Chapter 1 (cont'd)
“Well, for starters you interrupted my morning routine,” I began. I checked the clock on my iPhone. “Can we make this quick?” I needed to make sure I got to school on time that day. “Today is my first day of my senior year of high school, and I really don’t want to be late.” The last thing I needed was a tardy on my record. I was desperately trying to keep my grades and performance up to par, especially since I'd be applying to colleges soon, and I wanted to keep my spot as the school paper's journalist.
Lucas huffed, and gave me a dirty look. “Are you serious?” he asked, with too much attitude. “What do you think I was supposed to be doing today? I should be starting my first day of my senior year, too. Instead, I'm sitting here, arguing with you.” He continued to glare at me.
“I’m sorry,” I muttered, as I tried to compose my anger. I had to remember that even on my worst day I wasn’t a dead kid trying to figure out what I was doing still on earth.
“Well, you should be,” he snapped angrily back at me and ran his hands through his perfectly styled hair.
“Okay, bye,” I stated, and I waved him away. I'd had enough of this guy. He could go find another mediator, for all I cared.
“Sorry,” the guy said, sounding quite sassy. He was obviously mocking me, which wouldn't bode well for him. “Man! Girls and their coffee,” he said, shaking his head.
“You can get out of my car and find another mediator if you don’t like my attitude,” I suggested.
He placed his hands in the air as if suggesting a peace offering. “Okay, I'm sorry. Let’s start over. My name is Lucas,” he said, extending a hand for me to shake. Once he said his name, his face registered with me. I recognized him from my AP English class last year. He had failed miserably, but because his dad owned one of Salem’s largest premiere car dealerships, he had sailed through with a D in the class. His name was Lucas James and he is–I mean was–the star player of Salem High’s Lacrosse Team. Not to mention that he'd been one of the boy toys of my arch nemesis, Melinda Carlisle, for a while.
I gave him a strange glance, and he quickly pulled his hand back. The thing is, ghosts and humans usually can’t touch each other. Well, they can’t shake hands and have actual physical contact. “Yeah, we can’t really shake hands, but, my name is Sadie,” I said.
“Well, Sadie, I think you can help me,” he said arrogantly.
“That’s what I do,” I said. “So, tell me: how did you die and why are you unable to move on? Sorry if I sound rushed, but I have school to attend.” I glanced at myself in the rear-view mirror. My auburn hair glowed virtually red in the sunlight. It was curled to perfection, and cascaded down my shoulders just the way I'd intended. I'd grown my hair out over the summer and wanted to show it off, but it looked as if I'd have to wait on that, too.
Lucas ran his hands through his hair and sighed. “I died in a car accident. I was drag racing with a group of college guys. We had a lot of money up for grabs. I guess I lost control as I was shifting gears and ended up wrapping my precious V-8, 2015 Mustang around a stupid tree.” He shook his head in mock anger.
“Okay, that sucks,” I said, not sure of what else to say.
“Yeah. I completely totaled my precious baby. That car was so sweet.” He looked as if the loss of his car was worse than the fact he'd died in the wreckage.
“So, do you want me to relay some message to your parents or something?” I asked, trying to hurry up the conversation.
“Yes. Can you just let them know I want my car keys and the Mustang emblem from my car placed in the casket with me? You know, in case I get to take something with me in the afterlife. I want to make sure I have the things that are most important to me.” He checked out my car again, his face twisting in disgust. “You know, you really should look into getting a better car. This one is fine for a girl’s car, but you would look really hot in a GT.”
Anger boiled deep inside my veins, and I felt the urge to punch this guy straight in his pretty boy face. He can have his Mustang any day; I'll keep my Eclipse. Sure, it didn't have the turbo or nifty gadgets, but it was cute, and could push the speed limits if needed.
I rolled my eyes again and checked my phone for the time. If I left at that moment, I could make it just in time for first hour AP English. “Okay, thanks for the tip. I'll make sure your message is relayed to your family and the funeral home. I'll write an anonymous letter on your behalf,” I said, eying the passenger's side door.
Lucas seemed to notice my antsy behavior and understood that I wanted him gone.
“Well, thanks,” he said, and he disappeared from my car. Man, what I wouldn’t give for the ability to just transport myself to a different place or realm. I could definitely get to school much faster with that power.
I checked my phone, which was ringing like crazy during my conversation with Lucas. When I looked at the screen, I wasn't surprised to see there were a million texts from my best friend, Lucy.
Lucy: Where are you?
Lucy: You were supposed to meet me at school 10 minutes ago.
Lucy: You need to answer your phone!
Lucy: I will not talk to you again if you do not get to school on time today!
Noah: Where are you? Lucy's mad…she's scaring me!
