Haunted

Synopsis

Some people have secrets you’d rather not know.

If Noah McShane knows anything about the brown haired girl that walks through the hallways of his school like she owns the place, it’s that everyone always says she’s a huge bitch and you better stay out of her way. Noah has no intentions to be subjected to her apparent wrath, but when an incident in the cafeteria leaves him literally haunted, it might already be too late.

 

****

 

∞ Chapter 1 ∞

 

The hallway was crowded as I made my way to my locker just before my classes started. It was the first week of the new year, senior year, so everyone was still energetically telling their friends about what they had done during the summer. Apparently their break had been so full of events they needed three whole days before they’d shared everything they wanted to. I was almost ashamed admitting that same thing took me about 10 minutes. After having worked in a silent store all summer, I almost had to get used to the noise these people made again, because crap, it seemed like a hen house in here.

Drew just slammed his locker shut when I reached him and leaned against it. “Hey, dude.” Drew and I had known each other since we were twelve, when he and his mother moved to our town. We lived only two streets apart and he always passed my house on his way to school back then, so it seemed logical to walk with each other instead of trailing behind one another, ten feet apart and without saying a word. He hadn’t been much of a talker in the beginning, and neither had I, so although we didn’t speak a lot, there had never been awkward silences and when the moment came that we opened up and did talk, we’d found out we actually kind of really like each other and hadn’t been apart again.

“Hey,” I said as I opened my locker to grab my books for the first period.

Now, though, it was hard to believe he’d barely spoken a word back them. My quiet friend Drew had turned out to be the perfect ladies-man, according to all the girls at school, and around it. He always knew what to say and when to say it, smiled at the right moments, confident in everything he did, somewhat mysterious with his leather jacket, medium length dark brown hair with bangs, blue eyes, black boots and a nose piercing. The combination gave him something dark, and for all that he had all the attention from girls he desired. And more. Our friendship had never changed, though. Sometimes he would introduce me to girls and we would hang out, but it was never something serious. Mostly after a week or two, the girls found out I wasn’t nearly as interesting as Drew was and we agreed to be friends. All fine by me.

“Oh no, people beware. Step aside, step aside, the Ice-Queen has arrived,” Drew muttered beside me.

As I looked over my shoulder, I saw her. It was almost one of those moments in a movie where the high school’s most popular girl entered, in slow motion and with fans to emphasise the importance of her arrival, her hair waving. This girl strode the hallway like she owned the place.

No, that’s not true, more like she owned the town. Her face high up in the air, swaying her small, yet curvy hips. She looked like she thought she was the most important girl in the world, that everyone should be glad to be in her glorious company, self-confidence dripping off of her by the way she held her chin in the air. She wasn’t  very tall, even though she wore high heels. Her long, wavy chestnut brown hair floated in the wind.

She was also a complete bitch. The ones you see in chick-flick movies. There was a difference between those girls and this girl, though, because they were mostly leader of the cheer squad, adored and followed by a horde of girls and guys. This girl, though, she was so awful that not even the other popular girls wanted to have anything to do with her. It was said that she bullied several kids so severely that they left school and she felt so much better than the rest of us, that she was already irritated when you tried to speak to her. I had never had any contact with her, but I had heard several stories of students that said she could totally freak out if you just came one step close. No one really knew much about her. Probably because no one had ever dared to get close enough, in fear of getting trapped in the ice following her around. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what her name was. Most students called her Ice-Queen, or things like Casey the Callous. Casey was her last name though. That’s all I knew.

I was steered back to the hallway when someone tapped on my shoulder. “Hey Noah. We have an appointment this afternoon, right? I completely forgot what time we agreed.”

Turning around, I found Sarah; short, shy and straight blond hair. “Three-thirty. Do you want me to come over to your dorm or mine?”

Yes, we had dorms. Partly because they wanted to prepare us for college, being responsible and all that. Partly for students who lived far enough away the drive would just take long. Partly because it gave them a good name, having something other high schools didn’t have, and wanted to keep it because a good name brought in more students. The choice lay with the students, though. And their parents wallets, to be honest. I was glad I didn’t have to drive half an hour back and forth each day.

Drew grumbled. “Yeah, not into this conversation. See ya in class, dude.” He pushed off the row of lockers and was immediately found by his current flirt. “Well, hello,” he smiled a lot more enthusiastically, wrapping an arm around her shoulder as she giggled.

Sarah was switching her feet in front of me, seeming unsure how to react. “My roommate won’t be in my dorm during the afternoon, so I guess mine is okay,” she said eventually.

“Okay, fine by me. As long as you feel comfortable.” I smiled reassuringly and it helped, for a small smile appeared on her lips as well before she nodded and then walked down the hallway. I made my way to my classroom, inside just before the last bell rang. I sat down next to Drew, who was sprawled in his seat.

Mister Harris made his way to his desk, made us to shut up and told us on what page to open our History book. My thoughts wandered off almost immediately.

Tuesday, the principal had spoken through the speakers, telling us we could enter a program that was called “Students For Students.” It was some kind of student counselling, done by other students. The idea was that they thought it would be easier for students to open up about their problems to someone their age, and since our school wasn’t overflowing with teachers,  both students and school benefitted. I had assigned for more reasons.

