The Phantomime
Chapter Eighteen
Marissa lay sprawled on the lobby floor, bobble hat squished forward over her eyes. Even in that awkward position, she managed to look cute.
Will, who should have known the most about death, panicked. “You killed her!”
“She’s not dead, she’s freaked out,” I said, lifting her feet into the air. I saw someone do that on TV once when a person fainted. I didn’t think Marissa would be too pleased about it if she woke up, since there’s not much dignity in that position.
“You should call the paramedics, or the coroner, or whoever deals with freaked out dead girls.” Will nudged at her side with the toe of his shoe.
“Quit kicking my friend,” I said. “And she’s not dead. We’d see her ghost if she died. Stop being such a weirdo.” I gave Marissa’s feet a shake, hoping it might encourage the blood to rush to her head.
Will stepped back and put his hands on his hips. “I’m a ghost. I won’t go to prison. You’re the one who’ll be in trouble.”
“I’m not surprised you ended up dead at twelve,” I said. “It’s a wonder no one murdered you earlier.”
Will blinked his big eyes at me. “That, Poppy Malone, isn’t a very nice thing to say.”
Anyone else and I’d have felt bad. I still did, a little bit. I let Marissa’s feet fall from my hands so they landed on the floor with a thud. “I wanted to say worse.”
He looked up at the skylight and made a sad little sigh. “I’m going to take that as an apology.”
Bent low over Marissa’s face, I fanned her with my hands. It didn’t seem to help, so I tried light pats on her cheek, getting harder until they were a proper slap. She should have woken up already. Maybe she’d gone all the way into a coma.
“I’d forgive you if you let me have the TV. That stuffy old ghost doesn’t need it. They didn’t even have television when he was alive.” When I didn’t answer, Will waved his hand in front of my eyes. “Can you hear me or have you lost your ghost-seeing-superpower?”
“Go away and annoy Cresswell or something,” I pointed at the theater doors.
“If she’s dead, don’t blame me.” He stamped off, the door vibrating as he faded through it.
Groaning, Marissa reached up one shaky hand to move her hat out of her eyes. She blinked up at me with a woozy sort of smile. “Oh. Hi.”
I squatted beside her. Apart from being very pale in general, and a little green in places, she looked okay. Wobbling a bit, Marissa propped herself up on her elbows and glanced around. Realizing where she was, her face went even whiter. “A ghost moved the door, right?”
I nodded and held out my hands to catch her head in case she passed out again. “They’re nice, normal peo—well, they are people. The only difference is that you can’t see them and I can.” I helped her to her feet.
Will’s head poked through the theater wall. “Boo!”
“That wasn’t scary, Will,” I said, sighing.
Marissa glanced around. “What?”
“Focus.” I grabbed her chin and pointed it back at me. “We need your help.”
Slowly, she gazed around the lobby, stopping to stare at the theater door.
No way could she take all this weirdness. I’d blown it. Somehow, I’d have to organize a whole play all by myself in less than a week, and probably find a new best friend.
At last, she looked up at me with a stunned smile.
“This is so freaking cool.”
It took most of the afternoon to explain things to Marissa and introduce everyone. It would have taken half the time if I didn’t need to repeat everything the ghosts said. They crowded around us, fascinated, desperate to find something they could do to prove how real they were. Megan lifted a gentle hand to stroke the blonde curls on Marissa’s shoulder—and they moved.
“I felt that,” Marissa said, a wide smile scrunching up the freckles on her cheeks. “This is amazing. Like, tabloid TV amazing.”
“Missa.” I twisted in my seat to stare at her. “You know what that Basch woman wants to do. TV fame is the last thing we want.”
Marissa lifted her hands in surrender and mimed zipping her lips together.
“I wouldn’t mind TV fame. Not the being exercised sort, but the regular sort would be ace,” said Will. I didn’t bother repeating that.
In one week, we had to plan advertising, tickets, and food to serve at the end. Marissa thought it should include makeup artists and a costume budget, but since see-through people didn’t wear clothes well, we scrapped that idea.
Marissa ticked things off on her fingers. “I can design posters and get them printed. Tickets too. I’ll take care of everything.”
“I can do some things,” I muttered, but Marissa kept talking.
“This will be the best Halloween ever.”
By now, only Megan and Janette still hovered nearby, whispering to each other about the sparkly sweater my friend wore under her pink puff jacket.
“Can I see the play?” Marissa asked. “I’ll need to see it to promote it.”
“Um, not exactly. Everyone will see the ghosts, but only on Halloween. There’s a full moon that night. It’s super rare to get both at the same time, it makes ghosts visible,” I said.
She narrowed her eyes and gave me the look she saved for my most feeble-brained schemes. “Seriously?”
I nodded. “You believe in ghosts but full moons and Halloween are just too weird?”
“Let me get this straight. I can’t see the play, and we don’t know for sure if anyone else will be able to until opening night in front of the whole town?”
“Yes. That’s what The Ghost in the Gods told me.” After all, he’d lived so long ago, he had to be wise, right?
A loud cheer and girlish giggles echoed around the theater from up in the gods. It sure didn’t sound like the laughter of an ‘expert’.
“Terrific.” Will muttered from behind the backstage curtains. “He sure knows how to rub it in.”
I flopped into one of the front row seats, imagining our stunned faces on the front cover of the Gazette below the headline: Local Girls Pull Ghost Hoax on Town.
“We could be doomed,” I said.
“Business as usual, then,” Marissa said, with a shrug.
And that, right there, is why Marissa Joy Bellamy will always be my best friend.
Together, we scrambled over the piano and onto the stage. She spun around, a dreamy sort of look on her face. “You could hold a mega fashion show here if you made a temporary catwalk.”
“Or, you know, a play,” I said.
She shrugged. “I’m thinking long term.”
Janette called from backstage, pointing at the same big trunk I’d hidden inside. “If you like clothes, there are some beautiful costumes in here.”
We might have had a lot to do, but nothing would come between my best friend and the chance to experience new fashion. Marissa ran over to the trunk and yanked it open, rummaging around until she found the prettiest dress in there. It looked like the one Megan wore but with more lace and a lot more dust. “Phwoar,” she coughed, holding her nose, “it smells like old.”
“It is old,” I said.
“Help me with this, Poppy?” Marissa threw off her coat and sweater and pulled the frilly frock on over her t-shirt and jeans. I grabbed at the hem and tugged it over her head. With all the lace and added dust, Marissa looked like she belonged in the play as much as the ghosts. She hurried out to the light on the stage and twirled around underneath it, dust billowing up from the floor and the skirt as she spun. She had to stop for a sneezing fit and we all laughed.
Megan whispered into Will’s ear. “Megan says it looks beautiful,” he said, gagging.
When I told her, Marissa smiled at the place where she imagined Megan would be, but wasn’t.
“Okay, now you,” she said.
We turned toward the backstage, but froze at the sound of the door downstairs closing. I grabbed Marissa’s hand, dragged her into the wings, and shut off the electricity.
“The television has ended,” Mr. The Third called from upstairs.
Marissa and I clung to each other. We couldn’t find a hiding place in the dark.
All we could do was stand still and listen.

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