1: New Neighbours

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"They don't know it's haunted," Lottie said, resting her chin on the window sill. She watched as the movers walked briskly past our house and into Ash's family's old one, way down the street. They moved out after the incident. I don't blame them, really. 

"It's not haunted, Lottie," I said quietly. I almost reached for the comb, but then decided my fingers would work just as well for now. 

"Well, he died in there," she said back, messing with her own hair. 

"No one died in there, Lottie. We don't know where he is," I said.

"Either way, the place is haunted," Lottie insisted.

"If he didn't die in there, who's haunting it?" I asked. 

We were of course speaking of Lars Henderson, rugby team captain. A few years ago, the boys and I saw him and Ash in that house, Ash's arms coated in blood... It was absolutely terrifying and she was crying. We called the police and he went to the hospital, but disappeared in the middle of the night. Lately, he's been a scary story older siblings tell to get their friends to be scared of that old house. 

"I feel bad for Ash. Do you think they were in love?" Lottie asked, smiling wistfully at the grass below in the garden. I didn't like to think of that day, the day our parents told us that they were going to "take a break" and I let out all my anger on the boys... And then all that stuff went down... it was just an absolute crap day.

"I don't know, Lotta Scotta..." I said, letting my voice wander aimlessly before withering away. Huh. I suppose my sister might be on to something. I mean, why would Lars be at Ash's house otherwise? I never really thought about if they were in love, or what it really means to be in love. I haven't been in love before. Lots of people my age walk around saying they're in love with people they can't even hold a conversation with, but I'm not going to do that. When that person comes along, I'll know.

"You should go help," Lottie said, glancing at me over her shoulder. I laughed and nodded slightly. Maybe she was right, maybe I should go help. Nice of her to nominate someone else rather than doing the dirty work herself.

"I'll be back," I called over my shoulder. What was I wearing? Was I wearing shoes, socks? Try neither. I grabbed my Chucks, the same faded ones as always, the ones that were much too big for the longest time but were now pretty snug, too snug to wear with proper socks.

"Lou," Lottie called to me. I turned and glanced at her over my shoulder. "The girl down there... she's really pretty," Lottie said. Lottie thinks everyone is perfect, even me. I brushed the thought off my mind, but couldn't help but feel nervous in the pit of my stomach.

"Ma, I'm leaving," I called. I didn't wait for a reply. I ran my fingers over the uncombed stringy strands of hair I refuse to bother with. I mean, what's the point of messing with it on the weekend. I shoved my hands awkwardly into my pockets next, not watching where I was walking as I did so, moving briskly and without a clear path. 

"Louis, right?" a female voice said. It stirred me and I looked up from the sidewalk where my gaze was planted. There she stood, box in hand, hair tied up messily so that it sat like a hat on her head. She was wearing jeans, not shorts like every other girl did, but jeans. I couldn't help but notice that her body seemed... Perfect? Was that the word I was looking for?

"Yeah," I said slowly. She smiled and set down the box in her hands. My eyes followed the structure of cardboard and I noticed the pair of Chucks on her own feet. They were black, contrary to my red ones, but possibly just as old and faded. I wondered if she was wearing socks for a moment, but then shook off the notion that she might not be.

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