The Ghost In My Bedroom

By: Heather Jones

CHAPTER 1

Ryan stared furiously at my father, who upon my mother’s instructions, decided to paint his room pink just before my arrival. He glared at my mother as she went about her day. Watching her belly get bigger. Knowing that I was coming. Waiting for his death to turn upside down. He had a nice little hiding spot up here in his room. He wished everyone would just go away. He waited and wished and waited some more, knowing that his wishing went unheard by anyone. He knew that I was coming, he just didn’t know what I was bringing.

Our first night together in the house, he stood at the foot of my crib and glared at me. “What right do you think you have? This is my room, get out of here! How dare you do this to me!” he shouted in frustration. The fact that I was there was an intrusion of his privacy. The fact that he was there was an aberration of nature. But I was just a baby, how was I supposed to know that?

Ryan realized I could see him fairly early on. One time, sick of my crying, he started to sing a lullaby in hopes it would get me to shut up. Much to his amazement, it worked, so he would continue to sing me his favorite songs from his life. I would respond favorably to his soft voice, the haunting melodies had the desired effect and helped him to pass the time. And besides, it wasn’t like anyone else could see or hear him.

When I was a toddler and starting to talk, my mother worried about my well being as I would point and babble incessantly at nothing. Maybe there’s a bug flying around, she would think and go about her business. Ryan would sit and smirk like it was our own little secret. At some point he found he had grown quite fond of me. Maybe it was because I was the only person in the world who could see him. Maybe he had a soft spot for babies. Maybe because he was perverting an innocent mind with his ruffian ways.  In any case, he found himself following me around everywhere when I was home.

When I was around three, I would have tea parties in my room with my dolls and tea set around a tiny table. There would always be a spot set for an empty chair. One day my mother asked if she could join and I howled there wasn’t room.

“But Lucy honey, there’s an empty seat right here.”

“No, Ryan is going to get sad if you take his seat.”

“Who is Ryan, your teddy bear?”

“No, he’s Ryan!” I exclaimed pointing directly at him. He sat there looking between me and my mom as if the fact that I just pointed him out would suddenly make her see him.

“Oh, okay, Ryan,” she said nodding to the empty seat. “Sure honey, you and Ryan have a good time then.”

“Mommy, do we have Earl Grey? Ryan likes it.”

“How do you know what Earl Grey tea is?”

“He told me.”

“No, we don’t have Earl Grey.  Just drink your juice.”

“Okay, mommy.”

My mother perused child psychology books after that and wondered if she should be worried about my state of mind, but eventually chalked it up to an imaginary friend. Besides, with my older sister Natalie now in school and another new baby arrived to take up all of her time, she was just happy that I was keeping myself busy.

It wasn’t long after that when I realized that no one else could see Ryan. I think I was in kindergarten when we had the big talk. I caught him off guard when I suddenly asked, “Ryan, are you dead?”

“What?”

“Are you dead? Are you a ghost?”

“Who told you that?”

“Well, no one else can see you, I’ve been thinking that you must be a ghost. But you’re not scary so I wasn’t sure. I thought ghosts were supposed to be really scary.”

“You’re not scared of me?”

“No, you’re just Ryan.”

“Lucy, I am a ghost.”

“How did you die?”

“I was in a car accident when I was only 19. I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt and we hit another car straight on. I flew out the front window.”

“That’s yucky.”

“Yes, Lucy, it was very yucky.”

“Why didn’t you go to Heaven?”

He sighed a long deep sigh shaking his head and answered, “I don’t know. I’m stuck with you I guess.”

“I’m glad. You’re my best friend.”

“Kid, it’s a very sad state of being when I can honestly say that the feeling is mutual.”

“Huh?”

“You are my best friend too Lucy.”

“Oh. Good.” I went off to play with my toys and left him contemplating his sorry existence.

Ryan definitely had his influence on me too. My mother would get mad when I took her scissors to my dolls clothes and punked them up, adding excessive amounts of safety pins and coloring their hair in bright colors with my markers. My mother hated it, but Ryan seemed to like it, and I liked it when he was happy. He even talked me into dying my dirty blond hair flaming red using cherry gelatin. When it permanently stained my hair, she took me to the hairdresser and had them cut it all off to teach me a lesson. After that, I was more careful about the things I did for Ryan’s enjoyment.

But eventually it happened. I turned into an obnoxious pre-teen. I was into boy bands, talking on the phone to boys, talking on the phone to my friends about boys, and just absolutely boy crazy. Ryan came to absolutely detest being in the same room with me as I would play my boy band music constantly, and so for a while I hardly saw him. He attempted to see if my sister Natalie would be as friendly towards a ghost as I had been, and tried to get her to see him for a long time. I think she did once, late at night as she was coming from our bathroom. Instead of going back to her room, she begged me to let her get into my bed, and I only did because she sounded so scared to be alone. I asked Ryan about it the next day.

