If it isn’t bad enough that I’m the new girl at Plymouth High, my closest and only friend is this really hot dead guy. No one else can see him except me, but it would be so nice for the other girls to trip in their Jimmy Choos while he holds my hand.
Drew, the dead guy, chatters more than the self-absorbed princesses at school—better known as SAPs. It’s like having a leaky faucet you can’t turn off, and sometimes like now, I just lose it.
“Shut up!” I scream, slamming my locker shut.
Drew feigns a pitiful hurt expression that I’m not falling for this time. His dreamy, espresso eyes search mine. He sweeps thick hair, the color of a newborn fawn, from his handsome face. I’m sure he made girls fall over dead when he was alive.
Then I notice the other kids. They’ve stopped and are staring at me as if I’m holding a butcher knife in a scary movie—kind of the way adults look at my mom. My skin turns paler than my dead friend’s.
Drew pretends to direct the rubber-neckers like a traffic cop. “Show’s over. Keep moving.” They walk through him, oblivious to his presence.
I draw the rim of my beaded top hat down over my eyes. Why couldn’t I have gotten a low maintenance ghost instead of Mr. Personality? And is it too much to ask for one living friend who understands me—the freaky girl chatting with the dead?
Drew interlocks his arm with mine. He toys with the red fishnet gauntlet on my wrist. His touch sends goose bumps up my arm and not the good kind. He’s as icy as I imagine Barrow, Alaska to be during its thirty days of night. He grins at me with his Oscar-winning smile. He seems so lifelike. I often forget that he isn’t.
I can’t help but crack a smile as we stroll arm-in-arm into pre-calc. It’s weird that he can touch me. When I reach for him, my hand goes right through, clawing only air. My grandmother says crossing the plane of existence is an acquired skill that I just need to practice.
Drew flicks my hair.
I turn toward him and mutter, “Don’t.”
“What?” a smoky voice rumbles.
I slam into the brick wall the sexy voice belongs to. My scrawny frame goes splat onto the linoleum while books go flying. I gaze up at a guy built like the Terminator with wide shoulders, blond hair—kissed by the sun—and blueberry eyes swimming in a sea of red from what looks like crying. What makes a guy like him cry? Certainly not me running into him.
A blush heats my cheeks as he catches me staring. It’s hard not to.
“You can stick your tongue back in your mouth,” Drew says.
I’d feel guilty if Drew wasn’t so unavailable and so annoying.
The in-crowd and the dweebs sitting in their seats laugh at me.
The teacher taps his toe because the bell is ringing, and he’s ready to start class. “Your hat.”
A girl at school can dress like she’s hustling on Bourbon Street yet I can’t wear a stupid hat. I remove it while gathering my books. This is so not my day.
A Pretty in Pink SAP, floating in a cloud of faux fur in her signature color, bats her lashes at the guy. “Are you hurt, Hayden?” she trills.
Unlike me, Hayden is still standing, completely intact. “Balloon-head,” I say under my breath.
Drew leans down for the assist. I shake my head at Drew to stop, like that’s going to help, and it doesn’t.
Drew shoves Hayden gathering my scattered belongings. “Hey, that’s my job.” Drew’s a bit possessive. We’ve never discussed that or his version of how he died. I’ve learned the young don’t understand how permanent death is until it’s too late.
Hayden doesn’t budge but shivers for a brief moment while retrieving my pencils. “Are you okay, Jolie?”
He hasn’t been here all week, because I would’ve noticed him, so how does he know my name? This could be good or really bad.
I snatch my pencils away from him and groan, “I’ll live.”
Hayden stands and without asking grasps my hand. With one swift movement, he lifts me up one-handed. God, he’s strong. Or am I that much of a lightweight?
“You’re welcome, Jolie,” he says in that deep, hypnotic voice that makes me dizzy.
“You should’ve at least said, ‘Thank you,’” Drew says.
He’s right. Embarrassed, I shuffle to the back where I hope to fly under the radar. I need to catch some much needed Zs after the late night spent consoling a dead woman searching for her missing pendant.
The teacher starts his drone, so my mind wanders to the swirling leaves outside. I don’t need to pay attention anyway. I could sleep on a book and learn math through osmosis—one of my few talents.
Drew says, “See ya.” He shakes like a wet dog, preparing himself to walk through the wall and go outside.
