It was TAB, and Rachel and Mary were hunkered down at a table in the cafeteria. This was an unusual locale for them. They didn’t go near the caf, unless it was absolutely necessary. The cafeteria was the hub for all the cliques and wannabes. Girls preened and strutted while guys leaned against the walls and tried to look cool. Being there gave Mary a headache, but the two girls were on a mission. They were going to find Cy. Well, Rachel was determined to find him. Mary was pretending to look. She still wasn’t sure about telling him what they’d found out.
She really did want him to like her again, but telling him his house was haunted wasn’t the way to do it. It was funny how saving a boy from danger didn’t guarantee him liking the girl. It always worked for the guy in the fairytales. The damsel always married the hero, and they lived happily ever after. Fairytales were sexist, and the real world was unfair.
Rachel grabbed Mary’s arm, jerking her out of her gloomy thoughts. “There’s Cy,” she whispered and pointed. Mary followed her finger.
She groaned when she spotted him. “He’s with Vicky.”
“So? Go talk to him.”
“But Vicky’s with him."
“Are you a coward?”
She slouched down further and crossed her arms. “No, but I’m not a glutton for punishment either.”
“Fine, I’ll handle it,” Rachel said and got up. Mary tried to pull her back, but Rachel shook her hand off and marched across the lunchroom. The din in the cafeteria drowned out any chance of hearing what was said, but Mary could read the body language loud and clear. Vicky tried to block Cy from Rachel, but Rachel was persistent. She reached around Vicky and tugged his shirt. He stepped away from Vicky reluctantly to let her speak to him. He wasn’t happy to see her, but he listened. His eyes flicked once to Mary. He was scowling. Mary turned away in alarm. When she looked again, Rachel was coming back.
“He’ll see us at lunch.”
The girls sat in their usual spot outside and waited. And waited. “Maybe he didn’t mean today,” Rachel said. It was a quarter to one, and lunch was almost over.
Mary shrugged. “Vicky’s probably keeping him away.” She’d been nervous right before lunch. She’d been nervous since Rachel told her that he would meet with them, but as the time ticked by, and Cy didn’t show, she grew eerily calm. It felt like a reprieve. She began to hope the bell would ring early for fourth period.
Rachel sighed in relief and nodded toward the school. “Finally, here he comes.”
Mary turned to watch his approach. Her calmness fell away, and her anxiety returned. He walked toward them with his head down. To anyone watching, it didn’t look like he was coming to them but just going in their direction. He didn’t look at them, even when he was standing over them.
“So Rachel said you had something to tell me.”
“Yeah, you should probably sit down,” she said.
“What? You’re gonna say something that’ll make me keel over. Like apologize?” He finally lifted his head and looked at her. Mary gulped.
“I am sorry about what happened,” she said.
“It’s not her fault. It’s Vicky’s,” Rachel said.
“No, it’s partly my fault,” she said. “But I didn’t actually do that stuff with the Ouija board or the vase.”
“Oh, come on.”
“Let her explain, Cy."
He grimaced but finally sat down.
Mary took a deep breath. This was the going to be the tough part: Explaining what she was to him. “I hear stuff that you can’t hear. Do you know what a clairaudient is?"
“Well, clairaudients can hear ghosts and talk to them. I’m a clairaudient.” She’d never just come out and said it to anyone. Sure, she knew the word, but to come out and just tell someone that she was a clairaudient had never happened. She’d never even used the word with Rachel. All her life, she’d been trying to deny it, but she couldn’t change who she was. She heard ghosts. No amount of humming and sticking her fingers in her ears was going to stop it. She had to accept what she was. She waited for his reaction.
“You hear dead people,” he said in a flat voice.
She twisted her hands in her lap. “Yeah.”
“As opposed to seeing dead people?”
“How about smelling dead people? Are there people who can do that?”
She winced and stared at her hands.
“You’re really starting to piss me off,” Rachel said to him.
He ignored her. “So you hear dead people, what about the Ouija board?”
“It worked. I mean those things are meant to talk to ghosts. Well, congratulations.”
“So my house is haunted?”
He got up. “Where are you going?” she asked in alarm.
“I’m going to get ready for class.”
“What? Don’t you want to know the rest of it?” Rachel demanded.
He choked on a laugh. “There’s more?”
“Your house is haunted and not in Casper, the Friendly Ghost kind of way,” Rachel said.
