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Authors: Lauren Barnholdt

Ghost of a Chance

BOOK: Ghost of a Chance
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Chapter
1

This definitely might be
the most horrible idea I've ever had. Like,
ever
. And let's face it, I've had some pretty horrible ideas. I mean, my life is kind of a mess right now.

Case in point:

1. I've told the maybe love of my life, Brandon Dunham, that I can see ghosts. Yes, it's true that I can see ghosts, but why, why, why would I tell him that? Am I crazy? What
good
did I think could possibly come of it? Especially since one of the ghosts I can see is his mom.

2. After I told Brandon about the whole seeing-ghosts thing, he accused me of lying, and then he left me sitting in the snack bar of the YMCA. Which I'm pretty sure means we've broken up.

3. After he left, I decided I should go see my mom. Now, I know what you're thinking—why is going to see your mom on a list of things that have turned your life into a big horrible disaster, Kendall? If I were a normal girl with a normal relationship with my mom, going to see her wouldn't be on this list. But I'm not a normal girl. And I don't have a normal relationship with my mother. I see ghosts. And I haven't seen my mom since I was a baby.

Anyway, the reason I had no choice but to go see my mom is because the ghost of Brandon Dunham's mom keeps showing up and threatening me, and then I found out that
my
mom and Mrs. Dunham were best friends when they were younger. So I had to come see my mom so I could ask her if she has any idea why the heck Mrs. Dunham won't leave me alone.

And now here I am, following my mom down the front hallway of her house. A house I've never been to. A house I've never even
seen
. So. Weird.

“Do you want some tea or something?” she asks as we walk into the kitchen. She opens the fridge and looks inside. “I didn't know you were coming. Otherwise I would have picked up some food. . . .”

“Tea would be great,” I say. I don't really like tea, but whatever. I mean, we need to have something to do, don't we? We can't just be sitting here, having what is sure to be an awkward conversation, without something to eat or drink.

“Go ahead, have a seat,” my mom says.

I slide my arms out of my coat and drape it across the back of a kitchen chair. It's a nice house, I decide. It looks big from the outside, but inside it feels cozy and warm. There are green-and-white-striped place mats on the table, and the chairs are the kind with cushions on them.

The chairs in my kitchen at home don't have cushions. In fact, now that I think about it, the chairs at my house are extremely uncomfortable. They force you to sit ramrod straight. I've never really thought about it before, but now I wonder, if my mom had been living with us this whole time, would she have made sure we always had comfy chairs?

“Here you go,” she says, putting a mug of tea down in front of me.

“Thanks.” I take a sip. It's so hot that it burns my tongue.

There's an awkward pause, and I really can't even look at her, because it's way too weird. I mean, what am I supposed
to say? What am I supposed to do? The silence stretches on for another moment.

“I like your house,” I say.

“Thank you.”

“You're welcome.” I swallow and feel emotions swirling through me. I want to ask her the question I've always wondered, the only thing I really want to know about her life. “Do you . . . Are you . . . I mean, do you live here alone?”

She nods.

“You're not married?”

She shakes her head.

“And you don't have any kids? I mean, uh, besides me.”

“No.” She's looking right at me as she says it. I let go of the breath I've been holding and feel the tightness in my chest loosen just a little. I don't want to know anything else about my mom, about her life, about what she does for a living or whether or not she's happy. She doesn't deserve my curiosity.

But I had to know if she had a new family. If she did, I don't think I'd ever be able to forgive her. For her to have left me is bad enough—but for her to have left me and then started another family would be much worse.

There's another short silence, like maybe she's waiting for me to ask her more questions about her life. But there's no way I'm going to do that. I didn't come here to find out about her. I came here for answers.

“Kendall,” she says finally, wrapping her hands around the mug in front of her. “I know why you're here.”

“You do?”

She nods and then sighs. “I'm sure you have a lot of questions. But you need to know that I may not be able to answer all of them.”

“What do you mean?” I pick up my cup of tea, blow on it, and take another sip.

“What I mean is that there might be some things that you have to figure out on your own.”

I bite back a laugh. It's kind of hilarious that she's saying that, since I've had to figure out things on my own for pretty much my whole life. Like how to talk to boys, how to put on makeup, how to dress, how to pretty much do everything girls need to know that their dads can't teach them.

“Yeah, well, wouldn't be the first time,” I mutter under my breath. It's completely petty and immature to mutter under your breath, but I'm in a petty and immature kind of mood.

She opens her mouth to say something, but then thinks better of it. “That's fair.”

Which just makes it worse, because at least if she was making excuses and trying to justify the fact that she left when I was little, I could blame her and yell at her. But her saying it's fair takes the wind out of my sails.

Okay, Kendall,
I tell myself.
You need to take control of this situation.
This isn't one of those sappy reality TV shows where someone is looking for their long-lost relative, and then, once they find them, they start working on repairing their relationship. (Even though I totally love those shows. Honestly, who doesn't? They always have happy endings, which is completely the opposite of real life. Even though they call them reality TV shows, which is kind of ridiculous.)

