I woke up this morning with an idea for a short story bouncing around in my head, so thought I’d better quickly write it down! Enjoy 🙂
There’s a ghost in the willow tree at the end of the garden.
I can see its thin legs poking through the stringy twigs, floating high above the ground. I pick up my teddy from the floor, and tightly cuddle him as I edge closer to the window. I’m not afraid, not really. Ghosts come to visit me all the time.
I hold Teddy’s face to the glass.
You look first, I whisper. Okay, maybe I’m a little scared but I’ve not seen this ghost before. The others normally come and visit me in my room; they don’t float in trees outside in the garden.
Teddy stares right at the ghost and nothing happens, so it must be safe.
I press my face against the cold glass, but white puffy clouds come out of my nose and mouth and block my view. I wipe the glass with my arm, but it just clouds up again.
Even though it’s snowing outside and I’m not meant to, I open the window, just a crack, so I can take a proper look at the ghost. I’m sure Daddy won’t mind this one time? I pull it back an inch though, just in case.
Hello Mr Ghost, I say as loud as I dare. I don’t want to wake up Daddy in the next room.
El-lieeeeee, the ghost replies in a gargled voice.
I shrink back, frightened. How does the ghost know my name? I look at Teddy but he just stares blankly at me. Maybe one of the other ghosts told him? Yes, that must be it. I step up to the window again.
How are you tonight, Mr Ghost? I ask, because my brother Simon says you should always ask people how they are. It’s polite. Simon’s always reminding me about things like that.
The ghost doesn’t say anything back. Maybe I upset it? Ghosts’ feelings are easily hurt. I think it’s because they’re dead and they can’t play with bunnies, or eat sweets, or see their daughters anymore.
I glance over my shoulder at my bedroom door, and think maybe I should get Simon. He’d know what to say to a ghost that wouldn’t hurt its feelings. Not that Simon believes in ghosts; he says they’re just my make-believe friends. Simon once said if he wasn’t my brother, he wouldn’t be my friend either, but then he laughed, so I knew he wasn’t telling the truth. He’s my very best friend in the whole world, after Teddy.
People are always telling us you wouldn’t think we were brother and sister, as we don’t look anything alike. Simon says that’s because the stork sent me to the wrong family, because I’ve got blue eyes and straight blonde hair, and he looks just like Daddy with his curly brown hair and dark eyes. I don’t know who this stork is, but I don’t think he sent me to the wrong family, because I look just like Mummy. Or at least I think I do. I don’t really remember, but Simon says I do. He remembers her a lot. Sometimes I hear him saying her name in his sleep, and sometimes he’s crying. But that’s okay, because we all cry in our sleep sometimes.
I glance back at the ghost in the willow tree. He’s just floating there, not doing anything. He must be asleep. I know I’m tired. Maybe I should go back to bed?
Simon says he doesn’t have anything in common with Mummy, not even his looks, and thinks it’s better that she’s with her new family now, because he’d have nothing to say to her anyway, but I think that’s silly. We’d have plenty of things to talk about, like what her favourite colour is, and if she likes bunnies too and why she left us with Daddy.
I bite my bottom lip and wonder whether I should go back to bed or not, when Mr Ghost suddenly starts doing a funny dance, jerking his legs up and down. I think he wants to play! I sit Teddy on the window sill and copy the dance, moving my arms and legs in funny directions, but I must’ve done it wrong because the ghost stops dancing and just floats there again.
An icy cold wind blows into my room and my skin breaks out in goosepimples. I shiver and pick up Teddy again, pressing him against me. Maybe Mr Ghost is cold? He doesn’t seem to be wearing anything, which is strange. Usually they wear pretty things, like fancy dresses made from rubies and diamonds, or suits made from soft velvet. Ghosts are very well dressed, because they don’t have to get their clothes from jumble sales like me and Simon.
Do you want a jumper? I ask the ghost in the willow tree.
He doesn’t answer, but I think it’s because he’s too cold to say anything. Maybe he was dancing to keep himself warm?
