By Chris Bedell
“What is going on?” Steven asked.
I gritted my teeth. “It’s complicated. But I can explain everything.”
Julian remained in the same position, hovering a good ten feet in the air. “There’s nothing to explain. It’s quite simple.”
Steven glared at me. “Answer the question, Esme. Why do you have a talking rabbit in your bedroom?”
Julian’s chuckling filled my bedroom. “The name’s Julian, thank you very much.”
I choked on a breath. “Look, Steven. I know this seems sketchy, but Julian has helped me a lot. He showed me the truth about Horatio.”
“How do you know you can trust him?” Steven narrowed his gaze, refusing to look away, which begged the question if there was no coming back from this. Our dynamic could change now that Chace and Steven knew about Julian.
I flicked a lock of my hair to the side. “Julian will turn back into a human if he helps me get rid of Horatio.”
A smile crept onto Julian’s lips. “Why don’t I do the same with Steven and Chace that I did with you?”
He snapped his fingers before I blinked. A crackle exploded across the air, sending vibrations back to my eardrums. And I almost slapped my hands over my ears since the sound was that loud.
I couldn’t believe it. Julian outed me. The whole thing was almost as absurd as Horatio killing Mom. The matter lingered in my mind for a few minutes. I couldn’t begrudge Julian since Steven and Chace’s discovery was inevitable. Steven would have wanted concrete proof against Horatio even if Julian hadn’t meddled. Although at least Chace hadn’t given me a hard time. Then again, Steven and Chace were two different people. Not just in terms of appearance. Chace always stayed hidden while Steven made his presence known. Even if somebody had no idea who Steven was, he or she would know as soon he entered the room.
My stomach twisted in ten different directions. Yeah. I shouldn’t have worried. But I couldn’t help myself. Living with a murderer meant anticipating something going wrong every second of the day.
A popping sensation exploded when Steven and Chace made a thumping sound when their bodies crashed onto the floor sometime later.
Steven shifted his weight. “Wow. It turns out you were telling the truth.”
I nodded my head at him. “Yeah. I did. You should have believed me.”
Julian brushed his hand over his whiskers, taking a minute to pause. “The important thing is they know. You’re welcome, Esme.”
My eyes beamed. “Do you really expect me to thank you?”
“Whatever! See if I care,” said Julian. “But that doesn’t change how you’ll have to plot your next move.”
Chace glanced in my direction, smiling. It was nice to see some things would never change. “And what will that be?”
I averted my gaze, choosing to look at the wall. Blood seeped out of more cracks in the wall, making me wonder if Steven and Chace could see the blood now that Julian revealed himself. Wait. Hold on. I saw the blood because it was Mom that died. I rubbed my hand against my head because this situation was enough to make my brain explode. I could only hope it would end soon so my sanity would be spared.
The next move was obvious even if it was morbid. Thinking about the next step was one thing. But it was another to say it out loud because. The idea was something a 12-year-old should never have thought.
“We’re waiting?” Chace asked, refusing to take his eyes off me.
Hmmm. Maybe Chace wasn’t as perfect he seemed. Then again, Horatio was a legitimate reason to be on edge.
Red spread across my cheeks like a hurricane spinning across the ocean on a weather map. “I want to dig up my mom’s grave.”
Steven whipped his head back and forth. “You can’t be serious. You don’t have to be an adult to realize that’s against the law.”
I pressed my thumb against my index finger, deciding if I should pick my nail. “That doesn’t matter. We can take a photo and go to your mom if my mom is headless.”
Steven inched closer to me. “Do you have any idea what you’re saying? It’s crazy. My mom is a respected cop and can’t risk her job for you. Plus, she’s kind of mad at me about my grades last quarter …”
“Are you really going to stand there and say you would rather be selfish than help the girl you allegedly like?” I moved my hands through the air, unable to make sense of the whole situation.
The idea wasn’t bizarre. Digging up Mom’s grave needed to be done, and it had nothing to do with disrespecting Mom’s grave. I had no intention of doing anything to her body. I wouldn’t. I could never desecrate her grave because that was too demented. Although Horatio was a different story since no explanation was necessary. He would have disrespected Mom’s grave in a heartbeat. There was no question about it.
I couldn’t help but also be a little disgusted by the whole idea. Horatio drove me to this point. Thinking about demented situations shouldn’t have been my life. But it was, and nothing would undo all the damage Horatio did in my life. I would still move forward, though. My past might have been serious. However, it wouldn’t define my future; it couldn’t. I wouldn’t let it. Wow. Maybe I listened too much to Mr. Tanner’s lectures about the subordinate role of women in American History since they weren’t granted the right to vote since 1919 or perhaps Horatio made me that mad. Yet only one thing mattered. Horatio was going down. It just wasn’t an idea that existed in my head, as I would make it a reality. I didn’t even care if I thought it about too much since “revenge” was an unhealthy thing for children to ponder; it would be true if I said it enough times. Or at least I would tell myself that. Any bit of desperation was worth it if it helped me sleep at night.
