Series: Strange Tales Story: Ghosts by M Kizzia part 6
Nathan woke when Mya wiggled a little to get into a more comfortable position. He felt her breasts against his ribs and he imagined she was also making little curves in the beanpole of a body she had been. The breasts were still small, but he imagined she did not grow that much while they slept. All the same, he hoped they were nice ones for her sake, in whatever way she imagined breasts should be nice. He looked down and he knew he had judged about right. Mya appeared to be about thirteen, fourteen at most, and she was looking up at him. Her hand came up to touch his face – not such a little hand now, but he spoke before she could say anything.
“You have bumps.” He said.
“I have bumps?” Mya’s mouth opened in a tremendous smile and her eyes and hands shot instantly to her own chest. “I have bumps!” She declared and she rushed into the bathroom and shut the door.
Nathan sat up more slowly. It was not that he was stiff like he used to be when he woke at home, but because he was savoring the morning and feeling truly rested for the first time in ages. He thought of Mya as he heard a little squeal of delight come right through the door. If she was fourteen, he recognized that she was now twice as old as she had been only a day ago. He was happy for her when he thought about it. He had no idea what kind of relationships they might form in the next million years, or more. He could not encompass that though; but even so, he felt that she should not have to go into eternity always being referred to as a kid. He had heard the word used twice already and both times he heard it spoken unkindly.
He looked down at his own clothes. They were not as wrinkled as they had been, and what is more, his handkerchief was pressed and clean again, as if it had never been used. He imagined Mya’s clothes were adjusting as well as she got older and taller, though he could not imagine how that might work. He did not worry about it. He did not know how a lot of things worked, like microwave ovens, but it never stopped him before.
After waiting for a very long time, Nathan stepped to the door and knocked. “Are you all right in there?” He asked, raising his voice just a bit against the wood.
“Yes. I’m fine.” The answer came sharply through the door. Something was happening but he could not guess what.
“I’ll be right here when you are ready.” He told her.
“Fine! I’ll just be a minute!” She responded, and Nathan shook his head, wondering what it was about women and bathrooms. He imagined he would never understand that either, so he did not let it bother him. He stepped into the hall and watched the shift change at the nurse’s desk. He followed one of the morning nurses with his eyes as she went from room to room with her tray of morning medicine. Out of curiosity, he looked in on room 312, but there was a new man in the bed and the business man had gone; then he hustled back to 307. He did not want to be found wandering when he was supposed to be waiting patiently for Mya.
Nathan paused outside the door to their room. There was a woman on her knees in the hall, cleaning. He thought little of it until he saw her give a furtive glance in his direction and immediately she started scrubbing a little harder for a few strokes of her brush. This was a hospital, he remembered. It was where people often went to die. Nathan imagined that most of the staff was immune to having ghosts wander the halls, but there would always be some that were sensitive to it. The woman glanced his way again and squinted as if she could not quite grasp what she was seeing, or thought she was seeing, or maybe she was not quite seeing at all. Again, she started scrubbing harder for a few strokes, and Nathan wondered if the woman thought that she could clean and sterilize the ghosts away. Nathan was sure that was one thing she could not do, and he felt a momentary twinge of sorrow for the woman. He could almost taste the woman’s fear, a kind of palpable sense of foreboding. He felt it as surely as he had felt the cruelty of the woman with the puppy and concluded that ghosts must be hyper-sensitive to the emotional state of the living. He imagined this woman might have a break down, or anyway, this would likely be a very shot-lived job. He felt sorry for her again, as he walked slowly back into his room.
Mya did not come out of the bathroom until it was seven, nearly and hour after she went in.
“All better?” He asked.
Mya sat on the bed. She was not ready to walk yet. It seemed like she wanted to talk and so Nathan took a seat on the bed opposite to her and prepared himself to listen.
“I know in my head that I am really only seven years old.” Mya started right in. “But I also know I am a teenager. I know this isn’t going to make any sense, but I don’t think I am just growing up on the outside.”
“No.” Nathan interrupted. “I have watched you and listened to you so I believe you, even if it doesn’t make any sense.” He was smiling.
“I want pizza, and I don’t even like pizza.” She was joking and testing herself, and Nathan gave her a little laugh. It was the least he could do.
“But what is wrong with that?” He asked. “You told me you did not want to stay little forever.”
