“So, how do we start?” Kayla asked, eyebrows raised and an amused smile on her face as she looked back and forth between Preston and me.
“We’ll each record with our cell phones. What do you think, Kai? Living room?” Preston asked me, his gaze serious, but also excited.
“Yeah sure,” I shrugged, not seeing why the location mattered, “I guess it’s as good a place as any.”
“I figured it would be the most comfortable for us.”
“True. I guess that makes sense,” I said, nodding in agreement.
“Like being comfortable is going to make talking to me any easier,” Jude said as he appeared in a flash behind the couch.
“Uh, but uh, why do we need more than one phone again?” I asked, stumbling over my words now that Jude was there.
Preston rolled his eyes and looked at me as though I was the dumbest person alive, “In case one of them dies, duh.”
“Yay I’m pretty excited,” Kayla said with a wide smile, clapping her hands together.
“Is anyone else hungry?” I asked, looking at Jude so he would know to meet me in there, “I’m going to go get some snacks and drinks. I’ll be right back.”
“Okay,” Preston and Kayla said in unison.
Jude followed me to the kitchen with an amused smile on his face, “So, he’s really going to try to contact the dead, huh?”
“Yeah,” I sighed, trying to keep my voice at a low whisper, “Are you in a good mood?”
“I am. Why do you ask?” He said, sitting on the counter and looking at me with his head cocked to the side.
“Because when you’re moody, you kind of throw a hissy fit. No offense,” I pointed out, one hand raised to show him that I meant no harm.
His feathers seemed a little ruffled as he sat up straighter and narrowed his eyes, “I will be a good little boy, father. I promise.”
“Smart aleck,” I chuckled, “I know this is weird.”
“Only for you. I’m fine. This is going to be fun,” the way he said it made me cringe since he was wearing a serious expression, “For all of us.”
“Okay…” I said, hesitating to say any more as I gauged his expression. The last thing I wanted to do was to set him off.
He burst out laughing at me, “I was joking. Man. You should have seen your face. Priceless.”
I chuckled, shaking off my nerves at this weird meeting of the friends, “You had me going there, man.”
“You are so cute when you’re nervous, you know that?” Jude flirted with a grin, his blue eyes intense.
I blushed at the compliment. “Thanks,” His rapid mood changes were giving me emotional whiplash.
“Hey Kai,” Preston said waltzing into the kitchen, “Are you talking to yourself? What’s up with the snacks bro? You can’t offer food and leave people hanging. It’s rude.”
“Sorry,” I shook my head to clear the cobwebs, “Got distracted.”
“Well quit slacking! Let’s go. We’re all set up,” Preston said with his hands out, palms up.
“He’s a bossy one. Ex-boyfriend?” Jude asked, crossing his arms and narrowing his eyes.
“Coming,” I said to Preston, rolling my eyes at Jude’s jealous comment.
“Cool, I’ll take those,” Preston said, grabbing the two bags of chips and walking back into the room.
I turned to Jude to whisper that we had never dated and we would never go in that direction, but he was gone. Figures.
“Crap,” I mumbled, rushing into the living room with popcorn and drinks, expecting the worst.
“What do you think?” Kayla asked with a slow grin as she gestured around the dimly lit room.
“Are they trying to woo me or talk to me?” Jude joked, trying to lighten the mood, but the humor never reached his eyes.
“What’s with the candles, guys?” I asked, licking my lips.
“What? You don’t like the ambiance?” Preston asked, I didn’t even know he knew that word.
Jude snorted and looked over at me with a smile, his eyes less shaded and he was holding up three fingers, “Scout’s honor.”
I inhaled deeply and nodded at Jude, dreading those two words, but spoke to Preston and Kayla, “I mean. It’s fine, but it is a little much.”
“Ain’t that right,” Jude joked as he spun around the room, making the candles flicker.
“Quick, sit down. The spirit is among us,” Preston said with wide, serious eyes.
Kayla and I took one look at each other and burst out laughing, which only seemed to agitate Preston even further.
