Ghosted

Submitted into Contest #202 in response to: Write a story about lifelong best friends.... view prompt

50 comments

Contemporary Fiction

When Marnie stopped talking to me for absolutely no reason, I thought my life had ended. We’d been friends since childhood, done everything together, two peas in a pod, the yin to the other’s yang. I had believed that we would be friends forever. Obviously, she didn’t feel the same way.

I remember waking up on Monday, was it last week, the week before? Well, it was a Monday because I was headed to the gym before work, and we always meet up on a Monday for our weekly training session. No, it’s not a perve session, we do not check out the insanely tight buns and glistening pectorals on display in the weights room, most certainly not! We are committed to improving our own cardiovascular health with a Manic Monday workout to set us on the right path. Ok, workout might be pushing the boundaries of the definition here. We usually huddled together at the back of the class and angled ourselves for the best line of sight into the adjoining weights room. Just looking was enough to get our heart rate up, and as Trina, the incredibly fit, hyper-flexible, toned, tanned and terrific instructor repeatedly told us, the key to getting fit and losing those love handles was to increase our heart rates. Win, win, I say.

Anyway, Marnie just didn’t show up. Not like her at all. I had to ogle all that sweaty man flesh on my own, with no one to share the oohs and ahhs with. On the way to work, as I chugged down my habitual triple strength caramel-swirl iced coffee with extra cream (it’s important to stay hydrated after a workout, don’t judge!) I tried ringing Marnie. She didn’t answer, totally unlike her. She’s usually glued to her phone, even when we’re exercising, she has her Apple Watch connected to her phone and would take a call or send a text, much to the annoyance of those around her.

Over the next few days, I called, dropped by her house, texted, stopped by her work, emailed, showed up at her AA meeting, but to no avail. It was like she had dropped off the face of the earth. Either that or she was ghosting me. After nearly twenty-five years in each-other’s pocket, I was, admittedly, at a loss to understand the change in our dynamic. I racked my brain to think of what I had done to cause the rift in our relationship.

Maybe she was pissed because I had laughed when she told me she wanted to be a vegetarian. As far as I knew, Marnie only ate three vegetables, potatoes, beans and carrots and even then, only if they were steamed to within an inch of their lives. She turned her nose up at any other vegetable, gagged on broccoli, rejected pumpkin and manoeuvred peas to the opposite side of her plate rather than into her mouth. Surely even she could see that vegetarianism was probably not the most viable diet for her lifestyle.

I wondered if she had found a boyfriend. I had heard that a new relationship could interfere with friendships of long standing. We’d never had to test that theory before. Although each of us had dated over the last few years, none of the relationships ever reached that stage where choices needed to be made. Things usually fizzled out long before the newness of someone else could impact our friendship. I racked my brains trying to think who she could have met, where she could have met them. If it was a boy keeping her away, surely, she would ring me, and we’d at least squeal with childish glee as she shared all the juicy tidbits. We were never afraid of living vicariously through one another.

I was confused, saddened, angry and a little concerned, all of which were awkward emotions that festered uncomfortably in my stomach, each one fighting for supremacy at any given moment.

“Morning Janice,” I looked up as I heard my name called.

“Hey, Roger, how are you? Long time no see!” Roger Campton was the doorman of our building, but I thought he retired ages ago. It was good to see him back at his job and looking quite sprightly for a man who was surely in his late seventies.

“Good to see you too, love. You know how it is, can’t keep a good dog down.”

“You haven’t seen Marnie about, have you?” He’d always had a soft spot for her, said she reminded him of his granddaughter who had moved to the East Coast years ago.

“Can’t say as I have,” Roger said as he scratched his grey beard thoughtfully. “I don’t think she’s here, but if I see her, I’ll let you know.”

Roger really was a sweetheart, a good man with old-fashioned values. He made it his business to know what was going on, looked out for those of us he considered to be under his care, and ensured that everyone living in the building felt safe. That was his job, and he did it well.

That’s why, when I opened my door, it was such a shock to hear someone in my apartment. Roger must be slipping if he hadn’t noticed someone coming and going, or thought to ask me if I was expecting anyone. I could hear rustling coming from the bedroom. Someone was rifling through my stuff! Living alone, you get good at protective planning and I kept a baseball bat behind the sofa. I tiptoed across the room and slipped the bat from its concealment. With its comforting weight in hand, I sidled to the door and peered carefully around the frame. Best to see what I was up against before running in like a freaking god of vengeance.

