Pages

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Ghost and Persie part 4 | The Book Spooktacular Story

Book spooks, it's the last day of the Book Spooktacular! I hope you have all enjoyed your October.

 Today's the last day. You can still take part in the Autumn List link up if you'd like. Also, Thank you Maddie and Livia Rose for participating! Go check out their posts! They're awesome. [If you participated and I haven't mentioned you, let me know. I'd love read your post and leave a link to it!]

Don't forget to dash over to Skye's blog for her post about Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Thank you for reading, everyone. I really appreciate it.

Here's the final part of Ghost and Persie!






Ghost and Persie

a.n.g.


Chapter 7
Invincible on Five Hours of Sleep


Ghost woke five fours later. She stared at her closet. "I think I've forgotten how to sleep for long hours."

The closet said it wouldn't allow her to leave in anything with tulle today. It handed her a pair of black jeans, freshly ripped.

She waved them at it. She'd just bought these.

It sighed innocently as if shrugging its door frame.

She'd always suspected that it had a mangled hanger that it used to shred her clothes. She sighed and slipped the jeans on.

But she was supposed to be setting boundaries.

"I want my favorite hoodie," she said.

It clapped open and closed gleefully. It wouldn't argue with that. She pulled on the metallic blue hoodie. Mother had woven it with shadows from the Underworld. It smelled of home.

The day advanced in its normal way, but Hecate's advice hovered at the back of her mind.

You are a goddess.

Ghost wanted to be like Hecate. Hecate was brilliant. She was stunning. She was assertive, and yet still she was kind and benevolent. She had everyone's respect without being ruthless. If Hecate of all divinities believed in Ghost and believed her to be a goddess, then why couldn't Ghost believe it?

As she attended to her duties, Ghost determined to not be squelched. The day carried on into night without squelching.

Persie's number was fading. It would be gone if she didn't save it. And why didn't she? Why not call him? Hecate thought it would be ok. Maybe not perfect, but why not try?

She had five hours of sleep after all. Ghost was invincible on five hours of sleep.

She conjured her battered phone from her bag.

And then her confidence waned. Calling was a bit much. She had to take charge like Hecate said, but couldn't she take small steps? Like texting?

She leaned against the curtain hallway in the dim light. She entered Persie's number into her phone. She considered her words for so long the black curtains sassed her about having seen Medusa's head.

Ghost told the curtains to zip it.

She typed

What are you doing?

and sent it.

That was awful. She should've said hi or how are you or something nicer. But it was too late. She went to the Vault to sort what she'd collected. What if he didn't want to talk to her anymore? What if--

Her phone went off.

Studying

She swallowed. She could work with that, right?

For a test?

For fun . . . Since I'm awake at all hours like a freak

She fought off a smile and sat on the dryer. He seemed like the sort to study for fun. Wait, it was 3 am. She hadn't realized, or she wouldn't have . . . Was he subtly saying she'd woken him?

Is that sarcasm or truth?

What?

You being an insomniac freak

Both

What are you doing?

Wait, let me guess

Working?

I've been reassessing my work schedule

Seems I'm not allowed any more overtime hours

How shocking that is

Perhaps I need a break

Try taking off the perhaps

She stifled a laugh. At least he knew how to tease, and she already knew he could take it.

I didn't come here to get roasted

Ok, ok, don't go

I'm reassessing too and thinking PERHAPS

We could take a break together?

She thought this over. But if she thought too long, she'd say no.

Yes



Streetlights lit her way to the park. Ghost did not have her bag. She'd sent out a message in the spirit plane that she'd be unavailable for the next five hours. She focused on not letting any spirit push her around tonight. Because if she didn't, she'd think too much about meeting with Persie and walk straight home to sleep for five hours instead.

Since few locations were open at 3 am, they were meeting at Lodge Street Park. Halfway to the park, the sidewalk appeared as if something monstrous from the Underworld had tried to break through the cement to terrorize the neighborhood. Ghost followed the gashed pavement until she reached the gloomy, muffled park.

Ghost slouched into a swing. When she grasped the chains, she thought her hands would go right through. She felt lighter tonight. Since telling her spirits that she'd be unavailable, she'd suggested they rest in the Underworld.

Surprisingly, most of them took her advice. Unsurprisingly, those who hadn't kept trying to drag her into the spirit plane. She fought off the calls.

Soon Persie's flashy car parked under the lone streetlight. She kept her head down until she heard the creak of the swing beside her.

Persie sat there with his hair nearly glowing in the dark.

"Why is your hair white?"

She expected him to say because he'd bleached it, but he didn't say anything at all. Instead he stared at the paint-chipped slide beyond them. His face looked somber.  She sensed the hidden sadness he had at the funeral. Something wasn't right.

Finally, he said, "I was unhappy."

And bleaching his hair helped? She didn't say that.

"What about?" she asked quietly.

His swing swayed. She was used to silences from sad beings, but she still was despondently useless in the face of sorrow.

"It's ok." She didn't want to pressure him. "You don't have to talk about it."

He nodded. "Maybe another time."

She ought to say something. "Thanks for coming."

"You certainly know where the nightlife is."

She shrugged. "Insomniac freaks can't be picky."

He smiled. It was a quiet, steadier smile than his usual ones. Small in a way that didn't show his teeth. He finally looked at her, and his eyes were laughing again. "You look more like you today."

"And how do you know what that is?" She pulled on the chains and swung higher.

He leaned back. "You seem more at ease, I guess."

They swung in silence for a while.

"Ghost?"

"Yes?"

"Why won't you tell me about you?"

Ghost let her swing slow. Everything she had already said sounded fake, even though most of it was true. Reaffirming it as the truth would only make him more skeptical. So she offered something else.

"Ghost is my real nickname."

He raised his eyebrows. "What are the chances?"

They laughed and swung and talked of safe things like favorite colors and Norse mythology until they grew quiet and stared at the moon over the crooked basketball hoop.

"Persie?"

"Hm?"

"I'm sorry I can't explain things the way you want me to. I'll, I'll try to, just not today." As long as she was moving forward, she could take small steps.

He nodded.

"I think, I should get back."

"Do you want me to drive you?"

Her eyes widened. "No!"

He frowned. "Ghost, it's still dark out, and . . ." He gave the neighborhood a quick glance and then raised an eyebrow at her.

When he put it like that, it sounded dumb to refuse. But she didn't want him to see where she lived.

Then again, judging by the park, he probably had an accurate idea about the state of were she lived. If they continued seeing each other, he'd know eventually.

His face had grown harder. "Where you live," he was looking for the right words, "are you safe?"

What was he--oh. Oh! He thought her home life might be abusive. From the way she'd been acting, she couldn't blame him.

"It's safe. I promise."

He looked doubtful. "Would you tell me if it wasn't?"

"I didn't mean to make you think--It's not like that." She stood. This was absurd. She needed to start being straight with him. "Can I change my mind? About you driving me?"

