That morning, she felt the icy air waft around her. Where was she? She felt insanely stiff and puffy. Had she been crying? She raised her hands timidly to her face and sure enough, felt the cold tears sliding from her exhausted eyes. How long had she been out? Charlotte glanced around the room to find dust coating the top of the furniture.
Instinctively she hovered down the stairs to the kitchen where the gentle scent of breakfast was being made.
Charlotte sauntered around the silent kitchen table where her dad was stiffly holding the newspaper for the day. In bold within the front pages of the newspaper read: "Seventeen year old girl killed in hit and run. Driver still on the loose". Paul's fingers trembled slightly as he folded the newspaper neatly and put it down.
"Lucy, what's for breakfast?" He tried to sound cheerful and light, as if the situation of his only daughter being gone was a thing of the past.
"Sunny side up eggs, extra crispy bacon, and Charlotte's favorite--" she broke off with a light gasp, catching herself with pain. "Pancakes."
"S-sounds great," her father whispered, strained as he clenched his hands into a tight fist watching his wife bustle around the kitchen hollowly. She reached into the cupboard and pulled out plates.
"Talked to the funeral home yesterday," Lucy began, weakly as she set a plate in front of Paul. "They said they can have her funeral tomorrow…"
"Oh," Paul murmured, absentmindedly. He watched as she placed another plate in front of her seat and then moved in front of Charlotte's former seat. She froze with the plate hovering over the matt.
Lucy's mouth pulled into a thin, pained line as she withdrew her hand and put the rest of the utensils back in the cupboard with tears rolling down her wrinkling cheeks.
"You know she doesn't want you to be so sad," Paul muttered, carefully. "It's already been a week and her funeral is tomorrow…So we can just put this behind us. She's gone and there's nothing we can do about that."
A week, already? She tried to recall this fact, but came up with nothing. The last thing she remembered was that she was inside her room crying, then everything is sort of hazy to her. But really? A week? Charlotte stared at her fingers puzzled, was she disappearing from the Earth? Neither moving on or wandering…
Hell? Fear and bile raced up to her throat as the alternative came into her head. Oh, no! Why would she be going to hell? She's never done anything that terrible!
"We've lived a week without our baby, Paul!…Now we have to live the rest of our lives never seeing her beautiful smile again," Lucy wailed, loudly as she finally let go of her unshed tears. "It's too hard! I can't live like this!!"
"You think this is only hard on you?! I have to deal with the fact that you're crying every two fucking seconds is hard, too!" Paul roared as he slammed his fist into the table and knocked over his cup of black coffee. The liquid spewed everywhere and dripped off the table, landing in a murky puddle by his feet. "We both lost a daughter. Not only you."
Silence quickly ensued his loud outburst. Charlotte stared, sadly at her mother who hunched over the pink dishwashing towel, sobbing. Her family was breaking. She wanted to get up and hug her mom, soothe her while wiping away her warm tears.
"I'm sorry I had to leave," Charlotte whispered to her mother, knowing that she couldn't hear her apology. Then she sighed, "I'm sorry I couldn't leave." Suddenly, she felt an urge to walk towards the front door and go to school. That was silly, she was already dead, why would she feel the responsibility to do something so ridiculous. Despite those thoughts, she walked towards the door anyways and walked outside like any normal weekday morning. The grey morning sky greeted her immediately along with a slight gust of wind that pummeled through her. Her back hit the door in surprise at the sudden discomfort. When had she closed the door? She paused, when had she opened the door to get out?
Something caught her attention again. Well, not exactly her attention. It felt like an overpowering presence that oozed "I'm here!". It suddenly felt as if her sadness and loneliness wilted away--as if she were human again and she was hanging out with her friends. Charlotte turned around to the source and gazed at the boy standing at the end of her driveway, staring at her. He was staring at her.
Can he see me? She wondered to herself, unable to rip her gaze from him. He had dark, brown eyes that were narrowed into slits underneath his fringe of jet black hair. He was as rigid as can be.
"H-hey!" Charlotte called, reluctantly. Almost immediately after she had called to him, he twisted his head to face front again and disappeared down the street before she can chase after him. He looked awfully familiar to her. She had the irresistible urge to follow him and just stay with him, but he was already gone. Shuddering lightly, she closed her eyes to dispel the unnerving feeling in her and opened it again. Suddenly, the school was looming in front of her. When had she gotten there? It was reassuring to her at first, knowing that she was back in the environment she was in for the most part of her lifetime, but then she began to feel sad again. Why hadn't she moved on like a regular person?
"Charlotte? Charlotte Pennon?" The name riveted through her body as she whirled around excitedly to face whoever had called her name.