“Did Natalie see you last night?”

“I think she did. Why do you care anyway, don’t you have some friends to go talk to? You never have time for me anymore, and I’m so bored, I thought I might try making a new friend.”

“I don’t think she wants to be your friend. I think she is terrified that our house is haunted.”

“But your house is haunted, Lu.”

“She didn’t know that and she was happier not knowing. I don’t think you should bother her anymore.”

“Whatever,” he said and shuffled off. It was a few years after that when I outgrew the boy bands, I became irritated with my friends who hadn’t outgrown talking on the phone and just stopped answering. I started wearing black all the time, which my mother again wondered about, but decided she had bigger problems to deal with as my older sister was still sleeping inexplicably with the lights on in her room.

It was when I was in high school that Ryan started talking to me again. My parents weren’t thrilled with the local public high school so they bussed me off to a private school with uniforms and everything. None of my grade school friends went there and it took me a long time to meet anyone new. But one day after school as I was heading for the bus stop, a girl with brilliant blue hair was sucking on a cigarette with a familiar song blaring in her headphones. I tapped the girl on the shoulder and she turned and blew smoke in my face.

“What?” she demanded lifting up a headphone.

“Uh, hi. Can you tell me what you’re listening to?”

“It’s ‘Just Like Heaven’, you know, The Cure?” She rolled her eyes at me and went back to being an outcast loiterer.

I heard Ryan sing this song so many times but I never actually heard it for real. It was magnificent. As I headed out to the bus stop I decided I would have to pick up the CD next time I was at a music store. I found the song on Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, I smiled at the big red lips on the cover and headed to the register. I barely had enough babysitting money to pay for it. When I got home, Ryan was in my room. As usual he got up to leave as I entered but I asked him to hold on, I had a surprise for him. I hid the CD as I fumbled with the packaging, finally I got it in the CD player and forwarded to “Just Like Heaven”, as I didn’t know the other songs. I waited with anticipation watching his face expecting a happy reaction. Instead, his face grew very serious and he looked like he was going to cry. I hit stop and apologized, “Sorry, sorry, I guess I got it wrong.”

He shook his head wildly, “Don’t stop, don’t stop it, Lucy, do you know it’s been like 20 years since I’ve heard that song? How did you know what this was?”

“I recognized the tune from you singing it way back when I was little. I heard it on the radio and I really liked it and some girl with blue hair told me it was The Cure. So I went and bought the CD. I thought you would like it.”

“I love it,” he whispered. “Can you start over from the beginning?”

“Absolutely,” I grinned and started the CD for him. He closed his eyes and hugged himself as the bass line started on the first song. I listened in a kind of trance. I knew all the words but I had never even heard the actual album. Ryan jumped on the bed and started singing at the top of his lungs. He went on like that for the whole album. And then we played it again. I went down to dinner and he played it again. I came up to do homework and he played it again. I got ready for bed and he played it again. I was trying to fall asleep and he played it again. I woke up in the morning and it was still playing. I got home from school and it was still playing.

Finally at the end of the album he paused it (how he was able to do certain things I never understood, but now apparently he was able to work the CD player.) “So Lucy,” he said. “Just how much money do you make at this babysitting?”

“Not a whole lot, why?”

“I’ll be your best friend if you get me another CD.”

“You’ll be my best friend?”

“Yes.”

“But you don’t have any other friends. In fact you don’t have anyone but me.”

“True.”

“So you’ve barely talked to me in two or three years and I buy you a CD and now we’re BFFs’?”

“What’s BFF?”

“Best friends forever.”

“Yes, you are my best friend forever!”

“Ryan…”

“Yes?”

“I’m just a little bit pissed at you right now!” I stormed out of my room with my schoolbag and went to do my homework at the kitchen table. He was already down there. How he managed to do that I never understood either. I dropped my book bag on the floor and glared at him. My younger sister Anastasia was sitting at the table eating cheese and crackers and asked what my deal was. She was just getting into that irritating preteen phase that I just came out of. I huffed “nothing” and dug my books out and slammed them on the table.

“Why were you playing your music all night long, I could hear it in my room, it was driving me crazy.”

“Oh, sorry Stazi. I’m getting familiar with a new album.”

“Well, do you think you can turn it off tonight so I can get some sleep?”

“Yes, I will be sure to do so,” I said and kicked the chair that Ryan was sitting in. 

