Council of War
I decided that Thursday would be better spent in bed…or, well, the couch in the living room as I was still under inspection just in case I’d had a concussion. The last few days had been…hectic. And while I intended to study, it seemed I spent most of the time thinking about Jason while staring into the fireplace.
The way he had looked at me when checking my wound…he had looked so concerned. As if he cared. As if I mattered. Strange as it were, I’d never seen that look in a guy’s eyes. I mean I mattered to lots of people, but not to someone I felt I had some…connection with. Not like that. I guess I’d never been in love. I wasn’t sure I was in love with Jason either. It wasn’t exactly like I knew him well. It was just this feeling that I couldn’t get close enough to him. I wanted to be closer. I wanted to somehow connect to that feeling that was him. Whatever that was.
I’d kissed Simon, a kid from Outlook Village, when I was thirteen just to figure out kissing. We’d been a couple for a month during summer when we’d somehow ended up hanging out together. But I hadn’t really liked Simon. I mean he’d given me some butterflies and it was fun. It was just…there was no magical feeling of wanting to fall into his soul and become one with it when kissing him.
I’d crushed on different guys since, but no one I had gone out with. I knew other guys had crushed on me, but it wasn’t like I liked them back. So if they’d ever looked at me like they cared, I hadn’t noticed.
I had made out with a few guys I didn’t really know too — tourists that had come to local parties and stuff. That had been exciting, but nothing more. And I was still a virgin. My aunts had repeatedly told me that sex and love are not always the same thing, but that you always need to know that a person you have sex with has your best interest at heart. You need to trust them. Feel safe with them. So I hadn’t taken that plunge either.
When Jason had stood there last night, with his hand on my head and I’d felt the warmth that radiated from his body… I had wanted to get closer. I had wanted to feel more. I had wanted to somehow reach into his soul and feel his heartbeat. I had wanted to experience him. I’d never felt that way before.
And, underneath all the awkwardness when he stood next to me, had been the feeling of safety. Even if he didn’t like me, like me, he cared. And that had made me feel all warm and giddy and…idiotic. He was just a friend, after all. He’d cared because I’d bled.
That didn’t stop me from replaying the night over and over again in my head. I couldn’t quite believe he could see ghosts, but he had spoken to Josephine! Maybe that was why I’d always been so drawn to him? Maybe it was just that we had some things in common? Like we’d both lost parts of our family, we liked being close to nature (well, I liked connecting with nature, he seemed to like being in nature 24/7) and we could see/feel ghosts.
Around four o’clock I heard a commotion at the door when Johanna arrived. I’d snuck out to the office to text her at one point and tell her to drop by after class. It was the most I’d stood up all day. My head still felt a bit funny (maybe I’d suffered a small concussion after all) and I had really enjoyed doing mostly nothing on the couch, having Jenna and Jenny check in on me every few minutes.
A few moments after I heard her arrive, Johanna burst through the door to the living room.
“Jenny and Jenna told me you’re in here. My God, are you alright? And Jason sees GHOSTS?” Like a fresh breath of air from the outside — I could still smell the cold on her — Johanna was practically a bundle of excitement and worry all in one go. Her big eyes were almost popping out of her head.
I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Yes and yes. I’m alright and Jason sees ghosts. Not like I do, but he does sense them.”
I couldn’t help but feel excited when I saw Johanna so excited — it was pretty cool that the one guy I had a crush on could see ghosts too. It made me feel less…weird.
“This is so awesome. I mean, it’s terrible you have ghosts following you who make you fall off your bike, but imagine if it hadn’t happened! You would never have found out that Jason can see ghosts too! What did he say? Was he nice when he took you home? Do your aunts like him?”
“Uhm, yeah. The ghosts are becoming a problem. But there’s been no one here today. Which is kind of annoying, because I’d like to speak to Josephine. As she was the one to introduce me to the ghost world I keep thinking she has the answers, but who knows?”
“And Jason? You didn’t answer my questions about him.”
I felt myself blush.
“He saw me topple over with my bike. There was this ghost note blocking my road. Like a massive parchment that suddenly came out of nowhere and read something about having to stop them from digging for gold in the mountain or the dragons won’t grow old. And I tried to avoid driving straight into it and fell off the bike, which Jason saw. I thought he was a ghost first when I was still lying on the ground after the fall.”
“You thought he was a ghost?” Johanna laughed.
“Yeah, I could only hear him, not see him. And I’ve, uhm, grown used to hearing weird voices all the time and, you know, I had hit my head.”
Johanna still laughed.
“I can only imagine the shock of finding what you think is the hottest guy in town next to you instead of a ghost.”
“Yeah, I had a real fright! He’s much more frightening than the ghosts!”
I looked at Johanna and suddenly we were crying with laughter. Maybe because it was true — I found Jason a lot scarier than the ghosts. Or maybe I just needed to laugh — I was tired of trying to figure out my feelings for Jason and why I could see ghosts and how it would impact my career. The whole thing was absurd!
Once we stopped laughing and Johanna had dried her tears she got back to interrogating me.
“So how did he find out you could see ghosts? Did he see the note too?”
I shook my head. It still hurt.
