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Reefer Madness

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The door to the Maitland-Deetz home opened. Lydia came in, wearing her mask and gloves, with Beetlejuice hovering beside her.

Barbara stopped mixing cookie dough to say hello. “How did it go?” The Maitland-Deetz adults had agonized about letting Lydia go to a class picnic organized by Claire Brewster’s mother during a pandemic.

Claire’s mother had tried to make the picnic as safe as possible. She and a few other parents were chaperones, everyone was required to test negative for coronavirus before showing up, the picnic was outdoors, everyone was expected to wear a mask and socially distance, and Winter River High’s Grade 10 class was only 20 kids. Charles had gone with Lydia to a few Black Lives Matter protests, and those had had many more people than this picnic.

Lydia had been so bored of quarantine that she’d actually wanted to engage with her classmates, which had been the deciding factor.

“It went well.” Lydia threw her disposable mask and gloves into the trash can by the door. “It was nice to see everyone.”

Beetlejuice’s smell of rotting flesh was worse than usual. Barbara winced, waving her hand in front of her face. “Can you tone it down, please?”

“Turn what down?” Beetlejuice said too innocently.

“Anyway,” Lydia said, walking up the stairs, “my introvert battery is drained. I need to recharge.”

Beetlejuice followed her. “And I need the hot goss!”

Barbara let the two friends have their time together, though she was a little disappointed she hadn’t gotten more out of Lydia. That’s teenagers, I guess. I’ll try again later.

As Lydia washed her hands, Delia’s voice sounded in the hallway upstairs. Lydia responded. Barbara returned to the kitchen and had just picked up the mixing bowl when Delia’s shocked “Lydia Lilith Deetz!” rang through the house.

Barbara teleported to the second floor of the house. Delia and Lydia were glaring at each other in the hallway as Beetlejuice floated beside Lydia. Adam teleported over a moment later.

“Young lady,” Delia said, “I can’t believe you. Smoking weed? Really? I thought you were smarter than that.”

Weed? Barbara sniffed the air, but couldn’t smell anything beyond Beetlejuice’s stink.

“It’s faint, but it’s there,” Delia insisted. She patted her faintly bulging stomach. “I have smell sensitivity, thanks to the child. And I have certainly smelled enough weed in my day!”

Lydia opened her mouth, closed it, then shrugged. “So what? Weed’s legal in tons of countries except for most of this fascist dictatorship.”

“What?” Barbara blurted out as Adam gasped.

“Where pot is legal, it’s legal for adults over 25,” Delia said. “You’re 16! Your mind is still developing.”

“Because you never, ever did pot when you were my age, Delia.”

“And it’s hardly something I’m proud of! Years from now, do you want to be looking for your underwear after a night with a drummer from a Duran Duran cover band? This is how it starts!”

Lydia snorted while Beetlejuice said, “I mean, if the drummer’s hot, yeah, sign me up.” He paused. “Who am I kidding? The drummer doesn’t even need to be that hot.”

Adam frowned at Beetlejuice. “And you’re covering for Lydia. When did you find out about this?”

Beetlejuice glanced at Lydia, who shrugged and gestured him forward. “Lyds flagged me down when she got near the house.”

“And you helped her without a second thought.”

“’Course I did! Oh nooooo, a teen did some weed. Who cares?”

“You’re the adult in this situation—”

Beetlejuice floated backward, gasping and clutching his chest. “You take that back, sir! I am not!” He paused. “Well, not an adult like you mean.” Anxious, he bobbed in front of Lydia. “I’m a cool adult. Right, kid?”

“Totally.” There was a faint sarcastic edge to her voice, but he didn’t appear to catch it.

“You all heard her say it!” Beetlejuice said proudly.

A terrible thought occurred to Barbara. “You didn’t share the joint, did you?”

Lydia looked hurt. “I’m not risking coronavirus to get high!” Reluctantly, she added, “We each had our own joint.”

“And who brought them?” Adam asked.

“A goat-footed man offered them to us for the price of signing our name in his book. He said he would visit us again on the dark of the moon to complete his dark pact.” She smirked. “I’m sure it’s nothing.”