"Yeah, that girl," someone replied in the place of Charlotte. Behind her were the two gossipy companions Lisa Barnes and Ursula Ho. She watched as the two exchanged sullen glanced before continuing. "She passed away last week didn't she?"
"Uh huh!" Lisa continued, tensing her body as she prepared to deliver the news. "I heard it was Nate who shoved her in front of the car!"
"No!" Ursula gasped and then snapped her jaw shut. "You mean Nathan?! The Nathan?"
"Yes, the Nathan!" Lisa prompted, impatient at her friend's repetition.
"Oh, that makes sort of sense, doesn't it?" Ursula nodded, briefly. "I heard they broke up that night."
"Ouch," Lisa clicked her tongue and then adjusted the straps of her backpacks. "Sucks balls for Charlotte though. People say the sight wasn't pretty."
"If you were hit by a ton of metal, of course it wouldn't end up pretty!" Ursula muttered and together the disappeared through the front doors of the school. They were accusing Nathan of killing her? That was absurd! She followed the girls towards the building and paused as the door swished shut. In front office window was a picture of her. It was taken in freshman year. Her brown eyes glittered as she smiled happily at the camera. Charlotte's vision blurred as she stared at the picture. Raising her hands, she brought it down angrily onto the window, again and again, until she felt exhausted.
"Why did I have to die?" Charlotte wondered, her lips twisting into a mournful frown. "I didn't do anything wrong." A familiar scent suddenly filled the air and she forced herself to turn around. Standing right behind her was Nathan, his eyes fixated sadly on the photo that she would've covered if she wasn't a transparent ghost. Deep bags ran under his dull cerulean eyes that screamed guilt and rue. She resisted the urge to place her palm against his face in that reassuring way.
"Sorry," he managed to choke out before he quickly grabbed the door handle and yanked. Charlotte quickly slipped in after him, trying to match his pace. It reminded her of how she first met him, how she struggled to keep up with his quick, brisk pace. Glancing at his back, she realized how nostalgic this feeling was. Her hand quivered as she reached up to drape around his neck.
"Nate!" Someone piped up loudly making Charlotte flinch away from the blonde boy.
"Hey." The response was said almost incoherently. Standing in front of the slumped boy was the Sunny, her height barely reaching his shoulders.
"Are you alright?" Sunny asked, her eyes widening in curiosity. Nate didn't reply, instead he gazed at the ground. She reached out and gently squeezed his arm. A part of Charlotte defied against the tender touch. "Don't be so sad. Charlotte wouldn't like you like this."
The ghost girl nodded eagerly. For once she agrees with the flirtatious twit. Nate glanced up at her with a look of gratitude. He smiled numbly and then walked passed her towards his class. As Nate disappeared into the classroom, Charlotte lingered outside gazing at the short girl who was staring in Nate's direction. Her small eyes narrowed as her lips twisted into a scornful shape before she turned around and stomped down the hallway. Charlotte kept her eyes trained on the fuming girl, unable to rip her eyes off of her retreating figure. What was it that made Charlotte drawn to this girl? It wasn't hatred, but it wasn't anything close to adoration, though. Glancing behind her one last time, she went into the classroom and found that it was absolutely quiet even though class had not started yet.
"There he is," someone murmured just as Charlotte breezed past. Her eyes landed on Nate almost immediately. His unwavering guilt and sadness seemed to add to the rumors about him killing her.
"Look at him, sick with guilt."
"I heard it was him, wasn't it?"
"It's his fault that that Charlotte girl is dead."
"Nate! Can't you see?!" Charlotte screamed at him, furiously. "Stand up for yourself! You know it's not true!" Nate's eyes flickered up and stared at the glass vase on Charlotte's former desk. Another rush of regret and grief agonized his facial expression. On the desk were white roses and cards written by classmates that Charlotte never talked to. She edged closer to the flowers and stared at the massive pile of cards. With a growl of disgust she swept her hands through the stack of cards, a feral scream ripping from her throat. To her astonishment, she was able to feel the sharp roughness of the heavy parchment and the cards scattered into massive heaps on the ground. Surprised screams and gasps followed as the cards continued to slide from the desk. Charlotte backed away from the mess, her eye wide with fright. Did she really do that? She stared at her translucent fingers with terror.
"It's just the wind," Lisa murmured, quietly from the corner of the room. She walked slowly past paralyzed classmates to the slightly ajar window. "It was the wind." She repeated this to herself unconvincingly. Slowly, everybody else began to pick up the fallen cards and placing them back on the desk. The door creaked open and everybody hushed back into their unnatural silence.
"Good morning, class," Mrs. Clark greeted the class almost too brightly. The silence of the room made her happy greeting soggy. She smiled wistfully at the quiet class. "Let's get started."
