Alex meets me and my two tag-alongs at Brisbane Domestic the next morning. Naturally, he can't see them. By now, I've more or less established that no, these two are actual ghosts, and not hallucinations, one dash to the airport (oversleeping has its price) and a plane ride later.
Unless, of course, that I'm actually still hallucinating. A very, very long-winded hallucination, one half of which has a degree in smart-arsery, and the other half...well, quite sweet, actually. But that's hardly the point.
The plane trip is a nightmare, because I am itching to talk to the two invisible boys -- or hallucinations, maybe -- but it is made very clear once again that nobody else can see them, when Teddy trips over behind me as I make my way onto the plane.
"Behold, the most inept boy in the North Shore," I hear Llew sigh, and as I stow my bag in the overhead locker, see him offer a hand to him to pull him back onto his feet.
Then I see three people walk through them.
This has been a first. One thing I noticed, even while running madly so I wouldn't miss my train to the airport, was that people walked around Llew and Teddy, even though they couldn't see them. It seemed to be entirely unconscious, as well. As we stumbled into the train car, the few people getting off avoided walking into the boys as if they were proper flesh and blood people, and actually there. I boggled at this, and got a few puzzled looks in return, and a single one-fingered salute. It made my stomach lurch unpleasantly, and Llew to return the gesture casually. Unable to say anything to him -- no way was I talking to thin air in public, as it was now very obvious they were invisible -- I gave a him a slight smile that bordered on desperate, I felt. He winked at me in return, and Teddy chuckled.
"Serves him right," he said, nodding as if Llew had passed down a judicial sentence. Sometimes, I swear, if being an arsehole could be punishable by law, my anxiety would halve itself instantly.
People don't walk around other people's hallucinations, I think, and then immediately chase that thought up with, ...unless I'm just thinking they're walking around them, and they're actually not at all.
How far could a hallucination take you into what didn't actually exist, anyway? But then, a middle-aged couple and an elderly woman walk through the pair of them as they board the plane. Puzzlement clouds their faces.
"Goodness, there's quite a draught there," the elderly woman exclaims. My heart has leapt into my throat and is beating like the wings of a trapped hummingbird. "What's the temperature outside supposed to be, Darren?"
Darren frowns and shakes his head, but looks a little perturbed. "Dunno. What, ten, maybe?"
"Of course it's draughty, Mum," the female half -- Darren's wife or partner -- says, but she looks just as perturbed as Darren, if not more. "The air bridge isn't soldered onto the plane door, you know."
Well. That about does it for my hallucination theory. I feel horribly light-headed.
They move along the carriageway, and Llew and Teddy, both now upright, follow them, falling into the seats beside me. They look about ready to grab the sick bags in the pockets in front of us and loose the entire contents of their stomachs. I'm panicked and I have ten thousand questions, but no possible way to ask them.
I bend down over my knees and pretend I'm stowing something beneath my seat, and very subtly murmur to them, "Get to the front of the plane. The small area in front of the first row where there's nothing. Stand against the wall. No one will walk into you. If you stay here, someone will sit...through you."
"I'm going to puke," Llew replies in a wobbly voice, but both he and Teddy get up and move back down the aisle, avoiding other people boarding carefully. I'm worried for the rest of the flight, and bizarrely exhausted when I see Alex waiting for me at the gate I (we) exit through.
"What are you doing here?" I ask, surprised despite my fatigue.
"Hello to you, too!" Alex laughs, then trails off and looks at my face, frowning slightly. Oh lordy, not the worried nurse' expression. "Jesus, Winter...are you all right? You look like you've seen a ghost."
Two, I think, and beside me Teddy starts to giggle, despite still looking a little green around the gills.
"Hello, I'm sorry, just wasn't expecting to see you. Yeah. Rough flight. Didn't sleep much last night." Again, because I saw -- and kept seeing, and still am seeing -- two ghosts. Two, doctor man. Diagnosis?
"That's to be expected, though, isn't it?" His cheerful face is back on. "How was the gig?"
I have to grin. Ghosts or no, it was fantastic. "Would not have missed it for all the tea in China. Nor all the dragons in Wales!"
"There's only one, isn't there? The red one."
"Wouldn't have missed it for one red one, either!"
"Tell him about how you were makin' eyes at the guitarist for the whole set," Llew drawls from somewhere behind my shoulder, and I hear a soft impact of flesh hitting flesh, not particularly gently.
"Shut it, shit for brains. She can't acknowledge us out here, you know it."
"Who is this loser here anyway?" Referring to Alex, I suppose. I want to bristle and give him a mouthful of abuse for that.
"I know friends' are a foreign concept to you, Llewellyn, but some people do actually have them!"
"Keep running your mouth, Bambi. I was wondering if he was her brother or something."
Bambi. He uses that nickname for him, too? That's...well, those eyes, I suppose, maybe it's not that weird. Wait, weirdo, how the hell do Alex and I even look related? For one thing, he's Asian, and I'm the whitest bread that ever existed. I swear, you just pull shit out of the air--
"Winter?" Alex is looking at me with his medical face on again, an almost-frown causing a tiny line to appear between his brows.
"Uh?" I detach my attention from Llew and Teddy's bickering -- like an old married couple, really -- and turn back to him. "Yeah?"
"Are you sure you're all right? You're awfully...you know. Distracted."
"Don't like airports much," I mutter. That's the truth of it, actually: too many people rushing about. It's making me nervous. Of course, the ghosts aren't helping, but still. "Let's just go home?"
"I was going to get us some breakfast first at--"
"No!" I reply, too sharply. I'm tired, I'm stressed, I feel like I want to either sleep for a week or have a bath for a week (or sleep for a week in the bath), and I can't handle sitting down surrounded by any more people. It feels like every person in the general vicinity has ten sets of eyes, and they're all staring at me without blinking.
Plus, I'm being trailed by two ghosts. I need to get somewhere where I can talk to the pair of them out loud; I have so many questions and little confusions I want cleared up.
I feel like someone's put my head in a blender. Thoughts don't race, they whirl with the speed of colliding protons.
"No," I say again, softly, and rub my forehead. I feel a jab of ice touch me; Teddy has put his hand on my shoulder and is looking at me with concerned eyes. His touch is frozen, but weirdly comforting.
"No worries, Snowbell," Alex says, taking the handle of my little suitcase in his right hand and putting his left arm around my shoulders, his hand hovering slightly as Teddy moves his own hand, with surprising quickness. "I'll just drive you home, then. How's that? Either way, I thought you'd be tired of public transport. That's why I showed up, really."
I exhale a little and smile at him, grounding myself with the pressure of his arm around me, and -- oddly enough -- the ghostly memory of Teddy's touch, as well.
"Thanks, Alex. Owe you one."
"Nah, you don't." He smiles.
"Ha, got it!" I hear Llew say, from somewhere behind my shoulder, still. "He's her ex."
...how did that irritating little twerp work that out, anyway?
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