Part #7 of The Mediator series by Meg Cabot
“You’re not funny.”
“Oh, come on. I’m a little funny.”
“Not as funny as you think you are. Tell me what happened.”
Crap. This was one of the many problems of being in a relationship with a former ghost.
“There was a little incident here at work involving an NCDP,” I said. “Nothing I couldn’t handle. But she did turn out to be a little more aggressive than I expected.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Becca lift her head to glance at me. She was eavesdropping, of course, and thought I was talking about her. She didn’t know what NCDP stood for. She was probably wondering why I’d said she was aggressive.
“At the school?” Jesse sounded surprised. “The one you told me about earlier? A tourist?”
“Father Dominic must be slipping,” he said, sounding concerned. “I would think he’d have taken care of all of those when the semester first started, well before you got there.”
“I’m not sure he’d have noticed this one,” I said, carefully guarding my words, both because I was speaking in front of Becca and because I felt defensive on behalf of Father Dominic. “It seemed harmless at first, and barely perceptible.”
It was getting hard not to notice that one of Jesse’s other prejudices, in addition to cell phones, was against his own kind—well, what used to be his own kind, anyway. The closer he came to acquiring his medical license, the less interested he seemed in helping the dead.
I guess I could understand this. Having spent a century and a half as a deceased person wasn’t listed as one of the official causes of post-traumatic stress disorder in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the bible of mental health professionals, but I figured it was pretty much a given that Jesse was suffering from it.
I hoped it was this, rather than what Paul was insisting, that there was a part of Jesse that was still haunted . . . and that, if his original grave was destroyed, might be unleashed.
“Are you on call until tomorrow morning?” I asked, figuring it was best to change the subject.
“Fortunately,” he said. Unlike normal people, Jesse preferred the overnight shifts at his rotation in the ER. According to him, that’s when all the really interesting cases came in. People went to their primary physicians during the daytime. Only people in desperate straits—or who didn’t have primary-care physicians—went to the ER in the middle of the night.
That Jesse preferred seeing these people as patients wasn’t at all an indication that the curse was true, I told myself.
You can take the boy out of the darkness. But you can’t the darkness out of the boy.
Shut up, Paul.
“I’ll tell you about it when I see you tomorrow,” I said. “Te amo.”
He laughed as he always did when I attempted to say anything to him in his native tongue, even though I’ve been taking Spanish for more than four years. My accent is hopeless, according to both Jesse and my various language instructors.
“I love you, too, querida,” he said. As always, the word sent warming rays of delight down my spine . . .
Almost enough to cancel out the sense of impending doom that Paul’s phone call had caused to settle there.
“Who was that?” Becca demanded rudely as I hung up. “Your boyfriend?”
“Fiancé,” I said, looking down at my phone. I’d gotten two text messages. The first was from Jesse.
Jesse Estoy contando las horas hasta que nos encontremos, mi amor.
NOV 16 1:37 PM
After all the long hours I’d spent wearing earphones in the language lab, I should have been able to translate it on sight. But I had no idea what it said (except that mi amor meant my love). Later I was going to have to cut and paste it into my Spanish-to-English translation app.
Damn! Why did he have to torture me like this? A part of me suspected he did it on purpose, to keep me on my toes. As if he had to.
The second text—which I’d received earlier from a number with a Los Angeles area code—needed no translation.
Dinner is Friday night @8PM, Mariner’s, the Carmel Inn. Be there or else.
It was only a kiss, for chrissakes, Simon. Stop being such a girl.
NOV 16 1:30 PM
Stop being such a girl. How like Paul to think being called a girl was an insult.
“You’re engaged?” Becca seemed super interested. “Can I see your ring?”
I held out my left hand and waggled my ring at her without really thinking about it. I was too busy debating what to text back to Paul.
The last time I’d been foolish enough to agree to meet Paul Slater somewhere alone, I’d ended up with a nasty scrape across my back that had been extremely difficult to explain to my mother (she’d been the one who’d had to slather on the antibacterial cream, since I hadn’t been able to reach it, and of course I’d had to hide it entirely from Jesse).
