The Friendly Ghost: Prologue

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For the longest time, I stood in front of the grocery store on the corner of Marshall Street with my hands balled into fists inside the pockets of my coat.

The rain was coming down so hard that my hair was dripping. I was vaguely aware of the fact that I was probably going to get ridiculously sick from standing out in the cold September air for so long, but as hard as I tried, I couldn’t move a single one of my limbs. I was frozen like a statue. Even as a raindrop landed right on the outside corner of my eye, I couldn’t manage to pull my hand out of my coat pocket to wipe it away. So I just blinked until it rolled down my cheek, and I kept staring straight ahead at the poster taped up in the store window.

Casper Holloway’s wide, bright eyes stared back at me.

The picture on the poster had been taken three and a half years ago, at Casper’s fifteenth birthday party. I was there, at the party, and so even though the picture was black and white, I knew that the shirt Casper was wearing was green, like the flecks in his golden hazel eyes. Casper’s eyes were always bright. Even there, on the poster, they were hauntingly alert. It was as if he was really on the other side of the grocery store window, staring back at me with a smile on his face, a half-eaten cupcake in his hand, and a single dollop of chocolate frosting on the corner of his mouth. But he wasn’t there. The bold letters printed underneath his picture were a painful reminder of that.

Missing, it read, since December 2009.

I still remember that cold December day, three years ago, when the entire Russell Park, Virginia police squad walked into my third period English class and pointed to Casper’s empty desk in the corner of the room. I had assumed that his empty desk meant he was sick, or maybe just running late because his locker was jammed again. Either would have be a plausible excuse.

Sheriff McKinley took each of us, one by one, into a classroom across the hall to ask us a few questions. The rest of us sat in silence as we waited. I found myself staring at Casper Holloway’s empty desk, wondering whether or not Casper was dead. The thought of his pale, lifeless body resting in a ravine or some garbage-filled dumpster made me feel sick to my stomach.

When my turn came, my hands were shaking so badly that I had to sit on top of them just to keep still. Sheriff McKinley asked me if I had noticed anything strange about Casper Holloway the last time I saw him. Friday afternoon, when I had passed Casper in the hallway as he made his way towards the parking lot and I made my way towards my locker, he had seemed so normal. Casper had his backpack slung over his right shoulder, like he always did. He wore his backpack that way so often that he had put duct tape around the right shoulder strap to keep it from ripping under the weight of his textbooks. Casper and I weren’t friends, but he had smiled at me as I passed him. His smiled was lopsided, and friendly, and warm.

And then I thought about Casper face down in a ravine, and I started to cry.

Sheriff McKinley put his hand on my shoulder.

“We’ll try to find him,” he told me.

The police searched for eighteen months. Both of my parents joined the search party and helped comb through the small patch of dense forest on the north side of Russell Park, but they never found anything. No body, no backpack, no scrap of clothing stuck on a bush, or even a strand of Casper’s disheveled brown hair.

Casper Holloway was gone.

The town held three vigils and, finally, a funeral. Even though Casper’s body hadn’t been found, his parents seemed to have accepted the fact that their son was gone. The entire town came to his funeral. My mother even brought along my two-year-old brother, Ben, in a black stroller. They buried an empty coffin under a tombstone engraved with Caper Holloway’s full name. I hadn’t known his middle name was James until I saw it carved into the white marble slab.

Behind me, a car honked its horn.

As if a spell had been broken, I was finally able to tear my gaze away from the poster taped up in the grocery store window. I sucked in a deep, jagged breath and looked out over the grocery store parking lot, where a minivan and a small sports car were both trying to back into the best parking space in the lot.

Neither of them seemed to notice that all the other spaces were empty.

I let out a little humorless laugh and turned back towards the grocery store, taking a purposeful step towards the front door. I refused to look back at the poster in the window again, knowing that if I did, I would start to wonder whether the boy in the photograph was dead. So, without looking back, I slipped inside the store and left all memories of Casper Holloway outside in the rain.

Author's Note:

This is my new story! Please don't be mislead by the title. This story is NOT paranormal, it's simply a reference to Casper the Friendly Ghost (a cartoon character. If you haven't heard of him, look him up). I'm sorry the story has to start off a bit sad and gloomy, but it cheers up! I swear! And don't worry, Float is still my priority; this story isn't taking over. It's simply for my own enjoyment.

xoxo Kate

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