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The music drifted in the air around me. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand upright. I was alone in this small room. It smelt old and musty. The smell of rotten flowers was also very strong. Brown cardboard boxes were in the opposite corner of the room. Sunlight flooded in through the colourful window. I watched as the tiny dust particles floated around the room. I sighed. Where was everyone? It’s Friday afternoon. I should be at the local chip-shop with my friends. Not here. Wherever this was?
“What are you thinking about?” His voice startled me.
I didn’t speak. I couldn’t. I closed my eyes and let myself go in memories. The most recent memory of the chip shop was last Friday. One week ago. My fingers were greasy from the chips. I wiped them on my trousers. I heard his laugh.
“What’s the matter?” His gentle voice asked another question.
I didn’t answer again. I still couldn’t. I cringed. I shut my eyes. Blacking out the pain, the hurt the tears. My mind was drawn back to the chip shop. It was strange to think about that place. It was just an ordinary take-away shop. Not for me though. It was not ordinary. It was the place that brought us together. It was also the place where I last saw him.
“I know what you’re thinking about.” I heard him chuckle. A warm hand slipped into mine. I squeezed his hand.
“I’m scared.” My voice was barely audible.
“Scaredy-cat.” He whispered in my ear. I felt his breath tickle my ear. A shiver ran up my spine.
“I am.” I finally gave into his teasing. That was my nickname. My heart ached. His nickname for me. I never got scared. Never.
“You’re not joking.”
I shook my head. His voice was too clear. Too real. Too close.
His hand touched my face. I kept my eyes closed; I was too afraid to open them. I didn’t want him to go. I told him.
“I have to go. You know that.”
“I’ll be alone!” I choked. He can’t do this to me. This was not fair.
He laughed. I scowled. My eyes tightly shut. He always laughed at the wrong times. I should be used to it by now. I wasn’t.
“What are you doing?” My sister’s irritatingly chirpy voice asked. I slowly opened my eyes. His hand was no longer in mine. I glared at my older sister. She ruined it. She scared him away.
“You scared him!” I screamed. We were alone in the room. The music coming from the next room grated my nerves. I smoothed my midnight-black dress. Why did I wear this? He wouldn’t like it. It’s ugly.
My sister cocked her head to the side like a puppy. “You were talking to God?”
I snorted. “No. Warren. I was talking to Warren. He was right here! You scared him away! You ruin everything.” My sister bit her lip. Her teeth left marks on her red lips. She ran her fingers through her blonde curls. She looked like she was heading out to a disco. I sucked in a deep breath. This was not a disco.
“Chloe,” She walked towards me. I backed away. I didn’t want her near me. She scared him away. “Warren is in the next room. You know where he is. He was not here beside you.”
She sighed. She managed to touch my shoulder. I pushed her hand away. “You can come see him.”
My sister nodded slightly. She took my hand and led me out of the room. I looked over my shoulder and spotted a statue of Jesus on the wall. He was nailed to the cross. “There. See?”
I opened my mouth to speak. The horrible music was louder now. People were facing to the top of the long high-ceilinged room. My sister squeezed my hand. I yanked my hand away. She wasn’t allowed to do that to me. Warren was the only one.
I saw him. He was standing at the top of the room. He looked perfect. I ran as fast as I could to the top of the room. A man wearing a white robe stood in front of everyone else. He was not smiling. I frowned. No one was smiling. I stood in front of Warren. He was looking at his shoes. A single fat tears rolled down his cheek. I used my thumb to wipe his tear away. His whole body stiffened.
“It’s going to be okay.” A woman who I recognized as his mother whispered to him. Warren shook his head. Another tear slipped. And another. I scowled. He was going to look like a red-eyed baby if he kept crying. Why was he crying? Why wasn’t he looking at me? I stomped my feet.
“Warren!” I hissed. I reached out to shake his shoulder. My hand flew straight through his body. I gasped out loud and stumbled backwards. My sister was behind me. She caught me. “He’s like a ghost!” I cried. I reached out to him again. My hand flew through his heart. He closed his eyes and moaned quietly. He looked like he was in pain. I pulled back my hand. He shifted. He felt it.
“He’s not the ghost,” My sister turned me to face the front of the room. I saw my cousin Will, my uncle Terrence, my other uncle Gerald and my father among other men carrying two long wooden boxes towards the front of the room. I saw my mother. She was standing in a long row with my aunts and young cousins. I dashed over to Will. He was red-faced carrying the box with Terrence and two other vaguely familiar men. “Chloe, he’s not a ghost.” My sister yelled as I punched my fist through his chest. He grunted but didn’t look at me.
“There’s Emma.” I whispered. My younger sister, wearing a black and white polka dot dress was carrying a picture. She was walking beside my cousin Jeremy. I stood in front of her. She walked through me. Jeremy didn’t even acknowledge me.
“Emma’s not a ghost.” My sister spoke from beside me. I turned to face her.
“Sarah,” I murmured. “Why is Emma holding a picture of me and you?”
“They’re not ghosts.”
I stared at Sarah and glanced at Emma. She reached up on the balls of her feet. She placed the photo on top of the box. Then it clicked. At long last, it clicked.
“They’re not the ghosts, are they?”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.” Sarah took my hand. I looked down at our hands. They were almost transparent. I could see our veins. Our bones. “We’re the ghosts. Not them. We’re in there.” She glided over to the long wooden boxes.
“Car crash.” Sarah whispered. She stroked the picture on her coffin. We looked so happy there. I smiled. Tears poured like a river down both of our faces. We turned around to face the crowd. Nobody could see us. I listened hard. My mother was sobbing. My father’s arms wrapped around her, tears pouring down his face too.
“Look.” I pointed at Emma. She was standing beside my father. Will was on the other side. His chin was wobbling. A fellow fifteen-year old. He hated crying. He would cry for me tonight though. So would Uncle Gerald who had his arms folded across his broad chest. I noticed his lip tremble. “Emma.” I pulled my gaze back to her. She was staring at me. Sarah gasped. We walked towards her. Her watering small blue eyes widened.
“Chloe, Sarah?” Her small voice whispered. She placed her hand on the pew in front of her. I placed my hand on top. Sarah’s hand followed. Goosebumps grew up her small arm. S grin spread across her face. Her front teeth were missing. I smiled back. She could see me. Something in side of me made me turn to Warren. He was looking across at Emma. His eyes wide. I waved at him. He didn’t notice.
All he could see was the small five-year old staring up at something in front of her. She was staring at her big sisters. The ones who will always be there for her. Night and day. The sisters who will never grow old. The sisters who are ghosts.
“I don’t want to be alone.” I cried.
Sarah smiled sadly. “You’ll have me.”
Middletown, New Jersey
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