Stay And Watch Me Die

Genre
Logline or Premise
A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder x The Cemetery Boys.
16yo Jodi’s falling for the handsome teenage ghost living in a dollhouse in her attic.
Every night she’s transported into the dollhouse and watches his murder re-enacted, determined to find his killer.
But if successful, she could lose him forever.
First 10 Pages

Goodbye, old life. Hello, new town, new people, new––everything. Dad has moved us a gajillion miles away.

Well, that’s how it feels. This car ride is taking forever! My phone battery is starting to get dangerously low. Asking to plug it in will just get a lecture on how I spend too much time on it. Please last until we get to the new house.

“Jodi, look over there,” Dad interrupts my thoughts.

I pause my feeble attempt to entertain myself––scrolling through my phone for interesting TikTok videos––and look up.

My parents want me to be happy about this move, but I just can’t. Sure, it’s actually a really pretty view, but that’s not the point.

“Wow,” says Mum. “It looks just like a postcard.”

The golden sand curves along the coast, white-capped waves lap at the shoreline. The setting sun is dancing over the surface of the waters in bright, flashing shards of yellow.

“Yeah, it would have been great if it stayed on a postcard,” I grumble under my breath, turning back to my phone. We drive along a curving path that overlooks the beach. The car slows down… and down… and down. The curves are on the tricky side now we’ve driven through the main town of Bridport and into some tiny, remote, coastal village on the edge of Nowhereville.

Dad announces, “Alright! We’re here!”

Good timing. I’m on one percent battery.

Dad parks in front of a large old cottage overlooking the beach. There’s a white stone path leading up to the front door, and an old over-grown garden row on either side of the path. The cottage looks pretty decent, despite being old and worn––a bit like my history teacher’s face.

It’s a nice house. I hate it anyway. It’s not my old house in London. It might not have been next to a beach, but I knew the neighbours and where everything was and––

And it doesn’t matter, because we’re here now. I was gutted about moving, but we had to. Dad was promoted in the police. They needed an experienced officer from the London Met and Dad’s super good at his job. He had to pass up a great promotion after my accident, so it’s his turn now.

Dad opens the front door and carries a giggling Mum over the threshold. It’s time my parents get a chance to be happy.

I follow them to the house and goosebumps erupt on my arms. It must be the salty shore breeze that I swear just whispered my name. Being a recluse has clearly developed an overactive imagination.

Although the sun is now barely peeking over the horizon, a glow appears in the attic window. Weird. Maybe the lights are on a timer or something.

“Jodi, what are you waiting for? Come inside and see your new room,” Mum beckons.

The front door opens into a hallway, leading to a large open living room with a fancy tiled floor. I can smell the history of the room. An old grandfather clock stands in the corner, its pendulum swinging in time to the passing seconds. It came with the house. I bet it’s got lots of gossip. Hopefully, I’ll give it some––something more interesting than a reclusive invalid.

There. That’s the way to look at it. This all totally sucks, but I can show this house the new, better me. My sneakers thump loudly as I trudge upstairs after Mum.

“What’s this ladder doing down?” Mum tuts as she pushes it back up into the hatch. “This room on the right is our bedroom,” she signals with her hand like an airline stewardess. “That room to the left is yours.”

I step inside and the smell of fresh paint assaults my nose. Opening the curtains, the view of the beach is pretty cool––I totally have to draw it. Below the window is the porch roof with a large oak tree just beyond it, its knuckled branches jutting out in every direction.

“I guess it’s not bad.” I surprise myself with a slight smile.

“I know you are sad to leave London, but the house––it’s lovely, isn’t it?”

I nod. It is actually a pretty house. Even if it wasn’t, I would agree. I told myself at the start that even though I hated the idea of moving, I wasn’t going to say that out loud.

Not ever.

It’s not about me now, not anymore. It’s their time now.

“We can change the paint,” Mum says. “If you want it to be a different color. Or––the curtains. Whatever you want, really.”

I look at Mum’s concerned face. “I have a super important question to ask you.”

“What’s that?”

“What’s the WiFi password?”

Mum laughs. “I should have guessed that would be your first question.” Tires squeal outside and she winces, “That’ll be the removal lorry. You want to come give us a hand?”

No.

“Sure.” I follow her back down the stairs. The lorry is crammed floor to ceiling with boxes and furniture. They must be boss at playing Tetris.

Dad’s already down there, staring into the back of the truck, a truly dismal look on his face. “Did we need to keep all this stuff? Some of these boxes haven’t even been opened since we moved last time. That was ten years ago!”

Mum prods him in the ribs. “They’re filled with memories. So, we need to keep them. You don’t want to get rid of your daughter’s baby pictures, do you? What would we embarrass her with when she brings a boyfriend home?”

That grabs his attention. “Hopefully, that won’t be for a while.”

