Mary stood outside Cy’s house on pins and needles. She’d finally worked up the courage to ask Gran to drive her over, but now standing outside his home, she was beginning to reconsider. There were trimmed shrubs and weeded flowerbeds along the front of the house. She could see lacy curtains framing the windows. Her home had brown scrub grass and blinds. What did she have in common with him? She shook her head and told herself she was being silly. They were just going to watch movies and goof off. There was nothing to get stressed out over.
She walked across the lawn to the front door. She was about to step onto the landing when the front door swung open. She stepped back surprised. A guy with a passing resemblance to Cy stood in the doorway. He had large shoulders and a thick build like a wrestler. His hair was cut short and spiky in the classic jock fashion. His big eyebrows were drawn together due to the scowl on his face.
“Who are you?” he demanded.
“I’m Mary. Cy invited me over,” she stammered. This must be Kyle, the older brother.
“Oh, I’ve heard about you,” he said, taking a long look at her. Mary’s back stiffened under his sneering gaze.
“Have you?” Her jaw tightened.
“Yeah, you’re the town freak. You like to dig up dead people because you can’t find any living ones to hang out with.”
Her eyes narrowed. She wanted to say something nasty back that would make him blink, but she didn’t want to get into a fight on Cy’s doorstep. It didn’t seem like something a good guest would do.
Cy appeared behind Kyle. He gave her a cheerful smile. “Mary, great you’re here.”
Kyle glanced back at his brother with a smirk. “So, little brother’s going to hang out with the weirdo. Maybe neck on the sofa. I’d wear some garlic if I were you.” Mary wondered if their parents would be very upset if she kicked their eldest between the legs, after all if she did any permanent damage, Cy could still supply them with grandchildren.
“With dating tips like that, Kyle, no wonder you’re going to the dance alone."
“I’m not coming home alone,” Kyle said and jerked his coat down. He brushed past Mary without another word. They watched him peel out of the driveway in a green SUV.
“Sweet boy. Wherever did your parents go wrong with you?”
Cy laughed and waved her inside. When she stepped into the house, she was in the living room. She stopped just inside to look around. Cy’s home was a nice, middle-American ranch house. Little figurines of children sat on side tables along with dried flower arrangements. The walls and the mantle were lined with pictures of the family: Kyle and Cy fishing; Kyle, Cy, and their folks on a picnic; Cy in a mini-league baseball uniform; Kyle in a Superman costume. She absorbed the normality.
“Don’t worry about Kyle. He won’t be home for hours, if he does come home.”
“So where are your parents?” She asked, looking around.
“They left for the weekend on a business trip.”
“They’re not here?”
“Nope, and I didn’t get a chance to rent any movies, but we can watch something off the shelf. Pick one out while I make some popcorn.”
“Okay.” She’d been nervous about meeting his parents. She generally didn’t do well with parents, except Rachel’s parents, but Rachel’s parents were different. They’d raised Rachel. Other parents assumed Mary was a bad influence. It had totally killed her babysitting career.
So silver lining, the parents weren’t there to disapprove of her, but their absence meant she was alone with him. She was alone with a boy. Mary wanted to bite her nails.
She chose Thelma and Louise from his family collection. She was betting it was his mom’s, but he hadn’t groaned and begged for a different title when she told him her choice. That had earned him a few points.
They sat at either end of the sofa with the bowl of popcorn between them. She got as well situated as possible, but comfortable was impossible. Was this a date? It could be construed as such, couldn’t it? They were a boy and a girl in his house with no parental supervision. He’d asked her over. They liked each other. He was cute. If it were a date, it was Mary’s first date.
She wished she knew if it were a date. It was hard being nervous something when she wasn’t if it was happening or not. Getting tired of her constant worrying, she curled up into a ball and concentrated on the movie. It’d been a long time since she’d seen it.
Louise was yelling at Thelma about how to get to Mexico. Louise did not want to go through Texas. Mary could sympathize with Thelma’s frustration with her friend. It seemed like a lot of headache not to go through a big place like Texas to avoid any chance of being caught in Texas. The simpler plan would be to just go through Texas and not get caught, but maybe Louise knew something Thelma and Mary didn’t.
