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Chapter 17

“You’re really cute when you sleep,” Allen said, glad Dodd was no longer around. “I don’t know what you want with that guy when I’m here,” he added, surprised at how that sounded.

“I don’t really believe in you,” Shelly said, closing her eyes to make whatever it was bothering her vanish forever.

“That’s fine,” Allen said. “I don’t believe in you either.” Then why do I feel so damn protective over her? “Although you are fun to watch.”

“I’m real,” Shelly replied, becoming angry. “I have no idea what you are other than an invisible peeping Tom!” And a pain in the ass, she thought.

Allen laughed. “Whatever I am, I seem to be linked to you.”

“Not to me you’re not,” Shelly said, bolting from the bed in just her panties and shirt which she had buttoned while covered by the blanket. “You’ve got to leave. You’ve got to leave me alone. Please?”

“I wish I could,” Allen said slowly. “But you’re the only one who can hear me. Before you came along I was stuck in that damn park, but here I am! It has to have something to do with you! I have no idea why, but doesn’t that tell you something? Like I said, we’re linked.”

Shelly opened the closet, looking for a robe. A mirror was hanging on the inside of the door. Her hair was wild. She brushed it back with her hand. I’m a mess, she thought and instantly grew angry. “I don’t care! I don’t want a ghost in my life! I’m sorry if that offends you, but look what’s happened to me since you came into my life. Look what I look like!”

“You look fine. That Dodd character was eating you up like you were a Girl Scout cookie.”

“Oh crap! Mind your own business,” Shelly barked, wondering if what he said was true and then realizing she had more important problems to think about…especially one major problem. “Why can’t you just leave me alone? Please? All I’m asking is that you get out of my life? What have I done to you--”

“If I had been minding my own business, you’d be dead right now…twice.” Allen paused. “Interesting….”

“What do you mean ‘Interesting?’” Shelly asked, not finding anything interesting in this whole insane situation. Dodd was interesting, but this ghost? More like frustrating, annoying, stubborn…a plague!

“Well, think of it. If I hadn’t saved you twice, you might be a ghost with me. Do you think that’s what this is all about?”

“Wait a minute? You saved me? From the bus?” She had still hoped Dodd had been modest, or someone, anyone, human had saved her.

“Yes. I saved you twice. Do you think Dodo-boy could have saved you? That’s a joke!”

“His name is Dodd.” Shelly plunked down on the bed. “Oh crap, I’ve got some headache!”

“Unfortunately, ghosts don’t carry aspirin,” Allen said, “Or I’d be saving you again…from your ‘headache.’”

Shelly scowled. “For once I didn’t mean you. I have a real headache.”

“What do you mean ‘for once’?” He wondered how she could sound so ungrateful.

Shelly wished he’d stop saying how he had saved her, but had to admit she was curious. “Okay, I’m sorry. I should be grateful, but I really thought some human…But how? How could you have saved me from that bus? You can’t move anything? So how did you pick me up and pull me out of the path of that bus?” Was he lying to make Dodd look bad? Anything is possible. Isn’t that what Allen said when she first met him? “Oh, damn! This is so confusing. I’m sorry. I should be helping you. How do you think you did it?”

Allen was silent and then muttered, “I don’t know. It’s like every time you’re in danger, I seem to be able to energize somehow and, poof, you’re saved.” He laughed. “I’m just meant to protect you I guess.”

Shelly was having a hard time grasping this. If it were true, then Allen, or whoever he had been in real life, was definitely not a figment of her imagination or a delusion. “Okay, I

guess you’re real,” Shelly said. “I don’t like it, and don’t want to admit it, but you’re actually real.” She shook her head hard. “I don’t see any other answer.”

“That’s what I keep trying to tell you.”

“And if you’re real, then you must be a ghost.”

“As opposed to what? A result of a bout of you drinking?” Allen asked.

“I thought you might be some kind of creature I’d made up.” Shelly wished she could see him so she could be sure he was a ghost.

“Oh, thank you. I love being called a creature.”

“I’m sorry. I’m just having real trouble taking this all in.”

