Chapter 10: Just Breathe

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He looked at us with wide eyes, but didn't say anything. Then continued walking to the side of the road, his wild locks of dark hair blowing in the breeze.

We sat in stunned silence, then Holly came to her senses. "Oh, my God." She opened her window. "Are you okay?"

I couldn't move. My hands were clasped together in my lap and I couldn't do anything but stare at him. Visions of stumbling off the kerb into the path of an oncoming car and the explosion of pain as it knocked me backward and I hit my head on the road played on a loop in my head.

He turned slowly and gave us a toothy grin that made his teeth look bleached white against his dark skin. "Yes. I'm good. Are you okay? You look a bit shook-up."

Holly put a hand on her heart. "We are, but we'll be alright."

"Okay." He gave a little wave. "Have a nice day."

And with that, he disappeared into the bush on the side of the road, totally unconcerned that he could have just died.

"That was just... insane," Holly said. "It was like we didn't just almost turn him into road kill."

She turned back to me and there must have been something in my expression that alarmed her. "Sorry. I shouldn't have said that." She pulled the car over onto the side of the road and killed the engine. "Maddie? Are you okay?"

I couldn't talk. My body felt numb. I reached up and touched the back of my head, then pulled my hand away, half-expecting it to be covered in blood.

"Maddie. It's okay. You're safe." She put a hand on my arm and I jerked away from her. She touched my arm again and gently rubbed her hand up and down. "Maddie. You're safe. We're safe. No one was hurt this time. Just breathe."

I took a deep breath and it might have been my first one since she'd hit the brakes. She kept reassuring me that everything was fine and I finally relaxed. I thought I was over it all, but this just proved how wrong I was.

Johnny was saying more soothing words from the back. I'd forgotten he was there.

Holly kept rubbing my arm. "Don't let this set you back. You've been going good. The nightmares have stopped. You can do this. I've got your back." She smiled. "It's okay. And the people at Waratah Estate are good people. There's no one like Janice there."

I relaxed a little more. That was good to know.

She looked into my eyes. "Janice will be gone soon. Dr Calthorpe is organizing it as we speak. We were gathering evidence and your report will seal the deal."

"That's a relief." I brushed my hair out of my face. "I was worried for the others."

"It's all taken care of. Don't worry about it."

"What's her problem with me?"

"She's actually jealous."

"What?" What the hell does she have to be jealous of?

"Yeah. I've known all along that you were really seeing spirits, but had no proof. We'd talked about it in our staff meetings. We had to wait for some real proof, and although it was sad that it had to be Dr Calthorpe's nanna passing away, we then had our proof." I was speechless. They'd known all this time? "Janice didn't believe it at all. She was convinced that you were really suffering from delusions.

"She is angry that she was wrong and jealous that you have a gift and she doesn't."

I huffed. "It's not a gift. It's a curse. It ruined my life." Is still ruining my life.

"Take it from me. It's a gift. You'll see soon enough." She turned back to the steering wheel. "It is an honour to be blessed with a special gift and you shouldn't disregard it."

I shrugged. I wasn't convinced. I don't want it. I don't want to be special. I just want to go home.

Johnny leaned forward between the seats. "She's right, you know."

I resisted the urge to scowl at him. They were both wrong.

She started the car. "Let's get you to your new temporary home."

I cringed. I didn't even want to be there. And at that moment, I felt kind of shattered.

I spent the rest of the drive putting myself back together and pushing all those emotions down where they belonged so I could face whatever awaited me.

After another few minutes, we pulled into the long driveway of a large two-storey house with a verandah on both floors that looked like they wrapped around the whole building. Creeping vines grew up the side wall, adding to the effect.

My heart rate sped up as we came to a stop. It was an old building and old buildings had long histories. And ghosts.

"Here we are," Holly said as she opened her door. "I think you'll like it here."

I doubt it.

I dragged myself out of the car and looked up at the house. An eerie feeling crept over me, but I shook it off. I had no choice. I had to make a go of it so they'd release me.

I can do this.

"Are you okay, Maddie?"

"Yeah. I... It's nothing."

I wanted to tell her to take me back, or better still, take me home. I shook my head, grabbed my luggage bag out of the boot and followed Holly up the steps as she rang the doorbell. Johnny was suddenly behind me and I made sure I didn't look at him.

Then the tingly feeling I felt whenever a ghost was around increased and I held my breath. This place was haunted.

No.

Not here. This would make living here really difficult. My eyes darted around looking for any sign of a ghost.

Then I saw her. The spirit of a small child sat on the sun swing on the front verandah and she was looking right at me.

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Author's Note: What would you do if she was staring straight at you? Let me know in the comments.

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