She Sees Them Too.
Already, I was overwhelmed by all the attention as my extended family filed out of the small suburb house to greet us.
Aunt Lucy enveloped me in a tight, longing hug before I even had the chance to grab my bag from the backseat. I hugged her back gratefully, and then was passed off to Uncle Jasper, who was this great big, barrel-chested man in the army. He had a flat top crew cut, a harsh jaw line and a perplexed frown on his lips. All these unfriendly things were out numbered by his cheerful blue eyes.
“Asheen!” He greeted me happily, slapping me on the shoulder harder than intended. I recooperated and gave him an enthusiastic smile.
“Daryl! Danny!” Aunt Lucy called into the house, looking back at us, rolling her eyes and sighing with a smile on her pink lips. “Even as full grown adults, they still need guidance.”
“No we don’t.”
The twins appeared on the porch, and even with twenty years of age behind them, they acted no different. The were both standing with their arms crossed, glaring at their mother in unision for embarassing them.
“Come meet everyone!” She gestured for them to come off the porch and greet us. I looked back behind me as Ashley and Andy. They hung back, taking things in in their own time, talking quietly amongst themselves.
“Markus is picking up Evelyn this morning, said he’d be here within an hour. I think he’s bringing his girlfriend with him. Her name is Juliet.” Aunt Lucy gave us a warm smile, leading everyone inside when Danny and Daryl had stubbornly refused to stop being a pair of jackasses.
Not much had changed about them besides their appearance. They now brandished unshaven stubble on their chins and jaws, had thicker, more attractive lashes around their icy grey eyes, and their hair was styled differently.
Most twins grow out of their simularities after a certain age, but it was obvious these two were still identical. He carried themselves in the same way, said most the same things and acted just like the other. The only way to differentiate them way by how their hair was cut. Danny’s hair was combed and gelled up into neat, orderly spikes, while Daryl’s was cut short and left unstyled.
“Ash.” Danny addressed me in a polite tone, but his eyes were narrowed in a permanent judgemental glare. Daryl wore the same expression, even as his extended his hand in a friendly fashion.
I grabbed his hand and shook it, confused. Daryl and Danny had always been nice enough, I guess, but they never exerted their kindness in any shape or form, which made me suspcious.
“Hi...” I deadpanned, watching them both carefully before carrying on into the house.
The house was much different than I imagined it. It was very calm, with neutral colors and a modern suburb design, even though Aunt Lucy was a die hard fan of vintage.
I straightened my skirt and followed everyone into the kitchen, which branched off directly from the front door. Aunt Lucy was everywhere, reminding me of a hummingbird in a way, the way she flitted around the room getting stuff ready for lunch while talking to my parents, Uncle Jasper and pausing it all long enough to scold the twins for not being social.
“We are being social,” Danny argues, leaning cooly against the kitchen island. Daryl had just left to go talk to the boys in the living room. “we just don’t have anything to say.”
Aunt Lucy gave him a look and sighed, waving her hand at the exit for him to go out with the others. “Fine, at least keep an eye out for Markus, he’ll need help getting Evelyn out.”
“Anything I can help with?” I offered, feeling like awkward dead weight just standing there. I glanced behind myself to find my companions gone without a trace.
“Would you make the lemonade? Pitcher is over there, and the lemons are in the fridge. Sugar is in that big blue tin on the island.” She responded as she pulled a stack of clear crystal plates from her china closet, carrying them into the adjacent dining hall to set the table. “Sandy, can you grab the yellow table cloth from the linen closet?”
My Mother left the room to grab that, and I awkwardly made my way past Danny to the sink, inspecting the pitcher, trying to decide what I needed to do first when he interupted.
“You look a lot different.” He says politely, and I smile and shrug, about to respond when he amended his sentence. “You don’t look or act so much like the woos you used to be.”
I looked over my shoulder at him and gave him a long, cold look, watching him burst into sarcastic laughter. “I’m only joking.”
“Sure.” I agreed in a sarcastic tone to match his. “You don’t look like you used to, either. You’re more of a jerk now.”