“No. He met Jenna when he got here and she immediately assumed I’d fallen off the bike when seeing a ghost. Then Josephine started playing the piano and just as I was trying to evade Jason’s questions about it, Jenna walked in and said Josephine was playing. I think he already knew because he can sense things too, so I guess it’s good she walked in just then as I would probably have lied about it otherwise.”
“Wow! And then what did he say?”
“Something about him seeing a ghost as a kid and then sensing things as he got into his teens. Then he got all excited and told me he wants to take me hiking on Saturday to show me something. You think it’s a ghost? He refused to tell!” I’d spent at least half the day trying to work out what he could want to show me.
“He wants to go hiking with you?” Johanna’s eyes were the size of saucers again.
I couldn’t help but feeling smug. “Yeah. He loves nature, apparently. Wants to become a vet, or work in conservation. Anyway, I haven’t gotten a clue what he wants to show me. I thought maybe it was something about ghosts, as that’s when he said it. I mean after talking about ghosts.”
“Still, he wants to take you hiking! Was he nice when he rescued you? Did he like your aunts? Do you think he has a crush on you?”
I laughed. “He didn’t really rescue me. He biked home with me. But yes, he was nice. Very concerned and everything, but I think he likes Regina more than me. He’s obsessed with animals and nature. I never knew. Oh and yeah, he loves Jenna.”
“He would be nuts if he didn’t love Jenna.”
“Oh trust me, not everyone does. She has a very…strong personality.” I laughed. I loved Jenna to bits, but she was uniquely Jenna.
Just then Jenna came in through the door.
“Oh, and speaking of the devil…”
“Ah, I found you. I went to your room first, Lulu. Can’t believe I didn’t remember you were in here. I didn’t even remember Johanna was here and I guess I let her in the door, didn’t I? It’s time for our council of war. Johanna, you can join. There’s cake.”
Johanna looked excited — I’m not sure if it was because she was about to attend one of our (in)famous councils of war, or because there would be cake. Probably both.
“Listen up everyone,” Jenna shouted. Myself, Johanna and my aunts were all gathered in the kitchen. “We need to discuss Lulu’s ability to see ghosts as it appears some of them are haunting her in ways that are not kosher. Someone needs to give them a good talking to. Or spanking, but I guess we’d spank the air. But before we discuss that — have some cake everyone. Hetty has brought lemon twirl vegan cheesecake and good old-fashioned Victoria sponge cake, the Hetty way with cranberries and blueberries in the shape of the American flag on top. In case you didn’t already see the flag. It’s a masterpiece.”
Today Jenna was wearing a bright yellow jumpsuit and matching loafers. Her smile was just as sunny — she loves whenever there’s something going on that’s dramatic. I could see she thought the ghosts were just that. And she seemed to remember everything, even though she’d forgotten Johanna just moments earlier.
“So, Louise, what exactly have you experienced so far in the ghost world?” Hetty asked, at the same time as she was serving everyone cake.
“Yeah, start by telling us about the different ghosts you’ve met,” Agatha added, while Wilda seemed oblivious to anything but the piece of cake she’d just put in her mouth. I couldn’t blame her — I wanted a cakegasm too, but I figured I’d better speak first.
“Well, there’s Josephine who you all know. The piano playing ghost who explained to me that I can see ghosts. Then there’s sad Sally who cried in my bedroom one night, I don’t know why. Then there’s been three voices I’ve heard who’ve left me notes too, I think. The notes warn about gold in the mountain. Something about dragons dying if they dig for gold. Those are the very same ghosts who punctured my wheels.”
“How rude!” Jenna exclaimed. “One would think that when one has reached the mature age, of, well, being dead, one should know better!” At this, I could see Johanna’s mouth twitching.
“Yeah, I somehow didn’t appreciate their efforts at sabotaging my bike, or sending me headfirst to the ground,” I shook my head. “But, I guess they might have tried to achieve something. I mean I had to go see Mr Crawley. The first time the only interesting thing that happened was hearing Mr Crawley mutter about gold in the mountain and two voices discussing one of them wanting to become mayor. I later discovered one of the voices belonged to Raya Eastwind, you know the new girl. The second time I heard Mr Crawley talk about contracts with a creepy man and then there was this voice that said there’s gold in the mountain. I’d heard that voice before. And…” My voice trailed off. How do you describe a creepy voice? “It gives me cold shivers. It feels different from the other ghosts. There’s something not right about it. Same with the man in the shop. He’s not right either.”
I shook my head and felt a shiver go up my spine just thinking about it. Being in the safety of Windgate Cottage and having 24/7 supervision for a day had made me forget how scared I’d felt being alone at times.
Seeing my discomfort all my aunts suddenly started looking concerned, then bombarded me with questions, opinions and so much more. We kept discussing the afterlife, ghosts with bad vibes and the possible reasons ghosts wanted me to go to Mr Crawley’s twice, for over an hour. Agatha thought I should try and sense what the ghosts wanted, Wilda thought I should ask Josephine and Hetty and Jenna wanted us to set up booby traps for bad ghosts.
In the end, we all agreed that speaking with Josephine was the first step. I also ended up being banned from biking until I had done so. (Of course, Jenna used a hammer to slam the table to confirm our decisions, as is our tradition.) Then we broke up the meeting, Johanna went home and I was tucked in bed with some calming and healing herbal tea made by Wilda. That didn’t help much because after sleeping for what felt like five minutes I was awoken by someone sitting by my side…