The Phantomime
Chapter Twenty-Six
Marissa’s Dad carried in arm-loads of fake jack-o’-lanterns, pretend spiders, and other assorted Halloween decorations. He dropped the whole lot of it in the middle of the lobby floor and looked around.
“I’m not sure you even need this stuff. This place looks scary enough as it is,” he said. I liked Mr. Bellamy. He was a lot like my dad, only better at scowling.
“We’re making it even better,” Marissa said, rolling her eyes at him.
“Whatever you say, Munchkin.” He tousled her hair and waved to us both. “See you tonight, girls, break a leg.” We watched the glass doors close behind him.
“Seems like everyone has got it in for our legs,” I said.
I turned around to find Will making slurping sounds, his head inside a cupcake box. “Hey, that’s for later,” I said.
“I’m not hurting them. I’m imagining I’m hurting them,” Will’s muffled voice said from inside the cardboard box.
“Don’t worry,” Marissa said. “He can’t damage them, even with his head in the box.”
I wasn’t so sure about that. Ghost slobber is still slobber. I bent to pick up a jack-o’-lantern, then stopped and thought about what she’d said. “Hey, can you see what he’s doing?”
A huge smile spread over her face. “I totally can. I wanted to surprise you, but I couldn’t wait any longer. It’s true. The play will work!” She bounced in place, clapping her hands.
Will pulled his face out of the box for a second. “About time. Nice to meet you. ‘Scuse me.” And his face disappeared.
“I want to meet the others.” Marissa was already through the theater doors and halfway to the stage before I caught up with her.
After the introductions, I put on my costume and we began our dress rehearsal—Part One of the ‘moving on’ process. Considering what happened on their last opening night, Marissa borrowed a fire extinguisher from her dad to reassure everyone, although I doubted she had a clue how to use it. She sat in the front row with it beside her, nozzle at the ready. After I practiced my introduction to Cresswell’s satisfaction, I sat with her for the performance.
Megan couldn’t resist smiling and giving us a little wave before she started the ghosts’ last ever rehearsal. Marissa watched with wide eyes, looking as amazed as I’d been when I first saw the play. When it was over, she sniffled into a fistful of tissues.
“I know. It’s sad, right?” I asked.
She dabbed at her eyes with some tissues. “Yeah. But I was crying because—we’re so gonna be famous.”
After rehearsals, responsible Marissa went out to finish the decorations, while I went up into the gods to find Will and Mr. The Third. They were watching wrestling, leaning forward in their seats, all caught up in the action.
A very large man with a Mohawk shook his fist at the camera. “You hear that, Mosquito? That’s right, baby. I’m comin’ for ya. You can run but ya can’t hide.”
“Ha.” Mr. The Third sat up and slapped his thigh. “That’s what he thinks.”
Will shook his head and let out a happy sigh. “Yeah. In his dreams.”
I blinked at the screen, wondering who Mosquito was and why he wouldn’t just run for his life. Colored lights flashed all over the wrestling arena, and the theme music played along with previews of the next show. I figured that meant it was over.
Will bounced off his chair. “One last time before the play?”
“Certainly,” The Ghost said with an enthusiastic nod. “How about this time, I go downstairs and you can jump?”
“Yes!” Will hopped up onto the balcony railing, teetering on the edge. “Hurry up, before I fall.”
Mr. The Third disappeared, and I ran to the balcony to look for him. Will rubbed his hands together in glee. The Ghost in the Gods stood right below us, humming to himself, pretending not to notice Will, even though the bat-crazy giggles would be hard to miss.
Then, the giggles stopped. I looked up at Will, figuring he’d probably lost his nerve, but he hadn’t. He was looking back at me with a blank expression on his face. “I’m worried there won’t be TV where we’re going,” he said.
I’d almost gotten used to the way my stomach clenched and flopped every time someone reminded me we were near the end—but not quite. I made a pft noise. “There will be. It wouldn’t be a happy ever after otherwise.”
He looked more real to me the closer we came to midnight, but my hand still passed through him when I tried to touch his ankle. If only the magic of Halloween would make them solid, just long enough for a goodbye hug.
He smiled a weird little half-smile, and said, “I’m going to miss you.”
Although my reply was obvious, I couldn’t make my lips say it. My mouth shook, and I stared back at him, blinking hard.
He grinned at me, all dimples and bright eyes again, and waved down at Mr. The Third.
“And now,” Will bellowed, “Here is the Phantom, a.k.a, Terror from Above.” He dropped from the balcony in a perfect swan dive. Just before he connected with the other ghost, he lifted his elbow and used it to slam him to the ground.
I closed my eyes and winced. If they’d been alive, that landing probably would have killed at least one of them.
“I’ll miss you too.” Maybe I said it out loud, or maybe I only thought it. Either way, it was too late for him to hear.
Will let out a high-pitched, hysterical laugh. “That was totally righteous.”
Absolutely, unequivocally, bat-crazy.
Before I followed them downstairs, I unfolded a sheet of paper from my pocket and leaned it against the seat, front-row center of the balcony. It read: RESERVED FOR MR. SEBASTIAN WILLOUGHBY-SNODE THE THIRD.

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