I haven't spoken to Devin again since Thierry Dorsey vanished from the school. For days, I head to the cafeteria, accompanied by Tristan and Rafaela, talking about our favorite TV shows, bands and their newest music videos, gossipping about our classmates and the scoop centered on teachers, and speaking about boys. I eventually realize, this is how a teenage girl spends her time: discussing other girls' contras, saying that boys are brash but liking them deep down, and giggling at the lunch table. Maybe I like this, maybe I don't.
Devin never sets his foot on the cafeteria. I don't understand why he doesn't come here — he eats takeaway food. Why doesn't he buy his food here, too? Sometimes, he would be in the lab, juicing nectarines from the school kitchen in a Florence flask. Sometimes, he would be inside of the music room, playing any instrument — a classical piano, a guitar, a flute, even a glockenspiel — considering his multi-instrumentalist talents, I think that he should be a music producer. Sometimes, he would be in the art room; whether it's pottery-making or nailing canvas stands for Mrs. Turnbolt. Sometimes, he would be not seen anywhere. In extreme cases, he would absent in all classes for a day and nobody cares. Sometimes, we cross each other's paths and exchange thin smiles, before walking away from one another.
I don't understand why we avoid each other now. Perhaps, we want to escape the truth that we're both supernaturals and can see spirits. Perhaps, our knowledge of getting involved with Thierry Dorsey is hard to accept — at least, for now. Or, perhaps, Devin's just miffed at me for being a yellow belly when we encountered Thierry Dorsey? IDK. I don't know. Devin hears others' thoughts, not vice versa.
That day, I'm accompanying Rafaela and Tristan to the girls' bathroom. These are two musts for a teen girl: listening to gossip you pay least attention to, and accompanying your girlfriends to the bathroom. I don't have an idea why maidens always huddle when they go into a bathroom. No kidnappers intrude into schools' bathrooms, right?
Tristan and Rafaela just enter a cubicle. There are four cubicles on the second-floor bathroom, one of them, the second from the entrance door, is a haunt spot (get it?) for a ghost boy to dunk his head repetitively into the toilet. No one ever wants to visit that one — even they, including skeptics, can feel mysterious cold, frigid air there.
This time, that cubicle's door is ajar. I peek inward. The boy is still sousing his head into the toilet. This is a classic way to bully people — if you ask me, I once went through it. I glance around, no one is present save for Rafaela and Tristan, who're in the cubicle on the right side of this haunted one, and someone else in the cubicle that leans against the wall — the farthest from the entrance. I mosey inward carefully, entering the cubicle.
Inside, I crouch near the boy to get a better look. He has wet blond hair — a similar shade to mine. Toilet water is spinning, swallowing his face many times before his head rises up to the surface to inhale, like a marine mammal would, as if he still needs fresh air. His eyes are all white, blank, when he lifts his head. He gawks at me.
Trying hard, I try to ignore his bluish pale skin. I swallow — my throat feels dry like a river in a drought.
"Hi," I say, as silent as possible so that Tristan and Rafaela, and anyone else here in the bathroom can't detect it. He continues to gawk at me with furrowed eyebrows, but his face gives away a blank stare. "Umm, I'm Yolanda," I say, as if self-introduction is important. "Can I help you with anything?"
He opens his mouth wide. My eyes grow as wide as saucers. From his empty mouth comes a superstrong wind, quite similar to those in tornadoes. I shield my eyes, trying to block the gust of wind. I get dragged backward, crashing onto the cubicle's wall. Sounds emerge from the other cubicles, and I hear Tristan calling out my name. I fight to say something, but my throat feels clogged. Pain rises in my chest due to strong palpitations. Frigid, chilly air brushes against my body, I shiver uncontrollably.
Other cubicle doors start to open, Tristan and Rafaela shriek, followed by Charlene Jenner, or better known as CJ, from my Home Economy class. They repeat my name over and over, but before any of them could grab my hand, the door by my cubicle flings open. Devin stands in front of me, reaching my arm and trying to bring me toward the girls, but my head pounds hard, heavily. I don't really know if I'm conscious or not. Devin looks over his shoulder, sees the boy who opens his mouth again. Devin closes his eyes shut; his glasses fall, thanks to the gust of wind — Rafaela, CJ, and Tristan erupt in noises again. But he manages to pick it up.
