Chapter 6: Jump

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“How did you move it?”  Tilly’s bed was now by the mirror.  She had relocated the heavy piece of furniture so it was grazing the smooth glass.  My bed was still across the room in the same place it had been since I had moved to England.  Today it felt like the distance was a mile wide.

“Oh, I didn’t move it,” Tilly said breathlessly.  She was sitting cross-legged on top of the quilt and smiling down at me.  Her ruffled blue dress was smeared with dirt—or chocolate; one never knew with Tilly.

“How did it get over there if you didn’t move it?”  Sometimes the things Tilly said made no sense; the bed couldn’t move itself.

“Nicki helped me.”

“Nicki?”  My voice quivered when I said the name.  Tilly was really cool so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that she had another friend.  But what if Nicki was more fun than me?  Tears welled behind my eyes but didn’t fall.  Nicki could probably play with Tilly for real.

“Nicki is my brother,” she clarified.

Her brief explanation was a relief.  From what Tilly had said, her brother wasn’t very much fun so there could be no competition between us.  “Nicki is a girl’s name.”  I had known a girl named Nikki once; she had hit me and stolen my pink lunch box.

“His real name is Nicholas Dalton II.  His friends call him Nick, but I call him Nicki.”


“To annoy him.”

“Why would you want to do that?”  Jim hated it when I was annoying. 

She shrugged.  “He’s my brother; it’s what I am supposed to do.”

As an only child, the concept of being annoying on purpose was foreign a foreign one.  When I was annoying I got into trouble.   “I wish I had a brother.”  Then maybe I wouldn’t be so lonely when Tilly wasn’t around to play.  And a brother could help me move my bed so I could be closer to my best friend.

“No, you don’t,” Tilly said, her tone serious.

“Why not?”

“Because they call you names, pull your hair, hide your toys, and worst of all they smell awful!”  Tilly plugged her nose and pretended to faint. 

Surely her brother didn’t smell that badly.  Maybe he played outside a lot and had accidentally stepped in something.  One time, back in Georgia, I was on an adventure and I had stepped in cow poop.  My mom ended up throwing away my favorite tennis shoes because of the smell left after I had cleaned them.

“Okay.  If brothers stink then maybe I don’t want one.”

“Good choice.”

“I wouldn’t mind a sister though,” I whispered, hoping my voice didn’t sound too sad.

“I’ve always wanted one too,” Tilly confessed.  “But do you know what I heard was even better than a sister or a brother?” she asked, grinning.


“A best friend!”

Later that night, hours after Tilly had gone to bed, a fantastic idea crossed my mind.  Tilly would be so excited if she woke up and my bed was beside hers.  It would be like a sleepover every night!  I crept from beneath my covers and attempted to push my bed.  When that didn’t work I tried pulling on the corner post.  My fingers slipped, and I landed on my butt with a thud.  The heavy frame didn’t move an inch.  So, I wedged myself between the headboard and the wall, bracing my back against the stiff bed and my legs against the plaster.  The mass groaned and the floorboards creaked as the weight shifted.  But it moved.

By sheer will, I got the bed halfway across the room.  My legs and arms soon got too tired to keep going, and I sat on the floor, defeated.  I wanted a big brother to help me move my bed, even if he made the room stink.  My daddy would have helped me if he was around.  But I had no one.  To make matters worse, tomorrow I would probably get into trouble for leaving my bed in the middle of the room.

“Miss Callista, what are you doing, sweet child?”  Rosa’s whisper made me jump.

There was no way to hide the obvious. “I’m moving my bed.”

“Why on earth would you want to do that?”  She looked around the room and saw my destination.  Her dark gaze caught and held the golden-framed mirror.  I moved to insert myself between my housekeeper and the reflective glass. 

“Because I wanted it over there.” I pointed to the space where Tilly’s bed had been moved earlier. 

Instead of yelling at me, Rosa nodded, leaned against the headboard, and pushed.  Together we relocated the bed to the corner of my room so I could sleep beside my best friend.

I awoke that morning, face to face with Tilly as she stood on her bed.  Well, more face to ankle.  My eyes widened when I saw her jump. 

“Tilly!  What are you doing?” 

“What does it look like I’m doing? Honestly Callista, sometimes you ask the silliest questions.”  She bounced a couple more times before I spoke again.

“You’re jumping on the bed,” I whispered in awe.

“Yup.”  Tilly giggled and bounced higher.  Did she know that she wasn’t supposed to do that?  She could fall and hurt herself or get into big trouble. 

“Why are you jumping on the bed?”

“Because it is such fun.”

“It is?”