"Yeah." He stood too.

She felt awkward beside him as they walked toward his car. This did not seem like small steps.

"So." He held the key fob aloft, and the car chirped. "What's your real name?"

"It's as awful as yours."

He pouted and ducked into the driver's side.

Before she reached the handle, the door perked in curiosity at her. It hummed under her touch, but it didn't say anything. She climbed in quickly and only after sitting remembered that she was supposed to be confident. No more rushing through doors. But she couldn't help it. Especially now that the passenger door and the driver door were exchanging glances.

Ghost didn't like being stuck between doors. She usually only found herself in such a position when entering grocery stores. And grocery store double doors hissed and rattled at her, dry and vulgar like desert snakes.

These car doors seemed kind, but their analytical gaze unnerved her. She was being seen through.

Ghost tried to ignore it. She realized Perise had apologized over the mess and was clearing things from the floor of the passenger seat. Books and climbing gear tumbled into the backseat, crushing more books and papers scribbled with Latin translations.

She bent to help him. From under the seat, she pulled out a sheathed dagger.

"Ah, haha." Persie took it from her. "You didn't see that." He placed it under his own seat. "The campus doesn't allow weapons."

"Sounds like a boring campus," she muttered and grabbed her seat belt.

He laughed louder than necessary and started the car. "It's for re-enactments."

She didn't live far, so in two minutes, the car smoothly purred by the curb of Hecate's house.

Persie looked across her to see through the shadowy trees and down the bleak stone pathway. "Looks charming and cheery."

She restrained a smile. "Very devil-may-care."

He seemed unsure if he should laugh or not. He shook his head instead. "You do say the strangest things."

"You'll get used to it." She moved to open the door.

The door said that it very much approved of her.

Persie flashed a grin. "Can I text you later?"

"I'd like that." And she wasn't lying.



Chapter 8
New Adventure


Ghost waited until she'd stepped inside the house to enter the spirit plane. She let a frantic spirit teleport her.

Beatrice stood in her mother's darkened room again. The mother sobbed into her hands on the edge of the bed.

Ghost considered the advantages of being the first one to speak.

"Make her see me!" Beatrice said.

Ghost blinked impassively back. Other goddesses would've banished Beatrice to the depths of Tartarus coupled with a punishment that could've competed with The Divine Comedy for disturbing creativity.

Ghost didn't want to be like other goddesses. "No," she said it plainly.

Beatrice shrieked in frustration.

"Beatrice, that is the worst idea ever. I know you want to comfort her, but--"

"But you won't help me." Beatrice waved her arms inhumanly. "What is the point of you?!"

Ghost tried to sound confident and firm. "If you want to comfort her, you'll have to do exactly what I tell to."

Beatrice's glare morphed into a skeptical scowl.

"And the first thing you must do is calm down."

"How do you expect me to be calm?! Look at my mom!" She gestured. "And--"

Ghost put a hand on her shoulder.

Beatrice hiccuped on a sob. She nodded too vigorously. "Ok, how do I become calm?"

"This isn't the end of the world."

Beatrice gave her a look. "That's not funny."

"It wasn't meant to be. The Underworld is not ending, and it's where you belong now."

"And this is supposed to help?"

"You have to accept that. It's a new . . . adventure."

"What if I want my old adventure?"

Ghost didn't know what to say that would help. She only knew what was. So she didn't say anything.

"Ok, how do I accept it? Like what--"

"You have to accept that you two," Ghost gestured to the mother, "belong in different places. You can't be there for her like you used to."

"You're not going to let her see me, are you?" Beatrice's voice was thick only with sadness.

The sadness settled heavily on Ghost. "I won't."

Beatrice stared at the mother. Ghost could sense her slowly turning this over. Slowly telling herself her mother had friends and wouldn't be alone. Slowly coming to terms with the difference between being alive and being dead.

Something like realization filled the room.

"It's ok," Beatrice said. "Maybe you're right."

Ghost nodded. "Sit on the bed."

"What?"

"Do exactly as I say, remember?"

Beatrice sat on the bed.

"Let me have all your energy."

"All of it?"

"I'm not taking it all. I'll just have control of it all. She'll sense your presence. And if you'd like, you can say something to her. She won't hear it clearly, but she'll hear it."

Beatrice nodded, and with that nod, Ghost held all of Beatrice's energy. It was like holding water in cupped hands. It was something Ghost was adept at. She could manipulate it to give Beatrice just enough physicality so when Beatrice hugged the mother, the mother could feel Beatrice's chill touch. She could hear the whisper of Beatrice's voice. It was like dropping liquid color into the water so that its particles became vaguely noticeable.

Ghost wasn't sure how long this went on, but when Beatrice grew too tired, she released her energy back. Beatrice thanked her. Ghost advised her to rest in the Underworld, and Beatrice did.



Ghost returned to Hecate's house. Another golden envelope poked out of the letter box. The floor was unsteady beneath her, and she felt a little sick. It'd been a long time since a new ghost had been calm enough to do that. Hecate was right. Ghost couldn't help any of the spirits if she didn't take care of herself.

She fell into bed. Two letters from Mother was unusual. She yawned and rolled over.

Ghost woke with a jolt. She didn't realize she'd fallen asleep. And for ten hours.

She noticed the envelope in her hand. The note inside indicated that Mother wanted to take Ghost shopping in Olympus. To "amend" her wardrobe. Ghost didn't mind spending a day with Mother, but Olympus sounded irksome and exhausting.

Ghost could probably talk Mother into something else, but she should visit. And Mother would be more easily persuaded if Ghost wore the odious tulle thing.

The tulle disaster, if you please, she asked the closet.

The closet was not pleased.

Ghost asked more firmly.

It clamped shut.

Ghost pried it open as it hissed at her. She had to dig through its depths where she found the dress, shredded, atop a mass grave of destroyed clothes Mother had given her. Ghost closed her eyes. What had she expected?

She tried to be firm with the closet. Like Hecate said. She couldn't let everything run through her
and--

She didn't even like this dress. She didn't like any of the clothes the closet had destroyed and hidden. And she didn't want her wardrobe amended.

Ghost apologized to the closet.

The closet stood agape.

She had to talk to Mother. She didn't want to, but it had to happen. She had been letting people walk through her more than she'd thought. And she had to stop it. Ghost shoved her shaking hands in her pockets as she descended the stairway. She both rehearsed what to say and tried not to think about it.

Eventually, she stood in the palace garden with no recollection of who had directed her here. Mother knelt in a patch of orange tulips. She wore a white tunic, somehow unstained. Ghost lingered by some deep purple tulips. She was tempted to touch the silky petals as she considered the advantages of being the first to speak.

"Ah, you came!" Mother spotted her. A smile spread across her face.

"I did." One day she'd speak first. She'd been letting people walk through her all her life. It would take time to undo it.

