Specter and I went home shortly after the blond man incident. We packed everything up and spend the car ride home just listening to music. I tried to talk a few times but couldn’t bring myself to say anything. He certainly didn’t offer anything. And neither of us said anything when we got back to the house; we remained silent as we unpacked, as I fixed dinner, and as we ate watching TV. I wasn’t sure what bed was going to be like but that was sorted. After a while Specter went to his room and by the time I got there, he was sound asleep.
I returned to the living room and played video games all night, furiously slaying enemies and imagining them to be that blond guy. When Specter woke up he got a shower and called in to work. I said nothing, waiting for him to say something to me but he didn’t. He just got dressed and left. I managed not to break down into tears until after I heard the jeep driving off.
The day was horrible, absolutely horrible. I cried most the day, played video games, played the guitar, and made dinner for when I thought Specter would get home but he didn’t get home at his usual time. I sat, surrounded by the distant smell of of cheeseburger casserole, and waited. And waited. Finally I put the food up, worried about him. Was he hurt somewhere? Or was he purposely not coming back? Did he… not want me around anymore? Did he hate me now?
He finally came home several hours after his usual time. “Hey,” I said, going towards him but not throwing myself at him like I usually did. “I was worried.”
“W-well–you’re late… I thought…”
“You thought what?” he asked, eyes narrowed. “I’m good at what I do. I rarely get hurt. You think I got hurt?” He was tense and all angry. I was almost scared to answer. But I did answer, I said, “I just didn’t know what happened.”
He shrugged and went to the fridge. Instead of getting out my casserole, he took out some stuff for a sandwich. I watched silently and miserably as he fixed himself a sandwich, grabbed some chips, and sat down to watch TV. I gulped and hesitantly went over towards him. “I made dinner…”
“Cheeseburger… casserole. Did you want me to heat some up for you?” I offered but he shook his head. “Are you…” But I couldn’t finish.
“Am I what?”
“I love you.”
“Who was that guy? At the cabin yesterday?”
Specter froze, sandwich halfway to his mouth. He set the food down and twisted to look at me. “Does it matter?”
“I’d like to know.”
He set the plate down then stood up, arms folded. “That man is Samuel Everett. Head of Everett’s Ghost Hunting Business, and my adopted father. Okay?”
“Your adopted dad and your boss?” I squeaked. He shrugged one shoulder. “Wow. That must make things difficult.”
“Chance.” He rubbed the spot between his eyes and then sighed. “Samuel’s made it his mission to rid the world of ghosts. Even the ones in graveyards, although he can’t touch them… yet.”
“And you want to help him with that?” I asked. Specter and I stared intently at one another. Before he could answer, I said, “I heard what you said in the cabin. About… ghosts. Dying, painfully and slowly.” My voice cracked a bit at that. I wanted Specter to laugh and say he was just saying that for Samuel Everett, that he didn’t mean it, that, that, that something, anything. But he just stared at me. Silently. “Oh. I see.”
“No, no. I get it, I, uh, I do.”
I turned to go somewhere else in the house but he grabbed my wrist and spun me close to him, kissing me hard on the mouth. I melted a bit as his arms went around me and he pressed against me in the way that I knew what he wanted, and I wanted it too. But we couldn’t… not like this. I went non-solid and slid through him. He stumbled a bit, looking very angry about that. “You don’t get it,” he hissed.
“I get it, Specter. Or Jareth. Whoever you are…” I pressed a hand against my chest, feeling ready to cry again. “I really don’t know. I don’t know anything about you except you… your favorite foods… your books… what you like in–in bed and–and you hate ghosts but you’re willing to sleep with one. Look, I may be–stupid but I’m not stupid!” I was breaking down again and there were the tears, pouring out of my eyes and dripping down through my head and body since I was non-solid.
His hands came close but didn’t come near my skin. “Go solid.”
