Hey, here's chapter ten! ^u^ I really put a lot of thought into this. Really made this my best chapter yet.

I made this the most dramatic chapter. I really put my all into this. I'm talking about the blood, the sweat, the tears. Had a bout of insomnia. But it was worth it.

Look out for chapter eleven.


Natasha Carter.

The name rolls off the tongue like honey. It's still new to me. I was used to being called Tauriel, that I feel like a completely different person.

I can't remember anything at the moment. But now that I know my real name I have something to link me to my past. I have to remember more if I'm going to solve this puzzle.

Janie and Ava know my real name now. They can look through the school files and find out what happened to me. I know that after high school I must've gone off to college or to work. Ava says that I must've been out of high school when I died. That is, in my twenties, like she said before.

It's all crushing me down like a block of cement on my shoulders. It's too much. Too overbearing. I want to go back to when I was Tauriel. Lost in the forest and a few animals to keep me company. I can feel it ricocheting in my head like a bolt of lightning. I think it's me trying to remember. If only I could remember what it is I'm trying to remember.

The fact that my photo was in the yearbook in 1974 raises a number of questions. I went to Ava's high school in 1974, not 1973. That means I must've gone to a different high school that year. Janie also theorizes that I must've been homeschooled. They both agree that it might be a possibility. It's commonplace. But the reason for me being homeschooled leaves them hanging for answers. If I was homeschooled, why did I start going to a public high school? I don't quite agree with that theory, and grasp on the concept of having gone to another high school before enrolling to Ava's. That theory is more feasible.

Knowing my real name still feels strange to me. It's not unusual to feel different than what you're used to. It doesn't latch on the first second. It takes time. I know that I'll get used to my real name, I just liked being called Tauriel.

I spent the whole school day following Ava around to her classes. Most of them have been fun thus far. Ava's gym class had a dodgeball game today. I was excited when I learned that they still played this. Oh, how I wish to be alive again. Art was an inquisitive session. Everyone got to share their drawing of what they've been working on. Ava's was by far the best, along with another girl's drawing of a landscape. For lunch, they served cheeseburgers. It's a good thing I'm dead or I'd've gained a pound after chowing down on one. Chemistry was interesting. Mrs. Pierson had everyone group together to make homemade ice cream in a plastic bag. It was a nice reward after all that hard work throughout the school year. And in English, the class watched the rest of the To Kill a Mockingbird movie.

I especially liked the actor playing Atticus Finch.

Returning home, Ava and Janie talked nonstop about the coming summer break. They figured that with my real name discovered, they should have enough evidence to figure out where I must've lived. Ava is still reluctant to tell anyone that she can see ghosts. It all goes back to what Ava always spells out: if she tells someone her ability, they'll think she's crazy, and then her parents will hear word of this, and think she's "relapsing" into her mental illness. Ava's made it clear that she does not want to go back to that again. I don't blame her after all.

Janie decided to stay over at Ava's. Apparently, Janie's a frequent houseguest. I would have to ask my parents first to stay at a friend's house. Janie's parents are so used to their daughter staying over at Ava's that they don't question why she doesn't come home right after school.

"Hi, Mrs. Morgan!," cheeps Janie.

"Hi, Janie," says Mrs. Morgan.

"Got any of that cherry Coke?," she asks.

"Sure do."

Janie traipses into the kitchen to get that cherry Coke. I move out of Mrs. Morgan's way. Even though I'm a ghost and she can't see me, there's the chance that she'll feel my presence. I watch her go to the front door, purse strapped to her shoulder.

"I'll be back in time for dinner," she says to Ava. "I won't be long."

"Bye, Mom," says Ava.

Mrs. Morgan is out the door and off to whatever errand she has to make. Janie returns with two cherry Cokes. One for her, one for Ava.

I don't remember drinking those when I was alive. As always, if I don't recognize it or remember, it was created after I died.

"Let's watch Spirited Away," chirps Janie, tiptoeing to the living room, her hand raised over her head—the one holding the soda.

I give Ava a confused glance.

"You'll see once the movie starts," she replies.

Janie grabs a DVD, opens it, puts it in the DVD player, turns on the TV and sits on the couch. Ava joins her, and glide over and hover above them.

