On everyone’s 18th birthday at noon, one word appears in their skin, depicting their career or purpose in life. On your birthday you’re staring at a clock showing 11:59 am, family and friends are gathered around for your reveal…
My hands trembled as I picked up the brush to get ready. Swiping the sweat off my brow in irritation, I looked back at the mirror at myself but got lost in my thoughts. As I stared at my reflection, my mind drifted to what was about to happen. The brush I was gripping clattered to the floor as I doubled over. A massive pressure was pushing on my chest, and I couldn’t breathe. No matter how much I tried to pull in air; it wasn’t enough.
It was the wrong time for a panic attack. Thirty minutes ago, I locked myself in my room, and I’d been trying to calm myself down ever since. No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to relax. My anxiety was through the roof. Everyone was out there, waiting for me. For the last few generations, a reveal party had become a tradition. I came from a respected and somewhat revered family. My mom was a surgeon, my dad was a neurosurgeon, my grandparents were doctors, my aunt was a nurse, my uncle was a chiropractor, you get the idea.
It was unheard of for an entire family to be classified in the same field. Not one person had been designated to work outside of the medical field. Yet, I had zero interest in any of it. I didn’t care about gene therapy to prevent blindness or the latest in mobile cancer screening. Call me heartless, but it just seemed boring to me. I mean, of course, those things were important, and I’m glad they’re out there, but I wasn’t interested in the details. All my life, my parents have been shoving all this medical knowledge down my throat, thinking it was going to prepare me for my future, and I hated it. Sure, I understood it, and I’d always gotten excellent grades, but my interests were outside of the medical field.
I was different. It was our family’s dirty little secret. I wanted to know what happened after you died. When the physical body ceased to exist, what happened to your soul? Did the soul move on from this physical world to a spiritual one? Did some souls not move on and that is why people claimed to see ghosts? What about the rest of it? Are demons corrupted souls or did they really come from hell?
Anytime I got caught reading about these things or talking about them, I got a lecture. I could almost hear mom’s voice inside my head as I thought about it. “That’s not what you should be reading about Giselle. You spend too much time reading about nonsense.” I let out an audible sigh just as someone banged on my door.
“Giselle! Open the door, girl! Stop hiding in there!”
I knew that voice and how demanding it could be. Knowing her, she was probably leaning against the door listening to see what I was up to. Zoe, my best friend, wouldn’t stop till I opened the door and let her in. I yanked the door open in a flash and she practically fell on top of me.
“Oops! Sorry!” She laughed as she collected herself from our collision. She was a klutz on a normal day, so this came as no surprise, but even so, it was exactly the distraction I needed at the moment. I couldn’t help the grin forming on my lips upon her barging into my room.
I envied my friend. Her parents didn’t care about her Reveal Day. They told her that they would love her no matter what, even if she became a janitor. I remember telling my mother that story, and she looked at me, horrified. She asked me why any parent would want their child to be a janitor. As if we had control over what appeared on our arms.
That’s when I started to dread my Reveal Day, knowing that most likely I would be the one to let my parents and the entire family down. Zoe and I had been friends since elementary school, and she took one look at me and knew what was going on in my head. Her voice, that always seemed so loud, went down to almost a whisper, “hey, it’s okay. No matter what shows up, you’ll be alright.”
I didn’t think she fully understood because her parents didn’t put those kinds of expectations on her. My lip started quivering as I tried to hold back a sob. I somehow knew that today wasn’t going to go well. I could feel it deep in my gut. My life would change forever today, and I was terrified of the uncertainty. Would my parents kick me out? Would they disown me? If I didn’t live up to their reputation, what would become of me?
“Zo, what am I going to do if I get something weird? What if I get janitor? My parents are going to kick me out. I would be a disgrace to this family.” I admitted my fear to her as I toyed with the charm on my necklace, spinning it around and around.
“Giselle, you can’t control what shows up. If your parents disown you for something that you have no control over, then fuck them! I’ve already talked to my parents about this. If today goes bad, and your parents kick you out, you are welcome to stay with us.”
I stopped spinning my charm and dropped my necklace as I looked up at her face. She was dead serious, and for the first time in days, I felt a bit of hope bloom in my chest. I didn’t want to move out of my house, but if I was forced, it was nice to know at least I had somewhere to go.