“Of course.” He turned to go.
Mary decided it was time to lay it all out. “Cy, this ghost will hurt you if it can. It has hurt others who’ve lived there.”
He stopped and turned back. “Now I get why they call you Scary Mary.”
Her eyes widened.
Rachel jumped up. “Hey, if you don’t want to believe this, that’s your prerogative. It’s a stupid prerogative, but you’re welcome to it. Mary told you this to help you. She doesn’t get her laughs from stuff like this. She’s a good person, and she felt she had to tell you. Now she has, it’ll be your fault if something happens.”
He threw his hands up. “Will you two listen to yourselves? My house is not haunted. I don’t know why you’re trying to make me think it is, but you’re both sick. I can’t believe I liked either of you. Vicky was right. You’re both psycho.” He turned and stormed away.
Mary felt two inches tall. She wrapped her arms around her knees and tucked her head behind them. He was right. She was sick. Who told people that their homes were haunted?
“Are you sure you like him, Mary? Because I’m ready to toilet paper his house and leave flaming bags of dog poop at his front door.”
A watery laugh burst from her. “No, no pranking.”
She sat back down beside her. “Then what should we do?”
Mary didn’t answer. She had her eyes closed so she wouldn’t cry.
“Mary?” Rachel touched her shoulder.
“He’s never going to like me again.”
She jerked her head up to look at her friend. “What do you mean so what? I really like him.”
“What, you can’t like him if he doesn’t like you?”
“It hurts if he doesn’t like me.”
She put her arm around Mary’s shoulders and gave her a hug. “I know, but just because he doesn’t like you, doesn’t change who you are. You’re still the most awesome girl in this school.”
Mary wiped the corners of her eyes. “Thanks, but I’m not the most awesome girl. She’s sitting next to me.”
Rachel pushed her over. “Where? I wanna meet her.”
Mary’s laughter surprised her. She looked up at Rachel and gave her a big smile. “Are we done with the mush?”
“Oh man, I hope so, ‘cause I don’t know if I can do much more of it.”
Mary sat back up and reconsidered the situation with Cy. She was determined to help him. She just had to figure out how.
The plan came to her like a cartoon bulb lighting up over her head. It was a crazy idea. Certifiably insane. Rachel would love it. She turned her head to peek at Rachel. “What do you think of a little B&E?”
Mary had the pleasure of watching Rachel’s jaw drop. “You want to sneak into his house?” she squawked.
“Don’t announce it.”
“Are you serious?” she whispered.
“Still want to play Robin to my Batman?”
Rachel stared at her as she thought about the idea. Her face broke into a grin. “Just call me the Girl Wonder. Uh but, do you know how to break into a house?”
“Breaking into houses is easy. Not getting caught is the tricky part.”
“Well, if we do get caught, my dad will represent you.”
Mary quirked an eyebrow. “What about you?”
She shook her head. “Uh, no. Remember the protest thing?”
“The animal rights thing?”
“Yeah, having to bail your daughter out for throwing rancid hamburger meat on upscale business men, who happen to be clients of your firm, didn’t sit well with him. He said if I ever wound up in jail again, he’d leave me there.”
“Um, that’s kinda harsh. I’m sure he didn’t mean it.”
Rachel shook her head. “You didn’t see the purple vein throbbing in his forehead. If I do wind up in jail, I’d demand to stay rather than be released into his custody.”
Mary shook her head. She knew Rachel’s dad. He was a man people instinctively called sir and minded their manners around. He was not a man anyone wanted to make angry, but he wasn’t hard on his daughter. He didn’t demand she be a certain way and would not let anyone else tell her to be a certain way either. Mary remembered the hoopla that Rachel’s Grateful Dead t-shirt had stirred in the school their freshman year. Some uptight teacher thought she was endorsing drug use by wearing the shirt, though it didn’t have a marijuana symbol on it, just the Grateful Dead logo. The administration had tried to make Rachel change her shirt. She wouldn’t, so they sent her home. She called her dad and told him what had happened. He stormed into school, gathered the administration in one room, and in no uncertain terms, told them that if they did not let his daughter wear her T-shirt at school, they would see him in court. Rachel got to wear her T-shirt at school.
“Your dad’s cooler than you give him credit for.”
She shrugged. “So how are we going to break in?”
“We’ll have to skip school.”
“Not a problem.”
