Authors: Gail Gallant
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LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA CATALOGUING IN PUBLICATION
Apparition / Gail Gallant.
Issued also in electronic format.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Cover image: (girl) © solominviktor/shutterstock; (boy) © Fuse/Getty Images; (barn) ©
Cover design: Terri Nimmo
Published in Canada by Doubleday Canada,
a division of Random House of Canada Limited
For my dearly departed friend,
pull open the curtains on my bedroom window and see the neighbour’s tabby cat creeping through the remains of our once-loved garden like it’s walking a tightrope.
Don’t fall, kitty
. I look a little closer and there she is: my mother in her heavy blue sweater, down on her hands and knees by one of the old flower beds, carefully picking at weeds. I knew it was going to be one of
My mother died three years ago.
I lean my forehead against the cold glass and watch her. As always, she seems worried. I take a deep breath, pull myself away from the window and check my face in the dresser mirror. I look like a witch, and not the sexy Halloween-costume kind. Before I leave my bedroom, I take one last look out into the garden, knowing that, this time, she probably won’t be there. Yeah, she’s gone. It’s been two years since I lied and told my grandmother I don’t see her anymore. It’s only my imagination, apparently, so what’s the point of more time in stupid psychotherapy?
I walk into the kitchen, head down, hair hiding my face, and Joyce gives me a double take.
“Well, you’ve looked better. What’s up?” My grandmother doesn’t believe in “mincing words”—that’s her phrase.
“Not much,” I say. “I think I might be getting a cold or something. Nothing serious.”
I grab a box of cereal from the cupboard and a bowl from the dish rack and sit down at the far end of the table, hoping the cereal box will block me from her hawk eyes. I can still feel them on me, though, from where she’s perched against the counter. Time for a distraction.
“But no problem getting started on the packing today. Just let me know what you want me to do.” I try to sound sincere.
That works. She’s eager to get us packing for the move. I live with my two brothers, Ethan and Jack, and my grandmother, Joyce. She prefers “Joyce” to being called Grandma or anything. We’re moving to a new house next month, outside of town. Totally her decision.
“Well, the boys have their assignment—to tackle the garage. How would you feel about starting on the basement?”
How would I feel? Like slitting my throat. “Uh, sure. I mean, do you want me to pack
down there? Are there boxes?” Ugh.
“Lots of boxes, and tape and markers to label them. All downstairs.”
“Okay. I’ll get started after breakfast.” Could anything be worse than spending the day in the basement, packing stuff I’d rather set on fire?
Ethan bounds down the stairs, heading straight for the living room to flick on the TV. He’s fourteen, two years younger than me, but he acts like a little kid. Watching TV and playing video games, that’s Ethan’s whole life since Mom died. I can’t even remember what he used to be like.
The phone rings. Joyce calls for Ethan to turn down the volume, answers it and immediately assures whoever’s on the line that this
isn’t a bad time to call. She listens. “Oh dear,” she says. “Well, Amelia is sitting right here.” She walks across the kitchen and holds the receiver out to me. “It’s Mrs. Sorenson,” she whispers.
Matthew’s mother? What does she want? And it’s Sunday morning. Why isn’t she in church?
“Hello, Mrs. Sorenson?” I say into the phone, and as soon as I speak, the hurt comes flooding back.
“Amelia, do you know where Matthew is? He never came home last night.” She sounds upset.
I hesitate, trying to imagine Matthew pulling an all-nighter.
“No … no, I don’t know where he is.” I try to concentrate. “Did … did he say where he was going when he left the house?” I’m not sure I want to admit I saw him.
“He was in a strange mood last evening. He left without telling us and took his father’s truck. I’m sorry to bother you, but I didn’t know whom else to ask. You are his closest friend.”
Hearing that makes the pain even worse. I’m thinking,
Yeah, that’s what I thought too
Just then Ethan walks into the kitchen, and I can hear Joyce telling him that Matthew is missing.
“Well, he was with Amelia last night,” Ethan blurts out, blinking hard, his mouth twitching. Ethan has nervous facial tics, but Joyce doesn’t want us to talk about it. Now she turns her death-ray eyes on me. Mrs. Sorenson just said something, but I’m not sure what it was. I turn my back to Joyce so she won’t read my face.
“If I hear anything at all, I promise to call right away,” I say. I can’t wait to hang up. I’m not about to tell Mrs. Sorenson that Matthew’s probably spent the night with some strange girl. She won’t like that one bit. Serves him right if he’s in deep trouble. He’ll have to dig himself out. As I put down the phone, my grandmother jumps on me.