“What is wrong with you?” she asked shaking her head as she went back to her own book. Ryan sat there smiling at me with his hands folded on the table. He waited patiently still smiling as I sat there until dinner, and continued following me around the house until we were alone again in my room behind closed doors.

“What!?! What do you want from me Ryan?”

“I just want you to know how much I appreciate that you got this for me. I’m hoping that you like it too. You know I used to sing to you all the time while you were growing up, I think our initial connection was through music. And all these years there’s been a kind of emptiness and I thought I would forget all my favorite songs. Then you brought this home and I am so amazed and touched that you would do this for me. I was starting to loose hope that we would ever be friends again, you went through that horrible phase, and lately you’re turning into someone that I would have been friends with when I was still alive.”

“Oh.”

“I don’t want you to go out of your way or anything. It’s just that it’s so boring being dead. I have nothing to do while you’re at school. I don’t have to sleep so I have the whole night to keep myself busy too. I usually read a book but I’ve read all your books a million times. And there’s not a whole lot else going on around here. It’s just not easy being me. And you are all I have.”

“Oh.”

“So just think about it you know, put yourself in my shoes for a day.”

“Ryan?”

“Yeah?”

“Sorry. I’m sorry about everything. I never thought about it from your perspective.”

“Well, you’ve been kind of self centered until lately.”

I sighed and shook my head. “Look, I’m going to bed, you can keep listening but can you keep it down or put headphones on or something?”

“Absolutely.” He went and turned down the volume so I could barely hear and gave me a thumbs up. I nodded and went out to the bathroom, wondering to myself if this was the start of a renewed friendship with my very own ghost or if he was just using me to buy him more music.

But it turned out The Cure was quickly turning into my favorite band too, with every new CD I bought. Then he introduced me to The Clash, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, and all his other favorites. We would play them all the time and sing along and dance, mope, laugh and languor, whatever the mood that struck us. We grew closer through the music. It was an odd relationship, as he really wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place.

At some point I realized that Ryan was the perfect boy, and somewhere along the line I thought I might be in love with him. However much I wanted him, I thought better of saying anything since I was worried about making things awkward if he didn’t feel the same way. We grew closer, we slept in the same bed together with nothing ever happening, and I regretted that nothing could ever happen. We would talk about our days and our dreams and everything that came up, something I was never comfortable doing with anyone else. I spent most of my time in my bedroom with Ryan; it seemed for a while that just being in his presence was enough.

By my junior year of high school my parents started forcing me to look into choosing a college. My mom told me not to go following some guy to a college far away. She didn’t realize quite the opposite was true, in fact I was purposely looking locally so I could commute from home just to be with Ryan. We had talked before about his existence, he tried leaving the house before, but he always ended up at the cemetery where he was buried. I knew it was impossible for him to follow me somewhere, and I worried about how many more years I could live in my parents’ house.

Then the last year of high school I found myself in a relationship with what I thought was a serious boyfriend. Julian was beautiful, an athlete with a crazy hot body, and at first I didn’t understand why he was chasing after me. I thought it was some kind of joke, it was well known at school that I was not into sports, but I finally gave in just so he would stop pestering me. He had an intensity about him that was exciting but overwhelming. We were together for most of the year, until we got in a huge fight just a couple weeks before the prom and we broke up. So I didn’t go to my prom, and I missed out on the big teenage rite of passage. Ryan was very sweet that night, he watched a bunch of sappy movies with me and handed me tissues as I cried and cried, not once saying anything hurtful which is very unusual for him. He let me bitch and complain, he sat there and listened as I whined about how guys suck, he agreed with me as I swore they only wanted sex, he didn’t even try to defend himself as a member of the gender on my diatribe against men.

And so the end of my high school career ended in a big mountain of suck. I leached onto my best living friend Ling, who was pretty much inseparable with her boyfriend Alex. I felt like the biggest intruder on their relationship, but I didn’t really care. I was miserable, and yet Ryan seemed positively delighted by my breakup, stating numerous times how he knew Julian was psycho and he always hated that guy. The more he gloated the more I had to get away. Poor Alex must have thought I was the biggest cock-blocker. I hung out with Ling every spare moment I had, I even went so far as to invite myself to her graduation. I sat in the bleachers fanning myself that hot June day to cheer them both on, although he didn’t seem quite as appreciative as she did.

