Vision of Secrets, page 1
Vision of Secrets
Vision of Secrets
You might think that for a person who has seen their own murder since they were six, the idea of bearing your secrets to a stranger wouldn’t be so frightening. Here’s the thing: you’d be wrong. I’m not the lie-back-and-tell-me-about-your-life kind of girl. But, as I faced Mary, one of my school’s most respected counselors in years, I knew I was going to have to do a little soul baring.
I sat down opposite her and tried to look comfortable. I was terrified. Not by Mary herself. I was more comfortable around someone like her than my own parents. It was the fact that she was going to want to discuss things I don’t ever talk about. She knew enough already. She would believe me. And I believed without a doubt that nothing I said would ever be repeated.
Mary was dressed in a pretty flower dress. Her black hair reached the bottom tip of her shoulders. A friendly smile graced her face. “It’s good to see you, Ms. Blackburn,” she said.
“Bristol,” I said. “Please, call me Bristol.”
“All right, Bristol. So nobody knows that you’re here with me?” Mary asked.
“Nobody except Ricky,” I responded. “There are no secrets between us.”
“Is Ricky your boyfriend?”
That earned a laugh from me. Mary raised an eyebrow in response.
“Sorry,” I said. “Ricky is my hamster. And he’d probably say he’s out of my league. Anyway, I don’t date.”
I shook my head.
“I just… don’t,” I said. I had my reasons, but I didn’t want to get into them. Thankfully, she let it drop, although I could tell she was filing it away for later.
“Your parents won’t worry that you’re late coming home from school?”
“Worry?” I asked. “No, they won’t worry. I’m not sure they’ll even notice, but let’s not go there right now.”
“All right,” Mary said. “Why don’t we talk about you? How long have you been able to talk to ghosts?”
I blinked in surprise. “Wow, right to it, huh? No ‘tell me about your childhood?’”
Mary smiled warmly. “We can talk about your childhood if you like, but that seems to put you off.”
It was true. I didn’t like to talk about my family. I was just afraid we were going to have to before we were done.
“So yeah,” I said. “I’ve been able to talk to ghosts for as long as I can remember. Since I was little.”
“I imagine that it must have been scary when you were a child,” she said. “Seeing people like that.”
I thought back on it and shook my head. “Nope, not really. I’ve never been afraid of ghosts. Never had a reason to be. They’d show up, talk to me. I think, instinctively, I always knew that they wouldn’t hurt me. Some of them were a lot of fun. They could be very sweet. I’ve had a few that could annoy the crap out of me, but never scare me.”
“Annoy you how?”
I thought for a moment. “Jerry.”
“Oh, yes,” I said. “This was just last week, in fact. If he weren’t already dead, I may have killed him.”
Mary raised her eyebrows.
“I’m kidding,” I told her. “It was just a few days ago. I was getting ready for school…
* * * *
It was the day before my seventeenth birthday. Birthdays aren’t a big deal to me, but this one was important somehow.
But I tried to put that out of my mind for now. I took a look in the mirror to see if I looked all right for school. I consider myself to be a rather ordinary girl, at least as far as looks are concerned. I’m about five feet six inches tall. I’ve got an average build. I was wearing jeans and a nice purple blouse. I didn’t stand out, which is normally the way I like it.
“How do I look?” I asked Ricky. He squeaked his approval before running into his soup can to nap for the day.
I went to leave but stopped when I heard singing. Really bad singing. Someone was mangling the melody and the lyrics to some song.
I spun around and saw a man standing in the corner of my room. He wore a grey suit that looked a little disheveled. His glasses were askew and his dark curly hair was a mess. He was covered in bruises and blood. My guess was that he had just been hit by a car or something.
“I’m Bristol,” I said, introducing myself.
“Hi,” he said. “Jerry. You won’t believe what happened to me.”
“Hit by a car?”
“No,” Jerry said. “A truck. A big one too. It just smashed into me and sent me flying. I must have sailed twelve feet in the air before I crashed into the windshield of that VW Bug.”
I winced at the mental image, not to mention the irony. “I’m sorry,” I said. “Was it quick?”
Jerry thought for a moment before he nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “I barely felt a thing. I guess that’s good.”
I agreed. “I hate to do this, but I’ve got to go or I’ll be late. Maybe I’ll see you later?”
Jerry smiled as I left. I didn’t want to be late for school. People noticed when you were late, and I don’t like to be noticed.
I didn’t see my parents as I left, but that wasn’t unusual. I barely saw them anymore. When we were together, they didn’t have much to say to me anyway.
Wish I could say the same for the ghost who had decided to follow me. Jerry spent a good amount of time yammering on about the most mundane details of his life. How he never did get his mother a birthday gift or about how someone at work would have to take over the collection for the water club.