“Lydia…” Delia said.

“Or maybe we found them on the ground and smoked them like the reckless teens we are. I can’t remember.”

“Where is this attitude coming from?” Barbara asked. “This isn’t like you.”

Lydia glared at her, so angry that Barbara almost took a step back. “’Not like me’? We met four months ago! You don’t even know me. At least this one,” she jabbed a finger at Delia, “was supposed to be my life coach, so Daddy filled her in on the basics. Not that she ever bothered to get to know me, either.”

Beetlejuice laughed. “Aw, man, she burned you guys so good!”

“We’re going to talk with your father,” Delia said, “and come up with your punishment.”

Barbara was touched that she’d included Barbara and Adam.

Lydia laughed coldly. “Good luck getting Daddy to punish his little girl.” She strode confidently to her room and closed the door.

 “I’m gonna grab Lyds some chips,” Beetlejuice said. “She’s probably got the munchies!”

“You know,” Barbara said, “you could stay and—”

“Deuces, nerds!” He teleported away. A few moments later, his voice sounded in Lydia’s room along with the crinkling of a plastic bag.

Disappointing but not surprising. When Beetlejuice had returned from the Netherworld, he’d made it clear he wasn’t interested in parenting Lydia or any Deetz children that came along.

As they walked downstairs to Charles’s office, Delia said, “My parents never punished me for anything in my life. They let me drink and smoke as long as I was in the basement, where they could keep an eye on me.”

“I went to some parties and stayed out past curfew in Grade 12,” Barbara said. “Mom and Dad grounded me. This one,” she nodded to Adam, “never saw a punishment in his life.”

“That’s not true, honey,” Adam said. “One time, I was doing math homework and I looked up my answers in the back of the textbook. I confessed an hour later and got extra chores for the rest of the week.” He looked thoughtful. “Grounding Lydia seems pretty redundant. Unless someone else holds another picnic, it probably won’t come up. The living are all stuck inside anyway.”

Delia sighed. “I know! And we can’t take away her phone. It’s her lifeline to the outside world! I don’t want to affect her mental health.” She bit her lower lip and stopped walking. “Perhaps we should let this go. She’s still healing from losing Emily. And no way am I going to be the evil stepmother! If Charles punishes her, she’ll probably blame me!” She glanced anxiously between Adam and Barbara.

“We won’t let her do that,” Barbara said. “We’ll be a united front.”

“Using marijuana recreationally is illegal,” Adam said. “I know not all of us agree with that law,” he nodded to Delia, “but it is the law, and she deliberately broke it. She could’ve been arrested! It’s our duty to show her there are consequences for her actions.”

“As soon as we figure out what those consequences are,” Barbara said. “You know, I read a parenting blog that said parents could ask their older teens to suggest their own punishments. Maybe she’ll come up with a good one.”

Delia rubbed her temples. The pregnancy was taking a lot out of her; she was tired and achey most of the time. “Well...let’s go see what Charles thinks.”

She knocked on the door to his office. After a few moments, Charles opened it. Seeing the looks on their faces, he frowned. “What did the demon do this time?”

“Surprisingly,” Barbara said, “he’s not the problem. It’s Lydia.”

Charles took charge immediately. After explaining his plan and getting everyone’s agreement, he asked to see Lydia in the living room.

Lydia came downstairs and Beetlejuice phased through the floor to hover by her side. While Beetlejuice slouched and scowled at everyone, Lydia looked totally confident. She didn’t blush or frown as she faced her entire family.

When Barbara had come home from Miranda’s party, she’d frozen and stammered when she’d seen her father in the living room. I wonder what Dad felt when I stayed out past curfew? Did he expect something like this? Was he grateful I wasn’t coming home drunk? I wish I’d asked him. She’d never know, now. It stung, but she had more important things to focus on.

Like whatever chaos Beetlejuice had in mind. He wasn’t going to take his best friend getting punished without a fight.

