Authors: Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Copyright © 2010 by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
First eBook Edition: May 2010
To the 2009 Haldane School Montreal trip.
Je me souviens!
So the good news was my best friend Jac and I were both on the school French
class trip to Montreal.
The bad news was so were Shoshanna Longbarrow and the super-popular Satellite Girls that orbit her—including Brooklyn Bigelow.
The good news was my mom had come along as a chaperone.
The bad news was my mom had come along as a chaperone.
And the worst news was Jac’s mother had also come along as a chaperone.
In the seven or so months since random ghosts and haunters and formerly alive people started materializing in front of me,
I’d seen a lot of strange stuff. But I’m not sure any of it could hold a candle to the sight of my mother and Jac’s mother
My mom favored old hippie clothes and hand-me-downs, would not eat meat or kill an insect no matter how hideous or bitey it
was, and helped the dead communicate with the living—an ability she had passed on to me. Jac’s mom dressed like she was having
lunch at the White House (today she was wearing a pressed pantsuit, a neck scarf, and her ever-present string of pearls),
she was tightly wound, and she spent most of her energy trying to redirect her musically gifted daughter back to her cello
practicing. In short, our
mothers had about as much in common as Justin Timberlake and the Pope.
So far, they were kind of ignoring one another.
“The bathroom smells,” Jac said, her face turned toward the window as northern New York went by in a blur.
“Do you think they’re ever going to speak to each other?” I asked, staring at the back of my mother’s head.
My mother was up front, in the third row of the bus, on the right-hand side. Jac’s mom was in the first row on the left-hand
side, right behind the bus driver, Tim. Actually, Tim was not a bus driver. He announced before we even got under way that
we could call him Tim and that he was a
motor coach operator
. It did have a nice ring to it.
Our French teacher, Mrs. Redd, was in the second row, like a carefully placed
ambassador stationed between my mother and Jac’s
mother. There were two empty rows after that, then me and Jac, in the no-man’s land of Middle Bus. Then came a cluster of
boys and non-Satellite people. Shoshanna and her worshipful Satellite Girls, none more of a suck-up than Brooklyn Bigelow,
had absorbed the back four rows into their personal sparkly orbit.
“I think they kind of have to,” Jac said. “They’ll need to exchange some sort of chaperone-type information eventually.”
“Can you picture it?” I asked, glumly. “
Your mom will be all, ‘So, what do you do?’ even though you know she totally knows,
and my mom will be all, ‘I facilitate communication between the living and the recently departed,’ and your mom will be all,
‘You mean people
who are relocating to a new area?’ and my mom will be all, ‘I mean people who are relocating to being dead.’
And then your mom will turn white as a sheet and press her lips together the way she does…”
Jac immediately did a perfect imitation of the face.
“Yep, that’s it exactly, and then she’ll make the bus driver pull over. And she’ll get off and stand at the side of the interstate
and wait for help to come.”
Jac tucked a strand of red hair, which was growing out from a short cut and had entered an awkward stage, behind her tiny
“Or,” she said very quietly, “Your mom could go, ‘Hey, I’m Jane, Kat Roberts’s mom,’ and my mom could pretend she has no idea
you even have a mom, even though you came to the Mountain House with us over spring break. Then, she’ll go, ‘I am pleased
to meet you,
but she won’t look pleased at all.
“Your mom will go, ‘There are two spirits following you that wish to communicate,’ and my mom will go, ‘Excuse me?’ Then,
your mom will go, ‘Do you know a rather squat man with a thick black mustache and a very strong chin, because I see him at
your left elbow,’ and my mom will go, ‘I’m sorry, I think there’s been some sort of confusion,’ and she’ll turn and face the
other direction and never look at or speak to your mom again. At the next rest stop she’ll accost me in the bathroom and tell
me that I am never, never to associate with you again.”
“Nice, Jac,” I said. “I think I like my version better.”
“I don’t like either version,” Jac said. “At least you get along with your mom.”
“I know,” I said. “But Brooklyn Bigelow still thinks my mother is some kind of devil
worshipper. Did you see the way she checked
out Mom’s outfit when we met outside the bus this morning? She totally mouthed the word
and made a big show of trying not to laugh.”
“I like the way your mom dresses,” Jac said. “She looks cute in tie-dye and jeans. My mother looks like she’s about to go
Good Morning America
to discuss manners. I mean, whose mother seriously wears a gingham suit on a school trip?”
“Yours,” I said gently.
“Aren’t we the dynamic duo of Medford, New York,” Jac said. “Jac Gray, on-again off-again cellist, and Kat Roberts, eighth-grade
radio to the dead.”
“And our mothers, the headmistress and the hippie.”
“Oh, snap,” Jac declared.
We settled back into our seats, and I felt a wave of contentment. I was with Jac, and I was traveling out of the country for
the first time; we were going to visit museums and restaurants and historic sites all over Montreal. Why shouldn’t we have
fun? The new school year had barely started, and anything seemed possible. So what if our mothers needed to be kept away from
each other and all of the Satellite Girls?
So what if
Ben Greenblott was sitting three rows in back of me?
I guess I forgot to mention it. I liked a boy. That boy.
It was weird, because I had known Ben Greenblott, at least as a “hi” friend, for two years. We had been lab partners a couple
of times in bio and always seemed to end up in most of the same classes. And for the first year and forty-nine weeks of that
time, I’m sorry
to say I barely noticed him at all. He just registered as regular and unremarkable in every conceivable way.
