“Cari.” I had been trying to ignore her voice for what seemed like hours, but it was getting harder to pretend that she wasn’t giggling softly in the back of my mind. Her voice sounded too sweet, like a bee moments before it stings you, but even then the cold in it seeped out. The hint of her victory which she wasn’t trying to hide now that she had it.
“Do you like the twist I added, my plaything?” I didn’t know how long I had been lying on my sofa like this. I hadn’t moved since Wave had left, but when had that been? Ten minutes ago? An hour ago? Ten hours ago?
My whole body was aching. My head felt like it was about to split open, and the sound of her satisfied laughter only made the feeling worse.
I tried to move my hand, and when it responded I wrapped it around my arm gripping hard despite knowing that all efforts of protecting myself were coming too late.
“I only thought of it in the last moment, but don’t you think it adds a nice piece of irony?” I didn’t want to hear another whisper in my mind, but knew that she wasn’t going to leave until she was happy. She never did. She could do what she wanted, and there was nothing I could do about it. I really was her plaything.
I didn’t know what else I could possibly have given her. She already had everything she had wanted from me.
“I know you can hear me, Cari. Ignoring me isn’t going to help you now, but you already know that, don’t you? Nothing is going to help you now. You’re mine. You’ve always been mine.”
A tear rolled down my cheek, and I felt my throat tightening up again.
I was pregnant.
I was definitely, without a doubt, pregnant. Because there was no way she would go to such lengths and mess up part way through. Even if she had – would it have mattered? Couldn’t she just possess Wave again until I was pregnant?
But I already was, so it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered.
“Don’t you think it was clever that he fulfilled my wish on your sofa? After all, it already nearly happened there once – I thought it was a nice sentiment, wouldn’t you say?”
And I couldn’t even hate Wave for it, because Wave hadn’t done it. He had been played by the ghost as much as I had been. The only ones I could blame were the ghost and myself. The ghost, for obvious reasons, and myself, because I should never have entered that cave to begin with. And because I should never have promised her my first-born child.
More tears rolled down my face, but my face was so numb by now that I didn’t feel them any more.
“Aren’t you excited, Cari? You’ll be giving birth to a ghost- Oh, I’m so sorry!” I could see her ugly smirk in front of me without needing to physically see it. The look of it had burnt itself into my memory clearly enough for me to picture it just fine now. My stomach clenched uncomfortably at her words, and I thought I was going to be sick. Could humans even…? “I never told you that part, did I! How silly of me.”
So my child was to be born a ghost. Even if I somehow managed to keep it save, it would never have a good life. Not like that. My child would never fit in.
I had been so stupid.
I had been so, so stupid.
“Oh, don’t feel bad! Your little one will seek me out so quickly you probably won’t have time to get to know him, anyway. That’s something, now, isn’t it?”
I didn’t say anything. I wasn’t sure I still knew how to speak.
“This is so exciting! And it looks like you get to explain what happened in a few brief moments! You poor thing – I sure would hate to be you right now!” Her laughter echoed painfully in my head, and I wished it would just burst open already. That way, all my problems would be solved in one quick, easy fix.
“Don’t think just because you can’t hear me it means that I’m gone! I’m always watching, remember? Now, go and amuse me, my plaything. Make our last nine months worth my time.”
And just like that, she was gone from my mind. No more laughter, no more smirking, no more-
Just, she was still there. I knew she was still there. I could feel her somewhere, at the back of mind, like she was a dream I was trying to remember.
True to her word, the door to my dojo opened, and I felt sick. How was I going to explain to Dad that I was pregnant? That Wave had been possessed by a ghost who had made him ra- How was I going to explain it to Honey? To Misty?
Not sure if I was still crying or not, I listened to my sister’s footsteps as she entered my dojo.
“Cari? Are you in here?” If I tried hard enough I could just about see her through the gaps in the wall, but it hurt my eyes to keep them open, so I closed them again.
“There you are! Did you sleep in here last night? Dad and I were worried when you didn’t come to bed but we thought you were just train- Were you crying?” I didn’t need a mirror to know that my make-up must have left dark, smudgy trails when it had dried on my face, so there was no reason for me to speak. The answer she needed was right there, on my face.
When I didn’t respond, Honey rushed across the room and bent down besides me. “Cari, look at me.” But I kept staring blankly ahead. My eyes were hurting so badly I wanted to keep them closed for the rest of my life, but closing them meant that I had to move them, and I didn’t want to move a muscle. “Can you sit up?”
My sister’s fingers were gently brushing against my cheeks, and I felt new tears well up. Barely visibly, I nodded.
“Good. Would you mind sitting up for me so I can look at you properly?” Since nothing made sense any more no matter what I did, I sat up. “Let’s see… You don’t seem to be injured as far as I can tell. Are you hurting?”
