BY: R A SLONE
Fifteen-year-old Jenna Moores is struggling with her father’s recent death. Not long after his passing, a ghost from her childhood returns. When she was young, Jenna’s father convinced her that the ghost was just her imagination and that he would always protect her. But now he’s gone, the ghost is back, and Jenna knows she’s not imagining it. As the entity grows stronger, its threats move from alienating Jenna from her friends and family to killing her. Alone and afraid, she must find and destroy the link that holds the spirit to this world…before Jenna, too, becomes a ghost.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Ghost in the Blue Dress by R. A. Slone, Jenna Moores is a teenager haunted by a ghost. A malicious one. The ghost is the spirit of a young girl who died in the hose where Jenna and her widowed mother live. But when they move to a new house in a new state, the ghost follows. Whenever Jenna tries to get help, the ghost attacks and injures whoever tries to help her. Jenna knows she must destroy the ghost or everyone she cares about is in danger. But how?
As YA horror stories go, this is a good one. Slone’s character development is excellent and you feel Jenna’s pain as she spirals into depression when the ghost gets the upper hand. For YA and new adults who like mild horror, this is a sure-fire hit.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Ghost in the Blue Dress by R A Slone is a coming-of-age story with a little something more. Our heroine, Jenna Moores, has just lost her father when the book opens. She is also dealing with a child entity she calls the ghost in the blue dress, but unlike a lot of child ghosts, this one is malevolent. Jenna ends up bruised and injured until her doctor thinks that her mother is abusing her. But how does she tell anyone the perpetrator is a ghost, especially when everyone she tells ends up critically injured? Jenna knows that if she doesn’t destroy the ghost soon, it will eventually kill her and everyone she cares about.
Ghost in the Blue Dress is a well-written tale of courage, determination, and defying the odds. It’s as uplifting as it is chilling, a book that will appeal to YA, new adults, and adults alike.
Even though the sun was shining bright, darkness covered my heart. Dad’s casket lay beneath the small tent, ready to be placed deep in a dark hole once we left Crown Hill Cemetery. Most of my friends and family had made their way to the dinner at the church, but I couldn’t leave yet.
Mom walked to the TrailBlazer with Mrs. Vanderley, our family friend and neighbor. I stood with my best friend Tamara behind the row of folding chairs where I’d sat during the graveside sermon.
“I thought he’d always be there for me,” I said in a low voice. A strong summer breeze blew a strand of brown hair into my face. I brushed it away.
Tamara gently wrapped her arm in mine. “Let’s go, Jenna.”
I stared at the casket, my heart numb. Clouds covered the sun. Shadows emerged. Something stirred in the shade of the trees across the cemetery. “Did you see that?” I asked.
Tamara craned her neck. “See what?”
An uneasy feeling had taken root the day Dad died. Something wasn’t right. And that something was hiding in the darkness.
A week later, Tamara and I lounged on floating air mattresses in her pool. Her parents were at work. Mom was at home.
I hated to leave her, but I needed to talk to my best friend. Only she’d understand what I was feeling.
“Do you ever get that feeling that someone’s watching you?” I asked and looked at her. We lay on our stomachs facing each other.
Her arms were crossed with her chin propped on top. I couldn’t tell if she was looking at me for sure because of her reflective sunglasses, but when she tightened her lips, I knew she was thinking. “You mean when someone’s staring and you look just in time to catch them?”
I shrugged a shoulder. “Kind of, but more like you look but there’s no one there.” I hoped that didn’t sound too crazy. But Tamara was okay with crazy. That’s why I wanted to talk to her about it.
“Um…not really that I know of. Why?”
“Ever since Dad’s funeral, I’ve had some weird feelings, I guess.”
“Like what?” she asked. Her eyebrows shot up from beneath her sunglasses, and her voice dropped. “Do you think it could be your dad’s ghost?”
I paused. “No. No, it isn’t Dad,” I said. I hadn’t even considered the possibility, because I was talking about something else.
Or should I say someone else?
“How do you know?” Tamara asked and carefully rolled onto her back without falling into the pool.
I did the same and sighed. Do I answer her? Do I tell her that I’m afraid in my own house? Now that we weren’t face-to-face, the urge to tell her had faded. I needed to see her expression when I told her what happened when I was four years old. I needed to know if she believed me.
“Jenna?” Tamara said and kicked chlorinated water at me.
“I asked, how do you know?”
“I just do.”
The next morning, I stood in the kitchen waiting for Mom to leave for work. It was her first day back since the funeral. I waited awkwardly, not sure what to say.
“Jenna, honey, could you do some laundry today?” Mom asked and grabbed her car keys and black Rosetti purse from the kitchen counter. She paused for a moment before she leaned in for a hug. I inhaled her perfume, sweet and flowery, the perfume Dad had given her for her birthday before he passed away.
“Okay,” I said. I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed. The sweet smell made the pain of losing Dad worse this morning. My throat tightened. Emptiness filled my chest, and I couldn’t let her go.
“Love you,” she whispered against my hair.
I swallowed a lump. I didn’t want her to leave, really. I didn’t want to be alone today. Tamara had to go with her older brother, who now had his driver’s license, to help their grandma clean her garage. And my other friends were too far away to get there on my own. I wished I were sixteen already. This September couldn’t come fast enough.
Mom broke the hug and squeezed my shoulders. “I have to go, honey.”
“Okay. Love you,” I said. She kissed my cheek, gave me a we’re-going-to-get-through-this smile, turned, and left.
Later that morning, I decided to brew myself a cup of coffee. Most of my other fifteen-year-old friends liked tea or lattes, but for me, it was the smell. For as long as I could remember the house always smelled like coffee in the morning. Dad’s coffee.
