Avelina followed the sound of a crying child down the basement stairs.
"Why does it always have to be the basement?" she whined as the stairs creaked beneath her.
Through the communications unit in her ear, she heard her older brother, Joseph, chuckle. A deep sound that made her smile even as her heart pounded from fear.
"You know what's not in the basement? Your high school reunion," he laughed, and Avelina could hear their younger sister, Kayla, laughing through the comms unit.
"Still not going," Avelina snorted and made a dissenting noise as she reached the basement floor. A single bulb flickered in the large space, casting shadows along the walls. Avelina shuddered as the cold air washed over her.
She adjusted the camera on her shoulder and made sure it was pointing to the center of the room. There was a little girl with her back towards Avelina. The once gold ringlets that Avelina had only seen in photographs were gray and dirty, as was the bow that held them tightly in place. Her dress, which Avelina knew had once been a deep cobalt blue, was grey and had holes in it.
"Elizabeth?" Avelina called out. The girls' shoulders stiffened as she turned around.
"Daddy said I'm supposed to wait here for him," Elizabeth said, clutching the doll in her hands to her chest, her blue eyes iridescent even in the poorly lit room.
Avelina's face crumpled in concern as she thought back to the research she and her siblings had done on the case. Elizabeth's father had died shortly after her. She shouldn't have had to wait long for her father.
"If she's been waiting this whole time," Joseph whispered through the comms unit.
"He might have gone on without her," Kayla said quietly.
"I think I can help take you to him," she said to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth's wide eyes narrowed in suspicion, "Daddy said to never go anywhere with a stranger."
"My name is Avelina," Avelina started, "my brother and sister are upstairs and we're just here to help you cross over."
"Cross over?" Elizabeth asked.
"We want to help you go to the other side," Avelina paused, "we think your dad might be there already."
"What about Cassie?" Elizabeth asked.
"Cassie?" Avelina repeated. She could hear Joseph and Kayla typing at their computers as they looked for information about this unknown Cassie. She adjusted the camera on her shoulder again.
"Cassie! He's been here with me too!" Elizabeth said as she stood up. "He's always telling me to go with him, but he doesn't call it the other side. He calls it his home."
"What does Cassie look like?" Avelina asked.
"I've got nothing on a Cassie associated with this house," Joseph said.
"Neither do I," Kayla sighed, and Avelina could feel her stress through the comms unit.
"He looks like my barbie doll," Elizabeth said, holding her doll up, "except he's an angel."
"An angel?" Avelina questioned. She could hear her siblings typing with renewed speed.
"Cassiel," Kayla spoke first, "the angel of tears and temperance."
"He supposedly guides innocent souls to heaven after they've died," Joseph added on.
"He keeps all the scaries away," Elizabeth explained, "they used to try and eat me, but Cassie said they're not allowed to anymore."
"Does she mean demons?" Joseph asked.
"But angels are so rare," Kayla argued, "why would one be here?"
"Well, she's only six right?" Joseph asked, "I doubt she's done a lot of sinning,"
"Elizabeth, what's Cassie's full name?" Avelina asked.
Elizabeth stared at Avelina and turned away from her. She was silent for a minute before she answered.
"He says his full name is Cassiel," Elizabeth slowly pronounced the angel's name.
"Is he here right now?" Avelina looked to the spot where Elizabeth had stared at.
Elizabeth was silent again for a moment, "He's here, but he says that you can't see him or else it'll hurt your eyes."
"Our research says that looking at an angel while they're in their true form can burn your eyes," Kayla said.
"Okay," Avelina drawled, "do you think he can help you cross over?"
"He says we can go, he was just waiting on you."
"Waiting on me?" Avelina’s body stiffened with shock.
"He says that he has a message for you," Elizabeth said. She reached her hand out, and it looked as though she was holding on to something.
"What's the message?" Avelina asked tentatively.
Elizabeth's eyebrows furrowed, "He says you need to go to your high school reunion."
"Excuse me?" Avelina asked. She was so shocked she almost couldn't hear Joseph's booming laugh, or Kayla's repeated, "Shut up, Jo-Jo!"
"We have to go now!" Elizabeth waved the hand, holding the doll excitedly. The air surrounding her began to glow. The light began to glow brighter, and Avelina had to shut her eyes before the light started to blind her. The air in the basement began to warm up, and Avelina began to sweat. Just as soon as it had started, it was over. The temperature dropped back down, and Avelina could no longer feel the heat on her body.
"Is it safe to open my eyes?" she asked, adjusting the camera as best she could with her eyes closed.
"You're good, Aves," Joseph said.
Avelina slowly opened her eyes one at a time. She sighed and picked the camera off her shoulder, and turned it towards her face.
"That's it for the Rydell House Haunting Investigaton part four. After multiple complaints of strange sounds during the night and the Rydell family seeing Elizabeth walk around the house at night, we may have finally put this ghost to rest," she said.
She turned off the camera and began making her way up the stairs and back to the makeshift headquarters she, Joseph, and Kayla had set up four days ago.
"I can't believe we just saw an angel!" Joseph said from in front of his monitor.
Avelina smiled and placed the camera gently on the desk.
"I'll tell the Rydell's they can come back tomorrow," Kayla said as she began to clean up their set up.
Avelina and Kayla cleaned as best they could. At the same time, Joseph worked on downloading all of the video footage from the camera.
"So about your reunion," he started.
"I'm not going to my high school reunion!" Avelina argued.
"Do you want to risk angering an angel, Aves?" Joseph asked.
"No," she mumbled, "But I don't understand why the two of you want me to go so bad! High school was awful."
“High school wasn’t that bad,” Joseph said flippantly.
"For you!" Avelina yelled.
Joseph and Kayla looked away from her and refused to speak. She was right. While Joseph's accident that cost him his legs had happened in his last year of high school, he had still had a community of people who loved him. Her high school life had been fine until her second year when an accident had led her to develop her paranormal abilities. Kayla had followed in her footsteps, but she had been relatively popular and loved. Joseph and Kayla had tried to make Avelina's life enjoyable in high school. Still, their friends were scared of Avelina and avoided her.
"But," Avelina said softly, "I might be willing to go if the two of you come with me."
"Really?" Joseph asked, pushing his wheelchair towards her, "Are you serious?"
"I don't want to incur all of heaven's wrath," Avelina joked.
This thought ran through her mind up until the night of the reunion. Avelina looked at people she barely remembered as they walked up to Kayla and Joseph, eager to talk with them. Avelina stood awkwardly to the side, letting them talk as she looked at the decorations.
The theme was "A Night in Italy," although Avelina could hardly tell that from the decor. She looked around and froze. In the corner of the gymnasium was a young woman, a teenager, staring at her. Avelina stared back. The young girl’s bell-bottom jeans and shirt reminded Avelina of her own days in high school.
"Someone caught your eye, Aves?" Joseph said, a drink in his hand, "Anyone I know?"
"Something like that," Avelina mumbled, "Do you see her?"
Joseph followed where Avelina gestured, "See who?"
"Bell bottoms and white t-shirt?" Avelina said as she maintained eye contact with the girl.
"I don't see anyone," Joseph said, "do you think-"
"I think so," Avelina took a sip of her drink, "I'm going to go talk to her and see what's up."
"Do you want some help?"
"No, I've got this. You have fun," Avelina squeezed his shoulder and made her way through the crowd towards the girl. Avelina looked at the girl. If she hadn't had known any better, she would have assumed the girl was someone's daughter.
"Are you okay?" Avelina asked as she approached the girl. Avelina stood near the wall next to the girl.
"Depends on what you mean by 'okay,'" the girl said. "I'm Maya."
"Avelina," she introduced herself. The girl stiffened next to her before forcing herself to relax.
"How long have you been dead, Maya?" Avelina asked as she looked around the room. She noticed that people had begun to stare at her. She ignored them and tried to pay attention to what Maya had said.
"Twelve years, two months and nineteen days," at Avelina's silence, Maya continued, "firgured out I was dead pretty fast."
"You died while I was still here?" Avelina asked, "that's impossible, I would have seen you or at least heard of you!"
"You did," Maya said quietly, "see me, I mean."
"What?" Avelina asked, and Maya stared at her, confused.
"You really don't remember me?" Maya asked.
Avelina looked at her. She was sure she didn't remember Maya, but something about her did seem familiar.
"It was a freak storm," Maya started, and Avelina was thrust back into her own memories.
It was her second year of high school, and she and her siblings were already late for school. One of them had woken up late, and the morning had descended from there. Even though the drive should have only taken them twenty minutes, the storm had caused them to be over an hour late. Without cell phones, there had been no way for them to contact their parents and tell them that they were late for school. The school secretary had called their parents and let them know that the three of them hadn't made it to school and their parents had set out in search of them on the roads.
Avelina wasn't sure what happened next, but there had been a car accident between her parents and someone else. All three had died in the crash, but Avelina and her siblings weren't told until they returned home.
Shortly after they arrived at the school, however, Avelina had started to feel sick. She had spent what was left of her second class period in the bathroom with a splitting headache. When she had walked out, she had been surprised to see her parents standing out in the hallway. She was so shocked that she barely paid attention to the odd shadow figure that trailed behind them. She could see them trying to speak to her, their mouths opened, but no sound came out. She tried to tell people about them, the way they followed her from class to class. Nobody believed her when she tried to warn her classmates about the shadowy figure that stood over their desks.
"You were the shadow," Avelina concluded.
"I wasn't dead yet, but I was dying," Maya answered simply, brushing a stray lock of hair from her face as she faced Avelina.
"Why are you here still?" Avelina asked.
"I needed to tell you the truth about the accident and what your mother told me," Maya sighed.
