We were in the closet. Party outside. Yellow streamers. Plastic storks on cake.
Inside, the Ghost gazed down at me and frowned. “What brings you in here?” he asked.
I patted my watermelon-belly and rubbed.
“Oh, I didn’t know!” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me?” His fermented aroma mingled with the shoe leather
“It’s hard to explain,” I said. “I’m just not having fun out there. I don’t feel like myself, the center of the world.” I looked into his single, glowing eye. He was someone I could talk to without judgment.
“I hear you,” the Ghost said. “Hey, hold out your hand.”
I held out my hand and he sprinkled a fistful of Skittles. I had left them in my coat pocket the other night, but pretended not to know. He’d never given me anything except an uncanny wind.
The first time I saw the Ghost he’d appeared in my bathtub. I was brushing my teeth. He had this way of popping up in places at inconvenient times. Often, I hoped he’d be someone different for a change, my mother maybe. But this ghost had predictability. A charming personality. I didn’t mind him actually. From behind the shower curtain, he would always ask before he would haunt.
“Is it okay if I come out now?” he’d say in a tentative voice. Not as spine-chilling as I’d seen in films.
“You sure? Is this a bad time? I can come back in an hour, whenever’s good for you.”
“No, please! Don’t be silly. Come on out.” I placed my foamy toothbrush next to the soap.
In our household, we never had places for things, just empty space longing to be filled.
“Now’s as good as time as any,” I said.
That’s what I told Daniel the day he said he wanted a baby. We’d conceived a little seed that very night. Halfway to dreamland, I imagined the many combinations—my carrot-shaped fingers, Daniel’s slightly webbed feet—the possibilities of human creation were endless.
Now standing inside the closet, I looked down at my painted toenails, lit by the under-door light. Their tin foil twinkle never made them look prettier. I missed my childhood. It was the craziest thing—all I wanted was for someone to take care of me.
“Cara!” A voice called. “Everyone’s waiting to open gifts!”
I felt the baby kick. Smack dab, just below my bellybutton.
“Did you see that?” I said. “The little one’s saying hello!”
“Hello tiny bugger.” The Ghost spoke in a small voice. I lifted my shirt and he loomed closer, merging his translucent body with my skin. “What a beautiful baby,” he said.
And for a moment the Ghost was inside me, wading within the darkness. I tried to imagine him somewhere near my heart, watching over.
Hannah Pass has an MFA from Pacific University. Her stories have appeared in American Short Fiction, Tin House and Kenyon Review Online among other places. She’s the Senior Nonfiction Editor of Silk Road Review, and is currently at work on her first novel.