Chapter Two: The Girl with the Hungry Blue Eyes
It was a relief when the bus pulled up at his stop. He took his usual seat in the forbidden handicap section and suddenly she was there, staring at him. Michael looked away and when he turned back, she'd vanished. But she'd been there, looking as much alive as he. He leaned his head back, closed his eyes, and slowly counted to ten, then opened them, just to be sure. No, no sign of her, no sign that anyone had seen a pretty girl with the bluest eyes he'd ever seen and long dark hair that was shiny as a raven's wing.
Usually he tried to will the bus to travel as slowly as possible to delay its arrival at school, but today he was grateful when it arrived on time. His friends, Dewey and Short Round, stood waiting for him at their usual post at the flagpole. This morning they seemed to look at him strangely, like something about him just seemed, well, off.
"What's the matter with you jerks?" he said, trying to say it lightly but his irritation was hard to hide.
"Dude, you look like you've seen a ghost," said Short Round, who had adopted the name for himself after seeing "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom". He was Hmong, the only one in his school and prone to brag about it.
Michael wanted to say, "What makes you think I've seen a ghost?', but afraid of revealing too much replied, "Yeah, right, and what have you been smoking?" His heart pounded hard against his ribcage, and he hoped he sounded normal. He didn't need this, not right now.
"My family knows all about that stuff. I'm from 'Nam, remember? I'm tribal, we believe in all that crap. And you do look like you've seen one. You're paler than usual, even for you, and you look fricking scared."
"I ain't seen no goddamn ghosts". Mike pretended to pummel Short Round, who, in spite of his size, could more than hold his own. "And besides, you weren't born in 'Nam, you were born here. I'm going to whip your ass at the skate park today. Those tree roots on my street have really helped my jumps."
"You wish," Short Round countered, as the three friends went into the school.
"I'll remind you of that when Michael makes his first jump and you fall flat on your ass," Dewey said to Short Round. Dewey seemed like the quiet type until you got to know him. His looks may not have been as striking as his friends, but he possessed a killer smile, combined with an easy going personality that more than compensated for his looks when it came to girls.
They dumped their packs in their lockers and went off to their respective classes. Michael's first class was history, his favorite subject. He sat down, pulled his notebook from his backpack, and prepared to take notes. Instead of paying attention, though, fatigue caused his mind to wander. No matter how hard he tried, he could not focus and found himself drifting off.
"Mikey," asked his teacher suddenly, "Are you among the living?"
It took Michael a moment to realize she was talking to him. "Huh?" He responded, and shook his head. The class laughed as he looked around, confused, "Did you ask me something?"
Molly Miller was worried about Michael, but tried not to let him know. She'd noticed early that he seemed to have a maturity that enabled him to understand things on a level that few other students in the class did. When Michael's family first started having financial troubles, Molly could tell that something wrong. She met with his mother and both had come to conclusion that Michael was an old soul who'd be better off if he were more of a kid. She would have felt better if he'd acted out, gotten in a little bit of trouble, but that was not his way.
The stress caused by his family's monetary struggles had hit him hard. He acted as if these were things he just going to have to deal with; but Molly knew better. A major change like he was experiencing was something he wasn't quite mature enough to handle. The smile that could once light up a room had now grown sad and melancholy.
"You okay, kid?" she asked gently. She possessed an uncanny ability to read her students and could tell something was wrong before she even asked. She gave Michael "the look", the "I don't know what is happening but I know something isn't right" look that her students knew well.
"You don't look sick, but you don't look very good." She went to her desk and pulled out a hall and library pass. "Go get some fresh air, then straight to the library. It's going to ruin my reputation if you fall asleep in my class." She brought the pieces of paper back to him. "Most of the lecture is covered in your book. Any questions you have, I'll check my notes to see if I added material. Now go. And stay away from your skateboard," she warned.
He gathered his things and left. It wasn't good that she had dismissed him, but Molly seldom punished. She was right, he did need the fresh air.