Lucy: Noah is annoying me. GET TO SCHOOL NOW!
Noah: Can you stop by McDonalds and get me a sausage biscuit?
Lucy: Class starts in 5 where are you?
I sighed to myself, bracing for the huge storm I was about to face with Lucy. After spending my entire summer vacation in Kentucky visiting my Aunt Morgan, I was glad to be back in Salem. I had hoped that, after my almost deadly summer break, I'd return to Salem and have a few months of peace before returning to my "normal" life as a mediator. I wondered what might be in store for me and what new adventures I might find. I only wished I'd had more time to think it over before being thrown back into my wild life as a mediator.
Since Noah and Lucy had gone with me to Kentucky and both had endured Melanie's wrath, I'd made a decision to be more honest and safe when it came to my friends. This prompted me to make lots of promises and changes. I promised both her and Noah I would meet them for the first day of school. Now it looked as if I was barely going to make it to school on time.
Great. I was about to fail at my first opportunity to show my friends I'd changed. Noah would just have to get his own sausage biscuit.
I turned on my "girly" car’s engine and drove through the streets of Salem until I arrived at Salem High School. The short drive was bittersweet when I came to the realization that this would be the last time I'd drive to Salem High School for a first day of school. Ever since I moved to Salem from California in my junior year of high school, I realized Salem had been my home all along. I felt as if I was meant to be here, in Salem, for reasons I still hadn’t figured out yet. My run-in with Elizabeth my first week in Salem had shown me how important my job as mediator really was. Her journey to find peace and justice had rescued me from my loner world and brought me friends and a self-confidence I never knew I had.
My trip to Kentucky that summer had shown me more mysteries connected to one of America’s greatest wars, and also brought me closer to Noah and Lucy. My unraveling of Bethany’s death, a girl who'd been found dead in a small Kentucky town, had almost ended my life, too. It was those moments in my life, when I risked my life to protect the names of others, that I knew how powerful my abilities actually were.
I parked my car in the student lot and noticed all the spots were filled. There was also no sign of any other Salem High students. I grabbed my backpack, jumped out of my car, and ran through the parking lot, the sun shining down on me like a spotlight. I took a second to examine my school. Salem High was a beautiful brick building, sitting on a perfectly manicured lawn. Brightly colored flowers lined some of the student walkways, and large oak trees were placed randomly across the campus. I skipped the stairs two at a time, opened the wide, double doors, and went inside. As I ran through the empty halls, I passed the front offices and hoped none of the principals would see me. I flew by the library, turning the corner in time to rush inside Miss Arax’s class. She was just turning on the projector screen when I managed to slip past her to take a seat at the front of the room.
She eyed me and gave me a coy smile as she walked past me.
“Good morning, Sadie, nice of you to join us. Rough morning?” she asked, jokingly. Miss Arax was a veteran teacher and local author who'd been teaching at the school for ten years. She was strict, and expected only the best quality work from her students, but she was fair, too, and was known by her students as easily approachable. If only everyone at the school valued her the way her students and family did, Miss Arax would have agreed to stay at Salem High another year, rather than retiring at the end of the year to pursue her writing career.
I nodded my head, slid down into my seat, and smiled back. “Good morning, Miss Arax. Rough doesn’t even begin to cover my morning,” I said, followed by a loud sigh.
She chuckled, shook her head, and waited with the rest of us as the morning news played on the screen overhead at the front of the class. I took a moment to look around the classroom. There were quotes from some of the greatest pieces of literature ever written posted on the walls in every corner of the room. Words and phrases from books like The Giver, The Scarlet Letter, The Outsiders, and some of Shakespeare’s plays like Macbeth, had been plastered on the walls, forcing us to read and review the haunting and powerful words. I looked at Miss Arax. The overhead lighting cast a shadow where she stood, making her look much smaller than she actually was.
Noah slid into the chair next to me and scooted his desk closer. The scraping his desk made on the floor didn’t go unnoticed by the rest of the class. “Hey, Sadie, I thought we were going to meet up this morning,” he said with a sad, puppy dog face. “I waited in the parking lot for, like, twenty minutes, and I texted you, but this August heat was just too much for me,” he said, trying to sound pitiful.
I reached out, patted his cheek, and smiled at my sweet, silly boyfriend. Noah was adorable, thoughtful, and the kindest person I knew. He was always up to help me, or in some instances, save me whenever I called. From the moment I moved to Salem, Noah and I just clicked. He was beyond just a silly, high school boyfriend. As cheesy as it sounds, I believed he was my soulmate. I mean, how many girls can tell their boyfriends they see and talk to dead people and have them still stick around?
