Mikey has more questions but then so does Gerard.
“No.” Willow lied with a shrug. “We just talked a few minutes.”
Alicia could see that Willow was upset but didn’t press the matter.
“We gotta get going.” Frank said bounding up the bus steps.
Bob was following closely behind him. “Yeah, the sooner we leave the sooner we get to Chicago.” It was obvious he was anxious to reach his hometown.
“Hey Bryar, we gonna get to stay at your house?” Ray asked as he passed Willow and Alicia and hurried up the steps.
Whatever Bob answered Willow didn’t hear. Mikey had reached them and was asking if everything was okay. The pain in Willows head was still intense and it was getting harder to lie but she did. Right now all she wanted was to crawl into her bunk and think about what had happened with Gerard. How had his kiss brought silence to her mind? What did it mean?
“So can we talk for a while?” Mikey asked eagerly. “I got some questions I’ve been wanting to ask you.”
Willow understood how important this was to him. She also understood the fact that helping Mikey was the reason she was here. “Sure. But I’d like to throw on my sweats first.”
“Good idea.” Alicia said taking Willows arm as they made their way up the bus steps. “And I’ll grab you some aspirin.” She whispered to Willow so that Mikey didn’t hear.
Willow smiled at her kindness, “Thanks” She whispered back.
Twenty minutes later they were underway as Willow sat down on the sofa in the front of the bus waiting for Mikey. She hadn’t seen Gerard since entering the bus but knew he was in the back with Ray, Frank and Bob working on a song. Thankfully the aspirin Alicia had given her was starting to help relieve her headache.
Mikey walked over and took a seat across from Willow. Alicia, who was following, sat down next to him.
“So” Mikey began looking a bit nervous. “Is it okay if I ask you some questions about your life first?”
Willow nodded, “Sure, what do you want to know?”
“Well you said that you don’t hear actual voices when you see the dead but that you can sense what they want. Has it always been like that? Could you always just know what they are trying to tell you?”
“No, not at first. But you have to remember that I’ve had this gift my whole life. When I was young, before I realized that other people couldn’t see these people that I saw, I just believed they were friends who came to play with me. There was one little girl who would show up and I was always so glad to see her. She appeared to be about my age.” Willow stopped a moment to remember the little blond haired girl who had been her playmate.. “I think part of it was I was very lonely as a child. I was an only child and so I spent a lot of time by myself.”
“Didn’t you have any friends when you were little?” Alicia asked. “I mean I know having friends is hard for you now but has it always been like that?”
“We lived out in the country on a farm.” Willow explained. “The nearest neighbors were almost five miles down the road and they were an older couple who had no children. I really never interacted with other kids until I started school.”
“So there was a little girl who kept you company.” Mikey said becoming involved in the story. “And she was a ghost.”
Willow smiled, “Yeah, she was but I didn’t get that. I mean I was about four and I was just happy when she’d show up. I remembering thinking it was sorta strange she never talked but it was okay. I was just happy she was there.”
“Wonder who she was?” Alicia said softly.
“I know who she was.” Willow reached for the glass of water she’s brought with her and took a drink. “A few years ago I decided to find out. I went back to the farm, which at the time was for sale, and looked around. It’s silly but I was hoping she’d show up but she didn’t.”
“So how’d you find out who she was?” Mikey asked.
“Research.” Willow answered. “I went to the towns newspaper office and asked to see copies of old papers they have stored.”
“Stored like on the computer.”
Willow laughed, “Oh no. It’s a small town. They still have the actually copies of the papers. Very old school.”
“And you found her?” Alicia asked.
Once again Willow let her mind travel back to that day. “Yeah, I went through lots of papers. When I was little I didn’t take note of how she was dressed but when I was older I realized she was actually wearing clothing from the 1920’s. So I went back and started looking through the newspapers starting with 1920 and worked my way forward. I’ve learned that the dead often continue to appear as they did when they were alive.” She took another sip of water. “Her name was Matilda Higgins. She lived on the farm down the road I mentioned before. She was just five when the tornado destroyed her home.”
“Shit.” Alicia whispered. “And she was killed?”
Willow sat back and pulled her legs up under her. “Yes. She died in the twister along with her mother.”
Mikey shook his head. “That’s so fuckin’ weird.”
“Weird, yes but I will always have fond memories of her.” Willow said sadly. “And then one day she just stopped appearing. It was after my grandma died and I had begun to realize that I was seeing the dead. I always hope it wasn’t because she was afraid I wouldn’t want her around because I had realized she was dead.”
“How often do you see dead people?” Mikey asked. “I mean I haven’t seen one since that night I saw grandma.” He actually shuddered, “At least I don’t think I have.”
Willow wanted to address this topic. “Think back. When you saw the woman at the Paramour did you get a strange vibe? Like something was different?”
Mikey closed his eyes and tried to remember. “Yeah, I guess I did. That first time I didn’t really notice it but the second time, in the kitchen, I felt something. And it was cold too.” He added.
“That’s not unusual.” Willow explained. “For me I get a feeling I can’t really describe moments before I actually see them.”
“Is that how it was when you saw grandma?” Gerard’s voice surprised Mikey and Alicia who hadn’t realized he was listening to the conversation. Willow knew he was standing in the hallway. At least he’d turned down the volume of the song playing in his mind. For that she was grateful.
“Hey Bro. Come on and have a seat. You should hear the story Willow was telling us about the little dead girl she used to play with.”
Gerard considered Mikey’s invitation. As much as he wanted to hear Willow talk about his grandma he wasn’t sure she would want him near her.
Willow turned to look at him but said nothing.