“Of course.  Otherwise there would be no point.  Try it,” she suggested.

“I can’t.”

“Come on, it’s quite easy.”

I watched skeptically as her little body went up and down.  Her feet barely made a noise as she sank into the spongy mattress then catapulted herself back into the air.  She looked so… free.

“Tilly, I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I’m not allowed.”

“Have you ever asked permission?”

“Not exactly.”  It looked like fun, and I was never ever allowed to do anything fun.

“Has your mum ever said you were not allowed to jump on the mattress?” she asked, still jumping.

“No…”  No one had specifically said I couldn’t do it.

“Then you are allowed until she tells you that you aren’t.  Don’t you know that?”

A rule like that would mean I could do a lot of things I had been afraid to do before.  Could it be true?

“I don’t know…” I had a bad feeling about the whole situation, even if I was technically allowed to jump.

“Come on!” she shouted, stopping dead.  “It’s not as fun by myself.”

“You’ve been doing it by yourself all morning.”

“Yes, but you were sleeping then.  I had hoped that you would join me when you finally woke up!”

“Okay… but we need to keep quiet otherwise I will get into trouble.  Jim is in a bad mood today and wouldn’t like it if I interrupted him.”

“Jim is always in a bad mood,” she mumbled.  I secretly agreed.  “Interrupted him doing what?”

“Whatever he does in the library.”  He had made it clear that I was not allowed into that room, especially not when he was in there working—or whatever he was doing.  To make Tilly happy, I climbed to my feet and stood unsteadily.  Every time I caught my balance one way, I nearly fell over the other side.

“What does he do there?  Read?”

“I’m not sure.  Maybe.”  I had no clue and didn’t care as long as he left me alone.

“Are you ready to jump?”  Tilly’s voice got higher when she was eager.

I took a deep breath.  “Aren’t you scared?  It’s pretty high up here.”  The floor seemed so far away.

“No, not really.”

“But you’re supposed to be the one who is scared of heights, remember?”

“I’m only afraid of things that are really high.  Like the attic or the roof or door knobs.  I know door knobs aren’t that high but if I got stuck up there I could die!”  She shuddered dramatically.  “Now stop stalling and jump!”

I hopped but didn’t let my toes leave the bed.  My weight sank into the mattress, and I almost fell over.  My arms flew out involuntarily, trying to help me catch my balance. 

“Callista!  You can do better than that.”

I jumped a second time.  This time I let myself leave the earth below.  The moment my feet were in the air I laughed.

“You have to do it a lot at once; that is when it is the most fun.”  Tilly jumped four times in a row for emphasis; each time she seemed to go higher than she had before.

I mimicked her moves.  The laughter that bubbled inside me escaped as a loud giggle.  Nothing could hold me down as I flew into the air.  I felt like I could touch the ceiling, like I could touch the sky.  We were both laughing uncontrollably when she fell.

Everything happened at once.  My legs were getting tired, and I started to feel stiff; jumping on the bed was hard work.  Tilly’s legs must have been tired too because she was bouncing a lot higher—too high.  She came down wrong and her left knee gave out.  She fell backward in slow motion, toward the edge of her bed.  Then she righted herself and, instead of sitting down, she fell forward, into the mirror.

I winced, waiting for the glass to explode.  When I didn’t hear a crash, I opened my eyes.  There was no blood and no glass anywhere; the mirror was still in one piece.  However, there was a little girl, my best friend, sprawled out on the bed beside me. 

“Tilly?”  I stuttered as she shrieked and gave me a warm hug.

* * *

My body propelled out of the bed.  There was no clock around to indicate whether it was still night or the beginning of the morning. The birds, along with the rest of the world, remained lifeless; the air around me was jarringly soundless.  I steadied myself against the headboard in an attempt to stop the violent tremors coursing through my body.  The shivering eventually subsided, but my muscles ached from lingering tension.  Sweat dripped from my forehead; hopefully I wasn’t coming down with some rare, incurable disease.

Tonight’s dream had been alarmingly real.  Tilly, at least the Tilly of my illusions, had been so warm and so… alive.  But that was not the reason I was shaking.  Something else resonated in my mind; another fact my subconscious had revealed made my insides wrench with horror. 

Tilly had been petrified of heights.  She would have never willingly climbed to the attic, let alone the roof.  And, no matter how distraught she had been over losing her family, Tilly would never have jumped.  If the Tilly I had known had wanted to commit suicide she would have chosen another method, one that had not involved her only phobia.

Maybe Tilly’s ghost was stuck in Barnard Hall because she had not jumped from the roof.  Maybe she had been pushed.


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