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2nd Prize Winner - Group II - Building Ghost Girl

March, 2015
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Building Ghost Girl

“Its very beautiful over there…”

- Thomas Edison’s last words


“Too close”, she had said. “You’re too close to love me, Theo. You know that. You do. And besides, I’m fine with being alone. You’re too close.”

Her shuddering breath had caressed my ear, and I had heard the tears choking her tone. I know now that she was right. I know better now. Of course, you can’t know better until knowing better is useless. But right then, I hadn’t understood, couldn’t comprehend her words over the static silence that filled the tiny space between us. Too close. I can still hear that silence now; its cruel, how the silence is still here, and she isn’t; like it’s taken her place. Too close. The last words I heard her say. Too close.

Annie. Annie. The name repeats in my mind like a broken record, drowning out any other thought, any other emotion. The name, the wretched name, has consumed me, engulfed me, and has rotted me to my core. Annie. Annie. I am torn, grieving, in shock, delirious, empty…I am furious. Furious at the fake mourners for acting like they knew her when they didn’t, furious at them for telling me that I’ll be okay because I won’t, furious because they tell me she’s in a better place now, but to hell if they know. Annie. Annie. I just want her to leave me alone. Stop, leave me alone. Just leave me alone.


“Hi, Theo. How are you feeling today?” Zack asks tentatively, careful to keep his distance from me. I don’t blame him.

“I’m okay, I guess.” Is my monotone reply, as per usual. I walk towards my locker and enter the combination, but distracted by the feeling of a thousand eyes burning pinpoint holes into my back with their vacant stares. My prediction is rendered correct, exasperatingly, when I turn around to catch everyone in the hallway glancing nervously at my expressionless face for a split second, then looking away and adding to the heavy awkwardness of the situation. Letting out a sigh, I proceed to trudge to first period, which is Math. Just my luck. Another sigh, and I open the door. All eyes on me as I walk to my desk, sit down and force my self to look straight ahead. Straight ahead. Nothing else matters. Straight ahead. 

A few more silent moments take their sweet time to go by, until the teacher clears her throat unnecessarily loudly and says “All right. Well. Um, today, class, we are going to discuss integers.”

Thus proceeded the most painfully depressing Math class I have ever sat through. Averted eyes, muttered sorry’s, and shuffling feet to get out of my way; all my doing. I created this bubble, I tell myself firmly, I want to push people away. Don’t I? For the first time since the accident, I question my universal defensiveness. An unexpected wave of loneliness washes over me, and for the millionth time since the crash, I long for her presence.

She used to smell like lemongrass and cumin. I would sometimes catch myself leaning in too close to her, just to get a whiff of her timeless scent. “ Why are you staring at me?” she would ask with that shy smirk of hers. “No reason”, was my flustered reply. “No reason at all.”


“Did you miss me, Theo?”

The words bounce off the walls of my skull as I search for their origin. Time is sluggish, slow, as if its been pushed under water. Then, to my utter surprise, I find the voice. There she is, in all of her luminescent glory, her mahogany hair fluttering around her shoulders and her celery-green eyes bright and so, so…alive.

“Are you lost without me?”

Her tone is taunting, mocking; but I couldn’t care less. She’s here. She’s with me. She’s—

“You should be.”

Time seems to have forced its head above water once more, and Annie collapses into me. The fuzzy darkness recedes, and I find myself lying on the tarmac of the highway, five feet from the silhouette of an upside down and utterly trashed SUV. Annie’s limp form is draped over me. Her limbs are bent at awkward angles and her skull has been split open, dripping with blood and oozing a revolting smell. Gagging, I struggle to lift her off me, but she fixes her half dead eyes on me, and repeats—

“You should be.”


Jolting awake, I find myself struggling to draw breath, heaving and heaving bucketfuls of air that refuse to pass down my throat. I continue to retch like this until it becomes too much to bear, and I throw up into the bowl by my bed. So much blood. So much blood. That smell has filled my head and nostrils, suffocating me from inside. I groan inwardly and fall back onto my bed, bringing my knees up to my chest and rocking back and forth, shaking my head so vigorously it initiates a massive headache. She was there. She was right there. And I lost her. All my fault. All mine.


“I remember this one time, I was really late for class, like really late. And I was super flustered, you know, and I dropped my books when I tripped over my own feet. And then she came around the hallway, and she didn’t say a word, just helped me pick up my books and gave me this smile that just… oh god, I miss her so much.” Rynn chokes through the last few words and covers her face with her hands and sobs. The crowd of students that flocked to hear her story let out a unified sigh and pat her on the back.

“Oh, bull-crap. Bull-mother-freakin’-crap.” I mutter under my breath as I walk by. What’s left of my decency resists the urge to punch her square in the jaw. As one can probably tell by now, there’s not much of said decency left in me.

