Chapter 14

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That evening, after Violet declared the day a success (twenty-two juniors had raised their funds for the ski trip, and the weatherman's prediction that it might rain in the late afternoon had not come true), I accepted a ride home with Amanda and Mischa. "I've been thinking," Mischa announced, "about what you started telling me on Sunday. If you've been able to make a connection with Olivia, then I want to talk to her, too."

I thought of the Ouija board in Trey's basement, and decided it might not be a terrible idea to let her try. After all, Olivia had been better friends with Mischa than she had been with me. Perhaps she'd be able to give Mischa clearer directions, although I couldn't help but wonder if that was the case, why Olivia had been lurking in my bedroom instead of taking up ghostly residence at the Portnoys' house. "Can Trey and I come over tomorrow night? I have to work the Rake Sale all day, but we'll be done by five."

On Sunday evening, Trey and I walked across town to the Portnoys' carrying the board, in its box, tucked into a shopping bag, along with us in the dark rain.  He rolled his eyes dramatically while I spoke with the guard at the station who stood watch over the entrance to the Portnoys' gated community.

"We're here to visit the Portnoy residence," I announced. "I'm McKenna Brady."  The guard nodded and phoned the Portnoys' to confirm that we were expected guests.

"What are these gates supposed to be keeping out?" Trey mused aloud. "People who don't live here, like us?"

I smirked, understanding his point, but not wanting to alarm the guard. There was relatively little crime in Willow, so the entire purpose of a gated community was lost. The gate served to represent a barrier between the wealthy on the inside and the less wealthy on the outside, as sort of a physical reminder to the rest of the town that we live here, and you don't.

The guard waved us through and we entered the community on foot, walking another two blocks past sprawling mansions with manicured lawns until we reached the brick home in which the Portnoys lived. Mischa met us at the front door, eating ice cream directly out of the gallon carton, causing me to experience a strong pang of resentment toward her for having such a tiny frame. "Let's go up to my room," she suggested. "My parents are out."

We climbed up to the second floor, and walked past Amanda's room toward the end of the hall. Mischa's room was decorated entirely in shades of purple, with lavender carpeting and a rich violet velvet comforter on the bed.

"Have you guys used this thing before?" she asked skeptically as we sat down on the floor and Trey opened the board.

"Yes," I admitted. "Only once, to try to contact whatever was creating such a commotion at my house. We are pretty sure it was Olivia who responded to us."

Mischa made a grunt that suggested she was satisfied with my answer. It was still early, not even dinner time yet, but already night outside due to the early setting of the sun, a sign that winter was fast approaching.  "Should we turn off the lights or something?" Mischa asked.

Trey nodded to suggest she should, even though we both knew that if Olivia wanted to make her presence known, a few photons from an energy-saver light bulb were hardly going to stop her. Mischa plopped down in between us after flipping off the light switch on her wall, and the three of us set the tips of our index fingers on the planchette. A dim orange glow filled the room from Mischa's Snoopy night light, plugged into the wall near the headboard of her bed. Trey explained that we needed to move the planchette around the board to warm it up and summon spiritual activity. 

"Is this going to be scary? Should I, like, go to the bathroom first?" Mischa asked in all seriousness.

"You should announce that we're looking for Olivia. Just also say, only kind spirits are welcome here," Trey instructed Mischa, irritation with her frivolity audible in his voice. He was being patient and cordial for my benefit only, I knew.

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