Honestly, the hardest part of coming home for the summer was leaving the ghosts.
We sat and discussed it at length but in the end they all decided to stay put, citing the fact that the house was frequently used as a rendezvous point for other passing ghosts and that it would be best to have someone there to hold the fort. And, by that logic, it was rather harsh for everyone to leave one behind. So, in the spirit of All For One And One for All, they all decided to stay.
I started missing them three hours after getting home.
The worst bit was at work. A part of me had been looking forward to having them there, surreptitiously rearranging everything on the shelves, pulling faces at the rude customers and just generally being themselves really. I could just see the look of flabbergasted glee on the submariners' faces when they saw the alcohol aisle. I got the feeling that I would have to warn Nate to keep the Professor away from the matches stand though . . . His mild pyromania would not be helpful or welcome in this instance.
I became very bored. My life revolved around work. Paid work. University work. The vast majority of my friends lived in the next county and it was expensive and awkward to travel up to see them. And difficult to coordinate all our jobs so we were all free on the same day.
I got lonely.
My parents and brother noticed that I started needed prompting before I smiled. Knowing from experience that that's rarely a good sign, they began gently enquiring whether I was upset or sickening for something. I hastily responded in the negative and cursed the fact that I had been born with an expressive face.
Finally, after a particularly long day full of ill-mannered customers and a pulled stomach muscle (How I hated it when they did special offers on crates of beer . . .) I finally snapped.
I sat down, found a sheet of paper and began to write a letter, the address of the house at the top and headed 'Dearly Departed Friends.'
I wrote down everything. All the funny things I'd overheard and wanted to tell them, all the imbeciles I wanted to hear them mocking and, most importantly, how much I missed them.
I addressed the envelope to me, but drew a little ghost in the corner so they knew who I really intended it for. Then I put it in the post and I was content, because I could picture them all reading it.
One of them would howl at seeing the letter coming through the door and there would be a stampede to grab it. Radinsky and Nate would lunge and grapple with each other in their attempt to be first, standing on Elspeth who wanted to reach it before anyone else purely so she could win
. But little Evie would wriggle through the gaps and reach it first before sprinting back to the Professor with it.
She would eagerly hand it to him and he would open it painfully slowly in order to torment everyone. Then, when he had finished his little power trip, he would read it aloud in his precise, melodic German accent.
I slept better that night for having that picture in my head.
A reply came two days later.
I gaped at the envelope, aghast. HOW on earth had they posted it? Writing it was easy enough, they could manipulate physical objects at will. But how did they get it into the post box?
My parents looked at me askance as I grinned at the unopened envelope, my head full of the picture of the ghosts nervously checking that the route to the postbox was devoid of people before hissing 'Go, go, go!' Then one of them sprinting to the box with the letter before any passing person could notice that there was an envelope floating in midair.
My guess was on Yuri. He was the quickest runner.
Finally, I opened the envelope.
The response inside was short. A simple smiley face drawn on the back of my letter.
Faintly disappointing. As it would be a lie to say I wasn't hoping for more.
Luckily however, two nights later, more is exactly what I got.
I had had a short shift that day but unfortunately those three hours had been crammed with the rudest people in the parish. It always amazed me how easily people could make the words 'please' and 'thank you' sound like a favour. Or an insult. And yet they managed . . .
The strain of forcing myself to be polite to these people had worn me out and I was exhausted right the way through to my soul so I elected to have an early night.
However, a slight noise woke me just before one in the morning.
I frowned, not wanting to open my eyes as chances are it was just my neighbour's cats fighting again.
Then I became aware of a tugging sensation on my quilt."'bushka?' Babushka? Are you awake?
" A tiny voice asked.
My eyes shot open, hardly daring to believe it.
Yuri was crouched next to my bed, his eager young face wonderfully familiar.
I opened my mouth, gasping in a breath.
Yuri hastily shushed me and I swallowed down my building shriek of joy, remembering that my family was still asleep.
"Yuri!" I whispered, my face splitting into an enormous grin. "Y-You? Here? HOW?"
"I took the train." He said, voice barely audible, smiling happily. "And then another train. And then because that was the wrong train, I took another one. And then I wandered around and tried to find your house. Sorry that it took me so long. I forgot your address."
I couldn't speak, I was so purely overjoyed that my voice had been completely stolen away.
A bitter surge of regret that I could not hug him took over but it fled as I hastily pushed my quilt towards him, wrapping my arms around the material instead.
"God, I have missed you so much." I whispered into where his neck would be.
"We have missed you too. As soon as we got your letter we decided we must see you. We have a plan." Yuri informed me, quilt-padded arms wrapping around me. "I come stay for a week. I travel back. Another come for a week. They travel back. Another etc, etc . . . We drew straws. Radinsky tried to cheat. The Professor and Evie are next."
I let out a tiny laugh, wobbling and wet with tears. "You have no idea how much I have wanted this, Yuri. Thank you so
"Babushka, do not cry!" He begged, dabbing at my face with a corner of the quilt. "Do not be sad."
"I'm not crying because I'm sad, poppet. I'm just so glad to see you. How on EARTH did you get here without being chased by the Others?"
"I am fast runner. And they are not so clever at giving chase. Sometimes, if you hide, they do not see you." The Russian whispered, with a very faint hint of smugness.
"Clever boy." I murmured. " . . . Did Radinsky really cheat?"
"Da. He wanted to come first. Nate caught him."
"Idiot man." I grinned, but I was touched that he would try. Then something occurred to me. "Yuri?"
"Why are you
whispering . . . ?"
The Ghost blinked. "Oh . . . I did not think."
Our eyes met and as one we burst into a quiet fit of giggles.
Eventually we fell silent again, but it was a comfortable silence.
Finally, Yuri moved. "Come, Babushka. You are tired. You must go to bed."
"Yes Mum." I teased as he rolled the blanket back over me, but the Russian was right, I was
exhausted. However, one last horrible thought occured to me as he tucked the material round me. "Yuri? I'm not dreaming this, am I?"
He smiled. "No, Babushka. I am here."
I was already falling asleep but I managed one last smile. "I'm glad." I whispered.
I was still smiling when Mum came to wake me the next morning.