Spirited Away is a masterpiece of an animated movie. The animation is so pristine. It looks so real; blurring the line between reality and animation. The main character is this girl named Chihiro Ogino, who has to work at a bathhouse in order to free her parents, who'd been turned into pigs, from being eaten. The boy who helps her, Haku, has the power to turn into a dragon. And then there's No-Face, this...all I can say is that he's a black shadow with a mask. The main antagonist is this witch named Yubaba, who can shapeshift into a bird, and even has a bird familiar. God, that gigantic baby she has.

Ava tells me to pay attention to the theme of the movie. Chihiro, when she entered the bathhouse, signed a contract, and Yubaba removed a few Japanese letters, leaving it with one. Her new name was Sen, and Chihiro had to remember her real name if she wanted to escape. I still don't get what Ava's trying to show me. We're at the part of the movie where Chihiro's riding on Haku's back while he's in dragon form. I'd probably would've pissed myself if I was in her place. This movie is gripping by the minute.

"Every—single—time!," said Janie, fanning her eyes. She's referring to the part where Chihiro remembered something from her past: falling into a river and the water "carried" her to shore, and that someone who saved her was Haku, whose real name is actually Kohaku River. Chihiro's tears float up to the sky. Now that's what I call romance.

"She loves this part." Ava quips to me. "So do I."

"They'll make a nice couple." I say, turning back to the TV. Ava's look tells me otherwise.

We watch it until Kohaku and Chihiro arrive at the bathhouse, where everyone is waiting for her. A group of pigs is lined up, ready for Chihiro to take her test and reclaim her freedom. She answers that none of the pigs is her parents and she passed. She won! Everyone says goodbye to her and Kohaku escorts her to the river, the way back to the human world. Kohaku tells her to not look back until she's crossed the tunnel. Chihiro does so, and she finds her parents already waiting for her at the tunnel. They cross it, get back in their car, and drive off.

The way Chihiro looked back at the tunnel, it dawned on me. Before, she was "a lazy, spoiled, crybaby with no manners." After, she left the spirit world, she became a whole new person. She learned to sympathize with others. She learned teamwork. She learned to stand up for herself. To be brave. To be independent. To be strong. I think that, by having a new name, she learned new things about herself. She never would've learned the things she learned if she never entered the spirit world. And I think she turned out all right.

"So," utters Ava, turning her head to me, "did you figure out the theme?"

I hover there, still lost. Despite watching the whole movie full through the end, I feel like something escaped me. It was an invigorating movie, but I can't grasp what the theme is suppose to be.

"It's okay if you don't understand," she says. "It's not something you should get in one day. I've seen it a bunch of times and I still tear up a bit."

I look at the DVD cover. Chihiro's gaze is so intense and it captures your attention the very moment you lay eyes on her.

"What is she saying?," asks Janie.

"She's not saying anything," replies Ava. Janie sits back and drinks the rest of her cherry Coke. It must taste really sweet.

I'm too enraptured by the movie's phenomenal plotline to find the theme or its symbolism. Like Ava said, it'll take time to gather up the information.

"Wanna stay over for dinner?," Ava asks Janie.

"I'd love to," responds Janie. She reaches into her pocket and pulls put her phone. "Gotta call my Mom and tell her I'm having dinner here."

"Okay."

I look at the DVD cover again. "What year was this made?"

"Two thousand and one," replies Ava. Four years.

"Is there a sequel to this movie?" I'm rather curious to know.

"No," says Ava, "most of Hayao Miyazaki's movies don't have sequels."

"How many are there?"

She counts on her fingers. "There's Kiki's Delivery Service. My Neighbor Totoro. Princess Mononoke. Just last year they released Howl's Moving Castle. It's really great."

They sound wonderful. I wonder if she has those tapes.

"Done," chirps Janie, hanging up her cellphone. Those really do look convenient. I wish they had them in my time.

Ava takes out the DVD and puts it back in its case. She puts it back in the shelf.

"Come on," she says.

We all head to her room. Janie sets her backpack down next to the bed. Ava flops down on the bed.

"So what was all that talk about sequels?," asks Janie.

"Natasha wanted to know if there was a sequel to Spirited Away," answers Ava.

"Oh." Janie shrugs. "But that would be so cool if there was. Haku and Chihiro reunited, they fall in love and get married." She absolutely adores those two, and it shows. Ava chortles.

