She was used to feeling a tingly, numb sensation whenever George was nearby but now she felt as though shards of ice were passing through her body leaving her chilled to the bone.
Leaving the other party goers to fight over which of the delicious cakes they wanted a slice of, Odd followed George to where he had floated, partially hidden behind the garage.
She said nothing to her friend as the look of shock and disbelief remained firmly in place and she knew he would need a moment to regain his composure.
After the moment had passed George looked at her with his wide, hollow eyes and asked, "Why are you so different now Odette?" to which Odd stepped back, regarding him curiously. Was it possible that George had no concept of ageing? Perhaps as he was stuck being a perpetual child he had determined that this was a normal state of affairs and had assumed that Odd would grow no further.
"I'm a teenager now George." Odd replied softly.
"But that's not right!" George shouted, his washy voice piercing her ears more sharply than usual as his consternation rose. "You were supposed to be my friend forever." He cried.
"I will be." Odd assured him.
"No! It's not the same!" George yelled. "You're not the same!"
Odd had no idea how to respond to the boys annoyance, it wasn't as though she could undo her ageing she was alive and growing older was par for the course. However, she had never considered that George thought that she would remain a child as he had. His reaction set her mind racing on the subject of her "gift" again and she wondered for the second time if he knew what he was.
"I'm still your friend." She explained quietly, "I just appear different on the outside."
George's eyes sunk closed and Odd was certain that if he could shed a tear in that moment he would, as again the whole mood he transmitted shifted to a melancholy one which she could not shake free from.
"I just wanted someone to play with me while i wait." George replied, his voice like liquid sadness.
As soon as the words left his mouth the atmosphere reverted back to one of anger and George began to visibly seethe, his image fractured and distorted. Turning from her he floated away as fast as a cloud on a windy day and suddenly he vanished.
"George wait!" Odd called, giving scant regard to her relatives who were still enjoying the party only yards away. But the boy was gone.
"Keep your voice down!" Oscar's voice came harsh and quick at her ear and Odd spun round finding her brother standing close by. "I know the rest of the family find the fact that your name matches your manner endearing, but i am warning you Odd." he spat the name distastefully, "Keep your craziness in check when we start high school next week, or you will be sorry."
Oscar turned on his heel and stalked back towards the party with Odd staring after him.
Taking a seat opposite Olivia he hissed under his breath, "I think you've had enough cake Liv, don't you?"
Odd watched as her sister dropped her fork and pushed the delicious, half eaten cake slice away. Olivia had done exactly as Oscar had told her so Odd reasoned that this was the way it worked, she had better take heed of her brother's advice and be mindful of her actions at school.
The first day of High School arrived and Odd trailed behind her siblings apprehensively. While it seemed that Olivia was intent on following Oscar's lead Odd figured that she was not welcome to do the same.
Hanging back she glanced around the hallway filled with lockers and students, feeling as though the walls were closing in on her slowly suffocating her with their oppressive stature. Taking a deep breath she held it for a while, wishing more than anything that George was with her. With him at her side she felt capable of dealing with the large groups of Sims that banded together like pack animals in places such as schools.
Without him she felt adrift.
"Hey Oscar!" A girls voice called towards them and Odd looked up to see Stacey Leigh waving him over.
Her mind played back to the day she had witnessed her brother cause Stacey to fall from the jungle gym, yet still she treat him as a dear friend. Odd supposed that the way Oscar behaved was normal, accepted by everyone else certainly, so maybe she should follow his lead.
Oscar and Olivia traipsed over to Stacey who was huddled in a group with her brother Anson and his friend Harry whose face lit up when he caught sight of Olivia, the boy instantly struck up a conversation with her which Olivia seemed to like.
Odd watched as Stacey greeted Oscar with a similar doe eyed look, her brother Anson however did not. He glowered at Oscar, much in the way that an alpha male might stare down a rival, but Stacey muttered something under her breath to him and he backed off.
Odd felt like a spare part standing alone in the hallway watching the other students align themselves with groups of friends, unsure of herself she decided that if Oscar wanted her to behave "normally" she should mirror what he and Olivia were doing and join in. Although it went against her better instincts she edged towards the newly formed group.
As she neared them Oscar caught sight of her and his expression told Odd that she had been mistaken, the last thing he wanted was for her to remind the others that there were three Traytor children starting high school that day.
