Chapter 18:

Star-struck Sabrina! The Shoe on the Other Spectral Foot

The Love Triangle Between Me, The Class President, & The Spirit Possessing Me

For a second, I worry that Sophie's run off for good. It's a weird relief to see her doing laps around the broken chandelier, zipping in furious circles above my head.

"Clark, I can't accept this!" She pulls at her hair mid-flight, making her bobbed curls stick up in crazy directions. "What can you possibly see in this floozy? I thought we understood each other! Haven't I been standing by you all this time? You don't even know her!"

I'd calm her down if I could, but I can't get a word in edgewise.

Gradually, Sophie slows down, leaning against the edge of the chandelier as if to catch her breath. "What has she got that I don't?" She glares down at Sabrina, then at me, as if I can answer her with Sabrina right here in the room. That's all this situation needs, is for me to start apparently talking to myself. It's enough that my neighbor thinks I'm bonkers, I don't need Sabrina thinking the same thing. "Other than a body? Is that all you look for in a girl?" Crossing her arms, Sophie sticks her snubbed nose up in the air, disgusted. "Is that it? I'm incorporeal, so I'm not good enough for you, Clark? Hmph!"

Did… Sophie like like me? How did I miss that? Lack of experience, I guess. It's not something I readily admit, but I haven't had a girl like me since second grade. Since then, no one I've had a crush on has liked me back. It feels weird to be on this side of the equation for once. Weird and uncomfortable and just generally not great.

Of course, it doesn't help that Sophie isn't being mature about this at all.

"This is the worst day I've ever had in all my life," Sophie goes on, pulling a dead-man's float in midair. She slowly drifts down to the floor, still groaning dramatically the entire time. "Cast aside like so much chopped liver! Played for a chump! My mother warned me about this."

Not that I want to see Sophie have her feelings hurt, but it's hard to resist rolling my eyes at how over-the-top she's acting. Does she know how many times I've been turned down by girls I like? It sucks, but it's really not the end of the world. We're still friends, aren't we?

I hope, anyway. Even if Sophie's being a huge crybaby at the moment.

Sophie gently settles face-down on the floor like an autumn leaf. She's still lamenting her cruel fate into the dusty, moth-eaten rug. "Stuck playing second fiddle to some prissy, self-absorbed, busy-body… Sabrina!" As though Sabrina's name is the nastiest insult Sophie can think of.

Sabrina gasps, bringing a hand to her mouth. "She knows my name?"

During Sophie's histrionics, I forgot for a second that Sabrina was standing just a few feet away. I spin to face her, shocked. Sabrina is staring and pointing with one shaky hand directly at where Sophie is still throwing a tantrum on the floor. But that shouldn't be possible, should it? No one else has been able to see Sophie except me. But then, until now, Sophie hasn't completely lost what little chill she usually has. After all, she was pretty wound up when I first met her here in the hotel, too.

Feeling a pit open up in my stomach, I catch Sabrina's eye and gesture toward Sophie. "You can see her? Sophie, I mean."

"Sophie?" Sabrina repeats, face pale and eyes glittering.

"That's her name, yeah." My annoyance at Sophie's childish meltdown evaporates, replaced by worry for her. We're keeping her existence secret for a reason. "You don't have to be scared! She's harmless, she's just having kind of a rough week. You don't need to worry, or tell anyone, or-"

Sabrina isn't listening. She makes a beeline for Sophie, knocking into my shoulder on the way. Caught off-guard, I overbalance and stumble backward onto my butt. It's at this point that Sophie finally clues in to what's going on around her. She turns her head to the side just in time to see Sabrina barreling toward her.

"Ack!" Sophie bolts upright. "Clark!"

But there's nothing I can do for her. Sabrina stands between Sophie and me, unleashing a barrage of questions at point-blank range.

"Are you from a parallel dimension? Are you dead? Are you a ghost?!" Sabrina's voice climbs half an octave in her growing excitement. Sophie stares at her in stunned silence. I remember a nature documentary about killer whales I once saw, that said they can use sound to stun fish and make them easier to catch. It must work something like what I'm seeing now as Sabrina overwhelms Sophie with question after question.

"What?" Sophie peeps.

Sabrina doesn't so much as slow down. "Where are you from? Are you from the Kensington?"

"From...?" Sophie shakes her head. "I'm not-"

"When did you die? You are dead, right?" Sabrina looks even more animated than she was when she thought I was an esper not more than an hour ago. "How did it happen?"

Sophie blushes a dark silver. "H-hey! That's personal!"

Sabrina goes to grab hold of Sophie's hands, undeterred when they pass right through. "Are there more of you around?"

"How should I know?!"

"Do you have special undead powers? Can you show me?"

For what it's worth, Sophie moves her hands away from the space Sabrina's are occupying. "Geez Louise, lady! Can you lay off? I already did all that stuff with the lights, what more do you want?"

"So that was you?" Sabrina is practically vibrating. "What else can you do? Can you do energy blasts like the Ghost Gun from Private Eye Poltergeist?!"