“How do you think I feel? They really should have an instruction manual or something.

Did I say that before?”

“Yes, but you’re right. So you’re a ghost and you saved my life twice, but you don’t know how you did it?”

“That sums it up,” Allen said.

“And you have no idea who you were in real life and what happened to you?” There was a long silence.

Shelly could almost feel the sadness emanating from the ghost. It suddenly made her feel kind of sorry for him again even if he was a pain in the ass. “Sometimes we’re better off not knowing ....”

“No! I have to know! I want to know why I’m here like this. If someone killed me…well, I just have to know…wouldn’t you?” He realized his anger was showing and knew he had to stop it before she became frightened, too frightened to help. “I think if I find out, I might be able to go?” He knew if he put it that way maybe she would want to help him?

Shelly sighed. She’d had dreams of being murdered, horrible nightmares. What must it feel like to be a ghost and know someone in your previous life murdered you? “It must be awful,” she murmured, “knowing someone…someone you might have known…killed you.”

“It is.”

“I didn’t know ghosts could feel things like being sad?”

“I didn’t until I met you,” Allen said. “I don’t understand this at all. I just know that you are the only one who might be able to help me.”

“How can I help?” Shelly asked, feeling an overwhelming sense of sadness and confusion.

“I don’t know.” He sighed. “May I stay with you? I don’t like being alone.”

“You can’t stay here,” Shelly said. “I promise I’ll come back to the park today. Wait for me there.”

“You told that Dodo you were meeting him,” Allen said. “You can’t be in two places at once. I can’t even do that, and I’m a ghost.”

Shelly sighed. “I almost forgot about him.”

“He’s not very memorable,” Allen said. “Kind of spooky looking.”

“You should talk? You’re the ghost! Dodd’s a nice guy,” Shelly said, feeling irritated with her ghost again. “How about this? I’ll meet you at the park at four. That will give me plenty of time to get back--”

“For your date with that Dodd?” He said the name with obvious distaste. Why should he feel so angry about some boy being interested in her? This is ridiculous, he scolded himself. I’m a ghost!

“It’s not a date.” Shelly said, wondering why she felt she had to defend herself.

“That Dodo thinks it is. I could see it in his beady little blue eyes. Have you ever seen such weird looking eyes in your life?”

Shelly had found Dodd’s eyes interesting, kind of intense, sexy in the way he had been looking at her, obviously appraising her. But she wasn’t about to share those thoughts with a ghost. “He can think what he wants and so can you, but it is not a date. I just think he’s nice, and he asked me out for coffee to talk.” I’m lying to a ghost, Shelly thought, feeling warm at the thought of Dodd being with her tonight. She felt excited about the possibilities. It had been months since Jeff left. “It’s not a date.”

“That, Shelly, is called a date.”

Shelly sighed. “You sound like my father when I first dated.” She sighed again. Her father hadn’t sounded that interested in her for a long time. He had a new family of his own.

Allen replied. “I am anything but your father.” What the hell am I saying? I know, Shelly groaned. I know. “Are you still here?”

There was no answer. Shelly wondered if he was deliberately hiding somewhere in her room. How could she know for sure? She couldn’t see him, and he left no footprints, butt

imprints, or any sign of his being there. “I can’t get undressed if I don’t know if you’re here,” she said, clearly exasperated by his being invisible and being able to see her naked if he wanted to. “Come on, be fair. Tell me if you are here?”

When after several seconds there was no response, Shelly cautiously undid the top button of her shirt. She was emptying her jean pockets onto her countertop when she noticed a crumpled sheet of paper. She recognized it as the paper torn from her notepad on the door. She picked it up and was about to toss it into the plastic trash can under her fake maple veneer desk when it fell to the floor.

As it fell, it slowly unfolded until she could read it as it lay on her rug. It said, “Lasker”, but there was a large X drawn through it in red ink. “What is that,” Shelly said, reaching for the note for a closer look.

Just as her fingers were about to grab the yellow square of paper, it burst into flame.

She pulled her hand back. “What the hell do you want from me?” Shelly shouted, as the burning ashes danced in the air around her.

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