My thirteenth year went by pretty good considering it was ‘unlucky’ thirteen. Miracle broke up with Marcel Goth twice and got back together with him three times. Aunt Kaylee and Aunt Emma were talking about having another kid. And Alyssa learned to walk, talk, and was working on being potty-trained. And me? Well… I tried. But school was so boring and I was beginning to see less and less reason to learn anything. I started failing more tests and getting more questions wrong, and getting in trouble more for just floating off.
“I just don’t see the point,” I said one day to Aunt Kaylee. “Point A to Point B. School is for college, college is for job, yeah? I can’t get a job. So no point in college. And no point in school. Simple as that.”
“Not as simple as that, Bugaboo,” Aunt Kaylee said, giving me a look. I just smiled back at her. “Your mother worked her ass off getting a college education so she could teach you and your sister. Now, I went to college to study mechanics and stuff so I’m not a teacher. I can’t teach two kids. But I can teach you. And I will. Now get your ghosty butt back in that chair and read the book.”
“It’s not fair to bring Mama into this,” I said sullenly.
“And it’s not fair for you to slack off when she wanted the best for you,” she pointed out.
“I can’t go to college. I can’t get a job,” I said, folding my arms.
“But you can get at least a high school education and yes you can get a college education, it’s called online college. It’s what your mum did. And you can get a job. Painting. Writing, like Poppop. Research work maybe. Chance you have a lot to offer that you can offer. Which is kind’ve redundant I know but true.” She pat my head. “So go read the book, and prepare for a report.”
I floated over to the couch and when I sat down, I picked up the book I was supposed to read and pretended to read. Aunt Kaylee went back to playing with Alyssa. Once her attention was sufficiently taken, I began floating backwards. I slowly set the book down and just finished going through the couch when Aunt Kaylee cleared her throat. “Sorry,” I said and returned to a sitting position.
“No you’re not,” she said without looking back at me. I grinned and began properly reading the book which I had zero interest in. My sister loved ‘Little Women’ but yeah, reading about four girls just… was… Well, it was what I went through. Four girls. Miracle told me once I finally got past the first chapter or two there would be male characters, Laurie and Mr. Brooke and then in the second half of the book a professor, but I realllllly had to get through this first chapter? Ugh. The only one I really liked, Beth, I already knew what happened since once every two months I would find Miracle behind the stairs, clutching a container of ice cream and sobbing over what she’s read fifty hundred times before. I just didn’t get it. I guess I was more of a movie-and-game sort of kid.
Shortly after Miracle turned fifteen, Aunt Kaylee took her on driving lessons. As wild as Aunt Kaylee was, she apparently was an amazing driver which Aunt Kaylee attributed to her middle name of Wash. Miracle got her permit and began begging for a car for when she turned sixteen. She insisted all the kids were getting cars. Aunt Kaylee put her hands on her hips and replied with, “And if all the kids were covering themselves with green Jell-O and running naked through the streets would you do the same?”
“Aunt Kaaayleee, I’m going to be sixteen!” Miracle protested. I looked over at Aunt Emma who was shaking her head. I smirked. “And besides, it’s not like you have to buy a ton of stuff for Chance, he never needs any medical bills or new clothes or anything, so can’t I have a car?”
“She has a point,” I said.
“YOU stay out of this,” Aunt Kaylee said, pointing a finger at me then she turned the finger back to Miracle. “I’m sorry, Mira, but we’re not exactly the richest family in town and shelling out thousands of simoleons for a car isn’t exactly in our budget with three college educations to pay for and YES Chance, you will be taking online college courses,” she put in as I opened my mouth. “When I was turning sixteen there was something I wanted more than anything else in the world and did I get it? No. It was too expensive.”
“Plus the lack of room for a space shuttle in your dads’ backyard,” Aunt Emma said lightly.
Aunt Kaylee blushed. “Lack of room had nothing to do with it. Daddy told me so.”
“What about all the money from Mom?” Miracle asked. “I know for a fact there was money set aside for us, plus her insurance, plus the money from selling the house, the land, and Night and Storm.” Her voice cracked slightly as she loved the horses a lot more than I ever did. Personally, they were a little creepy. In my opinion. Selling them had broken my sister’s heart though, it was like selling a piece of Mama, I think.
“That money is in a trust fund for you and your brother,” Aunt Kaylee said. “Technically half is your brother’s money but since they couldn’t set up a fund in his name it’s all in yours. You get the first half–your half–when you turn twenty-five, and the other half is open when you’re about twenty-six and a half, when Chance turns twenty-five. And he gets that half of the money.”