Another possibility also crossed my mind. There was no doubt my teachers would roll their eyes or shake their heads. It was easy for teachers to tell us what to do because they only saw us for a 45-minute period five days a week, and had no idea what happened behind closed doors. I could lie. But if I lied, I also ran into the risk of losing credibility, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to lose that. Not yet at least. The truth was on my side at the moment. But it didn’t take a genius to invent a good lie. Horatio might have only “touched” my back. Although the police didn’t need to know that since I could leave it up to their imagination. It would be so great if teachers could realize good people sometimes had to do bad things to achieve change in the world. It wasn’t an excuse to justify bad behavior. It was just a reality everyone had to swallow at some point. Idealism died years earlier with Santa Claus even if people missed the memo.
Darn. I couldn’t lie to the police about Horatio touching me. Not yet at least. Doing so was my last move when all my other options were exhausted.
I summoned the courage to speak a moment later, exhaling the longest breath I ever took. “What do you think, Julian? Should we dig up my mom’s grave?”
Steven smirked. “Where are we even going to get shovels?”
Julian snapped his fingers together, causing three shovels to appear on the ground. “Esme has a point. Digging up your mother’s grave is your own only option.”
Julian could be helpful when he wanted to; he was just too stubborn to useful most of the time. Although I would have to wait till later to dissect Julian’s attitude. Even getting him to agree with me in the first place was a victory worth partying for.
Steven glanced at the window. “It’s starting to get dark out.”
Tears flew down my face. Yup. I had a dramatic moment. Sure. I didn’t want to be thought of as bratty. But I still needed to make my point. Every second that went by
“It doesn’t matter,” I sobbed. “When will you get it? We have to do this.”
“We don’t even have a car.” Steven’s gaze lingered for a moment before returning his attention to his hooded sweatshirt, pulling both ends.
“I can take care of that,” squeaked Julian. He snapped his fingers. Steven, Chace, and I popped out of the bedroom along with the shovels. A swooshing sound then crackled through the night.
I gazed at the surroundings while the trees bounced in the wind as cracks of moonlight illuminated the tombstones. We were at the St. Francis cemetery in town. I had been here before, making me realize it was good Julian was smart enough to drop us to the right cemetery. If it weren’t so twisted, I would have laughed. I couldn’t forget the image of this cemetery. Not even in the dark. It would remain etched in my brain till the end of time.
“Now what do we do?” Steven looked at Chace and I before glancing back at me for a second time.
“Grab a shovel.” I reached for my shovel, as did Chace and Steven.
“Where exactly is your mom’s grave?” Chace asked.
It was nice to see Chace’s grin was still present. He was never one to be hostile. It was actually refreshing.
We walked through by various graves as the wind picked up. Yup. The wind was loud enough to make us think someone howled at us. Although I tried not to get distracted by my hair bouncing. Whatever. I had bigger things to worry about than my hair.
Glancing up at the night sky just made my shoulders shudder. Black wrapped itself across the night sky while white specs glared back at us. The stars wouldn’t comfort me. Whatever. I wasn’t a science person because it wasn’t my thing. It might have been important, but it was so black and white as opposed to English, which thrived in ambiguous situations. The only thing someone had to do was to take a stance and back up the claim with evidence in English class. It was simple enough really.
We arrived at Mom’s grave a few minutes later after I recognized the engraving on the tombstone.
“Start digging,” I said, trying not to think about the scorching sensation in my stomach as a result of hooting owls resting on the branches of a nearby tree.
Our shovels scraped the ground, flinging dirt and grass every which way. It was a good thing the weather melted the snow over the last few days. Digging through the snow would have been a pain.
I sighed. Digging up Mom’s grave was a necessary evil, but that didn’t mean I liked it.
Mom would forgive me if spirits and ghosts were real, though. She would have understood digging up her grave was a necessary evil. But I shouldn’t have rambled. I had a job to do, and needed to stay focused.
The shovel dropped from my hands after digging six feet and I clapped my hand over my mouth, muffling my gasp. It couldn’t be. It just didn’t make sense.
I whirled around, glancing at Steven and Chace. “How can there not even be a casket let alone a body? This doesn’t seem right.”
Steven forced a polite expression. “You’re right. I’m sorry; I don’t know what to say.”
Something slashed through the night. I turned around, smacking my hand over my mouth. Mother’s grave was empty, but one thing remained certain. We weren’t alone. The faint outline of someone loomed in the distance.