"It's been my lifelong dream to ride on Haku's back," cheeps Ava. "How the hell does he fly without wings?"

"I dunno," retorts Janie, "but he looks cool."

Janie sits up. "Should we ask Mr. Walters if he remembers Natasha?"

"It couldn't hurt to try," states Ava, "but let's not say we know her by name. We can still use descriptions. I just hope his memory is as good as his teaching."

"He's been teaching since the seventies," quips Janie, "he's bound to remember her."

"I hope so." Ava glances at me. Even with my real name retuned to me, I still feel out of place. I remember Mr. Walters, but I wish I could remember more. This wasn't how it was suppose to be. I should've gotten all my memories restored after finding out my name.

Ava removes the bone from her neck and sets it down on the nightstand. Janie eyes it curiously, yearning to pick it up.

"So, uh, so, is it like a leash?," she asks. That sounds animalistic coming from her. "Like if I throw out in the hall, she'll be there?"

"She can go as far as downstairs and back," explains Ava. Which is true. "But other places, like to the other side of the street, I'd have to go out and take her bone with me."

"And she hasn't...made a trip to the forest?," asks Janie innocently. It shows that she doesn't want to sound insulting, but she really wants to know.

Ava looks at me, giving me that look she always gives me.

"No." I hang my head.

"She hasn't," she tells Janie.

"Oh." Then more sincerely, she adds. "Does she miss it?"

"Of course I do," I reply instantly, "why ask such a question?" It surprises even me.

"She does," says Ava, "but...I think she just doesn't want to go back yet."

"What do you mean?," queries Janie. This I have to hear.

"I mean, she wants to remember the forest when she was Tauriel," explains Ava. "When she was Tauriel she felt a strong connection to the forest. Now that she has her real name back...she feels like a stranger to it."

Janie looks at Ava like she has two heads. I never thought I'd be hearing this from Ava. I never thought of it like that. I want to see the forest, even for just one minute, but I feel I ashamed of visiting it. Not when I have my real name and that memory. I just wish I could've seen my attacker's face.

The front door opens. Mrs. Morgan is home.

"Ava!," she calls. "Help me put away the groceries. And would you give me a hand with dinner?"

"Sure thing, Mom," answers Ava, getting up.

"Ooh, I wanna help," interjects Janie. Usually the guests just wait until dinner is ready, but it seems like those types of manners are gone. I wish I could remember who I had dinner with when I was alive.

I follow Janie and Ava downstairs to the kitchen, where Mrs. Morgan is hauling all these paper bags filled with groceries. Putting away the eggs, juices, the fruit and a bundt cake for dessert, they leave a box of bow tie pasta, cherry tomatoes, basil, milk, butter and chicken on the counter. I can deduce from the ingredients that dinner is going to be pasta.

Ava is rather skilled in cooking. I've seen her help out her mother in the last several days to confirm it. She cuts the chicken into strips while Janie stirs the pot to make the sauce. Its made with the milk and butter. By the time we're finished, Mr. Morgan arrives to see Janie over to his surprise, and the food is ready to be served.

"Boy, I'm starved," says Mr. Morgan, dropping his briefcase. He unties his ties and leaves it hanging there. He takes a seat next to his wife.

"Well, here, honey," says Mrs. Morgan, putting pasta into a plate. "It's all ready."

"I helped with the chicken," announces Ava with a hint of pride in her voice.

"And I made the sauce, Mr. Morgan," cheeps Janie, wanting to be a part of the team, too.

"Well, you both did a good job with dinner," comments Mr. Morgan appreciatively. Mrs. Morgan serves him his plate.

Ava and Janie take their plates to the table and they sit down. Ava's seated in the far left chair and Janie in the chair furthest to the right. Mrs. Morgan is the last to sit down, and as soon as she does, dinner commences.

Watching them eat is like waiting for a grubby tap to pour water. I look at the leftover pasta on the stove and wish I were alive, so I can make myself a plate and join them. Death is a sadistic abuser.

I hover to the backdoor, looking through the window on the door. I do this daily to see if there aren't any robbers roaming the alleys. In case there is all I have to do is turn around and wave my arm and Ava will say something, like reminding them if either of them took out the trash. There hasn't been anything at all while I've been here. You don't usually see that sort of thing around here. It's such a quiet neighborhood; you don't expect any of the houses to be broken in.

