(Young Adult Ghost Story in Progress)--in revision
to make sense of her twin brother's death in a drunk driving accident,
Tess visits the abandoned amusement park where he and his friends went
to party. More than memories and regrets haunt her. Tess's grief
has attracted the attention of a world of unhappy ghosts and even as
she struggles to accept that what she sees isn't just an artifact of a
diabetic insulin crisis, the ghosts have plans to use her.
it would have been different if Thomas had been driving the speed limit
for a change. If he hadn't been flat out drunk. If I had gone
with him and Carolyn that night like I was supposed to. I don't know.
Maybe I just would have died with them. Nobody blames me, not exactly,
but they don't have to.
"Tess, I'm leaving," my mom called
from the front hallway. I had first period free this term so I was
spared the painful silence of riding with her in the car most mornings.
"Don't forget to let Cramer back in the house before you go."
was the only member of the household who listened. The big
square-headed black lab was also the only one who still grieved with
"Yeah, got it, Mom." I
wondered if it would be me and Cramer for dinner again tonight. Dad
just drowned himself in work and Mom had tied her anger and loss into a
dense little package of purpose. Her holy mission to get teens to
pledge for sobriety. Not that it was a bad thing. Hell, I didn't drink.
Not at all. Not ever. Alcohol is sugar and if I'm going to have to jab
myself with more insulin, I'd rather eat chocolate cake.
waited until I heard her drive off before heading into the kitchen.
While Cramer busied himself marking all the fence posts in the
yard, I pulled my test meter from the cabinet and parked it
alongside my index finger. It used to make Thomas queasy, but it was as
routine for me now as brushing my teeth. I barely winced as the little
spring-loaded lance triggered, poking yet another hole in me. A single
drop of blood beaded on my skin and dropped onto the waiting meter. And
the magic number for this morning was 78. Not bad.
out a small glass of orange juice, heaped some plain yogurt in a bowl
,and tossed a handful of granola on top. Breakfast with an insulin
chaser. My first class wasn't for an hour. If I rode my bike to school,
I could get away with one less jab this morning. Besides, the car
Thomas wrecked had belonged to both of us, but even if I still had my
own wheels, I wouldn't have driven. It was too hard to sit in a
car and not think of him, not imagine the head-sized depression in the
windshield or the rust colored blood stains on the seat.
called Cramer in and he leaned against my legs for a few blissful
minutes. "Yeah, I miss the idiot too, fuzz head." He flicked his nose
against my hand for a last pet before lumbering off to Thomas' room. It
would only be a matter of time before Thomas' scent faded to invisible
the way everyone seemed to want his memory to be. When I came home,
Cramer would probably still be curled at the foot of my brother's bed.
Most days, I just wanted to huddle next to him and hide.
tossed my backpack over one shoulder and grabbed a rain jacket from the
closet just in case. The camera--my camera--slipped off its hook and
came crashing down to the floor. "Shit!" I dropped the coat, my whole
body twitching. The echo of the sound in the small closet set my heart
racing. I hadn't touched the camera in three months--not since Thomas
had 'borrowed' it that night. When the police released the car from
impound, they returned it to us along with the rest of his things.
he had taken some pictures and maybe he hadn't. I didn't want to know.
In a way, Thomas' ghost was in that camera and I was haunted enough as
it was. I picked it up by the strap, holding it at arm's length as if
it might bite me. The weight of the camera body was dangerously
familiar and I knew my hands would wrap themselves around it and know
all the buttons and dials by feel.
"Damn it, Tommy, why
couldn't you stay out of my stuff?" I had sat through the funeral
and the school's memorial service like a block of ice while everyone
around me sobbed. Now the tears that refused to come then blurred my
vision and spilled down my face. With shaking hands, I fumbled to hang
the camera back inside the closet. It swung wildly, banging into the
door frame and I reached out to steady it. My hand hit the power button
and the display lit up. A slightly out of focus Thomas smiled at me in
miniature, the serpentine coils of a rusting roller coaster
rising up behind him, before the camera winked off again.
My heart hammered against the inside of my chest. I snatched my hands
away from the camera as if they had been burned.
my eyes clear, I watched the camera swing by its strap. It had taken me
almost a year to save up enough money to buy it and the lenses that lay
packed in the padded bag shoved in the back of the closet. I brought it
with me everywhere, finding reasons to take pictures for anyone--the
school paper, the drama department, portraits of people's kids and
dogs. The world always made more sense through the eye of a camera but
since Thomas died, I hadn't taken a single shot. After losing Thomas,
it didn't seem to matter anymore.
I closed my eyes,
seeing my brother's image in my mind. Dark curly hair, like mine, but
that's where the resemblance ended. We barely looked like we belonged
to the same family, much less twins. His green eyes were always full of
trouble, mine were mom's muddy hazel, serious. When people met us for
the first time, they always assumed he was a few years older than me,
especially when I stopped growing the summer between fifth and sixth
grade. It didn't seem fair that I would get older now, but he
would always be seventeen.