I had gotten myself a job at a fabric store, working as many hours as I could possibly get in order to keep myself busy and save money for school. The fabric store seemed like a smart choice since I was going to college for fashion design, but it was not very glamorous at all. Ling had worked at her parents restaurant holding down the counter since long before it was legal for her to work, she was content to keep at it since her parents were pretty flexible with when she came and went, as long as she was there when they were busy. It also meant she got paid under the table, no taxes lost there. Besides that, she had Alex who paid for everything when they were out, who also paid for me on the times I found myself tagging along. It was a tolerable situation, despite being a perpetual third wheel.

Since Ling was my constant parasitic host, she made me pay for it by making me sew things for her. So one day as my shift ended she came up to me at the cutting table with a bolt of plaid fabric. “Hey do you think you can make me a skirt in this fabric?”

“Yeah, what kind of skirt?”

“I think a mini kilt with big fat pleats and one of those big pins.”

“A kilt pin?”

“Yes, that’s it! How much fabric do I need?”

“How short do you want it to be?”

She motioned obscenely high up on her leg.

“Not a whole lot.” I unrolled the bolt of fabric and held it from her waist to where she indicated high up on her thigh. “I guess this much and double it because we’re pleating it and another few inches for the hem and the waistband, so it’s probably just a yard.” I always overestimated for fear of not having enough. I had a closetful of leftover scraps; I figured I’d make a crazy quilt one day should I ever have enough to get that far.

“Seven dollars a yard, cheap skirt!” 

I cut the fabric and filled out her slip and she paid at the register while I clocked out.

“So let’s go back to my house and make you a skirt.”

“Yay!” Ling was always very appreciative when I made her stuff, and she always wanted something that was very short, or very hardly there. It was fun because she would hold still like a real life dress form and let me pin stuff right to her clothes, she thought it was so exciting. I tried making stuff for my family and they never wore anything. There were a few years at Christmas when everyone got something homemade and I never saw anyone wear any of it. After a couple years I took the hint and just stopped making the effort.

She gabbed about Alex on the way home, how he was such a wonderful boyfriend, how she was so in love with him, how she hoped I would find the right guy who wouldn’t dump me before the prom even though it was too late now. She really didn’t have any tact when it came to that sort of thing. It put me back into moping mode, her being so happy in love, me being quite lonely. Eventually she picked up on it and said “You know what you’re problem is, you are just determined to be miserable, and it’s not going to get you anywhere. How do you think you are ever going to meet someone new when you are exuding such bitterness.”

“So you think I should be just all bubbly and cheerful like you even though I feel dead inside?”

“Exactly.”

“It’s not that easy to just switch it on like that. And I like my misery.”

“Whatever, Miss Melancholy.”

“Shut up Mrs. Alex.”

She giggled and bounced and started humming happily and that got my spirits up a little so I joined in the chorus with her. She had that effect, even when I didn’t want it.

Once at my house we headed straight up stairs and I found Ryan stretched out on the bed. He groaned and said “Oh hurray, if it isn’t Dingaling herself.” I gave him a nasty look, not being able to give a verbal reply since she had no idea Ryan was here. I never told anyone about my ghost, let alone that I could even see them; it was just our little secret.

She pulled the fabric from the bag and started wrapping it around her, then folded it up and looked at herself in the mirror, “Yeah, this is a good length.”

“Honey, I don’t think you can bend over without showing off your underwear if it’s that short.”

“That’s ok, I’m only going to wear it when Alex is around.”

Ryan stood behind her making stupid gestures and I swatted away at his face pretending there was a fly. “Shoo!” I yelled, fluttering my hand over her shoulder.

She turned her head and said, “I think it’s gone.”

“Nasty little bugger. Hold that while I get some pins.” I turned my back to her and rummaged through my desk. Be nice or get out, I mouthed to Ryan and he flopped back on the bed folding his arms and glaring at me. He never liked it when anyone else was in his space, as he still thought it to be.

I pinned away to mark the length and measured her waist for the waistband length and started cutting.

“I think it’s so amazing how you can do this, you know that?” she said as I worked around her.

“It’s not that hard to figure out a pleated skirt, you just fold it a lot and viola.” I laid the fabric on the floor and cut the length out and started folding it, and cut another length out and started folding it. Then cut a long straight piece for her waistband with enough to overlap for a buttonhole. Crap, we didn’t get any buttons at the store.

“Here, look through this and find a button for the closure,” I threw my little candy box of buttons at her and she went through it like it was fine jewelry, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at all the different styles until she found one she liked that matched the fabric.

“Can you leave the hem undone so it frays? I think that will look so cool.”

“Yeah, that makes things easier actually.” I started pinning the pleats into the waistband and set up the sewing machine. “Can you turn on the iron?” She plugged it in and I started sewing. I could have done a much nicer job but she wouldn’t know the difference, and I was done in a matter of minutes. I made the buttonhole and hand stitched the button, then pressed all the pleats flat and held it up. “Oh hello! We have achieved skirt!”

