A/N: One of the six "gifts" I put together for a member of a club I am involved in. There are a few other things that she enjoys that worked their way in here as well. This story was cut very short to stay within the page restrictions. It's not one of the best I've ever written, but it did the job. : )
DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of the characters or ideas created by John Gray. I only borrowed them for the entertainment and amusement of my audience.
SUMMARY: Jackie heads to spend a week with her aunt and uncle in the cozy little town of Grandview.
DEDICATION: To Jackie and her love of Ghost Whisperer.
DATE: December 24, 2009
Jackie was ecstatic. While she loved everything a big city life had to offer, there were times when she just itched to get away from it all and retreat to something a little smaller. Like now. Now she was traveling via bus to visit her distant aunt and uncle. Ever since she could remember, she had never wanted for an interesting time when she stayed with them. That was because her aunt had a gift. A rather unusual gift that not very many people knew about. Her aunt, Melinda, could see ghosts, or spirits, as she usually referred to them.
When she was a small girl, she first noticed that she could see things that nobody else could really see. Having no one else to turn to, she finally discovered that her grandmother shared that gift and from then on, everything was alright. Melinda had someone to turn to when she got scared and when she needed help with her gift. Over the years she had grown on her own and now she was a perky, enthusiastic person who was a blast to hang around with. Which was why Jackie loved visiting her.
The sun had just set an hour earlier when the bus pulled into the station in Grandview and Jackie waited until most everyone else had filed off before departing herself. She didn't immediately catch sight of Melinda, but she was sure she would be here to pick her up. Her or her husband, Jim. Jackie liked hanging out with Jim, too. One time, he actually invited her to play a game of impromptu football with his co-workers at the fire department. That was something to see...all of his co-workers were male. It ended up being about ten guys and one girl...her. Too bad she had only been eleven at the time and not quite interested in the male gender. She didn't fully understand what the importance of playing football with a bunch of male firefighters was and how jealous it would make her friends when she hit high school. Of course, like any self-respecting high school girl would, she embellished the story just a tad.
Catching sight of her aunt and uncle waving at her from across the lot, she hoisted her bag on her shoulder and started sprinting over to them. Hugs and kisses were exchanged all around as greetings were voiced.
"We are so happy to see you again," Melinda said as she smiled at her niece. "I keep telling Jim that we should come visit you some time, but things always seem to get in the way when we start making plans."
"Oh, no worries," Jackie replied. "I'm actually between apartments at the moment, hence one reason I'm here. All of my belongings are stuffed in a storage unit until my new apartment becomes available next week. But, of course, the real reason I'm here is to hang with my favorite aunt and uncle."
"You sure know how to make a guy blush, Jackie," Jim said, not blushing at all, but smiling broadly at her.
They all laughed as Jim grabbed Jackie's bag and carried it to the car. "Isn't your store just over there? I could toss it into the back room so you don't have to drive all the way out to your house and then come back," Jackie said.
"It's no problem at all. Delia is watching the store for only another hour until closing. And Jim has the rest of the day off, so we can just have some fun. Besides, we have a surprise for you."
Jackie's eyes lit up. "Really! What? You're not pregnant, are you?"
"No, not pregnant. You'll just have to wait and see, but...keep tomorrow evening open," Melinda teased.
"Ooh! I'll get it out of you before the night is out."
"You may not have to get it out of us," Jim said. "It's a pretty big thing for the whole town, so I'm sure you'll hear of it eventually." They had just reached the car, and Jim placed Jackie's bag in the back of the SUV. He then opened the door for Jackie, who hopped right into the backseat. Jim and Melinda piled into the front seats. Melinda clicked her seatbelt on and then turned around to face Jackie.
"So, how does pizza and a movie sound? Unless you live off of fast food and then we can whip up some spaghetti for you. What sounds better?"
"You are my hosts so I will leave that decision entirely up to you, but they both sound equally delicious."
"Pizza it is," Melinda announced. She whipped out her cell phone and started dialing the number to the local pizzeria.
"I hope you don't think that I'm going to let you do all the cooking all week long. I have a few meal surprises up my sleeve."
"Excellent!" Jim said.