One, I liked helping people. I planned on starting with my degree in the social department next year. I always felt like becoming a therapist was what I was supposed to do. From a certain age, all the kids always came to me with their problems and I had loved it. Helping people with their problems and making them happy felt great. Next to that, getting into this program, I would earn credits that looked really good on my degree for college next year and extra points in one of my classes.

So this afternoon would be my first session – should I even call it that? I wasn’t a professional. Not even close. It was more of a one way conversation, with me encouraging Sarah to talk about her feelings and whatever problems she felt like talking about and maybe ask a few questions. A revelation-and-solving chat. I searched for another word to describe it, and found nothing. Maybe session was still the shortest way to explain it after all.

“Noah, could you tell us the date this war ended?”

My eyes snapped up to the front of the classroom. Oh crap.

I exhaled relieved when I heard someone else answer and saw that Mr Harris wasn’t looking my way, because I truly had no idea what he had been talking about. That was the good part of having a name bud in your class, when they said your name it didn’t always mean they were talking to you. I sat back in my chair and paid attention until the bell rang.

When I walked into the lunchroom after English Literature, Drew and the rest of the guys were already seated at our usual table as I made my way over to the line to get some lunch.

Two guys walked past the line with their food, laughing. “Casey the Cruel is getting her witch dish. Look out she might poison you.” They high-fived before walking off.

It wasn’t until then that I noticed she was standing in front of me. Yeah, the girl got picked on, but she was a bully herself so I couldn’t really make myself feel sorry for her that much. I’d seen her in action several times and she wasn’t easy on people. At all. This time, she decided to ignore them instead of giving a remark like she did most of the time, her chin jerking higher into the air and away from them, pretending not to care. Knowing what was told, she probably didn’t have to pretend.

The students were walking  forward slowly in line and her foot tapped impatiently on the floor as we waited, arms crossed tightly over her chest.

“That won’t make the line go any faster, you know?” I said. She shot me an angry glare over her shoulder with the coldest bluish-grey eyes I had ever seen and turned back, not stopping. I shrugged, wondering why I had said anything in the first place, but somehow unable to stop. “Just saying. Are you in a hurry or something?”

“Leave me alone.” She didn’t even turn around. Well, she was in a good mood today.

In the beginning of the line, someone said something that sounded like complaining someone else shoved him. He staggered backwards and caused the whole line to walk into each other. Missis Bad Mood lost her balance, and, in an reflex, I caught her elbows to steady her.

The strangest thing happened. A shock of electricity shot through me, a jolt of emotions so strong it faded my view and other senses. Terror, rage, coldness and darkness enveloped me, so clear it scared me. I had never felt something like that before. It felt so wrong.

Just as fast as it came, it was gone and when the cafeteria returned to my vision, she was gone from my grip. Too stunned by what just happened, I gazed after her as she thundered away.

Drew was at my side within a second. “What the hell just happened?”

I wondered the exact same thing. “I don’t really know,” I said slowly, unconsciously raising my hand to my suddenly stinging cheek.

“You were just waiting and then the whole row walked backwards, you caught Olivia from falling and then she slapped you in the face as a ‘thank you’ and started screaming “Don’t you fucking touch me!”? Dude, that girl seriously is mental.” Drew shook his head in disbelief and shot a glare to the spot where she had taken a run for. Olivia. That was it. Drew never used her normal name.

Wait, she slapped me? So that’s where the sting came from. “I should go after her,” I said absently, realizing that when I hadn’t been so dumbfounded, I would have done that immediately.

“Yeah, you should,” Drew agreed. “To tell her she needs some serious professional help. That was just insane, dude.”

I frowned and stepped towards the hallway she had disappeared in, leaving Drew behind. It took ten minutes to find her, but then I saw her ducked away in a spot no one would see her if they weren’t looking for her. Not the place I had expected her to be. I walked over and leaned against the wall, waiting for her to acknowledge me. She kept her head turned away from me, chin high, pretending I wasn’t there, and after a moment, I lost my patience. “What just happened?” I asked, not angry, just… curious. Because I just had no idea. She ignored me and didn’t move. “Olivia, did you feel what I felt?”

Her head snapped to me, anger flaring in her eyes. “You know what I felt? I felt hands on my body that were not supposed to be there,” she snarled. “You had no right to touch me. Now leave me alone.”

Even more confused by her reaction than I was before, kept my mouth shut for a moment. Did she mean to say she was so high above me that my touch was unclean or something? Who thought shit like that? “I just wanted to keep you from falling. I’m sorry, it was a reflex.” What the hell, why was I apologizing to her? She had slapped me in the face. I shook my head and pushed off the wall. “Whatever. I don’t even know why I came after you in the first place anymore.”

“That’s because you shouldn’t have,” she snapped, her face already turned away again.

 

 

It didn’t take long before people heard about what happened during lunch. They always called her names regularly, but now it exploded. I had even heard some girls had wrote ‘Cold-Blooded Casey’ and ‘Olivia is a heartless bitch’ on the walls in the girls restroom with a marker. I hadn’t encouraged the bullying, I hated it, but I guess it was the inevitable issue that was called ‘high school’.

