*Part Nine of my “Poppy” series. How to pronounce her last name: VER-OH-SIS-CA. If you have been reading this series, then congratulations! You’re almost done. After this part will be the last part and then I’ll post origin stories of the characters. Gacha Club character designs are on my wall. Enjoy!*
It’s been nothing but hills for us. I know that home is somewhere around here, but it feels like we’ll never get there.
We haven’t spoken much, either. The four of us have been walking on, down the path.
“Why is Henry here?” I ask Ash. He told me that Henry “needed his help” but why would that require him joining us?
“Because I have nowhere else to go, okay?” Henry snaps. His voice is raspy, like he hasn’t drunk anything in years.
I know what it’s like to be alone. To be against the world. I mean, this whole thing started when I ran away from home.
Jessica’s eyes stare far off into the distance. They’re glassy and wide. Her mouth moves slowly, as if she’s talking, but I don’t hear any words from her mouth.
“Jessica? Jessica?” I ask.
She doesn’t respond.
I turn to Ash, to check on him.
He’s whispering to Henry, clasping his hand. I still don’t know much about Henry and it bothers me. Shouldn’t Ash tell me who he is?
Matter of fact, I don’t know much about my siblings. Before I left, Jessica was on the phone with Levi and Ash was pretending his nachos were battleships. We were peaceful. We were happy.
I think back to Damien’s family, all monsters, all with a strong, decaying feeling of sorrow lingering in the air.
What if that’s us?
No, I can’t let that be us. We have to keep going.
We have to stop Chloe.
We’re not in the forest anymore. We’re on the outskirts, next to the highway. There’s a sign next to us that says “Welcome to Cord Arboretum”. Underneath the sign is…is…Ashley?
I run over to Ashley. Jessica continues muttering to herself, while Ash still whispers to Henry.
I can run faster than humans. Any supernatural being can. I’ve made it to her in only five minutes. I can see her face…
She’s doing the same thing as Jessica.
“Ashley? Ashley? Ashley?!” My voice gets a bit higher as I call out her name. No reaction.
I wave my hand in front of her face. Still, no reaction.
“Ashley, please. Answer me. An-“
“What?” Ashley snaps, just like Henry did earlier.
My heart sinks into my stomach. My best friend just snapped at me, when all I did was worry about her. She’s never done that before.
Ashley’s face softens.
“I’m sorry, Poppy. You didn’t know. I was talking to my family.” She says.
“Your…family? But you don’t have a family.”
“I do. They’re dead. They’re ghosts.” Ashley says.
“So that’s what it is? Talking to ghosts?”
“Yes, that’s what it is. Talking to ghosts.”
That’s what Jessica is doing. Talking to ghosts.
“Why are you here, Poppy? What’s wrong?”
“I’m trying to get home. Jessica told me that Chloe is after my family.”
“Come on. The Jeep is somewhere around here.” Ashley says, gesturing me to follow her.
I turn around. Jessica has stopped talking to the ghosts and Ash has stopped talking to Henry.
“We have to go. Ashley is waiting.” I say.
I face Ashley.
“Is that Ash and Jessica? They look so much older.”
“Yes, that’s them.”
I still don’t know why Ashley is out here.
“Who is that boy?”
“He’s Henry. I don’t know why he’s here. Ash brought him over.”
The three of them have joined us. Ashley smiles and begins walking.
We follow her into the forest.
Why was Ashley out here?