I turn around to see the family finish their dinner, with the exception of Janie asking for seconds, to then clear away for dessert. Mrs. Morgan takes the bundt cake out of the refrigerator, takes it out of the box, pulls out a knife and slices a nice, moderately even piece onto a plate. That cake must be so delicious as to not turn down. To hell with calories, if I were still alive I'd be eating two slices. Heck, the food in Spirited Away looked more mouthwatering than this.

Janie returns home after dinner's done. Ava waves goodbye to her, and promise to see each other tomorrow. I can't believe the school year is almost over. It's like I just got here, and now it's ending.

Ava makes her way upstairs with me gliding beside her. As soon as she closes her bedroom door, she begins with her musings.

"We're going to figure out what happened to you, Natasha," she says. She's said it so many times I'm starting to doubt it.

"How are we going to go about that?," I inquire.

"If Janie and I were adults we'd be driving throughout the whole town to search every nook and cranny to find your murderer." She lays down on the bed, eyes gaping up at the ceiling. I glide over, hover above the spot Ava's looking at.

"Do you have any clue as to who it might've been?"

"I should be the one asking you that," quips Ava with a teasing smirk. It's true that I should remember who it was, but I still have a bit of amnesia gripping me.

"I wouldn't know where to start," I answer. Which is in fact true.

"Oh, well," muses Ava, "we'll ask Mr. Walters if he remembers you."

"Do you think he'll remember me after all this time?" I'm desperate to know if I might've left an impact on anyone.

"Of course I do," retorts Ava boldly.

"Even after so many years?"

"I know so."

"Do you think I might've been one of his favorite students?"

"No doubt about it."

"Do you think he might've heard about my murder?"

This time, Ava pauses. That question floors her like a struggling comedian. She takes her time coming up with an answer. I should not have asked such a thing I can be inconsiderate without knowing it. Was I like this when I was alive, too?

"If he did," says Ava evenly, "then we'll know when we ask him."

"How are you going to ask him?"

"Janie snuck one of the yearbooks into her backpack," says Ava, "she'll show it to Mr. Walters after class is over. He'll leaf through it. Find your picture. And he'll tell us about you."

It takes me a long while to form a sentence.

"This is all so generous of you, Ava," I tell her.

"It's no big deal," she replies.

"No, really," I insist, "you've been so good to me all these weeks that...I feel bad about having to ask you to do these things."

"But it's no trouble at all," reassures Ava, sitting up straighter. "I see and talk to ghosts, you're a ghost, so ergo, I have to help you."

Tit for tat. I can see the determination in her eyes. She's got so much drive that it unnerves me. I'm more worried for when we find my killer. What if he's dangerous? And that's another thing. What are Ava and Janie's parents going to say when they find out their daughters are going up against a murderer? And I know for a fact that Ava and Janie will make up a lie to scour the town and search for my killer. If only their parents could see and hear me, too. This would all be so much easier.

"You're right about what you said" I tell her. "And you'll be doing everyone a lot of favors."

"Aw, you're just saying that," says Ava.

"I mean it."

"Nah, I'm not that great."

Modesty. She tries to give off that to vibe, but I can see some pride oozing out of her. She practically reeks of it.

Looking for the next day makes me want to wish time would go faster.


I can't believe that it's the last day of school.

It seems so unreal. I was counting the days to summer and now I want the school year to past longer. Even though I went to this school years ago, I'm still going to miss it.

The three of us breeze through the school day like any other day. All the things Ava talked about still ring in my head. I'm excited about what's going to happen and where we're going to go to find family. I know there's been a little bit of talk of it, but I'm still hoping they're still alive. Ava stated that if they had me at a young age, they'd be nearing fifty by now. She's sure of it. I don't have any other ideas, so I agree. And it's believable.

Ava skipped chemistry again and is spending the hour in the library. Janie's not with her. Ava either forgot to tell her to skip, or she wants to spend this hour by herself.

She stands next to a bookcase in the fiction section and pulls out a book. I look at the title: Coraline by Neil Gaiman. The cover shows a girl holding a candlestick and a set of ghost hands grabbing at her and the title in red letters.

"Is that actually her name?," I query.

