I noticed her during pre-calc, a pale girl in a gray dress hanging around, peeping through the classroom window trying to catch my eye. I swore to myself and stared doggedly forward, trying to pay attention. The bell rang and I finally met her glance. She smiled, thin as a moon beam and I felt the familiar pang of sympathy. I knew I was going to spend my night helping her rather than sleeping.
I waved at her. “Okay, okay.”
The kid at the desk next to mine looked at me, looked out the window and back.
“Nut-job,” he sneered loud enough for me to hear but I ignored him. Jackass. I turned off my tablet, gathered up my stuff and shuffled through the crowded halls, thick with the smells of body odor, too much cologne and government-issue disinfectant. Everyone ignored me. Mostly because they're half-terrified afraid I'm going to crack and attack them (Yay for everyone knowing you've been to a Psychologist for hearing voices!) or because I'm a lower life form unworthy of their notice. Ah high school. These are truly the best days of our lives.
Seriously, if that were the case I'd jump off a cliff right now. I cannot wait to get out of here.
I found the pale girl lurking between the mobiles where the grass hadn’t quite been trampled down to bare earth. Most of the other kids had already left the area when I found her, so we had a little privacy. She looked only a little older than I was, maybe eighteen or nineteen. Her hair hung in rumpled ringlets and her threadbare gray dress seemed suspended from rather than worn on her bony body.
"You're the Realtor?" she asked. "Mordecai said you could help me."
Oh God. That guy. Talk about a picky customer. I still have nightmares about him.
“Yeah,” I said. It wasn’t my nicest opener but I was feeling put out again. "I take it you need a new place?"
“I got kicked out of my old one.”
Half-my job is this emergency crap. It annoys the heck out of me because it's usually so avoidable.
“Really? Just out of the blue?"
"You weren’t causing any trouble. No moaning or groaning or messing with stuff that didn’t belong to you? Your housemates just suddenly up and booted you?”
She opened her mouth to protest but I gave her my best “mom” look. The one that says "If you lie I'll know and then I'll be really pissed." I must have pulled it off because she dropped her head to look down at the scuffed buckles on her shoes.
“I didn’t mean to cause any trouble. I was just… bored. And it was rather funny.”
I tried to suppress my smile. If I was invisible I might get off on freaking out people too. Her gray dress stirred on a breeze I couldn't feel. As I watched her looking so pathetic that familiar pang of sympathy returned. Some times I really am a sucker for a hard luck case. Maybe it was her fault she had been kicked out of her place. Maybe it wasn't. But it sure wasn’t her fault she was stuck haunting the same thousand square feet of land until whatever unstated laws of the afterlife determined she could move on.
“At least tell me your anchor isn’t in their friggin’ crawlspace.”
With my skeleton key it's easy enough to get in and out of places. Perk of the job. But getting all the way down into a crawl space or up into an attic to recover some bit of bone or locket (it's always a locket for some reason) without anyone noticing is tricky. I could wait until no one's around, but that's always dicey. A ghost can only survive so long once it's been driven from its anchor. We're already on the clock.
“No,” the girl said with a smile. “It actually got churned up when they planted their roses. I can show you right where it is. You won't even have to go into the house.”
“Great, that’ll be easy enough. Once we’ve got that we’ll have all the time in the world to find something new.”
"Thank you, Lucy," the ghost girl said.
I smiled. "You're welcome. And don't worry. We'll find you a new place you'll be happy in for a long time."
We headed towards where I'd locked up my bike. My mind was already in high gear. Get the anchor on my way home. Homework, dinner, then back out to start showing properties. There was a new development on the north-east part of town that was still largely under construction and unoccupied. They had some great floor plans and it would take decades for people to start thinking “ghost” when things went bump in the night. No one would notice us looking around either. More accurately they wouldn't notice me. It takes a special person to see ghosts.
Some time's I hate being that person. Some times it's really fulfilling. Other time's its just a huge pain in the butt. I guess it all comes with the job, but then so does the commission. And I could already taste mine.