“Guys, seriously? Quite goofing around. Let’s do this,” Preston said setting the food down on the table, pulling out his phone and sitting in my mom’s recliner across from the couch.
“Yes. Let’s,” Jude said with a mischievous smile.
I smiled over at him and then sat down next to Kayla on the couch who had her phone in her lap. I pulled out my phone and eyed Jude carefully, but so far he was behaving as he floated nearby, waiting for things to start up.
“All right. Turn your voice recorders on and we can start,” Preston said as he looked down at his phone.
I made a face at Kayla and she smothered a giggle with her hand, “Okay. All set.”
“Me too,” said Kayla, biting her lip and trying not to look at me because every time she did she started grinning.
“Hear us, oh spirits of the afterlife,” Preston started, eyes closed and hands raised as if he were trying to raise the dead with his magical powers or something. “Come forth and speak with us. We are listening.”
I pressed my lips together and Kayla bit her lip harder to keep from laughing, but we couldn’t hold it in any longer. We both broke out in a fit of semi hysteric giggles, tears forming in our eyes. Mine was only further exasperated by Jude’s hilarious side commentary.
“Wow this guy is a rather special brand of douche bag, isn’t he?” Jude said, mocking Preston in a childish, but funny fashion, “Come forth and speak with us. Is he for real?”
I nodded and shrugged, collecting myself and swiping spilled tears from my cheeks. Kayla covered her face with her hands in an attempt to calm herself down and hide from Preston, who just glared at us.
“Guys. Seriously. What’s your deal?” Preston’s eyes narrowed into little slits as he leaned forward in the recliner towards us, his mouth pressed into a grim line. “You’re ruining it.”
“Sorry dude. Didn’t mean to laugh, but chill. This is supposed to be fun, too, okay?” I said, shaking my head and smiling at him, my cheeks hurting from laughing so hard.
“You’re right,” he sighed, “I just want to do this right.”
A squeaking noise and a soft thump from upstairs made us all jump, Preston most of all. We all froze and listened. I snuck a peek to see if Jude was still around or if he was the cause of the ruckus. Unfortunately, he looked just as perplexed as the rest of us. This only made me frown further.
“Dude. Is there someone in your house?” Preston squeaked out, then cleared his throat and shot a glance at Kayla, “I mean. We should probably go check to see if it’s an intruder.”
“Maybe we should call 911,” Kayla suggested, not looking too thrilled at the prospect of coming across a burglar or worse. “What if someone’s trying to break in?”
“She’s right. Could be a robber,” Jude offered nonchalantly, shrugging and flying through the ceiling to investigate.
“Who would break in? What would they steal? We don’t have much of anything right now,” I replied with a sigh, rising from my seat to go upstairs first.
“Wait!” Preston’s voice rose another octave again involuntarily before he caught himself. “I’ll go with you.”
Kayla smirked, but her eyes revealed her trepidation, “Me too.”
“Holy crap!” Jude’s voice yelled from upstairs, startling me so much that I gasped, “Get up here!”
“You okay dude?” Preston asked from behind me as he turned on the stair light, Kayla’s expression mirrored his question.
By their insufficient reaction to Jude’s yell, I deduced they didn’t hear anything. So, I inhaled and exhaled a deep breath before I moved again, let alone thought about answering. I didn’t trust my voice to not waver or even squeak like Preston’s. So, I nodded and started up the stairs. Once I reached the landing, I saw my door was ajar.
I pushed the door open further, Kayla and Preston following so closely behind me that one of them stepped on my heels. Sitting in front of the window was that blasted cat with the attitude problem. She was staring at my bed, which was currently occupied by Jude. Every time he moved, her eyes trailed him patiently.
“Awww when did you get a cat?” Kayla asked as she made her way towards the black cat.
“I didn’t. She’s stalking me. Be careful, she’s testy,” I said, causing the cat’s eyes to flick in my direction and then back to Jude. If I didn’t know any better, I would say she gave me a look of disdain.
“She sees me,” Jude said softly, moving side to side, testing whether the feline was looking at him, “So cool.”
