Olive Hornby came into the bathroom- 'Are you in here again, sulking Myrtle?, she said, 'because Professor Dippet asked me to look for you-'
Olive's heart thudded. Her skin was clammy; the scene played over and over in her head. She tried to banish it from her thoughts. She started counting. One, two, three.
It wasn't enough. She counted backward.
Ninety-nine, ninety-eight, ninety-seven...
"You look like a raccoon, Myrtle," she'd said, her friends laughing along.
"Haha, raccoon," Barbara agreed. "A fat raccoon."
Olive watched Myrtle's face crumple up, red and uncomprehending. But Olive kept giggling, looking at her friends for approval.
"What did I do?" Myrtle asked, her voice a thin whine.
"What did I doooooo?" Olive mimicked, in a high, nasal tone. "Go scratch in the garbage, Myrtle, isn't that what raccoons do?"
The next time she'd seen Myrtle...but she couldn't think about that. She hugged herself, tightly, squeezing her eyes shut.
"What did I do?" came a low whisper. Olive's eyes flicked open. A grey wisp floated in the darkness. Olive bolted upright, the hairs on her arms standing on end.
Olive squinted. "Myrtle?"
That morning, Olive had turned her back to Myrtle when the other girl tried to join her at breakfast. She'd slid to the very end of the bench, so there was no space.
"Hi!" Myrtle had crowed cheerily. "Could you-"
Olive didn't even look at her.
Myrtle clearly didn't get it. Myrtle had tapped Olive's shoulder. The other girls had fallen silent.
"Liv?" Myrtle asked. "Could you just-"
Olive had to turn around then. "Ugh," she'd said, sneering. "Ew, don't touch me."
Myrtle had stood there for five whole minutes, quiet and pathetic, before she realized that Olive wasn't going to move over.
"I don't understand," the grey wisp said, resolving itself into a pale reflection of the dead girl. "Olive? I didn't do anything to you. You just..."
Olive shrieked. The other girls stirred in their beds, suddenly awake.
"It's Myrtle!" cried Alexia. "MERLIN! She's a ghost!"
And Olive's lips went hot, tingling. She pressed them together, hard, to dispel the feeling.
It had been past curfew.
The other girl had already been waiting in the girl's bathroom, in her ugly flowered nightgown. Her hair was down, her glasses off; her brown eyes framed by thick lashes.
"That looks like something my grandmum would wear," Olive had teased.
Myrtle had grinned. "It IS my grandmum's," she'd answered.
Olive had grinned back, and a shiver went down her spine. "Thank you for...I don't know what to..." she'd said, softly. She felt herself moving toward the other girl, leaning closer. "I feel..."
Myrtle had nodded, and Olive saw her shoulders shudder, visibly. "I do, too," Myrtle had said.
When their lips touched, it had been soft, tentative. Their fingers tangled together. Olive didn't know how much time passed, but they were startled apart by the striking of the clock.
Myrtle had given her a hopeful look. "I'll see you tomorrow?"