The Ring of Heaven

His teammates nicknamed Jedidiah Johnson "Semi" because, they said, he was 'semi-good'. JJ was an average baseball player at best which is why he wasn't a starter even as an senior, playing the role of utility outfielder and backup first basement for the Hillsboro Hurricanes. Semi was a much better teammate, however, a natural cheerleader and enthusiastic bench warmer and that made him popular with his teammates..

The Hurricanes were leading the Miller City Mudhens by a comfortable margin in the bottom of the fifth inning so Coach Henderson sent Semi to the plate as a pinch hitter and that's where Jedidiah found himself with two Hurricanes on base. Semi had the rare opportunity to contribute to the cause if he could come through with a hit. Jedidiah stepped to the plate, squinting in the afternoon sun that seemed to be shining at him from directly behind the pitcher.

The Mudhen's "Mad Max" Maddison was on the mound in relief and he had been throwing golf balls since coming in. Jedidiah squinted in the box and took ball one. Stepping out for a moment to collect himself as the hometown crowd and his teammates cheered him on, Semi returned to the box and waited for Maddison to throw his next pitch which JJ lost in the bright sun as soon as it left Max's hand.

Jedidiah felt like he had been shot as a sharp pain erupted from his chest under his arm pit and suddenly everything went dark and quiet.

Jedidiah saw himself sprawled on his back in the dirt at home plate, his bat on the ground a few feet from his feet and the pitched ball lying by his side along with his batting helmet which was dislodged in the fall. The Miller City catcher was hovering over him alongside the home plate umpire as several players, Coach Henderson, and a few people from the stands came running toward him. Time seemed to be moving in slow motion and JJ couldn't understand why he could see himself in some sort of weird out of body experience as he stared at his lifeless body with his eyes wide open in the dirt. Suddenly, Jedidiah realized he was dead. Coach Henderson was performing pressing compressions on his chest and some lady he didn't recognize was giving him mouth to mouth resuscitation. Jedidiah felt cold and frightened.

"JJ?"

It was a female voice and he glanced around to see who had called his name. His eyes caught sight of a teenaged girl standing behind the crowd of players that had encircled the dead batter at the plate. He squinted, trying to figure out if the girl staring at him was the long missing Evon Harris – but how could that be? And what was she doing at a Hurricane baseball game? And how come nobody else noticed her?

"It's you?" JJ asked with confusion, slowly walking through the crowd to reach his former classmate who was standing on the infield grass half way between home plate and the pitcher's mound.

Evon looked the same as he remembered her – curly brown hair sweeping past her shoulders, dimpled rosy cheeks, a wide smile, and dancing eyes. She was wearing a brown Hurricane's jogging sweat suit which made sense since she ran track for the school.

"I don't think we have much time," Evon said, glancing past him to watch the life-saving attempts on his body.

"What's going on?" Jedidiah asked with confusion.

"Looks like you're dead for the moment," Evon told him. "Not sure if you're going to stay that way, though."

"What are you doing here?" Jedidiah asked with disbelief.

"I'm definitely dead," Evon informed him. "Have been for a year."

"People said you ran away."

"I was murdered, JJ," Evon calmly revealed. "Carrie Jefferson killed me. My body's underneath the new greenhouse out behind the school. She buried me there the night before they laid the new cement slab."

An ambulance with its lights flashing and siren wailing sped onto the field and the rescue vehicle screeched to a stop not far from those gathered at home plate. Two paramedics hopped out of the vehicle, one carrying a portable defibrillator.

"Why would Carrie Jefferson want to kill you?" Jedidiah asked with disbelief..

"Because she liked Aaron Callan and Aaron liked me," Evon sighed. "I suppose the same way you liked me?"

"You didn't like me," Jedidiah complained. "You liked Aaron On Call," he said bitterly. "You said I was weird."

"Does it really matter now, Jed?" Evon asked.

"How'd she kill you?" Jedidiah wanted to know, glancing at the paramedics who were now kneeling over his body.

"Bashed my skull in with one of those metal posts they were using to anchor the new greenhouse construction," Evon answered factually. "I don't think she planned it. She just snapped out of jealousy."

Jedidiah stared at Evon trying to figure out if he believed her and if any of this was real. He also needed to figure out if he still liked her even though she never liked him never mind the fact that she was dead.

"Remember me," Evon pleaded.

"Clear!" Jeremiah heard one of the paramedics yell and suddenly there was a bright light and then everything disappeared.

########

When Jedidiah opened his eyes, he was lying in a bed in the ICU with all sorts of machines beeping around him. He saw his parents and sister sitting in chairs looking at him and his mother jumped with excited and relieved surprise when she saw that her son's eyes were open.

There were all sorts of activity after that – hugs and crying from his family, vital sign checks from the nurse, and examinations from the Doctor. Jedidiah felt sluggish, groggy and sore. He wasn't exactly sure what happened to him other than he had suffered a "cardiac event" when hit by the pitch. The doctors wanted to keep him in the hospital for a few days to figure out if he had some pre-existing condition that caused his heart to go haywire when struck or if he had suffered any heart damage from the stoppage. There was also concern that he may have suffered some brain damage when he stopped breathing and having been unconscious for nearly ten hours after his near death experience.

Jedidiah slept a lot that first night, partly from the drugs the medical staff had given him and partly because he was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. The nurses moved him to a regular room in the morning and he underwent a battery of tests. Mad Max Maddison stopped by to apologize for nearly killing him. Jedidiah showed the Mudhen pitcher the huge bruise on his chest and ribcage along with the marks from the baseball stiches engraved in his skin.

"I lost the ball in the sun and never saw it coming," Semi explained with humiliated embarrassment.

"Good thing I didn't hit you in the head or I would have knocked your brains out," Maddison said with a relieved grin.

The opposing ballplayers shook hands and Jedidiah told Mad Max not to worry about what happened.

"It's my fault for not moving," Jedidiah assured him.

There was a lot of down time in the hospital when various family, teammates and friends weren't visiting and that gave Jedidiah plenty of time to think. Not so much about his life passing before his eyes since none of that happened when he was almost dead, or rediscovering the importance of God - although he was grateful to be still alive - or even discovering the new meaning of life since he had been given a second chance. JJ appreciated the love and concern of his family and he respected the good work of the nursing staff taking care of him but what Jedidiah thought most about during his hospital stay was Evon Harris.

Jedidiah didn't tell anybody about his dream...or vision...or hallucination - or whatever in hell it was that he experienced while stuck between life and death. How could he? Who would believe him? It seemed real enough to him - but it had to be some coma-induced near death fantasy that had no basis in reality. JJ had been obsessed with Evon for years, madly in love with her to a fault and he still had dreams about her even now a year after she disappeared so his vision while between worlds could easily be dismissed as just another one of his Evon fantasies.

Evon wasn't interested in her classmate Jedidiah but that didn't stop him from liking her to a fault. Like most of his peers, Evon saw Jedidiah as "Semi" – in that he was only semi worth her time, semi worth her interest, semi worth the trouble of talking with. They had their athletics in common and they sometimes hung out in the same jock circles but Jedidiah never had any real in-depth conversations with his heartthrob. Evon dated JJ's football teammate Buzz Edwards for a while and there appeared to be something going on with Aaron On Call right before she disappeared. Evon was a well-liked, popular and easy going classmate and peer and her disappearance bothered Jedidiah even before he got hit in the heart with the Mad Max's fastball. Now JJ found himself thinking about Evon more than ever, perplexed as to why he would have had a vision like that when he was almost dead. He would have assumed he would have seen his grandparents or other dead relatives he knew more intimately than Evon. It had to be the lack of oxygen to his brain when his heart stopped beating that caused such a weird hallucination.

There was no way Carrie Jefferson could have murdered Evon Harris. Carrie was much too pretty, rich, popular, spoiled and successful to risk it all over something as trivial as a boy! But then again, Evon did vanish from the face of the earth without explanation or reason. The Harris family insisted that Evon wouldn't run away and there was no evidence that she had. Her car was still in the school parking lot. Her emergency-only credit card had not been used. There were no sightings of a seventeen year old girl in any of the locations she might have gone - cousins in Illinois, a friend who had moved to California a few years earlier, her maternal aunt in Florida, or a former teacher Evon really liked now living in New Mexico.

There was only one thing Jedidiah knew for sure: Evon Harris was still real to him.

Jedidiah was discharged from Blue County Regional Medical Center a few days after the beaning incident when the tests proved to be inconclusive at best. His heart seemed to be in good working order and his brain scans indicated no evidence of brain trauma or damage. The hospital social worker warned Jedidiah and his family that patients who experienced a near death trauma sometimes suffered from depression in the aftermath as they came to terms with their own mortality and Jedidiah had to admit that he was feeling a little down, mostly because he couldn't shake the ghostly image of Evon Harris from his mind. He also had two cracked ribs that prevented him from returning to the baseball team as an active player and that was disappointing for him.

Jedidiah was given a hero's welcome when he returned to Hillsboro High. He was almost Jesus-like in his stature because there had been so many witnesses to his home plate 'death' – teammates and spectators who had heard the Coach and a nurse (who had come out of the stands to assist) announce that Jedidiah wasn't breathing and how the paramedics had shocked his heart back to life. Mudhen Catcher Jamie Collins was quoted in the paper as saying Jedidiah's "vacant blank lifeless eyes stared up at me like a scene from some horror movie".