“She was always so polite, and nice, and caring. I wish I could have heard her laugh more. The few times I did hear it, well, I’m proud to say now, that I will cherish them for the rest of my life,” She adds, her empty words slathered in melodramatic emotion. That’s all it takes. And I snap.

“Liar,” I hiss, stopping in my tracks, and whirling around to face her. “ You liar! That bull-crap never happened. Ever!” My voice rises to a yell as all the fury, the grief, and utter disgust pent up over the last few weeks overflows and tumbles out of me in a wave of hysterical rage. “She wasn’t polite, she wasn’t caring, she was none of that, at least not to the likes of you! You know how I know that? Huh? Because I knew her! Like actually knew her! I was the only one who did! And you know what? She hated you! Absolutely, mother-effing hated every single one of you! She thought you were all stuck-up snobs, and she certainly never smiled at you! So you shut up with all your talk about how I’ll miss her so much, and how you’ll cherish her laugh for the rest of your life, because you won’t, will you? No, you won’t! And I assure you, you freaking liar, that you never heard her laugh. Ever! You—“ Cutting me off, Zack comes out of nowhere and grabs my shoulder, pulling me into the corridor down the hall. He drags me into a vacant classroom and locks the door.

“What the hell was that?” He half shouts it, more in disbelief than in anger.

“What do you mean? You expect me to just sit there and twiddle my thumbs as you guys tell lies—“ I retort, vision still edged with red fury.

“Are you kidding me? We have been, the entire school has been grieving and mourning her loss, as you are.” He says the last part automatically, as if its been printed on his eyelids.

“Oh my god,” I say in exasperation, throwing my hands up. “That is the fakest thing I have ever heard in my entire, miserable life. You can’t mourn, you can’t grieve, if you never even bothered to say ‘hello’ to the person, let alone ‘what’s your name?’ or anything like those stories that you guys make up on the spot!”

“Theo, please.” He says weakly.

“Don’t you ‘Theo, please’ me!” I shout, and realize that my pent up anger has been spent, leaving me with a vast expanse of…nothing.

“Do you have any idea how hard it is to walk through this God damned dump everyday, and listen to the lies you all tell about her? Can you even perceive how maddening it is? She wasn’t nice, she wasn’t kind, she wasn’t generous. She was stubborn, and insecure, and pessimistic, and self-destructive, and screwed up! She was screwed up. But as much as I want to hate her for it, as much as I want to hate her for leaving me like this…I-I just can’t. I just can’t.” My voice cracks, and tears begin streaming down my cheeks. For a second I want to restrain my sorrow, but I think better of it, and let myself cry freely.

Zack looks stunned for a moment, and then a look of understanding dawns on his face. Not understanding for what I’m going through, not understanding for my pain, but understanding for the fact that I want to remember her for her, not for some replica with her face and someone else’s mind.

“Hey. Hey, you’re good. You’re okay. And no, I have no idea what its like, nor do I have any desire to. “ He lets out a dry and humorless laugh, and hugs me to his chest. “But I do know that you’re right. So from now on, we’ll remember the stubborn, pessimistic, screwed up Annie, the way you want her to be remembered. Okay? Hey, man, you’re okay.”

We just stand there for god knows how long. Doing nothing, saying nothing. Just standing there.



This is the honest to goodness truth: People die. It’s the way of the world; its life. At least until we come up with a better word for it.

The trick that I have discovered in the past few months since her death, that is vital to survival in this thing we call life, is forgiveness. I had to learn to love; I had to learn to forgive. I have survived, because I forgave us both. I forgave her for leaving me with empty words and static silence, for taking what little future I had and sucking the life out of my bleak present. It had seemed, for too long a while, that this was the case. In truth, she had only hid them from me. I couldn’t find my future or the life of my present because they were hidden behind my anger and my grief. But it seems that now I have regained possession of these things.

And I forgave myself. For hating her and hiding from her and resenting her for not loving me. I had to lift that weight off my shoulders before it crushed me completely. I could not dwell on what had been done, only what is yet to be done.

Life goes on. We humans are sometimes so oblivious to this fact, that we miss the slim chance of grasping the present and enjoying it for all its worth. I am determined never to let that chance slip through my fingers ever again.

And yes, I will forget. I will forget that the love of my life at 17 died in a car crash. I will forget how her face looked on those evenings spent watching the sunsets. But I won’t forget the wounds she inflicted and that of which time has healed, and the scars they left behind.

Thomas Edison’s last words were: “It is very beautiful over there.” I have no idea whatsoever where “there” is, and it will most likely remain so until my time has come, but I’m hoping against impossible hope, that, for her sake, it is indeed beautiful.


By Phaedra McArdle

Yew Chung International School of Shanghai


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