“Come on!” Anne called, waving her sister over. “Lawrence’s sweethearting with a ghost.”
Patricia and Anne crept under his window. They hid behind the shadow of his flatscreen monitor. Outside it was pitch black, contrasting against his lit bedroom.
All he had were the computer and the bed, but you’d look at Lawrence no matter what else was around. He was 6’4” at 17 years old, and puberty still hadn’t given him enough fat or muscle to carry the height. He was a scrawny giant, with long legs and fingers. A human scarecrow. There was something wrong with his right knee, such that he couldn’t help but walk awkward. It was like God left a KICK-ME sign on his back.
But there was something more to look at tonight. His bed was pushed to one corner, leaving the floor empty. He stood the straightest they’d ever seen him, hands extended in front of him, holding nothing. One was low, where a woman’s hip might be, while the other was high, as though on a shoulder. His bad leg led him two steps here, then pivoting and taking two steps there.
Anne canted her head. “I think he’s waltzing with her.”
Patricia looked from Lawrence to Anne and back again, like this would share whatever the other two were seeing.
“Waltzing with who? I think he’s going mad.”
“No.” Anne rested her elbows on the windowsill, watching Lawrence dreamily. “He’s dancing with a ghost girl.”
Patricia scrunched up her forehead. “There’s nobody there.”
“Dunce, she’s transcendent.” Anne waggled her nose in the air, glorying in this bit of vocabulary. “Can’t you see her gown? It’s frilly, like Nana’s curtains. He keeps almost stepping on it.”
Patricia focused on her brother’s feet. They shuffled deliberately – either he was neurotic, or was trying to avoid somebody’s feet. She glanced up and saw his lips moving.
“Is he whispering to himself?”
“Poor Lawrence.” Anne sighed at the sky. It was nighttime in Heaven. “He was so lonely that he found a girl from beyond the grave.”
“That’s crazy.” Patricia pushed her. “Crazy’s what he’s doing. Dancing all alone.”
Lawrence looked at the window and both of them ducked behind the monitor. They were grateful that Dad had gotten him a widescreen for Christmas. The two girls stayed down, not even breathing for fear it would give them away. When the window didn’t clatter open, the sisters peered at each other.
Patricia pinched Anne on the shoulder. “Tell me you didn’t really see anyone.”
“I did, too.” Anne sucked her lips inward, turning her mouth into an angry line. “She’s ravishing. I’m happy for him.”
“There’s nobody there. Come on.”
They rose just high enough for their eyes to peek over the sill. Lawrence was still dancing in an ugly square with his invisible bride. His hands were stable, even if his right leg kept trembling for position. He was definitely mouthing something.
“I’m looking,” said Anne. “I see the prettiest girl in the world. She’s got blonde hair, braided like Mom won’t let me do mine. And her eyes are like the moon. I think he’s talking to her.”
“He’s talking to himself. Besides, ghosts wouldn’t look like that. They’re dead.”
“Well what do they look like?”
Patricia folded her arms. “Like nothing.”
“If you don’t see anything, and ghosts look like nothing, then how isn’t she a ghost?”
Patricia was a year older, but that only made her eleven. It didn’t give her a good answer. She watched the nothing-girl in her brother’s arms. The absence of a bosom pressed to his chest, and the absence of legs matching his steps. The nothingness that hesitated just as long as his bad knee did, matching his strides and following his lead. Even if she wasn’t there, she was more elegant than he was. It was nice for him to get such a dance partner.
She squeezed her eyes closed.
“Maybe I’m crazier than he is.”
She opened them to find Anne glaring at her with pure ethereal intensity. It was like Anne saw ghosts in her now.
“Don’t you call him crazy. He found love.”
“I’ll call you crazy. And so what?” she said with the conviction of the convert. “You think he’s got a ghost girlfriend. Either he’s gone mad or gone wizard.”
“Necromancy? Oh, that’s unnatural. I thought maybe she came to him.” Anne’s fire was doused. Her eyes blinked and flickered in worry. “What are we going to do with him?”
“Maybe we can ask to meet her, and talk it out.”
“You can’t ask to meet your brother’s ghost girlfriend.” Anne shook her head so rapidly it almost gave away their location. “It might break the spell.”
“Or get you committed.”
Lawrence’s great shadow approached the window. This time they darted away altogether, not wanting to be caught by his phantom lover or whatever virus was eating his brain stem. They hid under the porch and prayed he wasn’t an evil wizard now.
“One, two, three,” he repeated to himself. “One, two, three.”
He didn’t even notice them. Lawrence bent over the monitor and clicked a Related Video, starting up the next Waltz practice on Youtube. He’d get this eventually. He was glad nobody ever saw him practice this. He couldn’t imagine what it looked like.