Three nights without sleep is not a good thing, I thought, struggling to keep my eyes open. The next math test was a bomb- I was having enough trouble staying awake much less actually pay attention. Comprehending what the teacher was blathering on about was next to impossible.
I indulged myself a little and rested my head in my arms on my desk. It probably wasn't the best idea, but at the moment I couldn't care less. All I cared about was getting home and sleeping for the next week. I glanced at my plain plastic wristwatch. Officially two hours until spring break and I-
Oh, shoot. The cruise. I had completely forgotten about it. I moaned, saying goodbye to my spring break and decided that I didn't care if I was caught sleeping in class or not. My dad was already punishing me by making me come to work with him on my spring break. Salvaging ships, no less. "The Cruise" he called it. Whatever. Just because he was the captain, didn't mean I had to like it. I hate boats.
Not to mention the fact that I am terrified of water.
"Amelia, I'm glad you enjoy my class, but you must let others have their turn."
My head snapped up and I looked around the room groggily, horrified to see it was empty.
"Oh, um, okay," I mumbled as I stuffed my books into my satchel and stood up. The teacher was glaring at me, like she always does as I walked out of the room. I sighed and tucked my overlong auburn hair behind my ear, trudging to my final class through the few kids still in hall. Jeez, how long had Mrs. Mandalay let me sleep in there? Long enough to make me late, I thought scathingly and stopped a few feet from my classroom door. Oh, what the heck. I was already counted absent- I was more than ten minutes late. I could go home and catch up on my packing.
I sneaked out the nearest exit and walked across the parking lot to my house. Yes, I live next door to my school. It's pathetic, I know, but I get to get up at seven-thirty every morning while everyone else I know is already on their way to school.
I shut the door behind me and walked down a narrow hall to my bedroom at the end of it. What greeted me was not a pleasant sight. Piles of clothing littered the floor around a suitcase (which was not possibly large enough to fit everything I needed into it) on my bed. Not that I need to bring a lot of clothes or anything. I mean, we were only spending a whole week on that piece of-
Okay, Amelia, breathe, I reminded myself, shutting my eyes. I sighed, and opened my eyes again. Okay, only the essentials then. I grabbed my portable CD player and gigantic CD case and tossed them in on the few t-shirts I had already packed. My notebooks went in next- I couldn't possibly live without them- and then my mother's picture.
I held it for a minute, looking at the brooding red-haired woman in the photo. The actual photograph was black and white, but I knew by memory. I could almost smell my mother's perfume, soft vanilla and peppermint. Wiping away a tear, I put it in my bag safely cushioned by some other shirts. I threw in a couple of pairs of underwear and the only pair of jeans I had besides the ones I was wearing. Tattered as they were, they would have to do.
I zipped it up and dumped it off the side of my bed, then collapsed on it, falling into a light doze.
It seemed like five minutes later that I was woken up to a timid, "Hello?"
I moaned, opening my eyes to slits. The small Hispanic woman standing awkwardly in my doorway was smiling at me shyly and glowing.
Just as I had suspected. Another ghost. The only thing that had kept me awake for three nights straight. I tried my best to smile at her as I grudgingly pulled myself into a sitting position. "Can I help you?"
"I was told to see someone about finding my daughter."
I sighed, pulling out the phonebook next to my bed. "Her name?"
I flipped through the book and found about three Rosa Fernandez's. "Is she married, do you know?"
The woman shook her head. "No. No husband."
I nodded. Well, that narrowed it down. "Look, I'll write down her address for you. That is what you want, isn't it?"
She wrung her hands in a distressed way. "I'm supposed to give something to her."
I sighed. Perfect. Just what I needed the night before my un-vacation. "Do you have it, or do I have to go get it?"
"It is under the tree in her yard." She smiled apologetically. "In a box."
I nodded. "All right, I'll take care of it."
She smiled widely and kissed my hand about a million times before she disappeared. I wiped it on my jeans, muttering, "Sick- ghost slobber," as I pulled on my black hoodie and put on my leather gloves. If I was going all ghost buster at- I looked at the clock- nine-o-clock at night, I was going to dress warm. My tennies were cheap payless knock-offs, but they were all I had, so I pulled them on, ripping the page with Rosa's address out of it as I walked out the door.
I guess I should explain a bit. I can see ghosts. It's not the best talent in the world, I will admit. I mean, if you want to marry a guy and his parents ask you what you're good at, you can't really say, "Oh, sending the dead on to their eternal rest," can you? No way. I don't know where it came from, since my twin brother didn't get it, but I can tell you, I do not like it. At all. For one, they always come at the worst times. Like, right in the middle of class or while I'm supposed to be sleeping. And not all of them are as nice as Rosa's mom- not by a long shot. And there's the fact that Jeff never stops teasing me about it. You'd think your brother would have a little compassion on you, especially since he's the only person that knows.
