Grandma was in her office or 'nexus of spirituality' as she told her more gullible clients. Mary pushed the beads aside and stuck her head in. The fortuneteller was there polishing her crystals.
She looked up and smiled. “Mary, I didn't hear you come in. Where were you this afternoon?”
Mary hung back at the doorway. She stuck her hands in her pockets and looked at the toes of her sneakers. “Over at Cy's.”
Grandma frowned. “What were you doing there?”
“I was trying to find Ricky’s anchor.”
“Mary, you know that’s dangerous.”
“Yeah, but I’m worried about Cy.”
Grandma shook her head. “What happened?”
“Nothing,” Mary replied and shifted her weight back and forth.
“Nothing?” Grandma’s eyebrows quirked. She set down the amethyst that she’d been polishing.
Mary shrugged her shoulders. “He played dumb when I tried drawing him out.”
Grandma looked over her glasses at her. “You tried to goad him, didn’t you? Mary, you have to be careful. There’s no telling what an angry spirit could do to you or anyone else.”
Mary nodded her head and moved closer. “I know, but he didn’t respond to me at all. I’m still worried he’ll bother Cy and his family. I thought maybe that you make up something to protect them. You know with some of your hocus pocus.”
Mary’s grandmother sighed and picked up the amethyst again. “One day, you will respect your grandmother and her meager abilities.”
“I do respect you, Grandma, and your abilities aren’t meager. You’re the most awesome fortuneteller this side of the Mississippi, and you should put that on your business cards. Could you help me make some charms and talismans for Cy's house?”
Mary could tell by her grandmother’s smile that she wasn't really annoyed with her. “I'll have to go to the store to get supplies, but it's too late to go now. It'll have to be tomorrow.”
“All right.” She was relieved that Grandma was on board with this. “Rachel might come over to help out.”
Grandma pushed her glasses back onto her nose. “I doubt this is what Mr. Landa meant when he advised extracurricular activities.”
Mary smirked. “It keeps me off the streets.”
Grandma chuckled a moment, but when she looked down at Mary, a soft smile spread across her face. “Fiona would be so proud of you if she could see you right now.”
Mary froze at the mention of her mother. “Proud of what?”
Grandma smoothed back Mary’s hair. “She’d be proud of how you’re dealing with your gift and using it to help others.”
“But Mom didn’t have the gift,” Mary said. Her throat was getting tight. It always did on the subject of her parents.
“No, but that didn’t mean that she didn’t know how the gift made others pull away and hide.”
“What?” Mary asked. She didn’t know what her grandmother was talking about.
“There are those with the gift that consider it a curse. I know that you’ve resented your gift, but you’ve never seen yourself as evil for having it.”
“Of course not,” Mary said, a little affronted by the idea.
“Of course not,” Grandma repeated softly. “But your mother knew people who did feel that way, and it upset her greatly. She tried to convince them that they were not evil, but she couldn’t reach them. She knew that you could have the gift. It’s prevalent in our family, but she hoped that you would not end up like those sad souls who castigated themselves simply for being the way they were.”
“Grandma, who was it that Mom was trying to help?” Mary was curious because she’d only ever known of her grandmother and herself as having the gift.
Grandma shook her head. “They’re distant cousins. I doubt you’ll ever meet them.”
“But if Mom knew them--”
“Your mother sought them out, and they made their desire not to be ever contacted again very clear. They’re melancholy souls who are content with their unhappiness.”
Car tires crunched on their gravel lane. Grandma looked out the window. “That’s Mrs. Polk. She made an urgent appointment to see me about Chowder.”
“How urgent can a dead dog be?”
Grandma shrugged her shoulders and began putting her crystals away. “We’ll just have to see.”
Mary slipped out of her grandmother’s office and went up to her room to do homework. Half an hour later, Mary was lying on the floor doing her Latin homework when a familiar red bouncy ball fell onto her book.
“What?” Mary picked up the ball.
Mary sat up with a jerk. “Chowder?”
Her bedroom door opened, and Grandma came in. Tucked under her arm was Chowder. “What are you doing with his body?” Mary demanded.
Grandma gave her a guilty smile and stroked the stuffed dog’s head. “We seem to have a new addition to the family.”
“Chowder and Mrs. Polk’s new Dachshund Tipsy didn’t get along. Tipsy would bark at Chowder’s body day and night. Mrs. Polk thought that we would be a better home for Chowder.”
“She couldn’t do the sensible thing—like bury him?” Mary asked.
Chowder whined. Mary looked in his general direction with a frown. “Do you want to put him to rest?” Grandma asked. Her voice quavered slightly.
“You’re suggesting we keep a dead dog as a pet.”
“He’s a sweet dog,” Grandma countered.