“Worthless women. The whole lot of them.” Mary’s head snapped up. She glanced at Cy. He was engrossed in the movie and seemed to be enjoying it as much as she was, but that was beside the point. Who’d said that? Cy hadn’t noticed it. Mary hoped she’d imagined it. She turned back to the movie. Thelma had agreed to plot a course around Texas to get to Mexico but had told Louise that it was crazy.
“They deserve everything they get. Put’em in their place. Show’em who’s boss.” Mary looked around this time. This was crazy. Was there another TV on in the house? Was someone outside? Cy hadn’t noticed the strange man’s voice and that disturbed her more than if it had alarmed him. She didn’t like the sound of it. It was faint but still pierced her ears, and it sounded angry and mean. She was about to get up on the pretense of going to the bathroom but really to check the house when someone knocked at the door. Mary about jumped out of her skin.
Cy laughed at her reaction. “Relax, it’s just the door, or are you afraid the state troopers have finally chased you down?” She forced herself to smile at his joke, but her body was tense. She watched from the couch as he went to the door. She heard a voice she recognized. Vicky.
“Cy, home alone? Excellent!”
“Not really. Mary’s here with me.”
“She knows,” said another voice. This voice she recognized too. Goody, Kyle was with the malevolent cheerleader.
Mary got up off the couch, switched off the entertainment center, and braced herself for Vicky vitriol. The cheerleader sauntered into the living room with an easy smile plastered across her face. If Vicky was all sunshine and rainbows, Kyle was looming storm clouds as he came in and leaned against a wall to glower at Mary.
“Hi, Mary. It’s good to see you,” Vicky said.
“Yeah, whatever,” she said on guard. She had no idea what the bubble brain was up to. There was another girl with them.
Vicky introduced her. “You know Carolyn.”
Mary nodded her head. Carolyn hung out with Vicky and thought the sun rose and set on the auburn-haired bimbo. Carolyn wrinkled her nose at her. Her response was customary so Mary didn’t pay any attention to her. Vicky was the one who had her full attention. The cheerleader walked over to the large coffee table in front of the sofa and began clearing off everything on it. She acted like she were in her own home.
Carolyn stood to the side holding a box under her arm. It was long and wide but not very deep. It looked like a box for a board game. Once the coffee table was clear, Vicky pulled it clear of the sofa while Kyle looked smug. Mary and Cy shared a look and both shrugged their shoulders. They had no clue what was going on. Vicky held out her hand to Carolyn. She handed her the long narrow box.
“Look what I brought everybody! A Ouija board! I thought it would be a lot of fun, especially with our expert here. Right, Mary?” Now Mary was worried. She’d never used a Ouija board before, but Gran had told her about them. They were used to talk to spirits and there was a spirit here who was talkative.
“Shouldn’t be in my home. This is my house. Even Julie knew that. She may have been a faithless whore, but even she knew not to bring unwanted people into my house.” Mary bowed her head and silently urged the spirit to shut up.
Vicky set up the Ouija board and plopped onto the floor at the head of the coffee table. “Now everyone gather round. Let’s try contacting River Phoenix’s ghost.”
“Vicky, what are you doing?” Cy asked.
“Well, the dance was getting slow, so I decided to ditch it and come over here and have some fun.” Cy turned to Mary and gave her a questioning look. It asked if she were okay with all of this. She bit her lip and glanced away, unwilling to say no and show her fear.
“Come on everybody, gather round,” Vicky commanded again. Carolyn sat down first. She was to Vicky’s right. Kyle sat down next to Vicky on the other side. Vicky got up and led Cy over by the hand. “Sit here,” she said, nudging Kyle down. Kyle was not pleased with the new seating arrangement and moved down with a jerk. Vicky retook her seat on the floor at the head of the table. Mary still stood, facing everyone.
“Come on, Mary. You do this all the time don’t you?” She looked at Vicky and almost told the truth. No, she didn’t do this regularly, and she didn’t do it willingly. She sat on the floor at the end of the coffee table opposite her with Kyle and Carolyn on either side of her.