“What’s it staring at?” Preston asked, squinting, “How’d it get in here?”
“Who cares? Look at this pretty little kitty.” Kayla cooed as she scooped the cat up and scratched her ear, causing the animal to emit a low purr.
“Tree,” I answered Preston.
“Hey, isn’t that the same charm Kayla’s evil step-sister wears?” Jude asked, while I narrowed my eyes at the cat.
“Yes it is.” I answered without thinking.
“What?” Preston shot me a look.
Oops. I groaned inwardly, “Um, isn’t that the same moon thing Delia wears?”
“Huh?” Kayla leaned down to look at the cat’s collar, but she bristled and jumped down, making her way back out the window and escaping to the tree outside. Just like that, she was gone.
“Well, I could swear it was anyways,” Jude muttered as he floated out the door and back down to the living room.
“So, anyways guys. Let’s get back to it right?” I said, clapping my hands together and walking back downstairs without giving them a moment to respond. I wanted to get this weird night over with. What was with that stupid cat anyways?
“Bro, you okay?” Preston asked when he got back downstairs, Kayla trailing behind him by a couple of steps.
“Yeah, I’m good.” I said, looking at Jude who also wore a concerned expression.
“You sure? We could do this later, you know?” Kayla offered me a half smile and sat down, grabbing my hand in hers.
Preston’s brows furrowed together, but he said nothing about it, “She’s right. We could do this tomorrow or whatever.”
“No, it’s okay. I’m fine. Just don’t like that cat. Sit. Let’s start with questions for the ’ghost’ okay?” I said using air quotes.
Kayla smirked, but didn’t say another word. When I looked around, I realized Jude had vanished again, only to reappear behind Preston. He looked over and flashed me a devilish smile as he reached out to touch Preston’s ear. I chuckled when he slapped at his ear and looked behind him only to see nothing. I straightened up my face to look more serious by the time he turned back around to look at me.
“What’s wrong, buddy?” I asked him wearing my most innocent expression.
Preston blinked a couple of times before answering, looking more than a little spooked. “You have a fly or something in here.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t the ghost?” Kayla asked point blank, surprising us all, but Jude most of all. He waved his hand in front of her face, just in case, but she didn’t react whatsoever.
“No. Maybe. I’m not sure. Could have been, I guess. Don’t know why it would be touching my ear though,” he said shaking his head.
“Maybe he has a crush on you,” I teased, looking over at Jude to see him shaking his head no vigorously. I covered my mouth to hide my smile.
“No way in heck would that ever, ever be true,” Jude laughed.
“A gay ghost?” Kayla asked in a tone that gave off a curious vibe, “Hmm.”
“Yeah, sure. Why not?” I said, smiling at Jude.
“I never thought about it before.”
“I’m not a homophobe, but that would make me a little uncomfortable,” Preston said.
I furrowed my brows, going on the defensive, “Why?”
“I’d like to know why as well,” said Jude with crossed arms.
“I don’t know. I guess I wouldn’t want to be haunted by a gay ghost, is all. What if he like, molested me in my sleep or something?” Preston widened his eyes.
Jude snorted, “Right. Because, he’s my type. Because, I’m gay.”
“What the heck?” Kayla asked, a ‘you can’t be serious’ expression on her face as she sat up straighter.
I licked my lips before opening my mouth, wanting to be tactful, “Dude, that’s ignorant. Just because someone is gay, doesn’t mean they’d be into you. You’re not that good looking.”
Jude nodded his head in agreement, his eyes flashing glacier blue, “That’s right.”
“Dude it’s a joke. But besides, why wouldn’t they be?” Preston asked, his face deadly serious, “I’m not terrible looking. I’d be a catch.”
“Oh my god…” Kayla shook her head, an incredulous smile on her face.
This isn’t the way I wanted to do this, but here goes, “Because I’m gay and I don’t flirt with you, that’s why. It’s not funny to make fun of people that are gay.”
“Oh boy, look at his face. You completely blew his mind,” Jude said, hovering around Preston then looking over at Kayla. “She doesn’t seem surprised though. Guess you told her huh?”