“Oooh!” He waved his hands dramatically, faking a fearful look. “Is that really the strongest word you can use? Are you God fearing or something?”
“To answer your question,” I began, walking over to the fridge, searching the shelves briefly before spotting the neon orange netted bag of lemons, pulling them off the shelf. “I am God fearing, you ought to know that of all things about me, and no, that’s not the worst I can do. I just learned from experience that when you say harsher words to a tattle tale, it’s more likely it’ll get out and I’ll be stuck apologizing, so no, thanks.”
He pursed his lips and nodded, looking disappointed that I’d taken his advantage away.
“That being said, can’t we make an effort just being friends?” I sighed. For as long as I’d known the twins, we’d always been at each other’s throats when in each other’s presence. I guess you could say were are toxic to one another.
He sighed loudly, “I guess.”
“You know, for being some fancy lawyer, you sure act like a ham.” I told him, laughing.
The front door opened behind us, and I glanced over my shoulder to see who it was. It was Mark, pushing my Grandma Evelyn up the steps into the house in her wheelchair.
“We have arrived!” He announced, clearing the doorway so a tall girl could follow behind him. After she shut the front door, she turned around, looking awkward and out of place, but there was still a kind smile on her face.
“Hi guys!” I greeted them, giving them a quick smile before I looked down to finish slicing the lemons in half. “Make it in okay?”
“Yeah, traffic was just a mess.” Mark replied, settling in, hanging up his jacket by the door. “How was the trip down from Utah?”
“Tedious.” I chuckled, “I’ve never traveled that far before, and ugh, I’m not looking forward to the ride back.” Frowning, I finished up cutting the lemons, setting them aside for the next step. “Danny, where does your mom keep the juicer?”
He silently walked over, retreiving it from an upper cupboard, sitting it on the counter in front of me. “The pitchers are in that cupboard.” He nodded towards the one above the fridge before he departed into the living room with the others.
“Come on, Grandma, let’s go meet everyone.” Mark told Evelyn, pushing her wheelchair into the adjacent room. The girl, who I assumed was Mark’s girlfriend, hesitated.
“Um, is there anything I can help with?” She offered, tucking her hands in her jean pockets.
“I don’t think so...” I replied, “You’re Juliet, right?”
“I am.” She gave me a warm smile, “you are?...”
“I’m Asheen. But you can call me Ash.”
I grinned, and started juicing the lemons, then she said something unexpected.
“Ash?...” She asked hesitantly.
“...Do you believe in ghosts?”
I hesitated, remembering her unusual gift. I’d heard about it in passing, having overheard conversations over the phone my aunt had with my Mom, talking about Mark’s girlfriend.
“I do... Why?”
“Don’t be creeped out... Okay?”
“Okay... What is it?”
“Did you know I’m psychic?”
“I heard you were.” I shrugged, remaining calm.
“I sense spirits around you.” She told me bluntly. “One... Maybe three... I’m not sure.”
“Cool.” I laughed, and she looked surprised, and slightly relieved. “Really? You’re not scared?”
I looked at her, and bit my lip in thought. She had wide, greyish blue eyes, and a friendly enough demeanor. Maybe I could trust her enough to tell her, afterall... She already knew.
“No, not really... Can you tell anything about them?”
Her brow scrunched up in concentration and she thought long and hard before replying, “It’s not clear... But there’s emotion to them... Happy and brooding... I’m fairly sure that there’s two different spirits.”
This was certainly an interesting start to the day. Meeting the psychic who was dating my cousin, and having her tell me of the two ghosts that had stumbled into my life less than a few weeks ago.
She sat at the island and was quiet for a long while, but whenever I snuck glances at her, she still looked lost in deep thought.
“Oh, you don’t have to look into them right now,” I assured her, “Go visit with the others.”
“Oh, no!” He replied, “I see your family more than enough as it is, and none of them have interesting spirit attachements... These two that are following you are certainly note worthy.” She shrugged, “besides, I can’t block them out until I acknowledge them.”
“How’s that coming, Ash?” Aunt Lucy asked as she and my Mother entered the kitchen a few moments later. “Oh! Juliet! You guys made it. Good to see ya, hun.” She gave Juliet a shoulder hug and proceeded to the counter to set down the items she’d brought back with her.