"Did you get my message?" Mother touched the braided crown wrapped around her head.

"I did, and--"

"When did you want to go? We could even go now if you wanted." Mother looked expectantly at her. She was happy. Ghost didn't want to make her unhappy. Or worse, angry.

"Mother, I . . . I don't want to go."

"Nonsense." Mother laughed. She wasn't taking this seriously, and some anger finally fueled inside of Ghost. "You'll fall in love with what they have in Olympus and--"

"I'm not going."

Mother stopped. "I'm sorry. Did you say--"

"I'm not going." Ghost took a deep breath, and thank the fates Mother didn't use the space to say something. "I like what I wear. I don't want to change my attire." She fidgeted. "And I'd appreciate it if you'd respect that."

Mother scowled. "Melinoe, your clothes--"

"Are mine." She looked up. "There's nothing wrong with them."

Mother laughed.

It made Ghost angrier. "I don't have to wear what you approve of. I don't tell you what to wear. And why would I? That's your choice to make, just like what I wear is mine."

Mother huffed. "That is no way to speak to me!"

Ghost instinctually wanted to appease, to say maybe she was wrong. But she knew she wasn't wrong. "I don't want to be angry, Mother. I just want you to listen and understand."

Something complicated happened behind Mother's upset face. Mother nodded curtly. This might not be the end of the issue, but it was a start to understanding. A tingling weightlessness thrilled under Ghost's skin. She felt relieved and yet anxious over a later conflict.

But conflict there would be, all her life, and she had to stop bowing to it.

Ghost cleared her throat. "I wouldn't mind spending a day with you though."

"Yes, of course." Mother pounced on the peace offering.

Ghost opened her mouth to suggest something, but she was too startled to form words.

"Maybe not Olympus." Mother hurried to fill the space. She had that pleased smile she made when forming a plan. "You know, I have never been to the mortal world during this time of year. Never thought I'd like it, but . . ." She turned her smile toward Ghost. "Perhaps if I had someone acquainted with its charms?"

Thoughts raced for dominance in Ghost's mind, but the most certain one made her grin. "Mother, you would die for a pumpkin spiced latte."

Mother raised an eyebrow with amusement. "Oh, would I?"

They laughed.

"Am I invited?" a voice behind them said.

She and Mother leapt back.

Father stood between them with a restrained smile. His presence then swept through the garden and around them. He'd kept it close to himself so he could sneak up on them. It was chill like an under layer of soil, damp, and delightfully cool with hidden stones and complicated roots.

Mother shoved his shoulder playfully. "That was nasty, scaring us like that! And after you've been gone forever!"

He shrugged but wouldn't stop grinning because she wasn't actually angry. Mother hugged him. Father picked Mother up, and Ghost stopped watching at that point.

When he set her down, he put an arm around Ghost. "So what's this about a trip to the moral world?'

Ghost had so many questions, but the words wouldn't come out. She was just glad he was back.

Mother filled him in. Father said the trip sounded wonderful and he could take Ghost's spirits for that time.

Mother asked where he'd been. He said he'd stayed away because Ares was getting testy and making trouble. Apparently, if Father was not anywhere in the Underworld, not even a trace of him, no mortal could be allowed in, meaning no mortal could die. Whatever Ares' plans were, this foiled them. So Father had stayed away until the god had relented.

Ghost's phone went off in her back pocket. She closed her eyes. She should've left it in her bag, but for some reason, she'd taken it.

The reason, of course, was Persie.

Father and Mother were staring at her.

"Is that you?" Father said.

"You never use that old gadget," Mother said.

"Who is it?"

She could dismiss it as a wrong number or--No, she had to stop hiding.

Mother eyed her. "Well, whoever it is, is likely mortal."

"Yes," Ghost said with an inhale, "he's mortal."

"He?" Father looked more bemused than when he'd startled them.

"Melinoe!" Mother nearly squealed. "Why didn't you tell me? How long--"

"Not long." Ghost swallowed. "You aren't angry?"

"Why would we be angry?" Mother was clearly ecstatic. "What does he look like? How did you meet?" She gasped. "Is he that one from the funeral? What do you--"

"So you think it's a good idea?" Ghost said.

"Is he good to you?" Father said.

Ghost nodded. She didn't know how to form words for a proper answer.

"Do you like him?" Mother wiggled her eyebrows.

Ghost laughed. "Yes, I think I do."

"Then it's a good idea," Father said.

"Oh!" Mother bounced. "I can't wait to meet him!"

"What's his name?" Father said.

"It's Persie."

Mother gasped in glee.

Father smirked. "You realize, your mother is a Persie."

"Dad!"

"It's not my fault. You know the Moirai. They've the originality of a may fly."

"Hades, please," Mother said, "I must know more about how all this happened! Posthaste!"

Ghost walked through the halls with them to have dinner. Her nerves raced with static electricity. It was an odd sensation because she was only used to feeling exhausted. Was she happy or nervous or scared or content? Maybe Henry was right, maybe she hadn't been as happy as she'd thought. She should probably thank him.


The End


Monday, October 28, 2019

Ghost and Persie part 3 | Book Spooktacular Story

Part 3 is here, book spooks! I hope you're all having a wonderful October. I went for a foggy walk around the neighborhood this morning.

In case you want to back track, part 1 of Ghost and Persie is here, and part 2 here.

Also, Skye wrote an amazing sneak peek at one of her novel projects: The Fairy and the Artist!





Ghost and Persie

a.n.g.

Chapter 5
The Choice


Ghost had many awkward experiences in her life, but following Beatrice through the second floor of the Arche family house might have topped them all. It was likely Persie lived elsewhere, in an apartment or dorm, but still. She kept her eyes on the carpet. She would not study the hall photos.

Beatrice led Ghost into her mother's room.

Ghost was exhausted. "Now look--"

"I know, I know," Beatrice said. "You can't control what she dreams about. You place me in there, and maybe Mom recognizes me, maybe she doesn't. But I have to try. Wouldn't you?"

Ghost would not. But she nodded and took Beatrice's hand. She searched for the mother's spirit.  Mortals' spirits were near impossible to find during the day, but when mortals slept, their spirits were very awake. malleable and obliging.

The mother's spirit came right to her. It didn't appear as the mother, but as a sort of sensation, a misty feeling. Ghost couldn't speak to the spirit as she did with Beatrice. When she introduced Beatrice to the mother's spirit, it was like a scientist introducing one chemical compound to another. What happened next was out of her hands.

Beatrice disappeared. Ghost didn't know what happened in the dream, but she had a sense of it. It seemed uncertain, then it turned pleasant.

Perhaps this would go better than she'd thought.

Confusion set in again. And then fear.

Beatrice reached out her hand. Ghost grasped it. Moonlight poured through the blinds in the bedroom, throwing parallel shadows over the mother's tossing form in bed.

Beatrice was shaking.

"It's ok," Ghost said. "What happened?"