I shuddered at the thought of being so old. Twenty-five. That was forever and a day from now. Except soon I would be fifteen. That was just ten years. Not forever and a day. My sister was going to be sixteen then eighteen then off to college. I didn’t want her to go. But I couldn’t tell her that. Then again, I also wasn’t gonna tell either aunt that I had zero interest in going to college or even finishing up high school. There was just no point. Then again, I didn’t want to be just a–a–a–a parasite, sucking up their money. I didn’t need to eat. I didn’t need electricity. I’d have to start thinking about what to do about lessening bills. Not eating would be a big help.
“Why can’t you buy me a car now and I pay you back in ten years?” I heard my sister suggest innocently.
“ERRRRH!” Aunt Kaylee made the sound of a game show buzzer. “No. Try again, would you like fifty-fifty, or ask the audience?”
Miracle folded her arms. “I know we have money, I don’t see this as fair. Amy got a car for her sixteenth birthday and all the cousins are too. What, are we the only poor Danevbies in town? Look, how about this. I get a job! I get a job and pay you back each paycheck! That’s fair, right? Isn’t that what adults do? The whole ‘If you want something you have to pay for it yourself’ thing? I can get a job, start saving money, and when I turn sixteen we can split the money or something, the payment on the car, and then I will continue paying you back.” She gave a huge grin and two thumbs up.
“How about you get a job and you buy the car yourself?” Aunt Kaylee suggested.
“No buts, young lady. Now, I’m sorry, I really am. I know what it’s like to want something so much and being unable to get it–“
“Like a space shuttle?” my sister snorted.
Aunt Kaylee ignored her. “–but right now it’s best that we don’t. Maybe for your eighteenth birthday, when you leave for college.”
“You want me driving around a strange town without any experience behind the wheel of my car?” Miracle gasped in a dramatic voice. Aunt Kaylee gave her a look. “All right, all right. I’ll start looking for a job. Maybe I’ll be a pole dancer! Then you’ll be sorry!” She stomped off out the room and up the stairs as usual.
“Watha po’ danther?” Alyssa asked me in a loud whisper.
“I have no clue,” I replied, trying to get the disgusting, disturbing, horrifying images out of my poor head.
I tried to stop eating as much after I realized I just didn’t need to, but while the hunger pains were barely there I missed eating, and cooking. Besides, my aunts weren’t happy with me not eating. Miracle said I was doing some sort of hunger strike and then Aunt Emma asked me one night if I was worried about my weight since I was so scrawny. After that I started eating again. I never told them it was because I was worried about them having so many bills without me being able to one day help with the pay since I was going to be stuck here forever. Which… started kind’ve bothering me more than it had before.
Just after my fourteenth birthday I realized it had been a couple years since I saw the outside world even through a window. It had been a lot longer since I had even been outside. I couldn’t remember it much. I couldn’t remember the sun on my body or the feel of a breeze. I couldn’t remember very well going on walks with Mama, Daddy, and Miracle. I couldn’t remember the stinky smell of the horses (just that it was stinky) or the sound of the waterfall. It had been so long, and it was becoming lost to me.
One night at dinner, everyone was talking about stuff. Miracle was talking about the job she had finally gotten (though she was almost 16 now and wouldn’t be able to get the car for a while), Aunt Emma talked about her restaurant, Aunt Kaylee talked about stuff she saw while shopping, Alyssa talked about her day care. And I sat in silence, poking at the food that had been put in front of me. Unable to talk about anything. Except something I saw on TV or something in a video game, or something they all already knew since they all lived here too. I used the edge of my spoon to cut up the noodles in my soup, staring at it in thought. I had nothing to offer up as conversation. Nothing.
“…ance….? Chance?” I looked up and saw they were all looking at me. I made a questioning noise, and Aunt Emma repeated the question. “I asked how your day was.”
“A day’s a day,” I answered, turning my attention back to the soup. A day’s a day. My day was like any other day. Like yesterday. The day before. Like it would be tomorrow and the day after that. I would barely sleep, watch movies or play games all night, have breakfast, do schoolwork, avoid schoolwork, eat lunch, help take care of Alyssa, do schoolwork, avoid schoolwork, have dinner, rinse, repeat. Every day. For the rest of my life. Well. No. Soon Alyssa would be older and going to school herself. Soon I wouldn’t have any schoolwork. And then what?
I set my fork down and felt, for the first time since Mama and Papa died… sad.
Miracle was screaming on her sixteenth birthday. For she had a car, her own car. I was inside listening to those screams and grinning since I had helped pay for it. The day she said she wanted a car, I had been setting aside my allowance and any money given to me (including birthday money), for almost a year. I had given over eleven-hundred simoleons to my aunts to help pay for it. Hearing her shrieks and squeals… it was totally worth it. Almost as good as her thirteenth birthday, except without the person seeing me. I waited for several minutes then got up when she came running into the house, flinging herself at me. I staggered a bit, trying my best to stay solid as I hugged her back.
