"I should have known they weren't going to show up," she muttered after waiting for what seemed like hours.
"Who?" asked a voice from above her.
Startled, Millicent spun around. Leaning out a window, maybe ten feet above her head, was a girl about her age. Millicent had been told, time and time again, not to talk to strangers, but surely that meant staying away from scary looking old guys who might want to hurt her, not girls who might be kind of pale and maybe a little weird looking, but who mostly just seemed friendly and nice.
"There were these girls at school," she explained. "You know the from the 'in' crowd? The ones that are popular and everyone likes?" She shrugged and toed the ground some more. "They talked to me today." It had been the first time they'd ever talked to her. It had probably been one of the first times anyone had said anything to her other than teachers ordering her around in class since she'd moved here and begun attending school there that fall.
"And what did they say?"
"They asked if I wanted to sit with them at lunch tomorrow. And that if I did, that I'd have to meet them here today after school 'cause they wanted to talk about making sure our outfits didn't clash or something." Her voice dropped as she spoke, until she was practically whispering by the end. Saying it out loud, it sounded so stupid. She'd been so stupid. They were all probably hanging out together somewhere laughing at her right now.
She rubbed at her eyes, determined not to cry.
"What's your name?"
"That's a nice name."
No it wasn't. No one was called Millicent anymore. It was old timey and weird and dumb and she if she got called anything at all other than 'hey, you' it was names like 'silly Millie' or 'Millipede' or about a million other terrible nicknames instead of her actual name and she hated it. But, because it'd been drilled into her since she was small, she still politely said, "Thank you," and then asked, "What's yours?"
"Elmyra," the girl offered.
Wow, Millicent thought, that was an even worse name then her own. "Are you just called Elmyra or do you go by Myra or something like that for short?"
"No one calls me much of anything," Elmyra said, sounding sad but in that way that meant that she had accepted that it was just the way that things were and there wasn't anything she could do about it. Millicent knew that feeling very well.
Millicent turned and looked up at Elmyra. She actually wasn't leaning out the window like Millicent had thought, but rather kind of perched against the wall, holding on to two different windowsills with her arms behind her back. It looked like an unnatural and really uncomfortable position to be in. Her dress was really pretty though, gauzy and white and her hair was gorgeous and straight and shiny, unlike Millicent's own fizzy mess. There was a lot she could say, seeing Elmyra like that, but she settled for, "I think you kind of look like an Ellie. Would it be okay if I called you that?"
Elmyra's hair was hanging in front of her face so Millicent couldn't really be certain, but she was pretty sure Elmyra smiled at her suggestion. "Ellie," Elmyra - no, Ellie - said, like she was trying the name on for size. "I'd like that." Then she did some sort of weird flip off the wall and practically floated down, landing on the cobblestones in front of her.
"Can I call you Mel?"
No one had ever called her Mel before.
"Sure!" Millicent realized she was smiling too. She didn't usually have much to smile about; it felt kind of weird but pretty good too. "Do you go to Horace High? We could meet up in the quad after fifth period tomorrow and then sit together at lunch."
Ellie's face did something weird and her smile fell. "No, I don't attend that school."
"Oh, that's too bad. So, you're at that charter school that opened up on Garfield then?"
Millicent didn't understand why, but Ellie was looking really uncomfortable now. "No, I don't go there either."
"So where do you go then?" She wracked her brain trying to think of other schools in the area. There was some Catholic one downtown, maybe? And the expensive private one by the river with the indoor swimming pool?
"I… don't. I stay here," Ellie said, gesturing to the alley. "I'm always here." Well, that didn't make sense. Kids had to go to school, right? But then Ellie lifted her head and tucked her hair behind her ear and Millicent could see her face clearly for the first time and realized Ellie didn't look anything like most girls she knew. In fact, Ellie didn't look anything like anyone Millicent knew.
Ellie was white. Not pale. Not washed out. White. Her eyes were black, just black and without any of that white or colored part people always have. And her dress wasn't gauzy but was actually kind of see through. Actually, Millicent realized, all of Ellie was kind of see through.
"Are you a ghost?"
"No. Well, not exactly anyway." Millicent waited for Ellie to explain what she was if she wasn't a ghost, but instead Ellie just tilted her head and stared at her. "You've realized I'm not like you, that I'm not a real, live girl. Why aren't you screaming and running away?" she asked eventually.
Millicent just shrugged. She knew she probably should be terrified, but she really wasn’t. "I don't know. You just," she began before flailing her hands about for a minute, unable to really explain other than saying, "aren't that scary? Besides, I was kind of thinking, or hoping anyway, that maybe we were friends? Or could be anyway," she added quickly.
"I'm not sure vengeful spirits are supposed to have friends," Ellie said slowly, but she seemed to be considering the idea.
"You could be the first," Millicent suggested. She wasn't normally this pushy, but she was tired of not having anyone to talk to and Ellie was nice in her own way and seemed sad.
"But, we're just supposed to just haunt the places we died and spend all our time terrifying and tormenting people."
"Is that what you really want to do?"
"No, not really. I mean, it was sort of fun at first, but after a hundred and however many years, well…" Ellie sighed. "Well, it gets kind of boring."
"Is that why you talked to me instead of trying to scare me?"
Ellie nodded. "Most people don't come to my alley except to cause trouble and it's kind of fun messing around with those kind of people, but you didn't look like you were here for anything like that. You just looked lonely."
"I was," Millicent admitted before thinking about it for a second and realizing, "But not anymore."
"I'm glad to hear it." Ellie stroked her chin like she was considering something and looked around for moment. "Those girls you were going to meet, did they specifically say to come here? To my alley?"
Millicent nodded. She'd followed their directions very carefully since she'd never been in this section of the city before. "Yes?"
"I wonder if they knew about me, if they thought I'd do something to you."
"Probably. I mean, maybe they just wanted to ditch me and make me feel stupid, but…" Millicent shrugged.
"Would you like to turn the tables on them? I could tell you about some of the things I've done to people over the years and teach you how to do them yourself?"
"Oooh, would you?"
Smiling so wide her whole face seemed to shimmer, Ellie glided over to a pail that was leaning up against the wall of the alley and sat down, tapping the one next to her. "Come, sit. Let me tell you about what I did to some boys who came into the alley to pick on a kitten."
Millicent grinned. She had a feeling this was going to be good.