The sky was blushing.
At least that's what Lydia Deetz always thought the sky looked like when the sun was setting. It was fading from bright blue to a dazzling pink in seconds, casting a dazzling warm radiance on everything it touched and sending shadows stretching across the ground. Lydia leaned against her windowsill, sighing dreamily as the sun disappeared below the horizon, taking with it the golden glow of twilight and leaving behind the blackness of night.
"Last moments of freedom," Lydia said to herself, listening to the symphony of the night outside her window. As she listened, she imagined crickets playing stringed instruments in the coolness of the grass and the frogs in the pond singing to the stars. She giggled at the thought of a little cricket playing a violin, knowing that she would have listened to it all night anyway.
"What's so funny?"
Lydia jumped back from the window and spun around, knowing perfectly well who had spoken, but annoyed at herself for getting spooked all the same. She scanned the room until her eyes fell on her vanity, and inside of the mirror was a bug-eyed face staring back at her – a face that was not her own. The face in the mirror was even paler than hers – almost white – and the yellow eyes gleamed with mischief. His grin sported rotting teeth, crooked in every direction, and his insipid pale hair hung limply to his shoulders. Despite his putrid appearance, he sported a classy black and white striped suit and purple tie. But Lydia did not look horrified to see him. On the contrary, she seemed pleased.
"Oh, nothing, BJ," she told the man in the mirror, coming over to stand in front of it. "I was just thinking."
The man shrugged his shoulders, obviously not interested in what she could be thinking, and pressed his nose against the glass, fogging it up with his breath. "So, how bout letting me out, babes?" he asked with eyes as big as a puppy's. "I have some really fun pranks we could pull on your parents tonight! I've been sitting here thinking all day while you were out doing boring things."
Lydia crossed her arms. "It's called shopping," she told him. "You know I needed new school supplies. I start high school tomorrow, for goodness' sake."
The pale man in the mirror stuck his blue tongue out at the girl. "Blah, blah, blah. School's never helped anyone, has it? Wouldn't it be a lot more fun to come over to my place and go through my brand-new pile of junk?" The man pulled out a large, smelly- looking trash bag, looking ecstatic. Lydia smiled knowingly and shook her head.
"Sorry, Beetlejuice," she told him. "I actually want to go back to school."
The man called Beetlejuice blinked. "You want to go back? You want to sit in boring old classes for hours and hours without seeing me? Your best buddy?" Beetlejuice pulled out a handkerchief from his pocket and blew his nose loudly so it emitted a honking sound. "I can't believe you would do this to me, Lydia!" Tears streamed from his eyes like rushing rivers as he bawled like a baby.
"Oh stop being such a drama queen, Beetlejuice," she scolded him.
Beetlejuice's tears suddenly vanished and that malicious glint returned to his eyes. "Say that beautiful 'B' word one more time and I can come out of here for reals! Then we'll have some fun before you're enslaved for another year!"
Lydia shook her head. "Not tonight, BJ," she said, being careful not to call him by his full name. "Summer's over, and I need to get some sleep if I want to wake up early tomorrow morning and get back into the swing of things." Lydia walked over to her wardrobe and started pulling clothes out of it, holding them up to herself experimentally as she tried to see past Beetlejuice in her mirror. "Do you mind moving to the side a few inches?" she asked him. "I can't see myself." The mirror man gave a loud groan and squished himself onto the edge of the looking glass.
"Fine, fine, fine," he mumbled, as the girl cocked her head at a purple dress she was holding up to her front. "I remember when you used to be fun, babes. There was none of this 'What am I gonna wear for school?' crap." Beetlejuice did a whiny imitation of a girl's voice, but Lydia ignored him.
"What do you think, BJ?" she asked. "Purple or black?"
Beetlejuice shrugged his shoulders uninterestedly, said, "Personally I think you'd look better wearing nothing at all," and immediately clapped both of his hands over his mouth.
"Beetlejuice!" Lydia shouted, aghast.
Before Lydia could take back the "B" word, Beetlejuice let out a manic burst of laughter and sprung out from behind the mirror, flying in circles around the room. Lydia crossed her arms and glared at him.
"HAHA!" Beetlejuice giggled with delight as he darted in and out of Lydia's bedposts, out of her reach in case she wanted to strangle him.
"You get down here and apologize for saying that!" Lydia told him, following him with her gaze. "That was really inappropriate!"
Beetlejuice did a little back flip in the air. "Aw come on, babes! It was only a joke!"
The girl refused to let up. "I can send you back any time I want to, you know." Beetlejuice's face dropped, and he hovered in the air for a moment. "Maybe if you apologize, we can talk about letting you stay out a while longer."
Beetlejuice zoomed down and landed in front of Lydia. "Okay, okay!" he said, putting up his hands. "I'm sorry that you're not comfortable with your body."