Like Noah, my best friend Lucy was also someone I knew I could count on. Sure, she could be bossy and uptight at times, but those were the qualities I loved most about her. Anytime I needed her, she was ready to stand by my side and always had a plan in place. So when I noticed her glaring at me from across the room, I knew I was in trouble.
“Sorry,” I mouthed as she shot daggers through me. Her blue eyes seemed to have the ability to pierce right through your soul.
Noah must've noticed my stare because he turned his head to look at Lucy. “Man, you are in big trouble with her,” he stated, sounding scared. He shivered for dramatic effect, which made me giggle. “She tried calling you, like, ten times this morning when you didn’t show up in the parking lot.”
I leaned in closer and whispered so I wouldn’t get into trouble when I began my confession. “Sorry. I stopped to get some coffee at the coffee house, but I had a visitor.” I said the word visitor as if it were taboo to say. Only Noah and Lucy would understand what that word really meant, anyway.
He nodded his head in understanding, sat back in his metal chair, and laughed. “Man! Baby, you can’t catch a break, can you?”
Miss Arax glanced in our direction and motioned for us to be quiet as the morning news program trailed on. I took out my cell phone and began typing an apology message to Lucy. When I finished, I clicked send, tucked the phone back into my backpack, and watched for Lucy to retrieve the message.
Me: Hey, I'm sorry I didn’t show this morning. I ran in2 1 of my visitors & got caught up. Forgive me?
I watched as Lucy reached inside her purse and glanced at her phone. She shook her head and began rapidly typing out her response.
Lucy: You're lucky that's your excuse. I was so mad I could have strangled you! Yes, you are forgiven. Next time though, send me a text!
I read her reply, laughed softly, and then safely tucked my phone away. No way was I getting a detention on the first day of school for having my phone out.
Once the morning news show had finished, Miss Arax began passing out the course syllabus and talking about class rules and procedures. The hour slowly passed as we learned about the novels we'd be required to read, the weekly quizzes and class discussions we were required to participate in, and finally, our end of the year, senior writing project that would be our ticket to passing the class. Already overwhelmed with so much work, I felt a massive headache coming on.
And to think this was only my first class of the day; there were still six more classes I had to endure!
By lunch, I was exhausted. I met up with Noah and Lucy who shared the same lunchtime as us. Other than AP English, my friends only had one other class with me, and that wasn’t until the end of the day. We all shared Sociology, which was fifth period. After exiting my creative writing elective, I headed straight toward the cafeteria, to our designated spot. Lucy was already waiting for me, her lunch neatly spread out and ready to be devoured. I sat down in the seat next to her and sorted through my backpack, searching for my lunch. I was so rushed that morning, I only had time to prepare a turkey sandwich on wheat bread, a banana, and a small cup of vanilla yogurt.
As I ate my sandwich, Lucy and I chatted about our schedules. Noah ran into the cafeteria as Lucy was telling me about pottery class. His face was red and sweat was dripping from his hair.
When he got to our table, he sat quickly down. “Hey, Lucy, did you bring my lunch?” he asked, wiping a bead of sweat from his face.
Lucy, looking utterly disgusted, threw a brown paper bag at him.
“Thanks!” Noah said. “If I'd have left it in the gym locker room, someone would have stolen it,” he said. He opened the bag and pulled out a large bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.
“So, you have gym?” I asked, stating the obvious.
“Yep,” he said, chomping down on a handful of chips.
“You are disgusting.” I giggled. “You should have showered and changed before coming to lunch.” I mimicked Lucy’s grossed out face.
Noah leaned in closer to me, and wrapped a sweaty arm around my bare shoulders, and I felt like I might throw up. “Ew! Noah, don’t touch me!” I screamed.
He pulled me even closer and rubbed his sweaty body against me. The more I fought, the more he attacked. I was screaming then laughing. He continued to rub up against me, make faces, and laugh.
Lucy rolled her eyes and continued to eat her lunch.
When Noah finally gave up his tormenting and let me go, he said, “Sorry, but I had to do it,” while I continued pretending to wipe away his touch.
The announcement bell rang and the cafeteria grew silent. A female voice echoed from the speakers perched in the corners of the large space, saying, “Attention students. The date of our annual Fall Carnival and Dance is scheduled for the first Friday in October. Students interested in running for fall prince and princess needed to place their names on the ballot sheets outside the front office as soon as possible. Thank you.” The bell rang again and the students went back to chatting and laughing as they enjoyed their lunches.
“Great,” I mumbled. “We have to watch Melinda flirt her way around the school for two months, now?” I stated, sounding tired. Melinda was already smiling her way around the cafeteria as she began noting her campaign. It was only the first day of school and I already had her to worry about.
I sighed, took a sip of my bottled water, and began to rummage through my backpack.