He walked out the front doors, showing the pass and note attached to the monitors and saw her standing at the flag pole, her blue eyes staring into his was spookily disconcerting. He quickly turned around and went back into the school and headed to the library. To his dismay, he saw her there again, standing among the book stacks before he even had a chance to sit down. Much to his relief, she vanished. He sat down and pulled out his history book, forcing his attention on the chapter and taking notes, deliberately pushing the girl out of his mind.
That afternoon at the skate park he seemed a person possessed. He was almost careless, attempting flips and 360's he'd never tried before, pushing for speed, desperate to keep the girl out of his head. It seemed to work, until the three friends picked up their skate boards and walked together to his bus stop, when he suddenly stopped cold.
She was there, waiting for him. He stood, frozen, not willing to move even though he didn't want to miss his bus. What was she doing here? Why wouldn't she leave him alone? Why did she keep following him around like this?
To his friends he seemed to be staring at nothing. Dewey moved a hand back and forth in front of his eyes, saying, "Earth calling Mikey, earth calling Mikey. Dude, what has you so freaked out?"
"Go home, Dewey, I'll catch up," said Short Round suddenly. Dewey looked at him, surprised. "Dude, I mean it. Just give me a minute; I'll take care of this." Dewey looked, and then nodded. A year older than the other two, he sometimes seemed slow, but a lot went on behind his blue eyes.
"See you," he said, then took off on his skateboard.
Short Round watched Dewey leave then turned to Michael. "You see something, don't you?" he asked him bluntly, "Don't bother denying it because I can see her, too. Your sister is going to be pissed when she finds out her jacket is missing."
"You can see her?" Michael stared at Short Round, not sure if Short Round was fooling with him, or if he really did see the mysterious girl. He thought that this was his own private nightmare. He looked at his watch-ten minutes before the bus, then looked Short Round in the eyes. "Don't mess with me dude."
"Told you I'm tribal. My great grandfather was a shaman," Short Round's eyes glittered, "We believe in spirits and all that crap. I don't think she expected me to see her because she's here for you." He turned to Michael and purposely gave him what he liked to call his "inscrutable Oriental" look. "She's not going to hurt you, but she wants something from you. She has something she wants to tell you."
"Yeah, right, so what do I do?" Great. A ghost girl who wanted to communicate with him, when he wasn't even much in the mood to talk to girls who were living.
"I think you have to figure this one out on your own, Blondie. Your bus is coming. See you at school tomorrow." Short Round abruptly jumped on his skateboard and sped off.
Michael walked slowly to the bus, his skate board under his arm. He got on the bus and saw her sitting by the aisle, as if she were waiting for him. He walked by her refusing to look at her. "You aren't there," he thought, "If you are there, go away and leave me alone. I don't need you and I don't care if you need me." Giving in to curiosity, he looked up and to his relief saw that she was gone. He sighed noisily, drawing looks from the other passengers that he ignored. During the rest of the ride home there was no sign of the girl with the heart breaking blue eyes. When the bus came to his stop, he ran down the steps and jumped onto his skateboard. He crouched down as he navigated the hill, mindful of tree roots. He counted it as a good omen that today he didn't get jolted from his skateboard even once.
He refused to look at any of the houses as he sometimes did. Until he came to his own house, all that existed was the sidewalk and his skateboard. When he reached his house he unlocked the door, and pleasant warmth greeted him. He went up to his room and threw his pack on the floor. Looking around, he pulled out his books and his notebooks, and was relieved that he could sit down to study without the feeling that someone looked over his shoulder. There was no girl, just math, science, history, and soon the smells of his mother cooking dinner.
After that, there was no sign of her. She did not haunt his dreams, did not appear on the bus. He did not see her in his room or at school. He was right when he decided that all he had to do was ignore her and she would go away. Short Round might be wrong; maybe you could make a ghost go away. Even if she did have something to say, he didn't have to listen, he told himself, but he had a sinking feeling he was only hoping he was right.