I sat through my classes, but I was distracted, my instincts playing up. By the end of the afternoon, I was really wondering why Olivia had reacted like that, because, let’s be honest, that wasn’t a normal reaction and I wanted to know what had caused it.

During my conversation with Sarah I forced myself to focus, and I did, but when I walked into my dorm, my mind was back on Olivia again. I wasn’t in for running my mind over what happened another ten times, knowing I wouldn’t be able to figure it out anyway, so I grabbed my sketchpad and a pencil and headed out again, knowing that was the only way I could empty my mind. Drawing, while most of the time listening to music, was the only way to find that peaceful place in my mind where everything seemed solvable. It was nice to be able to escape real life sometimes.

I was more tired than normally around this time of the day and I hoped that some alone time could give me some of my energy back. I found a quiet spot on the bleachers where I had the best view on the woods and started sketching, ear buds plugged in.

The weather was pretty nice out here, which wasn’t as self-evident as it should be, living in California. One would think that when you lived in California, you had warm, dry summers and more good weather. Yeah, not. I lived in an area with mild summers and winters and a lot of fog every morning. Especially close to the coast. But there was nothing to complain about now. The temperature was nice for the time of the day.

The first moment I became aware of my surroundings again was when something in the corner of my eye caught my attention. I looked up and saw Olivia glaring at me for a moment and then came stalking over. I closed my pad, unplugged the buds from my ears and waited. The look on her face told me to prepare myself for the worst.

“Are you stalking me or something?” she snapped.

Frowning, I held up my pencil. “I was just drawing.”

“What kind of pathetic person are you that you wait so long for someone to walk by?” she interrupted, not listening to me. I was about to defend myself, but she held up a pointy finger, silencing me. “Just freaking leave me alone, okay? I don’t need this too on top of everything else.” She turned around and barged away from me, her heels clicking loud and angry on the concrete.

I blinked and shook my head, trying to understand what just happened. She accused me of being a stalker, didn’t give me a chance to explain myself and then stalked away. I should be angry with her, furious probably, but I wasn’t. Confused, that I was. What was running through my mind, though, was that I couldn’t help but wonder what she meant with “I don’t need this too, on top of everything else.”

Drew and Alec found me half an hour later, and I noticed that I hadn’t gotten any further with my drawing since my second encounter with Olivia today. I put the sketchpad into the bag I brought before they saw it and got up. Drew knew I sketched to clear my mind, but the rest didn’t and I liked to keep it that way.

“Noah, you’re up for grabbing dinner somewhere?” Alec asked, his sandy coloured hair stirring in the wind a bit. “Logan and Tyler are gone already, but Drew insisted on finding you first and I agreed on that point. I have barely seen you today.”

“Sure, I’ll go.” Maybe a little distraction with the guys would get my mind off Olivia.

Alec drove us to a small burger restaurant downtown and we found Logan and Tyler seated at a table by a window. They had ordered our food already as well, we mostly ordered the same stuff, so it didn’t take long before the food arrived.

We had fun, talking about girls and sports and cars; easy guy talk. I didn’t think about Olivia and her weird behaviour and I felt lighter than I had since I touched her. It seemed like the gloom that had shot through my veins had lingered long after our skin had connected, had now finally disappeared, but it returned when Alec said, “I can’t believe that bitch slapped you in the face, Noah. We should take some revenge or something. She should be stopped, thinking she can do and say whatever the fuck she wants, whenever she wants.”

All the guys looked at me, expecting me to agree. “No, we’re not doing anything. She just didn’t expect me to grab her like that. I startled her and she just had a reflex or something, no big deal.” I don’t know why in the world I was defending her.

They all raised an eyebrow at me. Tyler spoke. “Dude, you’re just going to let her get away with that? Why? Everyone was searching for a reason to seriously pick on her and report the shit she pulls. Now you have one, don’t waste it.”

My hands clenched under the table. “None of us is going to get on her back for this, okay? I don’t want it, so it’s not going to happen. Accept it.”

They looked at me like I was crazy, but I didn’t care. My appetite gone, I sat back on the bench and crossed my arms, staring at the table, not involved in their conversation anymore as they changed the subject again.

Back in our dorm a little while later, I worked on some assignments and tried to fix something about my drawing without having the actual trees in front of me. It wasn’t working out well. I  couldn’t quite figure out how to draw the different kind of shades and shadows, so I decided I would go back to the bleachers tomorrow.

Our dorm looked simple. Standing in the opening of the door, looking inside, there was a small couch on the left with a tiny table and an TV in front of it. In the near left end there was a small counter and a camping sized fridge with a table and four seats. That was our latest addition. On the right there was a bathroom that took up almost a fourth of the dorm and hidden behind the bathroom wall, were two beds, two closets against the opposite wall of the dorm, beside the window. Because of the wall, the beds were kinda hidden from view when you stood in the door frame, so that was nice.

Drew looked up from his guitar, he had been silently playing in the background on the couch. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure,” I muttered, knowing that, the way he said it meant it would be about my reaction in the restaurant.