Grandma held the Scottish Terrier up to her face and looked into its glass eyes. “I suppose you’re right. We should let him go.”
Mary stared at her grandmother’s unhappy face. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She couldn’t believe what she was about to say. “Well…he would be easier to keep than a live dog. I mean he doesn’t eat, poop, or shed.”
“That’s true,” Grandma replied. The corners of her mouth tilted up a fraction.
“I guess we could keep him around for a while and see how it goes.”
“As a trial run,” her grandmother suggested.
Mary nodded. “Yeah, but as soon as he chews up any of my shoes, he’s getting a funeral.”
Grandma nodded and tucked Chowder back under her arm. Mary picked up Chowder’s ball and tossed it into the hall. The scrabbling of tiny paws followed it. Grandma grinned.
“You are such a softy,” Mary groaned flopping onto her back.
“It runs in the family,” her grandmother replied with a smirk. Mary frowned in response.
Mary tapped her pencil impatiently on her desk. The clock had to be messed up. It'd been a quarter till twelve for the past five minutes, and she really had to go to the bathroom. She tapped her pencil faster.
“Hey Mary, do you fly around on a broomstick, or have you upgraded to a Hoover?” a guy two seats from her whispered.
“Neither. How about you? Do you still fantasize about Ariel, or have you graduated to Pamela Lee Anderson yet?” The guy scowled as his face turned red, and all of his friends howled with laughter. Mr. Jacobs, their Latin teacher yelled at them to pay attention. Mary looked at the clock again, and her eyes bulged. It was now eighteen minutes until twelve. That was it. She was going. She pushed herself out of her chair and went to the front. The reason she’d hoped to wait for the bell sat beside the door. Mr. Jacobs insisted that his students carry a large wooden paddle as their bathroom pass. Mary suspected that it was a vestige of his fraternity days. She picked up the paddle and stalked out of the room. Some teachers were just sadistic.
Mary ducked into the empty girls’ bathroom with a sigh. She set the paddle down. She did her business and went to the mirror to touch up her make-up. She’d been laying it on thick since the séance at Cy’s house. The palest foundation, thick black eye-liner, heavy mascara, and black lipstick put her face in such sharp contrasts that the makeup muted her emotions. Mary doubted Cover Girl intended for their concealer to hide emotional blemishes like sadness and hurt, but if applied thick enough, it could even hide anguish, and she’d need all the shielding she could get because just then Vicky came in.
“Watch out everyone, the town freak is adjusting her mask,” Vicky announced to the two other girls behind her. They snickered at Vicky’s jab.
Mary’s eyes slid to Vicky’s reflection in the mirror. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fakest of them all? Oh never mind, I see her.” She drew a large circle around Vicky's reflection with her black lipstick. Vicky's mouth thinned as she glowered at her. Mary smiled brightly back through the mirror.
“Give it up, Mary. You’ll never get Cy back.”
Mary turned to face her. “What do you mean?”
“He told me that desperate story you made up to get invited back to his house. Haunted? Please. He told me that you wussed out anyway. What you couldn’t find any chains to rattle? Like, he knows you’re full of crap, and don’t expect to be invited back over, ever. I mean really, why would any guy want to deal with a psycho freak like you? And Cy’s not just any guy, he’s really special. Totally out of your league. He may have hung with you at first, but he knows better now. So stop trying to get back with him and spare yourself the humiliation. He won’t ever be into you.”
Mary stared at Vicky and kept her eyes wide. She had to keep from blinking or else tears might spill. Vicky stepped up to the mirror and fluffed her hair. She gave Mary a nasty smile. When the three girls flounced out of the bathroom, Mary turned back to the mirror, and from her new angle, the black circle was around her reflection, and her reflection stared at her, and she stared back it. There wasn't anything more to say.
Mary trudged back to class. The paddle hung at her side. She wasn’t watching where she was going so when she turned a corner, she ran face first into someone. She stumbled back. When she saw that the someone was Kyle, she raised the paddle up defensively.
“Watch where you’re going, freak,” he snarled.
Mary rolled her eyes and moved to step around him. Kyle mirrored her move and blocked her. Mary let out a huff. “Sorry, Kyle.”
“Yeah, you should be.” Mary rolled her eyes again. “Don’t roll your eyes at me.”
Mary’s jaw dropped. “Or what?” she asked.
“Or I’ll make you sorry,” Kyle threatened.
Mary’s eyes narrowed, and she purposefully rolled her eyes again. Kyle lashed out and grabbed the paddle, shocking Mary. She hadn’t expected him to get physical. She held on tight to the paddle. She had a feeling that letting Kyle have the paddle would be a very bad idea. “Let it go, Kyle,” Mary demanded with clenched teeth.
“Or what?” Kyle sneered.
“Look, I don’t want any trouble, but if you don't let go, I’ll give you some,” she threatened back.