“Really?” I asked, feeling a little less frantic.
“Of course! My parents love you! You’re like the sister I never had!” Zoe claimed as she walked over and embraced me. For the first time in a long while, I felt a little more like myself. I could do this and face my fears if I had a plan and people to help me.
“Thanks, Zo.” I smiled at her as I stepped back. I looked down at my watch. Only five minutes to go. I frowned as I adjusted my dress. “I guess I better get back out there.”
Just because I felt a little better about my plans didn’t mean I wanted to face all the fake people in my living room. I knew those people didn’t really care about me. They were probably here to kiss ass or to spread rumors and gossip. As I walked down the hallway to the living area where everyone was waiting, another bout of anxiety hit me. When I reached the party area, people swarmed me asking me all kinds of stupid questions; “Was I nervous? What did I think was going to happen? What part of the medical field suited me?” I didn’t answer any of them. I rolled my eyes and walked towards my parents and my sister. It’s not like I knew any of them, anyway.
When I reached my sister Gabriella, she gave me a quick side hug. Unconsciously, I looked down at her wrist. The word doctor was written in script on the inside of her left wrist. I remember when it happened two years ago. My parents beamed with joy and the party went on all night. Just remembering her party made the dread settle in my stomach, turning my late breakfast into a brick. When it was 11:59, everyone started counting down like you would do on New Year’s Eve. By the time they got to one, I thought I was going to vomit on the floor in front of everyone.
Once noon hit, everyone went eerily silent, waiting for me to reveal my word. As I felt a burning sensation, I held my hand over my wrist. The word was there now. I wished I could’ve looked at it in the privacy of my room by myself, without curious eyes hovering. I was panting and my parents were growing impatient. Without invitation, my mother snatched my hand away from my wrist and turned it over for inspection.
I heard a collective gasp. I looked around to see shocked faces. My parents and my sister paled as they looked over my reveal. Finally, I looked down to see how bad it was.
It was written in bold black lettering on the inside of my wrist. I was horrified and yet relieved. I didn’t want to be a doctor or a nurse, but a Necromancer? What did that even mean?
As I pondered, my mother passed out. I watched in a detached state as she went down, and all the medical people there fawned over her to make sure she was okay. I felt like I was going through an out-of-body experience as I watched the whole thing unravel. Once they claimed she was okay, they moved her to the couch.
It was then that I pondered what the word meant. I was lost in thought when a voice spoke up next to me.
“Your mom’s a real bitch, you know.”
It startled me. It wasn’t just the proximity of the voice beside me, but what they said made everything inside me stop. No one had ever called her a bitch. At least not to my face. I tried not to laugh and ended up snorting. I looked over at the person who made the comment. His tanned face scowling at what was going on with my mother. The guy looked to be in his early 30’s with blond hair and kind brown eyes. He looked very professional, just like everyone else here, but something was a little off with him.
“You said it, buddy. Not me.” I snorted again as I looked over at my mother. How refreshing to meet someone that wasn’t trying to kiss her ass. I loved my mother, but she wasn’t your typical mom. Her needs always came first, and I sensed her public persona was more important than anything else. “What’s your name? I don’t think I’ve seen you before.” I asked, bringing my attention back to my new friend.
“Oh, you haven’t seen me before. I’m sure of it. My name is Conner Bradly.”
I’d run into so many people over the years that I wouldn’t remember, anyway. I was about to ask him how he was so certain when Zoe pushed her way through the crowd to get to me.
“Giselle! Are you okay?” She asked as she gripped my shoulders and looked into my face.
“I’m fine, Zo. I’m just not sure I know what this means.” I said as I looked down at my wrist, tracing the letters on my tender skin, “but I’m kind of relieved that I don’t have to be a doctor or a surgeon or something like that. Isn’t that crazy?” I asked, wanting to know her honest opinion.
She dropped her hands to her side, “Giselle, it’s not crazy…okay, well, maybe a little. I’m guessing you better do some mad research to figure out what this means, though.” She said as she stared at the word on my wrist.