“I know you’re against bullying and all, but… you really seemed mad during dinner. You didn’t speak another word for the rest of the time we were there, while most of the time you, me and Alec lead the whole conversation. You seem tired and just… done for the day. Is that still all about what happened during lunch? And why are you so against doing anything that makes it clear to Ice Queen that she acted like a total bitch?”

“You know why I hate bullying, Drew. And… I don’t know what to think about the whole Olivia issue. It’s weird and for some reason it drained my energy.  Just leave her alone, okay?” I knew Drew wanted to say something more, it was on the tip of his tongue, but he held it back and nodded instead. “Thanks,” I murmured before closing my pad and heading into the bathroom.

I went to bed early, hoping to find some ease in my mind.

No such luck.

That night, I had the weirdest dream I had ever had. I was lying in my bed when a man came to me, ghostly white, only half solid. First he just stood there, at the end of my bed, waiting, yet looking at me. Was he waiting for me? I opened my mouth to say something, but then he did too and I shut mine again.

“Help her. You have to help her,” echoed through my room and from the second the first word was spoken, the man looked stressed, maybe even scared.

I had no idea what he was talking about. Did he mean Sarah? I already was helping her. “Who?” I asked, but instead of an answer, urgency twirled around me and the man started to fade. “No, wait. Who am I supposed to help?”

“Save her. Hurry. You have to save her,” the ghost said desperately, almost gone by now.

What the hell was he talking about? I wanted to ask again, but suddenly I was unable to. My breath stalked. Because, as the man disappeared, he made place for a dread and gloom I had felt before, a darkness I recognized.

I woke, my breathing worked up and looked around in my room. There was nothing out of place, no strange emotions, no ghosts, Drew lying in his bed, blankets pushed down to his lower back. Had it been just a dream? I looked over my nightstand, checking the time. Three-thirty. I swallowed.

Years ago, someone had told me that when you woke between three and four o’clock in the morning, a ghost had visited you. I believed that there was more than what we see. I didn’t know what it was exactly and how it worked, but I definitely believed one’s soul didn’t just disappear  when you die. Not only was I awake right now, but I could remember everything about the dream I just had, while normally that slipped out of my grip before I even fully woke up. Rubbing my hand across my face, I exhaled heavily. Shit, that was weird.

What if this hadn’t been just a dream?

 

 

 

∞ Chapter two ∞

 

For the next few days, I watched her. And yes, I started to feel like the stalker she had accused me of being before, but I couldn’t help it. There was this pull towards her, this need to figure her out even more than before. I found my eyes wandering off to her without even realizing, until I was staring at her back for about 5 minutes.

As I watched her, though, I noticed these small things about her. That, when no one was looking, her angry glare faded and her expression just turned… emotionless. Like she felt nothing at all. That, in class, she seemed to be drawing in her notebook, but all straight lines, and that sometimes she absently tapped patterns on the edge of her desk. Somehow these small things made her more like a normal human, as awful as that may sound.

In the hallways her super confident strode was still the same, but she didn’t seem to be the same person in class, sitting out of view in the last row. It was like she knew that here, no one paid attention to her, so there was no need to act out, whereas in the hallways, she had to prove a point. During breaks I rarely saw her. Most of the time, she was in line early and slipped through the doors as soon as she had her food.

I searched for a reason to talk to her again, but I never found an opportunity that didn’t make me seem like some creep.

I’d had the dream with the ghost again, always between three and four o’clock. He never said anything else, just the same as the first time and every time I talked back or asked something, he disappeared. The danger I had felt the first time, though, never returned and I wondered whether that had just been me, my own imagination playing with me after the bizarre day.

The hallways were close to empty as I made my way to my locker after class. It was late, and I was supposed to be at Sarah’s dorm in ten minutes, so I turned to the main entry, but stopped when I heard multiple low voices laughing. I took a few steps back and peered into the small hallway. Several guys were hunched together, talking, laughing, and I felt paranoid for the suspicion I had felt until a very furious yet girl-like scream filled the air, followed by, “If you want to live past today, you’d better get the hell away from me!”

That had me fast-walking down the hallway in seconds. “Hey,” I called. “What’s going on here?” I saw a glimpse of Olivia behind the broad shouldered guy. She looked tiny compared to him.

The guys took a few steps back, turned around and faced me. “Fooling around with miss Stone-Hearted. It’s funny how she is threatening us when there is three of us and one of her. If you want to join in, be my guest. I bet you would like to teach her a lesson, too, since the bitch slapped in the face for nothing.”

My eyebrows furrowed. “No, actually, I don’t lower myself to that kind of thing.” As I spoke, I saw Olivia looking at the guys’ backs, taking off her heels, taking them in one hand, and slowly slide sideways, away from us. Since the three seniors were all looking at me with doubtful eyes, they didn’t even notice she was slipping away. “It’s kinda pathetic for seniors to react this way, anyway. Just leave the girl alone.” I wasn’t paying attention to the weird look the guys gave me, for my eyes were following someone else. Olivia was now almost out of the side door. “I should go,” I said and walked past them in the way Olivia had disappeared.