Lydia raised an eyebrow. "Beetlejuice…" she started.
Beetlejuice waved his hands to quiet her. "No, no, no, no! Don't say it! Okay, I'm sorry you can't take a joke!"
"I was kidding! Kidding! I'm sorry, okay? Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry!" Beetlejuice pulled at his yellow hair and writhed on the ground as if giving a little apology was taking absolutely everything out of him.
Lydia nodded. "That's more like it." She picked up her dresses from off the floor and laid the purple one out on the foot of her bed. Beetlejuice stood up and brushed himself off, following her around the room as she picked up books and stuffed them into her black and white striped book bag.
"So, babes, about those pranks…" Beetlejuice started, pulling a long list out of his jacket pocket and reading from it. "How about grubs in your mom's face cream? Or maybe we could enchant your parents' curtains to eat them or something!" Beetlejuice sniggered excitedly, but he frowned when he saw Lydia intently digging through her book bag. "Uh, are you even listening, Lyds?"
Lydia looked up briefly, but then stuck her face back into her bag. "Yeah, I'm listening. That sounds really nice, Beej."
" 'Nice'?" Beetlejuice stomped his foot irritably and crumpled up his list. "It's not supposed to be nice, Lyds! It's supposed to be terrifying!" But despite his whining, Lydia still seemed to be absorbed in her work, so Beetlejuice was forced to stick his long nose in her face. "What the heck are you doing, anyway?"
Lydia sighed and tossed her bag aside. "I can't seem to find my favorite key chain anywhere. You know, it's the lizard one." Lydia proceeded to look under her bed and her dresser, crawling on all fours and combing the carpet with her fingers. Beetlejuice hovered on his back in midair, using a nail file to pick out god-knows-what from under his fingernails.
"Well since you're not up to doing anything fun," he mumbled, stretching his arms over his head and yawning hugely. "I guess I'll be off. Maybe tomorrow you'll find your key chain and your brain and decide to hang out with your buddy again."
Lydia gave up on finding her metal green lizard and sat cross-legged on the floor. "Sorry, Beej. I don't mean to be a killjoy. I'm just a little nervous about tomorrow." She rested her chin on her fist and looked up at her best friend, who still didn't show much interest in what she was saying. "I'm transitioning from an all-girls school to a public high school, so naturally I'm going to feel a little…"
"Aw, don't worry about it, babes," Beetlejuice growled, putting his hands behind his head. "Just stick me in your bag tomorrow and I'll make sure you have an excellent day."
Lydia gave a faint smile, still trying to push away the nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach. "I've never been to a public school before, much less a school with boys in it. What if…" she knew she sounded stupid talking to the joking poltergeist so sincerely. "What if no one likes me?"
Beetlejuice cocked his head to the side and studied her face.
"Are you serious?" he asked after a moment, letting out a bark-like laugh. "I've never seen you so doubtful about anything."
Lydia played with her black hair and stared at the floor. She knew he wouldn't understand.
"Don't even worry about a dumb new school," Beetlejuice waved his hand airily. "You've got it made, babes. You're friggin' adorable, and anyone would be a complete idiot not to love you."
Lydia looked up at her friend, who was now sitting on the floor next to her. He ruffled her hair.
"Those suckers will be lining up to be your friend, kid," he grinned his big, toothy grin. "And if not, well, you can always send me after them."
Lydia laughed for real this time. She leaned over and hugged her friend around his gut, squeezing him tightly. He wrapped her in a bear hug.
"Thanks, BJ," she mumbled. "You always know how to make me feel better."
After a few moments, the black-and-white-clad ghost cleared his throat gruffly and stood up. "Yeah well…I'd better hit the coffin. I don't wanna keep you up too late."
The girl nodded. "I'll see you tomorrow, I guess."
Beetlejuice winked at her. "Knock 'em dead, babes."
"Beetlejuice!" Lydia said for the third time. The poltergeist was in mid-yawn as he vanished in a puff of purple smoke.
As Lydia climbed into bed that night, her stomach aflutter with nerves, she felt something poke her as she lay on her pillow. She slipped her hand under it to annihilate whatever dared disturb her sleep, and felt something cold brush against her fingertips. As she pulled out the object and held it up so she could see, she gasped. It was a large, black, bat key chain about the size of her hand. A tiny purple ribbon was tied around one of it's outstretched wings, and it made a soft clinking sound as she dangled it by it's chain. It was beautiful, and much more satisfactory than her old lizard key chain. Lydia caressed the cold, hard metal and lay down, setting it on her bedside table. Tomorrow, she would clip it on her book bag and head to school. And even if her day turned out terribly, there was always someone she could come home to and tell all about it.
Lydia smiled in the moonlight. "Thanks, BJ," she whispered.