Jedidiah was humbled and embarrassed by the attention and compliments but it felt good to be treated like a minor celebrity and to know that people actually cared about him seeing how he existed mostly in obscurity most days.

The near-death drama eventually settled down and Jedidiah slipped back into his normal routine even though he couldn't play baseball. He had some school work to catch up on and his parents talked him into quitting his job at Fontaine's Family Grocery Store because they didn't want him over-exerting himself. The family over-babied him because of the bean-ball incident but Jedidiah didn't mind the extra concern and special treatment although the first time he saw Carrie Jefferson in the hallways of Hillsboro High a cold chill ran down Jedidiah's spine.

Carrie was one of the most attractive and sexist girls in the school – a stereotypical tall blond with a killer body who used her charm and charisma to her advantage. Jedidiah couldn't help but stare at her every time he saw her – not because of her looks and sex appeal – but because he now wondered if he knew something about the beautiful teen that nobody else did.

Carrie was dating JJ's teammate Aaron "On Call" Callan now, a nice enough guy and a pretty good pitcher. Come to think of it, those two became an item not long after Evon Harris disappeared.

Semi bumped into On Call before English Lit Class and JJ couldn't help but bring up the subject of Carrie with him. On Call was definitely one of the better looking guys in the class and he and Evon would have made an attractive couple.

"Hey, Messiah! How's it going!?" On Call grinned when Jedidiah took a seat next to him.

Semi had earned several new nicknames after his near death experience – Lazarus, The Redeemer, Ghost-Rider, JC, and Yoda among them

"Did you like Evon Harris?" Jedidiah asked.

On Call was surprised by the question. "Well, yeah, sure, who didn't?" He said before throwing Jedidiah a weird look. "You were mental about her, right?"

Jedidiah ignored that comment. "Did you want to go out with her?" He asked instead.

Aaron blushed. "That wouldn't have been a bad thing," he said with a shrug. "Sorry, I know you liked her."

"But you ended up with Carrie instead," Jedidiah noted.

"Well, Evon was no longer available," On Call explained sadly.

"So, you pursued Carrie?"

"Actually, she hit on me," On Call grinned.

"After Evon left?"

"Well, she flirted with me before that but – yeah, come to think of it – it was after Evon disappeared when Carrie put the moves on. It was kind of comforting and distracting because the whole Evon thing was totally bizarre."

"Did Carrie ever talk about Evon?" Jedidiah wondered

On Call gave Jedidiah a funny look. "Not really," he mumbled. "Why would she? Evon was competition, right?"

"Things going well?" Jedidiah asked. "Between you and Carrie?"

"Sure," On Call smiled. "She's different from Evon so it's a different relationship then I probably would have had with Evon but Carrie is lots of fun, she worships me, and she loves having sex."

Jedidiah blushed, caught off guard by On Call's easy admission.

"Why so many questions, Semi?" On Call wanted to know.

"No reason," Jedidiah lied. Then he realized he needed to come up with some sort of cover. "I had a lot of time to think when I was in the hospital," he explained. "Felt kind of sad not having a girlfriend visiting. Couldn't help but think of poor Evon. I mean, I know she wasn't my girlfriend or anything but I still think about her sometimes."

"Maybe she'll come back someday," On Call said.

"Yeah," Jedidiah replied, but he was pretty sure he knew that was never going to happen. Maybe it was a premonition or maybe he really did see the Ghost of Evon when he was almost dead.

Jedidiah wished he could do justice for Evon but he didn't know what if anything there was for him to say or do. Go to the principal and tell her that he had a dream that Evon was buried under the greenhouse? Jackhammer up the greenhouse cement slab floor himself in search of Evon's body? He'd be taken away to the mental health unit!

Jedidiah had been questioned by investigators after Evon's disappearance when it was learned he had an unhealthy fixation on the missing girl and that left him feeling like a total loser so there was no way he could go to the cops with some far-fetched theory. And what if he actually found Evon's body – how would he explain that? "She told me what happened when I was dead too". JJ needed some sort of evidence that would link suspicion and give the authorities reason to dig up the greenhouse and he was pretty sure that was never going to happen.

Jedidiah went to the school library during one of his free periods to work on a report due for Modern History. He glanced across the room and he did a double take when he saw Evon Harris sitting in a chair by the reference rack. She looked the same as he had seen her on the baseball field – same hair style and still wearing the brown Hurricane sweat suit. Could it be? Evon wasn't looking at him at first but then she noticed that he was staring at her with his jaw dropped open. She looked behind herself to see if he was looking at somebody else but there was no one else there. She pointed at herself with confusion and Jedidiah slowly shook his head yes, his heart beating in his chest.

Evon leapt from the chair and rushed to his table, sitting opposite him. "You can see me?" She asked with amazement.

Jedidiah subtly shook his head yes.

"You can hear me!?" She asked with disbelief.

Again, Jedidiah shook his head yes.

"Oh wow!" Evon exclaimed, clearly happy and thrilled by the discovery. "This is unbelievable! You're the first one!" She rubbed her chin in thought. "I guess it must because you were actually dead too – for a minute anyway. I guess we formed some sort of celestial link or something."

Jedidiah looked at her with a freaked out look on his face.

"Aren't you going to say something, Jed?" Evon asked.

He frowned, glanced around, and then he looked at her desperately.

"Oh, yeah, right, people will think you're talking to yourself," Evon laughed. She thought about it for a moment. "The basement mold wing," she said.

He gave her a funny look.

"It's off limits. Nobody goes down there. The theater group used to use Room B-12 as their hang out back in the day before they closed the wing off. There are couches and stuffed chairs in there. That's where we can 'talk'".

He gestured toward his watch and gave her a questioning look.

"Lunch," she decided. "Meet me there at lunch."

He nodded but he couldn't take his eyes off of her.

"This is great, Jed!" Evon said. "You can't imagine how lonely I've been this past year. Stuck here at the school – I can't leave the grounds – waiting for someone to figure out that I died so my soul can be freed and I can finally move on. Maybe you can help me with that quest."

He gave her a doubtful look.

"We'll figure something out," she said confidently.

JJ shook his head with skepticism.

"Don't be like that," she pouted. "I need your help, Jed. You're my only chance for salvation. Otherwise my body will stay under that stupid greenhouse for years."

Semi chewed on his lip and gave her a hopeless stare which made her laugh.

"How do you think I feel?" She asked with frustration. "You think I've been having fun?"

Jedidiah glanced around again to make sure nobody was noticing him acting odd as he sat alone at a table staring at nothing across from him. He ripped a sheet of paper from his notebook. "What do you do all day?" he scribbled.

"You mean besides go crazy?" She groaned. "Nothing, really. Go to classes I find interesting. Follow my kid sister around, looking out for her. Watch people. Listen to people. I tried to mess with Carrie but nothing seems to work. I can't really do anything – touch anything…." Then she stopped talking and stared at Jedidiah's hand that was set on the table. She slowly and cautiously moved her hand toward his. "Should go right through it," she predicted with defeat.

But Jedidiah felt a cold sensation on his hand and Evon's eyes went wide.

"Holy cow!" she exclaimed. "I didn't expect that! Did you feel it?"

Jedidiah shook his head yes.

"This is weird!" Evon said with excitement. "This has never happened before! I guess when you briefly crossed over you inherited some of the afterlife attributes."

"Could you feel me?" He scribbled.

"Definitely," she beamed. "God, it's been so long since I've felt human touch. You can't imagine how lonely I've been. Not being able to communicate or interact. Just observing all the time. I know everything there is to know about everybody in this school but I can't do anything with it. Did you know Mrs. Eddard is transgender? Did you know Marie Habert has a two year old daughter at home? Everybody thinks it's her kid sister but it's really her kid! Oh – I shouldn't gossip. I was never like that when I was alive. I'm just so desperate to talk to somebody. This place is like a tomb for me even when it's full of people but it's even worse when nobody's here. Weekends. Summer vacation. Torture. Fate worse than hell. I don't know why innocents have to suffer for the sins of others. Why am I stuck in transit when Carrie is the one who did wrong?"

Jedidiah shrugged, not having the answers for her. He wasn't an expert in the paranormal or the afterlife. Nor did he want to be! The bell marking the end of the period sounded.

"Okay, Room B-12 at lunch," Evon reminded him. "Make sure you're there. I'm going to go shadow my sister Emily for a while now. Talk to you then."

Jedidiah watched Evon walk out of the library with a strange feeling of disbelief mixed in with fascination. This was too weird to comprehend and Jedidiah was full of trepidation. Was he finally going to get to know the girl he had a crush on for years – when she was alive!?

Lunch period finally arrived and Jedidiah found himself slipping into the basement and sneaking into the 'Keep Out' Section that had been closed because of mold issues. Evon was right – Room B-12 was full of couches, overstuff chairs and a bunch of old unused and forgotten theater stuff – old set pieces, various old props, and some outdated costumes. Evon was sitting on one of the couches and she jumped up with glee when Jedidiah entered.

"You came!" She shouted.

"Did I have a choice?" Jedidiah muttered.

Evon laughed and motioned for him to join her on the couch.

Jedidiah did so – with reservation and caution. Evon placed her hand on his thigh which caused him to jump.

"You're so warm," she marveled. "You can't possible know how cold it is being dead."

"What do you want from me, Evon?" Jedidiah asked.