“Oh, I could help with that.” Conner said next to me, reminding me he was there. I looked over at him as my eyebrows shot up and my mouth hung open.
“Really Conner? Don’t joke with me.”
“Wait? Who’s Conner? Who are you talking to, Giselle?” Zoe asked, looking all around me. A frown taking up her delicate features.
I looked over at Zoe in irritation. “My new friend Conner. He’s right here next to me. Can’t you see him? Blond hair, brown eyes, tan skin?” I asked in a teasing manner with a smile on my lips, but she didn’t return my smile. Instead, her eyebrows furrowed.
“Giselle, I don’t see anyone next to you. Like, at all.” “
Yeah, she can’t see me. Only you can, Giselle. I’m sorry, I know you’re new at this, but I thought you’d at least know a ghost when you saw one.” He shrugged his shoulders as if none of it mattered.
“Seriously?” I asked in a shrill voice.
Conner’s eyebrows shot up as he gaped at me. “Am I your first ghost?” He asked in mock horror.
“Bruh, look around. It’s my 18th birthday, and I just got notified that I’m a Necromancer. I have no idea what that even means. Then you show up not 30 seconds later. Yeah, you’re my first ghost. What the hell am I supposed to do for you?”
“Oh, that. You have to help me with my unfinished business.” He said it as he scratched the back of his ghost neck. Maybe it was a nervous habit from when he was alive? I made a continue gesture with my hand when he didn’t immediately start speaking again. “Well…you kind of have to help me get revenge on my murderous bitch of a wife so that I know my children will be okay, and I can move on.”
“Is that all?” I deadpanned as I looked at him. “Are you being serious? How am I supposed to do that?” I asked as I threw my arms up in the air. This task seemed crazy and impossible. Was this really what I was supposed to do with my life? How was I going to make any money doing this?
“Don’t worry so much. I’ll tell you exactly what to do and where to go. You won’t get your literal hands dirty, you’ll just set things in motion so that she gets what’s coming to her, and I know my kids will end up with my parents and not with her. Then I can move on.”
I raised one eyebrow at his explanation. He made it seem like it was just a walk in the park.
“Oh, there will be a small cash reward in it for you. I have a secret stash of money that I kept hidden from that bitch, and you’re welcome to it as soon as you help me with the revenge part.”
“Giselle?!” Zoe was chewing on her lip as she watched me talk to the air next to me.
“Oh, right! Sorry! Apparently, Conner over here is my first ghost. He was filling me in on what I’m supposed to do.”
Zoe looked at me dubiously, but before she could comment, my mom regained consciousness and jumped off the couch. She came over to me and grabbed my arm again to inspect the designation. She dropped it just as quickly, as if it burned her.
“How could you do this to me? To this family!” Her face was flushed as she shook with rage. “Get out! Get your things and get out of here!”
“Seriously, mom? I had no control over this and now you’re kicking me out because I didn’t turn out to be what you wanted?” Incredulity taking over my face, I found strength from somewhere deep inside. I was tired of the way she treated me, and now that I had options, I was relieved that I could go anytime I wanted, though it would have been nice to have her support me no matter what.
“You don’t fit into this family anymore. We are healers! We save people! I don’t even know what to say to you. Just get out.”
Zoe looked at me with sadness in her eyes as she came to me. As she passed my mother, she glared at her. I smiled despite the horrible situation.
“C’mon Giselle. Get your stuff and come home with me.” I nodded my agreement and walked out of the room. I had Zoe on one side and Conner on the other.
“I told you she was a bitch.” Conner affirmed. I snorted again at his comment, which just made Zoe stare at me like I was nuts. I didn’t bother to explain.
“Don’t worry Giselle. The money you’ll make from helping me will get you into your own place and keep you comfortable for a while. I may not be able to use it now that I’m dead, but I’m happy that I can make sure it goes to good use. You deserve it just for dealing with her shit your whole life.” He said as he watched my mother over his shoulder and shook his head.
I knew today was going to be a game changer, but I didn’t realize to what extent. Even though my mother kicked me out, like I knew she would, I didn’t feel quite as broken up about it as I expected. I would miss my father and sister terribly, but I knew I’d still see them around. Things were going to be hard, but I was ready for the change.