Slowly Gerard walked over and sat down beside her. As he did the song became louder and Willow sighed.
She decided to be honest with him. “Look, as long as we’re just sitting here talking that’s really not necessary.”
Mikey and Alicia both looked puzzled.
“Just protecting my thoughts.” Gerard said meeting her gaze.
“But it’s distracting.” Willow was trying very hard to make him understand.
“What’s going on?” Alicia asked looking at Willow.
“Care if I explain?” Willow asked Gerard.
He gave her a smirk. “Go ahead.”
“He’s discovered that he can put a song in his head so that I can’t hear his thoughts.” Willow told them.
“A song in his head?” Mikey looked confused.
Willow nodded, “I guess the fact that he does have so many tracts in his mind allows him to do it. I’ve never come across anyone else that could. But it’s annoying for me. It’s like sitting next to a stereo that keeps playing the same song over and over.”
Mikey glared at his brother. “Well stop it. We’re sitting here having a nice conversation and you’re bothering her.”
Gerard was hurt by his brother’s words. He started to stand. “Fine I’ll leave.”
Willow knew he was hurt. “Don’t go.” She said softly. “It’s okay but just try to turn it down a little.”
He sat back down and looked at her. Suddenly the song stopped completely.
“Thanks.” Willow said looking into his eyes.
“I don’t get how he does that.” Alicia admitted.
Willow smiled at her, “Neither do I”
Mikey didn’t care. He just wanted to talk about ghosts. “So I’ll sense something when I see one?”
Gerard spoke before Willow could answer. “You were about to say what happened that night grandma helped you find Mikey.”
Willow nodded, “Right. Okay the night she appeared in my car I didn’t have time to sense anything. She was just suddenly there and she was frantic. I knew immediately that what she was telling me was important and that I had to act fast.”
“But I still don’t understand how you know what she wanted if she didn’t speak to you.” Gerard said leaning forward. “How do you just know?”
“It’s hard to explain. Over the years I think I’ve become more in tuned with the dead. They put images in my head and I have to figure out what they mean.”
“So that will happen to me?” Mikey asked Willow. “Is that what will happen?”
Willow wished she had answerers to all his questions but the truth was she didn’t. “I’m not sure Mikey. I wish I could tell you but I really don’t know.”
“Then why the fuck are we going back to the Paramour?” Gerard asked. “What if Mikey gets there and doesn’t see that woman again or what if he does and still don’t know what the fuck she wants?”
“I’m going back because I just know I have to.” Mikey said angrily. “I just know it.”
“You feel it.” Willow said softly understanding what he meant. “And I believe you will understand what she wants you to know.”
Gerard snorted and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, whatever.”
Willow tried to hide the yawn but Alicia saw. “I’m tired too.” She said smiling at Willow. “I think we should call it a night.”
Mikey nodded, “Yeah, I think so too. But I have one more question.”
“I’m just sorta worried, you know? I mean she’s not the only one there. What if some of them are those other things?”
“Malevolent?” Willow supplied the word.
“Yeah, those.” Mikey said nodding his head. “That scares me.”
“I’ll be with you, Mikey.” Willow said softly. “Whatever is there I’ll help you face it.”
Gerard was staring at her. She heard the question he was asking in his mind and answered turning to face him.” Yes.” He’s asked if she planned on protecting him too.
The bunk was warm and so inviting as Willow climbed in and pulled her curtain closed. The question Gerard had asked was still in her head. Did he really want her to protect him? Outside he had said he didn’t want her in his head or anywhere else for that matter. But then he’d kissed her and what a kiss that had been. Willow had never experienced anything like it. She brought her fingertips up to her lips and could still feel the slight tingling. He did have feelings for her that she knew. She also knew he was determined to fight those feelings. He was afraid to care about someone again. Willow sighed and rolled over. So many new and confusing things had happened in the last few days that she was at a loss as to what to think. The kiss that had silenced her mind, what she felt when she touched Gerard’s skin, Elena making it clear she wanted bother her grandsons helped…Willow sighed again.
She had just begun to fall into dreamland when she felt it. Pulling open the curtain she saw Elena. “What are you telling me?” Willow whispered softly hoping that Elena would explain. Instead her question was met with a smile and then she was gone.
Willow closed the curtain and fell back on the pillow. “I can’t help you if I don’t understand.” Willow whispered to herself.
Suddenly she heard the bathroom door close and footsteps moving down the hallway. Her curtain was slid open and Gerard peered in.
“We’re you talking to someone?”
Willow sighed. “Yes, but I got no answer.
Gerard squatted down. “What?”
“Elena again.” Willow whispered. “She just appeared then disappeared.”
“I told you I don’t know. I asked her what she wanted but she just smiled and then disappeared.”
He thought a minute then smiled, “I have to be honest it feels comforting to me to know she was here.”
“She’s always with you, Gerard.” Willow said softly. “Loved ones are always close by. Some can actually let you know while others can’t. But just know that if you talk to her in your mind, she will hear you.”
“Do you really believe that?”
Willow nodded, “Yes, I do. Elena has a great love for you and your brother. Love like that doesn’t just fade after they are gone. It’s still there.”
He looked away before speaking, “I’m sorry I gave you a hard time. You just confuse the shit out of me.”
Willow understood, “Well you confuse the shit out of me too.”
He turned back to look into her eyes, “You tempt me, Willow. And I just don’t need that shit.”
Willow didn’t know how to answer that.
“Well goodnight.” He stood quickly and closed the curtain but not before Willow heard his thoughts on how she tempted him. She blushed as her body ached to be touched the way he was thinking. It was a long time before sleep finally claimed her.