"I need your help, Jed," she said bluntly. "I already told you that."

"I'm not sure what I can do," he admitted.

"You have to tell them Carrie murdered me," Evon said.

"As if anybody's going to believe me?" He groaned. "Hey, Evon Harris came to me in a dream and told me she's buried under the greenhouse."

She pondered that reality for a moment. "Well, we're going to have to get some evidence that will link Carrie to the crime," she said.

"Evidence?"

"She took my ring when she killed me," Evon revealed, holding up her right hand and showing him a white mark where a ring used to be. "My grandmother gave my sister and me twin rings when we were younger. They're exactly alike."

"Why would Carrie be stupid enough to take something that belonged to you?"

"Maybe she didn't want the body identified if it was found years later?" Evon wondered. "Or maybe she wanted a trophy? I think serial killers and sexual deviants take something that belonged to their victims as a keepsake. Or maybe she just liked the ring. Who knows, who cares? It may be the way to free my soul and that's all I care about."

"People are going to think I'm psychotic if I push this without something concrete," Jedidiah complained.

"We've got to find a way for Carrie to be caught with the ring," Evon realized. "Do you think you could seduce her or something?"

"I couldn't even seduce you," Jedidiah sighed.

Evon gave him a deadpanned look. "Are you still stuck on that?"

"Besides, she's dating On Call Callan."

"Yeah, I guess she wouldn't leave him for you," Evon agreed.

"You wouldn't even leave him for me," Jedidiah said with resentment.

Evon sighed. "Maybe this is God's warped plan putting the two of us together like this," she theorized. "So I can apologize to you for not being very nice to you. I knew you liked me but I didn't care. I'm sorry I hurt your feelings. But now I need you and you're the only one who can help me. I hope you will forgive me. It's pretty clear that I'm yours now, okay?"

He stared at her with a new found sense of importance and satisfaction knowing that what she said was the truth. Suddenly all the resentment, bitterness, hurt, sorrow and doubt he felt about her disappeared. Jedidiah realized that Evon was exclusively dependent upon him now.

"You did hurt me," he let her know.

"Not that it matters now, but I was selfish and self-absorbed, okay?" Evon admitted. "You were Semi and I couldn't be concerned about a Semi. I was more popular than that. I had an image to worry about. I know that sounds shallow and stupid and I'm embarrassed to have to admit to it but it's the truth. I know now that I was wrong and mean and inconsiderate and all the rest of it. There isn't much else I can say, Jed. I can't go back and change who I was or what I did."

"You made fun of me with your friends," Jedidiah reminded her.

"I did," she admitted freely.

"You told people I was a weirdo stalker."

"Well, come on, Jed, you did follow me around and all the rest of it."

"The cops asked me questions after you disappeared because they thought I was some deranged psycho."

"Sorry," she shrugged. "But you have to own up to some of your own stuff, Semi. You acted all weird around me all the time."

"I liked you." Then he gave her a long stare. "You didn't like me. You liked Aaron?"

"I was flattered he was interested," she admitted openly. "He's a nice guy. I didn't realize Carrie was obsessed with him the way you were obsessed with me."

"What happened?" Jedidiah asked. "That night?"

"I hung around late after track practice," Evon told him. "Took a whirlpool. Did a little bit of yoga. Relaxed some. I came out of the locker room and there Carrie was. Very bitchy. Very mean and vile. Said some vulgar and terrible things. Warned me to stay away from Aaron."

"What'd you do?"

"Nothing," Evon grumbled. "I thought she was nuts. I told her she needed to stand down and stop acting so bitchy."

"And then?"

I walked out the back way because she wouldn't let me through the normal way," Evon sighed. She followed me outside, being mean and very catty. Daring me. Challenging me. I think she wanted to beat the shit out of me but I just kept ignoring her. I never saw her pick up that metal pole."

"She hit you?"

"Mashed my head in with the first blow. I was dead before I hit the ground. But the thing was she kept smashing my head over and over again. I don't know why. I was like you – standing above my body watching her crack my head open like a walnut. There was blood everywhere. She was enraged but then whatever came over her seemed to go away and she just stood there gawking at my body and all that blood. She panicked and ran away but then she came back. Found a shovel nearby, dug a hole, and threw me in it, along with the bloody pole. Then she leaned in and took the ring off my finger and then she buried me. Smoothed out the ground so it looked like it did before she dug the hole and the next morning the construction crew was there putting down the cement."

"And you've been here ever since?"

"Stuck in limbo," Evon confirmed. "My soul can't leave until my body is found."

"So, you're a ghost?" JJ asked with confusion.

"More like a spirit," she said. "A consciousness. You see me as you remember me."

"But nobody else can."

"Right," she said. "It's been hell, Jed. Being invisible. Having people walk right through me. Not being able to do anything. Being stuck here. Learning everybody's secrets. Missing my family, my dog, my life. Thankfully I get to be with Emily here at school and I've seen my parents a few times when they've been here for school events. They all look so sad. It's been really hard on Emily."

Evon looked at Jedidiah with a light bulb over her head expression her face. "Hey, maybe you could try to befriend Emily. I could tell you stuff to tell her that might make her feel better."

"I don't think that's a good idea," Jedidiah sighed.

"Why not?" Evon asked with surprise.

"You must have told her I was a wacko."

"I guess," Evon sighed with remorse.

"She's not going to want to talk to me," Jedidiah predicted.

"People have kind of forgotten about me," Evon complained. "You're still on the school paper right?"

"Yeah, I'm supposed to write a piece about what happened to me," he said.

"Maybe you can write a story about me," Evon suggested. "The one year anniversary and all that."

"I guess."

"Maybe float a murder conspiracy?" She thought aloud. "Divulge just enough facts to get Carrie nervous?"

"I don't want her bashing my head in!" Jedidiah worried.

"We have to do something to get the ball rolling," she grumbled.

"Let me think about it."

"What about Emily?" Evon demanded.

"Your sister?"

"You're gonna talk to her, right?"

"I doubt she's gonna want to talk to me."

"She usually goes to the library after school for an hour or so," Evon reported. "Why don't we meet her there?"

Jedidiah looked at Evon with annoyance. "We?" he asked sarcastically.

"I can be your moral support," Evon smirked.

He chewed on his lip for a moment. "Okay," he agreed reluctantly. "I don't like being perceived as a weirdo though."

"Emily is a lot more shy and reserved," Evon told him. "She's going to be stunned that a senior is even talking to her."

"Or she could run off screaming and yelling," Jedidiah countered.

Evon smiled with relief. "I can't believe this is actually starting to happen!" She said happily.

"I guess you should thank Mad Max Maddison for almost killing me," Jedidiah remarked.

"I'll thank you instead," Evon grinned, leaning in and kissing him on the cheek.

Jedidiah's heart skipped when he felt her closeness but there was something chilling about it too. "Your lips are stone cold," he remarked.

"So aren't I," she pointed out.

"Yeah," Jedidiah sighed sadly.

"Do you still like me?" Evon asked.

He stared at her for a long moment. "I will always like you," he stated knowingly.

She smiled in reply.

Evon stalked Jedidiah for the rest of the day, following him to his classes and making the occasional snide remark if a teacher or student said something stupid. She'd made a funny comment if a teacher was amusing or a fellow student goofy. Jedidiah had to train himself not to look at Evon dumbly least other kids think he was daydreaming or being creepy and he had to force himself not to react to some of Evon's comments even when he wanted to laugh.

Occasionally, JJ would glance at her and Evon would wink or smirk or giggle and Jedidiah liked the feeling she gave him. He was finally spending time with Evon – a fantasy come true as weird as it all was. She made his heart beat even if hers wasn't.

After last bell rang, Evon walked with Jedidiah into the library which was mostly empty except for a few dutiful studious students doing extra work.

"There she is," Evon said, pointing to a girl sitting in an arm chair by the wide windows overlooking the front of the school.

"She sort of resembles you," Jedidiah observed.

Emily's hair was darker and longer than Evon's had been but she had the same facial structure and features – the dark eyes, the pug nose, the curved chin.

"Go talk to her," Evon ordered.

Jedidiah strolled across the library with (fake) swagger and took a seat next to Emily who glanced at him with surprise, semi-annoyed that with ten empty chairs scattered around the windows he chose to sit in the one next to hers. She did a double take when she recognized him.

"You're the guy who almost died," Emily realized.

"Jedidiah Johnson," he confirmed. "They call me JJ or Semi."

"Aren't you the guy who stalked my sister?" Emily frowned.

"Yeah," he admitted. "I didn't mean any harm by it. I liked her."

"Oh," she said with confusion. "Everybody liked her. She was a very nice person."

"I bet you miss her, huh?" Jedidiah asked dumbly.

"For Christ sakes, Jed!" Evon protested. "What kind of stupid question is that to ask?"

Evon was sitting with her legs folded underneath her on the railing in front of the window. Jedidiah glanced at Evon and shrugged.

"Tell her I died," Evon said bluntly.

Jedidiah chewed on his lip as he studied the sad looking Emily. "What do you think happened to your sister?" He asked carefully.

"What do you mean?" Emily asked.

"I don't think she left, Emily," Jedidiah remarked.

"Me either," Emily agreed with a heavy sigh.

"She'd never just leave," Jedidiah stated.

"Right," Emily confirmed.

"So, do you think something happened to her?"