“Oh, come on. You know Melinda does this every year. Besides, maybe we should try to enjoy some of these cheesy dances and events–we are seniors this year, after all,” Noah said. He stuffed some more chips into his mouth.
Lucy nodded her head in agreement. “Noah’s right. We need to enjoy our last year in high school, even if it means attending dances with Melinda,” Lucy added.
I scrunched my nose and squinted my eyes, making sure she knew how much I disliked their idea.
Our school principal, Mr. Halloway, entered the cafeteria, holding a microphone. He signaled for all of us to pay attention before beginning to speak: “Attention, students. I am sure, as you all are aware, we lost a student from Salem High over the summer break. Lucas James died in a car accident last weekend, and his lacrosse teammates want to honor him at the funeral.
"We are asking those of you who wish to remember him to please write a note to his family, which will be forwarded to the James family.
"They will honor all wishes during the funeral. The Lacrosse team has asked for him to be buried in his school jersey, and his parents have already agreed.
"I'm leaving the box here with some pens and papers. I will personally take the box to the James home, today after school.” He smiled and then walked away.
I turned to my friends, grew serious, and said, “Lucas was the ‘visitor’ I had today. I need to write something for him.” I stood and made my way to the box which had been placed on a table by the cafeteria's exit.
Melinda scurried to the box on the table when she noticed me. “Sadie, what are you doing?" she said. "You didn’t even know Lucas.” She sneered as she snatched the pen from my hand, and began writing something on a piece of paper herself. Hovering around her, Melinda’s entourage—whom we referred to as Melindanites–surrounded their queen. Each of them wore too much makeup and not enough clothes.
“Watch it, Melinda,” I growled back. “For your information, I had a conversation with him not too long ago, and was able to help him out with an issue recently.” I stole the pen back and scribbled my note on a piece of paper I picked up off the table. If only she knew how recent my conversation with Lucas had been, she might just run screaming out of the school. For a moment, I almost felt like telling her.
Happy with my message, I folded the paper, placed it inside the box, and walked back to my seat. I could feel Melinda watching my back, and I smiled, knowing my presence alone was enough to infuriate her.
“What was that about?” Noah asked. I guess he'd noticed Melinda’s evil glare.
“Melinda's just mad I left a message for Lucas’s family,” I said.
Lucy shook her head, which only served to confirm what I'd been thinking. “One of these days, someone's going to knock her off her pedestal,” she said.
I laughed and shook my head. Lucy was adorable. She hated Melinda for the way she treated me, and basically everyone else at our school. As much as I wanted to pummel Melinda in the face, I knew it wasn’t worth the trouble I'd get myself into, no matter how much satisfaction it would bring me.
Several other students made their way to the table and began writing messages for Lucas James. The idea was thoughtful, and I knew his parents would follow through with their promise to grant Lucas's wishes.
Once we'd finished lunch, we threw our trash away, and walked together to our fourth-period classes, agreeing to meet up again for fifth-period. I dreaded fifth-period math class and said a silent prayer I'd get Mr. Phil again for math. He was the only teacher at school who was able to make something like math actually fun.
I almost jumped out of my seat when the final bell of the day rang. I was so eager to get home and relax, I didn’t even notice Lucas James standing in the doorway to my last class.
As I brushed past him, I motioned for him to follow me. I gave both Noah and Lucy an expression as I passed them that told them I was up to something, but couldn’t explain exactly what. Knowing my "look," they followed me to the students' parking lot where my car was.
Once we were inside my car, I turned to Lucas and said, "I didn't think I'd be seeing you again."
Noah and Lucy climbed into the back seat of my car, watching me as I spoke with Lucas. Even though they couldn’t see or hear him, they knew he was there.
“Umm, should we talk somewhere else?” he asked, pointing to Noah and Lucy.
“No, they know that I am a mediator. They're cool,” I said and offered my friends a smile.
“Okay. Well, I just wanted to say thanks for helping me. I have a feeling I'll go to wherever I'm supposed to go as soon as my parents get your message.” He said this with such confidence, I felt proud that I was able to help.
“I'm glad. Your funeral sounds like it'll be a nice way to remember you,” I said.
He smiled one last time, looking content and happy. He slowly disappeared, and I knew he'd be moving on soon.
“I'll never get used to that,” Noah said, his eyes wild having taken in the situation.
“Tell me about it,” I said, rolling my eyes. It was true–no matter how many dead people I help, I don’t think I'll ever get used to seeing some random dead guy or girl waiting for me. As much as I sometimes wish I could have a normal life, I know that'll never be a possibility for me. I could only hope things would get less complicated after I finished high school.
Unfortunately for me, things always seemed to stay complicated.