Rip brought a few books back to the apartment Friday night. He found Serissa pacing the wall near the door.
“There you are,” she said. “Really like that library, don’t you? I was beginning to wonder if you like literally got sucked into a book and I was going to have to have some huge epic fantasy adventure to yank you free.”
“Were you with Kalli that whole time?”
“Some of the time.”
Rip ducked below her pacing on his way to the kitchen table. “You two have fun together?” he asked, setting down his camera bag and books.
“Had a jolly good jaunt. Did you have fun with yourself?” She cringed. “Ew. That really did sound dirty that time.” Her face scrunched as she reconsidered. “Or am I just dirty?”
“It was fine,” Rip said, turning away from her. He tried to, anyway.
“Wait a second.”
Serissa hopped onto the ceiling directly in front of him and grabbed his head for a more thorough, albeit inverted, analysis. Her empathy didn’t work on him, but facial expressions came in at a close second. She studied him intently.
“You got a glow about you. Where’d you get the glow?”
“Nothing. I don’t—”
“Awfully quick nothing coming out of your mouth there.”
“Even quicker.” She tapped his forehead. “Let it out, boy. I know of only one force on this planet that makes you not miserable, and Kalli was with me. Or is it Kalli? What day is it?”
“Can you please stop playing Spider-Woman with my ceiling?”
“Maybe I’ll return your precious ceiling if maybe you give me some answers.”
Rip stared up at the white plane, and he shrugged.
She pressed her finger on his nose. “Talk.”
He figured he’d lose eventually anyway, so he got on with it. “I met a ghost who was haunting the library, and I think I might actually be able to help her instead of—”
Serissa hung her head. “Her? Oh, Ripley, you poor stupid boy.”
“What? If I can help a ghost become less creepy and more like…” Upon spotting Serissa crouched on the ceiling and repeatedly banging her head through it, he found cause to adjust his statement. “If I can save a ghost’s soul, isn’t that better than outright condemning her to Hell?”
Serissa flung herself to the floor to address him from a more conventional perspective. “In theory, yeah.”
“Oh, you’ve decided to be right-side up?”
“I do that sometimes. But you see, theory and the real world tend to duke it out real often—and you know what, buddy? Theory doesn’t always win the championship.”
“Maybe that particular theory of yours won’t, not this time.”
“A-ha! You just made my point.”
“I really don’t think I did.”
“Yes, you said a theory wouldn’t work in the real world.”
“About your theory.”
“I think you lost your point somewhere along the way.”
Serissa placed both hands on his shoulders to make a firm, serious point. “Rip, your clouded is judgment.”
“Your judgment is clouded! Stupid tongue! You fell for a pretty face, complete with gigantically sad eyes—I’m just guessing—and now you think you can do something that odds are you really can’t. And what’s wrong with Kalli?”
“This has nothing to do with Kalli.”
“First pretty ghost face comes along, you ditch the object of your longtime affection.”
“When did I ditch her? And that’s an exaggeration.”
Serissa drifted off the floor. “Wait, I was the first pretty ghost face…”
Rip gently grabbed her arms and pulled her back down. “Serissa, stop. I appreciate your concern, but she is not some monstrous force of evil. Pamela just needs someone to be there for her and believe in her.”
“How long has she been dead?”
“What does that have to do with—?”
“Hey. Your angel guide is asking a question for a reason—reason being I know stuff. How long?”
“She said…I think thirty years or so.”
“Okay, thirty days, thirty months, yeah, you’d have a shot, maybe a good shot. I’d even be rooting for you. But if she’s been haunting that place, any place, for thirty years, and in all that time she couldn’t bother to get her act together, it’s time to put her out of her misery.”
Rip gave her words careful consideration as he twisted them to justify his desired conclusion. “Is it impossible to save her?”
“Snowball’d have better chance, place she’s headed.”
He spoke slower. “Is it impossible?”
Serissa tried to resist answering that stupid question. The nerve of it, to have an answer entirely counterproductive to her goal! Bad question! But her silence was already responding. “No,” she said.
Rip headed into his bedroom. “Then I’m giving it a shot.”
He shut the door behind him. Serissa really hated that question.
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