“Lydia,” Charles said, “Delia, Adam and Barbara told me what happened at the picnic. You smoked marijuana, breaking both a law and a house rule. I want to see a 5,000-word essay on my desk by the end of the week about the effects of marijuana on a young person’s development. This essay must be the same quality as one you’d do for school. Use the Chicago Manual of Style for reference and citations.”

Lydia chuckled. “You can’t be serious.”

“We’ll just plagiarize it anyway!” Beetlejuice said.

“I can Google an essay just as well as you can,” Charles said, unperturbed. “I’ll be sure to check that your work is your own.”

“It was just one joint, Daddy. It’s not a big deal. I’m not going to become the school drug dealer or anything—if we’re even going back to school in the fall.”

“Delia, the Maitlands and I disagree. We think it is a big deal. And since you live in our house, you have to follow our rules.”

Beetlejuice turned to Lydia. “Kid, I can get us out of this house anytime you want with a snap of my fingers.”

“And go where, Beej?” Lydia crossed her arms over her stomach. “I know you’re trying, but c’mon. It’s a global pandemic.”

Beetlejuice’s spiky hair deflated slightly. “Oh, right.”

Charles took a step toward his daughter. More gently, he said, “Lydia, I’m not insensible to the stresses you're facing. First, Emily died, then the pandemic happened, and now quarantine…. Not to mention the recent changes to our family.” Lydia’s gaze flicked to Delia’s stomach. “If you want to talk about what led you to make this decision, we’d all welcome that.”

Beetlejuice scoffed. “Why she did it? To be a badass!” He held out his fist for a fistbump. Lydia didn’t reciprocate, but watched her father thoughtfully instead. Good. Barbara began to relax. That means she’s listening.

“If you don’t want to talk to us,” Adam said, “we can increase your therapy sessions to two times a week.”

“I’m sick of journaling and breathing exercises!” Lydia snapped. “Nothing works! Even that stupid joint didn’t! I’ve been stuck inside for months because of a pandemic our country’s leaders are too chickenshit to deal with. I’m a privileged beneficiary of a racist, capitalist system that’s destroying the world. And I’ve literally seen what’s on the other side. Nothing gets better. This life is all we get, and it’s shit.”

She stepped closer to her father, her gaze locked on his. “And now, I have to do a stupid essay because I did something I thought would make it all bearable for one fucking minute!”

Her family had to do more for her. Lydia had taken antidepressants for months on the advice of her doctor—perhaps she needed her dose readjusted. If this therapist wasn’t helping, they’d find another. Adam and I could make an activity schedule to give her day more structure, so it’s not just scrolling through social media. And Beetlejuice can probably think of lots of fun things to do—well, fun and terrifying things, but Lydia loves that kind of stuff.

Charles reached out for a hug, but Lydia stepped back, hands out to push him away if he tried.

“Oh, Lydia, sweetheart, I know things are tough right now—” Barbara began.

“Mom wouldn’t do this to me!”

Charles recoiled, his arms dropping.

Even Lydia seemed surprised that she’d said that, but she quickly added, “Mom wouldn’t have punished me for one joint. She would’ve understood me. She would’ve cared. And you know it.”

Charles raised his eyebrows. “Lydia, you’ve built Emily up in your mind as this creative, anarchic madwoman, and she certainly was. But do you seriously think she would be unconcerned if you started doing drugs? We had countless conversations about how to parent you, particularly in those final months when we knew…we knew she wouldn’t be around. This is the punishment we worked out together.”

“You’re lying!”

“I’m not. This is literally what she would have wanted me to do.”

Lydia stared at her father. Her chin began quivering as tears welled up in her eyes. Barbara almost teleported to her, but stopped. Is it my place? I’m just the ghost parent, not her real one….

At some point, Beetlejuice had floated over to her and Adam. He was watching Lydia and Charles intently, as if looking for something.

Lydia sniffled, swallowed, then said, “Fine, I’ll do your dumbass essay.”

“What? C’mon, kid!” Beetlejuice gestured to Charles. “Don’t give in to The Man!”

