I sat up in bed and couldn’t stop shaking. I didn’t want to believe what I knew was true. After my dad had told me that the boy was named Blake, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I had shooed him off, telling him that I wasn’t a child and I wouldn’t be scared, but the truth was, I was terrified. Ghosts weren’t real. Ghosts didn’t live in newly built houses. High school kids don’t just die and haunt the place where their family doesn’t live anymore. But, I had seen it with my own two eyes. I had even touched him.
Blake was THE Blake that died here. What other reason would he have had for acting so weird around me? Once I had brought up that Max told me the house was haunted, he bolted. This was all way too much to wrap my head around, especially this late at night. I knew there was nothing I could do right now, just wonder.
As much as I wanted to sit on this information and pretend it wasn’t real, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do that. The one person I knew I had to talk to was Max from next door. As weird as he was, he was my first step to getting answers. I made a mental list of all of the questions I had of this supposed apparition haunting my new place of residence and laid back down. According to my clock it was nearly 3:00 AM and I could not get hung up on this right now. I drifted into a fitful sleep eventually, fear of the unknown creeping into my mind.
I asked myself why I cared so much the next morning at the kitchen table. I was staring into an almost empty bowl of cereal, twirling my spoon around in the milk. My parents had gone to work and I was alone with my thoughts. Why does this matter? I was new here and didn’t know anything about the people here. It wasn’t my duty to find out if my house actually had a spirit wandering inside of it. This could have all been a coincidence. The rational side of me wanted to think that anyway. That was another terrifying thought. Even when I was alone here, I wasn’t actually alone here. I guess I cared because if I could figure out how to get rid of Blake, both of us could rest in peace. I wasn’t completely sure of how I was going to approach Max either. He had talked to me the other day, but all he had said was how old he was and that I lived in a haunted house.
I took a breath and swallowed my pride. If I was really all in for this, I just had to go for it. I slid shoes on and walked to the front door. To my surprise, Max was outside and walking toward his car. I flew down the front steps and over to my neighbors’ driveway.
“Hey Max!” I called, getting his attention.
“What’s up, neighbor?” he asked.
“I missed you at our housewarming party,” I started with a smile.
“Yeah, about that; see I’m not actually lame as hell like everyone else around here,” he smirked.
“You have a point,” I laughed. “You missed out on a scary story though.”
“You heard about my old neighbor, huh?” he said, becoming serious.
“A little, but then I stopped listening,” I admitted.
“I don’t like to talk about it actually,” he said.
“It was one of the first things you told me!” I fought.
“That’s cause I didn’t think you’d believe me,” he laughed.
“So fill me in,” I prompted. Max rubbed the back of his neck and ran a hand through his hair. He looked at his car and back at his front door.
“Want to come over?” he asked. I nodded, following him to his house. We entered and walked to the kitchen where he went straight to the fridge. He pulled out a pitcher of lemonade and went to retrieve two glasses from the cabinet.
“You can sit here at the island,” he said pointing. He poured me a glass and slid it over to me before getting his own and putting the pitcher away.
“There are some details of this story I refuse to tell, so don’t ask me about those,” Max warned. I just nodded my head. I didn’t want to pry too much, because then I knew the information would stop coming.
“Well, when they moved in here, I was 12 and he didn’t know anyone…kind of like you. I met them right away and it turned out Blake was my age. We became friends and were basically inseparable until high school. Blake kinda just hung out with a different type of crowd. You wouldn’t guess it from looking at me, but I was more straightedge and he was a rebel. I still thought of him as a friend, but he didn’t really want anything to do with me anymore. So senior year came around, Blake died, and his parents up and left almost immediately. The house has been empty for two years cause everyone around here knows what happened. The story goes, ‘teen with untimely death haunts the house, unable to cross over to the other side,’ but I think that’s straight bullshit.” I stared at him, unable to comprehend what he was saying.
“You’re telling me that people think that Blake’s ghost is living in my damn house?” I asked, already knowing the truth.
“People from our graduating class mostly. His old friends used to go over there sometimes and they would tell stories of weird things happening,” Max shrugged.
“And you don’t actually believe this? You just said it to scare me?” I asked him.
“I’m actually not sure what I think. The day Blake died was a weird day and I feel like things haven’t been right ever since,” he shuddered.
“What did his friends see when they went to the house afterwards? How did they even get in?”