“Good to see you, too.” Juliet smiled back. She looked at me, ready to lay down more information about my spirits, but then she hesitated, deciding instead to tell me later privately. I was curious to wee what she’d conjured up.
“Hey Juliet, how are you?” My Mom asked as she carried the table cloth into the dining room to start setting the table for lunch.
“I’m good, how are you?” Juliet replied politely, looking slightly troubled.
“Tired.” She laughed in response, “I’ll be happy to head home in a few days.”
“Aren’t you guys moving down here?”
“Hopefully.” My Mom called over from the dining room with an optimistic tone. “We’re still looking, but for now, that’s our future, I think. We’ve just been in Pendant so long, it’s time for a change.”
“I hear you, I grew up and lived in Florida most of my life. Surprisingly, California is still much different. The weather’s different, the people are different, everything is, really. It’s a good place for a fresh start if you have the patience for it.” Juliet laughed.
“I genuinely miss Pendant right now.” I sighed longingly, “And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually miss school... Weird...”
They laughed, and I did, too, but in my head, all I wanted to do was be in the murky woods behind my house, hiking, writing and thinking... Or maybe I’d be walking down that long gravel road that led to the Apture house, long since forgotten in the middle of that dense field, shrouded by tall trees where the sunny fields ended.
California was beautiful and unique in it’s own way, but I was not by any means excited to move here. A new school with a new start sounded amazing, but staying where I was comfortable felt better.
“Ash, wanna go let the others know it’s time to eat?” Aunt Lucy asked me as she finished making a salad. I nodded, abandonning my post to go inform them. I walked into the living room to find it empty, but there was the low rumble of voices outside on the patio. I pushed open the sliding door and everyone was out there under the large floral print umbrella.
“It’s time to eat.” I told them with a forced smile of kindness, because well, if you come out all brutish, you might be called a bitch in your absence.
“Thanks, hun.” My Dad patted my shoulder with a smile, offering to push Grandma Evelyn’s wheelchair inside for Mark. I cleared the doorway, holding open the screen door while they fumbled with my Grandmother’s throne, lifting her up the short bit of steps into the living room. I let everyone else head inside first, and was about to head in myself when I heard more voices.
I don’t like to eavesdrop and be that person. The jealous girl who has to poke and prod in the relationship of others, but it was hard to unhear what they were saying.
“Come on, man! How do you figure she won’t screw you over like the rest? Like Scout?”
“She won’t.” I heard Andy retaliate gruffly. “She’s not like that. She’s a good kid.”
Ashley laughed cruelly, his voice incredulous. “Kid?”
“You know what I mean.” Andy muttered in reply, hs voice annoyed. “If I said ‘good girl’, you’d take it sexual like you always do.”
Ashley snorted, “Is that really the priority here? I’m just trying to look out for you, man. You know I love you like a brother.”
“And you know I love you, too, and I appreciate the concern, but it’s not like that... I think it’s different this time.”
“If you appreciate my concern, prove it! Prove it to me by reassuring me with some legitimate evidence that she fuckin’ cares about ya. Because right now, all I’ve seen is you two walking on a beach, walking into a bar, and having a handful of miniscule conversations. That’s not a relationship, that’s a friendship.”
“What’s wrong with having her as a friend? Why don’t you like her?”
“I don’t have to have a reason... There’s just something off about her.”
“I told her about you, you know...”
There was a long, quiet pause. “What the hell does that mean?” Ashley demanded finally. “Told her about what, exactly?”
“About how you went and offed yourself!” Andy finally shouted at him, his voice pained. “You left me with that grief.”
“You don’t even understand...” Ashley muttered dismissively, “Oh, Andy fuckin’ understands the harmony of the universe now that he’s dead with a girlfriend.”
“Knock it off.” Andy growled.
I didn’t know rather to get involved or to walk away and let them handle it. Obviously it was about me, so me showing up trying to play peacemaker might leave a sour taste in Ashley’s mouth. He didn’t like me, and I guess I can understand where he’s coming from... But he’s being an outright asshole with his opinion, as well.
