Laynie Hart Talks To The Dead
by Pearl-o

The first time it happened, I thought I was going nuts.

It was a little surprising, actually. I'd always figured I might go off the deep end eventually -- it was just that I thought Everwood would be the thing to set me off.

"Oh, my god," I said. I shut my eyes and leaned back against the door to my dorm room.

"Hey. Hey, Laynie... Calm down, it's okay..."

I think there must be a certain type of voice that only big brothers can really master, this certain soothing "don't cry, it's all right" reassurance thing. Whether it comes from actually wanting to help the little sister, or just more from an "oh shit, I'm dead if Mom hears her", I couldn't say. But Colin's voice then was pretty much the same as it had been when I was eight and fell out of the tree he and Bright were teaching me to climb, and broke my arm.

I felt a light brush of air by the side of my face, and when I opened my eyes, Colin's hand was there. He was watching me with this sad expression.

"You're dead," I said.

Colin nodded and said, "I know."

Colin's funeral had been three months before, with the whole town packed into the Episcopalian church. The entire place reeked of the weird combination of sweat and flower arrangements. I'd sat in the front row, dry-eyed, and thought about Amy's widow weeds and Bright's retarded eulogy and how much of a dent the whole thing was putting into my college fund and just how unfair it was to have to mourn the same person twice.

So it was a surprise when I got back from dinner one night and found him sitting on my bed.

"I missed you," Colin said awkwardly, and it was a few seconds after that that I burst into tears.


He wasn't around all the time, or even most of it -- which was good, because my single was pretty damn small, for one thing, and for another, I can only take so much of a lack of privacy.

Because it wasn't like I had any choice, or any warning about when he showed up. I figured it was just whenever he felt like it, but he never really told me one way or the other. Just every few weeks, or months, there'd be another visit.

It's kind of weird how quickly you can adjust to the bizarre.


I was doing my pre-calculus homework the second time. I don't know how long he was there before he spoke.


I jumped. He was sitting on my bed, looking out the window with this little frown on his face, I guess staring at the snowflakes as they fell.

"What are you doing here, Colin?"

He shifted his gaze to me and said, "I wanted to see you."

"Where-- You're dead. Where are you the rest of the time?"

Colin shrugged. He was already staring out into the snow by then.

I sighed and went back to my homework.

After a minute, Colin said, "Did you like me better before?" He sounded more curious than anything else.

I couldn't help biting my lip, staring at my graphing calculator. "Aren't you supposed to be in tune with all the mysteries of the universe now?"

"I don't think it works like that." There was a pause. "I just wonder about things."

I swung the chair around and tucked my legs up under me, to watch him for a while. But he just smiled and shrugged again.


I went back to Everwood for Christmas break. My parents had considered moving after everything, but they'd decided against it, eventually, and just blocked off Colin's room and all his stuff instead.

I didn't call any old friends or go and visit anyone when I got into town, but I ran into Amy Abbott at the grocery store the second week of vacation and she smiled and hugged me uncomfortably tight and passed on an invitation to Christian Wrenford's New Year's party.

I didn't plan on going, but I changed my mind the night of. My parents were both out at some fancy party, and the house was just depressing alone.

The party wasn't too much better. I stood around and listened to gaggles of annoying girls I've known since I was three, watched Amy and Ephram make all sorts of eyes at each other, drank altogether too much, and made out with Bright in a broom closet.

When I got home in the early morning, the first thing I did was stumble into the bathroom and rinse off my face. Colin was standing behind me when I looked in the mirror.


"I'm not very good company right now." I sat on top of the toilet seat lid.

Colin was standing around with his hands in his jeans pockets, rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet and smiling. "So. Bright, huh?"

I buried my head in my arms, so my voice was a little muffled when I spoke. "You know, just because you're dead doesn't mean I can't kick your ass."


He did another one of his weird pauses, and when he talked again I could tell he wasn't even thinking about me anymore. Like I was just the most convenient person to spill the things he's been obsessing over. "Do you like Amy?" He stared at his feet intently.

"Do I like Amy?" I almost laughed. "I don't know. She's ... Amy."


I sighed again, rubbing the heel of my hand against my forehead as Colin took another one of his lip-biting thought-gathering sessions.

"So. Like." Another mini-pause. He was probably playing with his clothes, but I didn't bother looking. "What was it like kissing Ephram?"

It was probably a sad fact of my life that answering questions from my dead brother about my sex life barely fazed me anymore. "Ephram? He's a good kisser. It was nice." I straightened up and shrugged at him. "It would have been nicer if he wasn't in love with somebody else."

"Yeah. I kinda figured." He nodded slowly. "So. Um..."

I groaned. "Jesus, Colin! Go away! If you're not going to hold my hair back for me -- and I don't think you can -- then I really don't need you here. Let me puke my guts out in peace."

I would have felt a little bad about it, but it's hard to be in the mood for Twenty Questions when you're thirty seconds away from being sick to your stomach.


After that it was another three months before I saw him again.

I was leaning against the wall in the back of the school, one of my favorite secret spots. Sometimes I smoked there, or read, but usually I just went there to get away from people.

This time I saw him approach, walking over from around the corner, and I waved.

"Where've you been? It's been a while."

He settled against the wall next to me, looking out at the field of snow. The school wrote up those sorts of things in their pamphlets as examples of the picturesque natural settings of grandeur and beauty us girls were lucky enough to have around us. I just thought it looked bleak.

"I miss it," Colin said. Not even any "Hi, Laynie" or "I love you" this time, I noted.


"Life." He sounded different. He was still dressed in the same clothes he had been each time, some jeans and t-shirt. I knew, really, that the cold didn't affect him -- he was dead -- but it was weird watching him, anyway, with me bundled up a foot away. I don't think he was even wearing shoes.

"You miss life," I repeated. I was frowning; I could feel my eyebrows moving together.

"It's been more than a year since I woke up, you know? It's not fair. I wish... I wish I hadn't had to waste so much time. I could have had more pizza and basketball games and hanging out. I could have visited a foreign country, and had sex, and done something special and important with my life." He kicked towards the snow at the end of his speech, but of course nothing happened.

I pushed myself upright from the wall and rolled my eyes. "Of course it's not fair. You think anybody's life is fair? This isn't how I wanted to be, you know." He didn't say anything, and I continued, "Face it. You just got screwed, big brother."

He snorted at that, and I gave him a small smile. I wanted to hug him. I think he did, too, but this time he just said, "Goodbye, Laynie," and he was gone before I could say it back.


The last time I spoke with my brother was about a month before school let out for the year. It was nighttime, and I was practically asleep when I thought I heard him whisper.

"Laynie? You asleep?"

"Colin?" The room was dark, but I could still make him out when I opened my eyes. "Hey."

"Hey." Colin moved closer to me, till he was standing alongside my bed. "I just wanted to see you. That's all." He leaned in, and I think he might have tried to kiss my forehead, though I didn't feel anything. He was smiling when he stood up straight again. "I like seeing you, Laynie." He looked different than before, and distant, I guess, in a strange way.

That was the last time I talked to him. I still saw him once in a while, after I went home for the summer: all these flashes and glimpses in the corners of my eyes.

After another year, I went off to college on the East Coast, and I left Everwood and all my ghosts behind for good.


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