“OHMYWATCHINGREAPERYOUARETHEMOSTAMAZINGBROTHERINTHE UNIVERSETHEYTOLDMEYOUHELPEDANDWHATYOUDIDANDYOUBRATBUTOHMY GOODNESSTHAAAAANKYOOOU!!!” She said all this in one long, loud breath, hugging and squeezing me tight. Then she stepped back, eyes sparkling. “I can’t believe you saved up your allowance for, what? A year? Just for me?”
“You’re my sister, and I don’t have much to buy anyway,” I said, punching her arm happily. “You deserve everything you can get.”
She hugged me again. “Thank you so much. You do know that Aunt Kaylee and Aunt Emma think you are totally amazing for this and everyone else will when they find out especially Grandpa and Poppop and you’ll pretty much be able to get whatever the hell you want for your sixteenth birthday, right?”
“That’s not why I did it,” I said with a forced laugh. Whatever I wanted? Nope. Not true. But I didn’t want to ruin her happiness so I just kept fake smiling and then pushed her towards the door. “Go, drive around! Get used to it before college.” I swatted at her and she danced off, still laughing. I wanted to go and look out, to see what she looked like in the car but I just sat down on the couch again. Soon I heard her driving off, and Aunt Emma came in with Alyssa.
“Kaylee’s with her,” she said and then tossed me her camera so I could look at the pictures. It was a great car and my sis looked awesome behind the wheel, with that huge dorky grin on her face. “You’re really good at making her happy.”
“I want to make her happy, and you, and Aunt Kaylee, and Lissie,” I said, swinging my legs through the couch as I kept going through the pictures. “You guys deserve a gold medal for taking care of me.”
“You’re not exactly the hardest person to get along with,” Aunt Emma chuckled. I just grinned back at her, this one not as fake as the one I had given my sister. “Hey, Kaylee and I were talking about maybe getting you your own TV and computer for your birthdays. I know I don’t like TVs in bedrooms but… if you want one… we could get you one sometime this month and then maybe your own computer, since Mira has her laptop for school.”
“No, that’s okay,” I said, though a TV in my own room would’ve been awesome to have and easier to watch the movies I wasn’t allowed to see.
“No? To a TV? And computer?” she asked, obviously surprised.
“Nope. I’m good. Thanks.” I beamed, this time the fake grin back. I still hated lying but… it was for their own good they didn’t know what I was thinking. What I really wanted. What I was considering doing. What I–I probably would do. I kept telling myself, not till I’m eighteen. But every day that passed by I just wanted it so much more that I wasn’t sure if I could wait till I was eighteen. So I changed it to sixteen. And now… I wasn’t even sure if I could wait that long.
The rest of my fourteenth year passed by achingly slow. Miracle was out more often, with her boyfriend–no longer the Goth boy, now she was with some dunderhead jock named Johnny Dale. She wore his school jacket most the time, parading it around like it was a trophy. She also went out with her friends all the time. Aunt Emma was busier with her job since the restaurant she owned had been reviewed in a big-name Bridgeport magazine as one of the best places to eat in Sunset Valley. And Alyssa was in daycare sometimes, so she could get used to it, and Aunt Kaylee went out often. So I was home alone a lot, which was fine since it gave me time to think about it, and think about what it would be like to be alone more than this.
I began thinking of the pros and cons, and started making a list. There wasn’t much to add really. For ‘staying’ I had stuff like being with family, good food, games, movies, etc. For ‘going’ there wasn’t much… but one thing did stick out on that list: freedom. Not complete freedom, I knew that, but more freedom than I would have in this house, as much as I loved it here. I’d be out at night more’n day but… being outside… sounded so amazing. Sometimes I’d ask Miracle about what it was like and she never really understood it. She’d talk about doing stuff, like driving with friends or going to the movies or other stuff. Swimming. Hanging out. But when I asked her what it felt like when it was raining, or when it was sunny, she just looked at me as if I were crazy.
The same look everyone else got when I asked them.
None of them understood, none of them could understand. I didn’t blame them. They–they just were used to coming and going when they wanted to. What was the phrase? They took it for granted. The sun, the moon, the wind, the rain, the snow, the fog, the everything. Sometimes I found myself just so sad that I couldn’t bear it. When I was alone I would sit right up against the door as if willing the outside to push through; I was scared sometimes I would fall through so I did my best to stay solid. I usually wound up crying and hugging myself.
My fifteenth birthday was a few days away, and I decided I was not going to wait for my sixteenth. I could not be caged up like this a week longer.