I swallowed and went solid. One hand went on my cheek, his thumb sweeping across my cheek to wipe away the tears that were now sliding down my skin. His other hand went to my hip and he pulled me close. “I was born Jareth Greyson,” he murmured. “I changed my name legally ages ago because I hate being called Jareth. It reminds me too much of my parents. They were killed when I was thirteen, by a ghost. They worked in some labs… along with Samuel. I grew up in the labs.” His thumb traced down my cheek, settling at the corner of my mouth. “I had no friends except books. I read all the time, when I wasn’t terrorizing the scientists. Well, most the scientists. The woman in charge was fucking terrifying, I swear she could make the worst criminal in the world fall to his knees and beg forgiveness.” He gave a gentle laugh and bent in, putting his forehead against mine. “My parents worked with Samuel, stuff to do with the afterlife and death. He was their good friend. So when they died, he took me in. We moved… and he vowed revenge on ghosts.”
I looked up into his eyes and he stared steadily down into mine. “You did too.”
“Yes. For the next couple of years… Samuel and I worked on getting EGHB started. He pushed me, I pushed him. We fueled each others’ fires about getting rid of ghosts.” His thumb traced across my lips and then I parted my lips a bit and pressed them around the tip of his thumb. He gave a shudder. “I was a loner in school,” he whispered. “I made no friends, though sometimes I tried. People treated me like I was a psychopath. I guess my glares of death, blue hair, suits and overcoats, and name change to ‘Specter’ didn’t help.”
“You wore suits and overcoats to school?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“Yeah. Stop it,” he said when I giggled, but he didn’t sound annoyed. Actually, he was smiling. “I realized when I was seventeen that I was gay.”
“Same as me,” I said, eyes wide. “Oh! Sorry. C-continue.”
“No, it’s fine.” He pulled his hand from my mouth and settled it on my other hip. “I went out with this guy and–well, we were together. Sorta.”
“No. Friends with benefits.”
“No,” he said a bit darkly. “Not like us.” He sucked in some air through his teeth. “More like… what Samuel said yesterday at the cabin… about blind lust…” He trailed off and I gave a small nod, resisting the urge not to jump and down. Not like us, it was just blind lust? That meant I wasn’t just blind lust to him. I wasn’t just lust. I wasn’t just someone to fool around with. I was right all along, I WAS MORE TO HIM THAN THAT! “He hurt me a lot, and I didn’t get over it for a long time. College… I was even worse than I was in high school. I pretty much alienated myself. Again, books were my only friends. Samuel kept wanting me to make friends. Like, he wanted me to be more normal sometimes… but sometimes he wanted me to be…” Specter stopped and I just waited. “Sometimes it feels like… oh, never mind.”
“No, go ahead. You can tell me anything.”
“Sometimes it feels like he just wants me to be his right-hand man. Like… I need to… only have EGHB and nothing else.” I frowned at that, remembering everything that had been said, remembering the way Samuel Everett had been at the idea of Specter being with someone. “Sometimes I feel like there’s something… he’s not telling me. Something that’s hanging over our heads about to destroy everything but–I guess I’m just paranoid.”
I leaned upwards to kiss his chin, well really his beard. “When you turned away from him yesterday he got this super creepy look on his face.” There. I told him.
But Specter just gave me this narrow-eyed look. “Chance, I told you not to come into the cabin. If he knew you were there, he would’ve zapped you into the Netherworld before you could blink. And I don’t know what he’d do to me if he knew I was… if I was…”
“Friends with benefits, with a ghost?” I inquired. “He wouldn’t hurt you would he?” I asked after Specter looked worried.
He breathed slowly then ran his tongue over his teeth. “I don’t know.”
“Oh Watcher. He wouldn’t.”
“You were in the cabin, you heard what he called me,” he said and it took a second to remember what he was meaning.
“Queer,” I muttered. “So he hates that you’re gay.”
“Yeah. When he found out, he nearly fired me but then realized he couldn’t lose his best employee. The people at EGHB know I’m gay and treat me like crap for it–like, they’ve nicknamed me FH… for Fag-hunter. And Samuel does nothing about it. I could report them all for harassment but… you know.”
“What?” I asked since I didn’t know.
“I’d have to report Samuel, too. I’d pretty much be ruining EGHB. Samuel knows it, too. He knows I’d never.” He pushed his bangs back and then pulled away from me, slumping down on the couch. “Now you know. And I’ll understand if you think less of me for it.”