"Mrs. Clark!" Nate piped up, loudly, his eyes narrowed into painful slits. "Can you…" He paused brokenly. She had never seen him so broken. Nobody had ever seen him so desolate and quiet. "Can you take those flowers away!" He finished, finally. "T-they smell just like her."
Mrs. Clark's lips twisted into a pained expression as she walked around her desk towards the flowers. "Alright, Nate. It won't be a problem." She picked up the flowers and placed them under her own desk. "Okay, turn to page ninety two of your textbooks…" Suddenly, everything in Charlotte's vision vanished and became pitch black. She spiraled into the darkness.
BRRRRIIIIIIINNNNNNNG. The loud noise jarred Charlotte from her quiet darkness. What was that noise? Light seeped into her cocooned abyss and just like that, everything snapped back into view. She was standing in the middle of the classroom she had just been in. Why had she blacked out like that? Her legs guided her out of the empty classroom and down the halls towards the front door. Was her soul following the normal routine she had done back when she was still alive? The door popped open at her will as she slipped through it. School had just ended and students were littered around the campus, talking animatedly to one another.
"Yeah, yeah! I'm coming home now! Tell ma I'm going to be back soon," Sunny's voice sliced through the dull roar of the other students. Charlotte whirled around to face the girl who stood half way across the campus. How had she heard her? She walked towards the idling girl who glanced around repeatedly before leaving through the front gates. Charlotte couldn't restrain herself from following the small girl, no matter how hard she tried. Sunny began to walk faster and she can even sense the fear from where she stood. Sunny was scared. For a brief second, the walking girl glanced behind her and stopped walking. It felt like she saw Charlotte, but her searching eyes made her think otherwise. Did she feel her? Sunny quickly started walking again, this time her pace was less relaxed and more brisk. Her phone began to ring.
"Yeah, it's me, James." Sunny said into the receiver of the phone. "Sorry. Yeah, I know. I just felt weird, that's all. Yeah…." She paused and laughed. "Kay." Then she hung up. She stopped in front of a peach colored house that had an iron gate in front of it. Sunny adjusted her backpack and books before she pulled the gate open. Charlotte followed her in, her eyes trained on the second story window that was to the far left. The girl opened her front door and took off her shoes before calling out, "Ma! I'm home!"
The house smelled of incense that calmed Charlotte in a strange way. It made everything around her dizzying and swirling. She eyed the bright yellow sticks curiously before she felt a jolt of fear rise in her. There was a statue of a red, bearded man with a staff placed right behind the burning sticks of incense. He seemed to gazing directly at her, even though she knew it was impossible, it was a statue. Despite that fact, she had the sudden urge to apologize to the statue and his bulging, glaring eyes.
"Ma, did you already put on the incense? I thought it was my turn." Sunny walked out of the room and into what looked like the kitchen. Charlotte stood in front of the intimidating statue.
"I'm sorry. I don't mean any harm." She tried, timidly. The man and his staff didn't move, instead it seemed like his eyes softened a bit. The feel of intimidation and terror drained from her. It felt like he was welcoming her in, now.
"Bring this to James, okay?" Sunny appeared from the kitchen holding Tupperware full of a weird looking liquid. She called back to the kitchen in response to her mom. "Alright, I will." The girl eyed the plastic container disdainfully. "What did grandma send him this time?" Charlotte watched as the girl trotted up the carpeted staircase and started to follow the girl. Glancing back at the statue, hesitantly, she walked up the stairs. The hallways were dim and sort of stuffy. The scent of cooking vegetables wafted through the air vents. Suddenly, she felt intrusive. Sunny pulled open the last door in the hallway and walked in without closing the door behind her.
"James, grandma gave you some of those weird stuff again," Sunny said.
"Alright, just put it on top of the dresser," a low, husky voice replied. It was smooth and silky. Charlotte was suddenly reminded of the cool feeling of running water of a slow going creek during the summer. She felt heavy in the chest as she walked towards the slightly opened door.
"Also, ma told you to come down for dinner tonight and not stay in your room, again," Sunny continued.
James didn't respond, instead there was a slight clacking of stones. "Alright." Charlotte peered over Sunny's shoulder and she watched as the girl's neck hair began to rise.
"Ugh! Why is it so cold in this damn room?!" Sunny complained, loudly. James had his back to her. She whirled around and ran right through Charlotte. Both of them emitted a light gasp at the sudden coldness that seeped into both of them. "Yikes. James, are you doing those weird things again?"