Melinda and Jackie spent the majority of the ride getting caught up on each others' lives with Jim putting his two cents in every so often. The drive was going great until Melinda screamed at Jim to stop the car. This outburst startled both Jim and Jackie and Jim slammed on the brakes so hard that Jackie, despite wearing a seatbelt, was thrown against the back of Melinda's seat.
"What?" he shouted, scanning the road in front of them.
"I thought I saw a little girl in the middle of the road," she was breathing heavily.
"Mel, there's no one there," Jim reassured her. Then, as if suddenly remembering that they had another passenger, Jim turned around to see if Jackie was okay. "Oh no, you're bleeding!"
Jackie put a hand to her head, which was throbbing, and was amazed to pull it away to see blood on it. Jim had put the car into park and had left the driver's seat and run around to her door giving instructions to Melinda to get the first aid kit out. He pulled open the door and examined Jackie's head a little more closely. "Well, that's good," he murmured. "It appears to be little more then a superficial cut. Nothing requiring stitches or a trip to the ER. I just need to clean it up with some alcohol and pads and you should be good as new." He had pulled out some rubbing alcohol towelettes from the first aid kit and a band-aid. Gently he cleaned her wound, and then slapped a band-aid on it. Jackie had been in a mild state of shock and had let Jim clean her up before she even realized what he was doing. Ordinarily she would have refused his help for something that minor, even pushing him away, not wanting him to make a fuss over her. "What did I tell you? Good as new." He packed up the kit and stashed it under the passenger seat, before turning around to see Melinda standing about twenty feet in front of the car and staring blankly out in front of her. "Oh, no. Not again."
Jackie strained to see around him to where Melinda was standing. She recognized that stance from when she had visited before. Melinda had transitioned into the supernatural arena. Jim barely touched her shoulder, but she jerked back to the here and now. "I'm sorry," she said.
"Is it a -?"
"Yeah," she replied abruptly. "It was a little girl. I'm sorry I startled you like that, but she looked so much more real and substantial than other spirits I've seen, I thought she was alive."
"It's okay. No one is seriously hurt." He put his arm around her and led her back towards the vehicle. "Come on, let's go home."
Jim and Melinda silently got back into the vehicle and they continued on home. There was no more conversation, except for when Jim asked Jackie if she was still doing okay. They pulled into the driveway seconds before the pizza delivery car pulled up. Jim paid the man as Jackie and Melinda went into the house. A minute later, he followed them with the hot pizza. Melinda was still very quiet and Jackie felt a little uncomfortable with the situation.
"You know, if you guys don't feel like a pizza and movie night, I'll completely understand."
"Don't be silly," Melinda said and Jackie was relieved to see that she was starting to act like her usual self again. "I'm still up for it if you are. Jim and I just rented this gory, blood-splattered, torture movie called Saw. Are you interested at all? It's not really my kind of thing, but Jim wanted to see it and I thought 'what the heck.'"
"I love that movie!" Jackie exclaimed. "I'm totally into horror movies and I really enjoy the torture porn style movies that are becoming more and more popular. Though, if you've never seen it before, I wouldn't recommend eating while watching it. I love it now, but I made that mistake when I first saw it. Let's just say, I almost didn't make it to the bathroom in time."
Jim chuckled as he started pulling paper plates, cups and napkins out of the pantry and placing them on the counter. "I guess we'll just have to eat fast." Stepping back a couple of feet, he insisted that the ladies get their food first. Turning around, he said he was going to set up some trays in the living room and pop the movie in. Jackie and Melinda joked around as they selected their pieces of pizza. Melinda even pulled out a bag of salad from the fridge and set it on the counter for anyone who was interested. When Jim came back, he made a crack about starving on the tiny pieces they left him and Melinda thrust the bag of salad under his nose, telling him it would satisfactorily fill in the empty gaps in his stomach. Grabbing their plates, napkins and cups of soda, the girls filed into the living room to wait for Jim. He appeared a minute later.
Grabbing the remote, he hit the PLAY button and they all settled back into their seats to enjoy the movie and the dinner. Jackie was sitting cross-legged on a recliner chair and Melinda and Jim were snuggled together on the loveseat.
