Chapter 3 (continued)
There was something about this kid that wasn't right. And it was more than his appearance. This kid knew things about each of us—knowledge that a stranger could not possibly possess in such an offhand manner. But the only secrets he mentioned were the ones that we were ashamed of.
One day the boy had asked Leah, “Hey, you—blondie! What happened to your sister’s favorite doll? Two summers ago. You know—that one she really liked.”
This had meant nothing to Bobby and me, of course. After we passed by the boy that day, though, we had noticed that Leah’s face had turned pale. “He knew,” she said. “I don’t know how; but he knew.”
When we asked her to elaborate, Leah recounted a quarrel with her sister, Katie, from two summers ago. Katie had an antique doll that she practically loved; it was not only rare and unique, it was also a family heirloom that had belonged to their grandmother.
“I was so mad at Katie that day,” Leah explained, “that I went into her room and stole the doll from her dresser drawer. I knew where she kept it. Then I threw the doll in the trashcan out by the curb. About an hour later I felt bad about what I’d done, and went to retrieve it. But by then the garbage truck had already collected the trash.” Leah hung her head. “Several days passed before Katie discovered that the doll was missing, and I played dumb. I’ve never told anyone about what I did. I still feel lousy about it.”
On another occasion, the ghost boy had asked Bobby, “Hey you, the tall one in the middle. Yeah, you: Why do you hate your dad so much?”
This had provoked an angry reaction in Bobby, and Leah and I had had to restrain him, to keep him from plunging down the dangerous embankment between the road and the pond.
“Don’t listen to that guy,” I’d said. “He’s just talking and making random guesses. He doesn't know anything about us.”
But of course, the boy had known things about us—he’d known about Leah’s secret disposal of the heirloom doll, which would have been virtually impossible for a stranger to have conceived through random guesswork.
Today, I would discover, I was the ghost boy’s chosen target. We walked by the edge of the depression, trying our utmost to ignore him, and he said:
“One of you has a secret today!”
Bobby gave him the finger. “Shove off, dickhead. We’re not buying into your crap today.”
The ghost boy leaned back on his log and took a long, thoughtful drag on his cigarette. For a brief second, I could have sworn that I saw solid earth and trees through his body; and then that illusion was gone. He was all there again—unusually pale and odd in any number of ways, but there.
“Oh, a tough guy, huh?” the ghost boy challenged. “Well, I’ll let you go today. After all, you hate your father, even if you won’t admit it to yourself.”
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Serial be continued....
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