"We think she's dead," Emily said quietly.

"You mean maybe somebody killed her?"

"Yeah, kidnapped her or something and….." her voice broke and she looked away.

"I don't think anything terrible happened to her before she died," Jedidiah said delicately.

"Nicely put, Jed," Evon said with appreciation.

"But you think she's dead?" Emily asked, wiping a tear away from her eye.

"It's the only explanation," Jedidiah said.

"Nobody talks about her anymore," Emily sighed heavily. "It's like she was never even here."

"We're talking about her now," Jedidiah told her.

"Poor kid," Evon said. "She's had it rough."

"People around here don't know what to say to me about it," Emily complained. "So they don't say anything. I'm the kid with the dead sister nobody talks about."

"Do the cops ever talk to your parents about the case?"

"They say it's a cold case right now," Emily sighed. "They don't have any evidence but they do suspect foul play. They didn't really do a search for a few days after she went missing though so who knows what could have happened to any potential evidence. I think it rained a few days later."

"They also built the greenhouse that week…..I seem to recall," Jedidiah remarked.

"Good plant," Evon said.

"The greenhouse?" Emily said with surprise. "You sure?"

"I'm pretty sure," Jedidiah replied.

"Tell her that would be a great place to dispose of a body," Evon said. "Underneath the cement floor."

Jedidiah looked at Evon and shook his head no.

"Come on!" Evon pleaded. "I want to be found!"

"Listen, I know this is random us talking like this but I'd like to become friends if it was okay with you," Jedidiah told Emily.

Emily looked at him with suspicion.

"She's only a sophomore, Jed," Evon reminded him.

"There's nobody for me to talk to about her either," Jedidiah explained to Emily.

"It's been a horrible year," Emily sighed, lost in thought. Then she became aware of her surroundings again. "I should get going," she said.

"Can we talk again?" Jedidiah asked hopefully.

"Okay," Emily replied tentatively. She stood and gave him an appreciative look. "Thanks, Jedidiah. You don't seem that weird to me."

"Thank you," he said pleasantly, giving her a cheerful smile. "Hey," he added, remembering Evon's idea. "I'm going to write a story about your sister for The Hurricane," he said. "Maybe you can help me write it. You know, give me some background info on her."

"I'd like that," Emily smiled before walking away.

"You jerk!" Evon growled, jumping off the rail once Emily was gone. "Why didn't you tell her I was buried under the greenhouse!?"

"Because that would make me Prime Suspect #1," Jedidiah replied with annoyance. "I don't want to spook her. She's already trying to figure out if I'm stalking her now."

"You should have told her!" Evon complained.

"She's a smart girl," Jedidiah shrugged. "Maybe she'll come up with it on her own."

"Maybe," Evon agreed.

"Next time we talk with Emily we'll pitch the murder idea more," Jedidiah said.

"Sounds good," Evon agreed.

"Well, I guess I should get going too," Jedidiah said, standing and glancing around to make sure nobody was noticing him talking to himself.

"Crud," Evon sighed. "Alone again, naturally."

"There's plenty of after school activities going on," Jedidiah reasoned.

"Yeah, and all of them b-o-r-i-n-g," Evon complained.

"I'll come to school early tomorrow," he said. "I'll meet you in B-12."

"Thanks, Jed, that will be great," she smiled.

Jedidiah met with Evon in Room B-12 several times during the next few days, agreeing that writing an article for The Hurricane might get people thinking about Evon's disappearance again. Jedidiah interviewed Emily several times about Evon and he found himself liking Evon's kid sister more with every conversation. Evon grieved for her family listening to Emily tell Jedidiah about how Evon's disappearance effected them. Jedidiah filed the following story.

One Year Later, We Still Remember Evon

By Jedidiah Johnson

Recently, I had a very pubic health scare when my heart briefly stopped on the Hurricane baseball diamond. I have recovered nicely and I am grateful for all the well wishes but my 'return from the grave' has given me pause when I think about our absent schoolmate Evon Harris who went missing more than a year ago.

Many of us have not given up hope that she too will soon make a triumphant return but the truth is the longer time goes without any indication of her whereabouts the more likely it is that our friend met foul play.

Local Police officials state that there is no evidence that leads them to believe Evon went missing by choice. They theorize that she is the victim of a crime and they urge anybody with any insight or information as to what could have happened to Evon to call the Police Department Tip Line.

Evon's sister Emily is a sophomore here at Hillsboro High. The Harris family spent months searching for the missing Evon, creating a web site, distributing flyers, making trips to alleged sighting spots, and working with various groups whose mission is to locate missing children and adults.

"We will never give up hope that Evon may someday come home but we are also realistic in our fears that she is unable too," Emily says.

Evon is two years older than her kid sister Emily but the two were inseparable growing up. Emily still gets teary eyed when she talks about her sister and her parents still have difficulty dealing with their daughter's absence.

"We want to tell everybody how wonderful Evon was as a daughter, sister and friend and we remember her with our stories but it is so hard missing her every day," Emily says. "It is especially hard on her birthday and during the holidays."

Emily last saw her sister on the morning of her disappearance. They shared a quick breakfast together before going their separate ways with separate friends.

"I think the last thing she said to me was 'nice sweater'," Emily recalls.

Emily waits for a sign, hoping for some small miracle that will return Evon to the family. Emily still hears Evon's voice in her head which makes her happy and sad at the same time. Emily takes care of the family dog now, a task Evon once happily performed. Evon's bedroom is exactly the same as it was the day she disappeared. Sometimes at night Emily will lay on Evon's bed and think about her sister.

"It makes me feel calm but lonely too," Emily admits. "I cried for days in the first months after Evon went missing and I couldn't sleep but after a while you adjust to the new normal which is a huge hole in your heart and in your life."

There are family photographs and videos of Evon to keep her memory and image present while the family waits – either for Evon's return or for some sort of final word and closure on the case.

"After all this time, I've realized that it doesn't help to worry," Emily says. "We can't blame anybody for anything until we learn the truth about what happened to Evon but I will never understand it."

"That's a good story," Evon told Jedidiah when he showed her the final draft in the student newspaper office. "Poor Emily. My poor parents. This is just so sad for everybody and it's not fair that they don't know the truth about what happened to me."

Emily ran up to Jedidiah in the hallway the morning the story came out and gave him a meaningful hug.

"Thanks, JJ," she said with a tearful smile. "Thanks for keeping Evon alive."

"Good job, Jed," Evon smiled as she watched them embrace

"Sometimes I just want to tell Emily the truth," Jedidiah sighed to Evon later during one of their Room B-12 gatherings. "She deserves that much."

"I know," Evon sighed, sitting next to Jedidiah on the old couch.

"If we're going to expose this case we seriously need to think about what to do next," Jedidiah decided.

"You don't have to tell me!" Evon replied. "The Ring is the key," she said after a moment's pause. "Carrie never wears it. I check every day. We need to get her to wear it in public."

"How do we get her to do that?" Jedidiah frowned.

"You'll have to work on Aaron," Evon said. "Get him to get her to wear it."

"We don't even know if she still has it," Jedidiah groaned. "Maybe I should try to break into her house and look for it in her room."

"Get Aaron to have her throw a party," Evon suggested. "For the baseball team or something. She's sociable and likes to have fun. She's known for her epic parties. Then you can sneak up to her room and look around."

"I guess."

"Take Emily," Evon added.

"What?" Jedidiah asked with surprise.

"She should see the ring if it's there."

"You mean ask her out on a date?" Jedidiah asked with confusion.

"Whatever," Evon shrugged. "You two seem to be hitting it off."

"We have you in common, that's all," Jedidiah insisted.

"It's okay, Jed," Evon said gently. "Life goes on."

"I'd feel like I'm cheating on you," he admitted, taking her cold hand in his.

She smiled. "That's a nice sentiment but let's be real – you can't cheat on me. I'm not supposed to be here."

"I'm enjoying our time together, Evon," Jedidiah told her sincerely. "You're really great."

"Don't be falling in love with a dead girl, Jed," Evon warned, pulling her hand away. "Focus on Emily. She's alive."

"She's a sophomore."

"She's very mature for her age," Evon reasoned. "Don't you think she's pretty?"

"Not like you."

"Jed, you don't have to flirt with me!" Evon laughed. "Let's face it - this relationship is dead."

He gave her a sad look and she smiled bravely.

"It's okay," Evon said quietly. "My sister is a very nice person. You two can share your grief for me together after we free my soul and I'm gone."

"I already miss you," Jedidiah sighed.

"Thanks," she said sadly as she stood. "Go find Aaron. Get that party lined up."

Evon left the room so JJ had no choice but to leave too.

It so happened that Jedidiah saw On Call and Carrie together in the cafeteria during lunch. He had to admit they looked good together but Jedidiah couldn't look at Carrie without wanting to scream out "Murderer!"

"Now's your chance," Evon said, standing beside him all of a sudden.

Jedidiah slipped into a chair at their table. "Hi, guys," he said cheerfully.

"Semi," On Call said with a smile. "Nice story on Evon in The Hurricane."

That remark brought a frown to Carrie's pretty lips.

"Ha!" Evon bellowed. "Look at her belch!"

"Thanks," Jedidiah told Aaron. "It's hard to think about."

"You should have written more about what happened to you and less about her," Carrie complained. "Did you see God? Any of that stuff? That was the real story."