One of the guys must have turned around, because he hissed, “Shit, she got away.”

I jogged out of the door, seeing Olivia put on her heels again and stalking to her car. “Olivia!” I called. She didn’t stop, and honestly, I hadn’t expected her to. So I accelerated until I caught up with her. “Olivia, wait.”

“What?” she snapped.

“I just wanted to see if you were okay.”

“Fine,” she spat. “You should have just stayed away. I had the situation completely under control. What do you want from me?”

“I was just trying to help.” I wasn’t even going to try to tell her she hadn’t been in control.

“I don’t need anyone’s help. I’m doing fine on my own.” Her blue-grey eyes were cold as she glared at me, the blue in them like ice.

All I got from her was snaps and irritation. She was just so angry all the time. I had no idea where the next words came from. “You know, if there ever is anything you would like to talk about, you can come to me.”  What was that?! I mentally slapped myself. Why had I said that? Maybe because I was an idiot who liked girls that snapped at me. Maybe because I liked helping people and found it interesting to get a challenge, something that needed some serious patience. I had no clue.

She laughed in my face. “Who do you think I am? I’m not one of those pathetic idiots that whine at everyone they come across about how fucked up their lives are. And by the way, do you not know it’s fucking rude to stare at a person all day? That’s invading someone’s privacy,” she snapped. I blinked. “Oh, don’t look like you don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ve seen you watching every step I take in the lunchroom and shooting glances at me at least once every class today. I’m not a fucking idiot.” She pointed her finger to me. “Let me tell you something. You’d better stop watching me, because I’m done with it and I won’t doubt to report to the principal that you are stalking me. Now stay the hell away from me and leave me alone.” She turned around, stepped into her car and wheeled out of the parking lot before I could utter a single word.

The first thing that came to my mind two minutes after she’d disappeared was: Well, at least I had looked at her subtle enough that she had only caught me today, while I’d been watching her for at least three. The second was that by telling me to stay away so often, I was more and more tempted to study her better and longer.

 

 

The weekend flew by pretty quickly. Friday night, the first party of the year had been planned and Drew had nagged me from the second I stepped into my dorm to go with him. Last year, I had attended some parties but had declined most of them, and I wasn’t planning on doing it any different this year. Besides, the first party of the year mostly was the most boring one.

Unlike what most people expected from guys my age, I wasn’t much of a party goer. Small places crammed with too many people didn’t exactly made me feel comfortable. I couldn’t explain it, but it seemed like all those noises got into my head, but not out again. It drove me crazy and drained my energy. Don’t get me wrong, I liked hanging out with a lot of people, music on, dancing, just not the parties were I knew four people in a crowd of forty. Drew hated that about me. He tried talking me into it every time, but I mostly said no. When he did tag me along, I rarely stayed till the end.

When Drew walked into the room at two a.m. after he came back from the party, he woke me, said to get the hell out of my bed because we would make our own party. There had been two girls on his side, smiling bright, probably a bit wasted too and we’d talked and drunk for over two hours, the girls giggling and slurring most of the time. Drew had danced with his girl, the radio playing at a volume that made you have to raise your voice but not loud enough to be heard in the dorm next door. As I watched him dance, I realized that maybe Drew didn’t hate me that much for not attending parties. I knew he loved the small after-parties with me and some girls and sometimes Alec, Tyler and Logan.

The night ended with having to witness a huge make out session between Drew and the girl he danced with and me receiving a small kiss for being such great company. The girls words, not mine. It didn’t matter, though. I’d had fun and I knew for a fact that I wasn’t the only one.

Sunday afternoon the guys had come over to watch a basketball game and our dorm had been stuffed. Drew, his girl from Friday night, Tyler, Logan, Alec and his girlfriend Brady and me. The afternoon had been full of beautiful distraction and I honestly hadn’t thought about Olivia all weekend. Which felt good after all the weird encounters we’d had.

Then the weekend was over and here I was, trying to pay attention to what my teacher was saying while trying to shoot subtle glances at Olivia. It wasn’t even like I really wanted to watch her. For some reason though just like last week, I found my eyes wandering off to her every now and then without me consciously wanting them to. She hadn’t seen me looking yet until –

Shit! She caught me. She glared at me for a few seconds, then turned her head away.

As I walked out of the room at the end of class, Olivia appeared in front of me and spat, “Follow me.” I did and she motioned me to walk into an abandoned hallway. I turned around and found Olivia glaring at me, hands on her hips. “I told you to stop staring at me!” she hissed. “Do not let me catch you again.”

“You have some serious issues, girl,” I muttered.

I have some serious issues?! Look who’s stalking who here! And do not call me girl.” Her pointy finger irritated me.

“What do you want me to say, those call names everyone is throwing at your head? Would you like that? I’m trying to stop people from getting at your back for hitting me, but I don’t even know why I’m trying. You seem to like being cursed at,” I snapped.

“I do not,” she said, highly offended.

“Doesn’t seem like that. It’s like you hate the whole world and couldn’t care less if everyone fell of off it in 5 minutes.”

“I don’t care. I hate the world. It’s a fucking hell,” she spat.

