Authors: Tess Oliver
This book is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2009 by Tess Oliver
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author.
On a scale of one to ten, one being the crappiest day and ten being the sweetest, this day was turning out to be a solid two. After nearly slicing my small toe off with the piranha style teeth of the packaging tape dispenser, I knew I was in for a bad one. I just didn’t know how bad until our oversized puppy raced out the door with my pink and yellow polka dot panties.
I limped clumsily after the dog. “Darcy, drop them!”
Darcy stopped in front of the moving guy and obediently dropped the panties on the guy’s foot. Through my haze of horror I heard my mom’s voice calling from the front stoop.
“Brazil, where did you put the box marked
kitchen junk drawer
The sweaty moving man, clad head to toe in an orange jumpsuit, grinned at me then at the panties on the steel toe of his boot. “Brazil? That’s a strange name.”
I inched closer to the guy. Putting most of my weight on the foot that was not wrapped in gauze, I stooped down and swept up my underwear. I shot him a menacing glare, swung my face away from his, and hobbled off with my chin in the air and my neon colored panties clutched in my fist. The last thing I needed was a man dressed like a pumpkin making fun of my name.
My mom, in her constant quest to be clever, had decided to name me Brazil because that’s where my airline pilot dad had landed on the day I was born. I figured I was lucky he hadn’t been flying to Copenhagen or Turkey. I liked that no one else had the same name as me, but an obvious nickname for Brazil is Bra. A little fact Mom discovered too late. Fortunately, my family settled on Zilly for short.
Dragging my bloody foot behind me, I hobbled up the steps to the front porch.
Mom glanced down at my hand. “Why are you walking around with underwear?” She didn’t wait for my response. “Lex is hungry, and I can’t find the can opener.”
Typical mom. The house we’d lived in since I was born was being emptied of our precious memories, and she was worried that her forty pound cat was hungry.
“Lex could live six months off the fat in his tail alone. Do you really think you need to feed him right now?”
Mom had her wavy brown hair tied up in a faded blue bandana, and her face was flushed pink from packing all morning. Darcy, the underwear bandit, came to sit next to her. Every step Mom took was followed by a pack of four legged groupies, two dogs and two cats.
“I suppose Lex could wait. It’s only a few hours to the new house.”
house? It’s like a million years old.” I pushed past her through the front door.
“You act like we’re moving into a cave.”
“We might as well be.”
The day my mom sat my brothers and I at the kitchen table, silently shoving hot caramel sundaes in front of us, I knew something rotten was in the air. “The beach house your grandfather left me is the perfect place for us,” she’d said between ladylike bites of ice cream. “I can’t afford this house on the child support I get from your father, and Aunt Rachel has offered me a position in her antique shop.”
I did not talk to her for a week for the second time that year. The first time being the morning she’d held the screen door for my dad because his hands were filled with suitcases. She’d made no attempt to stop him. The twins, Tyler and Raymond, had sat side by side on the couch, watching the entire scene as if it were a movie. That day was definitely a one, and my tears and screams had had no effect on either of my parents. Now Mom was dragging us away from our friends, our schools, and our father.
The twins’ room was stripped bare of the black gaming boxes, computers, and tangle of electric cords that were normally draped along the wall. They were both lying on their stomachs playing with the handheld games Dad bought them for their twelfth birthday. It was a strange birthday celebration. Our first since the divorce. The boys and I had gone to lunch with Dad and his new girlfriend, Cynthia. Since she and I attended elementary school in the same decade, we had a lot in common. We even shared some favorite cartoons. In fact, when our conversation turned to SpongeBob, my normally perfect postured dad began to slump in his chair. But he seemed happy with Cynthia or Cindy as she told the twins and me to call her. Later that night, we had cake with Mom. The two of us sang a very depressing version of “Happy Birthday”, and the twins tried to act excited about their Batman cake.
I stopped in their doorway. “It must be nice to have time to relax with your games while your sister, who has lost nearly a pint of blood, hobbles around moving heavy boxes.”
Tyler sat up with interest at the word
. Raymond followed. “A pint, really? Where?” They were an inseparable pair following each other’s every move, finishing each other’s sentences, and sticking up for one another no matter what the consequence. When I was younger, I was jealous that they were never without a best friend.
Raymond slid off the bed. “Let’s save the next level for the drive, Tyler. Mom probably needs our help.” He seemed to be maturing at a slightly faster rate than Tyler. Both boys had dark blonde hair, round blue eyes, and golden complexions that made the girls crazy for them. No doubt the girls at their old school would be in mourning, and girls in their new school would think heaven had opened up and showered them with good fortune.
They followed me down the hallway to the wall where the family pictures still hung. I handed them each a wad of bubble wrap. “It’s for wrapping the pictures, not for folding and popping.”