I don’t think I like this ghost very much, he’s not very friendly. I wish one of my other ghosts has visited me tonight. I always see my friends on nights when Daddy has to ‘teach me a lesson’, which he does a lot, even when I beg and cry and tell him I don’t need to learn anything; that I’d been to school that morning, and Mrs Harris had told me how to do my nine times table – 9, 18, 27, 36, 45, 54, 63, 72, 81, 90 – see, I don’t need any more lessons!
Simon obviously agreed tonight, because he wouldn’t let Daddy teach me anything, and instead he just held me close and sung in my ear until the lesson was over. Simon’s got a nice voice. I think he could be a popstar one day. Maybe he could even join the Jonas Brothers? I like them. I told Simon this and he said he’d never be in a band with ‘those queers’. I asked him what he meant by that, and he laughed and said he’d explain it to me when I was a big girl.
But I am a big girl! I turned seven last week and we had a party, with a chocolate cake and soda pop and I even got presents! Simon got me a pair of pink fluffy slippers and even Mummy sent me a jigsaw puzzle of two bunny rabbits, because she knows I love bunnies even though I’ve never told her. But I guess mummies just know these things about their daughters. She even wrote me a card, and her handwriting was just like Simon’s! I showed it to him and grinned. See, you and Mummy do have something in common, I said. Simon just gave me a sad smile and said Isn’t that something?
I pick up Teddy, slip on my pink fluffy slippers and decide to go to the garden to speak to the ghost in the willow tree. Maybe he’s worried we’re making too much noise and doesn’t want to wake up Daddy, which is why he won’t talk to me?
I tip-toe to my bedroom door and open it slowly, making sure I don’t make a sound. I sneak down the hallway, pausing by Daddy’s room to make sure it’s safe. He’s snoring loudly, just like the troll that sleeps in the underpass on the way to school. Simon says it’s not a troll, just a homeless man and to stop throwing stones at him, but I know a troll when I see one: bad tempered, smelly and ugly.
I don’t think Daddy can hear me, so I carry on, past Simon’s room, down the stairs and out the back door leading into the garden. The snow soaks through my slippers, and freezes my toes, but I ignore it and carry on. I’m careful not to trample on the strawberry patch, knowing Simon would be mad at me. Strawberries are his favourite food.
The first time we found the strawberry patch, Simon scoffed them all down hungrily. I love strawberries, he said, then took off his socks and shoes and showed me a red, strawberry shaped mark on the bottom of his foot. See? I was born to love them. I giggled and thought I must have a sweetie shaped birthmark on me somewhere, because I love sweeties. And bunnies! And Teddy!
I feel less brave as I near the willow tree. It looks spooky in the dark and the ghost’s legs frighten me. Something about them doesn’t look right. I wish I’d brought a weapon or something to protect me. I don’t think Teddy will be much good if the ghost decides he wants to eat me. I kneel down and scoop up several handfuls of muddy snow, patting them into a snowball. I pick up a small stone and push it inside the snowball with my finger, just how Simon showed me. It’ll hurt more this way, he said, just don’t hit them in the face. That’s how Tom Pritchard lost his left eye.
I stand up, take a deep breath, and walk the rest of the way to the willow tree. I pass a pile of clothes on the ground and stop briefly, wondering what they’re doing there. Why did the ghost take his clothes off? Doesn’t he know it’s snowing? No wonder he’s cold! Maybe he was embarrassed, because his clothes are all tatty and dirty, unlike the other ghosts with their pretty clothes. I’d be embarrassed too, if I had to wear them.
I get as close to the willow tree as I dare.
Don’t eat me, Mr Ghost, I say. Or I’ll throw this at your face and you’ll lose your left eye, just like Tom Pritchard.
The ghost doesn’t respond. Feeling braver, I walk under the spaghetti twigs, which tickle my face and arms, and stand under the ghost. He’s asleep, just like I thought, his head drooped against his chest. He’s a funny grey colour, and I don’t like it. I want to run and get Simon. I want him to cuddle me and sing to me and tell me everything will be okay. But I don’t, because that’s when I see the strawberry mark on the bottom of the ghost’s foot.