Ghost 31 – A Cause for Celebration

Julia pulled clothes from the closet trying not to sigh at her son. This was supposed to be a happy day. But it seemed Max had woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Her being upset though wouldn’t help anything.

Max was sitting on his bed in his underwear. He was at his most obstinate.

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“I want James to come to my party,” he pouted.

Julia held up another outfit. It was rejected as well with a shake of his head.

“You have to wear clothes, Max.”

“I don’t want a party, anyway.”

“It’s your birthday. You’ll get presents and cake. And your friends are coming over.” Julia turned back to the closet to hide her frown. How could a child not want to a party?

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“James won’t. He’s my real friend.”

“James can’t come because it’s daytime. You know that. Do you really not want this, or is it just James?” Julia turned around. Max wrinkled his nose and despite the seriousness of the situation, she bit her lip around a grin. That wouldn’t help now.

She sat down next to him on the bed. He head brushed her should as she sat. He was so big now!

“What if we have a secret party tonight? Just you and me and James?”

“Don’t you have class tonight?”

Julia pulled her son close. So that was the problem. “On your birthday? Of course not.” She thought she’d told him that she had the night off. But perhaps he’d forgotten. She’d made sure to get a substitute for tonight months in advance. Nothing was going to keep her from her son’s birthday.

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Max gave a tiny shake and seemed to relax in her arms. She nodded and stood up. “It’s decided. A secret party tonight. But first we have the party this afternoon. Juanita will be here, and Mason – your friend from school,  and your cousin Amy.”

“Amy’s just a baby,” Max said. But Julia could tell he wasn’t protesting hard anymore.

“And there will be cake and ice cream,” she continued cheerfully. “Peppermint, you know.” Max adored peppermint ice cream. “And maybe, just maybe, your Mum and I bought you something special?”

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He looked up, speculation behind his eyes as he tried to figure out what they had gotten him. He wasn’t going to guess, not in a million years. Julia was sure of that. He was also hooked now.

“So, get dress and come downstairs for breakfast.” She turned to leave and was grateful, if annoyed, to see him reach for the nearest pair of pants. The ones he’d first rejected.


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Sometimes, I wished that after all these years I was better at drawing. I had plenty of practice, but no matter how much I drew, I never seemed to get any better. It still looked childish. You are a child. Forever. Not forever, I responded to that doomsday voice in my head. We’re working on the cure.

It still hadn’t bloomed though. I outlined the flowers carefully on the page in front of me. Julia was probably right. Something was missing. The buds just died on the stem. They never bloomed. Never looked like that purple and white flower she’d brought back from the darkness.

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The plant looked healthy enough, but it had to be missing whatever it needed to grow. I grabbed the red crayon and started filling in the petals.

Julia thought it needed different soil. Different nutrients, she’d said. But hadn’t the Grim Reaper said the flowers used to bloom everywhere? The ground couldn’t have changed that much. Even if it had been centuries.

The light shifted around me and for a second, the red crayon seemed to melt into my hand. I blinked and it shifted again. Normal. What was that? For a second it had looked like blood in my hand.

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Blood. My heart grew cold. Julia had cut her hand to summon the Grim Reaper once. Blood was something the living had that the dead did not. I couldn’t be sure, but the certainty grew. The flowers needed blood. How much? A pinprick? Or…I knew Julia would give as much as it needed if it meant the flowers would bloom. She’d give it all for me, wouldn’t she?

The crayon slipped through my shaking hands now that I wasn’t concentrating on holding it. It left a red drop in the garden. She’d give it all for me, wouldn’t she?

I sat back. The picture at least was finished. I wasn’t sure I would be able to concentrate enough to draw anymore. I didn’t know if Max would like it, but it was the best I could do.

It needed blood, didn’t it? Julia’s blood? Should I even tell her? Picture in hand, I faded into the house.

Julia and Max were in the backyard. Max on the monkey bars and Julia, as I knew she would be, in her garden.

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“James!” Max cried, leaping off the bars. He hurtled towards me so fast that he almost ran straight threw me. He skidded to a stop, eyes shining. “You came! You came!”

“Of course I came. Happy birthday!” I handed him my gift. I wish I could have wrapped it. But looks like I was too late to have Julia wrap it for me. I had worked hard to make sure I didn’t miss this day by mistake.