“I love it!” She took it and went out to the bathroom to go put it on.

“Are you guys going to be here all night, because you know I think it is quite possible to bore me to death, even though I’m already dead…” Ryan chimed in from the bed.

“Always with the attitude, you’re just jealous because I know people other than you.”

“Maybe so, but still, bring home a girl that doesn’t gush on and on about her boyfriend and I might be a bit more tolerant.” Ryan rolled over on the bed with his back to me. I looked at the clock seeing it was about dinnertime. “Don’t worry, we’re leaving soon to go get pizza at mister fabulous’ pizza place. So you’ll have plenty of time to yourself.”

“Wonderful. I can’t wait.”

Ling came back in and did a little spin so the pleats flew out. “Perfect! Where is my kilt pin?”

“Here,” I said and pinned it to her skirt to keep the opening flap down.

She looked at herself in the mirror. “Lu, you are a genius! Do you think it’s a little long?”

“No,” I replied, ignoring Ryan’s yes from the bed.

“I can’t wait to show Alex. Are you hungry yet, do you want to go now?”

“Yeah, let’s get out of here.”

Ryan nodded in agreement, “Yes, please take her away.”

I shook my head at him in despair and followed Ling out the door and down the stairs. Alex’s pizza place (not really his but we referred to it as that) was just about a 10-minute walk away. There were a few tables there, in an obnoxiously bright corner shoved in next to an old arcade game. Most people would take away their pizzas and cheese steaks, but Ling liked to come and watch her man in action. He saw us walk in and headed for the counter.

“Hey babe,” he said leaning over for a kiss. “Let me guess, 2 slices of plain, 2 diet cokes?”

“Yep,” I answered for us while she was busy running her hands over his chest. He removed her hands reluctantly and went to fill up 2 sodas for us and handed them over. We went and sat down at a table next to the arcade game. It beeped and flashed at us and beckoned us to play, but it was too stupid to be bothered with.

Ling was checking out her man behind the counter when she said, “I think Jon is looking at you...”

“Who?” I said, looking over and catching the eye of some guy behind the counter who quickly looked away and started talking to Alex.

“Jon. J-O-N,” she spelled out. “You know, that guy back there that isn’t Alex.”

“You know him?”

“He was in my class at school, just graduated with us. Actually, he’s probably just your type, kind of a weirdo but coolish too. And he’s really funny. Smart too.”

“Whatever.”

“Come on, don’t you think he’s cute?”

“I don’t know,” I stammered, looking up again. He had shaggy brown hair held captive by a baseball cap. A dirty apron covered his black flour dusted t-shirt. He wasn’t as tall as Alex, he seemed to have an average build. He was not someone I would have picked out of a crowd and called the cute one. He saw me looking at him and it was my turn to turn away.

I turned my focus back to Ling changing the subject. “So I didn’t tell you, I checked the movie times, that comedy starts at 9:30, or the scary movie starts around 10, I don’t really mind which one we see, I guess it just depends on what you guys want to do…” I was rudely interrupted by someone leaning over my shoulder, who placed a slice of pizza in front of me. I swear he leaned into my hair and took a deep breath. This Jon guy was totally invading my space, what the hell?

“So ladies, going out to the movies tonight huh, sounds nice.”

“Hi Jon,” Ling said turning into her bubbly self. “How’s it going? This is my very best friend Lucy.”

“Hi?” I stammered.

“Hi,” he said staring at me. After a moment of me not saying anything, he backed off and anxiously said, “Well, enjoy your pizza.”

Ling playfully kicked me under the table, “Oh my gosh Lu, he is so into you. We should invite him out with us tonight.”

“Seriously?”

“He was totally flirting with you, and you don’t even seem to notice. Body language shows all the signs, he likes you.”

“Wonderful.”

“Oh come on, he’s really cute. I’m going to tell Alex he should bring him with us tonight.”

“Oh god.”

She got up and bounced over to the counter and started getting Alex’s attention but instead shouted over to Jon directly. “Hey Jon, do you want to come to the movies with us tonight?”

Alex looked over at me in pity and shrugged, he was used to Ling’s erratic behavior when she thought she was doing good. He turned to Jon and said something I couldn’t hear, there was a bit of an exchange between the three of them I couldn’t make out. I just started sliding down in my chair hoping no one would notice me still sitting alone. A satisfied Ling came back and settled herself into her chair and said, “Okay, he’s coming tonight. Jon and Lucy sitting in a tree…”

I kicked her under the table, not playfully.

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