“Stake out the house, wait for everyone to leave, hope they left something unlocked, if not, we’ll have to break a window, go to the basement, find Ricky’s anchor, destroy it, and leave.”
“Let’s do it tomorrow,” Rachel said.
“But tomorrow I have my next appointment with Mr. Landa.”
Rachel and Mary grinned at each other. No, neither of them would have a problem skipping school tomorrow.
They watched Cy’s house from Rachel’s mom’s car. It was a tan station wagon. She’d asked her parents if she could borrow it to drive Mary to school. She’d told them that Mary had twisted her ankle, and her grandma’s car was in the shop. Mary would have to remember to limp if she saw them.
A half-empty box of glazed doughnuts sat between them, only one of which Mary had eaten. Rachel sat in the driver’s seat with a pair of binoculars trained on the house. They’d watched Kyle and Cy leave five minutes ago. The parents had already gone before they arrived. No one else was in the house.
“I think it’s safe,” Mary said opening her door.
“Let’s wait another minute,” Rachel said. She trained her binoculars down the street and grabbed another doughnut. She kept the binoculars up to her face as she ate.
Mary rolled her eyes and climbed out of the car. She wanted to get the exorcism done and over with. The waiting was killing her nerves. Rachel’s consumption of six doughnuts wasn’t easing her worries either. Rachel on a sugar high could be dangerous. Rachel scrambled out of the car to follow.
“What’s the plan?” Rachel hissed as they crossed the street. She kept turning her head to look around, acting far too suspiciously. Mary wished that she’d chill.
“Knock on the front door.”
“What?” Rachel stopped short on the sidewalk.
“We have to make sure no one’s home, Rach.”
“But we already did that.”
“No, we assume both parents left for work already. If nobody answers, we’ll know for sure and then see if the front door is unlocked.”
“What if the front door is locked?”
“We go around back to see if the back door is unlocked.”
“Then we bust a window.”
“You’ve never broken into a house before have you?”
“Does that matter?”
“Well, I brought chewing gum, and I think I know how to do this nifty trick to disarm the security system and--”
“They don’t have a security system, and Beverly Hills Cop 2 is like a century old. That trick won’t work now.”
“I’d still like to try it,” Rachel grumbled.
Mary knocked on the front door loudly. When no one answered the door, she reached out and tried the doorknob. It was locked. She led the way to the back of the house. They climbed up the stairs to the back porch and tried the back door. It was locked as well.
“Which window should we break?” Rachel asked.
Mary scanned the back of the house. She didn’t have many options to choose from. Most of the windows were out of reach. Within her reach was a window over the kitchen sink, and she could possibly climb through a high small round window that was in the bathroom if Rachel helped her. She scanned the bottom of the house and landed on her choice. “That one,” she said pointing to a basement window that looked wide enough to wiggle through.
She climbed down off the porch and walked over to the window peaking out of the ground. “I just need something heavy to break it with.”
Rachel handed her a large brick. “Will this work?”
Mary quirked her eyebrow and turned back to Rachel. “Did you bring this?”
She nodded. Mary shook her head. A brick was probably the most innocuous thing Rachel had in her bag.
She swung her arm back to smash the window when a thought occurred to her. She reached down with her free hand and pushed on the window. It swung inward. She handed the brick back to Rachel.
“Shame, didn’t need it,” she said. Rachel shrugged and slipped the brick back into her bag. Mary got on her hands and knees facing away from the window. She started to slide her body feet first down into the basement.
“Don’t come down here. You’re not welcome. If you come down here, I’ll make you sorry.”
“Oh jeez,” Mary muttered.
“What?” Rachel asked. Mary clenched her jaw and continued to wiggle backwards through the window. She was halfway inside.
Something crashed in the basement, and glass shattered. “I said don’t come in here.”
“Mary, is this safe?” Rachel asked as Mary continued cautiously to wiggle into the basement.
Mary wasn’t sure. Ricky sounded threatening, and she knew he could follow through with his threats. Something flew across the basement and hit the wall near her dangling legs. It made her jump, and she banged her back painfully against the top of the window frame.
“No, it’s not safe.” She began to climb back out of the window.
“Wait, I changed my mind. Get in here.”
“Oh no.” Mary gasped as she felt something grab her legs. They weren’t hands, but their grasp was just as tight. Ricky started to pull her into the basement.
“Rach, grab my hands!”
Continue to Chapter 9