“What we have to do is put our hands on this heart-shaped thingy here.” Vicky pointed at the planchette, the proper name for the Ouija board piece, though Vicky didn’t seem to know that, which meant she probably wasn’t the best person to instruct everyone on how the Ouija board worked. “Okay, now don’t move it. When we ask the spirits questions, they’ll answer us by moving it. Simple, huh? Mary, I don’t know why people pay your grandmother money to contact spirits when they can do it for themselves.” Mary frowned at her. They just didn’t get it because they didn’t know. There were things that went bump in the night. The monster underneath the bed was real. Fear was real, but she couldn’t tell them that. They’d think she was crazy. They wouldn’t know until they found out for themselves.
“Now everyone put your hands on the pointer thingy.” They did as Vicky instructed, and she threw her head back and closed her eyes. In her best dramatic voice, she said, “Are there any spirits nearby tonight? All famous people are welcome, especially movie stars.” The planchette shot to ‘Yes’, but Vicky seemed far too perky for it to have been spirit induced.
“Oh goody. We have someone. Okay, who are you?” she asked. Mary waited for the planchette to move to the ‘R’. It did. She settled back and got ready for it to go from ‘I’ to ‘V’ to ‘E’ and so on. It did go to ‘I’, and Vicky gave a girlish giggle, but then the planchette stopped. Mary rolled her eyes. What? Had they forgotten how to spell River? She waited for it to go to ‘V’, but it didn’t shoot to ‘V’. The hairs on the back of her neck started to rise. The planchette slowly crawled to ‘C’ as if it was fighting against a group of unwilling hands.
“What’s going on, Vicky? I thought we were going to talk to River Phoenix,” Carolyn said.
“Um, well I guess he’s giving us his real name. I mean who would really name their kid River?” Vicky said with a huff. The planchette went to ‘K’ next, then as if in an afterthought, it went to ‘Y’.
With a laugh, Kyle said, “Ricky? I see why he changed it to River.”
“Well, Ricky, when did you die?” asked Vicky, trying to get control of the show again. The planchette moved to the numbers: 1, 9, 9, 4.
“That isn’t River Phoenix, he died in 1993,” Carolyn said.
“Maybe he can’t count,” Kyle quipped. He must’ve thought he was hilarious.
Vicky shot him a glance spiked with daggers. Kyle had the presence of mind to look sheepish, but when she turned to Mary, her eyes were laced with full-fledged swords. “Mary, do you know who this is?” She stared back at her dumbfounded. She was accusing her? It wasn’t even her Ouija board. How was she supposed to have rigged this?
“No, I don’t,” she stammered.
Mary didn’t like the way the séance was going. The hairs on the back of her neck were ramrod straight now. Then she heard it.
“I want you all to leave. Don’t want you here. Julie can tell you what happens to people who don’t listen to me,” the man’s voice growled. Mary didn’t want to find out.
“Let’s ask it another question,” Carolyn said.
Vicky nodded, but she put a cruel little twist to it. “Why don’t you ask it a question, Mary?”
Her body broke out into a cold sweat at the request. She didn’t want to open her mouth. She knew that if she spoke, the ghost would answer, and she didn’t want to hear anything else he might have to say. She clenched her jaw and shook her head.
Cy spoke up, “Come on Vicky, this is freaking all of us out. Why’d you bring it?”
She looked at Mary with narrowed eyes. “The same reason Mary’s faking this whole thing. She’s the one making the thing move. She’s trying to scare us. Leave it to the freak to freak everyone out.”
Mary’s eyes snapped to Vicky in outrage. None of them were as scared as she was. All they had were the jitters. She was clenching every muscle in her body as she tried to keep from bolting. She lifted her hands off the planchette. She decided to share her fear.
“Ricky, how did Julie die?” Everyone looked at her in shock.
Ricky’s answer made the planchette whiz around the board. Carolyn shrieked and snatched her hands off it to clutch them to her chest. Kyle and Cy also jerked their hands away. Cy looked at the palms of his hands in disbelief as the planchette continued to skitter around the board. Vicky tried to hold onto it to show she still had command of the show, but soon her hands slipped off too, and the planchette was left to spell out its message alone.
“What’s going on?” Kyle demanded. His voice was an octave higher than normal.
Cy jerked open a drawer underneath the coffee table and pulled out a pad and pencil. “What’s it spelled so far?”
“I don’t want to know,” Carolyn cried.
“What’s it spelled so far?” He demanded again as he kept track of the current letters.
