My hackles rose defensively at Ken's skeptical tone. "What? It's better than nothing – which, by the way, is what you came up with."
He barely batted an eyelash at my accusation. If he felt any guilt at having been incredibly unhelpful the last several days, he didn't show it. Really, it'd been a few days and he'd come up with nothing, even if I stuck to him like glue wherever he went. Except the loo, but that's just because he pushed me out when I tried to follow him there.
"Ken, c'mon," I cajoled him. "The sooner we eliminate all possible sources of information, the sooner you can ascertain for yourself that you really cannot do anything for me. And the sooner I'll leave you alone."
"Ascertain, it means to make certain – "
"I know what it means. I just hadn't realized you liked big words."
I scowled at him. "Just because I'm not a straight-A, eyeglass-wearing, book-reading student doesn't mean I'm stupid. You're such a judgmental jerk." I let out an annoyed breath. I hadn't realized how much his assumption had irritated me.
If there was one thing I disliked besides my stepmother, it was people who liked to stereotype based on outward appearances. I was the carefree – or I had been when I was alive – kind of person, social and happy-go-lucky. Because of that, people tended to think I was a flighty, flirty valley girl who said 'like' every sentence. Of course, it was fun when I made people eat their words later, but having to prove that I didn't get my nothing-lower-than-B grades through unfair means was rather tiring and irritating.
"All right, all right. No need to get all huffy. Are you serious about this?" he asked me, even though he already had his car door open.
I frowned. "It's better than nothing. And besides, who knows, there might be some real psychics there. Mediums."
He glanced at me as we proceeded to walk toward the street. "Mediums, huh. Are you into that stuff?"
"Well – no. I actually highly doubt we'd really meet any real psychics there," I confessed.
"I just don't think that any sane person would willingly announce to the world that he/she can see ghosts and try to make a living out of it. I mean, you can see just me and you already wish you couldn't."
He didn't deny it, and I wasn't sure if the twist of my gut was because of that or because the shop we entered was like an alternate universe, one that was more suited to somewhere below the ground. Everything was black and red and seemed to have skulls all over. I even caught the word 'Satan' and 'cannibalism' there, so I was pretty sure this wasn't the place we needed. It was scary as hell – and it looked like it too, so Ken didn't even argue when I went, "Wrong shop, wrong shop, wrong shop," and dragged him out bodily by his arm.
His skin was still slightly tinged with green as we hesitantly entered a small decorated shop whose window bore the sign 'Medium'. Imaginative, I know.
We looked around at the store for a moment. It was dimly lighted – but no black anywhere – and the scent of incense hung heavily in the air. Curtains and draperies covered the ceiling, corners, doors, and windows, making me feel claustrophobic. On shelves and cabinets, assorted objects were stacked in no clear order. There were dozens of books and a few crystal balls. Beads and charms, boxes of tarot cards, and several jars of unidentifiable substances were scattered about.
A soft, whispery voice interrupted our perusal of the place. "May I help you, young one?"
Ken and I jumped about a mile. The woman had appeared out of nowhere.
I nudged Ken when he didn't answer, and he started again. He snuck a quick annoyed glance at me before he answered the lady. "Oh, we – I mean – I'm just… looking around."
The woman smiled. "Go ahead then. Would you be wanting to get your fortune told as well?"
I snorted. She was the picture of a fake psychic. Flowy, hippie-ish clothes, bangles and chains, airy voice. If she was for real, she'd have seen me already.
Ken smiled politely as he ignored me. "No, I don't think so. I'm really just looking around to… buy something for my sister," he repeated after me as I fed him the excuse.
The woman nodded. "Of course." She went to the back of the shop.
A rustle from a corner door made Ken and I jump in surprise again.
"What the hell?"
"If I had a living heart, it'd have stopped working now," I said to Ken, who looked as though he felt the same way as we looked to the source of sound and saw nothing but shadows. "Come on, this place is giving me the creeps."
Ken grinned and opened his mouth to reply, but someone beat him to it. "And why does it?"
There we jumped again. By this time, we both were holding our hands over our chests.
"What is up with people today?" Ken complained loudly as the new voice laughed.
From the shadows emerged a woman in her mid-thirties, dressed in loose, flowing clothes almost like the first woman had on, but sans the accessories.
"I believe you are looking for the reason behind your extended stay on earth," the attractive woman looked at me pointedly, not unkindly.
"Ye – yeah," I answered through my shock. "Yeah, we are."
She smiled and extended her hand. "My name is Theresa."
"Mina. This is Ken."
She turned around and led us to the back of the shop. I wasn't too sure about trusting anyone I just met a minute ago, but Ken seemed to have no problem with it at all. Or rather, he seemed to be drawn to her long white-blonde tresses and translucent gray eyes. And really, I was a ghost. It was only Ken who might be in any possible physical danger here.
Not that he seemed to care at all.
I considered not following them, but decided against it. Ken would have a hissy fit about it, and I'd miss out on a chance to find out why I'm still walking around.
Theresa and Ken were already seated around a small, round table. The crystal ball had been placed on the floor.
"We aren't using that?" I asked her, faking naïveté. I saw Ken frown but I ignored him.
The woman – Theresa – smiled placidly, and gestured for me to sit down.
Huffing internally as I complied, I still couldn't help but get the feeling that this woman was the real thing. For some weird, gut feeling, I could tell that she was so used to dealing with ghosts like me.
"So," she started, Ken staring at her like a retard, "how long have you been here?"
