“No,” I muttered to Ghost. “The answer’s ‘A’. I’m sure of it.”

“Your funeral,” said Ghost.

“Miss Bryant, is there an issue?” Teacher called from the front of the room. “A test is a solo exercise.”

“Yessir,” I muttered.

“Sucker,” said Ghost.

“SHUT UP!” I snapped.

Heads turned in my direction.

“Sorry,” I muttered, looking back down again. Teacher didn’t say anything, but I heard him sigh. This was the fourth time I’d done this this month. Mama had warned me that if I acted out again, we were going to the doctor.

But Ghost was so annoying! He wouldn’t shut up!

“That’s mean,” Ghost whined. “I do too know when to be quiet!”

“No, you don’t!” I fumed. “There! Done! Finally!”

“…are you sure about that last question?”

“ARGH!”

“Miss Bryant.” Teacher’s voice was different this time. Time-to-go-to-the-office different.

“Stupid Ghost,” I muttered.

“…sorry?”

“SHUT UP!”

I swung my legs as I sat on the…what do they call these things? Doctor’s office beds? Stretchers? Ghost would probably know, but he was sulking, since I blamed him for getting kicked out of class.

The door swung open, and I jumped. “Emily Bryant?”

“That’s me,” I said.

“I’m Doctor O’Connor. I understand you’ve been having some trouble in school…?”

“She keeps yelling things and speaking to people who aren’t there,” Mama said. “The teachers say it’s as if she’s sharing test answers with someone. But I’ve heard her doing it when she’s in her room, alone.”

The doctor raised an eyebrow. “Is she on the phone?”

“No! You don’t think I thought about that? You think I want a crazy kid?”

Doctor O’Connor tutted. “Now, ma’am, we don’t like to use the word ‘crazy’ in the –”

“Well, that’s what she is! She spends all day cooped up in her room, speaking to God knows what. She doesn’t eat, she doesn’t sleep — you can see the bags under her eyes — she doesn’t play music, she doesn’t do anything except act out and whisper to the air!”

Doctor O’Connor flipped through his clipboard. “Is there a time when this behaviour started?”

“About a year ago, I’d say.”

“And did anything happen a year ago?”

“Well, my older daughter, Emily’s sister, died.”

Doctor O’Connor tutted again. “How?”

“Suicide. Hanging.”

“Mmm.” The clipboard was tossed onto the desk. “Ma’am, how about you let Emily and I have a little alone time?”

“NO!” said Ghost, making me jump. Both Mama and the doctor noticed.

“Can you hear something, Emily?” he asked, with the gentle tone of a predator luring in its dinner. “Is there someone else here in the room with us?”

“No,” I said, flatly.

“Oh, come on!” said Ghost. “I’m right here! You can tell them.”

“No, no I can’t.”

“Are you speaking to someone, Emily?” said the doctor.

“Me!” said Ghost.

“Shut up!” I said.

“EMILY!” said Mama. “You see, Doctor? You see what she does?”

They ended up putting me on several pills. ‘Depression’, they called it. ‘Psychomotor agitation’. ‘Hallucinations’. ‘Grief’.

Idiots.

I knew what they were doing. I knew what they were after. And, as annoying as Ghost was, I’d take him over a ride in the happy farm any day.

“What are you doing?” said Ghost, as I flushed the day’s supply of pills down the toilet. “I thought you were supposed to take those!”

“They’ll make you disappear,” I said, flatly. “And, as stupid as you are, I’d miss you if you disappeared.”

“Aw, shucks, I knew you cared about me!” Ghost said, giddily.

“Shut up.”

“Anyway, there’s someone who wants to meet you.”

“Hello, Miss Emily,” a new voice said. Stiff. Stuffy. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

“He’s been begging for days,” said Ghost. “Hard guy to tell no.”

“He sounds so…stuffy,” I said.

“Stuffy? Hey, that’s excellent! Hey, Stuffy! Finally introduced you Em. Aren’t you going to say thank you?”

“I appreciate the gesture, sir,” Stuffy said formally. I could imagine him bowing.

“Anyhow, Em, you don’t need those pills, I guess, if you don’t want them. Stuffy and I will look out for you.”

I smiled, capping the pill bottle before returning it to the medicine cabinet. “I know. And thank you.”

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