“Psh, of course you take the girl’s side. That’s what you always do.” Ashley sounded hurt. “You know what? Forget I said anything at all. Fuck it.”
The squeaky crunch of what I presumed to be a cigarette being ground into the sidewalk followed, and before I could get inside and safely close the screen door behind me, Ashley walked around the corner of the house, already fuming and noticably enraged.
“What the hell is this?” Ashley glared daggers at me the second he caught wind of my presence. “Good God you’re a persistant bitch aren’t you? Can’t I have one goddamned conversation with him without you hanging around in the shadows? Sweet fuck, Andy, do you see how damn controlling of you, she is?”
I scowled at him, about to retaliate when the screen door creaked open behind me.
“Ash, are you coming?”Danny lingered in the doorway in confusion. I took a deep breath to make my voice calmer, as I was moments from ripping Ashley a new asshole.
“Yeah, I’ll be right there.”
“What are you doing?”
I turned around and passed him to get into the house. “Just admiring the flowers.” I shrugged, “how are you?”
“... I’m fine.” his eyes narrowed, “are you okay? You’re acting really sketchy.”
“I’m okay.” I assured him with a neutral smile, “All this California sun has fried my brain a bit, but I’m fine.”
We headed into the dining room, and I noticed that the door had not opened behind us. Either they were invisibly stalking me, or they were outside fighting it out... Or Andy was also mad at me for eavesdropping.
I felt terrible, having heard what Ashley had to say, and knowing I might’ve just cut a bit of trust from mine and Andy’s friendship.
I sat beside Juliet at the end of the table, she seemed to sense something was wrong, because she grabbed my hand under the table and gave it a comforting squeeze. I gave her a small smile, and directed my attention to the conversations going on around the table. I wondered if Juliet knew what had just gone down, and if she already knew everything about my ghostly companions, and if she did, what she thought.
I was grateful not to be a spectical at the table, no one paid me much mind, other than Aunt Lucy asking about school and how life was going in general. I answered her questions to the best of my abilities, veering around dangerous subjects and events.
Andy and Ashley did not join lunch, and I kept an eye on Juliet. As we ate, sometimes she’d tense up or frown, and Mark, who sat beside her would squeeze her heavily ringed fingers, whispering silent words of reassurence. I wondered if he knew what she was going through right now, and if he knew which spirits specifically. Had she told him already?
I felt nauseous, only barely picking at my food, giving forced smiles to anyone who needed them.
God... What had happened to me? How did I get this way? Smiling used to be like breathing for me, such a simple task I didn’t have to think about, and I most certainly did not have to force out these little acts of kindness.
Uncle Jasper asked Juliet about her psychic abilities, and I learned that she was actually trying to expand her ability, with palm reading and all that. She shared that she’d learned a few things from a gypsy she’d met last summer.
“You’ll have to do some palm readings on us today!” He laughed, leaning back in his chair leisurely. Juliet gave him a confident smile, “I should... I’m not very good yet, but I can try.”
My parents asked her questions, and she confirmed she’d be opening a shop of sorts in a few months.
“I still have a lot to learn, but it’s a goal. I’m looking to connect with others to get a better understanding of things. Ha, it’s hard to talk about this stuff without sounding like you’re studying witchcraft.”
My Grandma was smiling and joining the conversations, showing more enthusiasm than I’d seen in her a few days prior. Unfortunately, she did not look any healthier, but she was witty and alert, which gave me comfort.
My Aunt asked Mark about his job, and Danny and Daryl shared some stories on their top secret clients. Good bunch of lawyers, they are.
I was the first to get up to help clean. Juliet offered, too, and the boys headed back out onto the porch.
“Oh no, Lucy, we’ve got this.” Juliet told my Aunt confidently, slinging an arm across my shoulders. “You should take a break, so out on the porch with the others, me and Ash can handle this.”
