Authors: Bonnie Lamer
I have a television so I know what a family is supposed to look like but mine is nothing like that. To begin with, both my parents are dead. Not the kind of dead where you bury them in the ground, say some nice words, cry a lot and then never see them again. Nope, when they died they refused to ‘go into the light’ or whatever it is you’re supposed to do when you die. Instead, they came back home. As ghosts. Have you ever been sent to your room by a parent who has no corporeal form? I have and it sucks.
My parents died three years ago in a car accident. We live deep in the mountains in Colorado and the roads here are treacherous on the best of days but in the dead of winter after a snow storm they’re almost impossible to manage. When he was alive, my father was the only doctor for a seventy mile area and one night in January, he got a call from a distraught man whose wife was in labor and the baby was trying to come out feet first. Apparently there was a lot of blood and other gross stuff that made my dad think it was a good idea to drive on snow covered and icy mountain roads. My mom went with him to help deliver the baby and to help calm down the expectant father who was becoming more hysterical by the minute.
They did manage to deliver the baby and Dad fixed up the mom so she stopped bleeding and wouldn’t get an infection until she could get to the hospital in Denver when the roads were better. While they had been doing all that, the snow had continued to fall and about half a mile from home, my dad misjudged where the edge of the road was and their car careened over a cliff to a road below killing them both. Well, their bodies anyway.
Let me tell you, it is more than a little disconcerting to have your parents leave the house with bodies and then come home without them. I think it must be a lot harder on my little brother, Zacchaeus, or Zac for short, though
dealing with the ghost parents thing than it is for me. At least I can remember when Mom and Dad were able to give us hugs and kisses but he’s only eight and he’s having a hard time remembering them as anything but what they are now. I try to make up for it by making sure that I hug him everyday but a hug from your sister will never compare to a hug from your mom or dad.
After the initial shock of the accident, I had to start making phone calls. Mom and Dad knew it wouldn’t be long until their car was found and we had to make sure that Zac and I could stay together. I was only fourteen at the time so Social Services would have stepped in and put us in foster homes at least temporarily, so the first phone call Dad had me make was to Aunt Barb. In their will, she was named our guardian in case anything ever happened to both of them. She had agreed when it was written but I’m pretty sure she never expected to have to actually become our guardians and move into the mountains with us.
Don’t get me wrong, Aunt Barb was fine with it and she’s been great but she’s this brilliant scientist who had been working on proving that it was not possible for there to be another plane of existence. Seeing her brother as a ghost put the kibosh on that research project. Not only was she proven wrong, she had to tell her boss that her research had all been debunked. Of course, he didn’t believe her at first. Not until she brought him home one night and introduced him to my parents. After she woke him up from his faint and swore him to secrecy, he agreed that she should shift the direction of her research. Now, she is working on proving that astral projection is possible. Unfortunately, even with the support of her boss this is an area of science that is not well respected. Her reputation has taken a beating but she’s okay with that. She sees the living proof, of course no pun intended, of her research every day. Over the last three years, she has brought home a couple of her most die hard critics but she can’t let everyone in the world know that my parents are ghosts. It would cause chaos and we would become the equivalent of side show circus freaks.
Fortunately, Aunt Barb is able to do a lot of her research at home because it’s an hour and a half drive to the research facility where she works in Denver. After what happened to my parents, there’s no way she would get into her car and drive down the mountain when the roads are covered with snow. At home, she does all the physical stuff that my parents can’t do like cooking and technically she’s our legal guardian but my parents are still the ones in charge of Zac and me giving Aunt Barb plenty of time to work in the office/lab area she set up in the heated garage.
Zac and I have always been home schooled so I haven’t really been around a lot of other kids. My mom tried to get me active in things like girl scouts for a while when I was little but it was too hard to consistently make the meetings so I’ve lived a fairly lonely life in regards to friends. Thank God for the internet. At least I’ve met some nice people my own age online. After my parents followed their IP address back to their computers to make sure that they weren’t creepy forty year olds trying to prey on kids, that is. Okay, sometimes it rocks to have parents who are ghosts.
It’s seven in the morning now on a Tuesday, and Mom has already given me a warning wake up call. I don’t understand why if we’re homeschooled that we have to get up so early but when I bring that up Mom and Dad always say something like it builds character or it teaches us discipline. I believe I have enough character and I certainly have enough discipline and I don’t need to add to it every morning.
“Xandra Illuminata Smith, get out of that bed this instance!” Mom yells from my bedroom door she just passed through. Uh oh, she’s using my full name so maybe that last wake up call wasn’t the first one. They tell me my name means ‘defending men from light,’ whatever that’s supposed to signify, but I think it was just a cruel joke on their part.
“I’m awake,” I mumble into my pillow.
“I don’t want you just awake; I want you out of that bed and dressed. Your aunt has breakfast on the table. It’s rude to let it get cold,” she says crossing her transparent arms across her equally transparent chest. I’m not a hundred percent convinced that Aunt Barb likes getting up this early either but she goes along with it better than I do.
