Tell-Tale Light

Submitted into Contest #149 in response to: Start your story with the flickering of a light.... view prompt

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Fiction Coming of Age

This story contains themes or mentions of suicide or self harm.

CW: discussion of suicide and mature themes

I sensed the ghost before it tried to speak to me. Just sitting here in the living room, I felt the cold, the terror.  It has been a week now since the Procedure. I thought everything would go back to normal, but nothing will ever be the same again. The dining room chandelier seems to flicker, but only when I am near.  I know it is the ghost, and it is mad.  I don't know what the ghost wants with me.  It is not as if I had a choice. 

Bam! A window slams shut.  Maybe it was the wind, I hear it howling outside. But maybe not. 

“What do you want me to do!” I yell out.

I didn’t have any other options. Now, I don't know how to go on with my life when everything has changed so much. My body feels funny, I am buzzing like I had a chocolate cake with extra frosting.  

My sister walks down the stairs to look at me. She is still a normal person. I am not, I did a terrible thing and I will never be a normal person again.  No one can know.  I ignore her and she goes away.  She can’t help me. 

I adjusted out my jeans and t-shirt, my clothes don't feel right on my body.  Before, I was just a teenager, only concerned about homework and getting into college, the debate club, or Jesse. My phone rings, and I see Janet’s number. My stomach drops,  I am missing the play rehearsal.  Not today, I just can’t.  They will need to get someone else to work the lights to signal the stage directions.  Did I just see a flash?  I have been on the living room couch since I left school early, watching the dining room chandelier. Time has shifted, I am floating forward and back, I don't want to be in the present because of what I did, who I am now. The chandelier with the elaborate swirls, and jewels, and the lights that look like candles. Yes, there it is, a flicker! This ghost wants something from me.  

I never paid much attention to the chandelier, hanging above the dining room table. It has always been there, a gift from my Grandfather, I have been told. I have never met him. My Mother doesn't get along with her family, so this chandelier is all we have. My Step-Dad said it was worth a good amount. It just looks old to me, and ugly.  

I prefer straight lines. My body would no longer be straight if I didn't do it. I had to do it.

I couldn’t be on the debate club anymore if I didn’t, not representing Notre Dame Catholic High school. 

And, Ms. Miller could not even step in the Chemistry lab when she was-, too many chemicals they said.  I would have had to drop that class.  That might have been a reason to keep it- him, her, whatever. 

Did the closet door just open!  Or was it open before, I don’t remember.  I should close it just to be sure. Later though, my body hurts.  What are you going to do with me ghost?

I took the home test three times.  I couldn't believe it, how was it possible? It was all planned out, we took, well, he took precautions. When I told him that day at debate club, he said it must have been someone else but there wasn't anyone else. Who did he think I was, there could be someone else?

He tried in his way to be supportive, but it wasn't his problem, it was mine.  My problem alone, no one could help me. So I solved it myself. 

“I did not have a choice, ghost!” I yelled again.  

After I told him, we walked home together from school.

Walking over the freeway overpass, it had to be the wind that made my eyes tear up,  looking at the zooming cars below. Only a quick jump away from not having to have to worry about this ever again. I guess I did have a choice, I could have been a ghost too.

He gave me money for the Procedure, and I went into the clinic. They were nice and talked to me a lot about what my options were. But, how could I do anything else? My parents would throw me out of the house. My Mom could not understand. She does not know anything; making those droopy eyes at my Step-Dad and her dumb office job. I can not even take care of myself, how could I be responsible for someone else?  They gave me a pill to take, and another for the next day . 

I stayed home from school to take the second pill. It was messy and painful. 

“I deserved the pain, right ghost?” I said, quietly. 

Then it was over. I thought that would be it. But everything is different. I am not whole.  I have lost something very important, my body doesn't feel like my own, and the ghost is here. Barry is the only one who knows. Barry our dog, who is old and prefers my Mom to anyone in the house. Though now he has become attached to me.  Barry hangs out in my room now, won’t leave me by myself when I am home.  

Even now, while I am in the living room watching the ghost try to signal me, Barry is at my feet, sleeping.  Barry who normally never leaves the warm afternoon sun in the kitchen.

My little sister knows something is up, she asked me why Barry is my friend now, why I am acting weird. 

I tried to get out of the family dinner. We barely eat together, but Step-Dad is home early and Mom said she made lasagna special for me so I couldn't say no without a good reason. I only have a bad reason, a really bad reason. 

Dinner was awkward. 

