Authors: Shannon Leahy
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Copyright © 2015 Shannon Leahy
ISBN: 978-1-925341-36-2 (eBook)
Published by Vivid Publishing
P.O. Box 948, Fremantle Western Australia 6959
eBook conversion and distribution by
Fontaine Publishing Group, Australia
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It’s the first time I lay eyes on her and I literally have to pinch myself. I’m hanging with my mates at the edge of the oval during the first recess of the day; she wanders out across the grass with a few other girls and they sit in the middle of the cricket pitch. We immediately stop giving each other shit and stand there mesmerised. Jeremy is speechless – rare for Jeremy. Steve stands with his arms folded across his chest, studying the distant scene through squinted eyes. I can’t say what it is that has rendered us immobile. Maybe it’s the way she moved. She had an I-don’t-care-what-you-think swagger to her gait that hit me for six and her hair swayed from side to side in perfect uniformity with her movement. But maybe it’s her cream-coloured legs that have me awestruck – they look smooth and flawless from afar. I think to myself that Disney’s Snow White would have legs like that if she materialised into a real person.
‘That’s a swell lookin’ girl,’ says Steve.
Jeremy lies back on the grass, attempting a cool, nonchalant pose
James Dean, but it’s overdone, too try-hard. Mike looks at me and smiles, the least affected of us all. He’s obviously amused by our primitive reactions.
‘I know her name,’ says Jeremy matter-of-factly. It’s a cruel, cruel world! How could it be that
name? And why hasn’t he told us about her? I look at Steve. His expression is pained. We both desperately want to know her name, but we also know that Jeremy will drag this out for as long as possible.
‘Go on, then, smart arse,’ says Steve, ‘tell us her name.’ Jeremy doesn’t respond straight away. It’s clear he’s enjoying being in control of the situation. In frustration, I think that he’d be the type to enjoy torturing someone, if the opportunity ever arose.
‘If I do tell you, you have to promise me you’ll carry out any dare I give you right now.’ He points a forceful index finger at the ground twice as he says the words ‘right now’. He doesn’t look at us as he puts the challenge to us. He just stares up at the clouds, chewing on a dry bit of love grass, knowing full well that we’re gonna take the bait.
‘You’re a prick, Jeremy,’ says Steve. ‘You’re going to embarrass us in front of her and her name won’t mean shit to us then, because we won’t have a chance with her.’
‘As if you’d have a chance anyway, Steve. Look at you! You’re not her type at all. She’d go for a pretty boy. You can always tell the girls who’ll go for pretty boys.’ He is really enjoying himself. I want to kick him in the balls and rip the love grass from his teeth. But, for some reason, I don’t think she’s the pretty-boy type. There’s something about her. It makes me believe – I want to believe – that she’s … smart. That’d be something, a good-looking girl who’s also a brainiac. Middleton wouldn’t know what’d hit it.
‘OK. What’s the dare?’ I ask.
Jeremy sits up. ‘Oooohhh, Stan-ley!’ He draws my name out in a singsong tease. ‘Are you sure you’re up for this?’
‘Yep.’ I don’t want to muck around. I want to know her name.
Jeremy can tell I’m not in the mood for games. He takes the grass out from between his teeth. ‘OK, Stan. This is it. You’ve got to walk out to the middle of the oval, go up to them and ask them if they’ve seen the ghost of the cricket pitch.’
‘What the…? That’s nuts! He’s gonna look like a freaking idiot!’ cries Steve.
‘Exactly.’ Jeremy resumes chewing on his love grass.
‘You want me to go out there and ask them if they’ve seen the ghost of the cricket pitch?’
‘Yep. And if you don’t do it in the next few seconds, the deal’s off. You won’t find out her name, possibly for the rest of the day, and I know you won’t be able to handle that, Stan.’
The bastard knows me well. I won’t be able to concentrate for the rest of the day if I don’t find out what her name is and I’m not gonna hang around like a sad case waiting for some other sap to tell me. So I don’t delay. I turn and set out for the cricket pitch as a chorus of gasps ring out behind me. I’ve been handed a flimsy excuse to engage with the opposite sex and I’m not going to let the chance pass me by. I am hell curious. Does she look as good close up as she does from a distance? Are her legs really that milky, creamy white? Is her hair really that deep chocolate brown that seems to dance in the sun? And what colour are her eyes?
I begin to feel scared as the girls notice me approaching. I hear their mocking little giggles. I have to make myself keep walking forward while my brain is telling me to turn and run for my life. She whispers something to the rest of the group and they all quieten down. I feel like wetting my pants as the gap between us gets smaller and smaller.
‘Hi, Stan, what’s up?’ Bridget Brown cocks her head to the side and eyes me like a police officer about to ask fifty questions.
I sneak a peek. Incredibly, she is even more beautiful close up. She looks like a 1950s screen goddess. Her skin is a perfect shade of pale and there are no pimples on her face that I can see. Green. Her eyes are green.
I start speaking, and, miraculously, I am making sense. My voice is steady and composed. I feel like I am completely detached from my speaking self. I am at the controls and the mechanics of the remote unit are operating splendidly.
