Betrayal - By Lee Nichols

1

It’s not easy watching a friend get buried, especially when you were responsible for his death.

We’re here today to mourn the untimely passing of Coby Jameson Anders. Sixteen years old, honor student, high school quarterback, beloved son and friend.

A week had passed since the murder, and I loitered at the gates of the cemetery, listening to the dean’s eulogy while the casket slowly dropped into the ground. Standing at the gates because Coby’s best friends—my best friends—had banned me from the funeral.

“You’re not wanted, Emma,” Sara had said.

“Communi consilio,” Harry added. Translation: by common consent.

Great. What kind of person gets banned from a funeral? The kind who can’t reveal the truth about what happened, because no one would believe her.

His death was a shock to us all. Those who loved him …

A ghost killed Coby. Not me. But I was there, and I didn’t save him.

Outwardly a happy, well-adjusted, popular young man, Coby kept his true feelings to himself. It’s a lesson to us …

I shuddered in my peacoat, the November cold penetrating the thin wool, and watched the crowd through the iron gates. Hundreds of mourners stood in a ragged crescent around the grave, Coby’s family and friends, teachers from school. They thought he’d killed himself. They hadn’t just lost Coby, they’d lost their fondest memories of him, second-guessing his happiness and his easy smile.

Sometimes God’s plan seems unjust, unfair. We’ll never know why Coby chose to leave us, but hope that he rests easy in the afterlife.

Amid the tears, the priest gave his final blessing, and the mourners tossed dirt on the grave and filed from the cemetery. I fled, my back toward the entrance, unwilling to face the looks of grief and disapproval.

I wandered the village, past the clapboard houses crowded tightly together, down the narrow, winding streets toward the harbor, too cold now for the yachts. I carefully avoided the pond where Coby had died, its surface covered with a thin layer of ice.

I ached to be home in San Francisco, where flowers would still be in bloom and the sun still shone. Here in Massachusetts, the leafless maples loomed overhead, people’s lawns had gone all brown, and dead blossoms littered the gardens. As if I needed something else to be depressed about.

I don’t know who said from death comes life—probably one of those old, important dead guys—but I eventually circled back to the cemetery, ready to do my part. Ready to breathe a little warmth into this cold world.

As I reached the gates, a flurry of snow suddenly filtered through the gray day, and little white puff balls floated from the sky. I smiled at the clouds, tears filling my eyes, remembering Martha, who’d told me my first snow would be magical.

I caught a snowflake on my tongue, then stepped into the cemetery. Time for more magic. Time to raise the dead.

Here’s the thing about ghostkeepers. When we die, we die. There’s no coming back like other people: we’re cremated or buried and that’s the end.

But people like Coby could be summoned. Or at least, their ghosts could.

I surveyed the empty cemetery, snow dusting the granite tombstones, then wove through the monuments to stand at Coby’s grave. I bowed my head and looked at the coffin, scattered with dirt and flowers, but didn’t toss in my own handful of dirt, because to me he’d soon no longer be dead. I licked my lips, suddenly nervous. What if he hated me? What if he wasn’t the same? Or worse, what if he didn’t want to come back?

I took a deep breath. Only one way to find out.

I closed my eyes and felt the chill air go still around me. I’d never done this before, summoned a ghost who wasn’t already lingering in the Beyond. I knew I could, though—despite being new to ghostkeeping, I was powerful. Almost too powerful. Maybe if I hadn’t been, Neos would’ve ignored me, and Coby would still be alive.

Well, I couldn’t change the past, but I could alter Coby’s future. I raised my face to the sky, letting the snowflakes tickle my cheeks, feeling the energy of the Beyond. It got easier all the time to identify the supernatural tug of ghosts. Of course, standing in the middle of a cemetery probably helped.

My eyes shut, I heard the pounding of my heart and felt the blood rushing through my veins, as my summoning energy expanded beyond my body. Tendrils of power flowered through the cemetery until I sensed Coby’s slumbering spirit curled

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