A Ghost Story For Halloween
“If we are really witches why cant we just fly.” Clement was not happy about what her mother had assured her would be an adventure. Clement did not see adventure in state after state rolling past her window in corn, plain, and flat long blue skies. To punish her mother she had created a game of seeing how many states she could go without speaking to her. This was the first time she had said anything since Idaho.
Her mother looked at her from under her sunglasses, “She speaks. Even my tarot couldn’t have predicted it.”She waited for Clement to speak again. Her knuckles turning pale on the wheel “I only know how to do so many things but the second you learn the flying thing please teach me.”
Clement found a particularly fascinated piece of skin on her thumb. She swooped on it like an owl gnawing until dots of blood could be seen. “I still don’t think we should have had to move.” Her mother’s body became stiff with every bit of her energy focused away from Clement and on the road. “It was only a little thing and no one got hurt.” She remembered Tom’s face when he had stood back up. “Well not really hurt.”
“It’s a new start, for both of us.” Her mother squeezed her knee. A smile started thin and uncertain dying quickly at Clement’s expression. “We only have another state and a half for you to be silent in, make the most of it.”
Clement glared at her. “I told you to stay out of my head.”
“Then don’t think so loud.” Her mother turned on the radio full blast and as usual her mother’s favorite song just happened to be playing. “What are the chances?” Her mother’s voice carried out the window and over the fields. There was nothing left to do but read the book her aunt had left for her, The Grimoire for the Young and Respectable Lady Witch.
The house was perfect. Miles away from anyone and haunted her mother had promised. All sorts of ghosts all sorts of ages. Surely she would find some friends for the Summer, someone who might have been even more angry about being here than she was. Her mother gave her newspaper clippings of all the unsavory incidents that the house had been a stage for. They were dead Clement felt dead inside, they already had things in common.
“Can I have a pet?”
“You don’t need to ask me.”
“Not a familiar but a pet. A regular cat who hunts mice and stuff.”
“Bastet hunts mice.” Bastet stretched and exited the car looking over the house with quiet feline approval.
“You know what I mean.” Bastet stepped on Clement’s foot staring directly into her eyes while she slowly licked her paws clean. Her mother shrugged
“Maybe a frog?” Her mother smiled picking up Bastet and walking into the house.
“That’s not funny.”
“You’re right, it’s hilarious. Last one in has to make dinner. Boil boil toil and trouble.”
“We don't even have a cauldron anymore.”
“True, never enough space for it. We should get one here. Just for appearances sake.”
“Your such a nerd.”
“A nerd who loves you.” Her mom wrapped her arms around Clement who let herself enjoy it for exactly five seconds.
Clement’s bedroom was at the top of the north stairs over her mother’s room and under her mother’s workroom. No matter where they had lived the workroom was a place Clement had a standing invitation to come and learn the parts of witchcraft that bored her the most. She never came. She preferred her own try and see approach. To be fair this is why they had to move away for a while, after the biology class mishap.
Clement had only meant to reanimate her own frog. She had no idea how all of them got up from their trays and began hopping. Her teacher knew it was her, who else could it possibly be? Poor Tom had fainted dead away turning green and pale. He got a bump on the head from the table. But what could anyone do? To say Clement was weird and strange was one thing but to be able to reanimate a class full of dead frogs, that would be saying she was a witch, and there hadn’t been real witches for hundreds of years. Instead the principal and a very nervous counselor recommended homeschool or a long trip at least for the rest of the school year.
She didn’t mind, not really. High School had been amusing but she hadn’t made any real friends. Her Mother said she was ridiculous Clement was always invited to slumber parties. It just showed how grown ups, even witch grown ups, never know the right questions to ask.
Every slumber party girls who wouldn’t speak to her for anything would suddenly sidle up to her at lunch. They stopped asking if her thermos contained potions. They wanted her for the Oujai board and for games to find out who liked them. Idiots. They had no idea about magic. Real magic. But Clement did and she found ways to amuse herself at the parties. She told the most popular girl in school that she couldn’t see anyone in her future. She made sure she looked at Chelsea with big sorry eyes. A little wet just to sell it. The way Chelsea went on about it you would just know that alone was her least favorite thing. But then again that was Clement’s point. Chelsea’s mother even made an ill advised phone call to her own mother. It ended with a threat about turning her and her pea brained daughter into a toads. She had never liked her mother so much as in that moment.