Nooooo! Hopefully it’s not a while and there will be a cute guy in this new town. I mean, there has to be an upside to this whole thing, right? Some perk to moving to the end of nowhere? I am sixteen now and well overdue a boyfriend.

Although Dad could never know. I don’t want him brandishing his baton and threatening the poor guy away.

“Well then, we’d better keep Jodi occupied.” Mum claps her hands together, “Let’s get this truck unloaded!”

It’s weird, seeing my whole life packed into so few boxes. It’s quite depressing . . . Almost as depressing as the dirty boxes leaving a black mark on my new white jeans. I should really not wear white.

I carry my first box upstairs and stop to stare at the ladder hanging from the ceiling hatch. I swear Mum put that away.

Mum or Dad must have pulled the ladder back down. Wait, no. They couldn’t have. I’m the only one to have come back upstairs. Stepping over to it, I put one hand on the worn wooden rung and get a strange prickly feeling deep in my gut.

Dad said the place had been renovated a lot. There’s hardly anything left of how it was, just the old banister, staircase, and grandfather clock.

Oh, and this ladder.

The wood is worn, smooth beneath my palm. I wonder what’s up there. I’d better finish putting my boxes away before I check it out and get distracted and moaned at, plus plugging in my phone is a top priority. I grab the ladder and shove it back up into the ceiling, the hatch folding up after it.

My weak arms throb as I set the last box down on my floor. Time to unpack. I get out my collection of pictures I’ve drawn and printed photos to stick on the newly painted walls. Dozens of pics, ranging from family photos to a load taken with my bestie Stacey. The first one I put up is my sweet sixteen—my last birthday and first night out since recovering from my accident at the end of last year. A date I almost didn’t get to see. Stacey was my rock after the accident. Now, we’ve moved hundreds of miles away from her.

It’s definitely the worst part of this whole thing.

My eyes burn. I pause, to stop tears from really springing to life.

I know she can visit over these summer holidays, but that doesn’t make me feel any better. I already miss her. For a few long moments, I just lay on my bed and wallow. Months of ingrained therapy sessions––a post-accident recommendation by the doctor that Mum insisted I attend, which were more helpful than I will ever admit––has me eventually groaning and hauling myself up.

Don’t wallow. Distract.

The window calls to me. I drift towards it, pulling out my phone and snapping a few pictures. It’s easy to lose myself in the filter setting, and soon I’m sending the whole batch to Stacey. She responds almost immediately with a slew of emojis: a shocked face, a sunny beach with a vibrant umbrella, a huge smiley, and a thumbs-up on one line, and a boy and a question mark on the next. Typical Stacey.

I smile. When I told her I was moving, she said, “Well, at least you might find a hot guy to steal your first kiss.”

She had hers ages ago––and quite a few since––we joke she’s had my share. The stupid accident ruined my social life.

Maybe things will be different here.

High-pitched tones interrupt my thoughts. It’s Stacey FaceTiming to see the house. Her beaming face and bouncing blonde curls invade my screen. I’ve always envied her curls instead of my long, straight brown hair. Stick straight, to the point nothing can be done with it.

Stacey asks, “So, is it the hellhole you thought it’d be?”

“I guess it’s not awful,” I have to admit. “You’re not here though. And there are like no McDonalds or anything as we’re on the edge of nowhere.”

“No me obviously being the worst bit.”

“Obvs.”

“Well, aren’t you going to give me the grand tour?”

I start in the bedroom, leading her out onto the landing, down the stairs, and into the living room.

“Oh God! It’s so cool. So big,” Stacey’s jaw drops. “Thought you said it was just a cottage? What. A. Lie. We should totes have a housewarming party. This room’s big enough for twenty of us! I could invite—”

“Stacey! There’ll be no teenagers coming for a party here, thank you,” says Mum leaning out the kitchen doorway. “Not twenty. Not even two.”

“Sorry, Mum. No parties,” I turn back to my smiling friend and give her a death stare. “Are you trying to get me into trouble?”

Stacey lowers her voice, “No, but you’re thinking about it too, aren’t you?”

I glance over at Mum, who’s still watching me, so I speak quietly, “I’m totally thinking about it.”

Stacey changes the subject, “how far away is this place, anyway?”

“It took, like, four hours to drive here.” I tilt the phone, so it pans over the kitchen, but she’s lost interest in the tour.

Stacey laughs. “Four hours, so––not close then.”

“No.” I agree, slumping sideways against the kitchen counter.

It doesn’t upset Stacey. If anything, her smile widens and shows off her braces. “Guess I’ll have to spend the whole end of the summer holidays at yours since it’ll be too far to go there and back.”

“Yes!” The word comes out way too excited, “You’re going to need to––”

“Jodi!” Dad’s voice. He’s somewhere outside the house.

Stacey frowns. “Let me guess. You’ve gotta split.”

“Sorry,” I tell her.

Stacey waves a hand at me. “It’s fine! Just––call me later?”

I find Dad in the garage, fumbling with the automatic sliding door. “You called?”

