peach.
“Hey Bugaboo.” Aunt Emma’s hand came down on top of my head and she rubbed, messing up my hat and hair underneath. I just beamed up at her. I didn’t even bat an eyelash when she gave me a look that I knew meant a lecture was coming on. “Aunt Kaylee says you skipped out doing schoolwork and spent the afternoon playing video games under your bed. This true?”
“Um. Yes.” I wasn’t good at lying. I didn’t like lying to people though.
“Now, you know you have to do your schoolwork. You can’t just skip out. Right?”
“Yeah, I’m sorry Aunt Emma.” I bowed my head and looked at the tips of my toes which were a coupla inches off the ground. “Fractions make my head hurt.”
“That’s no reason to skip out. You need to learn. And by learn I mean something other than where all of Link’s special items are located.”
“Yes, Aunt Emma. I’m really sorry.” I smiled up at her and she smiled back. People loved my smile, that’s what I was told. Grandpa told me that someone would have to be very angry, sad, or crazy not to smile when they saw me. Good thing I liked to smile.
“It’s okay. Now come on, help me with dinner, all right? Mira’s not feeling well and Aunt Kaylee is…”
“FAT!” Aunt Kaylee screeched from the other part of the room. Aunt Emma and I both winced. “GO AHEAD AND SAY IT EM, I’M FAT!”
“…a goddess who deserves to rest,” Aunt Emma said a bit loudly. Aunt Kaylee made a harumph sound and Emma winked at me, pulling me towards the kitchen. “Let’s go.”
I helped Aunt Emma make the chicken casserole. I was good at cooking, I had learned a lot since Aunt Emma moved in. She and Aunt Kaylee got together nearly two years ago. They got together just before my daddy… But then Aunt Emma moved in and started teaching me to cook. I really liked it, and always enjoyed the nights she and I made dinner together. I remembered the first time I met her I was so scared… I knew it wasn’t good for me to meet people but Aunt Kaylee promised me it would be okay. Besides, she couldn’t have Emma be her girlfriend if Emma didn’t like me and Miracle.
The first time Aunt Emma saw me, she went really white, sat down on the couch, and then after a minute said I was as cute as a button. Three days later she moved in, six months after that they were married, and now she and Aunt Kaylee were one month away from having their first baby. I reeeallly wanted it to be a boy.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t really need to sleep but I tried to, when I could. But a lot of times I couldn’t. I had bad dreams often and tonight wasn’t any different. Despite my nightlight being on I gave up after some time and, after grabbing my handheld game player, I went downstairs. It was a little after midnight and everyone else was asleep. I didn’t wanna wake up my aunts or sister.
I plopped onto the couch and turned the TV on, seeing what was on. I figured I’d wind up playing a video game but when I saw what was on I changed my mind. I quickly turned the channel to watch ‘Thir13en Ghosts’. After putting in the password, I pulled my legs up so my knees were under my chin. My eyes were huge but while I was very into watching the film, I made sure to keep my ears open. If I was caught watching this I would be in trouble for more than one reason. It was adult, and it was about ghosts. Both would get me into deep doo-doo.
My aunts and sister didn’t know, though. I had been caught twice before, once when I was watching ‘Ghostbusters II’ and once while watching ‘Casper’. I had been grounded both times. But that didn’t stop me from watching these movies. I had seen dozens of them. Anytime I could sneak one in, I would. And I watched them over and over and over. ‘Thir13en Ghosts’ I had seen once before. It wasn’t one of my favorites. Personally, I liked Ghostbusters. Dr. Venkman was funny. ‘The Others’ was also one of my top favorites to watch cause it made me feel better about being a ghost.
I hugged my knees and watched the violent ghosts. I had started this a week after I found out what I was. There wasn’t anything about ghosts in the house except for the dictionary. I had looked up all the words. Apparition. Spirit. Ghoul. But the dictionary wasn’t enough. I asked Aunt Kaylee for a book about ghosts but Daddy said no. Cause of my difficulty sleeping, I had stayed up one night and watched TV. That night, I saw ‘The Ghost And Mrs. Muir’ and even though it was about romantic stuff (yuck) I was hooked. I always kept my eye on TV listings and would stay up the nights I saw anything with the word ‘ghost’ in it. When we got a computer and I had a moment to myself on it, I looked up other ghost movies that didn’t have the word in the title.
There were several movies I did like, and several I didn’t. There were things that upset me sometimes though. The violent ghosts, like in the one I was watching. Evil spirits. Horrible ghosts hurting people, killing people. It didn’t take me long after I started watching these movies to realize why my dad had warned me about going out in public. People grew up with ghost stories, about how awful we were. And these movies… So many movies. For every Casper or Captain Gregg, there were a dozen Freddy Krugers or Samaras. Even in movies with nice ghosts, like ‘The Scream Team’ sometimes there were evil ghosts! It was kinda annoying but… there was nothing I could do about it. I was a ghost, and that wasn’t gonna change. And what people thought about ghosts wasn’t gonna change either.
Unfortunately, that kinda included my own family. They loved me for sure but I knew a lot of them were afraid of something… I knew my Uncle Duncan had a gun that could trap a ghost into this little container thing, and I was pretty sure Poppop had a gun like that. Like, these laser gun things. I hadn’t seen them but I heard their description from my cousin Amy who was Uncle Duncan’s daughter. She told me Aunt Kaylee had a gun too but I didn’t believe her.
Why would they have these things?
I was the only ghost around…
I wound up falling asleep on the couch and woke up early in the morning when Miracle came running down the stairs. “Hey bro!” she said, flinging herself at the couch. “Bad dreams again?” I nodded and pulled my feet back so she could sit down. When I said nothing else, she added, “Wanna talk about it?”