“I hate those dicks. I don’t talk to them. You know how half your pool is outside and the other half is inside? There’s a door that leads to the indoor half of your pool that doesn’t shut right and they pried it open and took that door to get into the house. They spread the rumors at school that things were breaking in the house on their own and that they could hear Blake’s voice telling them to get the hell out, but that’s a load of shit. They shouldn’t have gone there after that family moved out. It just wasn’t right. But that was two years ago. Blake is…kind of forgotten about by now,” Max stated. I could tell he hated this conversation and I regretted bringing him into it.
“He was just an idiot and his drunk ass fell in the pool. It was an accident that could have been avoided,” Max trailed off.
“I think the whole Blake story deserves some closure. It freaks me out knowing there’s this terrible story that goes along with the place I now have to live.” I stated.
“It’s not like there’s actually a ghost there,” Max rolled his eyes. “That’s a claim not even Daniel and Austin and all of them ever had.” This was new. I actually had names to go along with the story.
“Who are Daniel and Austin?” I questioned.
“Just forget I said anything about them,” Max said almost nervously. I raised my eyebrows looking at my purple haired neighbor. My first impression of him was totally correct. He was so weird. “Like I said, talking about Blake is kind of a touchy subject.”
“Yeah, I understand. I’m sorry I asked you so many questions. You’ve been really helpful though,” I assured Max. I walked my empty glass to the sink and set it in, turning towards the door.
“Well if you ever want to hang out and talk about something that isn’t so morbid, you know where to find me,” he smiled, grabbing his keys and following me out.
“Oh right, I forgot you were actually going somewhere when I came over,” I said sheepishly.
“Don’t even worry about it, I wasn’t in a rush,” he assured. “See you around.” With that, he headed for the car and I headed for my front door. I sat on the porch rubbing my temples. I didn’t really get much more information from Max. I just knew he used to be friends with Blake until high school, when it seems he switched friend groups to include Daniel and Austin. What was Max’s problem with those other guys? Obviously they partied in high school, but so did a lot of people. That didn’t directly impact Max, or did it? I wished that it could be like the movies where the answers all just fall into your lap, but this was real life and it wasn’t that easy. I just needed a distraction from all of this.
At dinner, I didn’t have much to say to my parents. My mind was elsewhere and I didn’t feel like being conversational. I didn’t want them to know about what I was did today either. When my dad asked about my day, I had to keep it short.
“So did you get a chance to get out of the house?” my dad asked.
“Not really, I think I’ll get out tomorrow,” I said. “I just hung around here, went in the pool and organized my room.”
Luckily, I wasn’t pressed for more answers. I had heard my mom telling my dad the adjustment was hard for me and that they should both try to let me settle in on my own. I didn’t know how long that excuse was going to work, but I might as well take advantage of it while I could.
I watched a couple of shows with my parents before heading up for the night. I was thinking about looking into summer classes to take at a community college here, since I didn’t have anything else to do with my time. I opened my laptop at my desk and looked through the options. Behind me, a large bang sounded from my closet startling me. I turned over my shoulder to see the door creak open.
“No fucking way,” I whispered to myself under my breath.
I was almost frozen in fear in my chair. I walked over to the door and peered inside. There was a book turned over, spine facing the air. It was open to a page in the middle. I picked it up, examining the cover. It was a yearbook dated back two years ago from a San Antonio high school. My hands were shaking as I looked to see what page it fell on. I flipped over the yearbook and it was on a page of candids. There were pictures of students at football games laughing, talking in the hallways, and sitting eating lunch together. One in particular caught my attention. It was Blake standing at his locker smiling and looking down. Three guys stood around him, two leaned up against the lockers and another next to him. The caption included all of their names. Sure enough, Blake, Daniel, and Austin were three of them. The fourth was a boy named Zack. This was real. Blake was here in this house and he knew what I was up to. This used to be his bedroom and I was sure some of his things were left behind. Seeing this picture allowed me to see what his old friends looked like and also find out what their last names were. Finding these boys might just be another waste of my time, but what did I have to lose? It wasn’t like I was doing anything else with my summer. Maybe if they had seen the ghost too, I wasn’t actually losing my mind.
“You can trust me,” I said to no one. And I meant it. If Blake was here, I wanted to see him again. Once I brought peace to this restless spirit maybe he would talk to me, or maybe he could finally move on.
