“I know I shouldn’t have done that. It was really stupid. I know that part. You don’t have to keep reminding me,” I said, fiddling with the zipper of my backpack while it rested on my lap. I watched boys skate around the curved cement at the skatepark. There were benches along the side so people could sit and watch. It was chilly out, and no one else was nearby; I could talk freely with the ghost only I could see.
“You’ve only got one sister. Sure, she’s a bit…excessive, but she’s not that bad,” Brandon sat next to me, the bench visible through his legs and torso. His spiked, frosted-tipped hair would look silly by today’s fashion, but it matched his 90’s punk look perfectly. His pant legs were so wide, I was sure he could fit a few more legs in them. He wore worn skater shoes and a t-shirt over a longer-sleeved shirt. The t-shirt had some obscure punk band that probably didn’t make it out of their parent’s garage.
“It’s not like you were helping. You kept making fun of her fake eyelashes and forty dollar makeup. You even agreed she was being rude. Not to mention, I couldn’t have done it without you. Stop acting like you’re innocent.” I refused to look at him, my eyes following the boys loop over the wall and slide back into the pit, swinging and trading places like a pendulum. I’d never tried skating, and it looked kind of scary. It also looked kind of cool.
I wondered why I was still there, sitting with him. I could have gone home right after school instead of coming to the skatepark where I knew he would be. He had to have been there, he wasn’t able to go anywhere else unless I was with him. Ghosts haunted particular places or things, and they typically couldn’t move away from them, unless they were with me. I had a weird talent for seeing ghosts that also extended to enable them to travel around with me. Usually, it was a scary burden I was afraid of, but when I had met Brandon with his stupid dimpled smile and insane sense of humor, I’d embraced it, letting him pal around with me whenever he felt like popping in. He hadn’t been around me all day, so I had decided to check in at his haunt, to make sure he was okay. Obviously, he was still mad from the day before.
That made two of us.
“You need to apologize.” Brandon also didn’t look at me, his eyes looking up at the trees as they waved in the brisk wind.
“I’m not going to apologize. She deserved it.”
“Doesn’t matter what someone deserves. You still need to apologize.”
“No!” I stood up and clutched my rabbit-shaped backpack to my chest with angry fingers. I finally looked right at his warm-brown, but cold, eyes. “You didn’t grow up with her. You don’t understand what she’s like. She’s had years to torture me and I finally had a little way to get back at her, putting my weird powers to use and you helped! Now you want me to apologize?”
My shoulders moved up and down as I huffed in gulps of air. If someone wanted to notice me, they’d definitely think I was crazy, yelling at a bench, but I didn’t care. Let them notice.
“Hanna,” he held his arms up in defense, “calm down.”
“Ugh! I hate it when people say that to me. It’s like my feelings don’t matter. They do matter! I have a right to feel upset and angry.”
“Of course you do. Of course they matter. That’s not what I’m saying at all.” Brandon stood up, too, and took a step towards me.
I backed away from him. “That is what you’re saying. Yesterday you were fine with it. Why do you want me to apologize so bad?”
He grabbed his hair in frustration, the spikes sticking through his fingers. “You have to apologize before you run out of time. You have to apologize because I can’t!”
His angry yell made me pause enough to peek through my haze of anger. Of course. He was dead. He couldn’t apologize. He probably had things he wanted to tell people but couldn’t. Was that his unfinished business? I often asked him about it, so I could help him move on, but he’d never tell me what it was.
“Brandon, what do you have to apologize for?” I took a deep breath, letting the fresh air clear the clouds of anger from my mind. They didn’t leave completely, but they were whisps instead of thunderheads.
He dropped his hands and shook his head, keeping his eyes from contacting mine. “Forget it. I was just talking about that thing with your sister yesterday. You’re right. I do have a part in it. I just think we need to own up to making a mistake and apologize.”
There was something deeper going on and I knew it. I also knew that the strand between our friendship had taken deep cuts that day and wouldn’t be able to handle much more. I decided to hold in the questions that clawed inside my throat about his unfinished business, about his pain. Instead, I said, “I’ll take your words under advisement.”
His small smile didn’t quite reach his dimples, but it warmed my heart, anyway. “That’s the best I can ask for right now. At least think about apologizing. What’s the worst that could happen?”
When I got home, the house was quiet. Both of my parents were at work, my mom at a bank, and my dad at a nearby college. Usually, Trina was home a little after me because of cheerleading practice after school, but since I had taken a stop at the skatepark, she should have been home by now.
I grabbed an apple from the counter and went to my room. I tossed my backpack onto my bed and sat at my desk, munching at the apple. In between bites, I heard an odd hiccup and I realized that Trina might have been home after all.
Her room shared a wall with my own and it was easy to hear through it. I finished my apple hearing those loud hiccups with a heavy heart.
Trina was crying and it was my fault.
I didn’t want to apologize. She’d made me cry lots of times over the years. More times than I could count.
Instinctively, I looked around the room expecting to see Brandon pop in at any moment like he had done nearly daily for the past few weeks since I’d met him. The room was empty, and even though I’d told him to give me more privacy, I was sad to feel him missing.
He was right and I knew it.
With a sigh, I shuffled my stockinged feet towards my sister’s door. My heart beat quickly in my chest for fear of confrontation, but I knew I had to do this. It might have been well-deserved payback, but Brandon was right, and I didn’t want him to be mad at me anymore. I might not have had the best motivations for doing the right thing, but at least I was doing it.