I had been mad, but after that confession, anger just slipped right out of me. I hadn’t even expected her to actually be honest with me. “Are you serious?”

“Hell yes, I’m serious. What kind of question is that?”

But why? What was the reason she felt so much hatred? “You know, you can talk to me about it. I know it will help you.”

“How many times do I need to tell you that I don’t need help. I’m doing fine on my own. It’s safer. Being alone is safe.”

Something was definitely going on with this girl. A person who lived a happy life could never process the fury she had inside of her. Instinct screamed at me to push further, to find out more, to not walk away. “Listen, I know this anger goes deeper than you show. I’m a very patient person when it comes to getting something I want. So if you want me to stop bugging you, you have to accept to talk to me.”

Her eyes became small slits, her hands clenching on her hips as she shot daggers at me. “You are crazy when you think I will go along with that.”

I shrugged. “It’s your choice. Talk to me or I’ll bug you as long as I need to get you to talk. You’ll talk either way.”

I honestly thought she was going to scream out in frustration and stomp her feet like a kid denied candy by her mother, but she bit her lip instead. “Are you serious? You’ll haunt me until I will talk to you? You’re that desperate?” she scoffed.

“Yes. Not the desperate part, though. But yeah, I will.”

She paced around for a moment, then faced me again. “Fine,” she huffed. “I’ll do a couple of stupid sessions. Don’t look surprized, I know what you do around here. But only if you leave me alone after that. And I only tell you what I want. No pressure.”

“Whatever you want.” I hadn’t been surprised she knew I did sessions, more than she agreed so easily, but hey, whatever she wanted to believe, right?

She made another highly irritated sound, then turned around and stalked away from me, muttering under her breath. “I can’t believe I actually just did that.”

Forcing myself not to grin, I slowly walked back into the busy hallway after she was gone. I did it. I actually did it. This was going to be the most interesting person to work with in my life.

 

 

The next afternoon, I was waiting in my dorm for my first session with Olivia. All she had done during school was glare and she had only spoken to me when I had asked her when she would be able to have a chat with me. She had scoffed, muttering she still couldn’t believe I had talked her into this and then snapped we’d meet tomorrow after school.

I was curious how the conversation would go. Normally I only helped people who came to me and wanted someone to talk to. Olivia didn’t want to talk to me, I had forced her – well, blackmailed her – well, had made her choose between two equally unwanted alternatives –  anyway, I wondered what she was going to tell me.

A knock on my door snapped me out of my thoughts and I got up from the couch. As soon as I opened the door, I knew this was going to be tough. Olivia stood there, arms crossed, an annoyed expression on her face, just as closed off as always, if not worse. I pretended not to see and smiled. “Come in.”

She let out an exaggerated breath. “Can we just stop with the bullshit now? You don’t have to pretend like you want to help me and I don’t have to pretend I want this. You talked me into something I didn’t want, wasn’t that your intention all along?”

I frowned. “No. I do want to help you. And you’re here now, what would be the point of leaving?”

She groaned. “Fine,” she snapped and finally walked into my dorm. “Is your roommate here? Because if he is then I’m gone. Being with you is worse enough.”

“No, he’s in the gym until five-thirty at least. I made sure we could be alone.” It was hard to keep myself from smiling as surprise flickered across her features. She had not expected me to think of that. “Take a seat.”

Surprisingly, she did, pulling back one of the chairs from the table and plunged down on it. It struck me as weird that she would choose a chair above a couch, but I didn’t mention it. “The first thing you need to know before we start this is that I have a no-touching policy,” she said, her tone always slightly angry and irritated, close to snapping. I  opened my mouth to ask her why, but she cut me off. “And no questions about that either. I won’t tell you.”

Okay then. “Totally fine. So, what do you want to talk about?”

Her eyes narrowed. “I don’t want to talk about anything, you made me do this.” Again that tone. Yeah, I really had to get used to her talking like that.

“Well, you’re here to talk, so that’s what we’re going to do,” I said calmly. I knew enough about angry people to know that when you had the same attitude as they had, they were just even more unwilling to open up. I just had to suck it up and pretend it didn’t bother me. “Just tell me what you want to get rid of, but there’s one rule. You have to be honest. I don’t care how much you tell me, but no lies.” She considered that, and eventually nodded. “Good. So, first, just tell me something about yourself. I’ll start, to make it easier. As you know, I’m Noah and I live here in the dorms with my friend Drew. I was born in Rohnerville and my parents still live there with my sister. I want to go to college to get a degree in psychology next year because I like to help people.”

When I stopped and nodded to her, telling her it was her turn, I saw the nerves kicking in. Her hands loosened the tiniest bit and her fingers dug into her skin. I focused on her, more than I normally did with people, to see her reaction as she told me about herself, but nothing came, not even a hint of emotion. I focused even harder. Still nothing. That was strange. Normally something came. Not much, just a subtle hint of emotion, but she was completely closed, or she had no feelings at all. “Okay, so I’m Olivia. I was born in Arcata, but moved here to live with my foster parents which they are since I was young and I don’t have any plans for college yet.”