"She recognized me at first. We hugged and . . ." She shook her head. "I think she's dreaming of losing me again." Beatrice looked paler than a spirit which meant she was realizing that she was the cause of her mother's grief. "I feel sick."

Beatrice walked out. Ghost followed. Beatrice sat on top of the stairway. The whole house was asleep.

"Please stay," Beatrice said.

Ghost sat beside her. She should say something. "What's Persie like?"

Why did she say that?! She closed her eyes. Beatrice did not need that. And Ghost couldn't afford to know.

Beatrice actually laughed.

Ghost opened her eyes. New spirits rarely laughed.

"He's a good guy, I suppose." Beatrice planted her chin in her hands. "We weren't in the same friend group, so I didn't associate with him. He's into books and . . ." She waved a hand. "Monsters and giants, oh my." She laughed again.

Ghost didn't laugh.

Beatrice bit her lip. "He's a little obsessed with mythology, but I guess, he'll be prepared. It is all real."

"Gravely so," Ghost imitated Henry's sage voice.

"He's handsome." Beatrice kicked her feet against the stairs. "A shame he's a nerd."

Ghost disagreed but politely kept her mouth shut.

They sat in prolonged silence, and the more the silence prolonged the more solemn Beatrice grew.

Finally, she said in a small voice, "I'm scared."

Ghost didn't say that was normal. She didn't say the fear would leave. Only idiots said that.

"It's so stupid too. It's not like anything can hurt me anymore." Beatrice shuddered. It was the sort of shudder that held back tears. "So I don't know why . . ."

Ghost never knew what to do at this point. She offered a hand. Beatrice took it, and the silence prolonged.



At home, Ghost found an envelope stuffed hastily in the letter box by the front door. The envelope had ink wings stamped in gold. She imagined one of Hermes' slight, fairy-like delivery boys in this shoddy neighborhood. He would've been wired with nervous glances and had probably fled at the clamor of Hecate's dogs.

The image improved her day.

Ghost slouched inside. Patted the dogs all around. Sorted her collection at the Vault. Flopped onto her bed. And broke Mother's seal on the envelope.


Melinoe,

You haven't worn the dress yet?
Keep up the hard work!

Kisses, Mother


Ghost tossed the letter over her shoulder. The image of a Hermes delivery boy trembling through Haven's Street for a frivolous message such as that improved the day exponentially.

She switched off the overhead light and lay down for a nap.

An hour later, she was jolted from sleep to the spirit plane. She teleported through the spirit plane and back again. It was the first time in a while it hadn't been Beatrice.

Ghost untwisted her bed sheets. Beatrice had been dead almost a week, and she was still the newest spirit Ghost had. Perhaps Hecate was bearing the weight of any new spirits since Ghost hadn't taken on this much work before? That would've sounded plausible, except by now Hecate would have a week's worth of new spirits.

And mortals popped off every day, like firecrackers at a parade. What was going on?

Ghost searched the house for Hecate, but she wasn't around. What did it matter anyhow? Ghost was always in the dark about things, and it had never affected her work.

After a shower, Ghost wrestled the cream dress from her closet. The dress hung loosely on her with the pink tulle itching her knees. Its paleness exaggerated her own paleness and the dark circles under her eyes.

The closet threw a black flannel at her with a snarl.

In the hall, she stopped before some sheer black curtains. Other curtains of various kinds lined the hallway walls. They all opened to different places with strong connections to the Underworld.

The sheer black curtains sneered  and asked what she wanted.

She asked if Hyde Cemetery was mostly vacant.

The curtains said it was 3 am in Hyde Cemetery.

Ghost asked for Hyde Cemetery.

With a snarky sigh, the curtains parted to reveal headstones, doused in mist and stars. In Hyde Cemetery, Ghost materialized from seemingly nowhere. She spent all night and most of the day collecting things from various places around the world. But she didn't attend one funeral. Usually, she was booked to the brim with funerals, but since Beatrice's, there had been none.

Whatever was going on, at least she cold catch up on these other chores. After her fifth trip to the Vault, Ghost left Hecate's house for graves throughout the city.

In North Torch Cemetery, the air still smelled faintly of yesterday's rain, but the sky was clear. The wind played with the tulle of her dress. A black iron fence surrounded the cemetery. An old university owned the land with walkways weaving through trees with low branches and untrimmed bushes.

Ghost hadn't been here in a while, so the flowers at some gravestones were now gone. But their essence had sunk into the soil. It took some time to coax out, and Ghost lost herself in the meticulous work, forgetting how tired she was.

Footsteps padded on the pathway behind her. She turned.

Persie stared down at her with a hand on his backpack strap. She couldn't read his expression.

"You know Frank?" Persie nodded to the gravestone without looking away from her.

She glanced at the gravestone name. "No."

"Do you regularly frequent cemeteries?" He grinned.

"Yes." She wasn't lying. "For a tour. I guide tours through cemeteries. Autumn only." Now she was lying. If he kept prying, she couldn't survive on vague truths and sarcasm.

"So yesterday you were . . . ?"

"Henry's a tourist. I do private tours too."

Persie narrowed his eyes, but it could never be an angry or skeptical gesture. His eyes were always laughing too much. "I've never seen a tourist in my coffeeshop ever."

"That's because they don't have a guide."

He appeared to think that mildly funny.

It was obvious from his stance, she couldn't get rid of him so easily this time. She stood and refrained from brushing off her knees. It would make this awful dress more noticeable, and it was probably covered in dirt. She pulled the over-sized flannel tight around her and crossed her arms.

"You seem . . ." He looked at the ground. "Uncomfortable."

She didn't know how to react to that, so she walked down the pathway. He fell in step beside her.

"So what are you doing here?" she asked. Perhaps if he talked about himself, they wouldn't talk about her.

That amused smile twitched at his mouth. He seemed to know this was exactly why she'd spoken first. Why did he have to notice everything?

"I attend here." He nodded toward one of the university buildings.

"For what?"

"Medieval and Classical Studies."

"That sounds . . . practical." She restrained a smirk which only made it clearer that she was smirking.

He lifted his chin. "It's incredibly relevant to everyday situations and life. If everyone took the time to learn something of it, they'd find it most rewarding."

"Hm. I bet you fence too."

He inhaled tightly.

"Oh, it's that then? Full re-enactment?"

His stride bounced in a jittery way. "Shut up."

She burst into laughter. He stared at her. He probably thought she was making fun of him, but if he really knew, then he wouldn't be wounded about it. It was just--

The irony.

She breathed again. Beatrice was right. He was such a nerd. She tried to wipe the silly smile off her face. Since when did she have silly smiles?

"Look, I have to--"

"No, you don't." He narrowed his eyes again as if he were threatening, but the look wouldn't have scared a dust mote. "You need caffeine. I can see it. And I know a coffee place nearby."

