My dad stiffens at the word "ghost." Mrs. Meriwether and Jaxon know I saw Elijah, but he's one of those details I never mentioned to my dad. How would I even start? 'Hey, Dad. I fell in love with this dead guy from the sixteen hundreds who was stubborn and beautiful. And then he disappeared and I had a crap time getting over him.'
"I don't know," I say. "Maybe I imagined it."
Mrs. Meriwether turns to my dad. "I really think she needs some training, Charlie. Otherwise, it's just a loosey-goosey free-for-all. What happens when she learns to drive? What if a ghost appears in the seat next to her?"
I sit straight up, every muscle in my body ready to run away from this conversation. Did Mrs. Meriwether tell my dad about me seeing Elijah? Or did he hear the rumors in town? How could I be so stupid to think this would all just go away?
My dad stares at me with such seriousness that everyone gets quiet, waiting on his reaction. "Sam, did you see something just now?"
"No," I say, doing my best to keep my anxiety out of my voice.
My dad's home from the hospital, the kids in school don't hate me, and with Vivian gone, my bad luck has basically vanished. 'Vivian.' My stomach tenses. All I want is for things to stay normal; I'm happy for the first time in a long time.
My dad looks from Mrs. Meriwether to me. "Then why is Mae worried about a ghost appearing in your passenger seat?"
I push my plate away, avoiding the matching sympathetic looks from the Meriwethers. The words don't want to leave my mouth. "I saw a spirit during the whole thing that happened last fall." My cheeks redden. "But I haven't seen one since." 'I'm not seeing spirits again. I won't. Elijah was different. He...he was just different.'
The corners of my dad's eyes wrinkle as he narrows them.
"Be sure to let us know if you do," Mrs. Meriwether says. "The last time you saw a ghost, a whole set of unfortunate circumstances followed."
My eyes meet hers. Is she saying that seeing a spirit is a bad omen?
"No more talk of...no more talk of training, Mae. She's fine," my dad says with such finality that Mrs. Meriwether raises a questioning eyebrow.
"I'm gonna go get dressed," Jaxon says, sounding almost as uncomfortable as I feel and sliding his chair away from the table.
"Me too," I say with a grumble.
My dad leans back in his chair, and the tension rolls off him. "Aaah. Now, there's the cranky morning Sam I know and love."
I pause, soaking up his dad humor. He's said some version of this to me since I was little. "Don't do that. I can't make anyone believe I'm angsty if I'm smiling."
We share a smile, and I can tell he's relieved to have changed the subject.
I push back my chair, but what I really want to push away is Mrs. Meriwether's comment about the last time a spirit showed up.
After the Hanging
I'm the last one into homeroom. I slide into my desk beside Susannah just as the bell rings. Susannah, Mary, and Alice sit in a row, all wearing their trademark gothic-chic clothes. I wear black, too, but more torn and casual than their high fashion. Plus, they have that whole powerful, mysterious vibe that makes you want to compulsively steal glances at them. Maybe it's because they're descended from the accused Salem witches and I'm descended from the stodgy Puritan minister, Cotton Mather, who hanged them.
Susannah flashes me a smile and places her slender, black-nail-polished fingers over mine. When she pulls her hand away, there's a small note tucked under my palm. I don't know where this girl gets her stealth, but I'm definitely jealous.
Mrs. Hoxley clears her throat. "Quiet for the morning announcement, please." She pauses until everyone settles. "It's April fourth and two weeks until the Spring Fling. The student council has tallied the votes for this year's theme and is ready to officially announce it." She squints at one of the well-manicured girls in the back of the room. "Blair, if you'll do the honors."