When he wasn’t talking, he was singing. The same song, over and over again. And he never finished it. The lyrics kept changing from one moment to the next.
“What is that song?” I asked when I was sure nobody on the bus would overhear.
“Copacabana,” he said. “I woke up with this song in my head, and I can’t get it out. Weird huh?”
Jerry wasn’t the first ghost to latch onto me, but he was definitely one of the most persistent. He kept singing that damn song, off key, over and over again. And he just couldn’t get it right.
“Her name was Lucy…” Jerry sang. “Or was it Lilly? Damn it.”
He would disappear for a while, only to turn up again. I saw him during math class while I was taking a test. I could even hear him from outside the stall while I was in the bathroom trying to pee.
“I’ve always loved this song,” he said as I went to my locker.
“Uh huh,” I muttered under my breath.
“I love all of Barry’s stuff,” Jerry continued to say. “But this song was always my favorite. But I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to listen to music for a while. I can’t believe I forgot how it goes.”
I rolled my eyes, shut my locker, and turned on my heel to head to lunch. I crashed into something that sent me falling on my ass. I looked up and saw some guy with dark hair and a hoodie looking down at me.
“You ok?” both Jerry and the guy I had slammed into asked.
“Yeah,” I said to the live guy, not the dead one. “My fault. Sorry.”
He held out his hand to help me up.
Grasping it, I felt him pull me to my feet, but somewhere between the floor and the up position, I felt my world shift.
The kid in the hoodie was standing out in the rain, staring at a gravesite. Even through the rain, I could see he was crying.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I wish you could forgive me.”
There was a clap of thunder and I was pulled back to the here and now.
Hoodie Boy was looking at me, waiting for me to say something. I pretended to be lightheaded fro
He nodded and quickly walked away.
“You sure you’re ok?” Jerry asked. “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”
* * * *
“Wait,” Mary said. “What do you mean your world shifted?”
“I don’t just see ghosts,” I explained. “I also get these visions. I can see things. They often happen when I’m asleep. I’ve had a few doozies, let me tell you. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and still feel his hands…”
I stopped talking, realizing I was about to go into something I really didn’t want to. I lowered my hands from my neck and folded them in my lap.
“If I touch someone,” I said, hoping she wouldn’t call me on my change of subject, “that can trigger a flash.”
“I see,” Mary said. “Bristol, you do know you can trust me. You can tell me anything.”
I nodded. I knew I could, but that didn’t make it easier.
She sighed, realizing I wasn’t there yet.
“So I realized Hoodie Boy was in my history class. Usually sits in the back, very quiet. So I decided I’d look for him later that day.”
* * * *
Jerry was pacing right through the wall of my history class, back and forth as he tried to remember the lyrics to that song. I took a seat in the back next to Hoodie Boy.
“We were never formally introduced,” I said. “My name is Bristol.”
“Brady,” he said. His eyes barely looked up.
“You and I have been in the same class and we’ve never really talked,” I said.
Brady just shrugged.
“Is everything ok?” I asked. “You seem upset.”
“If you want to talk,” I said, “I’m a good listener.”
Brady finally made eye contact. I felt a wave of sadness roll off of him. He gave me a quick grin and then looked down at his notebook.
Mr. Blasdell, our history teacher who looked old enough that the stuff we were now talking about was probably current events when he was in school, cleared his throat to signal for everyone to shut up. He then started to lecture us on the Civil War.
When class was over, I turned to talk to Brady again, but he was already packed up and headed for the door. I could have chased after him, but felt that would come off as creepy.
I got up and headed for the door, Jerry following me as he sang.
“With yellow feathers in her hair, and an orange orangutan.”
* * * *
“I’m starting to get an idea as to why you found Jerry so annoying,” Mary said. “Did you see Brady again?
“Not that day,” I said. “I asked around a little, but nobody seemed to know who he was. I don’t think anyone really noticed him.”
“So what did you do?”
“I left,” I said. “What else was I supposed to do? I figured I’d try again the next day. So I walked home.”
“You didn’t take the bus?”
“No,” I said. “I like to walk. I prefer walking by the park. It helps settle my mind for some reason, but I took a detour and did some shopping.”
“Shopping can be fun,” Mary said. “Did you go on your own or with some friends?”
“Alone,” I said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not as bad as Hoodie Boy. People know who I am, but I don’t really have any close friends.”
“I’m me,” I said, as if that explained everything.
“What does that mean?”
I sighed. Was it so hard to figure out?
“Look,” I said. “It’s hard to have a lot of friends when you kind of have this psychic-freak thing going on. I never know what kind of ghost or spirit might pop in. Or in what condition they’ll be in. Jerry was just a little messed up, but imagine trying to grab a pizza with your buddies only to have someone stroll in who got mauled by a bear, or maybe they’ve got a big chest wound from being shot. I once had this guy who disarmed bombs for a living. Talk about a bad day at work—half his head was gone and he was holding his left arm in his right hand.”