"No…" James's voice replied, sternly. Then he slowly turned around to face his younger sister. He was the same guy from earlier today. Charlotte's jaw dropped as she stared at the slender boy. James was the guy she saw in the morning. He had a long straight nose that nestled neatly on his angular face. His thin lips pulled into a look of disgust as he narrowed his almond eyes at her. "Sunny, leave. Close the door."
"But," she whined, frowning. Charlotte was unable to rip her gaze from the boy in his messy dress shirt.
"GO," he said louder this time as he stood up slowly. Sunny didn't protest this time, instead she just slammed the door shut with a loud harrumph.
"W-w-what," Charlotte sputtered, scared. Wait, this guy can't possibly see her, can he? She backed away from his advancing form.
"You're," James began, dangerously, walking closer towards her.
Zappk. Charlotte flinched as her back hit the wall. "Ow!" She screamed in pain and stumbled forward--away from the wall that had just seemed to electrocute her.
"Why have you not moved on?" James said immediately after she had cringed away from the wall. He faced her, now, his almond shaped eyes narrowing into dangerous slits as he advanced on her. "Why are you haunting my sister?"
"I was haunting your sister?" Charlotte wailed, frightened as she shriveled up against the far wall. "I wasn't!"
James didn't seem convinced as he pulled his arm back as if he were about to punch her.
"I wasn't haunting your sister!" Charlotte screamed louder this time. Her hands instinctively flew to her face in order to protect whatever was still tangible. Suddenly, she felt paralyzed as he placed a thin slip of paper on her forearm. "H-hey! What did you do?"
"Just making sure you don't disappear," James explained as he walked away from her. "And to see if you were lying."
"I'm not lying, fool," Charlotte grumbled at him. "Let me out of this stupid position! I wasn't haunting your sister!"
"Yes, you were. Even though your contempt isn't powerful, it's still there," James grunted as he dug through his drawers. What was he looking for? His eyes settled on the container full of red liquid his sister had just brought up. "Then why are you still here if you're not haunting anything."
Charlotte didn't know how to answer that. She gazed at his back for the longest time before she opened her mouth with a sigh. "I don't know why I didn't move on. I'd kill to move on."
The word "kill" seemed to send him into an angry fit. He whirled around to face her, his face contorted into fury. "You'd kill? Have you sold your soul anytime before your death?"
She stared at him skeptically. The ghost here was her not him, but her and she was still skeptical about this. "Sell my soul? I don't remember anything of the sort."
"Then why are you still here?" He probed again. She became weary of that question as she glanced at the stupid charm that held her in her spot, unable to move.
"I don't frigging know, alright? The question should be how can you see me?" Charlotte muttered, tiredly. "Shouldn't I be invisible to the human eye?"
James reached up towards his eyes and scraped gently at the surface of the eyeball. Charlotte watched in horror as he pulled off a thin contact lens and blinked several times. His right eye was of a normal, hazel brown, but his left eye was a clear, cerulean blue--icy and cold. Charlotte felt her jaw drop into amazement as she felt her fingers twitch.
"T-that's how you can see me?" She sputtered, in shock, unable to rip her gaze from his cold, blue one.
"Yes. It runs in the family," James said a-matter-of-factly. "You're not the first ghost I met and you're most certainly not going to be the last."
Charlotte yet again was left speechless. This guy was full of surprises. "You go to my school."
"I do?" James seemed genuinely surprised as he set the container of crimson liquid onto the cluttered table. "You're that girl who got run over?"
"That's a harsh way of putting it, but yes," Charlotte snapped at him. "Now take that charm off of me."
"Who killed you?" James piped up, ignoring her request.
"What do you mean who killed me? It was a hit-and-run obviously. Just an accident," Charlotte reprimanded, gruffly. Why would anyone want to kill her?
"Accidents don't happen. They're always designed by someone or something," James argued, stridently. His blue eye ablaze. "You are only going to go naturally if you are killed naturally. Being killed by a hunk of metal isn't what we consider 'natural'."
Charlotte's lip twisted into a frown, causing her to crinkle her slightly freckled nose and narrow her green-turquoise eyes. "You're just over thinking things. I was almost to the light, you know."
"But you were pulled back. If you were really meant to go now, you'd have gone right in. Something pulled you back…"
"Again, you're over thinking things.." Charlotte clicked her tongue impatiently.
"Regret, fear, hatred. Something that refused to let you pass on. Something pulled you--no, something kept you from passing," James continued, again his handsome face set rigid. "Someone killed you and you're going to have to amend these woes before you can ever move on. Or else you're going to hell."
A/n: School has started. Boo-hoo. I might go on hiatus for all of my stories for a really long period of time! I hoep you guys continue to be Fictionpress fans and check out my stories later on in the years if I do decide to take a longer break from writing! Thanks for supporting any of the stories I've written, it was greatly appreciated!