Lydia gave him a small smile. “Not everyone has the energy of an undead demon, Beej.” She tossed her hair. “Besides, Dad, all the research that’s out there says pot should be legalized for recreational use, anyway.”

“Not for 16-year-olds.”

“We’ll see.” She turned around and went upstairs.

“Bet you loved that, fascists,” Beetlejuice said to the parents and parental figures. But Beetlejuice usually got over things quickly as long as they didn’t directly involve him, so it wasn’t surprising when he slung his arms over Barbara and Adam’s shoulders and smirked. “Babs, Sexy, if you wanna make out to forget your guilt that you made Lydia hate you, you know where I be.”

Lydia stopped halfway up the stairs. “‘Hate you’? God, BJ, you’re so dramatic. I don’t hate them. They’re completely overreacting, but they’re just being parents. It’s their job.”

That threw him—he blinked at her a few moments, then shrugged. “So it wasn’t my best pickup line. Instead of criticizing my game, go…I dunno, cry about your dead mom some more.”


At least Lydia didn’t appear hurt. She rolled her eyes and raised her middle finger at Beetlejuice before going upstairs.

Charles huffed. “I think the next thing we’re going to work on is crude language and gestures. I’ve been quite lax about that and someone—” he eyed Beetlejuice “—has been a bad influence.”

“We should also not joke about people’s traumas, Bug,” Adam said.

Beetlejuice grunted. To Barbara’s surprise, he didn’t say ‘She started it!’ He was legitimately thinking about something.

Delia sat down on the living room couch, sighing in exhaustion. “Well! We got through it. Huzzah, everyone!” She glanced at Beetlejuice. “Except you."

“Things got pretty tense there,” Adam said. “I'm glad I don’t have a body, or I might have had a small panic attack.”

“Most of the thanks goes to Charles,” Barbara said.

“I was happy to take the lead on this one. I have the most experience, after all. Unfortunately, this is hardly the first time I’ve had to discipline her. She’s not always the most attentive to her studies.”

“Really?” Adam asked. “But she’s so intelligent.”

“Which means she doesn’t always feel challenged, so she puts off her homework and assumes she can complete it the evening before it’s due.”

“Wow, I had no idea.” Barbara had pictured Lydia as a young woman much like Adam, eager to learn and devoted to school. Lydia is right. We don’t know each other that well.

“Do you think we should talk to her psychiatrist again?” Barbara asked.

Charles nodded. “I was thinking that, as well.”

Beetlejuice poofed away in a puff of smoke as the parenting talk continued. Remembering his unusual thoughtfulness, Barbara resolved to speak to him later.

Beetlejuice appeared as if summoned when, an hour later, Barbara pulled her chocolate chip cookies out of the oven.

“Ooo! They’re all goopy!” Beetlejuice snagged one, and didn’t seem to mind that it was hot.

“We got some news on where the weed came from,” Barbara said as he ate. “Claire’s mom called Charles during our meeting. Near the end of the picnic, five of the kids said they wanted to check out the empty school. Lydia was one of them. They disappeared from view for around 10 minutes. The chaperones figured they just wanted to get out of cleaning duty, and nobody thought much of it because the party was wrapping up. Claire’s mom apologized over and over again. I don’t think she’s going to be hosting any more class picnics. Poor woman. We still don’t know who brought the drugs, though.

“Er, I hate to ask, but…it wasn’t you, right?” Beetlejuice was quite casual about drug use, and Lydia could talk him into anything.

Beetlejuice didn’t mind being suspected of providing drugs to children. Maybe to a demon, that was a mark of pride? “I was watching Farscape with Adam during the picnic. I only teleported away when I heard Lyds say my name.” He could always hear the living say it, for some reason.

“The person watching Farscape could’ve been a clone, though.”

“Ooo, now you’re thinking like a demon, babe! But for real—no way would I bring joints for some teens and not for myself. Am I really that generous?”

“You’re right. Sorry, I just had to make sure.”

He winked at her. “I wouldn’t trust me either, baby.” He bit into his third cookie.

