Jessica looked at me like an anorexic girl might look at food: a mixture of craving, fear, and revulsion. “You’re kidding,” she huffed.
I sighed, a breezy, windy sound, and shook my head, meeting her disbelieving stare. She looked pale, no matter how much makeup she piled on, with purple bags hanging under her darting eyes. It made her look haunted. Not that I could talk. I didn’t have a reflection, but I had seen enough to know that I must look like glass frosted in white mildew.
“You don’t understand,” she insisted. “My dreams—they can’t be real!“
I rolled my eyes, which must have startled her, because she jumped. I knew about the dreams: I had had them too, before I…
I sighed again, the sound shrieking through the cracks in the school bathroom. “You’re a psychopomp. A Death-dreamer. Just like your mother.” She gasped. I held her gaze.
“You mean, you know my mom? But I’m—“
“Adopted. I know,” I said with sad smile. I wanted to tell her everything—but if she knew, would she still help me? “Let’s trade. If you help me, I’ll tell you about your mom.”
Her eyes took on a hard glint. Before she could answer, the bell rang. “I’ll think about it,” she muttered, wrenching open the door and sprinting away.
I just shook my head. Another girl came in and walked right through me on her way to the toilet.
“Brrr,” she said, shivering.
“Boo,” I said with a grimace, though I knew she couldn’t hear me. I phased through the wall and waited for the school day to end.
“Why can’t you just ‘psychopomp’ yourself to heaven?” Jessica grumbled. She chucked her school bag in a corner, plopped down on the bed, and glared at me. Since I had found her, she had always been like this: gruff, surly. Mean. I knew it wasn’t easy, talking to see-through people, but I wish she’d be a little less…
“Why should I give a shit, anyway?”
…Like a teenager.
I took a deep breath. Let it out slowly. I had died at the age of twelve, but I’d been around long enough to see how awful adolescence was. I told myself I was grateful I’d never gotten to grow facial hair, to have my voice break as my Adam’s apple developed. I wasn’t though. Grateful, I mean…
“Go away,” Jessica moaned, covering her face with her hands.
I sat down on the edge. Not that I needed to sit. But I thought if I wasn’t floating, it might make her more at ease. “Listen. Living people go to therapists to work out their problems. Ghosts go to psychopomps.”
“I hate that word,” she grumbled. “Makes me fees like a psycho.” She rolled over onto her stomach and glared at me. “So. What do I do?” Her voice lost its edge. Trembled a little.
“Dream,” I said.
“I’m not tired…”
I just sighed. A shrill breeze whistled, rustling the curtains.
She wore an eye mask and had the covers pulled up to her chin, but her jaw was clenched. I stared at the clock. Ten o’clock. Ten-thirty. Eleven. Just as the alarm clock flashed midnight, the covers crumpled to the floor and the pillows slammed into the wall. Jessica convulsed, her face covered with sweat. Groaning, she bolted upright in bed, breathing hard. I leaned forward in anticipation. If I had had a heart, it would have beat loudly. Outside, the wind moaned, knocking tree branches against the window with an impatient tap tap tap.
“It wasn’t your fault,” she gasped. “The car didn’t crash because you were fighting with your mom. There was a drunk driver. He…” She paused, gulping for air. “He swerved into the oncoming traffic. Slammed into the car. You and your mom died." A shuddering breath. “The baby was alright, though…”
I smiled, a big, bright smile that lit up the darkness and cast Jessica’s face in a white glow. “It wasn’t my fault…” I felt like a feather lifted on the breeze.
Jessica moved the sweat-plastered hair out of her face and gulped. “Your mom… She says…” She screwed up her face. “She says to come home.” A tear trailed down her cheek.
I floated up towards the ceiling.
“Wait! Don’t leave yet!” Her shriek made me stop in mid air.I grinned. “I thought you couldn’t wait to get rid of me,” I teased. Jessica’s face colored. “We had a deal,” she huffed, swiping at her wet eyes.I sat on the bed again and laid my hand on hers, though I knew it probably felt icky, like being touched by a cold fish. Jessica sniffled. “You’re actually a big softie, sis.”
Another sniffle. “Don’t call me a— Wait. Sis?” she whispered.
Translucent tears coursed down my cheeks. “Yeah. The baby in the back of the car—that was you. Look up Edward and Georgia Hayes. We died fifteen years ago. If you want,” I added, gliding upwards again even though I didn’t want to, “you’ll find dad in Montana. He’d be so happy to see you.”
Jessica broke out into sobs and clutched at me, but her hands went right through my body. “Love you..." I sniffled, and little bits of snot dripped onto her bed, glittering like snail trails, but she didn’t notice. “I’m glad I found you…”
“Wait!” she pleaded, but it was too late. I was already sailing up through the ceiling.
As I soared towards the moon, I wondered: if Jessica could dream about dead people, could I dream about her on the other side? I bit my lip.
I hoped so.