Emma remembers her death with perfect clarity. Brutally murdered in Colorado in the late 1800s, she haunts the house of her death, unable to leave its walls even after the building burns down. In present day 2003, a video store occupies the original site. Emma spends her days watching movies and the living until she meets Ashley, a ghost who remembers nothing about her own recent death. To help Ashley, Emma must relive her own long-ago murder, which she discovers she does not remember with perfect clarity after all.
"I would call this a sleeper, but.... I couldn't sleep! … Turns out I stayed up late two nights in a row because I honestly could not put the book down. … The sad loneliness of the main character was balanced by the glimmer of hope that obviously still burned within her - hope that she might yet find a way out of her endlessly boring existence. I found it to be a taut, hair-raising ride through both inner and outer worlds of fear and danger, through teenage banality and the soulful yearnings of the older and wiser. Just don't expect to be able to put it down easily!"– Amazon Review
"I love a good ghost story, and this novel did not disappoint! I also love a good mystery and so I was happy on two counts. I found the dialog, descriptions, and scenes engaging and believable. I loved the characters and the twists. I stayed up late at night reading it, like another reviewer. I'm reading it again I liked it so much."– Amazon Review
"The author gives us a delicate, introspective, and original look at a ghost's personal journey. Her path of self discovery is compelling and contains a number of dramatic twists. I enjoyed the book from cover to cover and recommend it highly."– Amazon Review
"What's going on?" the other ghost mutters. She pivots, moving as if she's in slow motion, her eyes unfocused. She stops as she notices a pen that has fallen to the floor, and squats down to pick it up. Without success.
I glance back at Vicki and Stacia. My innards feel as if they're all twisted around each other. They can't see this other girl; they really can't. She is a ghost.
She stands up. She doesn't look like a ghost. She looks as real as Vicki does. A little whiter, perhaps, but not in a ghostly way. More like someone who hasn't seen the sun for a while.
For the first time since I died there's someone who can see me, who can hear me. Someone who knows I exist.
The ghost girl shakes her head, her hazel eyes wet. She blinks. "I don't understand," she mutters. She moves a few feet away from the counter, her lower lip trembling as she watches Vicki and Stacia. They chatter away, their voices humming like the sound of a movie playing in the background. I take a step toward her, then stop when I realize my hand is outstretched. I don't know what will happen if I touch her. Will I become her, like I do with the living?
The bells jingle as someone enters the store. I drop my hand, hoping the other girl didn't notice. She'd surely think me mad if I tried to explain. But I could explain, if I wanted to—and she'd hear me. I'm not alone!
The ghost girl starts plodding toward the front of the building, her head hanging down low. I follow and realize I want to skip, to jump. I'm still dead, but I feel almost as though I'm alive. I force myself to move at a normal pace as I trail after her, my feet filled with an energy I didn't know they had. She reaches the window, and I stop a few feet away. I'm not alone anymore!
"Oh my God. They—they didn't see me, they really didn't. Why? Why can't they see me?" She looks down at the windowsill and runs a finger across the painted wood, the once-smooth surface now cracked and worn with age.
I take a deep breath, my glee suddenly replaced by solemnity. Through the window I see the sky has cleared and the moon has appeared, a slim, white sliver fighting to outshine the light of the city below. I feel as if I've turned to lead, my energy gone. What can I tell her? I have no comfort to offer, no solace to share. She's stuck here, now, with me. Forever.
I open my mouth again, then close it without speaking. I am suddenly very aware of my hands. I don't know what to do with them, so I clasp them together until they hurt. She closes her eyes, the darkness of her long lashes pronounced against her pale skin.
"I don't understand. This doesn't make any sense. If I'm dead, why don't I remember dying?" Her hands are balled into fists so tight that the outline of her collarbone is visible through her sweater. She slams a fist against the wall, and I flinch even though the blow makes no sound. "I don't want to be dead!"
"I'm sorry. I don't understand either." I remember dying. I remember the horrible things he did to me, the pain, the fear, the anger, the hatred, the hope... And then the absence of everything, both welcome and terrible. I remember everything. With perfect clarity.