"Yup," responds Ava. I look at the book curiously. I wonder who would come up with a name like that. Ava opens It.

"I have this book back home," says Ava, running a hand on a page. "It's about this girl who finds a door in her house that takes her to another world that's like her world, only...everybody there has buttons for eyes."

My eyes bulge. Buttons for eyes. It must be a struggle to get around.

"I know, huh?," quips Ava. "Creepy, but cool."

"I'll say."

Ava spends several minutes skipping a few pages to show me her favorite parts. I look in at the illustrations. Apparently the author illustrated his own scenes onto the book. It's convenient when you can both draw and write. Then came the part where she showed the scene where Coraline meets the ghost children in the dark closet. They tell Coraline that the don't remember their names. That's very tragic. To not remember your own name...it's like not having an identity. It's like you don't exist. Ava then shows me the part where Coraline beats the Beldam, the witch-like monster that killed the three children. She threw the cat at the Beldam and he scratched the button eyes off her face. The way the author describes it is enough to churn your stomach.

By the time we get to the part where Coraline dreams about the ghost children, she learns that the Beldam will still go after her, even blind. I was taken aback when Ava showed me the part where Coraline dropped the Beldam's severed hand and the key into the well.

"Wow." My eyes are as big as dinner plates.

"I know, right?," she quips, sitting back, arm hanging over the backrest. She closed the book, where I see a subfusc sketch of the house Coraline lives in. She opens the back and there's a black-and-white photo of the author. He's actually quite handsome.

"Cute, huh?," says Ava, snapping me out of my trance.

"Uh..."

"It's alright," assures Ava. "I actually think he's cute myself."

"Is there a movie based off this book?" I point at the book to be specific.

"No," responds Ava. "At least not yet, anyways."

"I would love it if there was a movie about this book."

"So does Janie," states Ava, "she wants it to be live-action. I think it should be animated."

"I can see what you mean with it being animated," I venture. "Animation gives it that child-friendly feeling and safety."

"Live-action on the other hand," says Ava, "is practical, and the special effects are almost as eye-popping in animated movies. But people always say they like the book better than the movie."

"Ah, right." I'm not sure what she means by that, but I'll take her word for it.

"Because in the movie," states Ava, "some things are taken out to make it shorter. Often times, the movie feels...rushed."

I didn't notice anything when she showed The Lord of the Rings movie. I guess I was too spellbound by the plot to notice anything. I was just surprised that there was a movie.

"Well, whether there's a movie for Coraline or not," declares Ava, sitting up straighter, "I hope they do it right." She stands up and takes the book back to the bookcase, sliding it back in its spot.

The bells rings just in time.

"Well, here's to the last class of the day," she utters, looking at the ceiling as though she can see the school bell.

Ava and I make the walk to English class. Before we enter, I stop Ava to ask her an important favor.

"When you describe me to Mr. Walters," I say firmly, "do not tell him you can see ghosts."

"I wasn't going to tell him anyways," retorts Ava casually. I really need her to take it seriously. I should also have her tell Janie, too.

Speaking of, we see her sprinting towards us, books in her arms.

"Made it!," she hoots out of breath.

The three of us make our way into the classroom. Janie and Ava sit in their assigned desks and I hover over them.

It's another free day today. Most of today has been a free day. He turns off the lights, and puts on a movie for the class to watch. The movie is Matilda. It's about a girl with telekinetic powers who uses her telekinesis to help her friends and overpower her tyrannical principal. It was chilling to find out that she was the aunt to Matilda's teacher. It's so...juxtaposing.

Janie taps Ava on the arm. She whispers something into Ava's ear. Then Ava turns to me, and scribbles something on a sheet of paper.

Janie wants to know if you can do that.

This takes me by surprise, considering I'm a ghost after all. But I think she means if I can do all that in a time that calls for emergency. If the need arises, I might have to do everything in my power to protect Ava. And myself.

"I probably could," I tell her.

Ava writes down her answer below the sentence above and hands it to Janie. Janie reads it over and nods savvily.

"Does she actually believe we'll run into people like that principal?" I point to the screen.

"Miss Trunchbull," whispers Ava so quietly I can barely hear it. But I know she doesn't want to draw attention.

"Right," I utter. "But...do you think things like that will happen?"