I pry my eyes open again and Mom is tapping her foot as if it could still make noise instead of her toes disappearing through the light blue throw rug on my bedroom floor. “I’m up,” I grumble as I push the covers off and swing my legs off my bed. I stumble to the bathroom still only half awake only to find that Zac has beat me to it. Crossing my legs, I pound on the door. “Hurry up, I’m dying out here.”
“Not funny,” Mom says over her shoulder as she floats back to the kitchen.
Five minutes later, after pulling my long hair into a ponytail and washing my face, I walk bleary eyed into the kitchen and am greeted by the smell of fresh pancakes and bacon. Aunt Barb really outdid herself this morning. Usually it’s toaster waffles and microwavable sausage links or something equally as easy to make. She’s at the stove in jeans and a black wool turtle neck with a white apron hung over her neck. The apron is coated in flour and pancake mix. “What’s the occasion?” I ask sitting down in front of a plate. I douse my pancakes with syrup and dig in.
Aunt Barb stops in mid-flip of a pancake and raises her eyebrows. The way she’s looking at me is making me self-conscious. I feel around my mouth with my left hand thinking I must have gotten some syrup on my face. “You really don’t know what day it is?” she asks.
I shrug my shoulders as I put another forkful of pancakes in my mouth but then it dawns on me and I look up at her sheepishly. “Oh, yeah, it’s my birthday. I can’t believe I forgot. Thanks for the special breakfast, Aunt Barb.” I’m seventeen today and I really had forgotten.
Aunt Barb smiles and shakes her head. “You are the only person I have ever met who could forget her own birthday.”
I bite my tongue so I don’t say that all the days here kind of run together since I don’t get out much so it’s easy to forget what the date is. I go outside, of course, but I don’t really have any place to go besides taking a walk around the mountain and the seasons are pretty much winter, winter, winter and a two week summer. Okay, I’m exaggerating but the days do get really monotonous. “I’m just tired. My brain hasn’t woken up yet,” I say with a yawn.
“Did you study for your anatomy test?” she asks as she scoops a slightly burnt pancake off the griddle and onto a plate.
I sigh inwardly. Sometimes it’s rough being home schooled by a doctor. Other kids get to just go over the highlights in subjects like anatomy but Dad not only makes me learn the names and functions of all of the body’s systems down to the minutest detail but also the diseases associated with them and their treatment. “Yeah, and I think I’m developing cataracts from all reading I had to do.”
“You don’t get cataracts from reading,” Dad says as he floats into the room and gives me a pat on the shoulder leaving my skin slightly cooler than it was even through the sweatshirt I had thrown on over my long sleeved tee and pajama pants I had slept in. One nice thing about living in the mountains – there aren’t any fashion police. “It smells good in here, Barb.” He floats over to the bacon and inhales deeply. Dad really misses food.
“Thanks,” Aunt Barb says and then quickly flips a pancake that’s starting to smoke. Okay, science is her forte not cooking.
“Morning,” Zac says as he flops down into the chair across from me at the kitchen table. “Can I have four pancakes, Aunt Barb?”
Mom, who’s been hovering around the stove and trying hard not to remind Aunt Barb to flip the pancakes because nobody likes a critic, looks at him doubtfully. “I think your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”
While Zac is focusing his attention on Mom, I reach over and take several pieces of bacon from his plate leaving him only one. “Hey! That’s not fair,” he complains loudly when he turns back around.
Mom looks at me sternly. “Xandra, live and let live – fairly take and fairly give.”
Mom’s always spouting off things like that. It’s like living with the Dali Lama sometimes. Reluctantly, I put two pieces of bacon back on Zac’s plate and he grins smugly at me. Ignoring him, I turn to my dad. “Dad, since its my birthday and I’ve had to spend so much time preparing for the Anatomy test, can I have an extra day or two for my physics paper?”
Raising an eye brow skeptically, he considers me for a moment. Finally, he says, “Alright, you can have two more days but I want an extra page then.” Hmm, that didn’t work out exactly as I’d planned.
Mom whispers something to Aunt Barb who fishes in the pocket of her apron and pulls out a small wrapped box. Turning her ghostly body to me again, Mom has a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye. “I’ve been saving this for you. My mother gave it to me when I was your age and her mother gave it to her.” That surprised me. Mom doesn’t usually talk about her parents and will become tight lipped if asked about them. I assume they had some sort of falling out and I don’t even know if they’re still alive or not.
Aunt Barb sets the gift on the table and I pull at the paper and open the box. Inside is one of the most unusual and beautiful bracelets I have ever seen. It’s a cord tied in knots and in between the knots are pieces of stones in a variety of colors. “It’s pretty, Mom, thank you. What’s this stone,” I ask pointing to a green stone with flecks of red in it.
“That’s called a bloodstone,” she replies. “The green matches the color of your eyes perfectly. Do you really like it?”
I nod. “It’s great.”
“Good, I’m glad. I have one more thing for you that has also been in my family for generations.” She nods to Aunt Barb who fishes another small box out of her apron and sets it on the table next to my plate of cooling pancakes.