I have this rule for myself: when I’m upset about something, I let myself be upset over it for the rest of the day. The next day, when I wake up, I’m done being upset about it. I’ve gone through a lot of crap in my life, and this is just one more thing to add to the list. I didn’t know Sarah personally. I met her once, talked to her for like five minutes. It may seem mean, but its morning now, and I spent the whole day yesterday being upset about a random girl who died. So, I’m done now. I refuse to dwell on it any longer. We have work to do, so the others need to suck it up and do their jobs.
Rolling over in bed, I check my phone to see what time it is. 6:37 am. I’ve always been an early riser. I reach out with my ability to see how the others are doing emotionally, and I gasp in surprise. Jude is in Maria’s room? What the hell? They are both still asleep, too.
I jump out of bed and pull on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, then sneak out of my room and over to Maria’s door. Opening the door as quietly as possible, I peek into her room. Jude is laying on top of the covers, still in the same clothes that he was wearing all day yesterday. Maria is facing away from him, under the covers, sound asleep. I close the door and let out a sigh of relief. Nothing happened between them. At least, nothing sexual… Why is Jude sleeping in her room?
As I back away from the door, someone grabs my shoulder, making me scream. I whirl around, glaring at Toby, who is cracking up laughing.
“Don’t do that!” I hiss. “You almost gave me a heart attack!”
“Maybe you shouldn’t be a peeping tom… er… peeping… Susie? I don’t know, whatever you call it when a girl is creeping on someone,” Toby says thoughtfully. “Why are you spying on Maria, by the way?”
I shush him, afraid that he’ll wake them up. “Jude is sleeping on her bed.”
“What?!” Toby practically yells, and I slap a hand down over his mouth. When he finally calms down, I let go. “Why? What happened? Lemme see.” He starts to open the door, but I stop him.
“Nothing happened. Jude is still fully clothed and sleeping on top of the covers. I have no idea what he’s doing in there.” I think about it for a minute. In the psychiatric hospital, he went through a phase where he was sleepwalking every night. It lasted a little over a year, and then he just stopped. Maybe he’s sleepwalking again?
We stand outside the door, discussing it in whispers for a few minutes. Suddenly, the door swings open and Maria glares at us with a hand on her hip.
“I barely got any sleep last night, and now you’re standing outside my door gossiping about me and Jude. Get lost.” She shuts the door, leaving us staring dumbly at each other.
“I think she meant it,” Toby says finally. “I’m getting out of here before she kills me.” He hurries to his room and vanishes inside.
So many unanswered questions! I’m kind of freaking out here! Okay Hazel. Pull yourself together. This is not a big deal. It’s not like they did anything other than sleep. Besides, Jude sleeps around all the time, so why would this be any different? Well, because it’s Maria. I know her. She’s my friend! Plus, she’s way too old for Jude. Seriously, what a freaking cougar.
Wait, stop. Breathe. Nothing happened. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Or did it…
I’m going to drive myself crazy with these thoughts. I have to distract myself until I can just ask Maria. I’ll empty out the van. That’s what I’ll do.
I pull my hair back in a ponytail and head out to the van to drag in all our equipment. Most of it is just dirty laundry and everyone’s luggage, but some of it is expensive camera’s, monitors, and sound equipment. I get those out first, even though I’m fairly sure that if they were going to get stolen, it would have happened already. I doubt most people want to steal from a wrecked van that advertises ghost hunting on the side.
Stopping by the smashed-up side, I sigh loudly. This is going to be an expensive fix. Our insurance won’t cover this, and the jerk who hit it definitely isn’t going to pay for it, since we don’t even have a way of finding him, or proving that he hit it. Our luck has just been awful since this whole case started. I half-heartedly kick the van and move on to the back. Opening the doors, I groan at the mess that greets me. Food wrappers and equipment strewn everywhere.
Grabbing a bag, I start throwing the garbage in and organizing equipment. I’m so focused on cleaning that I forget that I’m not actively monitoring the other’s emotions anymore. If I had been, I would have known that Toby was standing behind me. But I didn’t.
“Boo!” Toby shouts, grabbing my shoulders from behind. I scream and throw everything I’m currently holding into the air. Toby cracks up laughing. I grab my chest and whirl on him.
“You asshole!” I scream, shoving him weakly.
“Whoa. Hey. Language,” he says, still laughing.
I catch my breath and smack his arm. “Help me clean this up. You owe me now.” I start stacking the heavy equipment into his arms while he protests and complains about it being too heavy. Whatever. He is lazy, but he works out. I think he thinks it will make him more attractive than Jude if he has bigger muscles than him. Jude doesn’t even have super prominent muscles. He’s in shape, but not bulky.
I’m not stupid. I know he’s in love with me, but I can’t return the feelings. Honestly, I haven’t felt anything even close to love since I met Jude. I don’t think I love Jude in that way, but… being around him, he consumes every inch of my mind. It’s not healthy, I know that, but I can’t just abandon him.
Toby comes back for more equipment and looks at me funny. “You okay?” he asks.
“Do you need to ask?” I snap. I feel bad immediately.
“No, not technically. It’s more of me acknowledging your feelings, and asking if you want to talk about it,” he says so calmly, I wonder if he’s been possessed by some super sweet, well-spoken spirit.
“I’m just tired and stressed,” I say. It’s not a lie, really. It’s a half truth.
Toby nods. “Okay, you don’t have to tell me. But if you want to talk, I’m here. Or if you just want to stare at my hot body, that might make you feel better, too.”
Okay, so he hasn’t been possessed. He’s almost as bad as Jude. I wonder if they both just happened to turn out like that, or if Jude influenced Toby. I know for a fact that Jude acts like that because of his upbringing, or lack thereof.