‘To begin with, I want to apologise. Jeremy’s dared me to come out here and ask you all if you’ve seen the ghost of the cricket pitch.’
there a ghost?’ Her voice is confident and playful.
I turn to her and try my darnedest not to tremble or miss a beat. ‘Well, no. There’s no ghost.’
‘So, trot back to Jeremy and tell him you carried out his pathetic dare,’ says Bridget, coolly.
‘I could do that. Or I could tell you about a
ghost in Middleton.’ I steal another glance. Her eyes have widened.
‘I love ghost stories. Sit here and tell us all about it.’ She pats the ground next to her, and I notice her beautiful, slender hand. I almost lose it right there and then. I drift off into a daydream in which I am centre-stage in a musical, dressed in a cobalt-blue tuxedo, dancing down the cricket pitch and singing about love with my arms flung wide, happily exposing my vulnerable self. Thankfully, I manage to kill the daydream and reconnect with reality. I sit down next to her, in the space that her hand had occupied just moments before.
‘I’m Rhonda, by the way. Rhonda Parker.’ She offers me her hand. I manage to shake it without trembling.
‘Hi. I’m Stanley Kelly.’
‘We both have the same number of syllables in our names – two-two. Rhon-da Par-ker, Stan-ley Kel-ly.’
I feel like adding that our names sound heavenly together, but I think that might be pushing it a bit. I just smile at her like an idiot, for what seems to be a noticeably lengthy time, before I snap back to reality.
‘So, you’re new to town?’
‘Yeah. I just moved here with my Mum. We’re from Perth.’
‘Well, welcome to Middleton,’ I say cheerfully. ‘You should love it here. There’s so much to explore – roads that lead to other roads that lead to other roads …’
‘Enough with the crap joking, Stan. Tell us about this ghost.’ Bridget isn’t amused at all. She can see that I am woefully smitten. Helen and Sophie look interested, though. They move in closer to form a tight circle. I wonder what the guys are thinking, seeing me huddled with the girls on the cricket pitch, Rhonda Parker and I sitting tantalisingly close together. Jeremy would be spewing big time. I rejoice inside.
‘So … one night, my sister Rose and I had to babysit for a teacher.’
‘Which teacher?’ asks Helen.
‘I’m not going to say. I don’t want to name names.’
‘Good idea,’ says Rhonda. ‘Small town and all. You’ve got to be careful what you say.’ So, she’s considerate too.
‘When was this, Stan?’ asks Sophie.
‘It was last year – 1987. I was fourteen and Rose was thirteen. Mr and Mrs X, I’ll call them, left for the evening. Their kids were already in bed asleep, so Rose and I watched some TV.’
‘Oh, my God, I can tell this is going to be super spooky, isn’t it?’ Sophie sits forward, hunched, as if to protect herself from something unseen. She clasps her hands together tightly, turning her finger joints as white as a ghost gum.
‘Are you OK, Sophie? Want me to continue?’
‘Yes, please, Stan. I’ll be all right.’
‘Well, after an hour or so, Rose and I decided to check out the fridge, which they’d said we could help ourselves to.’ I needed to clarify this; I didn’t want Rhonda thinking I was a sneaky pig. ‘Rose got up, and, on the way to the kitchen, as she was passing through the dining room, she started screaming her head off.’
‘Oh, my God,’ whispers Sophie.
‘I’d never heard her scream like that. She was terrified and shaking. I was so freaked out that it took me a while to react. Part of me didn’t want to go and help her, because I didn’t think I could handle knowing what the hell she was screaming about. Then she pointed at the window.’
‘Oh, my God!’ Sophie again.
‘I sure as hell didn’t want to look through the window. But my adrenalin kicked in and I knew I had to protect Rose from whatever it was that was scaring her. I ran across the room, reached Rose and looked out the window … but I didn’t see anything there.’
Sophie is audibly relieved.
‘Rose was shaking and crying like crazy, so I guided her into the hallway. We sat down in the dark and I held her until she calmed down. She said she’d seen a figure floating outside the window. It was an old woman, probably in her sixties. She was all grey – her body, everything. And she was transparent. She just floated there, looked in at my sister and held her gaze.’
‘How do we know you’re telling the truth?’ asks Bridget.
‘Because I wouldn’t make this shit up.’ I sneak a quick peek at Rhonda. I shouldn’t have said the word ‘shit’. Maybe she doesn’t like it when guys swear. I’d have to be more careful with my loose tongue.
‘We didn’t mention anything to Mr and Mrs X that night. We just said that everything went OK and that there were no problems. We wanted to get the hell out of there, basically. Mrs X drove us home and when we got home, we told Mum what’d happened. She could see the change in Rose, so she believed us. The next week, Mum saw Mr X at school and told him what Rose had seen that night. He said, “Oh, she saw the Grey Lady, did she? I’m very sorry about that – she hasn’t appeared for some time. But we’ve seen her, and the people who owned the house before us saw her as well.”’