“You seemed caught off guard earlier when Lydia said she didn’t hate us. What was that about?”

He shrugged. “Just trying to make myself fart to break the tension.”

“Well, I know that’s a fib. You’re always able to fart.”

He stopped chewing, thought for a moment, swallowed, then said, “Eh…guess I’m just not used to kids and parents not hating each other.”

She touched his free hand. When he didn’t pull away, she wrapped her fingers around it. “That’s awful.”

“That’s life. And the afterlife, I guess, since Ma was there too.” He frowned. The hand she was holding twitched, like he wanted to start fiddling with something like he always did when he was upset or anxious. “Whatever. I killed her with a sandworm, the scene ended on my hilarious joke, and the audience got a happy ending. It all worked out.”

“If you want to talk about your mother, Bug—”

“Why, so I can cry about my dead mom, like Lyds? Sing a song about it? Not my brand, babes. I don’t even think about Mom.” He focused very intently on the cookies on the baking tray as he said, “I think about you and Sexy and Lyds, sometimes Chuck and Delia. You’re the people I care about, not that bi—sorry, sorry, that was gonna be a gendered slur, but I caught myself.”

“I’m proud of you.” Barbara leaned over and kissed his cheek.

He grinned. “You know, I don’t think I hear that enough from you guys. I could kill so many people, and I never do. A little more ‘good job, Beetlejuice!’ would be nice.”

“We’ll try.” She kissed his lips. As she pulled back, he leaned closer and kept the kiss going. Then a goopy finger brushed her nose, leaving a trail of warmth down it.

Beetlejuice pulled away, chuckling. “You look like you ate poop.”

She rolled her eyes (was she picking that up from Lydia?) and wiped the melted chocolate off her nose. Beetlejuice hadn’t used the kiss as an excuse to grab all the cookies on the tray, which was a little surprising.

Not that Beetlejuice was done with the cookies. He grabbed two more then floated out of her reach.

“Do you mind if I tell Adam about this conversation?” she asked. Adam, Barbara and Beetlejuice hadn’t been in a polyamorous relationship long; Barbara wanted boundaries to be extra clear to avoid hurt feelings and miscommunication.

“Girl, you know I love when people talk about me.”

“Even stuff about your mother, which might be a little more complicated than you’re pretending it is?”

“Or maybe it’s not complicated at all? I’m a simple guy, babes.”

“You do like to say that, yes.”

“Eh, maybe don’t tell Sexy all the crap I said about kids and parents and shit. He’ll just wanna talk. Bleh. Pretend I was always my normal awesome self.”

“Hey, Bug,” she said lightly, “I think opening up to someone you care about is pretty awesome. So, to me, you were always your normal awesome self.”

“Dork.” But he was smiling as he poofed away.

When the cookies cooled, she put two on a plate, poured a glass of milk, and went upstairs.

She checked in on Adam next. She’d left him reading in their bedroom, but now he was staring out the window at the cemetery.

“Hi, sweetie,” she said.

“Hi.” He didn’t turn around.

“Do you want to go visit them?” That cemetery held his parents’ graves. They’d died in a car crash coming home from a Christmas party five years ago.

He nodded. “I know we can’t stay for long because of the sandworms, but just for a few minutes….”

“When Lydia’s done her essay, maybe she could come, too. She’s mentioned wanting to have a solo picnic in the graveyard sometime.”

“That’d be nice. I hope Mom and Dad approved of how we handled Lydia. They probably would’ve liked a good prayer circle, but the Deetzes aren’t that kind of family.” He sighed, rubbing at his eyes. “They were good people, in their way. They knew farm life wasn’t for me, and they never made me feel bad about choosing my own path.”

“Your family was so welcoming when we started dating.”

He chuckled, smiling at her over his shoulder. “Most of that was shock, I think. They bent over backwards because they knew you were too good for me.”

They’d told this joke at parties before. Barbara laughed dutifully. “Your mom never gossiped. You’ve lived here your whole life—you know how rare that is. Most people just can’t wait to spill the beans. But I could tell her anything.”