"What a crock of crap," Evon complained.

"Evon still's a relevant story," Jedidiah argued. "Don't you ever wonder what could have happened to her?" He asked Carrie innocently.

"I think she's on a beach in Florida somewhere," Carrie replied which sent a shiver down Jedidiah's spine.

"I'm under Greenhouse Beach you little snot," Evon growled

"Well, the important thing is that Semi's still here," On Call said. "He could have easily kicked the bucket right in front of us."

"Yeah, we should have a Semi's Not Dead Party,' Jedidiah said, finally getting the idea out there.

"Nice idea, Jed!" Evon giggled.

On Call burst out laughing. "I like that! What a great concept! We should have a party celebrating that Semi's still with us!"

"I hear you throw some great parties, Carrie," Jedidiah said

"Well, I…" She started to say.

"You want to host the Semi's Not Dead Party, Sweetie?" Aaron asked hopefully.

"Like taking candy from a baby," Evon observed, sitting on the middle of the table with her legs folded underneath her and her chin propped in her hands, her elbows on her knees.

Carrie was clearly uncomfortable with the idea but she looked at Aaron and knew she couldn't say no. "I think that's a cool idea," she said, without much enthusiasm.

"Gee, thanks, Carrie," Jedidiah smiled. "That would be great."

"Yeah, thanks Carrie," Evon said sarcastically.

"Maybe next Friday night?" Aaron suggested.

"Sure, that works," Carrie agreed indifferently. "My parents will be out of town as usual."

"I'll get the word out," On Call announced. "Everybody has to dress in white. The color of angels. The color of heaven."

"Sounds fun," Jedidiah said, standing. "I really appreciate this, guys," he said sincerely. "We'll have a knock 'em dead time."

"You're good," an impressed Evon said as she and Jedidiah walked away from the table. "The plan begins."

Jedidiah nodded in agreement, unable to speak to her in the crowded cafeteria.

"Now you need to ask Emily to go with you," Evon reminded him.

He made a wave of his hand to let Evon know he knew the deal.

"You should have been this confident when I was alive, Jed," Evon said. "Maybe I would have taken you more seriously."

A few days later, Emily approached Jedidiah in the hall holding a flyer in her hand. "'The Jedidiah 'Semi' Johnson Thank God He's Not Dead' Party?" She asked incredulously. "Is this for real?"

"You want to go?" Jedidiah responded.

"Wow, right to the chase! Good job, Jed!" Evon laughed as she watched the scene unfold.

"You mean, like a date?" Emily asked with surprise.

"Sure," Jedidiah grinned. "Why not?"

"But you're a senior," Emily worried.

"I'll be a gentleman," Jedidiah promised.

"You were weird with my sister," Emily told him with concern.

"I'm not being weird with you, am I?" Jedidiah replied diplomatically.

Emily looked flustered as she stared at Jedidiah with her mouth hanging open.

"Oh, Geez, Emily, pull your act together," Evon groaned.

Emily patted her hair nervously. "Sounds kind of fun," Emily said, blushing.

"So, is that a yes?" Jedidiah wondered.

"Yes it's a yes!" Evon said.

"I haven't really done much since Evon….." Emily started to say.

"I know," Jedidiah replied gently. "This might be a good distraction for you."

"I'll have to ask my parents," Emily volunteered.

"Really, Emily?" Evon muttered. "What are you, eight?"

"Okay," Jedidiah agreed. "Let me know what they say."

"I showed them your article," Emily said hastily. "They were very moved and appreciative."

"I'm glad," Jedidiah replied.

"I'm sure they'll like you," Emily said nervously.

"Don't they think I'm a weirdo stalker?" Jedidiah tested.

"I'm sure they'll like you anyway," Evon offered.

"They liked the article," Emily replied.

"Okay, I'll see you," Jedidiah smiled.

"Yeah," Emily replied dreamingly as she watched him walk away.

"She must be a virgin," Evon commented. "I didn't realize she was that green."

"Hey, a senior asking a sophomore out is a big deal," Jedidiah said. "Cut her a break."

Jedidiah was sitting in the school library a few days later when a shy looking Emily slowly approached the table.

"Looks like somebody's going to a party," Evon said.

Jedidiah glanced up and smiled as Emily sheepishly slid into the chair across from him.

"So, I talked to my parents," Emily announced.

"Can you go to the party?" Jedidiah asked.

"Oh, they'd never let me go to a party with a senior boy," Emily said with embarrassment.

"I guess that's true," Evon admitted.

"But I told them you were going to take me out to dinner and a movie on Friday as a thank you for helping with your article," Emily qualified.

"Oh, okay, I guess," Jedidiah agreed. "I don't like lying to your parents though."

"They want to meet you," Emily added. "You're invited to dinner on Thursday night."

"Ha!" Evon laughed.

"We're having spaghetti," Emily said.

"Mom makes a great spaghetti," Evon let him know. "You'll be fine. Dad's cool as long as you're not a psychopath."

"I'm not a psychopath," Jedidiah frowned.

"I know that," Emily blushed.

"He wasn't talking to you, Sis!" Evon laughed.

Jedidiah looked at Evon with annoyance before turning his attention back to Emily. "I love spaghetti," he smiled.

"Great!" Emily grinned.

"But you're still going to the party, right?" Evon wanted to know.

"We're still going to the party, right?" Jedidiah asked.

"Don't we have to?" Emily smiled. "It's your not dead party. You're the guest of honor."

"Make sure she wears the ring!" Evon ordered.

"Say, I heard somewhere that you and Evon had twin rings," Jedidiah remarked.

"Where'd you hear that?" Emily asked with surprise. "That was our little secret."

"I don't know," Jedidiah lied. "Anyway, why don't you wear it to the party Friday night?" He suggested.

"I usually don't wear it at all," Emily said. "Especially now."

"I understand," Jedidiah said. "But I'd really like for you to wear it on Friday night."

"Well, okay, I guess," Emily said, looking at him funny.

"That's good," Evon said. "Now we have a chance."

"So, I'll see you around?" Emily asked, standing from the table. "I've got a student council thing I have to go to now."

"Sure, I'll see you around," Jedidiah confirmed.

Emily smiled and left the library.

"It's still a long shot," Jedidiah said softly to Evon.

"You mean with the ring or with Emily?" Evon teased.

"The ring," Jedidiah clarified.

"Gotta try, Jed," she replied. "That could be The Ring of Heaven if things work out."

For the next few days, Jedidiah spent time in Room B-12 talking with Evon about her sister and parents. Evon offered background information and insight to help Jedidiah get to know her family a little better. Mr. Harris ran his own plumbing business and Mrs. Harris was a part-time real estate broker "and a full time mom," Evon stated proudly.

"We're really just your normal usual boring All American Family," Evon commented as they sat together on the Room B-12 couch. "Dinner together every night at six o'clock. Family portrait over the fireplace. Church every Sunday morning. Vacation at the beach every summer."

"Are you religious?" Jedidiah wondered.

"I'd better be now, huh?" She joked. Then she turned serious. "I believe in God and Jesus and heaven," Evon said. "I think this some sort of purgatory forcing me to pay for my sins, make amends, and cleanse my soul before I move on. I'm semi dead stuck here like this because I wasn't nice to Semi."

"Nobody's perfect," Jedidiah remarked.

She rolled her eyes. "I made my fair share of mistakes and poor choices."

"Like what?"

"I'm not confessing my sins to you!" She groaned, looking at him with sorrow. "You know hanging around here this past year has given me a chance to listen in on plenty of sins against Jesus and the commandments," she revealed. "Not just the students either. It's kind of stunning how sinful we are as humans."

Jedidiah also spent time with Emily. He figured since he was having dinner at her house on Thursday and taking her to Carrie's party on Friday as a front in hopes of freeing Evon's soul he should get to know the younger sister better too. Being seen with the sophomore turned some heads and his friends razzed him for "going into the minor leagues" but JJ was tough enough to take the ribbing (he was used to it as Semi anyway).

Jedidiah hung out at baseball practice but he wasn't allowed to participate physically so Emily came with him and they made small talk, mostly about baseball and how it sucked not being able to play. They talked about Evon too, of course. Emily wasn't as confident or as bold as her sister but she was sweet in an innocent way and Jed liked her although there was something sad about her because of her missing sister. Jedidiah thought about telling Emily about his ghost vision when he was momentarily dead and how he could see and hear Evon now in her temporary purgatory but he realized how crackers that sounded so he let it go.

Evon wished Jedidiah the best of luck on Thursday afternoon as he left the school knowing he was going to dinner at her house that evening.

"They're not going to grill me are they?" He frowned.

"Oh no, nothing like that," Evon laughed. "They just want to meet you so they know who Emily is going out with."

"Did they do that with you too?"

"Oh, sure," she said with a smirk. "It was torture!"

"You told them I was nuts," Jedidiah protested.

"They'll give you a chance," Evon assured him. "Just be yourself. You're a nice guy. I should have realized that back then."

He looked at her with resignation. "I wish you had," he sighed sadly.

The Harris' lived in a nice single story brick house in the flats section of Hillsboro. Emily greeted Jedidiah at the door when he rang the bell and her parents were waiting for them in the living room of the handsomely decorated house once Emily escorted him inside. Pleasantries and incidental small talk was exchanged and the spaghetti dinner was served fairly quickly (it was a delicious!) Jedidiah talked about the beaning incident and he gave some background on his family - his father managing the plastics company and his mother's work as a homeless advocate with Catholic Charities. He didn't mention Evon specifically because he was aware of the reputation he already had with the family – that of stalker.

