“Whew! That always makes me feel a bit nauseous,” Jude said as he materialized out of thin air, a wide grin on his face. “I totally scared her. So fun.”
“Dude! What was that? What did you do to her? Are you a freaking ghost or something?” I said in disbelief, my hands grasping the sides of my face in shock.
How did I not catch this before?
“I was just messing with her. Also, I can’t confirm whether I am a ghost. I’m definitely something abnormal,” he said with a glimmer of mischief in his eyes and laughter playing on his lips.
“So, you’re….? Like, did you…? Are you...?” I said, unable to say the word or apparently form a proper sentence for cripes sake.
“Dead? I don’t know. Maybe. I for sure have some ghostlike abilities now, don’t I?” Jude said with a wink and a one shouldered shrug.
“You are truly exasperating, do you know that?” I said, narrowing my eyes at him in annoyance.
“I do know that. Thank you for pointing it out for me,” he chuckled jovially.
“How can I see you though?”
“I’m not sure on that either. My best guess is it has something to do with your accident. You know? Maybe something got jarred loose in your brain,” he pointed to my loopy noggin, then motioned that I was crazy.
“I guess it makes sense. So, how did you die? When did you die? Where are you from? Is anyone looking for you?”
“Wow. So full of questions!” Jude exclaimed, his eyebrows raised, “Sorry, Kai, I don’t have the answers. I wish I did. Believe me.”
“Well, what do you know then?” I pressed, gesturing with my hands, eagerness filling my voice.
“I know my name is Jude and I’m basically invisible. Oh yeah, and the only person who can see me is you, for some reason I have yet to figure out. I wish I knew more.”
“Yep. You know what I know. I don’t know why you’re the only one who can see me either. I haven’t established what the connection between us is yet. I’m hopeful we can figure it out together,” Jude said, moving closer to me. It was only now I realized he didn’t walk, that’s why I never heard him come or go. Instead, he floated, hovering off the ground like a silent, transparent, creepy ninja.
“This is too weird. I can talk to ghosts. I can’t believe it,” I said shaking my head and pacing in the middle of the street.
“Ghosts as in plural? You’ve seen others besides me?” Jude furrowed his brows at me.
“Well, I don’t know. For all I know, I have been talking to lots of ghosts, but I didn’t know it!” I said throwing my hands up in the air.
“Here, let’s get you out of the road. People are starting to stare at you,” Jude said, looking around at a few older folks out getting their mail. They looked a little freaked out, I must say.
“Your house, I presume. Unless you have somewhere else in mind?” Jude joked, floating with me as I walked down the street, away from the curious onlookers.
“My house?” I questioned, still in a bit of shock as I rubbed my face, trying to wake up from this strange dream I was having.
“Well we can’t very well go to my house, now can we? Seeing as I don’t exactly know where that might be,” Jude said sarcastically as I narrowed my eyes at him.
“Yeah, you’re right. That’s true,” I mumbled, dazed and confused.
“So, you mentioned not knowing if you were talking to others. Wasn’t there anything different about me that made you even a little suspicious?”
“Others?” I said shaking my head, unable to think coherently, “Different?”
“Are you okay? Did I break your brain or something?” Jude leaned towards me, studying my face.
Jude snapped his fingers, the sound a bit muffled, “Focus, Kai!”
“What? Oh sorry,” I blinked and zeroed in on him, squinting to see if I noticed anything off, “Nope. Aside from the glowy pale skin and the floating thing, I don’t see anything special or whatever.”
“... Thanks. I think. I’ve always wanted to be unspecial,” Jude said with a lopsided grin that didn’t quite reach his narrowed blue eyes.
“Sorry,” I said, my face heating from embarrassment, “So not what I meant.”
“What did you mean, then?” he asked knowingly, waiting for me to draw my own conclusions.
“I meant that you look like everyone else. Mostly. Only...off,” I finished lamely, a small smile turning up the corners of my mouth. “I figured ghosts would look more, I don’t know, ghostly, but you look pretty normal.”