Jackie had spent most of the movie trying to keep from busting out with laughter. She had had more fun watching Melinda jump onto Jim's lap at every sudden movement on-screen then she got from the movie itself. Not that she really needed to watch the movie; she knew it all by heart.
Now she lay in bed and watched the shadows from the trees and streetlamps play across the ceiling. Sleep was not quick in coming for her this night, though she was pretty tired. Yawning, she slipped out of the bed and out of her room. A glass of water was just what she needed. Creeping along the landing, she passed in front of Jim and Melinda's door. She heard faint voices in conversation on the other side of the door. Not wanting to eavesdrop, she continued down the stairs and into the kitchen.
Not wanting to waste the energy to turn on the lights, she felt her way around the kitchen until she found the cupboard with the glasses. Pulling one down, she moved around the island in the middle of the floor to the sink. Turning on the tap, she placed her glass under the water flow. It took a moment for the scene in front of her to register. The dark liquid staining the sink. A distinct, though faint, bitter odor. She flipped the light switch for the light over the sink…and screamed.
Jim and Melinda came flying down the stairs and into the kitchen. Turning on all the lights in the kitchen, they rushed to her side. Jim investigated every inch of the kitchen while Melinda tried to get Jackie calmed down enough to tell them what happened. Finding nothing, Jim returned to Melinda's side next to Jackie. She had calmed down and passed off her screaming as thinking she had seen something, but she must have been seeing things.
"Jackie, it's alright. It's okay," Melinda said, soothingly. "There's nothing there. Your lack of sleep was probably causing you to see things. Let's get you back to bed."
Melinda marched Jackie off to bed while Jim turned off all the lights after scanning the kitchen one last time.
The next morning dawned sunny and warm. It wasn't stifling hot at this time of year, only pleasant. Jackie woke up with only vague memories of what had happened in the kitchen. They were so vague, in fact, that she dismissed them as only a dream. It wasn't until she appeared in the kitchen for breakfast, and Melinda looked at her with concern that she realized it probably wasn't as nightmarish as she had originally thought.
"Are you feeling better this morning?"
"Umm, yeah. I think so. Did I act kind of strange last night? Screaming about something?"
"It was probably just from sleep deprivation" Melinda decided a change of topic was in order. "How would you like to come with me to the shop today? Delia has a showing later this morning, so I'll be all alone for a couple of hours."
"A showing? What does she do? And who is she again?"
"That's right. The last time you were here, Andrea was still working here."
"Yeah, I liked her. Whatever happened to her?" Jackie asked, sitting down at the table with a bowl and helping herself to some cereal.
Melinda hesitated. "She, umm," she swallowed hard. "She died."
Jackie stopped with her spoon halfway to her mouth. "She what?"
"The plane crash that occurred here just outside of town a couple of years back...she was in it's crash path. She was killed instantly. It was a terrible blow to me. I help all these spirits all the time, but it always hits hardest when it's someone I know. Someone I'm friends with." Melinda straightened up as she continued, "I met Delia a short time later and we became friends."
"Does she know about your gift?"
"Yeah, though it wasn't an easy road to travel. She didn't take it well when I first told her, but she has become a little more accepting. She's still quite skeptical about it. She is a realtor, but she helps out in the shop when she doesn't have much going on in regards to showing houses. So, how about it?"
"Sounds like fun. Let me run get dressed." Jackie stood up and slurped the rest of the milk out of her bowl as she carried it to the sink. For some unexplainable reason, she started getting jittery and uncomfortable as she got closer to the sink. It took her a minute to remember the blood she could have sworn she had seen in it. Dumping her stuff quickly in the sink, she made haste to move away from the kitchen. As she started heading to her room, Melinda stopped her by holding out a blank envelope.
"This is for you. Something about a concert in the town square tonight," Melinda did her absolute best to keep a straight face. Jackie looked confused, but took the envelope out of Melinda's hand. Melinda hid a broad grin behind her coffee mug as Jackie started jumping around the dining room, shrieking with delight.