Juliet’s offer was hard to resist. Aunt Lucy looked from the pile of chinaware in the sink and back at us before agreeing. I’d already gone to scrubbing dishes, when I noticed Juliet checking the adjacent rooms to be sure everyone had gone outside before returning to me, slipping off all her decorative, designer rings and digging her hands into the soap, scrubbing silverware.
“Okay, so from what I’ve observed... They’re here. They’re no malicious by any means and they’re pretty comfortable around you... And it seems you’re pretty comfortable around them, too.”
She gave me a confident, aware look I could not deny. I squared my shoulders and sighed, “You know?”
A pause fell between us while I dried a dish and set it in the cupboard beside the sink.
“There are definitely two. They won’t speak to me, and I really can’t track them down. It’s a sketchy process when you’re psychic.”
“What did you learn?”
She laughed, drying a handful of silver forks. “Certainly not their names, but I can sense their aura.”
“What do you know about the cheerful one?” I wondered curiously. If Andy and Ashley were listening in, that was their business, and it was fair, since I’d unkindly listened in on their conversation earlier.
“He’s a sweetheart,” She smiled fondly, “I got the jist that he values others’ lives and happiness before his own.”
“That’s accurate.” I agreed with a sigh.
“He’s into dark, horror things, and reflects it in his appearence, while still being a cheerful person. But I sense some kind of darkness to him, as well.”
I nodded, listening to the details that perfectly embodied my ghostly friend.
“As for the other one... I think they’re related in some form or fashion. He’s angry, but also compassionate.”
“He’s mad at me, isn’t he?” I guessed sheepishly.
“Something like that, I couldn’t tell... It sounds like you know these two pretty well. Did you know them before or?...”
I sighed, stopping my work to think. “Can you keep a secret?”
“Of course.” her brow furrowed with unyeilding loyalty.
“I do know them, the nicer one much better that the brooding one.” I jabbed at Ashley. “But I did not know either of them until afterwards... It’s such a long story.”
“I can tell.” She nods, reaching into the soapy water for another dish thoughtfully, “Your souls are entangled.”
“It’s obvious?” I hedged in embarassment.
“Oh yeah,” She snickered before smiling fondly, “There’s an air of confusion and admiration between you... It’s hard to explain, but it’s clear you care a great deal for each other.”
I smiled small while I continued to work. “We do... But... I think he’s angry with me.” I frowned, setting aside another plate.
“I heard them talking a while ago and Ashley, the jerkish brute, caught me. I didn’t want to listen, they were just so damn loud.” I sighed, grabbing the last plate on my side of the sink.
“Oh... Do you think he’s mad at you right now?”
“All I feel is remorse and regret.” she sighs, “I think he feels bad about that. Did you talk to him personally?”
“No, I didn’t even see him.”
“Speaking of which... How do you see him? Are you psychic as well?”
“Actually, spirits have the ability to make themselves visible if they want to.” I say with a shrug, then a small laugh, “When I first saw him, Andy, I had a panic attack. He materialized in my bedroom, and was trying to reassure me but it was too much and I passed out.”
I smirked, thinking of that day, weeks ago... “We became friends pretty quick after that, though.”
“How did you find each other, if you don’t mind me asking?”
I shook my head thoughtfully as I dried the dish in my hand. “It was a Sunday... We’d just got out of church and it was raining. We were headed home, and as we did, we came upon this car accident... It was horrific, flames and blood and crying people gathered around... And there was this dead boy on the sidewalk. I don’t know what compelled me to get out and walk closer, but I did. The EMT’s declared him dead and I was left with this disatisfied feeling. He visited me later that night, and at first he was just a shadow, but the following day, he fully appeared, and like I said before, I did not handle it well at all...”
She smiled as she listened to me talk about him, nodding. “I’ve always been pretty intuned with spirits but this is another thing entirely.”
“I can introduce you to him.” I offered, even though I felt hesitant to approach Andy after what had happened earlier.
“I don’t want to trouble you,”
“It’s no trouble.” I assured her, walking from the kitchen to track him down. I did not hear any voices nor was there any trace of him.
“Andy?” I called out quietly.
I turned around and he stood in the doorway with his arms crossed and his face creased in deep thought.
“Where’s Ashley?...” I asked hesitantly.