I rest my chin in my hands, wishing I could join him. He kicks and tumbles in the barrage of colored leaves. Since we both grew up in New Orleans, this is the first time we’ve seen autumn. I’m in absolute awe, even though I miss the bayou, especially our home that drowned thanks to Katrina.
We moved to Plymouth, Massachusetts after Aunt Ophelia disappeared while sailing in Cape Cod Bay. My mom and I inherited her business and the attached home. Mom claims all the stars were aligned for our move, but she easily forgets our own personal storm cloud and the creepy man stalking us.
Regardless of our past misfortunes, I’m betting this place could work out for us. With the witch trials and nearby battlefields, this should be a great location for me to set up shop. There are lots of spirits dying to be laid to rest plus Massachusetts is supposedly the home of the underground Paranormal Guild, a very secret society. I’ve heard it’s really pricey and you have to be invited to join, so I’m not counting on my golden ticket any time soon.
I steal a glance at Hayden. He stares outside with vacant eyes. He turns toward me. I avert my gaze, another heatstroke working its way up my neck. He probably belongs to some mindless cheerleader. I spot just the type glaring at me.
I mouth, “Take a picture. It lasts longer.”
She rolls her eyes then gazes longingly at Hayden. I am always so right.
“Jolene,” Teach says.
My head jerks up. “It’s Jolie.”
He ignores my response and asks, “How would you solve this problem?” He points to a triangle on the board.
I love it when a teacher thinks he’s caught me unaware. I stand, go to the board, and write the cosine of the angle. “That was difficult.”
The teacher grimaces at my attitude, which is all I’ve got going for me. “Very good, Jolene.”
“Touché,” I mutter, heading back to my seat.
Hayden focuses on my clothing with those beautiful blue eyes of his. Mine are the color of dirt. I can imagine what he’s thinking, since his mother dresses him like some Ivy Leaguer. My outfit consists of black on black—lacy leggings, mini, and a cami under an artistically shredded AC/DC T-shirt to cover spaghetti straps, which aren’t allowed at school. Lips painted red and cat-eye eyeliner. It’s very edgy Goth.
His lips turn up. Is he smiling at me? Who am I kidding? As soon as he sees me talking to ghosts, he’ll be as cold to me as the dead guys.
The bell finally rings. I’m free to run home and check the ghost-hunting ad I ran in the newspaper. Mom and I really need the money. I’ve learned to live with being broke. Since Mom sucks at finances and doesn’t make much as a psychic, I do what I can to help out. I scurry from my desk and squeeze through the door beside the pink SAP.
“Excuse me,” she says in a haughty tone, her blond hair flouncing perfectly like the girls in the shampoo commercials.
I tug at my dark mop highlighted with a single magenta lock. “Whatever,” I say.
“Don’t give Hayden such a hard time.” She nods in his direction. “He lost his mom.”
“Everyone loses someone.” That’s why I’m in business, and at least he had a parent to lose. I’m referring to my non-existent dad whom I’ve never met. “Look. I don’t need the town history.” Well, I do. Just not hers or Hayden’s, though I’d like to know if he has a serious girlfriend. Every girl fantasizes about meeting her rock star, and I wouldn’t even care if Hayden sang off-key.
Pink SAP scowls at me. “Goth is so out.”
“You’re one to talk. You’re so pink, you could blind someone.”
“Good one,” Drew says, reaching for a high-five that I almost fall for.
She spins on the balls of her feet then sashays down the hall like a runway model. With those practiced moves, she’s probably a pageant queen.
Drew catches me staring at her. “Don’t listen to her. She has nothing on you.”
That’s not why I’m looking at her. It’s the dead soldier hobbling on a single crutch beside her that has snagged my attention. He’s about our age, barefoot, and is missing a leg. He wears a tattered blue uniform with a rifle slung over one shoulder. I rub my eyes, knowing full well black eyeliner smudges easily.
Drew taps my shoulder and nods in her direction. “Day-Glo Girl has a haunt.”
“You know we’ll have to help her,” I say.
Drew leans on my shoulder and laughs. “I don’t think you can rework her lack of fashion sense.”
“That would be a challenge, but we still have to get rid of her deadbeat.”
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Genre – YA Paranormal Mystery, Romance
Rating – PG-13
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