Stopping mid way between the group and her original standing point, not wanting to appear foolish, Odd turned and walked into the nearest room she could see. Hoping that the change in her course of action would stop Oscar from berating her later.
But as Odd stepped into the room the sense of calm that it's solitude brought her was short lived as she realised she had walked straight into the janitors closet.
Silently cursing herself she glanced around the confined space. As much as she was certain that the others in the hallway would be laughing at her mistake she still felt glad that she had wandered into what was, to Odd at least, an unequivocal haven from the hellishness of school.
Odd wondered how long she would have to wait until the crowds outside had dispersed, and she would be able to face the corridor once more. But no sooner had she settled into her little nirvana when the door to the closet opened and another student entered.
The girl who had spoiled Odds solace looked equally surprised to find the room occupied but her look of shock soon faded when she recognised the intruder. "Odette Traytor?" She asked.
"Y-yes." Odd stammered, completely thrown by the girls knowledge of her.
"You don't remember me do you?" The girl replied, crest fallen before realising, "Well i suppose it's been a while and i do look a bit different." She conceded, "It's me, Bellisama Hemlock. Your Mom used to babysit me, remember?"
Odd regarded the girl again, squinting to try and picture the punk styled girl before her as the angry little vampire child she had been the last time they had met, then realising that it was probably rude to just stare she answered, "You do look different."
"Yes, well we all grow up even vampires." Bellisama sniffed, "What are you doing in here? The janitors closet is my hideaway."
"S-Sorry i just kind of ended up in here." Odd admitted, the embarrassment registering on her face as it blushed bright pink.
"Well i suppose we could share." Bellisama sniffed, her arms were folded across her chest a defensive pose that Odd was sure she used often to ward off any unwelcome friendly advances.
Though Bellisama was no less scary than she had been as a child Odd sensed a kindred spirit as the girl clearly preferred her own company to that of others. She guessed that as long as she didn't intrude too much that the two of them could at least co-exist in the same space for a while.
Bellisama unfolded one of the chairs and sat down taking a tattered copy of Bram Stokers Dracula from her back pack. She smiled gleefully as Odds eyebrows raised at her choice of literature.
"Tends to freak Sims out seeing a vamp reading this." She told her, conspiratorially. "I bet they think I'm getting tips on how to drain their blood or something." She let out a clipped laugh at her own joke.
Odd smiled and unfolded another chair next to Bellisama. It was strange to her that most Sims would run a mile from her current predicament, being shut away in a confined space with a stand offish vampire. But for Odd it was simply the most at ease she had felt all day.
The rest of the school day passed Odd by in a blur as she attempted to avoid all social contact with the other students, which hadn't been hard since nearly all of them had ignored her. Most had seemed content to whisper about her while others pointed and laughed, she supposed this was how it went, the weaker of the pack always was left to fend for itself.
While the alpha and his followers flourished.
Oscar it seemed had continued building his relationships by ingratiating himself with Stacey and Anson's crew, however Anson was not about to let his leadership of the pack go without a fight.
"Waiting in line for the bus with the rest of the cattle i see Traytor." Anson sneered as he approached, "Well i suppose it would beat driving your Mom's car, what is it she has these days a big lemon?" He laughed derisively.
"Anson, don't be so mean." Stacey chided her brother, "There's nothing wrong with taking the bus." She retorted whilst batting her long eyelashes at Oscar hoping her defence would gain her brownie points, but Oscar was too busy seething at Anson's low blow.
"Come on Stacey, Harry. Let's go." Anson ordered flicking the button on his car keys to open his sports car.
Anson smiled smugly from the drivers seat, taking great pleasure in trumping Oscar's attempt at a take over. There was no competing with the Leigh's, they were one of the wealthiest families in Bridgeport and there was nothing they wouldn't buy for their children including ridiculously over priced vehicles.
Oscar fumed silently from the side walk. He would think of something to knock Anson Leigh down a peg or three, there was no doubt in his mind, but right now the anger was still raw and he could do nothing except retreat to lick his wounds.
Just at that moment Odd decided to join the queue for the school bus and Oscar rounded on her immediately hissing, "Don't even think about getting on this bus with me and Liv!" He threatened, "You can walk home."
Odd looked at him in shock, he couldn't be serious could he? But the look on Oscar's face did not suggest that he was joking, in fact Odd couldn't recall a time when Oscar had ever really joked about anything. Biting her lip she trudged away from the bus queue towards the park, not really knowing where she was going.