“Marnie! What the hell?” Marnie was here, after ignoring all my messages, and she was emptying the contents of my dresser into a box, one item at a time. She was also still ignoring me. I put the baseball bat down, leaning it against the wall, where it promptly fell to the floor with a clatter. Marnie turned, her expression like a startled rabbit. Perhaps she had her earbuds in and was listening to music loudly and hadn’t heard me enter the apartment. Her face was worn and haggard, eyes red and hair noticeably unkempt. That was odd, Marnie never left home without a full face of makeup, even when she went to the gym. Something was not right. The fleeting thought crossed my mind: was Marnie in trouble? Was she doing drugs?

“What’s wrong? What are you doing here?” I asked her again. She didn’t reply, just groaned as she picked up the heavy box and carried it towards me as I stood in the doorway. Carried it towards me without stopping. Carried it towards me and, holy, flipping, fudge! She carried that box RIGHT THROUGH ME!

The sensation of Marnie’s body passing through mine was the most uncomfortable thing that I had ever experienced. Her every breath, thought and feeling slid past mine, and rubbed me the wrong way. As she stepped through me, I could feel every cell protest the invasion and my stomach threatened to heave as the implications hit me. There was a reason Marnie had not returned any of my calls, there was a reason Roger had not seen her enter the building, there was a reason she could just step straight through me. Marnie was dead, and this was her ghost haunting my apartment. I did what any sane woman would do when confronted with the phantom presence of their best friend, I screamed.

My terrified pulse galloped like a wild beast in my chest, hammering against the walls trying to get free. I forced air into my lungs with ragged breaths as I gasped, lightheaded, my vision spiraled and my stomach threatened to let loose its contents from both ends. 

Through my panicked haze, I saw Marnie continue with her task. She rummaged through my cupboards and drawers and placed everything in boxes, but completely ignored me. I was rigid with fear as I watched her work, it was like seeing a movie with no sound. Even in death, Marnie had her phone with her and she answered an unheard call, speaking into the handset with voiceless words. When she hung up, she seemed to sigh and look around the apartment. She picked up a box in one hand, gathered her things in the other and walked out of the apartment. 

Finally free from the terror, I was able to stagger to the kitchen table and collapse into a chair, my limbs still trembling. I needed a drink, a strong drink. There was nothing in my place, I’m not usually a big drinker and since Marnie had an issue with alcohol, I tended not to keep it around. Coffee, that was my addiction, but coffee wouldn’t steady these shattered nerves. I gathered my keys and headed out. 

“You off again?” Roger smiled as he saw me coming, before his face creased in concern. “What’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

I gasped, and Roger chuckled at my reaction. “I have seen a ghost,” I told him. “How did you know?”

“Lucky guess,” he said, and gave in to a full bellied laugh as if he was sharing a joke and this was the punchline.

“I’m serious. I just saw Marnie in my apartment, and she walked right through me! She’s a spirit or something.” I listened to myself rambling and wondered if I should just commit myself to a mental institution now. I sounded crazy even to my own ears.

“No, I don’t think Marnie’s a spirit too. Not her time.”

“I’m telling you, I saw her and she walked right through me.”

“Oh, Janice.” Roger suddenly stopped chucking and stared at me with intense scrutiny. There was something in his gaze, something uncomfortable that I didn’t want to see. “Oh Janice, honey. You don’t know?”

“What? What don’t I know?” There was a cold chill and it was dripping down my spine, an ominous leak of blind terror that I couldn’t quite understand. Something within me rebelled and I didn’t want to understand either.

“Marnie’s not dead, she’s not a ghost,” he said kindly, gently with infinite compassion and sadness. “We are.”


June 11, 2023 12:36

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50 comments

16:43 Jul 19, 2023

Amazing!! I thought that Janice might be a ghost, after all, wasn't Marnie packing her stuff away like you would after someone died? At least, I think that's what you'd do. But I had doubts because she talked to Roger, and I just took it for granted that he was alive... 🍁 That was just so good! I knew something was wrong, but until Marnie appeared I had no idea what... And the use of the word 'ghosting' in the title, then the text, mislead me! Have you watched the Studio Gibli, 'When Marnie was there'? I think it's called that. I think ...

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Michelle Oliver
22:41 Jul 19, 2023

Loved the studio ghibli movie, and I hadn’t realised how heavily I borrowed from that movie, even down to the names! Thanks for pointing that out!

