Authors: Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced,
distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written
permission of the publisher.
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First eBook Edition: August 2009
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental
and not intended by the author.
The truth is, I find it very embarrassing when my mother talks to plants.
There, I’ve said it. I can’t tell her, you see. She’d feel bad, and that’s the last thing I want. In most respects, she’s
incredibly cool. She’s a free spirit who lives her beliefs and doesn’t worry about what people think about her. She’s fun,
and wise, and spontaneous. But she’s also a walkie-talkie to the spirit world, and now, apparently, so am I.
I’ve kind of made my peace with the fact that I’ve started to see dead people. After all, I did grow up in a house with a
mom who communicated with the dead as if they were Girl Scouts dropping by to sell cookies. And this sort of thing runs in
families, so I wasn’t totally stunned when I started seeing ghosts a few months back, the day I turned thirteen.
But I wasn’t exactly thrilled about it, either. Given the choice, I’m not sure I would have chosen
as my life path. But you know. Stuff happens, and you figure out how to deal with it. My mom deals.
And that sometimes involves her chatting up flowers.
There weren’t any ghosts in Carlson’s plant nursery, just tons of luscious, flowering plants in the greenhouse. Mom says it’s
very easy to attune yourself to the spirits of trees and plants. They are aware of us and have a kind of love for us if we’re
open to it. And, well, she’s open to it. Like, very open.
So we spent the morning strolling through the morning glories and the orange symphonies and the orchids, and my mom was quietly
chatting with them, exchanging little pleasantries the way most moms do with other parents at soccer matches. When I was sure
no one was looking, I gave it a try, just out of curiosity. I asked a tiger lily how it was doing, but it just sort of . .
. sat there.
That’s how I spent the first morning of spring break. My best friend, Jac, was away at some kind of conference for young musical
geniuses, because she is one. So after my mom and I went to Carlson’s, I had to content myself with obsessively checking for
her e-mails, and hanging around the garden while my mother raked out the flower beds to prepare them for the new plantings.
“Any word from Jac?” she asked. Her pale blond hair was pulled up in a high ponytail, and she had a smudge of dirt on her
cheek, and another on her faded Beatles T-shirt. From a certain angle in the shade, she looked about sixteen.
“No,” I sighed as I flopped down on my trampoline, kicking my feet up and down like I was trying to swim.
“Maybe she doesn’t have Internet access.”
“She brought her laptop to the hotel. Everybody has Internet access. It’s all wireless now. Her mother is probably guarding
Jac’s mother was excessively ambitious about her daughter’s musical career. Much more ambitious, actually, than Jac was.
“Did Jac even want to go to this con-ference?”
Another worm was whisked away to a new home in the soil.
seem happy about it,” I replied. “The only thing she was looking forward to was seeing some of her music friends. She says
there are some things only another baby music genius can understand.”
Just like there were some things only another thirteen-year-old ghost whisperer could understand. Except I didn’t know any
other teen ghost whisperers.
“Well, she’s got a very strong personality, Kat,” my mother said, kneeling in the flower bed again. “Hopefully she won’t let
her mother control her.”
“You don’t know her mother,” I said ruefully. “I’m going to go check my inbox again,” I added, rolling up to a sitting position.
It was that or fall asleep on the trampoline.
I was momentarily blind after walking inside, out of the bright sunlight. Our house, a somewhat run-down old Victorian, was
perpetually dark downstairs. I fumbled up the stairs, regaining my sight in the narrow creaky hallway that led to my room.
Sun streamed through the windows onto my bed and across the floor, illuminating the amazing mess.
I sat down at my desk and clicked on my e-mail icon, almost immediately giving a little shout.
To: Voodoo Mama
Subject: My So-called Spring Vacation
Yes, I know, SORRY for not e-mailing sooner! My mother is all over me. Things are not going well at all, but I’ll have to
give you the details in person. The only good thing I can say is I’ve been able to hang out with my friend Tee, a violinist.
We go way back—seriously, I think we met at some baby genius convention when we were still in Pull-Ups. It’s good to have
someone to talk to, except my mother is always hovering somewhere nearby, probably to make sure I don’t hatch a plot to escape.
Write back, hopefully with more interesting news than I have. Any ghostly activity going on? Levitating chickens, talking
statues, that kind of thing? I hope so, because I am
for a little excitement.
For a girl who had a conniption fit every time she saw a bug, Jac was certainly fearless in the paranormal department. But
I had nothing more interesting to tell her than the fact that my mom had been making friends with worms. So far, spring break
was a bust for Jac and me both.
I stared out my window. Below, I could see my mother’s form bent over the garden. Beyond the trampoline was a low wall separating
our yard from the house next door. An old Victorian like ours, it had been empty ever since we moved in two years ago.