Max took the picture carefully and studied it like it was a work of art. His eyes lit up as he realized what I had drawn. I thought he’d figure it out fast.

“It’s the house! That’s mom’s garden and my window. He peered closer. And that’s you! In the window!”

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I nodded and he raced over to Julia. He showed her the picture talking a mile a minute. I looked around the backyard. The evidence of the party they’d had was still there. Little bits of colored paper were trapped in the grass. A stack of dirty dishes on the table, remains of cake and ice cream stuck to them. Popped balloons. I looked like it had been fun. I wish I could have been there.

I tried to remember if I’d had a party like this… before. But James’s memories were fading. Replaced by new memories with Julia and Max. I couldn’t remember a birthday party for James.

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Pushing melancholy thoughts aside, I joined Max and Julia.

“And he put himself in the window, see? See? How cool is that?” Max gushed.

Julia laughed holding his gift and peering at it. “Shall we get this framed then?”

Max’s eyes went wide. “Can we?” At her nod he yipped and raced across the yard. His excitement too much to contain staying still.

Julia laughed. “I think he had too much sugar.”

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I wondered what that felt like? Too much sugar? What did sugar even taste like? I could see the Death Flower behind Julia. My new knowledge froze me to the spot. Could I tell her?

She followed my gaze and sighed. “It’s doing a little better, I think. The new iron supplement is helping. The buds don’t die so fast.”

But they still died. Blood. The word tried to escape my throat. But I held it back with all my might. But she was close already. Without my help. Iron. There was iron in blood. She was going to figure on her own.

“I think- ” I started swallowing hard.

“Hmm?”

“It’s blood,” the words escaped me. “It needs blood. Like the Reaper did.” It was selfish of me. But I wanted birthday parties and too much sugar and presents.

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Julia’s eyes went wide and she turned to stare at the flower. “Why you’re a little vampire plant.” I could tell the solution felt as right to her as it had to me.

“You’ll be careful?”

Julia turned quickly. “What?” she must have noticed my concern. “Don’t worry, James. I’m not a kid anymore. I have more ways to get blood than cutting my hand. But I do think you’re right. It makes a kind of morbid sense, doesn’t it.” She studied the plant and I wasn’t sure if I’d done the right thing or the wrong thing.

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Max gave a shout for me to join him and Julia shooed me away. I kept my eye on her, but she didn’t do anything dangerous to give it blood. Not while I watched at least. Although it wasn’t long before Max had pulled me into his game of pirates and giant sea creatures. Maybe it wouldn’t be too long before I had a birthday of my own?

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Credits

28 comments

  1. Omg!!!! It makes perfect sense! How many years wasted now?

    I so wish James could remember his own life. It saddens me deeply that he only has other people’s memories to live vicariously through!

    Liked by 2 people

    • The blood? I know I was trying to figure out myself why it wasn’t blooming a while back. I figured it out from Greek Mythology and was thinking Julia might discover it the same way – but then James proved to be smarter than us both.

      On the plus side, James will get a second chance – we all hope, at least. Julia is particular convinced that he must be given another chance. He’s been a ghost so long – and there’s nothing really “there” to hang the memories onto – although he does make plenty with Julia and Max. In the end, he’s just a little spirit in the big dangerous darkness. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s a great idea! The blood, I mean. When Julia said that she’s an adult now and can get blood in other ways rather than cutting her hand I started thinking that she’s going to rob a blood bank or something. 😀 I don’t know. My mind is weird sometimes. Also man, cliffhanger – at least to me it is! I can’t wait to see some bloodshed- I mean blooming flowers. 😀 Yeah.

    Max is such a cutie! I love how he and James are friends. James’s thoughts about birthdays and selfishness were really well-written. And I started smiling sadly when I read the part where James realised that Julia would give all her blood for James if needed. It was so sweet, in a nicely twisted way.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I love Max! This was so sweet — I really loved James thinking about how he wants a birthday of his own. It was sweet and sad at the same time hahaha. So glad they’re making progress toward making the ambrosia too! 🙂 Though I’m already feeling sad about requiring a sacrifice for this challenge… I can only imagine what you’ll do. Eep! 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The kids are so cute playing together. It’s funny with James/not-James because in so many ways, having existed for so long, he’s very wise… yet his abilities are still kid abilities: draws like a kid!

    Liked by 1 person

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