I poured a ton of hazelnut creamer into the cup before I added the coffee and watched the colors swirl together to form a beautiful light brown.
With my cup full, I started up the stairs to my room, taking my time, sipping my coffee. After only a couple of steps, a strange heaviness overtook the air, like the coming of a bad thunderstorm.
I paused, lowered my cup.
A strange glow appeared at the top of the staircase. Small and bright blue. The glowing figure took a moment, but it slowly transformed into something I recognized–recognized and feared.
Pain shot through my chest as if my heart had stopped beating. Weakness spread through my legs and arms and, finally, to my hands. My cup slipped from my grip. Hot coffee spilled all over the carpet and splashed my bare legs.
The form brightened for a moment and then dimmed, pulsating. Eyes shimmered like embers from a fire. We stood for a moment, staring at each other. I felt like I was a child again. The ghost hadn’t changed from what I could remember. Blonde, wavy hair, and she wore that same little dress.
Her brightness started to fade like a light bulb on a dimmer switch. She flickered on and off. The glow of her eyes faded. And then she vanished.
Numb, I stumbled backward to the bottom of the stairway. My legs, weak and rubbery like I’d ran a marathon, were unable to hold me up any longer. With both hands on the banister, I lowered myself until I sat on the bottom step of the stairway. The same step I sat on when Dad found me crying when I was four years old. The same step where everything had first started.
I wrapped my arms around the banister, and I realized something. I realized Dad was wrong when he told me that I imagined the ghost in the blue dress. That I had imagined her transforming a picture of me into a picture of her, changing my hair, changing my face, unfolding her small hands to crawl out of the frame and into the darkness of the living room. And most of all, that I imagined her evil smile. At the age of four, I believed him. But now he was gone.
And the ghost was back.
I was still sitting on the bottom step of the stairway when the sound of a screen door slamming and a little dog barking caught my attention. I focused on the front door. It was only a few steps away. Mrs. Vanderley, my neighbor, had just let her black miniature poodle, Pepe, outside for a morning break.
Before I really thought about it, I stood and hurried outside.
I stood on the top step, a little confused. The midmorning sun was warm. Pepe trotted over to greet me. I wanted to squat and stroked the fur on his back, but I couldn’t move yet. He let out a yip and ran back into his yard to do his business.
A large birch tree stood in front of Mrs. Vanderley’s house and the sidewalk. Houses lined both sides of the street here in Indianapolis, Indiana. Most of the houses on my block were built in the early 1900s.
The July sun broke through the tree leaves. I stood, waiting for things to make sense again. I wanted to believe that the ghost I saw was my crazy imagination, just like Dad had told me all those years ago. Only the pain in my chest and the residual numbness wouldn’t allow me to believe that. What I’d seen was real, and I needed to tell somebody–now.
I reached for my phone to text Tamara about what I’d just seen. Would my other friends laugh at me, though? We’d watched those reality TV ghost-hunting shows before, but I wasn’t sure who believed, who didn’t, and who would think I was crazy. But my phone wasn’t there. My pocket was empty. I guessed I didn’t have to make that decision since my phone was in my room charging.
I sighed, not sure what to do. Then I heard Mrs. V calling for Pepe, and I had another idea. Tamara was with her grandma today. Mrs. V had known me for so long and we were so close that she was practically like my own grandma.
I hurried across the yard and to her front step. “Hi, Mrs. V,” I said out of breath.
“Well, hello, dear.”
“I really need to talk with you.”
She opened the door for me and Pepe. “Come on in and take a seat. Looks like we need some hot chocolate,” she said and left for the kitchen. Whenever I seemed frazzled or upset, hot chocolate was Mrs. V’s cure-all.
A few short minutes later, she returned with a cup of steaming goodness. I reached out and took the shiny, ivory cup from her hands.
“Oh, dear. You’re shaking,” she said and draped a light afghan over my shoulders, even though it was the middle of July. I wasn’t cold, but the afghan did feel nice. I sat on an emerald green couch in Mrs. V’s living room. She took a seat next to me. I held the cup of hot chocolate she’d made for me with both hands and watched the miniature marshmallows tremble.
Pepe jumped onto Mrs. V’s lap and scooted, so his front paws rested on my leg. I thought it was a little weird that Pepe always knew when something was wrong, like he could read minds. I just hoped at this moment he couldn’t read mine.
“Now tell me, Jenna,” Mrs. V said, her voice soft and slightly shaky from age. “What happened?”
I took in a breath and looked around the living room, not sure what to say. This was Mrs. V, though. I could tell her anything. She had been there for me for so many things, like when Tamara and I fought, which happened more than I liked to admit.
When Mom and I fought, which also happened more than I liked to admit. And, most of all, when Dad died. She was there for me, just like I knew she’d be there for me now.
“Mrs. V?” I asked in a soft voice.
“I’ve got a question for you.” I fiddled with the handle of my hot chocolate mug.
She made a “hmmm” sound that always meant for me to continue.
“Do you believe in life after death?” I asked and made eye contact.
No flash of doubt crossed her face. I thought she might’ve had a little bit of a you’re-a-crazy-girl look, but she didn’t. She didn’t even hesitate before she asked, “You mean heaven and hell?”
Relieved, I continued. “No–I mean more like ghosts, like not making it to where you’re supposed to go.”
Pepe shifted to his side, still on her lap, and let out a little sigh. After a moment Mrs. V answered, “You know, I’m not really sure. I guess I don’t have a straight answer.”
“Well, I can say for sure that I believe in ghosts.”
Mrs. V raised her eyebrows. “And why’s that?”
“Because I just saw one.”
© 2015 by R. A. Slone