Down the street, there were two construction vans parked outside. One of them said dignum contractors on the side. This
mean the house had been sold, and the new owner was fixing it up. Maybe some nice family would move in, paint the place,
and spice up our end of the block a little. I imagined an easygoing, friendly couple with little children, or maybe even a
girl close to my age.
They’d have a barbecue outside and would grill burgers on nice evenings. I’d invite their kids over to jump on the trampoline.
We’d call friendly little greetings to each other from our yards.
Or. They’d overhear my mother talking to plants and worms, and from that day forward they’d rush into the house and pull the
blinds whenever they caught sight of us.
I sighed and went back to my desk. I read Jac’s e-mail again, then hit reply.
From: Voodoo Mama
SO RELIEVED to hear from you! Was starting to worry you had been taken captive by the menacing cello cult. You’re supposed
to be back in two days, right? Boredom here is excruciating. Only thing going on is workmen showed up at abandoned house next
door, so possibility of new neighbors exists. Good thing? Bad thing? You decide.
Take care of you. Sneak away with Tee or something. Have a little fun! What can your maternal unit do, really? You’re practically
grounded already, anyway.
Have you started your basic communications project yet? I haven’t. Don’t let me leave it ’til the last day . . .
Get home already. And write back.
I stared at the e-mail for a moment. It seemed stupid when I read it. It didn’t sound like me, and didn’t communicate what
I really wanted to say. I wasn’t one of those girls who was good at instant messaging and texting. Not that I had a group
of people to IM or text
Can’t talk to plants like my mom can, can’t IM like most of the civilized world can. Sometimes I suspected I didn’t fit in
My eye rested on the line about the basic communications project. BC was essentially seventh grade English class with a fancier
name and occasional forays into creative projects like this one. We were assigned to tell a story using two forms—written
word and a second of our choice. I had picked photography because it seemed easy, I had a new digital camera I had gotten
for Christmas that I hadn’t figured out how to use yet, and I liked the idea of capturing things on film.
But what was I supposed to write about and take pictures of? I hit send on the e-mail, then got up and walked to the window.
It looked like the workmen were packing up and calling it a day. I watched them stowing their gear in the vans, then fixed
my gaze on the empty windows next door, which stared back at me like eyes. I should just do the project on the house, I thought.
It’s the only vaguely interesting thing around.
I could tell its story in words, imagining the people who had lived there in the last century and where they had gone. And
I could tell the story in photographs, using different angles and light to give the house different moods. Really, as vacation
assignments went, this one might not be so bad.
I got my camera out of my desk drawer and turned on the power. It was a good camera, probably more than my mother could really
have afforded. I opened my window and framed the two second-floor windows, twins to my own. I snapped a few shots, tinkering
with the adjustments. I was still getting used to the way the camera worked, and I had never tried uploading shots to my computer.
I popped the little Smart Card out of the camera and into the media slot in my computer. Happily, the uploading process began
by itself. Good. This was going to be easy to get the hang of.
I clicked on my new picture file, and there were thumbnails of the three shots I’d taken. I opened the first one and examined
it. It was a dud, too off-center and with part of my window frame messing up the focus. The second one had my window frame
in it, too. I clicked on the third picture. Much better.
It was a clear shot of both windows. The sun had gone behind a cloud, so there was no glare on the glass, except for an oval
smudge in the center of one pane. What was that? I enlarged and enhanced the section of the picture with the smudge and examined
It was the pale face of a little boy, looking directly into the camera.
I pored over the image, enlarging it as much as possible on my computer, but it was impossible to make much out. It was definitely
a boy’s face, I was sure of that. He had dark hair and might have been around nine or ten years old. Beyond that, I couldn’t
The thing is, when I returned to my window and looked out, there was nothing there. And I had seen nothing through the viewfinder.
I was still way too new at this spirit world ambassador gig to know what this meant, or what I was supposed to do, if anything.
I had really only acted as a medium once before, a few months back at school when I had helped the spirit of a student who
had died in the sixties. She had been haunting the old music room, which was now the library. But that spirit had basically
sought me out, or as it turns out, sought Jac and me out together. Though it hadn’t seemed so at the time, the experience
was kind of like uploading photos from my camera. I was helped along, step by step. But a face appearing on a photographic
image when I could not see one with my own eyes, this was new territory.
I decided the next logical step would be to take more photographs of the house, to see if the face popped up again. I shot
a few pictures from my window again, then walked to my mother’s bedroom. The large bay window there faced the part of the
old house closest to the street, giving me a slightly different angle. Then I went downstairs and outside, where I took pictures
of the front of the house. I was about to cross the street to get some wide angle shots, when I noticed a tall, kind of cute
man standing across the street next to a bicycle that was leaning up against a signpost. Because he was looking at the house
kind of intently, I figured he must be one of the workmen. But there was no Dignum Contractors van, or any vehicle, in sight.
So maybe he was the guy who had bought the house.