“I did. Can you come over here, and when I say so, press the button.”

I do as I’m told, watching while he adjusts the door. He gives the signal; I press the button and it comes down seamlessly.

Dad lets out a relieved sigh and we share a high five.

My gaze catches my bike, leaning against the back wall. It’s repaired now, just a few scuffs remain from where the driver hit me and had me skid across the road. The thought makes my stomach twist into knots.

“Maybe one day you’ll ride it again.” Dad interrupts the quiet pause. He must have seen me looking.

My stomach lurches even worse at that comment. There’s no way I can talk about riding that thing right now. I change the subject by asking about the first thing that comes to mind: the ladder. “Have you been up to the attic today, Dad?”

Dad shakes his head. “No, your mum and I have been unpacking downstairs.”

A slight shiver climbs up my spine. If they didn’t pull the ladder down . . . Then who did?

* * *

After lunch, Dad gets ready to go to the station to meet the Superintendent. As the new Detective Inspector of Bridport, he’s expected to show his face. He has a new suit and shiny shoes, which makes him look all tight and squeaky. His dark hair’s weird all slicked back, but Mum tells him he looks good.

“Very professional,” she adds, kisses him on the cheek and sees him out. She turns to look at me, “Let’s head out for a walk, Jodi, and check out the local town.”

I wince. A stroll through town with Mum is the last thing I want right now. “I think I’ll pass if you don’t mind. I want to finish unpacking my room and maybe take a nap.”

“Suit yourself, but don’t go out on your own. Not yet.” She kisses my forehead.

“I won’t.” I roll my eyes when her back is turned. I’m sixteen, not six. I know Mum has been trying to look after me since my accident, but I’m better and practically an adult now.

Despite unpacking all our furniture into the new place, it still feels empty. I head back upstairs. The ladder is back down again. Mum or Dad must be messing with me.

I should totally check it out.

But for some reason I don’t budge. Apprehension is rising in my body and my legs are rigid like tree trunks welded to the ground. The most I can do is reach out and put a hand on one of the lower rungs, fingers running over the worn wood.

Come on legs. I am the only one here. I’m not scared. You got this Jodi! It’s literally just the attic ladder. If Mum and Dad didn’t pull it down themselves, then the latch must just be faulty. Right?

Rocking forward, at the foot of the ladder, I peer up into the blackness and call, “Hello?”

No answer, not even from the sea. An eerie silence has taken over. My sneakers squeak as I walk around the ladder. No other sounds. Just an occasional release of my swift, pent-up breath.

“Is anyone there?”

Of course, no one’s there. That’s ridiculous!

The ladder’s bottom rung hovers a foot above the ground. I nudge it, to see how sturdy it is. Seems pretty secure.

Go up it. There’s no bogeyman.

I grit my teeth, hold my breath, and reach out with one hand, taking the rung. The other hand does the same.

Right foot on the rung.

Left foot.

I’m off the ground. Once I get started, it’s way easier to keep going.

I climb into the attic and choke on the stuffy air, filled with dust. It’s dark so I fumble around until I’m able to find the pull cord for the light.

The single bulb illuminates scattered pieces of stored furniture. Nothing special. I edge into the space, its wigwam-like roof giving just enough room to stand.

Something behind an old sheet catches my attention. I’m drawn towards the shape, hurrying over to it, I flip the fabric away. A perfect, miniaturized version of our new home. It’s so detailed and much nicer than any doll’s house I had when I was young.

How cool!

A smile spreads over my face. I crouch down to get a better look at it. The dolls’ house has been set on an old wooden coffee table. The windows are dusty, but it just takes a swipe of my thumb to clear them. The inside has the same lay-out, but the furniture is different. It must be how the last people who lived here had the place decorated.

The only furniture the same is the tall clock in the hall.

I peek into the house, room by room, freezing when I locate the dining room. There are two small dolls sitting opposite each other at the table. A boy and a girl. The male has dark wavy hair and green eyes. He is the taller of the two.

The girl is fair-skinned and wearing a pretty pink top with white jeans and white Converse trainers. Her brown hair is long and straight. And . . . She looks just like me.

The realisation sets my heart pounding.

The doll is wearing exactly what I’m wearing, right down to the black mark on my jeans. A cold sensation washes over the room, like someone’s cranked up the AC. I swear, it feels like someone’s watching me.

Stumbling to my feet, I hurry towards the hatch. There’s a lump in my throat the size of a basketball.

My sweaty palms grab the ladder haphazardly, and I slip.

Tumbling backwards, my head hits the floor. A headache instantly springs to life. Groaning, I roll onto my side and push myself up onto my feet. My phone slid out of my pocket when I fell.

Scrambling for it, I don’t have time to mourn the chipped screen before dashing to my bedroom. I don’t even hang around to shove the ladder back up.

There’s got to be a reason for this. It’s a joke, right?

But for the life of me, I can’t figure out who might be playing the prank.