And then there's the occasional breaking and entering.
Rosa's house was a normal suburbs house in the middle of a nice neighborhood. I stared at the open front yard. There was only one tree I could see, and it was by the side of the road. Great, like I wasn't conspicuous enough already.
I walked over to it. No box. Of course. So when she'd said under the tree…
I pulled out the small shovel I'd brought along with me, wondering what kind of punishments almost-eighteen-year-olds got for destruction of lawns.
The box was only a few feet under the surface. I pulled it out and dusted the dirt off. It was a small carousel music box, with an inscription in the bottom that I couldn't read since it was in Spanish. I turned it over, wondering what was so important about this piece that it had held Rosa's mother back from the afterlife. People stay behind for the strangest things, I've found.
I carried it to her front door after putting the lawn back the best I could, rang the doorbell, and left. Okay, I ran like a kid playing ding-dong-ditch. It was embarrassing. In fact, I don't even know why I'm telling you.
I started the two-mile walk home. There was no way I was going to make it home before my dad did now.
Ironically, just as I thought this, his truck pulled down the road I was standing on and he glared at me with hard brown eyes. I gave him an "oops" smile and he sighed, jerking his head toward the seat next to him. "Get in."
I went around to other side and settled into the familiar, cracked, diesel-smelling vinyl seats. My dad didn't say anything as he began driving down the street. He's like that- the strong, silent type, especially around me. It drives the ladies crazy. My dad's a good-looking older man. Too bad for them, he's still in love with my mom.
I looked out the window, noticing that we were headed the opposite way of my house. "Where are we going?"
"I have a meeting and I'm late. I don't have time to take you home."
I stifled a groan and rested my head against the window. You try to do something nice for someone.
You might be wondering why my dad didn't ask me what I was doing wandering around two miles from home. I think he stopped asking after the fiftieth time.
We didn't talk on the way to wherever we were going. I played with the radio, but there was nothing on, so I turned it off and hummed quietly to myself as I tried to figure out where we were going. There aren't a lot of places that are suitable for a meeting where I live. I vainly hoped it was Starbucks, but wasn't surprised when we pulled up in front of a ramshackle shed that was once used for storing huge boats, but was now a restaurant. I knew the place well. And I hated it.
Suitable punishment, I decided, getting out of the car to follow my dad inside. It was crowded with seaman this time of night, all loud and sweaty and I think I was possibly the only girl in their besides the waitresses. It smelled like fish and men.
Definitely suitable punishment, I thought, looking around. My father stopped at the bar and asked for the guy he was supposed to meet. The bartender pointed toward a table and my father nodded, heading toward where we were going. I followed, dreading an hour or two of drunken talk and man jokes. My feet were definitely dragging… until we got to the table, that is.
Jack Ferriman was around twenty-five years old, with the most gorgeous blue eyes I had ever seen and wicked-looking eyebrows. His hair was dark brown, brushed forward over his forehead, and even in the plain navy windbreaker and green shirt he wore, he still seemed above the other boisterous men here. He gave my dad a smile as he walked up, but it disappeared when he saw me. "Who's this?" he asked in a very nice tenor voice.
"My daughter," my dad said by way of introduction and sat down. I hesitated, not wanting to intrude; I was obviously not welcome here. I had no choice, however, if the look on my father's fact had anything to do with it. I sat down across from Jack, the only open seat that wasn't beside him. And the night pretty much went downhill from there.
Jack and my father were talking about the plans for the new ship that had just been built. The one my father was the new captain of. The one he was dragging me onto for a week. Apparently, it was a big deal, lots of space and a rec room and a restaraunt, etc...
So what? The boat was still on the water. Water equals an uninterested me. So I sighed and played with the ice in my glass of sweet tea, not paying any attention, and being completely and totally bored.
Until he took out the black and white photos and my stomach turned over. There was nothing extraordinary about them, really, they were just aerial views of a really big shadow on the ocean, but I knew that shadow.
I'm not sure what my face looked like, but it must have been pretty bad, because Jack looked at me and said, "Are you okay?"
"Can I see those?" I whispered, and grabbed the pictures without waiting for an answer. I stared at it hard, trying to make out any words or shapes that would tell me I was wrong, and I was hoping against hope that I was. But as I studied the photos, I couldn't deny it. This was the boat- the boat I was going to die on.