Adam’s smile dropped. “I couldn’t.”

His parents had been part of the reason he hadn’t come out as bisexual until after his death. Barbara set the plate and glass down and joined him at the window, resting her hand on his shoulder.

“I have no idea what I’m going to tell them when we find them in the Netherworld,” Adam said. “’Hi, Mom and Dad, here’s my wife and my boyfriend. I have an open marriage now! I’ve slept with a man who’s not actually a man! He’s a demon.’”

“Well, saying it all at once is a bit much,” she said lightly. “You might need to lead up to it.”

A smile twitched the corners of his lips before he sighed and stared out the window again.

She rubbed at his shoulder, tense under her hand. “We have time to figure it out. We’re not going anywhere for a while. And maybe their perspective will have shifted after all those years in the Netherworld?”

“You’re right. I shouldn’t worry about it. And maybe the fact that we sort of have a child now means they’ll overlook a few sins.”

No, we live with a child. She’s not ours in any way. Barbara said, “Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that.”

Adam turned away from the window and looked at her, concerned.

Barbara and Adam approached Lydia’s room 20 minutes later. Lydia’s door stood out against the pale gray wall; she’d had her door wallpapered to make it look like a dingy, cobwebbed hallway with a mysterious figure at the end of it. Barbara knocked; Lydia groaned.

Opening the door, Lydia looked unenthused. “Is this the real punishment—everyone coming to check up on me?” The cookies didn’t even elicit a smile, though she took them with a curt, “Thank you.” She waved Barbara and Adam in. “Shut the door, take a seat. Let’s get this over with.”

Her room was messier than Barbara would’ve liked, with socks everywhere and a pile of folded laundry still in its hamper. Lydia set the cookies and milk down next to a new pile of books on her nightstand. There were already bookmarks in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and Yes You Can! Your Guide to Becoming an Activist. Lydia had been ordering books from local bookstores like crazy during the pandemic.

“You missed Delia.” Lydia half-sat, half-fell onto her bed, bouncing a little. “‘Peep these stones, girl! They’ll unblock your chakras because they’re fire. But they’re actually stones.’ I got her out of here by hissing some words in Klingon over her stomach. She thought I was cursing her unborn child—it was great! And, no.” She swung her legs up to stretch out. “That doesn’t mean I hate the fetus. They can’t help being incubated in the world’s worst person. So you can tell Beetlejuice that, if he’ll listen to you. He thinks he knows me so well.” She chuckled. “He only thinks that because he thinks I’m a living version of him. Everything’s a Mommy-or-Daddy issue with that guy.”

She laced her hands behind her head and lay down, her head on her pillows. Her black dress blended in with her black duvet cover and the room's black walls, making the pale skin of her face stand out sharply. “And, of course, Daddy dearest came by. Did we cry over my dead mother? I plead the fifth.” She looked at Barbara and Adam, waving a hand. “Speak! Impart to me your undead wisdom. Cure this troubled child of her afflictions.”

Barbara and Adam had worked on what they were going to say, but Barbara needed a few moments to absorb everything Lydia had just said. She’d be good in theatre. Maybe we could look into Zoom classes….

Adam sucked in a breath. “Lydia, we’ve been talking about what you said to Barbara earlier today. About how we’ve only known each other for a few months.”

Lydia’s eyebrows twitched up. “Oh…kay?”

Barbara spoke next. “You’re completely right. We don’t actually know you. And once I realized that, I realized it was presumptuous of us to join your father and stepmother as they disciplined you today. It made me think about how we joined this family in the first place. You agreed to let us stay, and we’ll always be grateful. But you also agreed after a very traumatic experience, and none of us really knew what it meant to share our lives together, living and dead.

“We all sort of fell into these roles after Beetlejuice left. We became like your second set of parents. We’ve been calling you our adopted child and everything. But…well, you’re not. And you already have a father and a stepmother.”

Lydia sat up on her bed, facing the ghosts, her jaw tense. “You’re—you’re not leaving, right? For the Netherworld?” She swallowed, gaze darting between the two of them.

