When I stopped, out of breath, in front of my gate, I had run so quickly that I was almost dry. I hid behind the hedge and assessed the situation:
My father was in the garage, tinkering with his bike. From time to time I saw a leg or an arm.
My mother was apparently in the living room, listening to a classical piece as she often does. (Don’t ask me which one, by the way. My thing is reading, not Beethoven or Chopin.)
The coast was clear. I slipped into the garden and went around the house, letting a phew! of relief escape when I saw that the light was on in my sister’s room.
It seemed she had been spared, after all…
I grabbed the gutter and somehow managed to hoist myself up to her window. It was ajar, and I slipped into the room, which was brightly coloured and invaded by cuddly toys and dolphin posters.
My sister was on her bed, lying on her belly, absorbed by her reading of The Olympic Smurfs. She had not heard me come in.
I walked up to her and whispered:
– Julie, it’s me. Are you alright?
My sister jumped and, noticing me, tumbled out of her bed to take refuge, with a frightened expression on her face, in the farthest corner of the room.
– Julie…I repeated stupidly.
But her only reaction was to press herself against the wall as if she wanted to disappear behind the wallpaper. Seeing her chest swell and her mouth stretch, I understood what was about to happen and I knew I was not going to like it.
– Julie, no. Shh…It’s me, Gabriel…
Her scream was shrill and incredibly powerful – how could it be so powerful coming from such small lungs? The whole neighbourhood must have heard it, you can bet on it.
My sister was looking at me with a horrified expression and her face was livid.
– Muuuum! Daaaaaaad! There’s a ghost in my rooooooom!
I decided any other attempt at an explanation was useless and I retreated to the window. I clutched the gutter and let myself slide – Ow! Ouch! Ow! – as fast as I could, while above me – AEEEEEEE! – little sis’ voice followed me.
I skipped the last metre in one leap and ran as fast as I could across the garden. When I crossed the gate, the vestibule’s light turned on: my father stood there, against the light, his titanic stature more imposing than ever, and Nestor barked furiously by his side. He growled something at me that I didn’t understand, but I didn’t stay to wait for clarifications.
I ran, ran, ran, and found myself, out of breath, lost in one of the alleys of the pedestrian area I had just left. To my left was a coffee shop. I went inside in a state of desperation and collapsed at the nearest table.
(Go to PART 7)