"Two weeks," I answered, and decided to add the details. "Walking towards campus. No one could see me. Thought they were jerks. Irritated the heck out of him," I pointed my thumb at Ken, who, to his credit, was actually listening to me, "so he had to talk to me. Searched the Net, came up with crap, except for the existence of this 'psychic' community."
She pasted a calm smile on her face again. "I see." Then to contradict her words, she closed her eyes and asked us to do the same.
A few uneasy moments passed before she spoke again. "Mina Lewis?"
"Yeah?" I answered before I realized she wasn't talking to me.
After a few minutes, we heard her soft sigh and thanks, then she instructed us to open our eyes.
Ken cast a censorious glance at me, but Theresa just smiled her stupid calm smile. "You walk the Earth to find love, Mina Lewis. I was told that you needed to find true love before you could return."
I had blanked out after the first sentence, ergo I barely heard the second one. Forcing a polite expression on my face, I stood up. "Right. True love. Thanks for the… advice. Or something."
"Yeah," Ken added, sounding as confused as I was, "we'll come back in case we need more help. How much was the – "
"No need," Theresa replied, "I'm happy to help."
I bit my tongue before I could tell her that she didn't help. At all.
I counted down the steps we were taking out of the shop and back to the car instead of allowing myself to think.
We were a foot from the car when I exploded. "Love? Are you trying to make me laugh? I'm 19 years old, Ken," I said derisively, not believing any of it. "Nineteen. Did you think I can find real romantic true love in high school and the first two years in college? No. I didn't think so."
I couldn't believe it. I was never going to my afterlife simply because my first boyfriend moved halfway across the world and my second cheated on me with my Chemistry Lab partner who also happened to be his second cousin? I wasn't going to rest in peace because I wasn't able to find someone whom I could love and who would love me back in a marry-me kind of way a year after I turned legal?
This was ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous. Although even more ridiculous was the fact that I believed in that woman's words.
"Besides, what does it matter if I find my one true love now? I'm dead, remember? I'm a transparent freakin' ghost you could stick your arm through. Only you can see me. So what do I do if I find him, huh? Tap him on his freakin' back and watch my freakin' fingers slip through him? Should I turn the lights on and off? Or maybe I could possess you and have you tell him I love him. Yeah, I can see how that would work out great. Really."
His dark eyes glinted. "I'm… it's not anyone's fault, okay, I guess it's just the way it is – "
"That's exactly the problem! Why is it always no one's fault? We can't even complain because we don't know who to complain to!" I raged on. "It's so… so unfair!"
"Well, life's unfair."
We both paused at his words, then: "I don't have a life, you – you – argh! This. Totally. Sucks! I. Just. Want. To. Move. On. Already!"
Ken looked sympathetic, frustrated, and amused. "Mina, look, I… I'm not sure what to say to make you shut up, but that's the only thing we know for now, and instead of, you know, maybe we should think about what we're going to do so we could get this over with."
I, however, was beyond logic. "Think about what we're going to do?! It's obvious, isn't it? I have to find someone who makes me want to jump their bones more than I do other people. I have to… find someone I want to spend the rest of my nonexistent life with. I have to find my 'other half'," I almost screamed, even as I air-quoted with my fingers. That's when the terrible fact struck me: "I'll never move on! Holy crap, I'll be stuck here forever following you around because I have to find my stupid soulmate through you. You. Anti-social even if you're totally gorgeous you. Awesome."
His brows furrowed ever so slightly. "I'm not…"
Ken didn't reply to my heated question. Here I was, ranting my ass off, and there he was, trying to take away my steam.
"Not what?" I repeated. "Not anti-social? Because you are. You don't talk to other people even when they talk to you. You grunt instead of speaking. You sit in the farthest corner of the caf instead of sitting with the gazillion people who invite you to eat with them." I was on a roll now. He had unwittingly become my new target. "You don't own a networking account, you don't chat online, you don't go out on weekends even with the countless party invites you get. I haven't even seen you look remotely interested in anything or anybody besides yourself."
He opened his mouth but I went on, "And if you so much as tell me that you don't think you're freakin' gorgeous, I swear you'll have to get those glasses of yours changed after I stomp on them."
Prudently, Ken kept quiet as I glared at him heavily, but then I realized that he was practically biting his lip to keep himself from smiling.
"You're – you're – " Finding new things to be pissed off about, I revved myself up for another go at him, but he beat me to it.
He was laughing hard, and it was the first time I heard him do that with no self-consciousness. I told myself I only let him laugh that long because he'd pay for it later, not because I rather enjoyed hearing him do so, nor was it because the expression on his face made me want to chill out and maybe join in, too.
Certainly, it wasn't because he'd gripped my shoulders to keep him from crumpling to the floor.
I was half-smiling when I pointed out to him that I'd get him back for making fun of my stressful situation.
That semi-smile turned into a full-blown one when he draped his arm around my shoulders, briefly hugged me to his side, and said, voice hoarse from laughing, "Do your worst, Mina."
A/N: Hello, I am back. Hope that was up to par, and if I haven't told you before (oh look I haven't), this is going to be a clichaaayyyyy. There. You've all been informed. Not warned, since I rather like them.:) So true love, eh? What say you to that?:))
Furfaidz: They don't love each other yet, but we all know that's where it's heading:)
Corey Wilcox: Thanks!:D
AlMaMo: Ken's nice... well, nicer, in this one. lol
jtianity & clique: yes, i get it, with a cherry on top:P Satan is back in this chapter, even if it's just in a shop^^