“Look,” I say, sitting up straight in my chair and looking my mom right in the eye. “I didn't come here for some kind of big reunion scene. I came here because I need to know about you and Julie Dunham.”

She nods, like she expected this. Which makes no sense. How can she know I would show up wanting to know about Brandon's mom? Unless my dad called her and told her I was asking him questions about Julie Dunham.

Ohmigod. That must be it! My dad and my mom have been talking behind my back! It makes sense. Think about it. My dad had a girlfriend he never told me about, so who knows what kind of other scandalous things he's been hiding from me. Maybe my parents even met for coffee, and now they're going to end up—

“Julie Dunham and I were friends,” my mom says. “Best friends, really. We were like sisters. We did everything together, and then we—”

“Wait a minute.” I hold up my hand to stop her. “How'd you know I was going to come here and ask you about Julie Dunham?” I slip my other hand into my bag and get ready to pull out my cell phone. If my dad thinks he can just call my mom behind my back and I'm going to be cool about it the way I was about his secret girlfriend, well, then he's got another thing coming. I'll call him right here, and the three of us will get this whole thing out on the table.

“Because,” my mom says, looking surprised, “I can see ghosts too.”

Chapter
2

“You can?” I ask.
My hand loosens from around my cell phone, but I barely notice. My chest tightens with tension, but at the same time a weird sense of relief is flowing through me.

Because here's the thing: there's a part of me that has always thought that the fact that I can see ghosts might mean I'm kind of insane. That maybe there's something really wrong with me. Like, wrong in the you-might-need-to-be-locked-up-in-a-padded-room kind of way. “For how long?” I ask.

“As long as I can remember.” She twists her hands in her lap. “From what I can tell, it's hereditary.”

“It's hereditary?” I repeat dumbly.

She nods. “So I knew that Julie Dunham had been coming to see you, because she's been coming to see me, too.” She licks her lips and swallows. “Do you want some cookies or something? I think I have some Oreos in the—”

“Wait! She's been coming to see you?” I ask.

My mom nods. “She's been telling me to talk to you, that I need to get you to stay away from Brandon.”

“But
why
does she want me to stay away Brandon?” I demand.

“Because of me.” My mom takes a deep breath. “Julie's very angry with me. She has been for years.”

“Well, that's your problem,” I say. “What do I have to do with it?” God, this tea is bitter. I reach for the sugar bowl and start spooning some in. I must be pretty angry, because granules spill out all over the table.

“Are you sure you want that much sugar?” my mom asks. “It's not good for you.”

I look her in the eye and then dump another huge heaping spoonful right into my cup. If she thinks she has any right to play the parental card now, then she's definitely mistaken.

“O-kaayy,” she says.

“Julie Dunham,” I say. “Tell me. Now.”

“Well, like I said, we were very close, like sisters.” My mom turns and looks out the window, which faces her backyard. There are leaves falling from the trees, and if I
weren't in such a bad mood, I'd think it was pretty. “And then I got pregnant with you, and Julie got pregnant with Brandon. My pregnancy was great, very smooth. But Julie . . . she had a hard time.”

“What kind of a hard time?” I ask.

“Complications,” my mom says. “High blood pressure, that kind of thing. Brandon came early, and when he did, she almost lost him.”

“Oh my God,” I say. “That's awful.” And it is. I can't imagine how horrible and scary that must have been for her. But Brandon lived. And he's thirteen. So Julie might have to get over the whole overprotective thing. “But what does that have to do with you?”

“The night Julie had to go to the hospital, she called me.” My mom's gaze is unfocused now. She's still staring out into her backyard, but she's not really looking at anything. “She wanted me to come and be with her. She was scared, and Brandon's dad was out of town at a conference. He was on his way home, but he had to take a flight, and he was stuck in Minneapolis because of a snowstorm.”

She swallows, and I can tell how difficult it is for her to talk about this. I almost—
almost
—feel sorry for her. But not quite.

“So you weren't there for her?”

She shakes her head. “I was in the middle of helping a ghost move on, and it was something that couldn't wait. If
I didn't help the ghost then, she was going to be stuck here for God knows how long.” Her eyes are filling with tears, and I hand her a napkin, realizing again how little I really know about my mom. Does she cry easily, or is this totally out of character for her?

“I thought I could get to the hospital in time, but it took longer than I thought, and by the time I got there, she'd lost a lot of blood. She was fine, but she'd been all alone. She never forgave me.”

“So you guys just stopped being friends?”

My mom shakes her head. “Not right away. I tried to explain it to her. I told her about the ghosts. It was the first time I told anyone. Needless to say, she didn't believe me. And after a few weeks she stopped returning my calls.”

I snort. “Sounds familiar.”

She looks at me. “What do you mean?”

I shrug. “I told Brandon about seeing ghosts, and he didn't believe me. He basically accused me of being completely psychotic.”

“Oh, Kendall,” my mom says, sighing. I'm not sure if she's sighing because she thinks it's sad, or because she thinks I'm stupid for telling him. And honestly, I kind of don't care.

BOOK: Ghost of a Chance
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