The Harris' were nice people who lived in a nice house but there was a noticeable pall that hung in the air no matter how cheerful, friendly and polite they acted. There was an extra chair set at the table and photos of Evon were everywhere and although nobody spoke of her, Evon's presence (or rather absence) couldn't be denied.

When dinner was over, Emily (who hadn't spoken much during the meal) showed Jedidiah the rest of the house, including Evon's bedroom which resembled a shrine memorial awaiting her return. It still smelled of her and Jedidiah couldn't help but stare at her clothes hanging in the closet, her cross country and field hockey trophies and ribbons, her stuffed animal collection, and her CD collection on her desk.

"You liked her better than you like me, didn't you?"

Jedidiah turned to see Emily staring at him staring at Evon's room, a tear filling her eye.

"You don't have to take me to the party if you don't want to," Emily told him. "I'll understand."

"I definitely want to take you to the party," he assured her. "Please don't stress out about this."

"It feels like I'm still competing with her," Emily sighed. "Even with her gone. How can I compete with sorrow, grief and pain?"

"Evon wouldn't want you to feel that way," Jedidiah remarked.

"How could you possibly know what my sister would want?" She asked acidly.

JJ resisted the urge to snarky snap "Because I've been talking with her" as he looked at the pained Emily. "Look, this is hard for all of us," he said delicately. "Let's just go the party together tomorrow night and forget about everything else."

"I'll never be able to forget," Emily sighed.

"I know," he said with sympathy. "Don't forget to wear the ring," Jedidiah reminded her.

"Evon must have been wearing hers that night," Emily revealed. "We searched everywhere here and couldn't find it."

"That might prove to be important," Jedidiah said.

"I still don't understand why you want me to wear my ring," she said suspiciously.

"Could you just trust me on this one?" He asked hopefully.

Emily gave him a long look. "Okay," she said.

He smiled. "Emily, I wouldn't be here if I didn't like you," he said with meaning. "Please don't doubt that."

She nodded and sucked in her breath, wiping the tear away.

"I should go," Jedidiah decided. "This has been kind of intense."

"Yeah," Emily agreed. "Why do they call you Semi?" She wanted to know.

Jedidiah sighed, feeling dogged as always. "Because I'm only Semi-good," he explained.

"I don't think that," she said.

"I'll see you tomorrow," he said with new found confidence.

"Okay," she said leading him to the front door after stopping by the kitchen so Jedidiah could offer his final thanks to Emily's parents.

"Have a nice night," Jedidiah said to Emily at the door.

"Thanks for coming," Emily said bravely.

Jedidiah smiled politely, internally debating as to whether he should give her a goodnight thank you kiss but he thought better of it and left without any sort of gesture. He heard the door close behind him and he let out a long sigh, feeling more depressed than ever about the entire situation. He was either completely crazy for believing he was channeling the Soul of Evon Harris through his thoughts or he was becoming increasingly defeated about her purgatory status, the chances of getting Carrie to confess to her crime, the possibility that Evon would be set free from the Earth if her body was found, and his future with Emily, younger than him by two years and aware of his past reputation as a weirdo stalker.

Jedidiah was purposely late for school the next morning. He was feeling down and semi-overwhelmed about everything that had been going on since getting hit by Mad Max Maddison's pitch and it felt as though he was crashing emotionally with all the weight on his shoulders – he was going to be the one responsible for sending Carrie to jail if they were able to pull this bizarre plan off.

Evon was waiting for him at the school entrance upon his arrival but Jedidiah wouldn't talk to her even as she trailed him all day, peppering him with questions and becoming extremely agitated as he refused to head for Room B-12 as was their custom and he kept himself surrounded by other people all day so he couldn't converse with her.

Evon finally deserted him and Jedidiah felt guilty about that but he just didn't know what to say to her – especially if this was possibly her last day on Earth should they somehow crack the case. JJ didn't want to tell Evon how sad her parents looked and how mixed up her sister had become about her absence. Sometimes the truth was just too heavy to deal with.

Jedidiah worked up a sweat at baseball practice just sitting in the hot sun and jogging back and forth shagging errant foul balls. Emily didn't attend the practice because she wanted to start early getting ready for the party. When practice was over, Jedidiah lingered around the diamond long after everybody else had left. He was nervous about the party – fearing that it somehow could all backfire if it turned out Carrie didn't have the ring or if Jedidiah somehow became the prime suspect based on his knowledge of certain evidence. How did he know about the ring in the first place? How could he possibly know about the body being buried underneath the greenhouse if Carrie didn't admit to it?

Semi sat on the bench for the longest time wondering what had become of his life. Was he really the crazy one in all this? Maybe he was suffering from one continuous elaborate delusion as a result of undetected brain damage from his heart stoppage. Did he really want to drag Emily into this if he was off his nut? Did he really want to accuse Carrie of murder if he had fantasized the entire Evon episode?

The locker room was empty and deserted by the time Jedidiah finally dragged himself inside the school. He was both surprisingly relieved and sadly disappointed that Evon wasn't there to ask questions but he assumed she avoided the locker room out of decorum. He stripped naked and walked into the large communal shower stall (with twenty four shower heads) and turned the water on to wash away the sweat, grime, and heaviness of his woes.

"Are you going to talk to me now?"

"What the…?" A stunned (and naked) Jedidiah opened his eyes from the soap and spray to see Evon standing next to him. He rubbed his eyes because in the steam and spray of the shower she looked to be nude too. "What the hell are you doing?"

"I got naked too so it wouldn't be so awkward for you," she shrugged.

"I didn't realize spirits could be pervs too," he frowned.

"Hey, do you know how boring and mundane it is being stuck here all this time?" Evon protested. "Excuse me if I get a few kicks in along the way!"

"What, have you seen everybody in the school naked?" Jedidiah asked with surprise.

"Not everybody," she said with a smirk.

He tried not to look at her but how could he not? She was beautiful in her heavenly bodily image.

"I figured I owed you this much," Emily said, giving him a wink.

"Even if I'm imagining all of this you are as beautiful as I could ever hope," Jedidiah told his vision.

"Thanks," Evon smiled as she walked past him and out of the shower, his eyes following her the entire way.

Jedidiah turned off the water, grabbed his towel from the hook at the entrance of the shower, quickly dried off, wrapped the towel around his waist and walked to his locker where he found the suddenly dressed in her jogging suit again Evon sitting on the bench in front of the locker.

"Why are you avoiding me?" She pouted.

"This is all starting to get over-intense," Jedidiah admitted heavily.

"How'd dinner go last night?" She asked.

"I'm not sure if I should tell you," he sighed, sitting next to her, still wrapped in his towel.

"Why?"

"Because it's just sad," JJ told her. "Everything about this is just sad."

"I try not to think about that part of it," Evon said.

"And I'm starting to feel ultra-sad too," Jedidiah admitted.

"How come?"

"Because if we solve the case that means that you disappear as suddenly as you appeared," Jedidiah told her.

"But that's a good thing," Evon replied.

"For you," he said.

She smiled. "You're not falling in love with a dead girl are you, Jed?"

"I don't know," he confessed. He glanced at her. "I'm going to miss you."

"We will meet again," Evon told him convincingly. "That is a promise from God. There are many mansions in heaven prepared for us."

"Well, in case we don't actually get the chance to talk again after whatever happens tonight, d I'm glad we've gotten to spend this strange time together. You really are special."

"Take care of my sister, Jed," Evon said leaning in and kissing him on the cheek, her lips still cold to his skin. "I will always love you for helping me get to the next level."

She stood and started for the door. "Don't mourn or grieve me," she told him, glancing back over her shoulder. "Celebrate and remember me, pray for me, and try to make Emily happy for me."

"I will," Jedidiah whispered as he watched Evon disappear. "I love you, Evon."

###

Jedidiah picked Emily up a little after seven. He was wearing white jeans and a white tee shirt and Emily was wearing a white dress with white stockings and white patent leather shoes.

"You look pretty," Jedidiah told her as they got in the car.

"Thanks," she replied shyly.

"You're wearing the ring, right?" Jedidiah asked.

She held up her hand to show him the sparkling gem set in the shiny ring.

"That's stunning," Jedidiah remarked.

He was too nervous about the unfolding night to say much during the brief ride to Carrie's house and shy Emily wasn't going to force a conversation either so he let the music on the CD player fill the void until they reached Carrie's expensive house on the Hilltop section of town. It was a three story brick Victorian with a three car garage and a well-groomed yard and shrubbery. Jedidiah figured the family could afford a pretty good lawyer for their daughter should she be charged in the death of Evon Harris.

The house was already a sea of white when Jedidiah and Emily entered, the crowd busting out with cheers and whistles upon the guest of honor's arrival. Jedidiah made sure to hold Emily's hand in his to cover her ring when they were anywhere near Carrie but the hostess was far too involved in entertaining her guests and being popular to pay much attention to Jedidiah or her his sophomore date. Jedidiah made the rounds, formally introducing Emily to friends, peers and classmates as his date and when an appropriately significant amount of time had passed he put his crazy plan into action by leading Emily up stairs to the second floor.