Foster parents? “How come you’re in foster care?” I’d never heard anything about this before. With all the rumours that were spread about her, all the names she got called, never had they ever know she did not live with her biological parents. Very unexpected turn.

Her voice hardened immediately, her eyes cold. “I don’t want to talk about that.”

“Okay, that’s fine. So, what else? Any hobbies?” I wanted to tell her I drew, but stopped myself. If I would tell her things my friends didn’t even know about me and she got pissed one time, she could use everything against me. I wasn’t stupid. Girls like her could ruin your reputation in school and everything that stood in contact with how people looked at you if she wanted. I knew I kinda said it before, but then she had been too mad to notice.

“I don’t have hobbies,” she said, but then her eyes shifted to the floor for a second. Aha. She did have emotions. “Well, I mean, I almost never do it, but I like to play piano.” Suddenly her eyes focused on me and she shot daggers at me. “If I ever find out you told any of this to someone else, I will break you,” she snapped.

Automatically, I held up my hands. “I won’t, I swear. It’ll be my job secret. I take this very seriously, so I would never use the things you tell me against you,” I said calmly. I understood her reaction though. I mean, normal people would have said that differently, but she just feared that someone else would find out. “But, playing the piano, that’s pretty awesome. Are you any good?”

She shrugged, looking at the floor. “I told you, I don’t do it often. My foster parents don’t own a piano. But every time I see a piano somewhere, I wish I could play on it.”

“There is a music classroom here somewhere. I’m sure they have piano’s there. You could play there if you like. I’m sure if you talked to the music teacher you can come to some agreement. Maybe after class when she still walks around in school, checking or making tests or something.”

Olivia shrugged. “I’ll see.”

“So, the anger issue, do you have any idea why you are so mad at the world?” I didn’t think I had asked that the wrong way – she had already admitted it when she said she hated the world, right? – but her stare grew even colder than before. How was that even possible?

“I don’t have a problem, if that’s what you’re saying. The world is a mess and that’s just the way it is. It’s not my fault.”

“But you realize that other people live in the same world and they’re not angry all the time, right? I mean, you see other students laughing and smiling during lunch break or class. They’re happy. Why can’t you be?”

Her jaw locked. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“But that’s why you’re – ” I wanted to say ‘that’s why you’re here,’ but she never let me finish.

“I said I don’t want to talk about it!” she yelled and stood up, her hands clenching.

My eyes widened. “Okay, that’s fine.” I took a deep breath. “What do you want to talk about?”

“Nothing, I think I’m done for today,” she said curt.

“But – ”

“I said I’m done! What happened to no pressure?!” she screamed again.

Ooookaayy then. Closing my eyes for a second, I nodded. “You’re right. When do you want to try this again?” I asked, irritated that I couldn’t get more out of her than I had, even if I kept it hidden from her. Showing her would probably send her running off even faster than she already wanted and I wasn’t irritated with her. Well, that wasn’t entirely true, she was overreacting. But I had seen it coming that it would be hard to get her to talk to me.

“I would say never, but I don’t think that you would accept that, would you?” Her arms were crossed again, her feet spread at shoulder’s width. She stood there like she had to be ready for attack. Or maybe she was about to attack me.

I sat up a little straighter just in case. “Nope.”

She rolled her eyes. “Ugh. Fine. What about in two days? I think seeing you twice a week is more than enough.”

“Sure. I’ll see you then. Same time?”

“Whatever.” She turned and walked out the door.

After taking a deep breath, I closed the door that Olivia had left open in her rush to get away. Suddenly exhausted, I lay down on the couch. I was always tired after I did sessions. They drained my energy, but it was worse this time.

Well, that was… interesting. This was going to be harder than I expected. She was pretty much unwilling to tell me anything and swore to harm me if I ever talked to anyone about this, was bossy, angry and distant. Maybe I should just tell her next time to forget about the sessions. I didn’t even know why I wanted them in the first place. I mean, yeah, what I’d felt when I touched her still freaked me out when I thought about it, but I was no closer to finding out what exactly that was now than before. And I knew that the way she hated the world had a reason, but if she refused to tell me anything and closed herself off so far that I couldn’t pick up anything from her, I couldn’t help her.

I grabbed my IPod from the table and plugged the ear-buds in, closing my eyes as my favourite music drummed in my ears, drowning out the rest of the world. When I opened my eyes again, I saw Drew’s silhouette in the door opening. Turning my IPod off, I heard a girl in the hallway.

“Drew, you are so hot, do you realize that?”

“Yes.” I could hear the smile in his voice.

The girl giggled. “You’re so funny. And, that nose ring is just so… sexy,” she growled seductively.

I rolled my eyes. If this was the depth of conversations these days, I didn’t think I wanted to be a part of it.

She trailed a finger seductively up Drew’s arm, flirt in her eyes. “So when will I see you again? I hope soon, ‘cause I don’t think I can go without your amazing kisses for too long.”

Someone give me a bucket to hurl in. Drew chuckled softly, then kissed the girl and closed the door after he gave her a vague answer. He smiled when he saw I was awake. “Hey dude, had a session?”