I went back to my laptop and opened it to Facebook. I typed in the names of the boys in the picture with Blake, checking to make sure that the guys I found were the right ones. They were all friends with Max and each other, so they must be the ones. How the hell was I supposed to even go about this? “Hi, I live in your dead friend’s house; I wanna know if when you broke in you saw a ghost. Don’t ask me how I know that,” wasn’t really a good start. How creepy was I willing to get? How far was I willing to go? This was all innocent. I just wanted to know what was up with my house.
On Daniel Anderson’s Facebook page, it was listed that he worked at a diner that I remembered seeing in town with my mom and dad. I remembered it specifically because my mom thought it’d be a cute place for us to have brunch. What were the odds he would be working when I showed up? I didn’t really have much to lose. I could go in the morning and strike up conversation. Trying to make friends and fit in was innocent enough; I didn’t have to bring up where I lived. You’ve lost your mind, I thought to myself. I flipped through the pages of the relatively new yearbook. In the back, there was a page with a blown up picture of Blake. The caption said “In Loving Memory” along with one of those poems that you can find on the back of a mass card. It was so surreal to me, this whole situation. Blake wasn’t dead to me, I’d seen him. As far as I knew, I was the only one to have seen him. But maybe the boys who used to come into his house would say otherwise.
I took a deep breath and pushed open the door to the diner, hands shaking. It wasn’t hard to find this place once I typed in the address on my phone GPS. There was a long counter like a bar and booths and tables set up all over the restaurant. I took a seat at the counter and pulled out a menu, scanning the items and pictures. I wasn’t even hungry, but what else was I supposed to do? I didn’t really have a plan yet.
“What can I get you?” a woman with kind eyes asked.
“Can I just have a coffee with cream and sugar?” I asked back. She nodded her head and smiled, turning away. A younger looking boy who was watching the exchange hurried to the mugs, grabbing one and pouring coffee in it. He looked like he was struggling not to spill it as he walked over and slid it over to me.
“New at this?” I laughed.
“Yeah, actually; it’s my first week,” he smiled. He had brown hair that stuck up in the front and bright hazel eyes.
“You aren’t doing too badly,” I smiled back.
“I just needed something to keep me busy this summer while I take classes,” he shrugged, wiping down the counter.
“You’re in college, then?” I asked.
“Yeah just at the community college. I’m transferring out after next semester though, since it’ll be my junior year. Where do you go to school?” he asked me.
“I actually just moved here, but I’ll be a sophomore at the school I go to in California. I was looking into taking something over summer though.”
“Nice, how is Texas treating you?” he said excitedly.
“Not too bad yet, just getting used to the odd neighbors and palm trees,” I laughed.
“Do you live close to here?”
“Yeah actually just in that neighborhood a little ways down from here” I told him.
“No shit, I used to have a friend that lived there,” he replied.
“Did he move?” I asked.
“Umm, well his family did. He passed away,” he boy looked down. No way. This was Daniel I’d been talking to and I didn’t even realize it.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I consoled him. “Actually, I live in that house,” I confessed.
“You’re joking,” he looked up, eyes wide. “That place is…interesting,” he trailed off.
“So I was told,” I started.
“Daniel, get back to work!” the lady who had taken my order barked.
“Coming,” he rolled his eyes. Daniel grabbed a pen from behind his ear and pulled a sheet of paper from the pad he had in his pocket. He scribbled something and passed the sheet to me.
“Like she said, I’m Daniel. We should talk more though. Here’s my number. I’m sure you haven’t had a chance to meet a lot of people yet. Me and some friends are having a bonfire tonight at my house and I’d love to welcome you to the city,” he smiled.
“I’ll call you,” I smiled back. I didn’t understand why Max hated this guy; he seemed nothing but sweet to me. I accomplished what I set out to do this morning and that was to find Daniel and become his friend. I was going to that bonfire tonight and I was getting answers.
I parked in my driveway and shut off the car. I had stayed at the diner a bit longer to finish my coffee, but didn’t get to talk any more to Daniel. I wanted to know about him and Blake and about what he saw in my house when it was unoccupied. I would get my answers soon enough. I sent Daniel a text asking him where to meet him tonight and got out of the car. Max was mowing the lawn and coming up the front yard. I waved to catch his attention and he shut the mower off to come talk to me.
“You’re gonna pass out; it’s too hot!” I exclaimed.
“I’ll live,” he laughed. “What are you up so early for?”
“I actually went to get coffee at the diner right by here.” His eyes went wide, almost like he knew my motives.
“Oh yeah?” he asked.