Your basic nice guy whom everyone likes but who keeps a low profile.
Then out of the blue, about three weeks ago, just after school opened, I dropped my music in chorus, and Ben Greenblott picked
it up for me. And as he handed it back, his regular brown eyes suddenly became hypnotic, velvety chocolate orbs. In about
four seconds, the rest of him transformed from unmemorable to cupcake. I took in his jet-black hair, his caramel-colored skin,
and his strong hands holding my copy of “Kumbaya.” The place behind my kneecaps went all squeaky. And I’ve been thinking about
, every single day since.
So yeah. School trip. Best friend. Mothers who must not come into close contact with each other. Satellite Girls.
And the love of my eighth-grade life, who had no idea that I worshipped and adored him on a daily basis, or that I saw dead
people almost as often.
Somebody really ought to be writing all of this down.
The border guard looked like he meant business. He stood at the front of the bus at the U.S.-Canada border stop, hands on
hips. Behind him appeared a squirrelly-looking guy in a different uniform, with Coke-bottle glasses, tight thin lips, and
a forehead that was way too big for his face. Mrs. Redd, who insisted on being addressed in French class as Madame Rouge,
swept up the aisle to meet them.
“Purpose of the journey?” the border guard asked, sounding bored.
“Class trip to Montreal,” Mrs. Redd declared. “These are all my students.”
She gestured toward us proudly, as if there were any doubt where we might be lurking. She beamed at the border guard like
we were a bus full of Rhodes Scholars and pageant queens. He looked unimpressed.
“Passports out,” he said in a clipped tone.
Produisez les passports
,” Mrs. Redd repeated to us loudly in completely unnecessary French.
The guard started with Jac’s mom, whose passport was no doubt in perfect order with a professional, airbrushed photo. My mom
had never had a passport before—could he tell this was her first? He took the document, glanced at her, and put it back in
her hand. Then the border guard systematically worked his way down the aisle. Jac and I handed over our passports silently.
As the border guard
examined them, the squirrelly guy behind him narrowed his eyes at me.
The guard handed back our documents silently and moved on, but his friend with the massive forehead hung back for a moment.
Our eyes locked. He gazed at me suspiciously. I had the sudden and acute sensation that he could be a real jerk.
“Bring nothing and no one back from Montreal,” he said to me in a reedy voice, “or you will be in violation of federal law.
If you attempt to bring anything or anyone back over the border, you will. Be. Prosecuted. To the fullest extent of the law.
My mouth was hanging open. What was he picking on me for? Did I look like a smuggler? But I’d watched too many episodes of
Locked Up Abroad
, and I didn’t want to be the first eighth grader in my school to end up in a Canadian prison. So I nodded very seriously.
For a minute I thought the squirrel guard was not satisfied with my earnest response. He stared at me for another minute,
hands on hips.
“I’ll be keeping an eye on you,” he declared. Then he scuttled down the aisle to catch up with his boss.
When he seemed out of earshot, I turned to Jac.
“What did he single me out for?” I asked.
Jac gave me a blank look.
“Delusions of grandeur already?” she asked. “If you hadn’t noticed, Kit Kat, he’s looking at everybody’s passport.”
“Not him, the other guy… okay, never mind,” I said quickly.
Jac’s eyebrows shot up.
“Other guy?” she asked.
I began to untie and retie the shoelace on one of my sneakers. Jac leaned toward me.
“Is there a ghost on the bus?” she whispered eagerly.
If you see spirits wherever you go, it is probably just as well that you have a best friend who thinks this is a cool and
exciting thing and does not think you are a pathological liar, a nut, or a gatekeeper to the realm of evil. But sometimes
Jac’s enthusiasm was a little irritating.
“Kat, spit it out!” she said, a little louder.
I shushed her, and looked around.
“There’s a guy with thick glasses and a huge forehead who got on the bus with the border guard. He, like, warned me about
bringing stuff back over the border from Canada. Stuff or people, actually. He said he’d be keeping an eye on me.”
Eyes wide, Jac pressed her little hands to her chest. She looked utterly thrilled.
“Where is the ghost right now?” Jac whispered.
I sighed, then discreetly turned and looked behind me.
The squirrel guy was glaring up the aisle at me as the border guard took and examined a passport from…. oh. My head snapped
front again. Ben Greenblott.
“He’s back there with B… that guy… Whatjamacallhim, Bob Graybean or whatever his name is.”
“Whatjamacallhim? You know his name. Just Monday you were Googling it to see if Greenblott was Ukrainian because you said
you might do an extra credit report on Ukrainian immigrants in our area. How can you have forgotten that already? You’re not
getting carsick, are you? You look funny. We’re not even moving right now. Is it the bathroom smell? Because I don’t like
Yeah. I know it’s terrible. Jac was my best friend, and I usually told her everything. She
knew my deepest secrets, about
seeing dead people and helping Earthbound spirits cross over, like my mother did, all that. I had been party to every development
in her “Should I be a cellist/should I quit the cello?” drama that had been unfolding since last year, when we met. But I
had not yet told her that Ben Greenblott from bio class had recently been elevated in status, unbeknownst to him, from random
guy to soul mate. And when she had caught me Googling his name, I made up the ridiculous Ukrainian story instead of telling
her the truth.