It took a few minutes to figure out which bedroom was Carrie's which was decorated much the same way the rest of the house was – expensive modern furniture, eye catching wall paper, thick full wall to wall carpeting, and eye catching paintings, although Carrie's room was more personalized to her tastes and interests with several posters on the walls.

Jedidiah closed the door behind them and turned on the light. "I need you to do me a favor," he told Emily.

She looked uncomfortable and suspicious, clearly assuming he was about to ask for a sexual favor.

"Without asking any questions, help me look around and see if Evon's ring is in here."

"Evon's ring!?" Emily asked with confusion. "Why would Evon's ring be here!?"

"You've got to trust me on this, Emily," Jedidiah replied as he started looking around on the top of Carrie's dresser.

"This is why you wanted me to wear my ring?" Emily asked with continued bewilderment. "What's going on?"

"Shhh," Jedidiah said. "Just humor me and help me. It may help solve the case."

"But what would Carrie be doing with Evon's ring?" a perplexed Emily wanted to know. "That makes no sense."

"It's a bizarre and far-fetched theory but if the ring shows up we're half way home," Jedidiah replied, not really paying attention to Emily as he rifled through Carrie's dresser drawers and jewelry boxes.

"We could get in trouble if we get caught in here," Emily warned.

"We owe it to Evon," Jedidiah replied. "She needs closure. We all do. This has gone on long enough."

"I don't know why you're doing this," a frazzled Emily complained. "This is crazy."

Jedidiah spent ten minutes going through the room with no luck finding the ring. Perhaps Carrie wouldn't be so stupid as to bring evidence into her own room. Maybe she hid the ring elsewhere. Jedidiah sighed with resignation, realizing the plan had failed miserably. He noticed the porcelain doll that was sitting on one of the bookshelves staring at him in an almost mocking expression. Emily was standing by the door with her arms folded across her chest, looking annoyed, upset and extremely tense.

They heard voices in the hall.

"Someone's coming!" A panicked Emily warned in a stage whisper.

Thinking fast, Jedidiah grabbed Emily by the arm and pushed her against the wall, stepping close to her and delivering a knock out kiss to her lips that took Emily by surprise. She tried to mumble something – a protest – a whimper – a thank you? – as the door opened and Carrie and On Call stepped into the room.

"Jesus, Semi, there you are!" On Call laughed. "You're the guest of honor. You should be downstairs with your fans not up here making out with a sophomore chick."

"You shouldn't be in here," a clearly annoyed Carrie stated.

"Sorry," Jedidiah smiled, breaking his embrace from the breathless Emily. "We'll just be going."

He took Emily by the wrist and lifted up her hand so there was no chance that Carrie would miss the ring on Emily's finger.

"Hey!" Carrie's eyes went wide. "What are you doing with that ring!?"

Emily was shocked by the question and her eyes went wide. "It's my ring," she said.

"I don't think so," Carrie said with sandpaper in her voice. "Can you believe that little shit?" She said to Aaron. "Trying to steal my ring!"

"Are you sure it's your ring?" Jedidiah calmly asked.

Carrie gave Jedidiah a funny look. "Who else's ring would it be?"

"Maybe this is just a look-a-like ring," Jedidiah suggested, gesturing to Emily's finger. "Weird coincidence of some kind."

"Where's your ring, honey?" On Call innocently asked.

The $64,000 question and the moment of truth. If Carrie smelled a rat and backed off the plan was doomed. But if she foolishly tried to prove Emily a liar and a thief then perhaps justice would be served.

Thankfully, Carrie naively took the bait. She definitely strolled to the porcelain doll on the bookshelf, reached inside the front of the dolls' dress and yanked out a brown shoelace from around its neck, exposing a ring that looked exactly like Emily's.

"Oh," Carrie said, startled to find the ring still there.

Emily's eyes went wide and she rushed toward the doll. "Where did you get that ring!?" She demanded.

"It was a gift," Carrie replied angrily. "Not as if it's any of your business."

"The Ring of Heaven," a happy JJ said to himself.

Emily pushed her way past Carrie and grabbed the ring, yanking it off the shoelace.

"Hey!" Carrie growled. "What in the hell do you think you're doing!?"

Emily looked closely inside the ring band. "EvH," she said. "For Evon Harris. My sister's ring."

"Your sister!?" A pale faced Carrie asked with disbelief.

"Didn't I mention that Emily is Evon's kid sister?" Jedidiah asked innocently. "I assumed you knew."

Emily put Evon's ring in her pocket and wiggled her ring off her finger. "EmH," she said, showing the initials to Carrie. "My ring. My sister and I got them at the same time from our grandmother. How did you get my sister's ring?"

Carrie looked like someone who had just been exposed naked in front of ten thousand people. "Evon gave it to me," she offered weakly.

"You barely even knew Evon," Jedidiah pointed out.

"She would never sell her ring let alone give it away," Emily insisted, her breath hitched. "We cherished these rings. They were like a family heirloom to us. How did you get that ring?"

Carrie looked green.

"Why would you hide a ring that someone gave to you?" Jedidiah accused.

"I wasn't hiding it," Carrie said defensively. "It was there for safe keeping."

"Weren't you jealous of Evon because Aaron liked her but you like Aaron?" Jedidiah wanted to know.

"Don't be ridiculous," Carrie said dismissively. "Aaron liked me first."

Jedidiah threw Aaron a glance – On Call looked like he was watching a horror movie.

"What did you do to my sister?" Emily demanded.

"Everybody needs to leave," Carrie announced curtly. "The party's over."

Emily pulled her cell phone out of her dress pocket and punched in a number. "Detective McCarthy? This is Emily Harris. Yes, I know and I apologize. But something's come up. We found my sister's ring. At a girl's house. Carrie..." She looked at Jedidiah blankly.

"Jefferson," Jedidiah said loud enough to be heard on the phone.

"Okay," Emily said into the phone. "What's the address?" She asked Jedidiah.

"29 Hilltop Flats," Jedidiah said and Emily repeated the address into the phone.

"Go kick everybody out," Carrie ordered Aaron who hesitated for moment in confused uncertainty before finally leaving the room. Carrie gave Jedidiah a death stare. "You're going to wish you were dead when my family gets through with you," she threatened.

"My sister's the one who's dead, isn't she?" Emily asked, her voice cracking.

Carrie took her cell phone out of her jeans pocket and punched in a number. "Daddy? Can you and mom come home right away? I think I might be in trouble. Legal trouble. The police are going to be here soon. Okay." She ended the call and looked at Jedidiah. "You don't have any proof of anything," she said confidently. "Evon gave me the ring as a token of her esteem."

"You're a liar!" Emily shouted.

"What are you doing with her?" Carrie asked Jedidiah with annoyance. "She's a little twerp."

"Is that what you thought of my sister?" Emily demanded.

"I barely paid attention to your stuck up sister," Carrie insisted. "She wasn't on my radar screen. I wasn't concerned about her. I had no reason to be threatened by her."

"She'd never give you that ring," Emily grumbled.

Aaron returned with Detective McCarthy right behind him. The detective was a middle aged serious looking man wearing off duty jeans and a tee shirt with a Hillsboro Police Department windbreaker over it. Jedidiah recognized him as the cop who questioned him a few days after Evon's disappearance.

"What's going on here?" The Detective demanded.

"We found Evon's ring in here!" Emily said, tears rolling down her cheek as she dug the ring out of her pocket and handed it to McCarthy. "See her initial inside the band?"

The cop glanced at the ring and then gave Carrie a long look. "Where'd you get the ring, young lady?"

"They planted it in here," Carrie insisted.

"Your fingerprints are all over it," Jedidiah pointed out.

"She concealed the ring under that doll's dress," Emily said gesturing toward the porcelain doll on the bookshelf.

"Where did you get the ring?" Detective McCarthy asked again.

"My father told me I don't have to talk to you," Carrie said snidely.

"Detective McCarthy," Jedidiah offered. "Were you aware that they laid down the new cement base for the greenhouse the day after Evon disappeared?" He asked the question while staring directly at Carrie who visibly reacted to the comment.

"It's our theory that Miss Harris was abducted and taken from the school area," the officer replied.

"And the school's theater department was in rehearsals for Godspell that week too," Jedidiah revealed. "You were in that production, weren't you, Carrie?"

"I don't have to respond to your idiotic slander," Carrie replied.

"I checked the notes for that show," Jedidiah reported. "You were in the school the night Evon disappeared. You and Fran Whitman stayed late to get your costumes fitted by the costumer. Do you remember that?"

"I don't think it was the same night," Carrie snapped.

"Yeah, it was," Jedidiah confirmed. "It's documented."

"It was late when I left," Carrie volunteered. "Evon would have been long gone."

"Actually, she told a friend she was staying late after a long track practice to do some yoga," Detective McCarthy said.

"I suppose in theory she could have left the girl's locker room area and gone out the back way where the new green house was going to be," Jedidiah offered. "And the theater dressing rooms are just around the corner from the locker rooms."

"What did you do to my sister?" Emily asked with a shaky voice.

"We established before you got here that Carrie was jealous of Evon because Aaron here liked Evon and Carrie liked Aaron," Jedidiah told Detective McCarthy.

"Is that true, son?" The cop asked On Call who looked like he wanted to throw up.

"Isn't there enough circumstantial evidence here to dig up the greenhouse floor?" Jedidiah asked. "The jealousy, the ring turning up here, the fact that they were both in the area of the greenhouse that night?"