She had so much to do. And getting involved with a mortal was the worst idea since, well, since Zeus took over. But she did need something to stay awake.

"Come on." Persie hurried toward the cemetery gate. "It's just around the corner. You can't possibly be that busy." He stopped outside the gate.

The gate laughed at her like a creaky old man.

"Fine." She joined him. "I suppose caffeine could heighten productivity."

"Yes." He grinned and nodded too much. "It could."

At the coffeeshop, he persuaded her to sit. She set her bag in a chair to conjure her wallet, but she was dashed into the spirit plane. Jove, not now!

"Um, I'll be back." She ducked to the bathroom without looking at him.

She tucked herself into the smallest stall and took the call.

It was Beatrice.

Ghost couldn't teleport right now. She couldn't leave Persie here.

Or could she? He wouldn't even know. Imagining him realize she'd left . . . it was so mean. He would never talk to her again.

Ghost realized she didn't want that.

She blew her hair from her face. The Persie incident was out of control. Too dangerous. She did need to get rid of him, but not like that.

Beatrice was going on and on. She wanted to talk to her mother again.

Ghost said maybe. But probably not. And that she had to go.

Ghost left the spirit plane and ordered her coffee. She sat across from Persie ready to tell him that this could not happen again.

But he was flipping through her sketchbook.

"What are you doing?!" She tried to snatch it.

He pulled it away. "Hm?"

"Don't hm me! How did you--"

If it weren't for his grin, he might've looked ashamed. "I shouldn't have. But your bag was open, and I noticed it poking out, and well, I didn't think."

She crossed her arms and pantomimed, "I didn't think."

"My favorite is this guy!" He presented the sketch of Cerberus with a flourish.

She grabbed the sketchbook while glaring at him.

He leaned on the table, chin in hand, and smirked. "You let me think you weren't into mythology?"

She didn't say anything. She didn't understand him. Why did he bother talking to her? Not just talking to her, but insistently hanging around her. She hadn't said one nice thing since they'd met.

The barista called for Ghost. She escaped to retrieve her coffee, and then she headed straight for the door. It wouldn't hurt his feelings one bit. He'd likely follow her out.

He followed her out.

Maybe he was going back to the university. She headed in the opposite direction of the university.

He was beside her in a second. "Look, I have work soon."

"So sorry to keep you."

He paused as if considering whether to address her sarcasm. Then he pointed across the street to a slate gray and aggressively orange building. "I work there."

It was a rock climbing gym.

"In case you ever want to stop by." He smiled thinly.

She blinked. Did this require some sort of answer? Too much time had passed. She continued walking.

Or would have if she hadn't slammed into someone.

"I am so--" She looked into the golden eyes of Zeus. "Sorry," her inflection turned impassive.

"Not a problem at all, love." Zeus was dressed as a businessman. The only thing conspicuous about him were his eyes.

Zeus flashed the sort of smile that made all mortals melt. But Ghost only saw a mouth full of teeth.

Zeus turned to Persie. "And what's your name, son?"

Persie obligingly melted like all mortals, and the two exchanged pleasantries.

Ghost was rethinking where Persie had inherited his eyes. Zeus was taking an unusual interest in him. If it was bad for her to get involved with a mortal, it was catastrophic for a mortal to get involved with Zeus. She had to separate them, but how?

She could think of only one option, and it was really lame.

"Well," she interrupted, "I have to go."

She walked away.

Persie obligingly followed. "Ghost!"

She took them a block away.

"Ghost! Hey, wait up."

She stopped.

He gave her a curious look. He now twirled a pen absently.

"I don't like that guy," she said flatly. And she wasn't lying.

"Ok." He seemed like he wanted to ask why. He sighed instead. "So maybe I'm . . . I don't know. But I think you're more fun than you let on."

"I'm not." She wished she was lying.

The amused smile tugged at his mouth again. "Right."

Ghost waited.

"Did you want to do something tonight?" Then he cut her off. "I know, you're busy." He gave her a look saying he didn't believe that. "But if somehow you become unbusy . . ."

She gave him a look saying that didn't make sense.

He grabbed her hand. She almost jerked away. But his grip was gentle, and that made her pause. By the time she'd processed this, he'd released her hand.

He'd written his number on her palm.

"You can call me." He rubbed the back of his neck. "Or not. It's ok."

Obviously, it was not ok to him. But he was making an effort to be ok with it.

He laughed nervously and shook his head. "We both have to go, I guess." He took a few steps back. "Bye, Ghost." He left.

She realized he was saying good-bye. That if she didn't call him, he would leave her alone. He was giving her a choice.


Chapter 6
A Goddess Like Hecate

Ghost had never been given a choice. Her past, present, and future were conducted by the dictations and expectations of everyone else: Mother, Father, the Underworld . . . fate. Even her closet chose her outfit every day.

Having been given a choice, she found it one of the most respectful and kindest gifts anyone had given her. But since it was her first choice, she had no idea what to do with it. Which seemed a little ungrateful.

But was she allowed to have a choice? A mortal had given it, and bigger entities dictating her life could overrule that.

All of this nagged her throughout the rest of the next . . . however long she was collecting items and teleporting to distressed spirits.

But how bad would a mortal friend be?

Friends was clearly not what Persie had in mind. But if she could test the theory on friendship and that worked, then she could test it on something further.

It didn't work. Friends shared things. They helped each other. They confided.

Ghost couldn't confide in Persie like that. One could not have a real friendship, much less something more, if one party refused to share any kind of information. It would be unfair to him.

Ghost stepped off the bus and walked toward Haven's Street. Twilight was on its way. The sunlight split through the trees in golden beams. The way Zeus had addressed Persie. Was it possible that Zeus was . . . Well, that was very possible. Some days Ghost believed Zeus had fathered half the world's population. Would destiny drag Persie into the Olympian pantheon eventually? It seemed naive to think that he would believe anything concerning her life simply because he enjoyed Greek mythology.

Besides, he preferred Norse.

She allowed herself a small smile as Hecate's door greeted her. The dogs didn't stir at her entrance as much as they would've. That could only indicate one thing.

"Hecate?" Ghost looked around for her.

Now that Ghost was here her bag felt like it weighed a ton. Her feet dragged on the dingy carpet. When did she get so tired?

Hecate stood in the doorway of her own room. Her long black dress exaggerated her height and broad shoulders. Her hair hung in black sheets, cut in an angled bob that emphasized the angularity of her chin and nose. Her large eyes always made Ghost think of the moon and its phases.

"You're here. How splendid." Hecate dipped her head to adjust an earring that dazzled like a thousand torches. "I just came back to change before attending--" Her round eyes took in Ghost. "When is the last time you took a break?"

"What do you mean?"

"You look unraveled. You aren't a spirit, you know."

"I'm allowed a--"

Hecate's eyes thinned. "Of course, you're allowed a break. Who said you weren't?"

"I just--" Ghost tried to remember if anyone had explicitly stated that she couldn't have one. "Just the demand, and--" Where was she going with this?

