The family photo on the screen looked a few years old.
“That’s me with my parents. My mum runs her own business. My dad went missing six years ago,” her classmate said.
Zoey looked at the man on the presentation slide, then at the man floating by her classmate.
It was so hard to not blurt anything out, because there was no good way to tell a classmate his missing father was actually a dead father. But still. Still.
After the tutorial, she tapped her classmate on the shoulder.
“Sorry about your dad,” she said as they fell into their usual after-tutorial walk towards the student hub.
Her classmate’s lips tightened into a forced smile. “Thank you.”
“I don’t want to be rude but, which is worse? Waiting for someone who’s missing or knowing what happened? Even if it’s bad?”
He sighed. “It depends. Some days I want closure, some days I still want to hope he’ll come back.”
“If you had a choice, would you rather know or wonder forever?”
The laugh he gave her in response was bitter.
“If I had a choice, he wouldn’t have disappeared at all. But we don’t always get what we want.” He shook his head as if he could shook off his negative thoughts. “Sorry. That’s not what you’re asking. Right now, not knowing is worse, because it’s like a shadow that never leaves.”
“Thanks. And I’m sorry.”
Before they parted ways, she caught the spirit’s attention. The spirit left his son to join her as she put on her earphones and pretended to make a call. This, too, was part of their usual routine.
“So, uncle, your son thinks you’re missing,” she said.
“Yes,” said the spirit, who introduced himself as just Mr Tan in their first conversation earlier in the semester.
“If you want, I can tell him about you,” Zoey offered.
“I thought you wanted to keep your ability a secret?” Mr Tan said with a smile.
“I still do. I was thinking of somehow helping the police find your body. You know where it is right?”
“Then leave the rest to me.”
Zoey turned her attention to her phone to make a real call.
“Hello?” Silas picked up on the fourth ring.
“Hey Silas, how can I lead the police to a dead body without becoming a suspect?”
“By being very discreet and knowing the right people. You don’t have any classes left today right? Come to my place. I’ll take it from there.”
Zoey smiled. She could always count on Silas.
“We’re on our way.”
By the time they arrived, Silas had his laptop ready. It didn’t take them long to pinpoint the place where Mr Tan’s body had been dumped after a hit and run.
“Now, don’t say anything. I’m going to make a call,” Silas warned before he put his phone on speaker.
“Hey boss. I have a new tip for you.”
The week after, her classmate was absent from class. He was also absent the week after. The week after that was a holiday. It was only a month later that she saw him again.
Unseen by everyone else, Mr Tan waved.
“I won’t stay for long,” Mr Tan said after the tutorial, “Just wanted to say goodbye before I left. It was a pleasure to meet you, Zoey.”
Mr Tan smiled. Then he was gone.
Only then did she cry.