There’s a saying in the South that if you go to heaven or hell, you have to go through the freakin’ Atlanta airport first.
For me, though, blowing off the dust of my new hometown of Radisson, Georgia, the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the gateway to new possibilities. I’m setting off on my spring break adventure. Besides, with all that’s happened to me recently—going through my psychic awakening; having a near-death experience; losing my boyfriend, Jason, and one of my best friends, Taylor, to the wilds of Alaska; and now these recurring dreams of a mystery guy I call Hershey eyes—dude, I need a Total Life Break.
"You don’t have a Diet Coke stashed in your backpack, do you, Kendall? You know they’ll just take it from you," my mom says as we stand outside the nylon-strap spaghetti maze that is TSA airport security.
I pull the half-finished twenty-ouncer from my purse and hand it over to my mother. Well, not my real mother, as I just recently found out. Sarah and David Moorehead are my adoptive parents; my birth mother, Emily, my former spirit guide, died minutes after I was born, seventeen years ago. I haven’t had time to find out more info on her, but I will eventually.
Dad rubs the back of my neck as I cram my trial-size bottle of hairspray, mini toothpaste, Carmex, and hand sanitizer into the airport-approved plastic Ziploc bag. "We’re going to miss you, kiddo," he says affectionately.
"I’ll miss you guys too."
Mom sniffs the tears that are gathering. "I don’t know what to do for a week with both of my girls gone." My little sister, Kaitlin, is in Florida for soccer camp, so the Moorehead nest will be empty for seven days.
"Please don’t forget to feed the cats," I say. "Natalie won’t eat the dry food, and Eleanor won’t eat the wet food. Buckley will eat all of it, so make sure everyone gets some. And water. They need a lot of water so they won’t get little kitty urinary tract infections."
My mom the nurse clicks her tongue. "I’m perfectly capable of caring for your cats. You focus on you, dear."
I chuckle in spite of myself. Of course she knows what to do. "Check in on Loreen too, would you? Just to make sure she’s okay."
Now it’s Mom’s turn to laugh. "Honey, Loreen is in good hands with Father Massimo. Those two are inseparable." I have to admit, I saw that
one coming. My episcopal priest and my psychic mentor. They make quite an . . . eclectic pair.
"If anyone deserves a nice getaway, it’s you, Kendall," Dad adds with a tug on my long hair.
"Tru’ dat, Dad."
Seeing as how my last ghost-hunting effort ended up with me in a hospital bed minus a spleen and plus a re-inflated lung and a blood transfusion from my best friend, I definitely need a break, spring or otherwise. Okay, so I got the bitter spirit at the mayor’s mansion to finally pass into the light and everything was all right in the end, but g’friend here needs a breather from both Radisson and investigating entities in people’s homes. This whole psychic awakening has finally discombobulated me with a visit to "heaven" and a chat with my dead grandma. I don’t know which way to turn anymore. I don’t know if what I’m seeing, feeling, hearing, or experiencing is from me or from someone else. I have to get control. So here I am at the airport: laptop, books, BlackBerry, and Sonoma the bear in my backpack, one extremely large rolly bag checked in, ready to board a Delta flight to Fresno, California, for . . . whatever ... awaits me there.
"Yo, K, fancy meeting you here!" someone calls out to me.
The gangly, tall black-haired girl with the familiar smiling face bounds up to me, a humongoid tote bag hitched over her left shoulder.
"Nichols! I thought you were going ahead to Tybee Island without me," I say to my best friend and fellow ghost huntress, Celia. No, she’s more than that. We’re blood sisters, now that her life-saving transfusion is flowing through my veins.
"Change of plans," Celia tells me. "Dad got a call this morning asking him to keynote at this retailers’ convention, so I decided to blow off Tybee and tag along with the parentals."
Ah, the founder of Mega-Mart—that’s a real no-brainer.
"Didn’t you get my text?" she asks. "I figured I'd run into you here."
I glance at my BlackBerry. "Nope. Nada
." Hmm . . . nothing from Celia. Nothing from anyone, for that matter, although I’m trying not to dwell on the loss of Jason Tillson in my life.
"Well, get this," Celia says, lifting her eyes to mine. "I thought I’d take advantage of the locale of Daddyo’s conference to do some more research. I’m going to plop my paranormal-investigator self into the Windy City and continue trying to find out just who Emily Jane Faulkner was, other than your birth mother."
I swallow hard. "You’re going to Chicago?" My Chicago? Man, I wish I could refresh myself at the altar of the Mag Mile, go to Navy Pier, get an authentic red-hot, and take a walk along Lake Michigan. With all the things that have happened since my psychic awakening, there’s a part of me that longs for the simpler days of when I lived on the Gold Coast. When I didn’t see and hear spirits. When I wasn’t physically harmed by them. And when my heart wasn’t broken by a guy with gorgeous blue eyes. I shake loose from feeling sorry for myself and force a smile. "Where are you staying?"
Celia shrugs and says, "The Fairmont."
I quirk a smirk at her. "Welllll . . . excuse me," I say with a laugh. She smiles.
"That’s how we Nicholses roll."
Dad puts his hand on my shoulder and tells Celia, "You must have dinner at the Chop House. Best steaks in town."
"Cool. I’ll remember that, Mr. David."
Celia’s mother appears behind Celia and turns a smile on me. "Where is it you’re going again, dear?"
A deep sigh escapes from me. It’s not like I don’t want to go on this trip. It’s just more of the fear of the unknown and unexpected. You’d think a psychic could see more clearly into her own future, but that’s not the case with me. I’m much more in tune with other people’s lives. I get snippets and clues of things in my dreams—like meeting Jason and even being pushed down the staircase by the mayor’s ghost—but I never know what’s a premonition and what’s just a brain dump or an overactive imagination.
I adjust my bag on my shoulder and shift my weight between feet. "Mom registered me for this exclusive-like Enlightened Youth Retreat in Oakbriar, California, that’s hosted by that guy Oliver Bates, from TV."
Celia’s eyes pop wide. "Ethereal Evidence," she interjects, nearly breathless. "You know the show, Mom. I’ve got every episode on my DVR."
Mrs. Nichols waves her hand. "Oh, now, Celia. I can’t keep up with all the TV programs you kids watch."
Celia rolls her eyes at her mother and then turns to me. "I told you, the guy is amazing. He nails everything on that show. Nothing gets past him. You’re gonna have an awesome time!"
I haven’t watched nearly as many paranormal shows as Celia—who can keep up with all of them—so I just lift my brows at her in recognition. "Yeah, that’s what the brochure says."
"So what do you know about the week’s agenda?" she presses. "Are you sleeping in tents and toasting marshmallows while singing ‘Kumbaya’?"
I stick my tongue out at her for her cheekiness. "No, I told you, it’s for kids like me with ‘special abilities.’ it looks a little chichi from the brochure, so I’ll just have to wait and ...