I didn’t say anything, but I nodded once at Jude, trying not to appear suspicious. Kayla sat in open mouthed silence looking from Preston to me, back and forth.
Preston laughed after a momentary pause, raising his hand in a high five, “Dude. You really had me going there. I almost believed it.”
I frowned and shook my head as he dropped his hand, “It’s true though. You can ask, Kayla.”
Kayla looked put out as she asked softly, “Why are you pulling me into this?”
“Sorry Kayla, I didn’t do it on purpose,” I said.
“He’s probably not going to want to be your friend anymore. He’s very straight laced,” Jude pointed out, frowning, his eyes so full of pity it made my eyes tear up in response.
Preston just looked at me, squinting, as if he were inspecting me, “Since when?”
“Since always, I guess. I didn’t come to terms with it until recently,” I said, forcing myself to maintain eye contact with him even though I just wanted to run and hide. I hated confrontation.
“And he told you flat out he was, uh, gay?” Preston asked Kayla, looking a little hurt that she knew before he did.
Kayla shifted in her seat, uncomfortable, turning pink, “No. Not right away.”
I understood as I watched her, she most likely didn’t want to tell him the details since she might still be embarrassed about the kiss. Preston shifted his gaze back over to me, looking at me as if he had never seen me before. It was the first time since coming out that I actually felt shamed, whether it was intentional on his part or not. I couldn’t help feeling that way.
“Dude, you okay?” I said with concern.
“Um, yeah. I think so. A little shocked, I guess.” I could almost see the wheels turning in Preston’s head as he tried to process the new information. “How come you never told me before?”
I blew out a breath, “Like I said, I wasn’t sure. Besides, I didn’t know if you’d still want to be my friend or not.”
He looked a little hurt at that comment, but I didn’t know how else to put it.
“Maybe we should do this EVP thing later?” Kayla suggested, turning off her phone.
I nodded in agreement as I looked down at my hands, “Yeah, I think that’s for the best.”
“No. I don’t want to end it yet. I want this ghost to talk,” Preston said, looking down at his hands, still processing.
“You sure?” Kayla asked, reaching out a hand to touch his arm, “Cuz we could always do this again.”
He smiled at her touch, “Yeah, I’m sure.”
I shrugged, knowing he would need time, “Okay. Questions?”
“Come on ghost. What are you afraid of?” Preston taunted with a grin, welcoming the distraction, “Let’s play.”
“Oh you want to play, do you?” Jude responded angrily, causing the lights to flicker, “Homophobe.”
“We probably shouldn’t provoke him,” I started, looking from Jude to Preston.
Preston ignored me and kept right on pushing, standing up in a challenge, “Is that the best you’ve got, Casper?”
“Alright butt face. Try this on for size,” Jude said menacingly, pulling all the books off of my bookshelf in one fell swoop, “Ha!”
Kayla shrieked loudly and stood up, quivering all over, “I want to go home now. I’m not having any fun.”
“I’ll walk you home,” I started, looking over at Preston, but talking to Jude, “You coming?”
“No thanks. I’m gonna just hang out here,” Preston said in a calmer voice, sitting back down and shaking his head, “Sorry Kayla.”
“It’s okay. See you later, okay?” Kayla’s forehead wrinkled in concern.
“He’ll be fine, don’t worry,” I said in hushed tones to Kayla. Mostly I was trying to convince myself that it was okay to leave him alone with Jude given what just occurred.
“I’m out, too. See you when this jerk is gone,” Jude said through clenched teeth, fading away until he was gone.
I shook my head as Kayla and I left. On the way to her home we were both silent until we got to her door. We said goodbye and she hugged me, shaking like a leaf. I told her to get some rest and I headed back home. I was hoping to talk to Preston some more, but when I got there he had gone to the guest room and turned on his music, blocking me out. Without Jude there and with Kayla at home, I felt more alone than ever as I sat by myself in the dark, flipping through the late night channels on TV.
Where was a reset button on life when you needed one?