She presses her forehead against the wall, hiding her face in her hands. We stand there in silence, me unsure what to say, unable to give comfort, her grappling with the change in her world. This poor girl! I haven't spoken with someone for so long, and now I have a companion, but it's not a situation I would have chosen. Why not someone who'd been a ghost for a while? This girl doesn't seem to remember her death, so maybe she was lucky and it wasn't awful like mine. But death is still death.
Without thinking, I reach my hand out to her again, then jerk it back to my chest. I want to touch her; I want to hug her, to console her like I would have Lizzie. But I can't do it, I just can't touch anyone. It's too horrible.
"What's your name?" I ask instead. My voice trembles a little. I stand up straight. I have to be strong for her. I've been dead for a long, long time, but this girl must have just died. I don't know what I can do, but I'd like to help her. I'd like to make her feel better. If I can.
She uncovers her face, which is now not pale, but pink and blotchy, her skin wet from her tears. "What?"
"I'm Emma." It's strange to say my name aloud after so many, many years.
"Ashley," she whispers. We stand there for a moment, the silence loud and awkward.
"Hey, wait a minute." Her eyes grow wide, and she perks up, energized. "What day is today?"
Ashley dashes back to the counter, with me trailing close behind. She leans over the counter and looks past Stacia, who stands with her arms crossed while Vicki talks with a freckled fellow near the front door. He seems familiar somehow—perhaps I saw him in the store on another day, or maybe watched him walk by outside. I smile as I think about how wonderful it's going to be to have someone else here. Someone to watch the living with me, someone to keep me company at night when it rains and I'm scared. Someone to talk to. Someone to be my friend.
Ashley leans over the countertop and squints at the computer screen, then turns to face me, her smile so radiant I can feel my own lips curving up.
"It's Thursday!" she declares. She tosses her long hair over her shoulder. "I was alive yesterday! I went to school and to volleyball practice and—" She rubs her left temple, scrunching up her eyes for a moment.
I try, unsuccessfully, to recall what volleyball is.
"That's all I remember." Her tone softens, and she slumps. "I remember leaving practice, but—but—" She stares at the floor.
I wish I could say something to help her, but of course there's no way for me to know anything about her death. I was here all day yesterday, as I always am; I spent most of last night on the second floor, reminiscing about home.
"I'm going to find out what happened," she announces, straightening her shoulders.
Find out? I watch, perplexed, as Ashley marches to the door and reaches her hand out to open it, then jerks back when her hand passes through the frame.
"Wait—" I hear myself whisper. What is she doing? "Ashley, Ashley, don't—" My voice is soft as a kitten's meow. She glances at me and grins, then takes a deep breath and leaps through the door.
My chest feels as if something has been ripped out of it—where is she going? She's leaving, leaving me here alone!
I dash to the door and watch her through the glass, my hands pressed flat against its coldness. She's running down the street, and is already much further away than I can go! I throw myself through the door and plunge onto the porch—
—and then I slam into my wall, the invisible wall of the house I was murdered in. I slump to my knees, my body pressed against my ever-present barrier, my fingers sliding down the old wooden wall I can feel but can't see. There's a pain, a horrible, tight awfulness, all the way from my neck down to my stomach. Why was she able to leave the building? Why am I trapped here? Why did she leave me here—alone?
Ashley seems to grow smaller as she moves farther away, her body casting no shadow in spite of the streetlamp. She sprints around the corner by the shoe shop and is gone. If only I could follow her! If only I could help her! If only—
I scream, pounding on the wall with my fists, hammering its implacable surface over and over. Tears run down my cheeks, falling off my face and vanishing like the nothingness that they are. But the wall that isn't there continues to persist in its solidity for me, and so I remain, trapped as always within its boundaries.
I sink to my knees and sit there for a long time, my tears drying while I ignore the exhaust fumes tickling my nose, the cars moving in and out of the parking lot, the people walking up and down the street, and in and out of the store, talking, shopping, living.
After a while I stand up, turn my back to the night, and head inside, into the fluorescence.
I hope Ashley finds out what she needs to know. I hope it's something good, as good as it can be, considering. I hope—
I hope she comes back.