Tyler untwisted it and smiled disappointedly. A thin layer of greasy dust coated the collage picture of our family vacations. The picture in the center was of my parents. Dad was giving Mom a piggyback ride over a stream in Hawaii. I was proud of that picture. They were laughing wildly when I snapped the shot. No heads were cut off, and it was crystal clear, as if they had posed for it. But they hadn’t. Four years ago, when the picture was taken, it was easy to catch them laughing together.
Tyler held the picture while Raymond wrapped miles of bubbles around it. “Ray, I wonder if we’ll see a ghost right away.”
“No. I think ghosts are more mysterious than that. He’ll probably start by rattling some doors, flicking some lights on and off, maybe drip a little blood down the walls,” Raymond said with confidence.
Tyler glanced up at me “What do you think, Zilly?”
“I think that’s too much bubble wrap for one picture. And there is no such thing as ghosts.”
Raymond popped a bubble between his forefinger and thumb and grinned up at me. “Sorry, I couldn’t resist.” He started wrapping the next picture. “But Mom said that a guy went crazy in the house and killed himself there.”
“No. She said he drowned in the ocean, which means he would not be haunting the house because he did not die in the house. And now you’ve pulled me into your stupid little ghost debate, so shut up and keep wrapping.” I plucked a horse show picture off the wall. I was perched proudly in the saddle holding four blue ribbons. I smeared the dust off the glass with the end of my shirt and handed it to Tyler.
My brothers were thrilled to be moving into an old house that had a weird history complete with insanity and death. Like most boys, they were intrigued with icky, guts hanging out types of things. A new school did not seem to stress them out at all. After all, why should it? They’d be starting their first day with a best friend at their side. I, on the other hand, would be going it alone.
My cell phone vibrated in my pocket. I handed a family Christmas picture to Raymond and fished the phone out. It was Christy. My best friend, Jenny, and I had taken Christy under our wings in the fifth grade. She was new that year and showed up to her first day of school wearing a red skirt and a yellow sweater with a Care Bears folder tucked in her arms. Jenny and I’d shot each other a knowing glance across the room that said this girl needs our help.
“Hola” I said trying to sound like it was no big deal I was leaving town forever.
“Hey, what’s up?” Christy’s voice seemed funny, but it wasn’t from sadness. It was something else.
I scanned the remaining pictures on the wall. “Nothing is up anymore except a few photos of my past life.”
Silent pause. “Have you talked to Jenny?” There was that funky tone again.
“Not today. Maybe I should be asking you what’s up. You sound funny.”
“Nothing’s up. Have you been on Facebook today?” Christy asked.
“That was random. My computer only works when it’s plugged into something. I don’t think the moving van has DSL.”
A weak laugh bounced back through the phone.
“What the hell is up?”
“Nothing. It’s not going to be the same without you.” Her voice cracked and now my throat was tight. For Christy, this move couldn’t be all bad. Two friends always have it easier than three. And without me in the picture, she could stop being the third friend.
“I’m always a text message away. I’ve got to go, Christy. We’re ready to leave.”
“I want to hear all about the hotties at your new school. See ya.”
I snapped the phone shut. That was bizarre, even for Christy. In the mean time, Raymond had wrapped Tyler up like a cellophane mummy. They were laughing hysterically.
“Glad I can count on you guys to help.”
Raymond caught his breath. “I wanted him to be safe when we moved him.”
“Then you should have wrapped it around his fragile brain.” I plucked the final two pictures from the wall. The last one was of five-year-old me sitting on Dad’s lap in the cockpit of his plane. I can remember looking at all the dials and instruments on the panel of the plane and thinking he must be the smartest man in the world.
My mom stuck her head around the corner. She smiled at the bubble mummy. “I guess we can just toss him in the truck with the other junk. Did you make sure your rooms were cleared? We don’t want to leave anything behind, and the movers are ready to close up the truck.”
Raymond unwrapped Tyler and we pushed the box filled with photos of our once complete family down the floor of the hallway. Pumpkin man was standing in the family room with that same yucky smile and a half-stacked dolly. I turned and limped back to my room.
The faded lavender paint on the walls still showed the outline of my pictures and posters. There were clear lines around where Johnny Depp had stared down at me from the ceiling over my bed. The empty wire over my closet, which once held all of my horse show ribbons, reminded me of Suzy Who’s house after the Grinch had stripped it of its decorations. My bay gelding, Carrington, had been another casualty of the divorce. Between the cost of boarding, training, and Mom’s perceived lack of interest on my part, my parents decided to sell him. It would have been more bearable if Carrington had gone to someone decent. But now, Bridgett Kent was riding him with her perky rich girl’s butt and her hundred dollar breeches. I was still waiting for the car I was promised in place of Carrington.