“He left.” Andy sighed, “just now, he said he wanted some space to think.”
“Where did he go?”
“Fuck if I know.”
It felt weird to bring up the introduction now with how things were playing out. He looked hurt and saddened, but still, he wore this brave, stone expression.
“Do you want a hug?” I offered. I couldn’t give much, but if there was one thing I could give, it’s killer hugs.
His bottom lips stuck out a little in a pout. I crossed the small space between us and hugged him tightly. He was so much taller than me, so I was hugging his lower and mid ribs, but it was still a sweet gesture.
“Why are you so tall?” I mumbled against him, hearing a laugh rumble in his chest.
“I don’t know.”
I peeked back up at him to find a crooked smile on his lips, and kind, saddened blue eyes peering down at me, rimmed in midnight black.
“Have you met Juliet yet?”
“She’s a psychic, she knows about you.”
He looked surprised and curious. “What does she know?”
I laughed quietly, pressing my cheek back against his silent ribs. “Enough to know we’re ‘entangled’.” I smiled.
He laughed with genuine enthusiasm. “Her words or yours.”
“Hers,” I replied, “But they’re pretty accurate, all things considered.”
“Ah, okay... Well, does she want to meet me?”
“Oh yeah. She’s curious of your existence.”
I pulled away but held onto his hand, looking at him intently. “You have pretty eyes.” I told him bluntly. “Come along.”
I led him to the kitchen, just as Juliet had finished up and was drying off her hands. “Are you visible?”
He winced for a second, then nodded. “I am now.”
“Juliet,” I addressed her, “This is Andy.”
She turned and smiled, before her eyes widened in recognition. “Andy Biersack?” She gasped, looked surprised and speechless.
“Juliet Simms!?” Andy replied with equal enthusiasm.
“Wait, what? You know each other?” I demanded curiously, trying to put the pieces together.
“Hell yeah!” Andy replied, dumbfounded. “We knew each other while I lived in California, even dated for a while.”
“It didn’t work out.” Juliet finished, giving me a warm, reassuring, don't worry, it’s over smile.
“Yeah, it didn’t. Anyways, holy crap, to think I’d see you again after all these years and I’m fucking dead.” His voice dropped to zero enthusiasm.
“I can still see you, at least.”
“Me and Juliet remained friends after we broke up, but we lost contact when she persued a music career for a while. What are you doing now?”
“Psychic work, mostly.” She shrugged, acting as though it was a completely normal job to have. “I followed that more after music fell through and it became clear that it wasn’t my destiny to sing.”
“But to give out fortunes and do palm readings?” Andy joked with deadened tone.
She rolled her eyes, “To put it so forward, yes, to do just that. Anyways, it’s great.”
“I don’t recall you ever mentioning having an ability like this.” He said suspiciously, narrowing his eyes.
“It wasn’t very prominent at the time, but after a while, it became more obvious what power I posessed.”
The screen door in the living room creaked open and a few moments later Mark walked into the kitchen. “You guys coming out at somepoint? Where’s Ash?” He frowned when he did not see me with Juliet. She looked at me, inclining her head in curiosity.
“She’s in the bathroom. Let’s head out.”
She hooked arms with Mark and they headed out onto the back porch together. I turned to grin at Andy.
“Dude! She is so out of your league!”
He snorted in embarrassment.
“How did dorky ‘ol Andy score a date with her?” I nudged his ribs and he laughed, ruffling his hair.
“A better question is how did dorky ‘ol Andy ever even get a chance with you?” He placed his hand on my lower back and pulled me close to his chest. We were unexpectedly close, and I was mesmerized by his bright blue eyes, so when he leaned in, closing his eyes and pressing his frozen lips on mine, I was startled.
“You’re jumpy.” He noted with a laugh when I’d jumped in shock. “Come on, let’s head out before we’re missed.”
I've returned to my roots on this story, woo.
Also! Awesome announcement! I did some searching last night and I found an accurate depiction of what I imagine Ash to look like, but with green hair. Actress, Michelle Trachtenberg (she kinda looks like Chloe Grace Moretz)
What do you guys think?