"Where are you parents, young lady?" Detective McCarthy asked Carrie.

"They're on their way," Carrie replied.

"Call them," The Detective told her. "Tell them to meet us at the station."

"What?" a pale faced Carrie asked.

"You need to come down to the station," McCarthy advised.

"Why?"

"Because you haven't been truthful or forthcoming," the cop informed her.

"My father will see to it that you lose your badge for this," Carrie growled as she angrily took her cell out of her pocket and made the call.

"Emily, go home and tell your parents that we might have a break in the case," Detective McCarthy directed. "Prepare them for the worse. We might be finding your sister's body underneath that greenhouse floor."

"Oh my God," Emily said, white faced as she almost fainted against Jedidiah.

"Nice work, young man," Henderson told Jedidiah. "Impressive deduction. Way to tie the loose ends together. Excellent investigative work."

"Everybody knew Semi-retard here was stalking Evon!" Carrie yelled. "He's the whack-a-do. He took the ring from her and put it in here to frame me!"

"I have no idea why you would keep the ring," Jedidiah said to Carrie. "It's the only physical evidence against you. Why did you take it?"

"Why in the hell did you suspect me in the first place?" Carrie asked with disgust. "I never did anything to you. I'll hate you forever for this."

"Let's go," McCarthy told Carrie, taking her by the arm.

"You coming, Aaron?" Carrie asked as The Detective led her toward the door.

On Call shook his head no as he watched her go.

"You bastard!" She shrieked. "You backstabbing two faced son of a bitch!"

They listened to Carrie yelling all the way down the stairs.

"I did it for you!" She shrieked. "I did it for us!"

"Why did you suspect her, Semi?" Aaron asked, collapsing onto the bed in a daze.

"I had a premonition," Jedidiah revealed. "After I got beaned. And then when I came back and you told me that Carrie was jealous of Evon, it got me thinking. And wondering. And it all sort of came together. But if we hadn't found the ring here it all would have fallen apart."

"I'm really sorry, Emily," On Call sighed with defeat. "I had no idea about any of this."

"None of us did," Emily said, finally finding her second wind. "Could you take me home?" She asked Jedidiah. "I need to tell my parents."

"Sure," Jedidiah replied, taking her by the arm. "Let's go."

"What kind of premonition did you have?" Emily asked as they walked down the stairs of the empty house.

"Just a weird dream when I was almost dead," Jedidiah said carefully.

"Well, thanks for following through on it," Emily said with gratitude. "This is probably going to be the worst night of my life but at least we'll finally have answers to what happened to my sister."

"I'm sorry about everything, Emily," Jedidiah said with sincerity. "This has been tough on all of us."

"Thanks for being so nice to me," Emily replied as they climbed into Jedidiah's car. "I know I'm a total loser sophomore but it felt good to be important for a couple of days."

"You'll always be important," Jedidiah assured her. "If I hadn't wrecked the party we could have had a good time!"

Emily laughed in spite of the circumstances. "So what's going to happen when this is all over?" She asked.

"Maybe we can go out on a real date," Jedidiah suggested. "You know, a dinner and a movie. When things settle down."

"I'd like that," Emily smiled.

Jedidiah pulled the car to the curb in front of the Harris house. "Would you like me to come in with you?" He asked.

"No, this should be a family thing," she said sadly. "But thanks for the offer."

"Okay," he said.

"You'll never be Semi after what you did tonight," she said as she climbed out of the car.

Jedidiah watched as Emily slowly walked to her front door with all the weight of the world on her shoulders. 'Poor kid,' he thought to himself as he drove away, heading straight for Hillsboro High which was dark and quiet. He parked not far from the greenhouse and began shouting Evon's name.

"Geez, Jed, you trying to wake the dead!?" It was a smirking Evon looking at him when she appeared from the shadows.

"It worked!" He yelled happily. "The detective investigating your case took Carrie down to the police station!"

"She had The Ring to Heaven!?"

Jedidiah nodded his head affirmatively. "I still don't understand how she could be so stupid."

"She's spoiled, that's all," Evon shrugged. "She saw the ring, she liked it, she wanted it, so she took it without a second thought. Serial killers often take trophies, souvenirs or mementos from their victims but I don't think that's what Carrie was interested in. She wanted the ring and I doubt she'll ever truly accept responsibility for what happened. She'll blame me or you or Aaron or her parents. She'll be sorry she was caught and she'll cry for herself but she could care less about me or ever be remorseful for what she did."

"She's obviously deranged," Jedidiah decided.

"Anyway, thanks for getting her to reveal the ring," Evon said. "I couldn't do it without you and I'm so glad you died long enough to see me in purgatory."

Several cars began driving into the school parking lot. A couple of town pickup trucks, a dump truck towing a small bulldozer, the coroner's hearse, two police squad cars and Principal Rogers in her own car, along with Mr. Greene, the lead custodian.

"Wow, it's really happening!" Evon marveled, motioning Jedidiah to step further into the shadows.

"Are you frightened?" Jedidiah asked.

"I'm ready, Jed," Evon told him. "I'll miss my family and you and the life I should have had but it's time for me to move on in my journey. Don't be sad – be happy for me. We all endeavor to reach this glory eventually in our lives. It's my time now."

Jedidiah grabbed her into an embrace even though she was cold and stiff in touch and feeling. He kissed her anyway and she accepted it.

"You shouldn't be kissing dead girls," Evon advised when she broke from the embrace.

"I'm saying goodbye to a dead girl," he said sadly.

"Oh," she said. "Thanks, Jed."

There was a lot of noise and commotion coming from the green house so Jedidiah and Evon began walking that way. A cop stopped Jedidiah from getting to close.

"What the hell are you doing here, kid?" The cop wanted to know. "And where did you come from?"

"I'm a friend of the family's," Jedidiah answered. "I just want to support them."

"They're in a tent over there," the cop said, pointing to a white side-less tent in the parking lot. "We'll let them know if we find anything."

"Oh, wow, how sad," Evon said when she saw her parents and Emily sitting on some folding chairs around some portable lights underneath the canopy.

Jedidiah walked to the tent and sat in the chair next to Emily, taking her hand in his. She smiled weakly but she mostly stared straight ahead. Evon sat on Jedidiah's leg and watched her parents watching the work going on inside the greenhouse – the sounds of jackhammers and other digging going on.

Jedidiah wasn't sure how much time had passed when he heard somebody yell. "Got something."

Evon leaned over and placed her hand on top of Emily's and Jedidiah's. "Goodbye, my loves," she said. "I'm hearing the ringing of heaven, Jed," she said happily.

Emily jumped, feeling some sort of presence on her hand but not knowing what it was. Jedidiah glanced at Evon and smiled bravely. He could see a bright white light widening above her head.

"Heaven is for real, Jed," Evon said as she began to float off of him and rise toward the bright light. "It's ringing me home! Oh, it is so beautiful…..warm…..loving…..peaceful…..tranquil….oh, my grandparents are waiting for me….Goodbye, Jed – I love you. God Loves You! Jesus Loves You!"

Evon disappeared into the light which vanished in an instant just as Detective McCarthy walked into the tent.

"Folks," he said. "It looks like we found her."

###

Jedidiah attended Evon's wake and funeral. He wanted to be supportive of the Harris family but mostly he attended for his own peace of mind and to say goodbye to his vision...his hallucination...his friend. Emily was often surrounded by family and friends so it was hard to spend quality time with her (even at the reception) and Jedidiah wondered if Emily somehow blamed him for solving the case and ending any semblance of hope for the Harris family. He managed to get a few minutes alone with her near the end of the reception, pulling her into an empty room away from the others.

"I want to apologize for causing so much turmoil," he told her.

"You're not the one who killed my sister," Emily said with sadness.

"But it's still hard," he said.

"Were you serious about taking me out on a date?" She wanted to know.

"Sure," Jedidiah said.

"I don't want it to be a pity date," Emily said. "Because you feel sorry for the poor girl with the dead sister."

"It wouldn't be like that," Jedidiah assured her.

"It wouldn't be your fault if you felt that way," she said. "People don't know what to say or how to act around me because of all this."

"I do," Jedidiah replied.

"You do?" She tested. "What would you say?"

"I would say that you should take all the love you had for your sister and share it with others," Jedidiah answered.

Emily was impressed with that answer. "You're really not so bad," she decided with a half-smile. "I don't know why Evon thought you were weird."

Jedidiah pulled Emily into his arms and gave her a kiss. She did not resist and Jedidiah blushed slightly when she willingly kissed him back.

"I would say that you should live a happy life for her," Jedidiah continued as they kissed.

"That makes sense," Emily agreed, kissing him gently on the lips. "Does this make you happy?"

JJ nodded yes but peeled her off of him. "This isn't the time or place," he sighed.

"I know," she replied.

"But how 'bout next Friday night?" He asked hopefully. "Dinner and a movie."

"Okay," Emily smiled. Then she laughed at the situation. "My sister would think I was crazy," she realized.

"She might not so much," Jedidiah reasoned with the inside information he learned during the last few weeks.

"Do you think I was the right sister all along?" Emily wondered.

Jedidiah took her by the hand and squeezed gently. "Probably so," he concluded.

"You're more than Semi-Good," Emily realized. "You know that, don't you?"

"I do now," Jedidiah answered.