So many memories wander here. Like ghosts. The house, the yard, the woods — anywhere I turn, there’s another one, right in front of me.
I found the remnants of the old sandbox in the basement. I found them hidden beneath piles of boxes — all my Dad’s crap. I’d have to deal with all of it eventually. Not now. I could entertain the ghosts a little longer.
I dragged the old wood boards into the backyard, to the treeline, where they’d been for so many years. Dad had taken my sandbox apart on my thirteenth birthday, when Sarah and I declared that we were too old for sandboxes. I guess he never got around to getting rid of them, all these years later. Or he forgot… again.
The boards were dry and cracked, but they seemed at home here, with the ghosts. Making sandcastles after school. Chatting about that crazy Warren kid and his time-travelling space vampire… stuff. Imagining our own adventures in the portal beyond the sand — if only we could dig far enough.
The old swing was still here, too. The seat was rotten, the chain was rusted through, it was barely hanging onto the tree, but it was still here. And there she sat, ghost of my past. First time I’d met her was right here, when she’d walked up to me and my dad putting up the swing. We’d taken turns swinging so many times. Or we’d just swing the empty swing at each other, talking. The weird rat thing Warren brought to show-and-tell — and Julie’s freak-out. The fight Mom and Dad had the night before. That moment when Julie found out where babies come from in Biology.
I followed the ghosts into the woods, and soon found our tree. It wasn’t as deep into the woods as I remembered. I ran my fingers on its mangled bark. “Sarah ♥ Laura BFFs”.
The treehouse was still standing. Sort of. It was falling apart, not much more than a platform in a tree. But ghosts can’t fall through rotting wood. I remembered the hours spent here, playing pirates or space adventurers or knights and castles with her. Talking about all the weird things Warren was into, the weird stuff he did at school. Sarah teasing me about how much I talked about him, encouraging me to ask him out.
I remembered Sarah’s smile when I told her about our first kiss. I remembered calling her out here in the middle of the night and crying on her shoulder. I remembered the sunsets we’d watch here, just huddled up against each other with a blanket and talking about school, boys, college, life.
I remembered the brilliant orange sky the evening we first kissed. That first time I’d realised where my heart was pointing me. That first time we’d laid our souls bare to each other.
Nought but a ghost now. But ghosts, it seems, for all they might be incorporeal, can still stab at your heart.
I walked back to the house, the chill of the night setting into my bones. Another ghost following me. My face had been streaked with tears that day too. I’d sat in our treehouse well into the night back then, the sun my only friend, for a time. I hadn’t even been able to hold her hand, to kiss her goodbye. All I had gotten was a call from Mom, who’d gotten a call from Sarah’s mom. And I had come right back home, and sat in the treehouse.
I stared up at the house. It was mine now. But I couldn’t stay here, not in this haunted place. Not even for a night.
I locked the doors. I drifted over to my car. I drove to the motel.