Chapter 12

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We barely spoke on the way back to my neighborhood. Something about seeing Blake's house had made the gears click together in Kayla's brain. This was no longer a game in which the uber smart girl indulged the shy new girl in her delusions. My guess was that this was the moment Kayla realized she hadn't fully believed Jack was real. Now she was forced to contend with warring factions in her mind: logic versus the preposterous. And preposterous was beating the crap out of its competition.

We pulled up in front of my home and Kayla shifted the car into park. She left the engine running. "What is happening here, Mazie?"

"That's what we're trying to figure out, remember?"

She nodded slowly. "Right. You have a ghost haunting you, but he's also a living boy. And we're trying to figure out that situation... how exactly?"

I unbuckled my seatbelt and wrenched open the door. "You're supposed to be the one with all the ideas. That's why I need you. I know this is strange. Beyond strange. But please don't abandon the case. Jack is counting on us."

She let out a loud sigh that sounded as troubled as her car's engine. "Why did I get myself into this? If he could just be a traditional stupid ghost, well, that's one thing. But this? Who the hell has heard of a ghost that isn't dead? It's not right."

"I didn't ask for this either. If it was up to me, I'd be in Spokane watching Chelsea's soccer games and otherwise avoiding social interactions. Like normal. I don't like abnormal, but..." I looked up at the empty windows of my house. "At least if things are going to be abnormal, they're like, super paranormal abnormal. Come on, you may be a bit freaked out, but admit it, you're a thrill-seeker, Kayla. And what could be more thrilling than this?"

"White water rafting, skydiving, getting into all six of my top choice schools...." She tapped the steering wheel. "All right, fine. The part of me that doesn't want to hurl thinks this Jack-Blake conundrum is Netflix Original Series worthy. But this paranormal shit is not going to help my political career. People frown upon politicians who believe in little green Martians."

"Jack's not green. Or an alien. Or little."

"You know what I mean."

"So, does this mean you're still in?"

She tilted her head from side to side, then turned towards me. "It would also hurt my political career if I was the kind of person who let down a friend."

A friend. Aside from meeting a paranormal being with dancing feet and a movie-watching addiction, I'd truly done an amazing thing. In less than a month's time, I'd made an actual living, breathing friend.

#

My mood quickly fell as I made my way up the mossy lane towards my house. The sound of Kayla's rattling car faded and with it, my determination to face the inevitable: telling Jack that I'd found his home and therefore confirmed his identity.

The downstairs was empty, as was my bedroom. I kicked aside a few still unemptied moving boxes and then headed up to the attic. Hot, stagnant air hit me as my head breached the attic's surface.

Coughing, I made my way over to where Jack sat, his eyes gazing, as they so often were, out the window. This window faced our untended backyard. A bird swooped by just as I reached him, it's fluttering wings seeming to break him from his trance.

"Jack, I..." I'd been thinking for the last ten minutes how I was going to break the news to him. "I have something to show you."

Taking my phone out of my pocket, I swiped open my gallery and then angled the screen so he could see it. The first picture revealed the salmon house with its white pillared porch and faded lace curtains.

Jack's eyes lit up. "This is it!" Out of instinct, he grabbed for the phone, his hand swiping through it. "I can't believe you found it!"

"I knew as soon as I laid eyes on it that it must be the one you saw in your memory." I swiped to the next one showing the adjacent house.

"Yep, that's it too." His right foot began tapping.

"It's on Pine Vista road, a few blocks up from the bay and look, you can see in this one that there's a water view between them, just like you described."

He squinted and then grinned. "It all feels so familiar. Even the name of the street. Like I must have lived there not just for a little while, but maybe most of my life."

"You did." I bit my lip. "I mean you do. You still do."

I tried to ignore the look of confusion on his face. If I was going to help him, then I had to be honest, even if he didn't like what I had to say. I went to the next picture in my gallery and showed it to him. "This is the house across the street. Your house. Does it feel familiar too?"

He studied the image, the muscles in his shoulders tensing, his forehead furrowed. "Maybe. Why did you say I still live there? I'm not alive."

"This house belongs to the Sumner family." After taking a few pictures of the house, I'd looked up its tax key information. "The Sumners built it thirteen years ago when you were three. They've lived there ever since. Jack, this is Blake's house."

Jack shot up towards the ceiling. For a second, I thought he was going to fly right through it and keep going until he reached the moon. Soon, though, he floated back down. "Like you said before, maybe I'm Blake's cousin. So, I'd been to the house and that's where my memory came from."

He'd just said he felt like he'd lived in that location for a long time, but I decided to let that slide. "I already quizzed Kayla about this. Considering she hates the guy, she sure knows a lot about him. Blake only has one cousin and she's a five-year-old girl. He only has one sibling too. Also a girl. He doesn't have any relatives who could be you."

"But that means..."

"If we rule out everything else, then we're forced to go with the remaining explanation."

"Have we though? Ruled everything else out?"

"Just about." I wished again that I could pat his shoulder or give him a hug. All I was able to do was provide him with news of the weird and then leave him to ponder what this meant for his future.

"So, if I'm this Blake guy, then... what am I exactly? Ghosts are only ghosts if the people they used to be are dead, right?"

"Traditionally speaking, yes." Jack began pacing the attic and I followed along with him. "Maybe you're like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, only you've divided out into two bodies."

"I'm not a real body, though."

"True." We paced some more. "Maybe you're Blake from an alternate dimension and you somehow slipped out of your reality into our own."

"And people from my reality are noncorporeal?"

"Well, the transfer between two parallel universes might not be a smooth one. Maybe you got beamed up and your molecules got jumbled."

"So I'm a crew member on the Star Ship Enterprise now?"

"Maybe you're on a holodeck and this is all just a simulation."

"My ghost brain is about to explode."

He stopped pacing and I slid in front of him. "You being an asshole in real life isn't the worst news you could receive. It might not make much sense to us now, but we'll figure out the details. For now, Blake Sumner is alive. You are alive. Somehow. And you aren't in a coma. That, at least, is good news."

Jack began his bee wing buzzing. "I think I've taken in all the news I can for one day, Mazie. I'm going to go to wherever I go... See you!"

Before I could blink, he was gone, and I was left alone in a stifling attic once occupied by the non-ghost ghost of one of my junior year's biggest pains in the ass.

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