“Why would I think less of you?” I sat down on the couch next to him, head tilted.
“Because I’m a coward.”
“You’re not a coward.”
He pushed himself off the couch. “Yes I am, I can’t stand up to anyone at work, I can’t stand up to Samuel. I’m just a coward.”
I went to him and wrapped my arms around him. “You’re not a coward,” I said again, firmly. “I think you’re brave.” He twisted in my arms to face me, lips pursed. “You’ve just told me all of that, didn’t you?”
“I’m not brave.”
I reached up and brushed his bangs back. “I think you’re brave. And I still love you.”
I wanted him to say it back. I hoped so much he would, because I knew he felt something for me besides ‘blind lust’ but he didn’t. He just bent down and kissed me, slowly and gently and then rougher and more needful. We stumbled back towards the bedroom and onto the bed, rolling around and kissing for quite some time until he propped himself up over me and I thought this would be it, the moment he says it.
He smiled and stared for eternity into my eyes. Finally his lips parted so he could say, “You really are something, Chance.”
My non-existent heart skipped a beat and then fell into my stomach. “Thanks,” I said, without really meaning it. He began kissing my neck and I closed my eyes, wondering if maybe that was just his way of saying he loved me.
That had to be it.
Things seemed to settle into a happy place for a while. Or maybe I was hoping it was a happy place. Cooking, playing video games, playing guitar, occasionally going out, lots of together time… but not as much as before. He was working over most nights and going in early. He worked most weekends and even on my birthday when I hoped he would take off work early he didn’t. I didn’t show him how sad I was though. The day I turned twenty, I gave him a kiss goodbye, and early the next morning I gave him a kiss hello.
“Happy… birthday.” He handed me a box, a large, wrapped-up box with turned out to be a new video game system and two video games. I exclaimed over it, thanking him and giving him kisses but part of me was depressed. I would’ve rather spent time with him. Maybe go out… but he looked exhausted, so I didn’t ask if we could go out.
When we lay in bed later, I just curled up in his arms and wondered about things. Wondered about him. Wondered about us. Loving him was the right thing, wasn’t it? I couldn’t bear to be away from him though. I needed to stay with him, I wanted him. I just… couldn’t help but worry. I needed him to tell me he loved me. Except, I couldn’t ask.
And it was then I started having nightmares again.
And it was then everything came crashing down.
“Hey, Chance?” Specter asked one evening when we were curled up together on the couch, watching a ‘most haunted’ show.
“What’s your mother’s name? Or father?”
My eyebrows twitched as I turned my head to look at him. “Why?”
I knew why, though. The nightmares. I had them pretty much every time I slept, though I didn’t really sleep much anymore. I hated being awake though–cause sometimes the nightmares would be there in my head, even though I was awake. My memories weren’t working really right either. Things were slipping away and sometimes it made me so sad it was hard to pretend to be happy. And the memory-slippingness was happening now.
“My mom’s name was… uhhh…” What was my mother’s name? There was an image in my head, a fuzzy image of purple hair. But… a name? I was drawing nothing. “Uhhhh… and my papa, his name… ummmm… well…” But there was nothing. I thought hard about it but there was nothing, not even a hair color like… wait… my mother… I did have a memory of my mother, didn’t I? But it was gone. “Errr, I lived with my aunt a lot.” Didn’t I?
“What was her name?” Specter asked lightly, but I was silent. It was if the inside of mind was nothing but bright fog, swirling around, hiding everything. There was nothing in there. NOTHING. “Anyone…? In your family? Any name?”
“Denmoore,” I forced out.
“My last name…” I offered, because wasn’t that right?
“I thought it was Danevbie?”
“It–oh! It is. Danevbie. That’s right. Chance Danevbie.” But as I said it, it almost seemed wrong. But it was Danevbie. I think. Wasn’t it? The name didn’t work in my head. I concentrated harder but the name just shrunk till it disappeared. “And my aunt is–um. Danevbie. And my mom. And… my… family.” But there was nothing. “Danevbie.”
Specter put his hand on mine. “Is it Danevbie? Or Denmoore?”