Ava ask for the paper back and writes down another answer.

I don't know if we'll run into psychos or not. What I do know is that there's going to be a lot of danger to look out for. And if it ever happens, you'll have to do what you need to to protect us.

What she says is true. I'll have to throw things with my mind to stop any potential perpetrators. Even dead, I'll never stop fighting.

The bells rings once again. We only got to the part where Matilda gives Miss Trunchbull a scare in her house to retrieve Miss Honey's doll. Either way, I'm glad the class enjoyed themselves.

As soon as the last four students leave, Janie and Ava go with their plan and ask Mr. Walters the big question. He's about to grab his belongings when Janie comes up to his desk.

"Mr. Walters," she says. "I'm really going to miss you."

"So will I," he replies. "But I'll see you next year."

"Mr. Walters," speaks Ava. Here it comes.

"Yes?," says Mr. Walters.

"You've been teaching at this school for a long time," she states, "was there a student you were especially proud of?" I think she's using that word to avoid giving him the wrong idea.

"There were several," answers Mr. Walters. "But there were a few who stood out, succeeded." He does a memory search. "There was this boy, Thomas Dwyer. He would do the most incredible oral reports. There was also Samantha Hendricks. She really got the material better than most." His eyes mist up. Ava and Janie look like they're regretting their plan.

"Mr. Walters?," utters Ava.

"Sorry, sorry," he says. "But there was this one student I had, a long time ago." I think my heart restarted. He looks like he's going to well up. "Her name was Natasha Carter."

Hearing his voice say my name makes me feel a warmth I haven't felt in a long time.

"What..about her?," queries Janie.

Mr. Walters pauses. "She was incredible. She was great at English. Everyone loved her." He let's out a small, humorless chuckle. "Natasha was the kind to do part time volunteer work after school. She would help out at the animal shelter. She helped out at the senior center. She wanted to make a difference, change the world." He sucks in a long breath. I can see this is becoming too much for him. I'm about to tell Ava to stop when his next sentences halts me. "She wanted to do it writing books."

Did I?

"Books?," says Ava.

"Did she get to?," inquires Janie.

Mr. Walters shakes his head. "She didn't get to." He covers his mouth with his hand. "In her junior year of college...she..."

Here it comes. The moment I've been waiting.

"She disappeared," he says with a labored breath. He removes his glasses and rubs his eyes. I don't want to make him feel all this, but I need to know.

"How?," asks Ava. "What happened?"

"The police never found her body," he replies. "They're still working the case, but I believe they should just close it. Her parents can't hold on to a thin line forever."

My parents? They're still alive?

"Do they know who did it?," asks Janie.

"They caught him," says Mr. Walters. "But because they couldn't find the body, they let him walk. To this day the Carters don't know what's become of their daughter, and yet, they won't give up hope."

Ava and Janie stand there. I float, aghast. All this information flows into me. It's all becoming so familiar.

Ava turns around, brow furrowed. I know that look; she wants to tell him. I hold a finger to my lips to show her to hold her tongue. I shake my head. I can't let her tell him.

"I wish someone would do something," rasps Mr. Walters, "give the Carter's some justice." He covers his eyes with his hand, and I can see a tear run down his face. This is all too much.

"Mr. Walters," I whisper.

I glide toward him and put my hands on his shoulders. I don't care that he can't see, hear or feel me. I just need him to know I'm here, that I haven't forgotten.

Mr. Walters wipes his tears and puts his glasses back on. Janie opens her backpack and pulls out the yearbook. The 1974 one.

"Um," utters Janie. "I, uh, I kind of...took this when Mrs. Garrison came to take them and I offered to put them away for her."

I was hoping he'd get mad at her, but he let's it go.

"I," says Janie, "I wanted to see your photo in your...younger years." She's really trying her best to not say old.

Mr. Walters humors them. "Okay." He takes the yearbook from her and opens it. He finds the page with the teachers, scans with his finger and points at the photo. "There I am." He turns it over, finger placed on his photo.

"Whoa-oh-ho-ho," chimes Janie, eyes bulging. Her mouth hangs open like a dog's.

"Yeah, that's me," he says. He smiles. "I was quite the looker."

"You still are," comments Ava. I snap my head to her, brow arched.