There had to be another way.
But short of killing Paul myself to keep him from knocking my old house down, I couldn’t think of one.
“Why’s your diamond so small? I can barely see it.”
I jerked my hand out from under Becca’s nose. I’d forgotten she was there. “What do you mean?” I demanded defensively. “It’s not small. It’s perfectly normal sized. This ring is vintage. It’s been in my boyfriend’s family for years.” Two hundred, actually, but she didn’t seem like the kind of person who’d be impressed by that, or how Jesse had managed to hang on to it for so long, especially after having been murdered over it, sort of. Not that I was going to tell her that.
“Everyone knows that anything less than five carats means the guy isn’t really invested in the relationship,” she said.
“That’s ridiculous. Who told you that, your boyfriend?” I narrowed my eyes at the phone in her lap. “Who were you texting just now?”
“No one.” A pink flush suffused her cheeks.
“Oh, sure, no one, I can tell. What’s Mr. No One’s name?”
Her blush deepened. “Seriously, no one. I was playing a video game.” She flashed me a look at the front of her screen to prove it. Ghost Mediator.
I frowned. “Really?”
“Sorry. I know we’re not supposed to play games in school, but it’s totally addictive.”
“I don’t care if you play games. I think it’s cool that you’re a gamer. I just don’t understand why you like that game. It’s really stupid.”
“Ghost Mediator isn’t stupid. It’s really cool. Have you ever played it?” For the first time, her eyes showed some life in them. “See, what you do is, you have to kill all these ghosts in order to get out of the haunted mansion and into the nightclub, but first you have to be able to tell which ones are normal people and which ones are the ghosts, and if you accidentally kill a normal person, you go down a level, into the cemetery of doom, so then there are even more ghosts—”
“You can’t kill a ghost,” I said, feeling my blood pressure rising. “They’re already dead. That game is inherently flawed. Ghosts are the souls of deceased people who need help moving on to their next plane of existence. They shouldn’t be killed, they should be pitied, and whoever invented Ghost Mediator needs to be stopped—”
“Oh, my God.” She blinked at me. “Calm down. It’s just a game.”
She was right. What was wrong with me? I’d missed a perfect opportunity to ask her about Lucia, and instead used it to vent about my hatred for a stupid franchise—
“And my stepmom is the one who told me the five-carats thing,” Becca added. “That’s how I knew it. I don’t have a boyfriend. I don’t even like anyone.”
“Right,” I said. “Sorry.” I needed to get a grip. “But your stepmother is wrong. The size of the diamond doesn’t matter; it’s the ring itself that’s the symbol of the guy’s commitment to—you know what? It’s as stupid as the game, actually. The whole thing is a dumb, antiquated practice that I don’t even believe in. I’m only doing it
Becca wasn’t going for it.
“My stepmother said no way would she have married my dad if he hadn’t committed to at least five carats.”
Who the hell was this girl’s stepmother, anyway?
It’s kind of ironic that at that exact moment the door to the administrative office was thrown open, and a tall, attractive blond woman strode in. She was wearing dark Chanel sunglasses that she lifted to glance in dismay from the mess on the floor to the mess in the chair seated beside me.
I, however, was what she seemed to deem the biggest mess of all.
“Suze Simon?” she said in distaste.
“Kelly Prescott?” I could hardly believe my eyes. “What are you doing here?”
Becca sighed. “That’s my stepmom.”
“Kelly Prescott married Lance Arthur Walters, of Wal-Con Aeronautics, last summer,” CeeCee said, licking a bit of foam off the top of her chai latte. “Hey, wasn’t Debbie a bridesmaid in that wedding, or something? I thought you got invited.”
“Yeah,” I said, still feeling a little numb from my shock back at the school. “I blew it off.”
Because I’m not a fan of weddings. Or of Kelly.