“Nonono, definitely Danevbie.” But I wasn’t sure at all, and it was beginning to feel like I was drowning. The fog was washing over me and I was scared. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t. I just babbled on because by talking about the name Danevbie, I figured it would come back to me. “I just um… my parents… their names… I… I don’t remember,” I confessed. My brain throbbed and I felt something that might’ve been pain. “I don’t remember. My aunt… my… br… broth… si… sibling…” Watcher, who? Who? Who was in that fog? There was someone there in that fog, wasn’t there?
“You have a sibling.”
“Um. Maybe. I think. I don’t know.” I began crying. “I don’t remember.”
“Shh, it’s ok.” Specter cradled my face in his hands and began kissing my face over and over. “Hey, forget about it–ahhhh, uh, oh crap that… I didn’t mean…”
“It’s okay,” I whimpered, trying to stop the tears. “I’m okay, really.” I had to be okay, I couldn’t let the fog ruin everything. I had to just relax and it would clear up, right? I would remember my family. I had to.
“Oh–hey! Watch this! Watch! I have to do this giant jump into the water! Well, I guess I don’t have to I could probably get down to the water another way but watch this, the thingie is under the water. Thank Watcher for that jewel thingie helps me breathe underwater. Watching? Watching?”
I licked my lips as I moved the controller stick forward and hit the jump button. My guy did a jump, falling wayyyy down into the water. I laughed then paused the game, turning to Specter to see if he was watching. He wasn’t watching the TV, but me. With a slight frown on his face. “What’s wrong? Dinner’s not ready yet… did you want some food?” I got up from the couch, wondering why he was looking at me like that.
“Hey. Chance. How’re you?”
That was an unusual question since we had been avoiding that issue for a couple days now. I gave him a look then went to save my game. “I’m fine, I guess. Just trying to finish this quest and then I was gonna play some guitar but you got home earlier than expected. How are you…?”
“All right… Can we talk?”
Dread immediately trickled down my spine, wrapping around my waist and digging into my stomach and chest like knives. My throat tightened so much I couldn’t breathe, and it actually took a second of heart-wrenching fear to realize I didn’t need to breathe. “Yeah. Uh, yeah… we c-can.” I saved the game and turned the system off, trying not to cry.
“I’ve–I’ve done some… research. More research. About you.” He folded his arms and our eyes met, but he didn’t look angry or upset or even grouchy. “Chance. I’ve done a lot of research. I’ve been spending more time on this than I probably should. But, um. Chance. You… you don’t exist.”
“I’m right here, aren’t I?” I asked with a nervous giggle.
“Yeah, no. I mean. Chance Danevbie… doesn’t exist. There are no… birth records or death records, or obituaries, or any indication whatsoever that someone named Chance Danevbie ever existed.”
I gulped, not quite sure I was understanding him. “Well. No. I’m a ghost. They kept me a secret. Cause… people don’t exactly like ghosts.”
He stepped close to me, running his fingers through his hair as he let out a heavy sigh. “Chance. Sometimes… there are certain circumstances. And–and… you know what? Never mind. Just… never mind.”
“Never mind? You bring a subject like that up then… never mind it?” I raised my eyebrows and folded my own arms. “What were you going to say?”
“It doesn’t matter.” He came even closer and put a kiss on my forehead. “What did you make sure dinner?”
“Specter, you tell me right now or… or else. No sex,” I said, threatening him with the worst thing I could threaten him with and I could tell that that made an impact.
“Okay. Fine. Maybe–maybe you should know. Maybe it will help you. See, as I was saying there are… particular circumstances with ghosts. Sometimes it’s not so bad, sometimes it can be and yours–yours… seems to be really bad.” He clapped his hands together, pointing at me with the tips of his fingers. “Sometimes… when a person dies and becomes a ghost they have memory problems. I’ve run across many ghosts who–who have memory issues.”
“I’m surprised you found out about them before you killed them,” I said, a bit bitterly since… well, my memory problem was a bit of a sensitivity issue with me. I didn’t want to talk about it and rather wished I hadn’t poked Specter to talk about this.
Specter scowled but shrugged one shoulder. “I admit, I don’t find out much about it since I do… remove their spirits from this world. But I have seen it enough to know it happens. I’ve done research into it. Recently.”