The wind gradually fades until nothing is left. Devin loosens his grip on my shivering arm. He breathes again, panting. The boy stares at him; Devin returns his stare, then the blond boy evaporates into thin air.
Devin draws his attention back to me. He taps my cheek. "Yolanda, are you okay?" he says quietly, voice still shaken.
I try to say something, but, once again, my vocal cords feel clogged up. Tears flood my eyes, body still trembling. Devin throws his hands to hug me affectionately, tousling my hair gently, moving frontward and backward, just like a baby in a bassinet.
I'm not 100% exactly sure how Devin brought me all the way to the nurse's office, unless he carried me. There's no way he would tug me in the arm, right? There's no one when we arrive there. So, Devin simply helps me climb up to the nearest bed so I can lie down and rest.
We remain still, filling in the silence with listening to the tick-tick sound of the wall clock. Finally, Devin opens his mouth to say, "What were you doing?"
Without realizing it, I chuckle. "Curious," I respond, and it's true. "How did you know?"
Devin shrugs. "You were screaming very loudly in your brain. And that dude screamed, too; there were far too many screaming in that bathroom." He falls into a spasm of silence. "You heard him scream?" He eventually says. I shake my head. Devin nods slowly. "You see something?"
I shake my head again. "I can't see the flashbacks you told me before. Maybe, you're the only one who can, Devin. Maybe it has something to do with your hearing."
Hearing that, spasm falls on Devin again. He cups his hands in front of his face. He, as slow as a tortoise, says, "You know...maybe how I hear people's thoughts...hear ghosts' thoughts... Maybe, it's not about the hearing."
"What do you mean?"
"Empathy," Devin mutters. "I think, I feel their feelings, not hear their thoughts." He casts his eyes downward, to his lap, talking to it. "Possibly, what scares me isn't those hateful words, but the mixed feelings of couples insulting each other verbally...fighting, hate of a man whose son doesn't want to obey him, their sadness..." He lifts his face, eyes gazing at mine. "I feel your fear."
My eyes spark tears again, but this time due to being horrified. Devin holds me again in his arms, as if his bear hugs are always ready to act like an empty jug anytime I sob torrentially.
"To be born is torture, to live is heartache, and to go is hard, St. Bernard," he croaks slowly. "But, Mencken said, life doesn't always make sense and is often ludicrously painful, but the darkest rain cloud always comes before the brightest rainbow. William Hazlitt taught life art. Life art is to know ways how to enjoy a little of life and stay strong in your dark times. Hold on tight, Yolanda. You know how to stay strong in every situation, you can be a life artist."
I nod, afraid that my runny nose dirties Devin's shirt. I shove him aside and wipe my nose. "Why are you saying all of this?"
"Because you're near to the end," says Devin. My heart skips a beat, hearing his words, but he's serious. "I frequently hear you screaming and groaning in your head. I hear them all the time, and I'm scared. Not to you, but I'm just scared that you might give up on your life."
My smile shrinks. "Sixth sense, seventh sense...and now, this is your eighth sense." I stifle a little cry, wiping my eyes. "Is this the reason you've been avoiding me lately?"
"Avoiding you?" Devin laughs incredulously. "I wasn't avoiding you, I was just practicing my music-playing skills so I can represent our school in a music competition. That's why you hear me playing a violin all week, right? Oh my gosh, you think I've been avoiding you?"
"Okay, I am a tad paranoid. But you didn't tell me anything. You should've said something in person before I toilet-paper your house!" I counter.
"Okay, okay, I was wrong," he says, still laughing. Oh, I'm really irked to hear that. Devin pulls out his notebook and scrawls something, then tearing that page off and giving it away to me. "No human ever really wishes to croak, Tennyson. Think about it carefully, Schneider. Now," he adds, smiling widely like a Cheshire Cat, "are you ready to continue our ghostbusting?"