Sally’s brother waited for her by the school gate. Arms folded, he was grinning, watching the other students file past. He was fatter in the face now. Looked more like the Ben from before. Before he got sick… before the cancer. He spotted her, raised his hand and waved. Sally waved back. Two girls walking beside her looked to see who she was waving at: exchanged glances and sniggered. Sally blushed; turned away.
‘Hey,’ said Ben, when she reached him. ‘Are those girls being mean?’
Sally waved her hand dismissively. ‘Nothing I can’t handle. They just think I’m a bit… weird. Anyway… how’s you?’
Ben’s face deflated like a balloon. ‘OK… I suppose. Can’t wait till I’m well enough to start school again, though. Then I won’t have to listen to Mum and Dad arguing all the time.’
‘Did they argue this morning?’
‘Yep. As soon as you left. Then Dad stormed off and Mum started crying… again… before falling asleep. I wouldn’t mind, but she keeps sleeping on my bed for some weird reason?’
Sally’s heart sank.
‘Do you think they’ll split up?’ continued Ben.
Sally shrugged, unease fizzing in her belly. ‘I hope not. C’mon, let’s go home.’ They walked in silence for a few minutes; a copper carpet of leaves crunching beneath their feet. It was Halloween and scary looking pumpkin faces glared at them from the windows of the various houses they passed.
‘Do you remember that year we went Trick or Treating and you dressed up as a dragonfly?’
Ben laughed. ‘Yeah. I do. I love dragonflies.’
A sudden gust of wind stirred the leaves at their feet, scattering them like confetti. Giggling, Sally threw her hands up; caught a handful. Amongst them was a white feather. ‘Look,’ she said, showing Ben. ‘It’s a sign. It’s Nanna.’
Ben rolled his eyes. ‘You don’t still believe in that rubbish do you… about angels and ghosts?’
Sally shrugged. ‘Maybe…’
At home, their mother, eyes red and still wearing her dressing gown, said she needed a nap. Sally made herself something to eat, then sat beside Ben at the table. He was studying the white feather she’d brought home.
‘Before she passed away,’ said Sally, ‘Nanna used to say that a ghost is the spirit of a dead person stuck in this world because a loved one can’t or won’t let them go… and the only way for the ghost to move on is to give their loved one a sign; let them know they’re OK.’
Ben looked stunned.
The following day Ben didn’t meet Sally outside school, which saddened her a little, but it was a relief to see her Mum dressed and smiling again.
‘Look,’ said Sally’s mother, pointing to a picture of a dragonfly in one of Ben’s books. ‘It opened on this page when I picked it up. Then I heard a tapping noise at the window and when I looked up, I saw the most amazing dragonfly. And I knew, Sal… I just knew Ben was OK.’