“Because of me?”
“Yes,” he answered honestly. “I did research and have found… reports from non-violent hunters and spiritualists. I’ve been in contact with a few through forums and anonymous e-mails.” He put his hands on my shoulders and looked into my eyes. “I think I know why you’re having memory problems, Chance.”
My mouth opened a bit as hope surged through me. “You do?” I whispered, excitement creeping through my body, pushing back the fog a bit. The fog that had been in my mind every second of every day since he had asked me about my parents.
“There are two possibilities and… I think… and I think the reason is… when you died… it was traumatic.” I squinted at that, not able to protest. I was too stunned. Too shocked. My stomach hit the floor with a sickening, plummeting feeling. “When someone dies in a traumatic way, there is every chance they just… block it out. And some people build up a new story–to replace the memories they’ve lost.”
His hands tightened. “Yeah. I think… your real name might be something else. And you died in a horrific way. So… you blocked everything out, and came up with this… Danevbie story to replace it.”
“Replace? But–I didn’t… die… I w-was born this way… a ghost… I was born a ghost.”
Specter’s mouth drew into a thin line. “Chance, you know… that can’t be true. And maybe if we focus on the truth, you’ll get better.”
“The truth…? That I’ve been lying?”
“Not lying, just–thinking… something else.”
I slowly pulled out of his hold. “I was born a ghost. Oh Watcher. Specter, we’ve been over this. I thought you–you believed it.”
“The same way you believe it?” he asked.
I felt like slapping him. “It’s the TRUTH! I have–my family–the Danevbies–“
“Chance Danevbie never existed. I think your name is Chance, well–was Chance. And then you died and wanted to be–“
“No. No! It’s not re–it’s not true.” I backed up, gasping for air. “No. I’m Chance Danevbie. I died–I mean, I didn’t die… I mean… my ghost color… isn’t… red… or… crushed… or…” I was panting heavily, hardly able to talk. What he said pressed into me, every inch of me. “So that throws th-that theory out. Right? Right.”
“What?” I snapped my head up. “What?!” I demanded when he remained silent. I needed him to say something else, something more, I needed this to go somewhere else because the fog in my mind was sucking me in, sucking me into a place where I didn’t want to go, a place where he might be… NO. He wasn’t right, he wasn’t right, he wasn’t right.
“The other possibility.”
“What’s that, then?”
Specter rubbed his beard, eyebrows lowering a bit. “That… you did something. In your life. Something bad. And when you died, you… blocked that.”
“Something bad in my life? You mean…” I stopped and the words were right there in the air but neither of said it. But it was too much and I couldn’t stop, and so I said quickly, “Like kill someone?”
“Or I was a criminal?”
“You think it, right?” I backed up even more. “You think I was like, evil? In my life? I wasn’t alive, I never–I never did… anything… bad… I was… I’m not…”
“I think it’s the first possibility, Chance.”
“No you don’t. I’m not the right ghost color to die in a traumatic way.” I shoved his hand away when he tried to reach out towards me. “Specter, what do you think? Really?”
“I think… you’re a wonderful person, and something bad happened to you. You might not have been murdered but perhaps something bad was happening to you before you died.” This time I didn’t hit his hand when he reached. His fingers touched my hairline. “I just want to help you.”
Everything inside of me softened at that. “Yeah?” I couldn’t help but smile, just a bit.
“Yeah.” He kissed me and I waited for more but he didn’t say anything else.
“Why do you want to help me?” I asked, needing him to say it, needing it so bad right now, more then ever. But he just kissed me again and then held me tightly. I put my head against his chest, trying not to sigh. “I was born a ghost,” I murmured.
His hand ran along down my back, resting in the small of it. “All right,” he replied, but he didn’t believe it. I knew he didn’t.
And the worst part was… I was now wondering if I believed it. Because what he said made some sort of awful sense. It would explain my memory and the fog which was all over, hiding everything in my mind, hiding my past from me. It would explain a lot of things. What if I hadn’t been born a ghost? What if my family, whoever they were, didn’t exist? What if I had made it all up to replace something horrible that happened–that either happened to me… or something I did…
I wasn’t really who I thought I was…