“Mr. Yuck-0-may always wants me to talk.” She rolled her eyes at me as she tied up her shoes. “He says the only way to feel better is to share, and when you grieve with someone, it helps ease the sadness. I told him his nose looked like someone tuck a giant rotten tomato on his face and then asked if sharing his feelings would help it.”
I giggled and poked her with one foot. “You’re so mean.”
“Well I am sick of those idiots at school talking to me like Mom died yesterday.” Her voice lowered and then her face turned away from me. “It’s been three years. Mr. Yuck-o-may says my acting up is because of it though.” Her hands went in her lap and she went real quiet and I knew what was coming. “Think Daddy will ever come back?”
“Daddy died too,” I said, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
“Daddy is a ghost, he can’t die,” she growled, her eyes going narrow behind her glasses.
“Aunt Kaylee says he died,” I whispered.
“Ghosts can’t die, dumbbutt.” She raised her hand and I went not-solid in the second it took for her fist to reach my shoulder. “UGH! You are such a CHEATER it’s not fair! You can hit me all you want but I can’t hurt you!”
“I never hit you,” I pointed out. She let out an annoyed yowl and then stormed to the kitchen. I heard her complaining very loudly about life in general. I shrugged and stretched out on the couch again. I felt bad she was so upset but talking about our dad always did that to her, and she often brought him up as the topic of a talk. Then usually wound up mad at me for whatever reason. Probably since I was like him. And you’re wrong, I thought, not saying it out loud. Ghosts could die. Daddy told me a few months before he left that ghosts could die, that he and I could die of old age. I knew there was something else too that he didn’t tell me, about ghosts. But since he didn’t tell me, I didn’t know, so there was no point really in trying to figure it out.
I worked on my schoolwork like a good boy, only floating off twice, and then helped Aunt Emma with dinner. Miracle’s mood hadn’t improved at school, and she grumbled at the table until Aunt Kaylee sent her to her room. I ate my food quietly while my aunts talked about what might be the problem. When we were done eating, I helped Aunt Emma clean up while Aunt Kaylee went to talk to my sister. When I was done with the dishes I headed up the stairs to go to my room but I stopped at the voices in Miracle’s room.
“…not fair.” That seemed to be my sister’s favorite thing to say since she started seventh grade. “I just want to be a normal girl! I know you’re not normal and don’t care about it, but I want to be normal, I want to fit in, I want friends.”
“Normal?” Aunt Kaylee sounded as if my sister had just handed her a pile of maggots and asked her to eat them. “Um…. well, uh…” While Aunt Kaylee tried to figure out what to say, I turned to head to my room cause I didn’t want to be listening in. I heard vaguely Aunt Kaylee asking why Miracle couldn’t fit in and then I froze when I heard my name. I floated quickly back to the door and put my ear as close as possible without going through. “How is it his fault?” Aunt Kaylee was asking.
“I can’t have any friends!!! All the girls at the school snub me cause, you know, I can’t invite anyone over! They keep saying I must like in a crappy old broken down home full of trash. Liv and Carissa have both invited me over to their house but now they don’t anymore since I’ve never invited them over her, cause I can’t because of my dumb brother being–being–a ghost!” My sister sounded on the verge of tears. “I don’t hate him but sometimes I WISH he could go somewhere else for a day or two, like Poppop and Grandpa’s house, or something. I just wish he could go away for a little bit of time so I can… just… invite someone over…and pretend I have at least a sorta normal life!”
I stood up straight and looked at the door. I had never been hit before, I always managed to go not solid before her hand or fist reached me, but I imagined this was what it felt like.
“You know he can’t go out,” Aunt Kaylee said softly. “How about sometime Aunt Emma or I take you and some friends out to the movies–“
“No! Everyone at school says I live in a gross, disgusting house since NO ONE has been over here! Movies won’t change that. The kids are saying so much, and they’re not talking to me as much as before. Once a rumor starts, it’s hard to stop it and I just…” Now my sister was crying. “I just want friends other than my family. But I can’t.” Her crying was muffled and I figured our aunt was hugging her. I thought about going to my room and staying there, which gave me an idea.
I knocked at the door and then floated through. “Sis?” I asked and she stared at me in horror. “Um, I just wanted to say that if you want a friend coming over I can hide in my room. And not come out. So you could have someone over here. If that helps?” I gave her a smile and hoped it would work.
“You listened in?” she asked then looked like she might throw something at me. “You jerk! You can’t eavesdrop!”
I backed up a bit. “I didn’t mean to, honestly! But I want to help. I’ll stay in my room and that would mean you could have someone over, right?” I looked at Aunt Kaylee. “Wouldn’t it work?”
“If Mira says it’s okay then I’m fine with it, even though I don’t like the idea of you locking yourself in your room,”Aunt Kaylee said. “It makes me feel like Aunt Petunia!!! Or no, Uncle Vernon. Em is Petunia since I am fat, so I have to be Vernon. Hmm, I need a mustache then…”
Miracle looked surprised. “You’d do that for me?”
I nodded, pleased to see she wasn’t crying anymore. “Yep. It’s fine.”
She was at me, arms trying to go around me. I went to being solid and she hugged me. “Thank you, Chancie! Thank you. You’re the best ever.”
I just beamed, hugging her back. I was so happy to make her feel a bit better. “Anytime,” I promised her, and I meant it. After all, it wasn’t fair she had to be restricted like me–and even if I couldn’t have some freedom I would do what I could to give my sis some.