"Paramore? They're coming here? Oh, thank you, thank you, thankyouthankyouthankyou!" She grabbed Melinda in a big bear hug. Melinda barely had enough time to put her mug back on the table, before Jackie grabbed her. "I can't believe this! You guys are so awesome!" She continued singing their praises as she danced up the stairs to her room, acting like a star-struck teenager. Melinda couldn't keep the smile off of her face as she finished off her coffee.
The rest of the day was relatively slow at Melinda's shop, but Melinda confided to Jackie that she was working on crossing over another spirit. "She's a little girl, probably no more then four years old. I think she was murdered. More then likely by someone she knew and trusted, but I have no idea who she is. I've got a couple leads I'm going to follow up. The Internet is so helpful in this regard. I don't know how my grandmother did it," she had said. As the morning was pretty dead, no pun intended, with only a few customers drifting in whom Delia promptly assisted before taking off for her showing, Melinda spent most of her time doing research and Jackie divided her time between helping her and straightening up and dusting the displays.
About midway into the afternoon, Melinda found some important information and had left to discuss it with a friend of hers who was a local professor, Rick Payne. In her short time there, Jackie had heard lots of good things about him and she was quite anxious to meet him herself. Alas, not yet, though, as Melinda had asked Jackie to stay and watch the store.
An hour prior to closing, Jim had swung by to check up on Jackie as he had called Melinda and found that she had left Jackie at the store alone. Delia's showing had gone much better then expected and she had gone back to her office to draw up the offer papers. When Jim arrived, Jackie enthusiastically thanked him for the tickets to the Paramore concert for that evening.
"Lucky for you, that all you have to do is step out this door and walk twenty feet and you're on the concert grounds."
"What?" she gasped. "I can't wear this! I have to wear something appropriate for a Paramore concert. Where's a clothing shop?"
"Well, there's one right next door, but—" he got cut off as she flew out the door.
She was halfway to the store next door, when spun around and ran back to stick her head in the shop door. "Hey, can you watch this for a few minutes?"
"Sure, Melinda should be here any minute, but—" she closed the door and hurried off again, so he finished his sentence to no one, "—they're already closed."
The concert had just started when Jackie finally got back to the town center. The store Jim had directed her to had been closed, so, without missing a beat, she jogged along the sidewalk, looking for any open store selling clothes. She found two, but they didn't sell what she was looking for, so she continued on. She had eventually stumbled across a store that catered to teenagers and she silently thanked her lucky stars that she could still fit into most of the clothes they sold.
Forty minutes later, she turned the last corner before entering the town center. The group had just finished their first song to a rather large audience. Jackie wondered how on earth she was going to be able to locate Melinda and Jim in this crowd, but she figured she would find them eventually. Paramore decided their next song would be an upbeat, rowdy one that had most of the teenage fans jumping around in a pathetically small impromptu mosh-pit that even had some of the younger adult couples participating. With all of this jumping around, Jackie knew she would never find her aunt and uncle so jumped into the thick of it and just let loose and enjoyed the song. She decided to keep one eye scanning the crowd on the extreme off chance that she would see Mel or Jim.
After the fourth song, she spied Mel and Jim off to the side scanning the crowd, probably looking for her. She waited until they were almost looking directly at her before raising her hand and waving frantically at them. They saw her and moved over to stand by her.
"Are you having fun?"
"Yeah! Like the most fun ever!" They had to shout to be heard over the music and the crowd.
"That's great to hear!"
They spent the rest of the evening listening to the music and just having a ton of fun. About halfway through the concert, Jackie felt Melinda quiet down. Turning to look at her, she saw Mel staring off to the edge of the crowd. Jackie followed her gaze and her eyes widened in shock. Shaking her head to clear the vision, she pushed it as far out of her mind as she could and tried to concentrate on the concert. A few minutes later, she found her eyes straying to the spot again, but what she had seen before, was not there now. Jackie breathed a sigh of relief and dismissed it from her mind. The concert continued as it had before.
Jackie lay in bed. She thought back on what she had possibly seen at the edge of the crowd. Turning over numerous possibilities in her mind, she tried not to linger on the most obvious one. But, no matter what she thought, she had to admit it. She had seen what Melinda had seen. And Melinda had seen what only she should have been able to see.