“Trina?” I knocked on the door.
The hiccups were quieted, and I heard a sniffle. “Yes?”
“Can we talk for a second?” My hands were shaking slightly. I gripped them into fists to keep them steady. It wasn’t often that I could work up enough courage to have a conversation like this.
I opened the door to find her hugging a pillow on her bed, her knees tucked against the pillow and her chest. Her eyes were red and puffy while she still wore her pajamas.
“Didn’t you go to school today?” I asked, somewhat surprised to find her in such a state. We did attend the same school, but with her being two years older than me and having completely different classes, we didn't see each other often.
“No.” She sniffed and wiped her nose. “I couldn’t bear it.”
I frowned and sat at her desk, turning the chair to the side, so it faced the door, and I could turn to look at Trina if I needed to. “I didn’t mean for you to miss school.”
“Oh, but didn’t you? What did you think would happen when you posted that video? Everyone saw it in seconds. Now I’ll never be able to show my face again!” She wailed into her pillow. “Why do you hate me so much?”
I blinked at her and at the bedroom for a few seconds, keeping my fists balled so my hands wouldn’t vibrate off my arms. This is what I didn’t like about confrontation. I had to actually talk about feelings and admit pain or frustration with someone else. The biggest problem is that the whole thing was probably long overdue.
“Trina, I don’t hate you.” I sighed. “I just get upset with you sometimes. You’ve played so many tricks on me, I thought it was time for a little payback. I didn’t mean for it to be such a big deal.”
“A big deal? You didn’t think that posting a video of me puking into the toilet while my hair was a mess and my face was completely covered in pimples without cover-up? You didn’t think I wouldn’t mind the butt crack hanging out of my pajamas as I heaved into the toilet? And what about when you dumped a bucket of ice-cold water all over my head? Was the rest not enough?” Tears tumbled down her cheeks, and she took heaving breaths of air.
“Okay, fine. Maybe it was a terrible thing to do, but have you ever once apologized to me? Remember when you tripped me in front of my crush last month? I got scabs on my chin, and you just laughed. Or what about the time I was hanging up a poster for math club and you came by, poked my belly that was hanging out from under my shirt, and laughed with your friends? Don’t you think those things hurt my feelings? And those are just the beginning. I have endured years of torture at your hands.” I was also breathing heavy, finally finding enough courage to look her in the eyes.
She glared at me and sniffed deeply. “And that’s what you came in here to tell me? That you just hate my guts so much you wanted to humiliate me so badly I’d have to transfer to another school, another state, maybe?”
“No.” I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. The words were hard to force out between my gritted teeth. “I came here to apologize. You’re right. What I did to you wasn’t right, wasn’t fair. I’m sorry.”
She snorted and rolled her eyes. “Yea, right. Mom probably made you say that.”
“Actually, she didn’t.” It was Brandon, but I didn’t tell her that. “It’s just the truth. I really am sorry. I took the video down this morning so more people won’t see it, hopefully.”
“Yea, because that’s how the internet works.” She rolled her eyes again, a behavior I’d seen many times.
I pressed my lips together to keep from spouting more anger at her. After several deep breaths in the silence, I prepared to stand up and leave her to her wailings.
“Did you use a ghost?”
I froze at her words, my hand resting on the back of the chair ready to pull myself up. “What?”
“A ghost. You know, one of those transparent people things that wander around screaming for help? A ghost.” Her expression was serious with raised eyebrows, impatient for a response.
“I know what a ghost is.” I settled back into the chair. “What do you mean?”
“I know you weren’t in the bathroom with me. I would have heard you. Plus, you were in the hallway with your stupid phone peeking around the corner. There was no way you could have poured that water on me. You’re not smart enough to rig up a contraption or something that could have done it for you. There had to have been a ghost.”
“Do you realize how crazy you sound right now?”
She sighed and pulled out the necklace she had worn for as long as I could remember. It was a dull silver from time and use, but the pendant was a decorative metal eye with a purple stone in it. I had always thought it was a weird piece of jewelry and wondered why she liked it so much. “Grandma said it skips a generation and that only one person per family can see the dead. When she found me at three crying because I had accidentally talked with a ghost who had become irate, demanding me to help it, she scared it away with this necklace. Ever since then, she’s let me wear it so I can’t see them.”
“You can see ghosts, too? Why didn’t you tell me?” My hands weren’t shaking anymore, but my heart was still beating quickly. I wasn’t alone.
“It’s not something I go around telling people, duh. And I’m supposed to be the only one who can see them. You aren’t supposed to have the power, too.” She chewed a bit on her lip as she studied me. “How can you stand it? How has it not driven you insane yet?”
“I--I don’t know. If you just pretend you don’t see them, they mostly leave you alone. Can I see that necklace? How does it work?”
Trina shook her head and put the necklace back under her shirt. “Sorry. There’s only one of these that I know of. Even Grandma went without it until she died after she gave it to me. I couldn’t bear to part with it. Besides, there’s only supposed to be one who can see in each family. How can both of us see them?”
I shrugged, standing up to leave, seeing she wasn’t going to help me much after all. “I don’t know. Just add it to the list of weird facts about your stupid, little sister.”
I shut the door behind me and went back to my own room, my mind reeling about what I had just learned. I wasn’t alone in this, but yet, I pretty much was.
***This story is about Hanna and Brandon. I have a few containing the same characters, but I try to write each as a stand-alone piece so you don't have to go read the others unless you want to. Feel free to go check them out on my profile if you liked this story.