“I met a nice guy; he asked me to hang out tonight at a bonfire. I think I might actually go since I don’t really have friends here.”
Max sighed and rubbed the sweat off of his forehead. “Just be careful, okay?” he warned.
“I always am,” I replied.
I said goodbye and headed into my house. I called my mom and told her I had plans tonight. She seemed ecstatic that I had actually found a friend. My parents wouldn’t be home until later, so I had the house to myself to get ready. Daniel had answered my text saying he’d pick me up, since he knew where I lived. I had a few hours, so I hopped in the shower and laid around in my room, waiting to finish getting ready. I was at my desk on my computer when a book fell off my bookshelf. I turned to pick it up and another dropped on the floor next to it. I rolled my eyes and walked over to them, but when I turned around, my laptop slammed shut. This wasn’t coincidence. My ghost was messing with me.
“Were you reading over my shoulder, nosy?” I asked. “Do you know I have plans tonight with your old friends?”
A candle crashed from my desk to the floor, breaking into tiny pieces.
So Blake wanted to break a couple of things and make some noise, so what? I wasn’t scared. I stormed out of my room and to the bathroom to get my hair done and makeup on. I wasn’t disturbed by any other noises or weird happenings until I was ready to leave. Daniel had called me and said he’d be there in five minutes. I wrote my dad a note in case he got home before my mom and didn’t know where I was. I turned around to see the whiteboard on the side of my fridge displaying the message, “Don’t go.” I was frozen. I had no clue how, but it was him. Thankfully, Daniel sent me a text saying he was outside. I ran to the front door, shut it, and locked it behind myself.
“Hey, how’s it going?” Daniel asked.
“Not too bad, just been hanging out. My parents were at work all day,” I told him.
“I got off a couple hours ago. I hate my boss so fucking much,” he rolled his eyes. We drove down past the diner and across the city to another neighborhood. It looked kind of like mine; the houses down here were different than what I was used to. It was just starting to get dark when we pulled into the driveway.
“Some of the guys are probably already in the back,” Daniel explained, opening the door for me so I could get out.
“Welcome, Anderson,” a blonde, shorter boy called. He was walking towards us with a pile of wood in his arms.
“This is my house, dick,” Daniel laughed, hitting the logs out of the blondes’ hands.
“Really?” the kid rolled his eyes. He bent down to pick them up and noticed me once I went to help him. “Oh, hi! I’m Austin. You don’t have to help I’ve got it,” he smiled.
“Yeah, Bloom is a little clumsy,” Daniel said, still laughing at Austin. In the back of the house a few guys and a couple girls sat around an already ablaze fire. Austin came from behind me, dropping the logs to the side of the bonfire pit. “Take a spot by me,” Daniel said. I picked a chair next to a long bench where Daniel sat. Austin took the chair on the other side of me.
“Want a drink?” Austin asked, offering me a bottle. “No, that’s okay,” I declined.
“You aren’t driving,” Daniel reasoned.
“But if I come home drunk, my parents will kill me and it’s only the second week of summer,” I replied. “Don’t wanna end up like the last guy that lived in my house.” I didn’t know how it slipped out, but I said it. Not even 15 minutes in to meeting new friends and I’d already screwed up.
“What?” Austin asked, eyes wide.
“Oh yeah, she lives in Blake’s old house,” Daniel chimed in.
“What do you know about that?” Austin fired at me.
“Not too much, actually. I know he came home drunk and died, though. I’m not trying to copycat.”
“Well, technically, it really wouldn’t be,” Daniel started and trailed off.
“Shut up!” Austin exclaimed nervously, reaching over me and smacking Daniel on the back of the head.
“What do you mean?” I asked, confused. Something didn’t add up and I got an eerie feeling that what I thought happened to Blake didn’t actually happen at all.
“How good can you keep a secret?” Daniel asked.
“Are you high? Shut the hell up!” Austin chimed in.
“She’s cool!” Daniel defended me. “And I’m not high.”
“Someone is telling me what you’re talking about,” I insisted.
“I hate you, Danny,” Austin glared. “You can’t tell that kind of shit to girls you don’t know!” He was getting frantic.
“She lives there!” Daniel exclaimed. He grabbed my wrists and turned to face me. He took a deep breath, breaking eye contact to look at the ground. He looked back up at me, an almost sinister smirk plastered across his face.
“What I’m going to tell you isn’t gonna be easy to hear.”