“She’s not dead. I kept her here close,” Mary answered, though she wasn’t looking at the Ouija board. She didn’t need to. She was staring down the table at Vicky whose eyes were huge. They looked like they could roll out at any moment.
Cy copied down the letters as the planchette indicated them. His writing was barely legible due to the shaking in his hands. Kyle looked back and forth between the planchette and his brother’s piece of paper. Carolyn had her hands over her mouth as tears dribbled out of her eyes.
Now they were afraid.
When the planchette stopped, Cy read the message aloud. His voice quavered a little bit. “She’s not dead. I kept her here close to my heart where she can never ever get away to show her just how much I love her.”
“How did you do that, freak?” Vicky said.
Mary stared back at her. If Vicky thought that was scary, she hadn’t seen anything yet. “Ricky, how did you show Julie that you loved her?”
The planchette flew off the board straight at her head. She barely ducked it, and the planchette smashed a vase across the room. Everyone looked at the planchette and the broken vase in disbelief except Mary. She was looking at her hands. They were clasped in her lap to keep them from shaking, but to everyone else, she looked calm.
“Mary, what did you do?” Cy shouted. She twisted her hands but didn’t look up at him.
Carolyn picked up the Ouija board and slammed it shut. “That’s it, Vicky. I don’t know what’s going on, but I am out of here, and I’m taking my aunt’s board with me. Kyle, drive me home.” She ran and snatched up the fallen planchette and dashed for the door. Kyle lumbered up. His face was so red; it was bordering on purple.
“I don’t want to find you here when I get back, freak,” he said to her. He followed Carolyn.
Mary looked down the table at her nemesis. Vicky didn’t look so good. Her whole body was rigid, and her eyes were locked on her. She stared back. Did the cheerleader still wonder why people paid her grandmother to do this type of stuff instead of doing it themselves? Was talking to the dead still ‘fun’? Vicky didn’t answer any of her silent questions, instead the cheerleader slowly climbed to her feet. Her legs were a little wobbly.
In a low menacing voice, Vicky told her, “You wait till I get to school. Everyone’s gonna know how big a freak you really are. You just wait!” She ran to catch up with Kyle and Carolyn, but in her haste, she fell on her face at the doorway.
“Vicky, are you all right?” Cy leapt up to check on her. She brushed off his help and dashed out of the house. Seconds later, the SUV screeched out of the driveway. He closed the front door with a soft click. He looked really jangled. He stopped at the other end of the coffee table and stared down it at Mary. She tried to give him a smile but smothered it when it became apparent that he was not going to smile back. In fact, it looked like he might not ever smile at her again. The thought made her want to cry. She may have really screwed up.
“How did you do that?” She blinked as she stared up at him. She had hardly done anything. The Ouija board had done most of it. It wasn’t her fault. Right?
“Vicky told me to ask a question, so I did,” she said as she got up. “I can’t help it if you didn’t contact River ‘freaking’ Phoenix.”
“Mary, how did you do that?” he repeated.
“It wasn’t my fault,” she said more to herself than in answer to Cy.
She went for her coat. He grabbed her arm, stopping her. Their eyes locked. She searched for any glimmer that he believed her, but all she found was anger, anxiety, and something else that made her flinch. She lowered her eyes and murmured in a small voice, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for this to happen.”
He dropped her arm. “How can you lie like that?” Her mouth fell open. “I admit I wasn’t thrilled when I those three showed up, but you didn’t have to scare the begeesus out of them like that!”
Mary picked up her fallen coat and shrugged it on. “Like I said, I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. I’m sorry.”
“What?” he snapped. She winced. “How did you do it anyway? Is it some trick your grandma taught you? Is this how you and Rachel get your kicks on a Saturday night? You go and scare people out of their wits? Huh?”
She didn’t answer. She was too angry to answer. She was mad that the evening had happened. She was mad that Vicky had appeared. She was mad about the séance. She was mad that she’d opened her big fat mouth. She was mad that he was mad at her. She was mad that he’d found out the truth about her and like everyone else hated her for it. She was mad that she was a freak.
“Mary!” he yelled. He wanted an answer.
She looked back at him. She wasn’t crying. That was a small relief.
“Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
“I’m sorry,” she repeated and slipped out the front door.
Continue to Chapter 6