But if I hadn’t been such a fool and gone, I’d have met Becca there, seen her tiny ghost companion, and maybe been able to prevent what had happened earlier that day.
I was a loser who pretty much deserved all the terrible things that were happening to me. I also needed a drink. But it was my friend CeeCee’s turn to choose the place we were stopping for after-work libations, and cocktails didn’t appear to be on the menu.
“Well, Lance Arthur Walters is one of the richest men in America, and twenty-five years our senior,” CeeCee went on as we slid into seats at a table at the Happy Medium, her aunt’s coffee-slash-holistic-healing shop. “Obviously, it’s a love match.”
“Man, Kelly’s taken gold digging to a whole new level.” I sighed. “She’s basically gone pro.”
“It’s antifeminist to judge another woman for her choices, no matter how crappy they might be. And if you’d bother to read my online alumni newsletters, you’d already know all this.”
“Hey,” I protested. “You’re one of my best friends. You’re supposed to tell me this stuff, not wait for me to read about it in some newsletter.”
“That I write.” CeeCee shook her head, her asymmetrically chopped white bob—CeeCee is an albino—bouncing. “Honestly, Suze, you’re the worst. Do you ever even go online?”
“Of course. To buy things.” I thought wistfully of my boots. “Not always successfully.”
“I meant to connect with people socially.”
“Why should I, when all the people I want to socialize with are right here in town?” Then I remembered my youngest stepbrother, who’d just started his junior year at Harvard. “Oh, except David, of course. But we make it a point to talk on the phone every Sunday.”
“You’re so weird,” CeeCee said. She flipped open her laptop. “But don’t worry. I’m setting up you and Jesse with a nice Web page for when you open your practice. Drs. Hector J. and Susannah S. de Silva, Carmel Pediatrics Center, specializing in your child’s complete health. Licensed to diagnose and treat the physical, emotional, and developmental needs of children. No gold diggers allowed.”
“God, I was kidding about that, okay? I don’t think Kelly literally married for money. Although considering what her stepdaughter told me about her views on engagement rings, one could argue the fact.”
CeeCee ignored me. “What do you think of this?” She spun her laptop around to face me. “I’ve been playing around with your last names as a logo. See how the two S’s curl around the staff like the snakes in the symbol for medicine? Well, technically the caduceus is the symbol for commerce, but enough people have misused it over the years that I figured no one realizes it anymore. And of course, even if you don’t end up taking Jesse’s name when you two tie the knot, we don’t have to change it. The two S’s still work. Dr. Susannah Simon, or Dr. Susannah de Silva, either is—”
I thought it best to cut her off. The topic of Jesse and me marrying was becoming painful. Nothing ruins a wedding faster than the groom going on a murderous demonic rampage and killing the bride, then her family. Boy, did I need a cocktail.
“So what else has Kelly been up to since graduation?” I asked, trying to sound casual. “I see Debbie with Brad once in a while at family functions, and we talk, and sometimes she mentions Kelly, but I seem to have missed the fact that she’s a stepmom.”
CeeCee glanced worriedly around the nearly empty coffee shop. “Shhh. Not so loud. Kelly’s more the yacht club type, but you never know. She might pop in here once in a while.”
I smiled. Once called the Coffee Clutch, the shop had been our hangout all through high school, until a well-known corporate coffee chain had attempted to purchase it from the previous owners.
This did not sit well with the Carmel-by-the-Sea town council, which had managed successfully to ban all chain restaurants, big-box stores, and even traffic lights and parking meters since the town was incorporated in 1916. The goal was to maintain Carmel’s position as Travel + Leisure magazine’s Most Romantic City in America (it was currently number three in the world, after Paris and Venice), and keep it looking like the same charming beach village (atop a cliff overlooking a white sandy beach) it had been for a century.
The council—with the help of people like CeeCee’s aunt, who’d stepped in and bought the Clutch herself, in order to prevent it from going corporate—had resolutely met that goal year after year, to the point of not allowing homeowners even to chop down trees.