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Amanda Lieser
20:01 Jun 26, 2023

Oh Michelle! What a bone showing peace! I immediately knew that something was wrong or off, I should say about this protagonists perspective. You dropped off some brilliant little bread crumbs, including, but not limited to that choice of title! I was rushing to the end as fast as I could to prove that I had picked up all the right clues. I’d love to read a piece in Marnie’s perspective. I love the way that the story focused on friendship because I think that’s a genre that’s often overlooked more and more people are starting to write about ...

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Michelle Oliver
22:27 Jun 26, 2023

Thanks Amanda. I’m happy the bread crumbs were not too obvious but still there to follow. I agree, friendship is an underrated genre, but has all the powerful qualities to write about and so many levels to explore.

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Wally Schmidt
03:46 Jun 23, 2023

This story builds so nicely. I love the foreshadowing and the details of Janice and Marnie's friendship- the gym, the unanswered phone calls, the vegetarian conversion. It's all so natural. Until it isn't. Really didn't see that twist coming. Great story Michelle.

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Michelle Oliver
07:39 Jun 23, 2023

Thanks for giving it a read. Happy you enjoyed it

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Myranda Marie
17:46 Jun 22, 2023

Nice twist ! I love the addition of Roger and his role in Janice's "discovery".

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Michelle Oliver
22:33 Jun 22, 2023

Thanks I’m happy you enjoyed the twist.

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Miriam Culy
10:49 Jun 21, 2023

Wow - really enjoyed this story. Excellently done and awesome ending. The character of Roger really tied everything together nicely. Loved this very clever take on the idea of ghosting. I enjoy wordplay like this (I did it in my story too, but with the phrase "growing a part").

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Michelle Oliver
13:33 Jun 21, 2023

Thanks Miriam. I’m happy you enjoyed it.

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Patrick Samuel
18:58 Jun 20, 2023

Nice characterizations, which double as clues (or so we think) and provide interesting diversions while setting up the twist . I had my suspicions (especially given Marnie's behavior) but Roger was another good red herring.

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Michelle Oliver
22:48 Jun 20, 2023

Thanks for reading it. I’m happy that you enjoyed it. It’s my first attempt in this genre, so I’m still working on letting those clues out without spoiling the ending too soon.

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Russell Mickler
18:55 Jun 20, 2023

Hi Michelle! Is sweaty man flesh all that great? Ew! :) A very modern story with a very modern voice; I liked your description of Roger. The narrator seemed to slow down here and become less neurotic. Ah, the Marine reveal was good. I liked the description. Liked this, "I forced air into my lungs with ragged breaths as I gasped, lightheaded, my vision spiraled and my stomach threatened to let loose its contents.." The twist at the end was unexpected. Liked it. Grin - was there a place where the MC's life was jeopardized? Don't recall. ...

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Michelle Oliver
22:43 Jun 20, 2023

Hey Russell, perhaps I should have added sweaty, toned, muscular man flesh. I would never look but I’m sure a pervy woman is there for the eye candy not the exercise. I’m actually not sure how poor Janice passed away, must have been unexpected. Glad you enjoyed my little attempt at a ghost story.

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Laurel Hanson
11:39 Jun 20, 2023

This is fantastic. It is so nicely developed to keep the tension and to not give it away too soon. Great pacing. It's interesting how you handled it without ominous overtones that would have ruined the tone; since the narrator is unaware of the situation, so should the reader be. Makes for an unusual ghost story.

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Michelle Oliver
12:03 Jun 20, 2023

Thanks Laurel. I did wonder if he title would give it away too soon. Thank you for reading it.

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Marty B
08:19 Jun 20, 2023

Poor Marnie! She lost her best friend, in I assume a rather sudden ending for Janice! Marnie's light hearted banter, and low key approach to this story made the ending unexpected! I see dead people!

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Michelle Oliver
08:41 Jun 20, 2023

Thanks for reading and I’m happy you enjoyed it.

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Kelsey H
10:05 Jun 19, 2023

Love the double twist! I honestly didn't see it coming despite the title as I thought it was just referring to the conventional meaning of being ghosted, so when Janice thinks she sees Marnie's ghost I was like - aha, that's why! That in itself would have been a great reveal so I like that you went the extra step and it is in fact Janice who is the ghost. Unrelated to ghosts I really liked the intro to the women's friendship too, the description of them going to the gym to check out guys was a great way to create a relationship that was be...

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Michelle Oliver
10:09 Jun 19, 2023

Thanks for reading it. I’m glad you enjoyed the story and that he title didn’t give it away too soon. I enjoyed creating their friendship too, I thought they sound like fun people to be around. I wonder how Marnie is going to cope without her bestie.

