After Joshua had accepted my terms, although grudgingly, I tugged off my coat and slipped out of my shoes again. He looked at me triumphantly and trailed after me as I headed back upstairs.
I sat back down at my desk, pushing my laptop screen back up so I could resume my studies. I heard Joshua give a disgruntled groan behind me and I turned around. “What?” I said.
“You said you’d talk to me! And you’re just going back to studying!”
“Quit being a baby,” I muttered. “I have homework.”
He pouted and crossed his legs. “I haven’t talked to anyone in two years,” he pointed out. “You can’t blame me for wanting a chat.”
I rolled my eyes but reached behind myself so I could snap the laptop shut again, then turned around and met his desperate gaze. “What should we talk about then?”
Joshua grinned in triumph, but it faltered slightly as he gave my question some consideration. He flopped back onto my bet and then said in a tentative voice. “At your school… is there are girl called Jenny Kaufman?”
I smiled, nodding. “Yeah, she’s been looking after me while I’m settling in.”
“I know she is.” Joshua admitted, shooting me a sheepish grin. “I kind of eavesdropped on your Mum and you.” He hesitated again before continuing, “is she okay? Like, is she doing good?”
“From what I can tell, she’s fine,” I bit my lip, reluctant to tell him about the bullying but decided it was for the best. “For the most part, I mean. She finds school a little difficult because, well, some girls have been nasty to her these past couple of years.”
Joshua’s mouth was set in a grim line, and his eyes were hard. “She’s being bullied.” He stated simply and I nodded sadly, placing my hands in my lap.
“I tried to get them to back off but they’re not nice people at all. They do it all discreetly. Like, whispering stuff behind her back and laughing at her all the time. When I first met her they flat out said it was her fault that you- Oh. I’m sorry, I probably shouldn’t be saying all of this…”
“No. Thank you.” He said softly, looking heartbreakingly sorrowful. “I just wish there was something I could do for her.”
“Well, why don’t you come to the school, then? You could scare them off, right?” I asked hopefully.
“No,” he said sadly. “I can’t leave the house.”
“Oh. Right.” I said, feeling awkward. “Well, if it makes you feel any better then I’ll make sure Scott and I have her back.”
Joshua gave me a puzzled look, frowning. “Who is Scott?”
“Oh, he seemed really close to Jenny, they’re like best friends. Did you not know him?”
He shook his head, shrugging. “I guess he moved here after I died.”
There was something about the way Joshua talked about his death so casually that made me feel uncomfortable; it was so conversational he could have just been talking about what he’d eaten for lunch the day before.
“Soooo, um, what sort of stuff can you do?” I wracked my brains for an interesting topic-starter, and failed.
Joshua shrugged, leaning back onto his elbows. I couldn’t help but notice that the bed didn’t dip at all under his weight. Wait… do ghosts even weight anything?
“I can influence the house, I guess. Knock stuff over, sometimes pick stuff up; but that takes a lot of effort.”
“Has anyone else ever been able to, y’know, see you?”
“No. Never.” His voice was nonchalant but I could sense a deep-set melancholy behind the words.
“Well, I bet you’re glad I came along when I did!” I laughed nervously.
“Yeah. I am.” He smiled warmly and I felt my heart break because of the pity I felt for this lost and lonely spirit.