“Where?” Since I wasn’t sure how to signal her that I was hurting everywhere, inside and out, I continued to stare at my feet. “Here. Come on, let me help you up.” Not convinced that my feet would carry me I let Honey pull me to my feet.
The moment I was standing more or less upright she pulled me into her arms, and I started sobbing the second her arms had closed around me and her hand was stroking slowly over my back.
How did I still have tears left? Shouldn’t I have run out by now?
“It’s all right. Tell me what happened.” It’s all right. Growing up Honey had said those words to me a lot. Whether I had scraped a knee or done badly on a test at school, she had somehow always fixed everything by telling me that everything would be all right.
For once, I couldn’t believe her, because for once I knew better than her.
“It’s okay. Take your time. We don’t have to leave until you’re feeling better.” I still didn’t want to get her involved in this, I really didn’t, but she was so understanding, and so calm, and I-
“Wait, slow down. What’s that about a ghost?”
I took a deep breath in as best as I could with my breath shaking as much as it did, and started over.
“When we w-went to China I went into a cave. A g-ghost was inside it and she c-cursed m-m-me. I tried to find a cure, but there isn’t one! I was g-going to d-d-die! But she offered m-me a d-deal and I t-took it and I- I-”
And I had never been such an idiot. Had I really thought that she wouldn’t find a way? Why else would she have suggested it in the first place?
She always won. I knew that now.
I was stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
And now I had gotten Honey involved.
“Sssh, it’s okay.” Even Honey didn’t sound so sure any more. “What was the deal?”
“She s-said… She s-said I could be n-normal again, if I gave her s-something.”
“And you accepted?” I nodded, really hoping she wouldn’t ask for details, but of course she wanted to know the rest. “What did you have to give her?”
I really didn’t want to have to look into her eyes for this, but she held me slightly away from her and looked right into mine.
“My f-first child.”
“But you’re with Misty, Cari. The procedure for same-sex couples to have a baby is still too risky, I’d never let you do it.” Honey gave me a smile, but it did nothing for me. “You’re not going to have any biological children, but you can always adopt! If you and Misty even stay together. You’re both young, right? See? It’s fine! There’s nothing to worry about as long as you don’t go through with the pr-” Before my sister could finish her well-meant explanation, the door flew open and we heard feet run across the floor.
“Cari! Oh Berry, I only just woke up in our garden and I- Oh fudge, Cari, I’m so sorry!” We both stared as Wave stood bending over right there, in front of us, looking every bit as miserable as I was.
“Wave! What do you-” Again he cut off Honey who was staring at him, not quite grasping yet what he was apologising for.
“Fudge! Cari, you have to believe me! I didn’t mean to- I didn’t want to- Berry, I remember what I did, but I swear to the great Berry above I didn’t want to do it! I didn’t- It wasn’t me!” Wave had never sounded so desperate before. His own voice was shaky, and I thought I could see tears building up in his eyes, too.
But it wasn’t enough to stop Honey. I watched as realisation replaced the confusion in her eyes, and she stepped between me and Wave, no longer staring but glaring.
“What did you do.”
“I- Fudge!” His voice failed, and ended in a high pitch I hadn’t known boys were capable of as Honey stepped right in front of him. “I didn’t- It wasn’t me! Cari, please! I’d never-”
“No! Please, Cari, let me just-”
“There is nothing that you can say either to me or my sister that will make right what you did. Get. Out.”
“If you just let me talk to her alone for just a mi-”
Before I could say anything at all Honey had slapped him hard across his cheeks. “It’ll be a cold day in hell before I leave you alone with her ever again. Now get the fudge out.”
“I’m sorry.” Hanging his head in defeat, he slumped over, looking as hopeless as I was feeling.
“I’m telling her brothers what you did. I’m telling her other sister what you did. I’m telling Dad what you did. If we see you here again your Kung Fu skills won’t protect you.”
With that, Wave left. I knew he was crying, but he got out so fast that I couldn’t see his face properly before he was gone.
“I-” I didn’t know what to say, but I felt I had to say something. If there was anything I could say.
“It’ll be all right, Cari, I promise. We’ll figure something out. Why don’t you sit down for now, and I’ll just give Misty and your brothers a call.” I was grateful that Honey didn’t blame any of this on Misty, but I couldn’t sit down.
I couldn’t move at all.
“Hi, Sal, it’s Honey. … Yeah, I’m fine, but I need you and Cam to come over as soon as you can. … No, not me. Cari. … Okay, I’ll see you in a bit.”
“It’ll be fine. I promise you, Cari, we’ll figure something out. I’ll just give Misty a call and then we can get you upstairs and showered, okay? You probably want to shower. Then you can lie down while I tell Dad what happened.”
I nodded, not sure what else to say.
I had to tell her that there was nothing she could do. As much as I loved her right now for everything she was doing for me, I had to tell her that the ghost had already won, no matter what she did.
But right now, in that moment, I couldn’t do that to her.