Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions
Келли Армстронг

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Coincidence. Had to be. She had just changed the polish color, after all. What if Michael had noticed that? Didn’t we want guys to notice?

By the time I turned back to Giovanni, he was gone. His group must have been called too.

Scowling at Michael’s back, I followed him to the gathering spot. A weary tour guide, going through his spiel by rote, explained what the catacombs were, the theories about why they existed, the need to be careful because these were built before modern safety standards, and how if anybody was scared of enclosed spaces or graves, they should speak up immediately instead of having a panic attack underground.

Cairo and I had been visiting tombs with our parents since we were old enough to walk. If he were next to me, we’d share a look and a laugh at the thought of anybody panicking down there.

But we weren’t next to each other. The divide between us was still so new and so small, but if what I feared was true—if Cairo was losing his grip on sanity—it would only get wider. And it might last forever.

I couldn’t think about it.

The blazing summer heat evaporated as soon as our group had filed only a few feet down into the catacombs. The underground chill always turned the day to winter. My friends began shivering; I had known to bring my embroidered shawl in my bag. Several steps ahead, I saw Cairo shrug on a hoodie.

Crudely carved fish and lambs dotted the bleak stone walls as we went farther and farther down. Since the tour guide was rattling off a lot of history my parents had already taught me, I fell toward the back, making room for my friends to hear better.

And, as it turned out, for someone else to fall in beside me.

“Hey.” I felt that smile tugging at my lips again as I glanced over to see Giovanni walking downstairs by my side. “I thought you’d wait for the Italian-language tour.”

“I have been here before many times.” Giovanni’s hands were tucked into his jeans pockets so that his elbows splayed out a little, revealing what broad shoulders he had. “I do not need to hear the tour guide again.”

“Why come at all?”

“Have to.”

“School trips suck.” I sighed. Though this one was looking up all of a sudden. I wondered if Giovanni and I could meet up after—Mrs. Weaver would never have let me go on a date, but an espresso at the hotel café seemed possible.

“One thing is better this time.” Giovanni’s shy smile made this cold, dark, dead place feel warm and alive. “You are here.”

I ducked my head, unable to meet his eyes any longer but unable to quit smiling. No guy had ever flirted with me before. Maybe it was something about Italian guys. Maybe it was something about Giovanni himself. But I felt totally sure he wasn’t just playing me—that he’d never done anything like this in his life.

That made two of us.

We reached the very bottom level of the catacombs, catching up with the rest of the group—my friends were silhouetted by the naked bulbs that served as lighting down here. They stood just through a stone archway. Carved-out graves surrounded us, and I saw Giovanni glancing their way.

“No need to be nervous.” I felt bold enough to tease him. “No dead bodies in there anymore.”

“Nothing but dust, now.” Giovanni’s mournful expression reminded me what this place used to be. Now it had become a stop on the standard tourist routes, with school bus trips tromping through every day and a souvenir shop nearby. Once, though, it was a secret cemetery where people came to hide their martyrs and hope for miracles. I looked up into the dark chambers above us and felt a shiver that had nothing to do with the cold. What I felt was wonder—the emotion I’d been waiting to feel in Rome, but that had evaded me. Until Giovanni.

I smiled at him and whispered, “Thank you.”

“Thank you,” he said. “For finding me. I have waited so long.”


“No one sees me. Only you see me.”

“Giovanni, we only just met—” I edged through the archway, with a glance over my shoulder. I expected him to follow me, and he did.

What I didn’t expect was for him to walk through the wall.

Straight through the stone wall.

I didn’t imagine it. It wasn’t a trick of the light. Giovanni really walked through the stone. “How did you do that?” My voice was too loud; I could hear the echoes in the stone chambers, and several people turned back toward me in irritation.

Audrey, in particular, looked put out. “Who are you talking to?” she muttered. “You’ve been ranting to yourself all morning. Did Cairo, like, infect you with weirdness?”

I pointed at Giovanni, who stood right in front of her, where she couldn’t possibly miss him. He had an apologetic look on his face. Then I realized that our shadows were all outlined sharply against the stone wall—everyone but Giovanni’s. The light shone right through him.

When our eyes met again, Giovanni nodded. “You are the only one who has seen me since I died.”

I screamed because I couldn’t do anything else, louder and louder, until someone turned out the lights.

What happened next—I couldn’t say. To me it was only confusion. I must have fainted, because the next thing I knew, I was lying on the sun-heated grass outside, Rome’s summer light nearly blinding me, Mrs. Weaver almost panicking, Marvin trying to get me to drink water out of his squeeze bottle. None of it made any sense until I saw my brother.

Cairo knelt by my side and took my hand. None of the instability I’d seen last night, or the insecurity I’d seen this morning, was visible now. Even when my brother had trouble being strong enough to take care of himself, he could be strong for me. “She needs to rest; that’s all. Just put us in a taxi back to the hotel,” he said. “I’ll see that she gets some sleep.”

Mrs. Weaver looked around, as if she wanted someone else to tell her what to do. But there weren’t enough adults on this trip, and she had about another twenty minutes to get the rest of the group back on the tour bus for the afternoon trip to the Castel Sant’Angelo. That, plus Cairo’s steadiness—his apparent recovery from last night’s upset—must have convinced her. “Don’t set one foot outside the hotel,” she said. “When we get back at six, I expect to see both of you waiting for us.”

“We will.” I would have said anything to get out of there.

Only when Cairo and I were truly alone—me flopped in exhaustion across my hotel bed, and him sitting yoga-style on Audrey’s—did we speak to each other. “What happened?” he said.

“I was talking to this guy, Giovanni, but . . . he wasn’t real.”

“What do you mean, not real?”

“He didn’t have a shadow. Nobody else could see him. And he said—he said I was the only person who’d seen him since he died.” I clutched the cover on my bed into a knot between my fingers. “That can’t be real, right?”

Only after I said the words did I realize—I didn’t have to tell Cairo the truth. I could’ve pled sunstroke or dizziness or something else and denied what had happened to me. But I never lied to him; it hadn’t occurred to me to start now.

Instead of calling the nearest psychiatrist, Cairo remained by my side. He even smiled. “It all makes sense now.”

“What makes sense?”

“Don’t you get it? I wondered about this before, but . . . when it was just me, I couldn’t be sure. Now I am. We’re psychic.”


“Or . . . talented, somehow. I don’t know the right word for it. But I have moments when I can hear people’s thoughts, and you can see the dead. We’re twins; I guess it makes sense that if it was happening to me, eventually it would happen to you too. Maybe it’s the . . . family inheritance. Something like that.”

I wanted to tell Cairo to stop talking about hearing people’s thoughts, just like I had the night before, but I couldn’t, and not just because I had begun experiencing something even stranger. I wanted to go back in time to the night before and not be such a bitch to Cairo, to come through for him the way he came through for me.

Most of all I wanted to go back to the life I’d had just this morning, where fitting in seemed possible. If Cairo was right, then I would never fit in. My brother and I really were freaks, and we’d be freaks forever.

But down deep I knew, for certain, that I’d seen Giovanni.

“How can we be sure?” I said. “It could have been heatstroke, or . . . déjà vu, or something.”
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