"What are you talking about?" Avelina asked.
"Your parents," Maya took a deep breath, "your parents died trying to save me."
Avelina blinked, "What?"
"They didn't die when our cars crashed," Maya took another breath before continuing on, "when we crashed, I wasn't wearing a seatbelt and I flew out of my car. They were hurt, badly, but they were still trying to help me. They climbed out of their car--They tried to help, but the rain-"
"What are you saying?" Avelina shuddered, her breath was shallow and weak.
"I'm saying, that maybe, if they had stayed inside the car, where the rain couldn't have gotten to them, maybe the hypothermia wouldn't have killed them," Maya rushed out.
"Oh my God," Avelina sank to the ground and held her head in her hands.
"I'm sorry," Maya said, "But there was something your mother thought you should know."
"What else could I possibly need to know?" Avelina asked through tears.
"Your mother was trying to tell you something when they were at the school, do you remember that?" Maya knelt before her.
"Of course I remember that!" Avelina yelled, even as she ignored the whispers that had started around her.
"Your mom was trying to tell you about your abliity," Maya said, "your mom could do things-"
"What are you talking about?" Avelina cried and looked up at the ghost.
"That's what she was trying to tell you," Maya said as she refused to break eye contact, "your mother used to see spirits as well. She wanted to help them, to try and help them cross over to the other side, but she was scared. She was scared that people would treat her differently because of it."
Avelina scoffed, "Now I know you're lying, my mom was a nurse. She couldn't see spirits, she would have said something about it."
"Your mom wanted to help people and she felt like she could as a nurse, but she regretted not working towards her calling," Maya admitted. "She even kept a journal, of the ghosts she met at the hospital and how many of them she was able to help. She wanted you to find it."
"This is too much," Avelina cried, "I can't do this right now."
"I'm sorry," Maya said, "I'm sorry for everything. I'm sorry that I can't help you more, but I have to go now."
"Where are you going?" Avelina asked, "You can't leave like that."
Maya gave her a sad smile, "It's my time to go. Find her journal, it should help."
Avelina cried softly on the ground, unaware of the pointed looks she was receiving.
"Are you okay?" Joseph asked, looming over her. Kayla was behind him with a drink in her hand, acting a shield between Avelina and the other reunion attendees.
Avelina shook her head in response to Joseph's question, "No."
"Let's get out of here," Kayla said. Avelina nodded, and Kayla reached out her hand to lift Avelina to her feet. Avelina stumbled slightly, and Joseph reached out to steady her.
"Don't worry, we got you," Joseph said.
Avelina ambled with Joseph and Kayla as her support system. The ride back to the trio's shared home was silent, and when they arrived, Avelina beelined to the shower, trying to clear her mind.
After her shower, Avelina made her way back into her room. She sat on her bed and thought about everything Maya had told her. She had kept a majority of her mother's belongings, though she had never seen the journal before.
She got up and looked under her bed for a wooden box her mother had left behind. Avelina sat on her bed and looked through the box and only stopped to look at her parents' pictures from their own high school days. Try as she might, she could not find a journal in the box. She pushed the box off her bed and heard it fall to the ground with a soft thud. Frustrated, she sighed and stared at the box.
It looked a lot bigger on the outside than it was on the inside, she noticed. She grabbed the box again and shook it and heard a slight thump as something moved inside it. Her eyebrows furrowed as she opened it again and knocked on the bottom of the box. It was hollow, she realized, and she picked at a corner of the bottom and tried to lift it up.
It took her a few tries, but she lifted the box's bottom and was surprised to see a small brown leather journal in the small space.
"What?" she whispered to herself as she grabbed the journal. As she began to read through the first few pages, she realized Maya had been telling the truth. Through her mother's elegant handwriting, she read about her first encounter with a spirit.
"Knock knock," Joseph said as he wheeled himself into her room with a plate of cookies on his lap, "Kayla made you cookies."
Avelina looked up at him and couldn't help the smile that stretched across her face. "Look!" she said, thrust the journal towards him.
"What is that?" he asked, wheeling himself closer to her.
"It's mom's journal," Avelina said, her voice thick with tears.
"A journal?" Joseph questioned.
"She," Avelina paused, "she was like me."
"What do you mean?" Joseph asked.
"She could see spirits too," Avelina said as tears began to flow down her face, "I'm not the only one. I'm not alone."
Joseph sighed and placed the cookies on her nightstand before approaching her. He took her face in his hands, "You were never alone, Aves."
"What'd I miss?" Kayla said as she walked into the room.
"Mom could see spirits too," Joseph said with a smile.
"What?" Kayla asked as she sat next to Avelina on the bed. The three of them crowded around and began to read the stories their mother had left behind. They didn't stop until they reached the final page.
"That's incredible," Kayla said with a yawn as the morning light filtered through Avelina's blinds.
"Yeah," Avelina said softly, "we are."
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