He laughed, eyes twinkling, “You’re really cute when you’re flustered. Did you know that?”
“What?” I blinked, “Are you flirting with me?”
“So, what if I am?” He asked, moving closer to me as we walked; well he hovered, I walked.
“I can’t? Why not?” He raised his eyebrows, his mouth twitching as he hid a smile.
“Because, you’re a ghost. Ghosts can’t flirt. At least I don’t think they can,” I sputtered, looking at him like he was crazy.
“What?” I stopped walking, scratching my head.
“I’m an alleged ghost. We don’t know for sure that I’m dead. Besides, I will flirt if I want to,” he pointed out.
“Well, what else would you be then? I mean, what else is there? You’ve got to be a ghost!” I said, floundering with my words.
“I do? I don’t think I have to accept that,” he said in a matter of fact tone.
“Yes, you do.”
“No, I don’t,” he argued, getting in my face and sticking out his tongue.
“If you’re dead, you sure do.”
“If being the operative word,” he corrected, smirking.
I shook my head as we reached my house, “You are impossible.”
“I know. And you’re still cute,” he said with a wink.
I blushed furiously and sighed, exasperated as I sat down on my porch swing, “Thanks. Not that it changes anything in this situation, even if I wanted it to.”
“Why?” he said, sitting beside me, looking so impossibly real, that I reached out to touch him, but he shook his head, “Don’t. Unless, you want me to disappear again.”
I pulled my hand back with a frown, “Because if you’re dead, we can never be together. That’s just a fact of life.”
He grinned great big, flashing his straight white teeth, “So, you do like me.”
“That is so not the point,” I said, chewing the inside of my cheek to keep from grinning like a goon.
What the heck is wrong with me? I’m flirting with a freaking ghost!
“Oh I think it is.”
“Who are you talking to?” My mom said opening the door, causing me to jump as I looked over at Jude guiltily, “I didn’t even know you were home.”
“Uh. A friend. Blue tooth,” I fibbed as I looked up at her, pointing to the ear she couldn’t see.
“Oh, okay good. I thought you were talking to yourself,” she laughed, eyeing me with speculation, “So, um, I was going to go to the store. Did you want to tag along?”
“Sure,” I said as she closed the door.
Jude waved at me as my mom stepped into him, shattering his existence temporarily. I felt the loss as I stared at the step where he had once been.
“So, where did you get a Bluetooth headset?” My mom asked as I pretended to pocket it.
“Ummm,” I fumbled, feeling trapped, but I tried to play it off and I shrugged, “I borrowed it.”
“Mmhmm. Well, you ready to go?” She asked with her brows furrowed and I nodded, looking down at my shoes, “Let’s go then.”
As we drove away, my head still felt like it was spinning. It was unbelievable. I could talk to ghosts. Or at least I could talk to him. That thought made me smile, especially knowing he liked me.
I’m an idiot.
I tried not to dwell on the fact he was a ghost, allegedly or not, but it was pretty impossible. A guy I was crushing on liked me back. Even if we could never be together, it was still pretty great, right?
Oh who was I kidding?
Shopping was pretty boring, I have to admit it, but it was still nice my mom had the time to take me with her. Usually she just asks me what I want and gets me the same old boring things I usually eat. I grabbed a few things that I hadn’t had in a long time, enjoying the friendly banter we held. Most kids I know didn’t like their parents, but my mom had always been there for me. She wasn’t perfect and we had our moments, but she was still my best friend. I know that sounds dorky or whatever, but I don’t care what you think. So, there. Insert sticking out tongue here.
“Your mom seems pretty cool,” Jude said, appearing out of nowhere again, startling me.
“Stop sneaking up on me like that! Wear a bell or something!” I whispered, “Seriously, you’re like a freaking silent ninja.”
“Aren’t all ninjas pretty silent though?” Jude waggled his eyebrows at me.
