I didn’t think I would be the kind of ghost that haunts people, but here I am. I still go to school every day like I did before. What else is there to do? I keep hoping I will meet some other ghosts to show me the ropes. No luck so far.
When I first rose from the spot where I’d fallen, I looked at the scene. A noose swung from a bare tree branch. I imagined people gathered around professing a love for me in death that they never showed in life. I imagined my mother, dressed in black of course, wailing at the senseless loss of it all. And I was sure there’d be a memorial Facebook page; there’d been one a few years ago when April, three years older than me, had died in a car crash.
I waited three hours before I realised that nobody was coming. So, I went home. I walked past my mum, sitting on the sofa with her coffee cup full of whisky and fooling nobody. She said nothing. Obviously.
When I woke the next morning, I logged onto Facebook, eager to see if my memorial page was up. It wasn’t. They probably haven’t found me yet, I thought.
That was three days ago. I walk the quiet corridors of my school, almost empty now that everyone else is in lessons. Sometimes I go to class; sometimes I don’t. There doesn’t seem much point in learning anything. I can’t imagine ghosts have to take GCSEs. I think again how much I wish there was someone else like me I could talk to, who I could ask about these changes, maybe someone to hug me.
Nobody hugged me before the rope on the tree. Nobody raced to my rescue to talk me down, like they do on TV. It was a quiet affair; the only sound was the rustle of autumn leaves in the wind.
“Watch out,” I shout as someone ploughs into me, almost knocking me over. Then I remember my situation and feel ridiculous. They can’t see or hear me, so what’s to stop them even walking straight through me?
I don’t stay in school long today; it’s too hard watching the others at break time. Their laughter and togetherness wrenches at whatever constitutes a heart for a ghost.
I don’t go home either. The last two nights have been insufferable. I sat on the same chair as always; Mum, saying nothing, drank her whisky and watched the soaps. She never even cries. Maybe it’s her way of coping, I tell myself.
I head to the graveyard. I mean, seems apt for a ghost, right? I count the rows: twelve rows down, fifth grave along. I sit beside the grave and touch the headstone, surprised that it feels cold to my touch.
“It’s me, Dad,” I say, then look around to see if he’s there. He would make the perfect ghost guide. We could be together again at last.
“It’s Sophie, Dad. I’m dead now too so you can show yourself.”
I think it will probably take time for him to get to me from wherever he is. I didn’t notice any passage of time, personally: one minute I was climbing the tree with the noose around my neck and the next I was a ghost. Maybe Dad goes to work, like I go to school, out of habit, for something to do. I wouldn’t even know how to get there – which bus would I catch? No, I better wait here.
I sit for a long time. There’s a brief flurry of activity around sunset when people seem to walk their dogs. Then silence. I shuffle around on the cold grass.
I feel certain he will return here when it gets really late. I let the excitement fizz inside me like popping candy. I picture his strong arms and his curly rust hair. And mostly, I think of his smile. It’s been almost a year and the picture of him in my mind is fading a little but the smile is burned into my mind’s eye. I know he will look the same, not like some ghoul from a horror film, because I still do. I haven’t changed a bit.
There’s a rustle. I listen, desperate for the tread of his heavy boots. The sound grows, definitely movement. Panic seizes me for a second. Maybe it’s a bear or a fox. So what if it is, I think, what harm can it do me now. I puff out my chest.
Human steps. I could burst with anticipation, like a thousand Christmas mornings. I’m finally going to see Dad again.
Instead, in the moonlight, the person reveals itself as Mum.
“Sophie,” she says, her voice heavy with tears.
Maybe she comes here to talk to us both.
“Sophie,” she says again, moving closer.
She can’t actually see me, so I stay put.
“I’ve been worried, Sophie,” she says and crouches down beside me.
I look around the empty graveyard.
“It’s time to come home, sweetheart,” she says and puts her arm around me. I can feel it – the weight of her arm and the warmth of her breath.
“It’s time to come home, Sophie,” she says again, standing and pulling me up with her.
“I just wanted to see him again, Mum,” I say, following her toward the gate.
“I know,” she says. “I know.”
Lucy Brighton is a Northern-based writer who has completed an MA in Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University (Distinction). Her work has been published in Writers Forum, Journeys: A Space for Words, and Henshaw Press’s second anthology, as well as various websites and online magazines.