“Let’s do something fun this weekend, what do you think girls?” My Step-Dad said, a goofy smile. He is always trying to get on our good side, but I won’t let him.

The ghost has been quiet.  The light above my head, steady.

“I don't care.” I said, then it flashed. 

I glanced up quickly, and it stopped.

My  parents looked away from me, they had to have seen it, what game are they playing?

 My sister looked at me but not at the light.

 Barry sat under my chair instead of my Mom. Did she notice?

“Um , how was school today? My Step-Dad said. 

“Great.” I said watching for the ghost.  The light flickered. Oh they must know!

“You are not eating,” my Mom said, "I thought you liked lasagna?”

I looked at the lasagna with the deep red sauce, pale pasta, and the oozing cheese; my stomach turned over. I put my napkin over my plate. 

“I ate a late lunch.” I said. 

Stop lying, the ghost said in the flickering light. 

My Step-Dad smiled at me. They are just toying with me, waiting for me to give in.  I won't, I won't! 

I stared at him, he just kept eating and eating. My Mom smiled at him, just shoveling food into his face. How disgusting. Then they both looked at me expectantly, like they were waiting for me to say something.

The ghost encouraged me too, the light flickering again, and again.  

Pointing me out, identifying me as a sinner. The ghost is signaling to them. They know! They are just letting me make a fool of myself.

My stomach hurts and I feel too light, I am going to float away.

Why are they ignoring the ghost, the light, practically strobing like a dance club?  Why won’t they say anything, what are they waiting for? I stare at the chandelier, now it stays on, playing with me. 

I see all my family's eyes on me now, they have all stopped eating. Barry from under my chair, barks once, giving his opinion. 

“Are you OK?” My Step-Dad asks. “Why are you looking at the ceiling?” He looks up.

“Ok, Ok ! I will tell you!” I shout, my whole body is vibrating uncontrollably.  The light flickered again, quickly, I looked up. “Can you just turn off the light!" I shut my eyes. "Please?”

“Is there something wrong with the light?” My sister said, looking at me, then at the chandelier, curious. 

“Just turn it off!” 

They are feigning shock, but is there a knowing behind their eyes? Waiting for me?

 My sister turned the chandelier light off. The dining room is dim but still lit with light from the other rooms. 

“There is a ghost haunting me.”  I say. “The ghost of a baby.”  I see their faces, pretending not to understand.

“I was pregnant and now I am not and the ghost is torturing me, messing with the light!”  I point threateningly to the now-darkened chandelier.  

“What do you mean you were pregnant!? My Step-Dad says.

“What do you mean you are not anymore!?” My Mom says.

I went to the clinic, and took a pill, and it is gone.” 

“How can this be?  Who could this be?” My Mom said.

“You are in catholic school!” My Step-Dad said.

“Did something happen, did you want this to happen?” My Mom said, softly. There was a catch in her voice.

“No, I mean, it was just Jesse, and I asked him to. I thought he used a con- , protection, but obviously that didn't work.” I shook my head.

My Mom took my hand, “How are you feeling?”

I shrug, and am so thankful the light is off.  She hands me a napkin and I realize I am crying, tears rolling down my cheeks, my shoulders shaking.

My Mom began. “Let me tell you a story of a girl who was a teenager like you and became pregnant and had to make a- choice. It was not with a friend that wanted to, try out their teenage bodies. It was a girl who was assaulted by-.” She grimaced, and looked at the chandelier. “Someone who shouldn't have, someone she trusted and loved. That girl made the same choice you did, because she,  I, was not ready to take care of a baby. And could not raise that baby, no matter what.  If I had had that baby my life would have gone in a different direction, I would never have finished college, been able to work, or met your father. Without making that choice I would not have had you and your sister. My life would be very different.”

My Mom looked at me, she was crying now too. “I only wish you would have been able to talk to me so we could support you through this terrible choice, this decision.” She stopped to wipe her eyes. “We love you very much and want to help you.”

I held hands with my Mom for a long time. 

“Can I turn the light back on?” My sister asked. 

I nodded, worn out, defeated. 

The chandelier turned on, and flickered again. There was so much that my Mom had gone through that I had no idea about, and my Step-Dad didn't look shocked, so he knew too. And did she mean Grandfather? I am glad I never met him.  There are so many ghosts in this house.

He stood up and looked at the chandelier, closely examining it.  With a cloth he twisted one, then two of the bulbs tighter.  

The chandelier glowed brightly, shining a light on the family below.

June 10, 2022 22:18

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