Kyle smirked and pulled the paddle and subsequently Mary closer. They were close enough that she could now read the inscription on the gold locket that had fallen out from under Kyle’s shirt collar: ‘Together Forever’ Mary briefly wondered who would've given that to him and hoped that the girl had reneged on the offer.
Kyle leaned over her and said into her ear, “Let me tell you something, Mary. I can do whatever I want to whomever I want. I can do anything that I want.”
“Boy, do you need a reality check.”
Kyle looked Mary up and down contemptuously. “And who’s going to give it to me?”
“Well, if you're looking for volunteers.” Mary shoved him with the paddle, but he’d anticipated the move. Kyle took a step back and swung Mary around, so that her back hit the wall and pinned her. She was trapped and nose-to-nose with Kyle. Not what she had planned.
“Face it Mary, I’m better than you. You might not accept it, but you’ll always be nothing,” he said.
Mary’s eyes narrowed. In a low voice, she spat out, “Listen you egotistical, testosterone deluded, wanna-be big man, I am NOT nothing. I don’t care what you think or what anyone else thinks and that’s what makes me special. You, on the other hand, pander to anyone or anything if you think that will make you more accepted. It’s so pathetic and stupid. They should make people like you ride the short bus.”
Kyle's face twisted in anger. He opened his mouth to say something back, but voices coming down the hall stopped him. Mary saw her chance, jerked the paddle away from him, and slipped a couple of safe steps away. Two guys went by them. They gave Kyle and Mary curious glances, but the two kept going. Mary fell into step behind them, leaving Kyle behind. The paddle shook in her hand.
The lunch bell rang as Mary reentered class. She collected her books to go outside and meet up with Rachel. She slung her bag onto her shoulder and lowered her head for her usual foray into the halls, but for once, all of the stares and whispers were comforting because if they were watching her then maniacal, fat-headed bullies, otherwise known as Kyle, couldn’t trap her alone and make nasty threats.
Rachel was sitting in their usual spot outside. She was already eating and had a textbook open in front of her. Mary flopped down across from her. “Hey,” she greeted. Rachel gave her a flick of the eyes and returned to her book. Mary didn’t notice Rachel’s silence. She was still off center after her run-ins with Vicky and Kyle. Vicky said Cy didn’t believe Mary at all. No, he didn’t just not believe her, he was laughing at her. Well, she hadn’t expected him to call a priest for an exorcism just on her claims, but his total rejection of her abilities rattled her. He’d seen the Ouija board. She’d shown him the newspaper articles. What more could she do to prove his house was haunted? Then there was Kyle…Mary didn’t know what his problem was. She was used to people antagonizing her, but Kyle seemed to want to do more than antagonize her. Frankly, he was starting to scare her, and Mary didn’t scare easily.
She pulled out her lunch and munched contemplatively. Ricky was the reason she was in this mess, but she didn’t know how to deal with him. Maybe he wasn’t such a big threat anymore. He certainly hadn’t paid any attention to her when she’d called to him during her third visit.
“Grandma said she’d make some stuff up to help against Ricky. But how am I going to give the stuff to Cy? He thinks I’m nuts as it is. Trying to make him take a talisman or a charm is going to be impossible. Maybe we could slip it into his book bag?” Mary turned to Rachel to see what she thought.
Rachel raised her head slowly with a frown. “Oh, were you talking to me? I thought I was just the stupid girl you hung out with.”
“Why talk to me now? You won’t tell me stuff later. So if you don’t mind, I’d rather not be only half in the know,” Rachel said and got up. She slung her book bag over her shoulder and left Mary alone on the school lawn.
“Rach!” she called. Rachel entered the school without even a glance back. Mary sat there in bewilderment. Geez, she didn’t need this today. She grabbed her stuff and tried to catch up with Rachel, but her best friend had completely disappeared. Mary scowled at how crappy her day was turning out and headed for her locker.
As Mary approached her locker, she saw a folded piece of paper taped to it. She plucked the paper off her locker and opened it. She was expecting a rude poem or maybe a drawing, but instead it was a note from Cy.
Ditch school and meet me at my house. I found something you have to see.
Mary didn’t think twice about ditching school. Whatever Cy had found had to be important. It could be Ricky’s anchor. If it were, she really didn’t want Cy messing with it. A ghost was very protective of its anchor, it being the ghost’s only tie to the physical plane. If someone destroyed the anchor, the ghost would have to move on, and Ricky hadn’t shown any inclination of heading toward the light.
Mary wished she could tell Rachel about the new development, but she couldn’t waste time looking for her. Cy could be in trouble if he had found Ricky’s anchor. Mary wondered what it was. As she’d told Rachel the other day, anchors could be anything.
Continue to Chapter 12