Chapter 12: Imaginary Friends

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He smiled and I noticed that he had slight dimples in his cheeks. "I worked out how to touch things, but it takes a lot of concentration. I can't do it all the time."

Why hadn't I noticed those dimples before? Why was I thinking about that now? I gave myself a mental shake.

I'd been told that it's hard for a spirit to move objects, so I was impressed that he'd taught himself how to do it.

He ran a hand through his messy hair and it still looked like he'd taken the time to style it that way. "Well, now that you're here, you should try to make the most of it."

I sighed. I don't want to make the most of it. I want to go home. "That's easy for you to say. You can come and go whenever you please."

"I'm just trying to help."

"Yeah? Well don't." I stomped over to the window.

"Don't get your knickers in a twist."

I turned to him. "I wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for you. I'd be at home right now with Mum."

He frowned. "I said I was sorry. When are you gonna let it go?"

"Probably never." I wrung my hands together. "Why are you still here, anyway, if you can go wherever you want?"

His brows pulled together and his mouth formed a thin line as he looked out at the view.

I kept frowning at his profile as the light from the window cast shadows that highlighted his facial features. "You don't have to hang around me. I don't understand."

His dark eyes met mine. "I don't know where to go. I can't remember who I was or who my family was. How can I make peace or cross over or whatever I'm supposed to do when I don't even know where to start?"

"But how is staying with me gonna help? This place is half an hour's drive away from where we were when you found me, so anything related to your life is miles away. How can anything trigger your memories? — if that's even possible."

"I don't know, okay?"

The hurt in his eyes made my heart ache. What was I supposed to do? It wasn't like I could help him. I couldn't go find his family. I had my own problems. I was stuck here for God knew how long, trying to make a good impression so they'll think I'm perfectly sane.

I cringed.

Could anyone hear me in here talking to no one? I had to keep my voice down if I wanted to get out of here.

My mind wandered and I thought about the spirits I'd seen on my way in. "So, do those two spirits live here?"

Johnny was quiet for a while and I thought he was ignoring me. "Yes. Victoria and little Jemma. They're nice. Jemma is such a smart little thing. She's a bit confused about the whole being a ghost thing, but Victoria understands. I explained your situation and they promised they wouldn't do anything to get you into trouble."

"Oh... Thanks."

I wasn't sure what to say. That was a nice thing to do and he did it despite the way I'd been treating him. A stab of guilt hit me in the gut. I should maybe give him a break.

"Did you find out how they died?"

"No. It's not something you ask people when you first meet them."

"I know, but some of the spirits I've met tell me pretty-much straight away."

"I guess not everyone wants to talk about it. If I could remember what happened to me, I'm sure I wouldn't be telling everyone I meet."

I probably wouldn't either. Which got me thinking about what would happen when I died. I'd been thinking about it often since I started seeing the dead.

A memory popped into my head of me talking to more than one imaginary friend when I was a kid.

I sucked in a breath. Did I have this ability when I was younger?

Johnny turned toward me. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah. I... I just remembered something from when I was little. I had an unusual amount of imaginary friends. Kids usually only have one. The other kids at school thought I was weird and teased me. Mum pulled me out of that school and we moved and I never saw any more imaginary friends after that. I'd forgotten about it till now."

"So you think you've always had this ability?"

"Yes. I don't know why it went away for years, though, or why it came back."

"Maybe the accident triggered it somehow."

"Maybe. They said I nearly died..."

A replay of the car coming at me started to play in my head and I had to fight to replace it with the image of the ocean from the time we'd gone to see The Great Barrier Reef when I was twelve. I closed my eyes until all I could see was the ocean and the sand.

Johnny opened his mouth—

"Don't look at me like that. I'm fine."

He closed his mouth again and we both looked out through the doors. The sun was heading toward the horizon and my stomach growled. They didn't say what time they'd be serving dinner, but I hoped it was soon.

I heard voices and the sounds of doors opening and closing and assumed the other residents were home. I was in no hurry to meet them, especially after meeting the patients at Mirrabooka. Most of them were pretty quiet, but some were downright scary.

I'd been put in a ward with the mild cases and hadn't even seen the other sections with the bars on the doors and high security. Mrs C had been murdered in one of those wards.

I shuddered.

These people couldn't be too bad if they were allowed out in the community like this, but that didn't mean that I had to be friends with them or anything.

I heard Anna-Marie's voice down the hall. "Tea will be ready in ten minutes!"

No one called back, so I didn't say anything either.

We spoke quietly for a while until Johnny spotted a mob of kangaroos outside in the paddock behind the house and pointed them out. They were casually grazing near the treeline as one of the older joeys hopped over to its mother and dived headfirst into her pouch. I waited as he turned around and stuck his head out. I hadn't seen that many kangaroos at a time for years. There must have been about thirty of them.

"Tea's ready!"

I turned away and sighed. "I guess I'd better go and meet these people."

Johnny gave me an encouraging smile. "It'll be fine."

"Yeah, sure."

He stood. "I'll make sure Victoria and Jemma stay out of sight."

"Thank you."

I had to admit that having him around might come in handy when it came to keeping ghosts away — which could mean getting to go home sooner.

Just as I cracked my door open, I heard voices and paused.

"I don't see why we have to talk to her or be nice to her. Why was Ms Grant so insistent?" a girl with a kind of husky voice asked.

"Because she's a Descendant like us," another girl answered. She sounded like she was much younger than the first.

I froze. Were they talking about me? And what was a Descendant?

"I don't think she is," the first one said. "She hasn't done anything special. I saw her file. She's here because she sees things that aren't there. I don't want to have to deal with someone who actually has a mental condition. I have too much other stuff to worry about right now. I heard her in her room before talking to herself."

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Author's Note: Has she messed things up already?

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