I laughed and shook my head, “Shut up, jerk.”
“You like it and you know it. Admit it,” he teased.
“Be quiet, my mom’s just up there,” I deflected, blushing.
“I can see that, but she can’t hear me. I think you’re the one that should keep your voice down,” he countered and laughed, the sound light and musical.
“Uh huh. I see your point, I suppose. So, I see you are still following me around,” I pointed out, keeping an eye out for my mom who had turned the corner.
“I see you’re still obsessed with me stalking you. What, do you dream about it at night, or something?” Jude said in a teasing voice.
“No. I do not!” I said a little too loud, causing a couple of people to turn and look at me.
“Kai? You okay sweetheart?” my mom called from the next aisle over.
“Yeah mom. Be right there,” I answered, shooing Jude with my hand and whispering, “Go away. You’re making me look crazy.”
“Okay.” He sighed dramatically and bowed with a flourish. “But you are making yourself look crazy without my help. Just for the record.”
I stuck my tongue out at him and walked away, hands in my pockets. When I dared to steal a look back at him, he winked, which made me giggle in a very unmanly way as I rounded the corner. I nearly ran into my mom’s shopping cart, because I wasn’t paying attention.
“What’s so funny, sweetheart?” My mom said, humor in her eyes at the sight of me as she pushed the heavy cart with growing supplies.
“Oh um, I--I saw something. You had to be there, though. It’s not, uh, something I can explain I guess.” I shrugged, flubbing up my words as I tried to evade her question, “Here, let me get that for you, mom. It looks pretty heavy.”
“Oh I’ve got it sweetheart, don’t worry,” she tried to protest, but my persistence paid off as her resistance fell away. “What’s gotten into you lately? Not that I don’t love the help, because I do. It’s nice, but it’s not like you. Are you trying to butter me up for something?”
“I don’t know, mom. Trying to be more helpful, I guess.” I shrugged, glad I had distracted her from her questions that I couldn’t exactly answer without sounding too much like a lunatic.
“Alright then. Thank you, Kai. I appreciate it,” she said, smiling back at me, “We need bread, don’t we? Can you think of anything else? Darn it, I wish I had made a list. I always forget to do that.”
“Naw, I think that pretty much does it. We’ve got frozen pizza, salad stuff, turkey burgers, bread, canned goods and junk, soup, noodles, plus some cereal and milk for breakfast.”
“Good. We’re almost done here, then. The store isn’t that far away if I need to run out, I suppose,” she said, breathing out a sigh.
While we were checking out at the cash register, Jude stood behind the cashier making faces at me and mocking him. I had to cover my mouth to stifle the giggles threatening to escape. My mom kept eyeing me with curiosity, but thankfully didn’t say anything. The cashier, his name tag read George, glared at me. Finally, I looked away, trying to ignore Jude’s flailing limbs as he attempted to get my attention. When we were done, I wheeled out the shopping cart, having a near miss with the door because of Jude, momentarily forgetting what he was. I helped mom put away the groceries in the trunk and while my mom returned the cart, I got inside, startled to see Jude sitting in the driver’s seat. I wondered if I would ever get used to that.
“Hey,” he said with a small smile.
“You’ve got to quit doing that! You’re going to give me a heart attack or something one of these days,” I said, clutching my chest in mock horror.
“I wouldn’t let that happen. You have to stay alive, so I can live vicariously through you for eternity.” He grinned, his icy eyes glinting with mischief.
“Oh ? So, I’m stuck with you forever? Whether I like it or not?” I laughed.
“Yes,” he started, his gaze becoming smoldering, “But you like it. Don’t deny it.”
“What? That’s so not the point. The point is, you’re harassing me,” I rolled my eyes and laughed.
“I think it so is the point,” he said, leaning into whisper in my ear, his tone full of promise, “I’ll see you later.”
“Can’t wait,” I breathed as he wafted away, just as my mom got in. I was done for, hook line and sinker. Even a ghost knew it.