So much for not being able to recognize super heroes, huh? Sabrina is as big a nerd as I am.

"Well, it's... It's not as easy as Alfred makes it look in the picture show." Sophie gives Sabrina a wary look, one eyebrow raised. "You know about that?"

Sabrina nods, hair bobbing along like a dark streamer. "I'm sure it's not completely accurate, is it? But that only means I can learn so much more from you! A real live ghost!" She giggles in delight. "This is the best day of my life!"

That makes one of us. As for me, I've had better. Especially on hearing Sabrina say the same kinds of things to Sophie that she was saying to me only an hour or so ago.

"You like Private Eye Poltergeist, too?" Sophie, ever mercurial, thaws out a bit. "Do you suppose Felix is really dead, or is it a ruse?"

Felix is what now?! Great, just great! On top of everything else, Sophie has to go and spoil the taped episode I still haven't gotten to watch yet. For some reason, that's the last straw, and I groan aloud.

That gets Sophie's attention. "Hey, Clark! Are you alright?" She scowls at Sabrina. "You ought to help Clark up, since you're the one who bowled him over, you clumsy ox!"

Sabrina waves me off without so much as turning her head to look at me. "He's fine, don't worry!"

"You didn't even look!" Sophie glides around Sabrina and kneels at my side. "Are you okay, Clark? Did she hurt you?"

She bumped into me; it's not like she ran me over with a car. "Don't worry, Sophie," I say, raising one hand to wave away her fussing over me. "I was only-"

Sophie blanches. "Clark, you're bleeding!"

Catching a flash of red out of the corner of my eye, I turn my hand over to look at my palm. "Oh, this?" There's a splinter of wood stuck in my palm that's drawn a trickle of blood. "Huh. It must have happened when I fell." Gingerly, I grip the splinter with my thumb and forefinger and try to wiggle it out. It goes from stinging a little to stinging a lot. "Ow!"

"It's that charlatan witch's fault for pushing you!" Sophie hovers her hand halfway through mine, the coldness acting like an ice pack. "My mother says women like that are crafty and know how to hurt people without letting on to what they're really doing."

I'm starting to think Sophie's parents had some issues. "Oh, come on, Sophie. It was an accident."

"I heard something about witches?" Sabrina has joined us, unable to keep herself from following Sophie around like a lost puppy. "Do you know any?"

Sophie rolls her eyes. "No."

Sabrina sighs dreamily, pink dusting her cheeks and the bridge of her nose. "I'd love to be a witch. Or maybe a magical girl, even."

"Listen, you!" Sophie whirls to face Sabrina. "Are you going to apologize to Clark, or aren't you?"

Blinking in confusion, Sabrina shifts her attention to me long enough to chirp out, "Sorry, Clark," as if she has no idea why she was saying it. Then, she returns her attention with laser precision to Sophie. "If I had witch powers, I'd use them in your name, Sophie. Love and admiration can move mountains, don't you think?"

Sophie makes a noise between a squeak and an affronted cough. She turns to me, mouth set in an uncertain frown. "Come on, Clark. We should just leave this daffy broad and go home."

"Sophie, she's just excited to meet you. Can't you give her a chance, for my sake?" Thanks to Sophie, the wound on my hand barely hurts at all anymore, numbed by the cold. I'll just have to clean it up once I get home. Gently, I shoo her hand away. "I really, really like her." I glance at Sabrina to gauge her reaction, but she's still watching Sophie with wide eyes. If she heard what I said, she'd not showing it.

Crossing her arms petulantly, Sophie shakes her head. "You're just taken in by her feminine wiles, Clark! Pull yourself together!"

"You think I'm feminine?" Sabrina asks Sophie, to no reply. Sophie's doing her best to ignore her now.

"Didn't you mean it when you told me I was amazing, that night we met?" Sophie stares down at her hands, which are twisting up in the fabric of her trousers, gray on gray. "Were you leading me on the whole time?"

I think back to what I'd said about Sabrina back then, a flutter in my stomach. "I was talking about…" I had used Sabrina's name, hadn't I? Sophie didn't think I was talking about her, did she?

…Oh, no. I didn't mean to, but I guess I really have been leading Sophie on.

"Sophie, I really am glad I met you," I say, guilt threatening to swallow me whole. It really does suck to be on this side of the equation, for sure. I have a new empathy for all the girls who've turned me down in the past. "But it's Sabrina who I like. She's the amazing person I was talking about back then, not you. I'm sorry if I gave you the wrong idea."

"Oh," Sophie says, very small. "And here I thought we were taking it slow. I see."

Sabrina, now paying attention enough to our conversation to cotton on that everything isn't sunshine and rainbows, reaches out to lay a hand on Sophie's shoulder. "Sophie?"

Recoiling, Sophie dives away from Sabrina and into my body. Before I can protest or even get my bearings, she lurches to my feet and tears off through the door, tears streaming down my face. We're running even faster than we did across the rooftops, the wind whipping the tears off my cheeks as we blaze down the sidewalk. Distantly, I can hear Sabrina shouting after us, her footsteps receding as we pull farther ahead.