Instead of responding, I start stacking equipment again. This time, I make it even heavier. When I work like this, I start to think about life and stupid stuff. Like my old boyfriend. I liked him; I really did. He was a sweetheart. I broke that sweet heart into a million pieces.
His name was Cooper. I met him not long after being released from the mental hospital. They legally couldn’t keep me there after I turned 18, since my parents no longer had control over me. I moved into an apartment not far from the hospital, so that I could visit Jude still. Cooper was a cashier at the Safeway a few miles away. It wasn’t like some cheesy romance novel, like Maria probably imagines. I went there a few times, we flirted casually, and then he invited me out for drinks with him and a few of his friends.
The funny thing is, I didn’t tell Jude about Cooper at first. I lied and told him that I hadn’t really made any friends. Toby knew the truth. I even invited him to hang out that first time because I was nervous about meeting new people. I knew even then that Toby liked me, but he went with me anyways because deep down he’s a big softy who just wants me to be happy.
Anyways, we hung out in groups a few times, and then he finally asked me on a real date. It was the first date I had ever been on, and I was terrified. Turned out, Cooper was just as terrified as I was. We both sat there, not talking for the longest time. Finally, he asked me about my family. Of course, I lied. I told him that my parents were dead and that I grew up in a foster home with my brother, Jude. That got us started talking finally, and by the end of the date we were both having the time of our lives.
We continued dating, and even moved in together after a few months. I had to lie and say that “my brother” was in a foster home in another state, and it was impossible to visit. Cooper was so sweet, he wanted to meet my little brother that didn’t actually exist. He even offered to buy plane tickets, but I said it was fine. He’d fly out here when he turned 18. All lies. All the while, I was secretly visiting Jude every day just a few miles away, and lying to him, too.
Finally, when Jude was almost 18, I told him about Cooper. I can still see his face when I told him that I had been dating this guy the whole time. I had been careful, making sure that I avoided thinking about him every time I visited Jude, and it had worked. He had no idea. He looked so betrayed. He asked why I had lied about it, and said he was glad that I wasn’t the friendless loser that he thought I was. He tried to lighten the mood with his jokes, but I could feel his tension.
I decided after that that I had to tell Cooper the truth before Jude got out. When I got home that day, I told him we had to talk. I explained everything to him. That my parents put me in a mental hospital, that Jude was not my brother, that he was a friend and that I visited him every day. We got in a huge fight, and didn’t talk for a few days, but then he came back and understood where I was coming from. He said he loved me anyways.
A few months later, Jude was released. That’s when things took a turn for the worse. I can’t really blame it all on Jude. It was as much my fault as it was his. Cooper finally met him, and Jude immediately disliked him. He said he was a goody-two-shoes prick. He didn’t tell me that. He said it right to Coopers face, as they were shaking hands. Cooper, being the nice person he is, just smiled awkwardly and asked if he wanted to stay for dinner. Jude declined and left. I’m pretty sure he went out and got wasted instead.
After that, I saw Jude every once in a while, but he was apparently busy living his own reckless life. I honestly don’t know where he was most of the time, but now I’m guessing that’s when he met Haylee.
Me and Cooper dated for a few years. He knew about my abilities, believed me even. He even helped me start up the company. Originally, it was just me and Toby. Then Jude came drunkenly stumbling back into our lives one night. I’m assuming now that that’s when he and Haylee broke up. He never did explain it (at least not coherently), but it makes sense now.
I knew Cooper didn’t really like Jude, but he was at least civil around him. Jude even tried to be nice sometimes. Then Maria also came drunkenly stumbling into our lives one night. Her and Jude got along so well, that I started to get jealous. I didn’t realize it at first, but I stopped spending time with Cooper and started hanging around Jude more. Jude was happy when I was around. All my life has been spent keeping him happy, making sure that he didn’t end up killing himself because of all the crap he’s been through. Whether I liked it or not, I needed Jude as much as he needed me; maybe more. I wasn’t happy unless he was happy. Our relationship had become unhealthily codependent.
I finally realized that I couldn’t keep Jude happy and also spend time Cooper. So, I made the dumbest decision of my life; I broke up with Cooper during one of our dates. Apparently, the same night he was planning on proposing. I had never seen him cry before, even when he broke his arm trying to save a cat from a tree (it wasn’t even really stuck, it tricked us). He cried though. Full out sobbed. I felt every one of his emotions. I forced myself to. I deserved to feel the pain that I was causing.
“What the hell are you thinking about? Your aura is all over the place, and it’s not in good places,” Toby says, snapping me back to the present. He’s looking at me with concern in his eyes.
I look away and keep cleaning. “Nothing. Just… mistakes I’ve made in the past. Stupid stuff,” I say, trying to keep my voice level. It doesn’t fool him.
“Mistakes, like Cooper?” he asks knowingly. I huff and turn around, looking him up and down.
“You don’t look like Jude to me. When did you become a mind reader?” I joke.
He smiles sadly. “I’ve never seen an aura quite like yours was after breaking up with him. This is pretty similar.” He gestures at the invisible force around me that I can’t see. “Why are you thinking about him anyways? Don’t you have enough on your mind already?”
I throw up my hands in frustration. “Right? I have no idea. My brain wants to torture me I guess.”
He nods like he understands. It’s quiet for a minute while we both get lost in our thoughts. “Why did you break up with him? You were happy together…”
I feel my face heat up. How can I just admit that I couldn’t live without Jude? I stutter a few words before he holds up a hand to stop me.
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. I kind of have an idea already,” he says, looking kind of embarrassed and disappointed. He ends our conversation by grabbing more equipment and taking it inside. I stand there for a few minutes waiting for him to come back, but he doesn’t come back, and I finish cleaning the van out by myself.