After walking around the City for what seemed like hours Odd eventually realised that she was lost. She tried to follow other Sims who were rushing and pushing their way through the home time crowds, perhaps some of them might lead her the right way. But soon the crowds became too huge and Odd felt as though she was going to drown in a sea of Sims.
Dodging into a side alley, she propped herself up against the wall trying to force the air back into her lungs all at once, causing her to gasp and cough loudly. After a while she straightened herself out and headed down the alley in hope of finding a subway station.
But at the end of the alley all she found was a building site and glancing around she realised she was in a fairly unsavory district of Bridgeport. Odd kept walking not wanting to stick out too much, she kept her head down and hoped that she would find her way soon, before it got dark.
As she turned the corner though she came across a shop, which seemed most out of character considering the neighbourhood it occupied.
Although the building itself was little more than a tin shack, the outside had been decorated with cobbled stones and a display of fresh pumpkins which lent a quaint old world feel to it that drew Odd in.
She pushed open the door to the shop and heard the tinkling chime of a little bell which had announced her arrival. The first thing to hit her was the fragrance exuding from the shop, a combination of spiced apples and cinnamon with just a hint of smoked patchouli.
The second thing to hit her was the interior of the shop. It was decked out in Halloween bunting, from bobbing apples, to light up bats and fairly realistic looking crows. The walls were dressed with quirky looking posters of witches and vampires and creepy old photo's of long dead relatives. Odd felt a warm fuzzy feeling and for the second time that day felt instantly at ease, as though entering the shop had brought her somehow closer to home.
The shop appeared to be empty apart from Odd so she decided to take a closer look at some of the items on display until she heard a door creak in front of her and a woman stepped onto the shop floor.
"Oh good gracious a customer!" The woman exclaimed, clutching her chest as though this were the last thing she had expected to see, "Welcome my dear to Fairchild's Emporium, i am Elsa, Elsa Fairchild." The woman stepped forward offering out her hand which Odd took cautiously, unsure if she was observing the correct etiquette implied by the out stretched palm.
"So what can i help you with today?" Elsa continued, resting her hand on Odds shoulder and leading her towards the centre of the shop, "Let me guess, you're looking for a Halloween costume? Or perhaps some decorations to spook your friends and neighbours with? Well rest assured we have the finest selection of goods here."
Odd perused the table of assorted jack-o'lanterns and ghostly toys with detachment, having never participated in the annual festivities due to her severe lack of desire to dress as something scary whilst harassing neighbours for candy. She felt her initial warmth and comfort begin to fade as she realised that this was not the home away from home she had first thought, but merely a novelty store, appealing to the masses.
"Oh no I've got it wrong again haven't i?" Elsa asked, her hand flying to her face. "Maybe it's a gift you're after, a scented candle perhaps or a photo frame?" She asked brightly, her face falling as she took in Odds blank stare. "No, wait, don't tell me, I'll get it." Elsa continued.
Odds eyes began to glaze over as the woman continued to reel off a long list of her stock until something she said caught her attention, "Books?" Odd asked, interrupting Elsa mid flow.
"Ah ha! So it's knowledge you seek." Elsa proclaimed, "Well what in particular did you have in mind, casting a spell perhaps? Want to make a love potion to attract a special someone?" The woman smiled and winked at Odd knowingly.
"Been there done that!" Elsa laughed, nudging Odd who joined in the laughter slightly too late like a child who had missed the punchline.
Odd hesitated, surely Elsa and her emporium had nothing to offer her, yet why had she felt so familiar and secure the moment she had stepped inside the door? She wondered if maybe, just maybe there could be something of interest to her here.
What was it the woman had said, "So it's knowledge you seek?" Well she had certainly hit the mark there, Odd needed directions home. But that wasn't it was it? No there had to be some other reason she had stumbled across this place.
Odd realised she needed to dig a little deeper and found that there was only one burning question she had which needed answering. She had to find out more about George.
Odd wondered how Elsa would react if she just blurted out that she had a ghost for a friend and needed help figuring out why she was the only one who could see him, but then thought twice. Although the woman seemed a little kooky she probably wasn't completely insane and Odd reasoned that it would be best not to make herself appear so right off.
Instead she summoned all her courage and asked, "Do you have any books about ghosts?"
Elsa considered this about turn for all of a millisecond then launched into an excited speech about her extensive stock range, "Well there's plenty of ghost stories out on display." She began, "Were you thinking Casper the friendly ghost or something a bit more hair raising?" She queried.
