There seems to be bad vibes all through the audience now. A group of three actually got up and walked out. The girl is staring at Dad and Uncle Randy like she hates them. I wonder why she’s so angry.

Dad has one of his hands raised to Uncle Randy in an effort to calm him down. I’m not sure how he does it, but eventually Randy chills out. He props himself on a stool with a defeated expression.

‘We believe that our work helps people,’ says Dad. He sounds like he has more to say but the girl immediately interrupts him.

‘Dead people?’

‘Living people.’

‘What about the dead ones? Do you think you’re helping them?

My Dad doesn’t fight with people. I’ve never even heard him raise his voice. I can always tell he’s upset though by the way he quiets down. After a long pause, I know that she’s getting under his skin.

‘Remember the time Lydia surprised you and Matthew with a picnic basket on your birthday?’

Lydia is my mother. There are one hundred pounds of rocks that suddenly drop in the pit of my stomach. I remember the picnic.

‘It was the year you thought she forgot your birthday,’ says the girl without blinking her eyes. ‘She could barely keep the secret and thought you knew for sure when you…’

‘… noticed all the spoons were missing,’ says Dad in unison with the girl who hasn’t blinked once. ‘I… I’m sorry but I think…’

There’s a thunderous crash when Dad drops his microphone and walks off stage. The entire room is now focussed on the girl who’s staring at Uncle Randy. His jaw is open because he’s heard the picnic story a million times. It was the last birthday of Dad’s that Mom lived through. The accident was two months later.

I feel like none of this is happening. When Dad storms past me I don’t even move. My eyes are the same as everyone else’s, focussed on the purple haired girl who finally says, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t want to take up all the question time, I’m sure other people in here have things they want to ask.’ And she stands up and walks out.

***

It’s winter where we live in New England. The trees have been naked since November and the wind of January puts frost on your bones. The girl isn’t even wearing a jacket after she exits the building and begins to walk through the parking lot. Dad trips over his feel running to catch up with her and nearly falls over. ‘Wait!’ he cries.

The girl stops but unlike the focussed stare she exhibited inside, her eyes are looking straight ahead. She’s listening to Dad’s clumsy footsteps as he approaches. He didn’t have time to put his coat on and is already shivering. The girl stands perfectly still with a blank gaze directed toward the copper shimmer of streetlamps shining down on a row of parked cars.

Dad feels afraid and the feeling is unfamiliar to him. After he lost Mom, he stopped being scared of anything. Once the only thing that matters to you is taken away, there’s really nothing else to be frightened about. Dad says he loves me all the time and makes me feel like I matter to a point, but I’m not stupid. I know that he’s trade me in a second if he could have Mom back. Sometimes I feel like looking at me makes him sad because I look so much like her and am a constant reminder of what he lost.

Dad and the girl are standing side by side in silence. The only noise is an occasional passing vehicle or old trees making crunching sounds from the force of the winter wind. Once Dad’s teeth begin to chatter the girl says, ‘Maybe you should get your coat.’

Inside Uncle Randy is doing all that he can to prevent chaos. Every question has been about the girl. A fat woman with blonde bologna curls wearing a purple sweater asks, ‘Do you know her? Can she talk to my grandfather?’

An old man with deep intents around his mouth from years of frowning says, ‘Your work is supposed to be about evidence! Not this psychic mumbo jumbo. Who’s she?’