So now I had my plan, the problem was going to be going through with it. I knew it was the right thing to do. The best thing. But it would be a battle with my aunts and sister. By the time my birthday came, I still didn’t know how exactly I was s’pposed to tell them. I opened presents, ate the food, played the games, and felt so strangely distant from everything that by the time I realized that time had passed, it was almost bedtime. Alyssa had already gone to bed. I just needed to bring the subject up. How was I going to do this?!
“Um–Aunt Kaylee? Aunt Emma? Mirac–Mia? Could we all talk? About something uber important?” I asked and all three of them just stared at me for a moment before they shrugged and took seats. None of them looked concerned. None of them had any idea what I was about to say. I didn’t even know exactly what I was gonna say. I just… needed to speak from the heart, as cold and dead as my heart was. I took in a deep breath and began speaking. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about things. About my life, or rather my death, and–and all of you–and I love all of you so very much, and Lissie too, and everyone else.” I began fiddling with the hem of my shirt. I felt something that I suspected was sickness. It was faint. “But the thing is… I… can’t do this anymore.”
“Can’t do what, sweetie?” Aunt Kaylee inquired.
I spread my hands out. “This. As I said, I do love you all but… there’s more to… there’s more than just this house, just you four. There’s a lot out there. And I–I want–I need–I–” I gulped as tears began shimmying their way down my cheeks. “I want out! I want to leave! I can’t be here another minute! I don’t even belong here, I’m dead, I’m a ghost. I don’t belong here in the land of the living. I should be in a graveyard or something! Not here! Not locked up like a–a–a–pet!”
“No! Let me talk! Please!” I exclaimed, my hands clasping together. “What do I have if I stay here? A–a lifetime of hiding out in my room, of watching movies and playing games. Of maybe writing or painting or researching for money, but never meeting anyone. Always being scared that I might be seen again and this time they’ll call the ghostbusters or something! Always worried that you guys can’t live the lives you deserves because you have me here, you’re stuck with me! And me… and I can’t go outside, I can’t look outside? I have to stay in here twenty-four-seven!” I sank down to the floor, crying now. “I can’t stand it! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! But I can’t do this anymore! I don’t belong here! I belong out there, I belong in a graveyard! I’m a ghost and there’s no use pretending I can be here like a normal person cause I’m not. I’m not. I’m not. I’m a ghost. I have to be with other ghosts. I have to be free.”
I felt hands on me and I quickly phased into being not solid, not wanting to feel anyone touching me. I jerked away from Aunt Kaylee and wrapped my arms around my knees, staring up at her through my ghostly tears. She was crying as well, so was Aunt Emma and Miracle. I hated so much to see them cry, but I had to do this.
“Chance, why didn’t you say anything sooner?” Aunt Kaylee asked hoarsely.
“Because it’s my decision, not yours,” I answered, burrowing my head into my knees. “And I’ve made the decision, I’m going.”
“No, you’re not,” she wailed. “Watcher, Chance, you’re fifteen. You are a minor!”
This was what I didn’t want to say but it had to be said. “And what are you going to do to stop me?” I looked up. “I’m s-sorry Aunt Kaylee! Emma! Mira! I’m sorry. But I can’t stand staying here much longer. I don’t belong here. I’m dead. I belong with the ghosts.”
“You belong with us,” Aunt Emma managed to say.
“No. I don’t. If I belonged in the world of the living then how come I can’t go outside? How come I can’t take a walk, go to the movies, go out to eat?” I shakily rose to my feet, carefully floating an inch or so above the ground. “I’ve been thinking about this so much lately and the answer is… I just don’t belong here. I belong with ghosts.”
Both aunts tried to talk at the same time, then both went quiet. As they did, Miracle got up out of her seat and was in front of me, staring with empty eyes. “Can you go solid for a second, Chance?” she asked.
I blinked and then, assuming she was going to hug me and beg me not to leave, I turned solid. Her hand hit my cheek before I knew it. The first time I had ever been hit. It stung very faintly. I raised my hand to rub the spot, completely stunned. Miracle turned and walked out of the room without another word. I looked at my aunts who were still both crying, and none of us really knew what to say about that.
“You still think it’s the right thing?” Aunt Kaylee moaned. “It’s not! And you can’t go. You’re too young. We’ll… we’ll… oh Watcher.” She buried her face in her hands and began sobbing. “You can’t do this, Chance!”
“Bugaboo, why don’t you go talk to Miracle,” Aunt Emma said, struggling to stay calm. “Then come back down here and we will discuss this further, if you still wish to discuss it.”
I bowed my head and floated out of the room. Talking to Miracle on my own about this was not what I had planned and I had no idea how to do it. I just hoped she didn’t hate me completely, but she needed to understand… I could not stay here.