Mya nodded. “I don’t.” She said. “But it is all happening so fast. Shouldn’t growing up take time, I mean to learn things and explore things and all that?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Nathan turned thoughtful. “There really isn’t a whole lot to learn about being an adult, at least not much more than you knew by the time you were seven. Be good, do your best, love your neighbor and that sort of thing. When you grow up you have to take more responsibility for yourself and your own actions, decisions and choices. You know, like when the bird leaves the nest it must fly on its own, but you seemed like a very sensible and responsible girl since the first time I saw you. I can’t imagine trying to hitch a ride on a city bus at age seven. That must have taken great courage.”
Mya smiled and turned a little red. She fanned her face for a moment as she spoke. “You have no idea. I was scared out of my mind. To be honest, I just did not know what else to do.”
Nathan nodded and smiled his most reassuring smile. “Being an adult is a lot like that. Most grown-ups do things just because they don’t know what else to do. You have to be over eighty, I think, before you realize it doesn’t matter mostly what we do, as long as what we do is done in love and kindness.”
Mya smiled again and looked down into her lap where she was worrying her own hands.
Nathan asked because he picked up on the clue. “So what took you so long in the bathroom?”
“I think I had a period.” Mya said, not looking up at first. “Mother explained it all to me and I did not really understand what she was talking about, but now it kind of makes sense. I felt all crampy and then all fatish, though I had already taken off my clothes and I did not notice getting any fatter in the mirror. Then I felt like I had to go, you know? I sat down on the toilet and tried, but nothing happened until I noticed I was bleeding a little.” She looked up. “I didn’t know ghosts could bleed.” She said.
“I didn’t know there were really ghosts until yesterday.” Nathan countered with a motion that suggested she should go on and finish the story.
“Well, that’s it. Then I got better and got dressed and came out.”
“But I thought such things lasted for three or four days.” Nathan said, sounding unsure.
“Oh, a week.” Mya responded with her eyes as big as they could be. “But that’s what I mean about everything happening so fast.”
“Still, you experienced something.” He pointed out.
Mya made a very teen age, exasperated expression come to her face and she threw her hands out to slap the bed, palm up, on either side of her. “But that is what I mean about not experiencing things. How can I really grow up without experiencing things?”
“Hmm.” Nathan tried to get serious again. “Have you experienced frustration and anger as well as accomplishment and satisfaction? Have you ever been worried and afraid sometimes and felt safe and secure at other times? Have you known sadness as well as joy, hate and love, cruelty and kindness? Have you ever felt the excitement of trying to go to sleep on Christmas eve?” Mya was nodding. “Then I would say you have already experienced everything there is to experience. Grown-ups just experience these same things, though the world is full of fools these days who seem determined to cut back on the joy, love and kindness part.”
“I’ve never experienced falling in love with a boy.” Mya said a bit shyly.
“And never had your heart broken either.” Nathan said, raising a wise, old finger to emphasize his point.
Mya puffed a teenage puff. “I would still like to fall in love with a boy.” She insisted.
“Bah.” Nathan shrugged it off. “Boys are not so special.”
Mya rolled her eyes. She had practiced that in the mirror, but she did not need to tell him that. “Now you sound like my real grandfather.” She said.
“He must be a very wise man.” Nathan said, standing and puffing out his chest just a little. “Now, shall we go?”
“Go where?” Mya suddenly got serious.
“To see your real grandfather?” Nathan suggested. Mya shook her head. “Well how about just your regular father?” Mya’s head shake became more pronounced.
“Dad left me and mother when I was just a baby.” She said.
“Well, how about your mother then?” Mya’s head shook hardest of all.
“I’m not ready for that yet.” She said, and then she added something that did not surprise Nathan at all since he was feeling the same tug on his soul. “I think we need to go back to the place where the bus, you know.”
“The scene of the accident?”
“The scene of the crime.”
“Yes.” Nathan said. “I was feeling that myself but I wanted to hear it from you. I was willing to fight the feeling if you said you needed to go somewhere else.”
“No.” She said, holding out her hand for him to take. It was a bigger hand by then and they were more truly holding hands now rather than Nathan enfolding her little hand in his palm. “I go where you go.” She finished her thought and Nathan simply nodded as they started walking, choosing the stairs this time, and without Nathan thinking twice about the choice.
“But what about you?” Mya asked, drawing the thought from somewhere in her growing-up mind. “Don’t you have family?”
“I’ll tell you on the way.” He said, and they went through the sliding doors and out on to the street past the man attempting to fix them. Apparently, they were opening and closing at all sorts of times, and all on their own.