"Actually i just wanted to know more about seeing ghosts." Odd clarified, holding her breath expecting Elsa to laugh in her face.
But Elsa's face did not crumple under the weight of her laughter, it creased into a serious look for a moment as she considered the request.
"Hmm, so your looking for something more factual then?" She surmised, pausing to consider her next move briefly. She eyed Odd as though appraising her character before saying, "Follow me."
Odd followed the woman towards the door Elsa had originally appeared from and hesitated. Was it wise to follow her into an unknown room? She had a feeling that it wasn't and yet still she felt nothing but calm and as Elsa swung the door open Odds eyes grew large as she stepped unencumbered by doubt into the room.
The back room was filled with row upon row of bookcases all stacked to the brim, surely all these couldn't be about seeing ghosts? Odd pondered and as if reading her mind Elsa replied, "Not all of them no."
Odd stared at her open mouthed, "How did you know...."
"What you were thinking?" Elsa finished her sentence for her, "Just a little gift of mine." She smiled brightly.
"But before in the shop you were rubbish at guessing what i wanted." Odd replied.
"That's because you didn't know yourself, not until i mentioned books at least." Elsa smiled, "Then you remembered a question you had about George, was it?"
Odds eyes widened further and she struggled to find the words to say, but then she supposed she didn't need to try too hard to find them, not with Elsa's gift in use.
"Don't be afraid." Elsa told her, sensing the girls wariness. But Odd was anything but afraid, she never thought she would meet another Sim who had a "gift" and now it all made sense why she had been drawn here and why she felt immediately at ease.
"Do you have anything that might help me understand what ghosts are?" Odd asked, her face lighting up with hope.
"Let's see." Said Elsa, perusing the expanse of books at her fingertips, "Yes, i have just the thing." She smiled, picking out a heavy, ancient looking book and handing it to Odd.
"I-I don't have enough money." Odd apologised.
"That's alright you may lend this one." Elsa smiled, "I have a feeling you'll definitely be back Odette."
After Elsa had kindly lent Odd the book on ghosts and pointed her in the direction of the nearest subway station, she had eventually arrived home hours later than her brother and sister. She had to tell a small white lie to her Mom to explain her absence and the best she could come up with on the spot was that she had signed up to an after school activity, a book club, which her Mom thought was a brilliant idea.
Odd reckoned that she wouldn't be so understanding if she revealed the subject of the book or her discovery of Fairchild's Emporium, so she omitted these details and waited until the rest of the house was in bed before taking the book from her satchel and once again perusing it's musty old pages.
The front cover displayed a rather realistic looking photograph of two ghosts, who both emanated with a similar glow to George and its title read, Ghosts: A complete account by Isador Hodgekiss. Snatching the book up from her desk, Odd climbed into the top bunk and began to read.
The book's first chapter began by explaining that ghosts are a manifestation of a deceased Sim, which usually appear in the exact same shape and form that they had shown whilst they were living. Although it went on to reveal that some ghosts were able to shift shape and could appear as frightening apparitions.
Odd was thankful that the few ghosts she had seen had chosen to appear as they had been in life, she could only imagine how terrified she would have been as a baby to witness a ghoulish figure floating above her crib.
As Odd read on the book began to discuss why ghosts manifest themselves, suggesting that if a Sim had met a particularly violent end it may chose to haunt a particular place or even another Sim in an attempt to seek vengeance.
She didn't think that this seemed to fit with George, certainly it didn't fit with Grandpa Cody who had died peacefully in his sleep. However she was intrigued by one point that was raised, being that if a Sim died suddenly or died when it was particularly young it may not realise what had happened, and it could become stuck in limbo between this world and the afterlife.
This struck a chord with Odd instantly, George had clearly only been a child when he had passed on so perhaps he didn't realise that he was no longer in the world of the living. Her heart felt suddenly saddened by the thought of George struggling to understand why no one could see him or speak to him anymore and she realised how truly important she must be to the boy. After all there couldn't be many Sims who could see the dead, let alone speak to them.
All this time Odd had felt lucky to have a friend in George never realising how lucky he must have felt to have her, she became even more determined to discover how George had ended up in limbo and how she could help him find his way to wherever he was supposed to be.
The next chapter of the book was entitled, conversing with the dead, and although Odds clock flashed the time as being well passed 2 a.m, she pressed on regardless, desperate to understand more about her ability and how she could put it to use.