Hecate guided her to a couch. She had to shoo a dog or two away first.

Thinking about explaining made her exhausted, but Ghost tried. "It's just that . . . every time I try to rest somebody needs something. A spirit needs help or there's just too much to do. And if I stop for too long, it piles up, and--" She didn't want to disappoint anyone. Not Father or Mother.

Not even a spirit. They'd already died. They didn't need more disappointment.

Hecate exhaled through her teeth. The hiss wasn't meant for Ghost. "Haven't you told them no?"

Ghost pressed her lips together. She was allowed to do that?

"You can't just let them walk through you, Ghost. They can't have you at their beck and call."

"But even when I say no--"

"Then it's no." Hecate stroked a large mop-like dog that set its face on her lap. "Be firm."

"They don't listen to me."

"That's how you get them to listen. You don't give in when you say no. Do you see me letting spirits command my time?"

Ghost stared at her hands, ashamed. She could never be like Hecate.

"There'll always be work."

Ghost couldn't help saying, "Is that supposed to be comforting?"

"Death waits for no man," Hecate said, "because man is on Death's time, not the other way around."

"Mother would find that morbid." Ghost tried to smile.

Hecate's eyes grinned with mischief. "Well, there are things we don't tell your mother." She grew serious again. "It might be hard at first, but you can't go on like this." Hecate said quieter, "Ghost, don't fade."

Was this eternal exhaustion a prequel to fading? Was she that close?

"Set some boundaries. Those around you will push for more, but you shove them right back. It'll get easier."

Ghost nodded. But what if that was just more tiring? What if she really did fade?

"I'm sorry I'm not around much," Hecate said, "but that's because I know you can handle--"

Ghost laughed sardonically. "I don't think so. You all think I'm so tough, but . . ." She closed her eyes. "I don't want to disappoint you, but I'm tired. I can't handle this."

"Then rest." Hecate put a hand on her shoulder. "Handling it isn't always taking everything on full force. It's knowing when to slow down."

Taking a break was part of handling it?

Hecate gazed at her with her large pale eyes. "Take care of yourself. I--" Hecate's eyes narrowed again. Her tone turned curious. "What doors have you been toying with?"

She always said this to someone entering a new time in their life. It chilled Ghost to hear it. She rubbed her hands together which only made her think of Persie.

Hecate grabbed her wrist. Her eyes widened at the phone number. "Does this mortal have a name?"

"I wasn't going to call!" Ghost said too quickly.

Hecate blinked impassively at her. "And why ever not?"

Ghost scowled. "I thought, I don't know . . . I'm allowed to?"

Hecate's laugh was a three-note acidic trill. "If not, someone had better inform Zeus. And Apollo, that--" Hecate cleared her throat instead of throwing insults, which was a shame because listening to Hecate throw shade was always a dark pleasure. "Let's stay focused. Do you like this mortal?"

Ghost was too tired for words.

"There isn't a wrong answer," Hecate said. "It doesn't matter what I want you to do, or your parents, or . . . those snotty Moirai or even this mortal. What do you want to do."

"I'm, I'm not sure."

They sat quietly for a while.

"So, you think it's an ok idea?" Ghost said. "Even though he's mortal? And he wouldn't understand about--" She shrugged.

Hecate shrugged back. "You never know."

Ghost took a deep breath. She had the sudden urge to tell Hecate every single thing about Persie. To ask her advice or maybe for the chance to talk about him. It was a strange urge.

Hecate stood and brushed off her dress. The dog hair disappeared. "I have to go, and I don't know when I'll see you again. But get some rest. Set some boundaries. And not just with the spirits. You are a goddess."

Hecate set her moon gaze directly on her. "A goddess, Melinoe. You don't have to do anything you do not want to do."

Ghost could've been shaking from her exhaustion, but it could also have been Hecate's full stare.

She briefly touched Ghost's shoulder again. "Don't fade away on me."

Hecate turned toward the hallway. Ghost walked after her.

Hecate nodded to some purple velvet curtains. "And if you want to call him, I say go for it. You never know." She grinned. "You deserve some fun."

Hecate disappeared through the curtains.

Ghost sighed. The only thing she could manage now was a nap. She entered the spirit plane long enough to send a message that she would be unreachable until further notice. Then she collapsed in bed.


The last part will come on October 31st!

Here's what's coming up next.





Thursday, October 24, 2019

Ghost and Persie part 2 | Book Spooktacular story


Hi, book spooks! I hope you guys are having a great October. It seems like it's gone by too quickly. In case you missed it, Skye has a wonderful post about fall essentials. Definitely go check it out!

Today I have the second part of Ghost and Persie. You can find the first part here.

Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you enjoy!





Ghost and Persie

a.n.g.

Chapter 3
The Arche Family's Cook



Once she stepped through her closet, Ghost allowed the persistent spirit to teleport her away.

She stood in a large kitchen with pristine tile floors and black granite countertops. Beatrice sat at the kitchen bar. Her chin rested on her folded hands as she gazed dolefully at the mother chopping bell peppers.

The mother cried silently over the peppers.

Beatrice didn't acknowledge Ghost. Ghost slipped into a chair beside her. They listened to the clip, chop, chop of the the knife echo against the tall ceiling. Sometimes spirits called her because they needed to know they weren't alone.

The mother turned her back to them to heat the peppers on the stovetop.

"Can't I just let her see me?" Beatrice said.

Ghost was tired of this question. She was tired of everything.

"I just want her to know I'm not gone forever. We'll see each other again. Right?"

Ghost nodded.

The fierce woman from the funeral walked in. "Vikki, what are you doing here?" Her presence commanded the room, but her face was gentle.

"Why's she here?" Ghost asked.

"Making dinner," the mother said.

"That's not necessary. You should be resting."

Beatrice whispered as if the women could overhear them. "That's Mrs. Arche. My mom's the live-in cook for the Arche family."

Oh.

"I need to work," the mother was saying. "It'll help. I--" The mother sobbed over the stovetop.

Mrs. Arche rubbed the mother's arms.

After a few minutes, the mother calmed down. "Please. I want to be alone. Sorry, it's just--"

"No, you're ok." Mrs. Arche patted the mother's shoulder. "Take your time." She slipped out.

"Can I?" Beatrice was relentless.

"It's . . . complicated." Ghost clasped her hands on the countertop. She rolled the words around her head to find the right ones. But it never mattered how much care she took with her words, the spirits never understood.

Conversation whispered in another room. All Ghost heard was, "Just so she's not alone," and, "Of course."

Persie entered with socked feet. He'd changed into jeans and a v-neck shirt. Forest green. Ghost hunched lower in the chair. She drew extra energy from Beatrice, but she was already invisible.

The mother turned. "Persie? I'm fine. Just--"

Persie grabbed an onion from the counter. "I'll slice this." He took up the knife and turned his back to her as she worked at the stove. He was giving her privacy while still being around.

