What, are you haunting me, now? I asked, a sad attempt at sarcasm. My voice shook too hard to be taken seriously. I mean, shit.
Carrie glanced once around my darkened room, taking in my messy bed, computer desk, and window, then lowered herself to the floor in her old spot alongside my dresser. Just like they used to, her pale, almost transparent fingers dug into the rug. Shed always liked the texture of my old, worn-out carpet and never failed to tell me so. The familiarity of that simple movement caused the swell of hurt and loss that had started in my heart at her death to rise into my throat. Yep.
But--but, why? I stammered, giving up at acting flip.
There was a frigging ghost in my bedroom, laying on my carpet, acting as nonchalant as frigging possible. The ghost of my dead best friend, who literally showed up at her own funeral, which nearly gave me an actual heart-attack.
What window did reality jump out of? I was about ready to follow.
She shrugged, her small shoulders bobbing under the cloth of her shift. Well, why not? she asked, looking up at me from under her long lashes. Didnt you want to see me again? Her teasing half-smile sent a tremor through my heart.
Just to see her again
Carrie rolled her eyes. You ask so many questions, Tor. Chill. Just go with it. With a lazy smile, she rolled over onto her back, slipping her arms under her head. You looked like an idiot at the funeral, by the way. Staring off into space and talking to yourself. Acting like you were talking to me. Me! The dead girl in the coffin! She laughed up to the ceiling.
Irritation bubbled up inside me, and that emotion almost brought tears to my eyes. I never thought Id be given the chance to witness her bold insensitivity again. Shut up. Its your fault.
I know. She looked at me with a gentle smile. She was rough, but not cruel. Im sorry for freaking you out like that. It wasnt nice. Maybe I shouldve waited a few hours, until you were alone. But its hard to judge time when youre in limbo.
She stopped and sat up sharply, staring over her shoulder at me with an odd expression on her face. Did you just squeak?
I opened my mouth to deny it, but all that came out was that traitorous sound.
Instead of using her legs, Carrie floated upwards until she hung there, vertical. Her eyes were wide. Tori? The rock? Squeaked?
I bit my lip until I tasted the metallic sharpness of blood, then bit harder, trying not to break.
Carries eyes went even wider. Stop it! She shot forward, coming up right in front of me to stare at me in the face. She slapped my cheek gently. Quit hurting yourself, idiot!
And then her arms were around me, and I forgot everything else.
I could actually feel her. She felt solid. Her bones, muscles, the curves of her body. I could feel it all. Plus, she was warm. In stories, ghosts were cold. They caused humans to shiver, or feel as if a bucket of ice had just been dumped over their head. In reality, they were warm. So comfortably warm. All I knew was her weight, her warmth, the round solidity of her ribcage. I could even smell her; that faint sweetness of the shampoo she used to use and something deeper.
Look, she whispered, pulling away. She picked up my hand. Its going to be alright. Im here, I can help. I know its hard, but its not the end of the world.
Not the end of the world? Carrie, youre dead!
She opened her mouth to answer, but before she could say anything, my bedroom door flew open. I looked through her to see my mother standing there. Because I was literally looking through Carrie, all the fine details were too fuzzy to make out, but I could tell that my mom was angry. Her hair looked like it hadnt been brushed in days and was thrown up into a messy bun. A small, glowing red dot quivered in front of her mouth: the ember of a cigarette. She stood with her arms across her the front of her baggy gray sweatshirt. Tori! she snapped. Who the hell are you talking to?
I froze. She couldnt see Carrie. Of course not. In every ghost story Id ever stayed up late to watch, random people could never see the ghost. That would be too easy. Plus, it would set the world to chaos.
I bowed my head so my hair fell in front of my face and blocked the woman out. Nobody. Myself.
Her voice turned dangerous. You better not do that in front of your teachers. We cant afford medication. She started to leave, but stopped, one hand on my doorknob, staring around my room. Clean this up. Then the dishes. Then the living room. She left, slamming the door behind her.
Your mom is evil, Carrie commented, her voice light.
I pushed my hair behind my ear and looked up. Tell me something new.
She studied me for a moment, her eyes lingering on my mouth. Without warning, she lifted her hand and reached out to touch my lower lip. At the light, warm pressure of her fingers, the world froze into a simple series of heartbeats. Thats bleeding. You need to take care of it.
I pushed her away, not wanting to hear her sympathy, and wiped irritably at my mouth. Im fine. I stood up and walked to my window, throwing open the curtains and shoving it open. The warm summer breeze felt icy on my skin. So, I started, a sad attempt at light conversation. You sticking around?
For as long as you want me to, she answered.
How come? I forced myself to focus on the dumpsters in the street below. Some hint of reality, please. Anything.
Um, because I wanted to? came her hesitant reply.
How? My question came out barbed.
Tori! Stop it, okay? I know its probably kinda freaky, but
Kinda? I snapped, spinning around. I was all ready to throw the perfect fit, complete with screaming, angry tears, and cussing, but the sight of her sitting there, on my bed, not alive but still there, totally killed the idea. I had her with me again, and I didnt want to ruin that. I sighed. Right. So, tell me. How else does a person carry on a conversation with a ghost?
Carrie looked at me with sad eyes, eyes that used to be blue. The same way a person carries on a conversation with a human. Im still me, Tori. Weve been friends forever. It should be the same as it used to be.
No one gets a second chance, I said bluntly. The world didnt work that way.
I gave you a second chance, she shot back, her voice quiet.
The door flew open again, slamming into the dresser. Get your ass out here and clean up the kitchen! Who am I, your maid?
Im coming, mom. Geez.
With one final look over my shoulder at the friend Id thought Id lost forever, I followed the damn woman out of the room.
Ill just wait here, then, Carrie whispered.
But when I came back a couple of hours later, she was gone.