So how had Paul Slater gotten permission to tear down my old house?
I didn’t know, but he had it, all right. I’d seen the forms attached to his e-mail, since the ghost girl’s paraspectacular aftershocks hadn’t scrambled them from my computer (Sean Park, one of Becca’s classmates, had managed to rescue my hard drive, though not in time for me to keep Maximillian28 from winning my boots, and for well under what I’d have been willing to pay. I hoped he or she enjoyed them . . . in hell).
Not only were all of Paul’s plans for the destruction of 99 Pine Crest Road—and most of the homes on the rest of my old block—in order, but he hadn’t been lying about the Curse of the Dead. With the help of the Internet, I’d been able to find a translation of it posted on the blog of some Egyptology student specializing in the study of ancient languages.
What the blog didn’t tell me—either because it wasn’t part of the student’s assignment or because it wasn’t written on the papyrus—was whether or not there was a way to break the curse.
I’d fired off an e-mail to the blog’s owner—Shahbaz Effendi—and crossed my fingers that he’d believe my little white lie that I was a fellow Egyptology enthusiast.
I know how pesky those papyruses (papyri?) can be. Sometimes they break off midsentence. (Did they? I wasn’t even sure what papyrus was.)
Really, though, if there’s any chance at all that there’s more to the curse, I’d love to know. It would be very helpful to my current research.
God, this guy was going to think I was insane. Or twelve. But until I heard back from him, Jesse and I were screwed.
“Well,” CeeCee was saying, “after she graduated from the Mission Academy, Kelly went on to get a degree in fashion merchandising.”
I looked up from the cup of coffee I’d been scowling into. “Wait, are you shitting me? Fashion merchandising? Like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde?”
“I heard that,” called my other best friend (and current roommate), Gina, from behind the counter. CeeCee’s aunt had hired her to work the four-to-midnight shift, Monday through Friday. Gina ominously tapped a large glass jar with a pen. “Dollar to the swear jar. Two dollars, actual
“That’s a tip jar, not a swear jar,” I said, but reached into my messenger bag for my wallet anyway. I didn’t want to be a bad sport. “And I said pro, not ho. You guys are oppressing my right to free speech.”
“You should be thanking us,” Gina said as I approached the counter. “A future doctor should be classy, not trashy. Not to mention a future doctor’s wife.”
“Jesse says he loves me the way I am.” I shoved two dollars into the already stuffed tip jar. “And shouldn’t you be working instead of eavesdropping on my private conversation?”
“Yeah,” Gina said, waving a hand at the whimsically painted café tables. Aunt Pru was big on whimsy. “Because it’s so packed in here.”
“It’ll pick up after six,” CeeCee said. “The after-work caffeine hounds.”
“Getting back to Kelly?” I nudged.
“Oh,” CeeCee said. “Right.” She glanced back down at the laptop screen. “Apparently things didn’t work out with the degree, since she moved home with Mom last year.”
“Whoa. Debbie never mentioned that.” I slid back into my seat. “Probably Kelly never posted about it on Instagram.”
“You guys suck,” Gina said. “What’s wrong with fashion merchandising? And do I need to point out that both of you are college graduates who moved back to your hometown? You shouldn’t be making fun of this poor Kelly girl for doing the same thing.”
“Um, first of all,” I said, “if I were to make fun of her, it wouldn’t be for her choice of degree or for moving back home, it would be because Kelly is a really mean, terrible person. Did you know she used to refer to CeeCee as ‘the freak’? To her face.”
Gina threw CeeCee a quick glance—quick enough to catch the way CeeCee’s scalp, plainly visible beneath the white strands of her hair, turned a deeper shade of pink with embarrassment at the reminder.
“Oh, CeeCee,” Gina said, laying a brown-skinned hand across CeeCee’s almost translucently pale one. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.”
Remembrance by Meg Cabot / Romance & Love / Fantasy / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes