Copyright © Kate Kelsen 2020
As Halloween approached, Jasem’s classroom came to life. Mrs. Finch stuck eyes on everything, even the tree outside the window. Paper ghosts hung from the ceiling, and there were spooky paper lanterns and scary tissue boxes with sharp teeth. On the classroom door hung a banner with felt letters reading ‘Trick Or Treat SMELL MY FEET’ above imagery of socks pegged on a clothesline hanging over a witch’s cauldron, and one of the corners of the room had been turned into a haunted house feature wall.
The walls of Jasem’s bedroom shook as the subway thundered past his window. He held the scratchy blanket up over his nose and mouth, frozen where he lay as he watched the shadowy figure in the corner of the room. It looked like a ghost, but not like what Reggie had described. This ghost wore a blue thobe, and instead of chains, it wore beads, coins and shells which jangled as it floated across the room toward him.
He looked into the eyes that looked back at him through the slit in the veil. He knew those eyes, piercing blue and lined with black kohl.
‘Mama?’ He felt the fear drain from his body, replaced by a wave of relief, and then sadness. ‘I miss you, Mama.’
‘I love you, Jasem,’ Maryam whispered. ‘I’ll always be with you.’
Omid burst into the room, hurrying to Jasem’s bedside.
‘Jasem, are you alright?’
Jasem looked up at his father.
‘Mama came to visit me.’
‘In your dream?’
‘No. She was here.’
‘Mama’s gone, son. You know that.’
‘I saw her! I did!’
‘That’s enough, Jasem. It was a dream, that’s all. Dreams can be very real sometimes. Now, settle down and go back to sleep.’
The traffic was at a standstill. From the driver’s seat of his taxi, Omid craned his neck to see ahead of the cars immediately in front of him for any sign of movement in the gridlock. He glanced at Jasem, who sat in the front passenger seat.
‘You’re very quiet,’ he commented. ‘Are you mad at me?’
Jasem looked up at him.
‘Mama did come to visit me.’
‘I know you miss her, Jasem. I miss her too…’
‘I saw her!’
‘Jasem, stop it…’
‘I don’t care what you say! I saw her!’
Jasem sighed, turning back to face the front.
‘You still don’t believe me,’ he muttered. ‘You’re just jealous that you can’t see her too.’
Omid pulled up outside the school building.
‘There are snacks in the fridge, and I’ve asked Mrs. Martin to check in on you this afternoon.’
‘I can take care of myself.’
‘I’ll be home before it gets dark.’
‘I’m not afraid of the dark. I’m not afraid of anything.’
That afternoon, Jasem stepped inside the apartment, dropping his school bag on the floor as he crossed the way to the kitchenette. There, he stood at the refrigerator, eating pomegranate jam straight from the jar.
‘Jasem, don’t eat jam straight out of the jar.’
Jasem rolled his eyes and took out the loaf of bread.
‘Yes, yes. Whatever, Mama.’
‘Jasem?’ He looked up to see Mrs. Martin in the doorway. ‘Who, uh…who are you
‘No-one. Just myself.’
Mrs. Martin beamed.
‘Why don’t you come over to my place?’ Mrs. Martin suggested. ‘Keep me company for the afternoon.’
Mrs. Martin placed a glass of milk and a plate of cookies down in front of Jasem. She slid down into the chair next to Jasem, pausing thoughtfully before she spoke again.
‘Jasem, can I tell you a secret?’
Jasem looked at her curiously.
‘I see them too.’
Mrs. Martin nodded slowly. ‘Yes. They come and visit me, and I pass on messages from them to the living.’
‘Then maybe you could tell my father! Then maybe he’ll believe me!’
‘There are things your father doesn’t want to hear.’
Mrs. Martin paused.
‘You’re not like everybody else, Jasem. You know that, don’t you? You’re special.’
She placed her hand on Jasem’s arm. ‘I’m here, if you ever need to make sense of it all.’
Thank-you for reading this excerpt! Stay tuned for another excerpt tomorrow!