But he faced them at the countertop as he peeled the onion skin away. He swallowed, tense and uncertain, the look that most people around the loved ones had. Ghost wanted to leave, but she also couldn't help watching him. The flick of his wrist as he worked the knife. The way the collar of his shirt framed the dip in his collar bone. How the green shirt flattered the color of his complexion. The way he bent his head to wipe his eyes on his shirt sleeve.

He seemed completely different from the easy, laughing person in the cemetery. Quieter. Calmer but more restless. Less confident.

Death did that to people. It stole the confidence of everyone remotely involved.

"Well?" Beatrice's voice rose an octave after watching the mother. "Please?"

Ghost bit her bottom lip. "It won't end how you want it to."

"It could be different this time," Beatrice whined.

"Most times it's not. And it can freak her out." She rubbed her hands down her jeans. "You wouldn't want to freak your mom out, would you?" She hated sounding didactic, but if it worked?

"She wouldn't be scared of me."

Persie offered the mother the onions.

"But she might not recognize you as you."

"She would know me," Beatrice said. "She's my mom. What do you--"

The mother tried to say something. She ended up crying more, and Persie hugged her. She looked smaller in his arms.

Beatrice looked to Ghost in a panic.

"I know it doesn't make sense," Ghost said. "But everyone says that, and their loved ones are usually freak out anyhow. They get paranoid or--"

"You don't know my mom!" Beatrice trembled. "You can't know that for sure."

The lights flickered. Some magnets on the frig slipped to the floor. The mother jumped. Persie patted her shoulder and retrieved the magnets.

Ghost rubbed her face. "Ok, ok. Just calm down."

"What do I have to do?"

"We're not doing it now."

"But--"

"If you come to her in a dream, I can control your appearance better. Things can still go wrong, but it'll affect her less if it does."

"So tonight?"

Persie persuaded the mother to go rest, said he'd finish dinner.

"No." Ghost glared. "I'm busy." Beatrice had riled her, and Ghost needed to calm down. And being in the same building as Persie wasn't helping. "The next night."

Beatrice nodded, relieved. Ghost left as soon as she could.



The closet door tried to snip her hand away when Ghost extended the cream and pink tulle dress.

Come on now, she pleaded. She managed to wrestle the closet open.

But once she hung the dress up, the closet promptly spit it out.

Ghost sighed and fetched it from the floor.

The closet snapped shut and pouted.

Ghost touched it and said that she didn't much like the dress either. But it was from Mother. Was it going to argue with the goddess of the dead, now?

The closet opened sulkily.

After a shower, Ghost let the closet select her outfit. Appeased, it offered an old black shirt with a moon on it. Some tattered black jeans. Boots, a gray beanie, and a large denim jacket. It sighed happily shut, said its job was done for the day.

Ghost rolled her eyes. Why couldn't her job be done for the day? She grabbed her bag and contented herself with daydreaming about a nap.



Chapter 4
Cornered Over Coffee



Ghost clasped the paper coffee cup and took the chair opposite Henry. They sat by the large windows. Her back was in the corner, and the front door was at Henry's back. He always looked the same when she materialized him: shaggy dirty blond hair, thin features, an inch taller than herself, smart piercing dark eyes. Only his clothes changed. Today he wore a collared white shirt with a burgundy sweater thrown over it.

He was poring over a book. The title spiraled across the white cover in golden letters too elaborate for her to read from here.

She removed the lid from her coffee. She cupped it to her chest under her chin so the steam curled about her face. The warmth of it seeped into her rib cage. She closed her eyes.

With the shared silence between her and Henry, the hustle of coffeeshop sounds, the muffled conversations around them, the bell on the door, something about the atmosphere was distinctly autumn.

Or maybe it was the pumpkin spice scent that emanated from a couple candles somewhere.

"So." A book page turned on Henry's side of the table. "How was he?"

Ghost almost said he who? She opened her eyes.

Henry was casually not looking at her. He was casually browsing his book.

She narrowed her eyes. He set her up! What--How--"What's this soul's journey you're on?"

Henry kept his gaze on the page.

"Are you a soothsayer now?"

"Perhaps." He smirked at her.

She rolled her eyes.

"Come on, Ghost. If one doesn't find what role they're meant to play in life--"

"--or death," she said.

He nodded sagely. "Then you're destined to fail at it."

"And so you think you're what--a prophet? Or just a matchmaker?"

"I'm still figuring out the specifics. But not a matchmaker." He pointed at her. "Also, you didn't answer my question." He wasn't even feigning nonchalance anymore.

Ghost blew her hair out of her eye. "And how did you know someone would be there?"

Henry scowled. "Second sight? Not sure."

"Why are you matchmaking me?" She didn't like it. Henry was a friend, so she didn't mind his occasional teasing, but it had never been about, about . . . boys.

"Melinoe." He laid the book on the table. "Have you ever realized how unhappy you are?"

She tapped her chin. "Jove, soothsayer and therapist?"

He opened his mouth.

She cut him off. "And what makes you think a boy will make me happy?"

"Something new to learn." Henry shrugged. "You've never had one. A different adventure."

Ghost did not consider boys an adventure. "And why him?" She scratched the back of her head furiously. "A mortal! What are you thinking?"

Henry eyed her. He'd expected her to fight him further on the matchmaking. She wasn't pleased with it, but maybe if she showed him how awful he was at it, he'd stop.

"Like I said, something different. You need time away from work. Away from . . ." Henry waved a hand at the air of nebulous possibilities. "The pressure of the spirit world."

She could be angry that he thought he knew what was best. She could be angry that he had picked someone completely unattainable. Or she could insist she wanted to enjoy her coffee with zero conflict.

But all that fell from her mouth was a mortified, "No!"

"Have you at least considered him?"

"No!"

She wasn't taking considerations for boys, and if she were, mortals were disqualified. A mortal would want to know about her work, her family, her life. She couldn't tell him that. It would be unfair to put him through her secrecy. And more than likely, it'd make him give up on her, and it'd all fall to pieces within a week. She wanted to say this. But all her thoughts smashed together. She couldn't grasp any of it to articulate one thing at a time.

"Ghost, you're not using your words." Henry was used to her silences, so he returned to reading.

Outside, rain drizzled. Shoes splashed in shallow puddles. Umbrellas popped open. The window steamed with humidity.

Henry seemed settled in his book. Thank the fates.

From her bag, Ghost materialized her sketchbook.

"Are you really going to make a mess?" Henry's lips twisted when he spotted her charcoal pencils.

"I've plenty right to make a mess of this table if you keep meddling."

Henry lifted his chin. He promptly scooped up his book and pushed his chair back an inch.

Ghost flipped through her sketchbook. Henry had unwittingly positioned himself at such an angle that he was perfect for sketching. But he'd notice, and she was miffed with him.