Now here she was in a haunted house with an entire horizon between her and the next house, completely alone. She grabbed a book on herbology from her mother’s book box and headed out to explore, her head down to avoid seeing her mom’s smile. She would be entirely too pleased about her magical studies.
Hours later inside a room made by an obliging willow Clement sat making faces out of leaves, animating dead bumble bees who made slow confused circles before falling back to the ground, and occasionally reading under half closed eyes. It was going to be a very long few months.
Chpt.2 The Meeting
It took a week before she was ready to play. It was only a few days before she stopped with make up and another day for her mother to stop looking like she might say something about it. The herb book had disappeared in the forest and made its’ way back to her mother’s room. She swore it wasn’t her. It was the best use of Clements’ time and amusement to search the house for possible fairies but the ghosts answered first.
It started out simple and not too scary but that wasn’t the intention. Certain things were tried to see what would frighten Clement the most. Small things, finger nail scratches and light knocks on the door. Almost a hello. Her shoes would appear on the other side of her room and then later would venture to the ice box and once in a fit of what Clement could only call imagination they were hanging by their laces outside her bedroom window on a straggled oak branch. Clement was biding her time. The full moon was coming and she had a few questions. That and she hadn’t spoken to anyone but her mom for a few days.
She waited past midnight. The sky was black except where it was a riot of stars, only the moon was missing. The circle was made of salt cornered with five different stones and five candles. Clement held the sixth with hematite swirling silver in her palm. She was many things but an idiot she was not. Or, she was not dumb enough to make an incautious mistake that her mother could point to.
The candles flickered and the leaves dented in a circle around her.
“Can we stop with the dramatics?” The words were out of Clement’s mouth before she realized they were her mother’s. “I wouldn’t be out here if I didn’t know what you are. I just want to know who.” The wind sighed. “I could do research but there’s no WiFi here and the library is a really long walk.”
“Can I come in?” The words were in Clement’s ear and no where else. Clement held the hematite hard. Her foot knocked the salt back. Her hair was half up half down and her sleeves reached the outer edges of the circle. She looked angry in a way that reminded Clement very much of herself. “I’m Emma.”
“Like the book?”
“Don’t mention that book. I just wanted her to get crushed by a carriage.”
“Is that what happened to you?”
“We had a motor car. Don’t you know that’s very rude.”
“Sorry. You wanted my attention. You have it.”
“Did you like the trick with your shoes?”
“It made me come out here.”
“You have hematite.”
“How did you know?”
“My mother never would have let me do this without it. They couldn’t be that different, your mother and mine.”
“Does that mean we’re not so different?”
“You are alive.”
“Sorry.” Clement had no idea why she was sorry but all of the sudden she really was. Her pulse embarrassed her. “I’m here. You don’t want to talk about how you died. What do you want?”
“It’s not that I don’t want to it’s just really personal and I don’t know you. I’ve been alone here a long time.”
“You dont have to worry we’re not here for long. Just until the frog thing blows over.”
“I reanimated a bunch of frogs in my science class.” The leaves rustled in what could almost be a laugh. The circle grew warm and empty the salt was back in line with the stones.
“You can stay.” The candles burned so much more brightly and Clement sat down suddenly very aware of her heartbeat. She had had encounters with ghosts before but this was very different.
“Did you meet Emma?” Clement’s scarf, candles, and stones tumbled to the floor.
“Were you spying?”
“Spying has such negative connotations. I think of it more like there is no TV and an impromptu seance was much more interesting than my tea. How is she? Did she do the shoe thing?”
“I brought hematite.”
“I would expect so but also not necessary. She’s not harmful just…”
“I hadn’t thought of it before but yes. I think she was. You’re both about the same age. She should be some company for you. Unless you would like to get a pet frog.”
“That was unkind.”
“I am your mother unkind is the bargain we make for me being your mother while you’re a teenager.” Clement leaned her head on her mother’s shoulder.
“Did Grandma take you here?”
“Of course. She wanted me to meet her. I think she was hoping she would tell me how she died.”
“It wasn’t be carriage.”
“I wouldn’t expect so they had a car.”
“God. That’s what she said.” Clement started to walk away.
“Goodnight Poppet. You know I was kidding before about the unkind thing.”
“No you weren’t”
“No, but do you forgive me?”
“Always.” Clement could feel her mother sinking into a chair stirring her tea with her newest cat slinking under her wrist.