"Can you show us Natasha's picture?," queries Janie. Then remembering, she comes up with a better reason. "That is...if she's in that one."

"Don't worry, she's in this one," reassures Mr. Walters. He doesn't know that they already know. He turns the yearbook over, flips through the pages, and stops at the exact page Ava and Janie found. "That's her." He turns it over, his finger next to my picture. There I am.

"She's pretty," says Janie. She says it like she's seeing that picture for the first time. It's all to keep him from suspecting.

"I know," says Mr. Walters. "If she were here right now, she probably would be married with kids, books published..." He closes the yearbook. "I'm going to return this to the library, if you don't mind."

"Not at all," says Ava.

"Oh, Mr. Walters," interjects Janie, raising a finger, "one more thing."

"Yes?"

"Do you...know where the Carters live?" She makes it sound like she doesn't know me, but shows curiosity all the same.

"They've lived in the same house they've always have," replies Mr. Walters. "They don't want to leave until..." He pauses.

"Do you know their address?," ask Ava a little more gently than Janie. Mr. Walters wordlessly asks with his expression why.

"We want to pay our respects," says Janie. "We just feel bad that we didn't get to know her. We want to show them we care, from two strangers who want to lift their spirits."

"That's nice of you, girls, but I don't think—"

"Please?" Janie gives him that wide-eyed look with a pouty lip. If she were in a cartoon, it would look much more comedic.

"All right." Mr. Walters tears out a page from a spiral notebook and jots down the address. He hands it to Janie. "This is where you'll find them. They've been living there for years, they still believe Natasha will come home, they don't think she's..." He huffs in a breath. I think this is our cue to go.

"Thank you, Mr. Walters," says Ava.

"You're welcome," replies Mr. Walters.

"See you next year," cheeps Janie.

She and Ava traipse out the door while I fly beside them. I look at the address on the paper.

274 N Road Drive.

I don't know if that's close by or far, but I need to see them for myself. I've been waiting so long for this, that I'm dreading seeing my parents.

Ava and Janie go to their lockers, which they have emptied the day before. They have only jackets and a few notebooks in them. They grab their stuff and make their way down the stairs. Waltzing out the door, I get the feeling we're not going home.

"We have to go," states Janie.

"Janie, no!," rasps Ava. "It's too soon."

Ava walks the opposites direction to the school buses. Janie follows and I glide behind them.

"Ava," utters Janie, "why not?"

"It's too soon to tell them," she retorts firmly.

"Ava..."

Ava turns around. "Do you know how hard it's going to be?," she questions. "They've been waiting years and years for news about their daughter. And they have no idea she's dead. And no, Janie, they can't know that I can see her ghost."

"I wasn't going to say that," rasped Janie defensively.

Ava huffed. "We can't tell them, not now." She runs a hand brought her hair, sweat dampening her forehead. "We're not going to go to them and tell them I can see their daughter's ghost."

"That'll drive them nuts," quipped Janie. "But what does Natasha think of all this? Wouldn't she want to let her parents know she's here?"

That's a hard one to answer. I can't believe I'm hearing this, but I wish she hadn't said that.

"Natasha?," says Ava, snapping her head to me.

I float. Unable to come up with an answer. I'm wracking very thought I can muster to use as a coherent answer.

"I don't know." If I could still cry, I'd be crying an ocean.

Ava offers an apologetic look. Janie looks at Ava and knows it's not the right time. It gladdens me that she's catching on.

I never thought I'd say this, but I'm actually dreading seeing my parents. I always thought I had parents, but I thought they'd be dead or senile. I guess I thought they'd be dead, so that I could deal with it better. I even wished I'd been an orphan. Knowing that they're alive doesn't make this any easier. I wish it didn't have to be like this. Not dead, and with Ava telling them what I'm saying.

It's summer vacation now. We have all the time to find my parents. It's a good thing Mr. Walters gave them my parents' address. He must've been an important person in my life to know my parents so closely as he did. If only I could remember my parents. I don't even know their first names!

Maybe after a little while to cool off, I'll be ready to face them.


Phew, that was a head-turner. I really have my work cut out for this.

There's mentions of Spirited Away and Coraline in this chapter. I did it to give Natasha some inspiration. Something she can relate to. I also referenced Matilda.

I'm telling ya, this has got to be the most dramatic chapter I've ever written.