“Yup. Is it that noticeable?” Drew knew what sessions did  to my energy level, unlike the others. Drew was around me all the time, so he knew every little flaw I had, knew what made me happy, didn’t need a lot of words to know how I was doing. It was nice having someone you could always turn to, knowing he had your back. “Don’t you get tired of those non-material related, I’m-about-to-get-sick conversations?” I asked.

Drew shrugged. “Nah. You just have to ignore it.”

“If it’s annoying you, while stick up with it?”

“Popular shallow girls are great kissers. Never noticed?” Drew fell down on the couch next to me after I sat up, grabbing his guitar from beside the couch. “Next to that, they don’t nag about things like, “You look the same at other girls as you look at me. Do you even love me?” and shit like that. You have the advantages of girls but very little disadvantages.” He shrugged. “It sounds pretty good to me.” Spoken by a true bad boy. Well, that’s what the rest of the student body thought he was anyway and Drew never proved them otherwise. He sure was a player, though.

Call me old fashioned, but when I have a relationship with a girl I would like to be able to talk about more things than haircuts, nail polish and how many kisses she would want from me. Don’t get me wrong, I was no stranger to kissing. Getting attention from the other gender did wonders to your confidence I can tell you, but I wasn’t looking for an always touching and giggling girl plastered to my side without much or anything to say.

“I’m gonna take some photo’s tonight,” Drew announced suddenly, laying his guitar aside. “After we had dinner, that is. They said on the weather forecast this morning that the sunset would be nice, because of the rain they predicted for tonight. Maybe I can get the dark woods in good contrast with the red sun. Who knows. So, what are we gonna eat?”

I laughed, amused by his sudden jump between subjects. He always did that. “I have a call to make,” I announced. “You go figure out dinner.”

Drew groaned as I stood up and picked up my phone from the desk. “Fine.”

I smiled as I dialled the number.

“Lucy McShane speaking,” a high voice said.

“Hey Luce.”

“Noah! How are you doing?” She always sounded happy, but the joy doubled when she heard my voice. She always knew how to put me in a good mood.

“Fine, you too?”

“Yes. Always, right?” she laughed.

Lucy was my three years younger sister. The two of us had always been close and with me living half an hour away, we made sure we spoke to each other at least every other day. One day a call, others in the hallways or she came to my dorm for a while. She was in this school too, freshman year, but still lived at home. The dorms were only for juniors and seniors, but even when she had the chance, Lucy would probably still choose home over a dorm. She was a true mother’s child.

“You know mom got a call about you from school?” she said suddenly.

That took me off guard. “What?”

Lucy laughed. “Don’t worry, nothing bad. They told mom you’re in school counselling.”

“Oh, that. Yeah, they said it was a good idea for next year and, well, you know, I like helping.”

“Yeah, oh – ” Lucy stopped and I heard someone’s muffled voice in the background. “Mom says she’s proud.”

“Tell her thanks.”

I heard Lucy take distance from the phone and then shout, “He says thanks!” Rolling my eyes, I smiled. “Anyway,” Lucy continued, “I told you about Kyle, right? Oh my gosh, Noah. He is too cute!” she squealed. “He asked me out yesterday after taking me to that picnic table under the tree. He was all fidgety and nervous and blushing. I thought he would never come to the point of actually voicing what he wanted to ask me. In the end, he hadn’t even finished when I already said, almost shouted really, yes.” Lucy was rambling, like in almost every conversation we had. She was easily excited about things. She took a deep breath, then continued with the same speed. “Then he blushed even harder and the way he smiled… Oh my gosh Noah, it was so incredibly adorable! So now I have a date with Kyle Friday night. Can you believe it? I mean, seriously, how long have I waited for him to ask? Like, all summer. And now it’s finally gonna hap-pen,” she sang. I could almost see her wiggle in my mind.

“I can totally see that scene playing in my mind,” I laughed. “But, that’s awesome, Luce. I know how bad you wanted him to ask you out. I still can’t believe you were so stubborn that you waited months when you could have asked him just as easily.”

“No way. A guy is supposed to ask a girl to go on a date with him. It’s been like that since the beginning of time,” she said serious, but I could still here the smile in her voice.

I laughed. “You read too many books.”

“Probably,” she admitted. “Or watch too much movies.”

 

 

When the dream came again that night, the ghost started off with a smile. Well, that was nice, after all the urgency I’d had from him since the first time I had seen him. I had some questions though. “She doesn’t want to talk. Don’t you think it’s better to leave her alone?”

Immediately, the smile disappeared as the man slowly started to fade, urgency returning. Why did he always fade when I started talking? It was so frustrating. “Don’t give up on her.”

“But she hates me. She doesn’t want help.”

“Don’t give up on her,” echoed through my room again before the ghost was gone.

Then my eyes opened. “Shit,” I muttered. What was I supposed to do with this? I didn’t even know for sure that this man was talking about Olivia or why he was coming to me in the first place. I was just assuming he meant her, living in a world where people who passed away talked to me to help the ones that lived. This was getting weirder and weirder.

Wait, what was I even talking about? This was crazy. I was just imagining this, wasn’t I? Shit, I was focussing on this Olivia-issue so bad my mind had turned it into dreams and I was actually believing it.

 

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