Adam shook his head. “Of course not, Lydia,” he said gently. “Our boyfriend hates that place, for one thing. And we want to be here for you and the new baby.” He nodded to Barbara to continue.

“But,” Barbara said, “that doesn’t mean we need to be in your life as parents. We could just be two roommates. We could chat over dinner, watch TV together, maybe bake something once in a while. But if you don’t want us to be, we don’t need to be so involved in how you’re raised. That’s Charles’s and Delia’s job.”

Lydia was clutching her fingers together tightly. “I never even bothered to ask—did you want kids while you were alive?”

“We did…theoretically,” Adam said. “That’s the next step in the life plan once you own a home, right? Some of our friends had four kids already. But in practice, we had a lot of fears holding us back. If we’d been braver….” He looked away, sighing, before he looked back at her. “But we weren’t, and we can’t change that now.”

“Or we might have had a child and hated it,” Barbara added. “Who’s to say?” She patted Adam’s hand. “It’s a complicated topic for us. You’re a child, Lydia. You shouldn’t have to carry a dead couple’s wishes and regrets.”

Lydia’s gaze dropped to her hands, still gripping each other on her lap. It wasn’t an easy thing they were asking. Barbara gave her silence and space to think.

“You’re not who I want,” Lydia said, looking up at them. “I’ll always want my mother. I apologize for the bluntness, but Mom always made friends with the elephant in the room, and I’m my mother’s daughter.”

“Of course, sweetie—ah, Lydia.” Barbara cleared her throat. “It’s only natural.”

“But you two…. You made me feel normal even when I was so alone.” Her voice was getting quieter and quieter. “You always listened to me talk about her. And you’re…you’re part of the reason I came back from the Netherworld.”

Barbara chuckled softly. “You’re the reason we stayed in the world of the living, originally. We had to defeat Beetlejuice and keep you safe. But that doesn’t mean we need to act as a second set of parents. I’m not sure that’s fair to you.

“Lydia, we don’t have to decide anything right now. We can talk about this tomorrow, or a week from now, or a month.”

Lydia’s dark gaze locked on Barbara. Her eyes shone with tears under a heavy frown. “You probably don’t even want me as a daughter,” she spat. “You probably dreamed of some little girl in pretty pink dresses who played with dolls instead of skulls. I’m too complicated, too messy. But you don’t want to say it. That’s not nice, and you two are nothing but nice. Just stop being cowards! Make it easy on us!”

“Oh, Lydia, honey….” Barbara couldn’t stop herself from reaching out to her. She held Lydia as the girl’s tears started falling. Adam sat down on Lydia’s other side, stroking her back. She rested her head on Barbara’s shoulder.

“I love you guys,” Lydia whispered thickly.

“And here I go,” Barbara said as she started crying, too. “We love you too, sweetie.”

“We would’ve been honoured to have a daughter like you,” Adam said, tearing up. He hovered the Kleenex box over to them, so they could wipe their eyes and noses without breaking the hug.

“I am so fucking sick of crying,” Lydia grumbled as she dabbed her nose.

Barbara wiped her eyes. “Language.”

“Right. Daddy said he wanted to tackle that next.” She smiled. “I’m sorry you got a daughter at this intemperate age, Maitlands. I was a real peach when I was four.”

“You’re perfect,” Barbara said. “You make bad decisions sometimes, but you’re perfect.”

Lydia’s eyeroll was somewhat undercut by a fresh batch of tears.

Adam commented, “I guess we’ll need to work on a parenting schedule with Charles and Delia. See what we can figure out.” Adam sounded cheerful at the thought. He always loved making plans.

Lydia raised an eyebrow. “You’re dating Beetlejuice, but you still love rules and order. You’re a mystery, Adam Maitland. In fact,” she sniffled again, “we’re all mysteries to each other. That’s what started this conversation, isn’t it?

“So, hello, Maitlands. My name’s Lydia Deetz.”

“Hi, Lydia. I’m Barbara Maitland. This is my husband, Adam.”

It was time for the Maitlands to get to know their daughter.