Mary scrunched her nose. “Ew, ok. I get the point. So it was just you.”
“Well,” I said. “Jerry was around. Singing that same song, over and over again.”
“He must have been fun company,” Mary said with a wry smile. “Did you at least get something nice?”
I just shrugged.
“Bristol,” Mary said. “I can’t help you unless you talk to me. Did something happen?”
“It’s stupid,” I said.
“Please,” Mary said. “Tell me.”
I sighed and gave in. “I bought a dress,” I said. “A very nice, conservative, black dress.”
“Ok,” Mary said. “I take it we’re not talking about a party dress.”
“No,” I said.
Mary waited for me to say more, but I didn’t.
“So you’re talking about the kind of dress you would wear to a funeral?”
“Are you going to a funeral soon?”
“Not that I know of,” I said. “It’s kind of funny, but I’ve never been to a funeral. I see dead people left and right, but I’ve never been to a funeral.”
“Does the idea of seeing a dead body…,” Mary said. “I mean a real one, not the ghost of one that’s walking and talking. Does that bother you?”
I thought about it for a moment but shook my head. “No, I don’t think so. I just don’t have anyone close to me who’s died.”
“Well, that’s fortunate,” Mary said. “So you still have your grandparents?”
“Not really,” I said. Mary stared at me, clearly wanting me to expand on that. “I never really met any of my relatives. To be honest, I’m not sure if my grandparents are alive or not. I know I’ve got a big family on my dad’s side. They live upstate, in some town called Spirit. Kind of funny, huh?”
“Do you have contact with them?”
“Not really,” I said. “I think they used to call when I was little, but not so much these days. I still get Christmas and birthday cards from my uncle Mark. I had a dream about him the other day.”
“Oh?” Mary said. “So you know your uncle?”
“Never met him,” I said. “Well, I did, but I was really young the last time I saw him. That’s what the dream was about.”
“About meeting your uncle?”
“It wasn’t just a dream you see,” I said. “It was a vision.”
Mary looked a little shocked, but she recovered quickly. “Tell me about it.”
I sighed and decided to go with it.
* * * *
It started on the day I was born. Uncle Mark must work for the police in Spirit, because he was driving my parents to the hospital in a patrol car. My parents were in the back seat, kind of like perps. My mom was in labor. She looked happy, like she was excited for me to come into the world.
My uncle was talking to them about names for me. They hadn’t settled on one, so they recited a list like John, Sam, Bryan, Peter, and William. It was interesting that not only was my name not even being considered, but neither were any other girl names.
After that, my dream shifted to the actual moment I was born. My parents seemed completely shocked when they were told I was a girl. Both my parents started to cry, but it looked like they were happy about it. Thrilled, I’d say. Like I was the best surprise ever.
* * * *
“Wait,” Mary said, stopping my story. “You sound surprised. You are your parents’ only child. Of course they were thrilled. Do you get the impression that they would have preferred a son?”
“No,” I said. “They’ve never said anything that made me think that, but they were clearly expecting a boy. I know sometimes they get that wrong in the sonogram, but in the dream, they were really thrilled about the fact that I was a girl.”
“Was there more?”
* * * *
My dream shifted again. Mo
“We leaving Spirit,” Dad said. “And we’re not coming back. If we’re wrong, we trust you to look out for Bristol, but we don’t think we are. I’m sorry we’ll miss your wedding, but this is it.”
My uncle looked like he wanted argue, but he didn’t. He stuck his head into the car and gave little baby me a kiss. “Take care of my niece.”
Minutes later, my parents drove off.
* * * *
“So have you thought about calling your uncle?” Mary asked.
“And say what?” I replied. “Hey Uncle Mark, I had this dream about you and just wanted to reach out and say hi?”
“Have you asked your parents about him?” Mary asked. “Or about the rest of your family?”
“I tried once,” I said. “When I was younger. Mom gets angry, Dad gets upset. So I avoid it.”
“Okay,” Mary said. “Let’s get back to the other day. You bought a dress, but you didn’t know why.”
“I just had this feeling,” I said. “I should mention that happens too. I get these feelings, like don’t sit in the seat next to Lucy Wolfowitz back in second grade. I’ve learned to listen when I get those sudden feeling to do or not do something. Wish I had listened back then with Lucy.”
“Why? What happened?”
“With Lucy?” I asked. “She threw up all over me. She ruined my favorite dress back then. It had butterflies on it. I like butterflies.”
Mary smiled. “So back to the dress. The black one without the butterflies.”
I shrugged. “I just had this feeling to go into the store; I looked around, and saw it there on the rack. So I got it. I just felt like I should. I didn’t even bother to try it on. I know it’ll fit. It’s hanging in my closet. Waiting.”