“Ethan says you were with Matthew last night. I thought you were over at Morgan’s.” Joyce is pretty scary when she’s interrogating. “Do you know where Matthew is or not?”
“No, I don’t.” I give Ethan the evil eye. “Matthew just passed me on the road when I was walking home from Morgan’s and gave me a lift the rest of the way. I was with him for, like, five minutes, and I don’t know where he went from there.”
“Well, you seemed a little odd when you came in last night.”
Damn. She must have managed to clock me in that split second as I passed the kitchen door. I have to admit that my grandmother is pretty sharp most of the time. For her age, I mean. Compared with a lot of the parents in Owen Sound, she’s Einstein. She doesn’t miss much. That’s why I try to stay outside her radar range.
“We didn’t have a fight. Nothing like that. I was a little irritated at him, but it was nothing major.” She’s listening intently now, and I know I’m caught. “It was just something he said.” I pause, looking down at the cereal getting soggy in the bowl. The sight of it makes me want to hurl.
“Well, if it has anything to do with why he didn’t go home last night, you should tell his parents.”
I know that not saying anything will only make this an even bigger drama, so I force myself to explain.
“He told me he was off to hook up with a girl, that’s all. I was just pissed because he was all so secretive, and we’re supposed to be such good friends. So I felt a bit … betrayed. No big deal. But you know, it’s none of
Joyce sees through me, I can tell. It’s pretty bad when even your grandmother knows you are secretly in love with your best friend. I suddenly feel like I’m going to start crying again—as if I didn’t do enough of that last night—so I grab my cereal bowl
and leave the kitchen, mumbling that I’ll start work on the packing in a minute.
Back in my room, I put the bowl of mushy cereal on my dresser and crash down on my bed, quietly crying again.
ast night, I was taking a shortcut along Industrial Road after spending the evening watching TV with my friend Morgan. The chilly breeze was rustling brown leaves along the edge of the asphalt. There was a line of trees on my left with an empty field beyond, and the shopping mall’s rear parking lot on my right. After closing time, the lot was deserted. Not another soul in sight. Just pools of light around lampposts, and the silhouette of an abandoned car.
Somewhere in the distance behind me, I could hear this engine approaching. The noise quickly got louder.
Somebody in a hurry
, I thought.
Where’s the freakin’ fire?
An old black pickup truck blew past me. But about a hundred yards up the road its brake lights lit up, which was strange, because there’s nothing on that stretch to stop for. A homicidal maniac tracking his next victim, I figured. Wouldn’t it just be my luck?
I had a lot on my mind. First of all, it was finally starting to sink in with me that Joyce really
going to make us move out of town.
And secondly, I was stressing about Brittany, who was at Morgan’s place too. Morgan’s my best girlfriend but we’re not always that close. She’s pretty chummy with Brittany, which I really don’t get. Anyway, Brittany let slip that they’d both been invited to a Halloween party that I didn’t even know about. With my family moving outside of town, out of the only house I’ve ever lived in, I knew I was going to get left out of everything from now to forever.
And thirdly, there was Matthew.
Up ahead, the truck had crawled to a stop, like it was waiting for me, and now I was pissed off at myself for taking such a deserted route home. I didn’t even have my cellphone on me. But I kept walking, imagining the attention that my gruesome death might bring. My name in the paper. My picture, even. Hopefully a decent picture and not my hideous school photo. That’s when I came up alongside the truck, its engine still running and the passenger’s window rolled down. Matthew, leaning over from the driver’s seat, stuck his head out, grinning at me. What a shock! I’d never seen that truck before, and he doesn’t even have a driver’s licence. He shouted my name over the engine noise. “Amelia!”
If you’d asked me before last night, I would have said that Matthew was my very best friend and favourite person in the world. Only that would have been lying. The truth is, I’ve been madly, pathetically in love with him for ages, and trying not to show it. It all began three years ago, I guess, at a real low point in my life, right after my mother died. He started paying attention to me, for no reason. We sat together in math, and then at lunch and in the library, and this year in history class. Mostly we just talk a lot. We’re always having these big arguments, but somehow we manage to stay friends. We disagree on everything—TV shows, tattoos, the point of life, whatever. His parents are super-religious Christians and I was raised without any of that, so he’s always
trying to save my soul. He’s got an answer for everything. He gets so enthusiastic about his ideas and opinions it’s almost funny. I’ve never met anyone who can get so intense just talking about ordinary stuff. I’ve known for ages I was in love with him, but I’ve been terrified to tell him. He doesn’t even suspect.