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Zack Powell
21:32 Jun 18, 2023

There is no feeling quite like returning from a Reedsy break and reading a story like this as one of your first ones. Loved this, from the title to the the plot twist to the SECOND plot twist. I think my favorite thing here (besides the clever last paragraph) was the lighthearted tone that pervaded the story. Ghosting is usually a pretty serious 'offense,' but here it's set up in a fun (and funny) way that gently invites the reader into the story. The narrator is relatable, the prose is casual and sounds like it's coming from a friend who w...

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Michelle Oliver
22:37 Jun 18, 2023

Thanks Zack. Writing a suspense is not something I usually do, so I’m pushing myself to write outside my comfort zone here. I’m happy it was enjoyable and that you really clicked with the character. It is a pity that she is dead, poor thing. I think I would like to be friends with her too, she sounds like she would be good fun!

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20:15 Jun 18, 2023

Well, I was gobsmacked, Michelle, in spite of the title, pleasantly so. Nicely done.

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Michelle Oliver
22:37 Jun 18, 2023

Thanks so much for reading it! Happy that you enjoyed the story.

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Helen A Smith
16:47 Jun 18, 2023

I enjoyed the story and didn’t see the ending coming - although I guess the title was a bit of a giveaway. I thought you built it up well and that was why the ending was a shock (a good way). Easy to read.

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Michelle Oliver
22:40 Jun 18, 2023

Thanks I’m happy you enjoyed the read. I’m working on building suspense in my stories, it’s not my usual wheelhouse.

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Helen A Smith
09:28 Jun 19, 2023

It’s nice to try different things. I recently had a go at fantasy and really enjoyed it.

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Donna Chisum
16:40 Jun 18, 2023

Loved it!

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Michelle Oliver
22:41 Jun 18, 2023

Thanks!

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Chrissy Winters
20:29 Jun 17, 2023

I love this twist! This was an easy story to read. I had a sense the twist was coming because of the title. Enjoyed this!

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Michelle Oliver
00:25 Jun 18, 2023

Thanks for reading. I think I may have given too much away with the title.

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Chris Miller
20:26 Jun 17, 2023

Nicely told, and top punning!

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Michelle Oliver
00:25 Jun 18, 2023

Thanks!

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17:44 Jun 17, 2023

Good stuff Michelle! Light hearted start gradually changing to a more serious tone and building the suspense well during the apartment scene. Enjoyed reading this one!

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Michelle Oliver
00:24 Jun 18, 2023

Thanks Derrick. It’s not my usual style, but I’m exploring writing stories with suspense. I’m a work in progress in this area, so am happy to have feedback.

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11:52 Jun 18, 2023

Going in the right direction! It's my favourite genre as you may have noticed so I enjoy reading others takes on it

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David Sweet
15:46 Jun 17, 2023

I had a feeling this ending was inevitable when Marnie gathered things and interacted with things in the real world. I enjoyed this story very much. It works great as a short story, but could even be expanded upon to see how Janice died and how Marnie was affected. (Not necessary here, but it does make a reader curious and wanting more). Are you planning on leaving this here or doing something more with it in another capacity? Congrats on balancing everything in your life. I retired last year and I am just now being able to juggle my writin...

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Michelle Oliver
00:21 Jun 18, 2023

Thanks for reading it David. I had no plans to expand on this one but might consider it. Balancing my life and writing is tricky so if I don’t get my story mostly written on the weekend, I won’t have a story to submit by Friday.

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Tom Skye
08:09 Jun 17, 2023

Really enjoyed this. I get the sixth sense comparisons, but the light conversational style made it feel unique to that. The playing perving at the gym formed a nice character with few words as well. Nice work.

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Michelle Oliver
09:59 Jun 17, 2023

Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m happy that you enjoyed it.

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Michał Przywara
20:37 Jun 16, 2023

Very enjoyable :) Initially it's actually quite funny, as the narrator uses a bit of self-deprecation to mask her hurt at Marnie ghosting her. Later on, we realize it's much more serious though, and I wonder if the masking ran deeper too - if she had some idea of what state she was in, but she wasn’t ready to accept being dead and so she focused on this Marnie story instead. I didn't see the twist coming, as until that moment, it was set up well as a ghosting. And then Marnie's behaviour certainly seemed suspicious. Given she had problems ...

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Michelle Oliver
00:20 Jun 17, 2023

Thanks for giving it a read. I’m glad you didn’t see the twist coming. It’s not my normal genre, so I’m still experimenting with leaving breadcrumb clues to follow without giving away the twist too soon. Appreciate your feedback.

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