The spirit plane overtook her. She sighed and set her head on her sketchbook. She'd notified all her spirits that she was booked today. She'd clear her schedule for older spirits sometimes.

"Hm?" Henry frowned.

"I have to take a call."

"But do you?"

"Henry."

"You're wearing yourself out."

Ghost ignored him and addressed the spirit. It was Beatrice. Ghost said she wasn't teleporting today but asked what was wrong. Beatrice was worried about boyfriend again. Ghost said he'd work himself out. Beatrice said something hysterical. Ghost said boyfriend would be fine. She suggested Beatrice return to the Underworld for a break. Beatrice moped. Ghost insisted it would help both Beatrice and boyfriend.

The boyfriend part was a lie, but Beatrice complied, and Ghost didn't feel bad about it.

The cafe returned to its noisy pumpkin spiced self.

Henry stared at her with a prescriptive scowl. He tapped the book spine against his chin. "When have you last slept?"

"That's none of your business." She wielded a charcoal pencil meaningfully.

Henry drew back with disgust.

All she could picture was Beatrice sitting woefully at the kitchen counter as she gazed at the mother.

The rain had let up when Henry shifted and took a breath as if he intended to say something. Ghost looked up in time to realize he'd remain silent and didn't look back in time to miss the cafe door swinging open behind Henry. A damp Persie stepped inside accompanied by the smell of wet asphalt and soaked leaves. He didn't see her as he strode to the counter.

Ghost leaned low over her sketchbook and whispered accusingly, "You chose this place."

"Hm?" Henry's gaze didn't drift far from his book.

Well, he was no help. Ghost moved her sketchbook to her lap and kept her head down. Henry must be getting bored if he was serious about finding her a boy.

She tried to focus on her sketch of Beatrice. Beatrice's nose was all wrong. Ghost smudged and shaded. It was no use. She erased the whole head.

Something clattered, and she remembered where she was. And why.

Ghost dashed a glance at the counter. Persie wasn't there. He wasn't further in the cafe either. Perhaps he'd come and left. A streak of blind bravery flashed through her, and she set her sketchbook on the tabletop.

Persie sat in the corner directly across from them.

She shrank in her seat. Thank the fates, he hadn't seen her. He read a book. Bulfinch's Mythology. She blinked. The irony was so controversial. Appealing or appalling? His chin rested on his fist, and his face angled crookedly at the page. His posture was perfect for sketching.

He had an easier nose for sketching too.

She was not going to sketch him.

Ghost looked away as he looked up.

Henry excused himself. She glared at him as he returned to the counter.

"Ghost!" Persie approached with a grin. "I've never seen you here before."

He must frequent this place.

"Can I join you and your friend?"

She blinked slowly. How was she supposed to react?

Persie grabbed a chair from an empty table and joined her. His eyes fell on her sketchbook. "You like to draw?"

"Yes." She snapped it shut. It was good she'd erased the head. What if he'd recognized Beatrice?

"Are you taking art classes?"

"You like Greek mythology?"

"Yes!"

Why was she engaging?

He thumbed his book pages. "Well, I like Norse more."

How treasonous. She couldn't keep the sly smirk from slipping in place. "Do tell."

He lit up at this, and part of her wanted to disappear. "I like how the Norse have a sense of repetition. You know, a cycle."

This was killing her. At least he was amusing, if not intentionally.

"With Ragnarok, it's the end, but it's also a new beginning." His elbows were on the table now, and he gestured animatedly with his hands. Those were quest worthy hands.

It was odd listening to him elaborate on the significance of the pairs of enemies in Ragnarok with pop music playing and the cafe machines whirling. And cars honking outside with people passing by swathed in scarves. His hands waved a few inches from her face, and they had the distinct look of many heroes she'd seen. She could imagine a weapon in his hands. Leather reins clutched over the mane of a horse.

Or perhaps the mangled head of a gorgon.

Ok, that was going a bit far.

"I think my favorites are the gatekeepers. You know?" His intense look brought her back to his words.

"Hm? I suppose."

"Like Heimdall. It makes complete sense that he and Loki were always arch enemies."

"Why is that?"

"Loki, as a trickster type, he bends the rules. He crosses boundaries all the time. Mixing them together. Making chaos of them." He swirled the coffee in his cup.

It smelled caramelly. Of course, he would like caramel.

"And that means he always crosses lines. And those are what Heimdall maintains."

He'd lost her somewhere. "What are you talking about?"

He chuckled. "Boundaries. It's essential to Heimdall's role as a gatekeeper. He even created social classes. He distinguishes between things, keeps them in their proper place. Like any door or entryway or even a crossroads."

She tapped her pencil on the table. She'd never thought of it like that. Gatekeeping was her whole life, and he seemed to know more about it than she did.

He watched her with an amused look. She realized she had charcoal smeared on her hands and likely her face too.

Ghost stowed away her sketching things. "I have to go." She noticed Henry sitting on the opposite side of the cafe.

"What are you doing later today?" Persie followed her through the maze of chairs and tables.

"I'm busy."

"Collecting things?"

"Henry, are you ready?"

Henry sighed deeply when he looked from his book. For a moment, he and Persie were taking each other in while Ghost declined a call from another spirit in distress. She exited the spirit plane in time to notice Persie's smooth cordial smile and realized what they were talking about.

Henry was saying, "She my--"

"Guide," Ghost burst in. "I'm a guide."

"I thought you were a collector," Persie said.

"That too." She half hid behind her hair.

"Who do you guide?" It was like he'd forgotten Henry was there.

How was she supposed to answer this? "It's complicated."

He smiled placidly. "Not if you use words instead of thoughts."

That was always her problem though, wasn't it? She had to restrain a smile.

"We need to go," she said to a smirking Henry.

Henry stood and followed her.

Persie followed also and seemed ready to say something.

"I'm busy," she said harsher than she'd meant.

Persie remained where he was and stared at her. She didn't want to make him feel bad, but she exited the coffeeshop with Henry trailing behind.

Ghost inhaled the wonderful smell of twilight and petrichor. The mortal world looked like the spirit plane at twilight. Cast in shadowy grays, everything melted into each other as if nothing held depth or structure. It cleared her head.

What an awful day.

"Why did you put me through that?" she barely breathed it.

"He didn't seem that bad to me." Henry was trying not to sound wounded.

It wasn't that Persie was bad. He just wasn't any good for her. Or more importantly, her for him.

"What didn't you like about him?" Henry said.

She had to find something so he would stop. "He's just so . . . so happy." It sounded lame in her mouth, but she couldn't say mortal. Around her, Persie did appear happy. In large quantities that she was very unused to.

Henry tapped his fingers against his book. "Perhaps you need something happy for once."

Ghost was dashed into the spirit plane before she could answer.





Don't forget to check out Skye's blog for her post on October 26th. She's got an awesome story for us! Also, the link up for the Autumn List is still open if you want to join.