There are ghosts surrounding my best friend, Máire, and I. From the way their hands are reaching out to us, as if they're grasping for our bodies, I can tell they're more oppressive than most of the other ghosts we encounter. It's only a matter of time before one of them tries to latch on to us. I scurry from beneath the street light, my excitement turning to terror as it continues to flicker. When I realize Máire isn't behind me, the feeling in the pit of my stomach only grows worse. She is rooted to where she stands. "Ciarán?" She asks with a look of concern upon her face. "Are you all right? You look a little pale."
I want to tell her that that's the least of my worries right now, but don't want to upset her either. Lately I've had trouble focusing and she and our other friend, Eric, have told me rather pointedly that it's because I'm being selfish and listening only when it suits me. That hurt to hear, but Gilda warned me to be careful of who I trusted. Your mind works differently than theirs, she said. There are going to be times when they don't understand the things you're going through and interpret your behavior as something else entirely. And it's not that Máire and Eric are that way on purpose; they listen to me and try to help me work through the negative feelings I have, but there are times when the things they say or do are offensive to me or make me feel as if I'm not a good friend. So I try not to tell them about things I know they're skeptical of, like the supernatural, because it will ruin our time together. We begin walking again.
"I'm fine." I respond, trying to look over my shoulder discreetly to make sure none of the ghosts are following us. "I saw something that caught me off guard, that's all."
Máire rolls her eyes knowingly and I realize I've said the wrong thing.
"It's probably nothing." I add dismissively. Antonio mocks me for trying so desperately to win Máire's approval.She doesn't like you, he tells me. You have a snowball's chance in Hell of getting with her. Not even Gilda discourages him. It isn't worth the heartache, She agrees. Like I've been telling you all along. Your mind works differently than your friends and, even though they try to be supportive of you, they are never going to come to terms with the fact that you aren't the same as they are. You're going to cause yourself a lot of unnecessary pain if you keep trying to fit in with them.
"You're hearing voices again, aren't you?" Máire asks accusingly. She puts her hands on her hips and waits for an answer.
"Ciarán, I'm not mad at you." She says softly, lowering her hands. "To tell you the truth, I already had a good idea something was wrong. I've been worried about you."
See? I gloat. Máire is more understanding than you thought. Antonio snickers. You aren't serious, are you? She's going to jump to conclusions and tell your parents that you aren't taking your medication. That way when they send you away, she won't have to feel guilty about getting rid of you.
I shake my head again to try and make the thought disappear from my mind.
"I'm not hearing voices." I insist. It's obvious to Máire that I'm lying, but she doesn't press the issue any further. We continue on to Eric's house to watch a movie. It isn't until we get there that she turns to face me and takes the final stab.
"Do you think you need to go back to the hospital?"
It takes everything in my power not to get upset. How dare she even ask such a thing? With the exception of seeing a few ghosts, I haven't had anything out of the ordinary happen to me. I grind my finger nails into my palm and reply through clenched teeth, "No, I don't." My mood darkens and I know I'm not going to enjoy myself tonight. Gilda tries to comfort me. Maybe we were wrong, she says. Máire might be worried about you, but unsure of how to help. She sounds doubtful. I know then that Antonio was right. She doesn't want anything to do with me.
When Eric opens the door, I immediately excuse myself to the bathroom, but not before seeing the look that he and Máire exchange. They both think something more is wrong with me than there is. They're wondering if I'm going to spoil the fun. Fuck you guys! I want to scream down the stairs. I shut the bathroom door and sink to the floor.
"What do I do?" I groan. "I'm screwing everything up."
Nobody answers me. I almost laugh at the irony of it. The one time I need somebody to talk to, the voices in my head have gone completely silent. Have I really gone this downhill in such a short amount of time? I was positive today was going to be a good day. I think about crawling out the window and walking home, but don't want to have to face my friends at school tomorrow. So instead, I stand in front of the mirror, force myself to smile, and then head back downstairs to join Máire and Eric in the den.
Who knows? I think bitterly. Maybe if I look happy, Máire will get off of my back.
But a voice I recognize as my own replies faintly, or maybe she'll worry something is seriously wrong with you. Either way, you can't win. You might as well get over it.