One evening after dinner, Lucas sat with his parents at the dining room table. He was excited; his father had been teaching him to play chess, and he felt like he was finally good enough to beat Evelyn. She’d been kicking his butt all week, but tonight was finally the night when he would win.
“Someone’s pretty chipper tonight.” His mother laughed.
“Things have been looking up, haven’t they, buddy?” Damien smiled at his son. “See? We told you things would get better.”
Lucas grinned. “Yeah, I guess you guys were right.”
“And it’s so nice to see you making friends, honey.” Becca added.
Her son looked confused for a moment. “Oh, you mean Noah and Sam? They’re pretty cool, I guess.”
Lucas had gone to the park a few times with two boys from his class. It was a bit awkward sometimes, since the pair had a lot of inside jokes that Lucas didn’t quite understand, but they were nice enough in trying to include him.
“Not as cool as Evelyn, though.” He continued.
Damien and Becca exchanged a look. “Evelyn?” His mother repeated.
“Yeah!” Lucas replied happily, eager to tell them all about his friend.
“She tells the funniest jokes!”
“She’s a pretty good dancer, too.”
“We like to watch old movies sometimes.”
“And play that old horseshoe game in the back yard.”
“She’s so cool… I think she’s the best friend I’ve ever had.”
Damien cleared his throat uncertainly as his son finished speaking. “She, uh… Sounds pretty great… How come your mother and I have never met her?”
“Well, she’s not very used to people.” Lucas explained. “I think they’re kinda scared of her… Well, the ones who can see her, anyway.”
Becca gave her husband a significant look. “And… why wouldn’t they be able to see her, exactly?”
Lucas could tell that he’d made a mistake. I shouldn’t have said anything… “I dunno, it’s kind of a long story.” He muttered quickly, getting to his feet. “I’m gonna go finish my homework, okay?”
The boy quickly left the room, leaving his parents speechless.
“Jesus, Bec. This nonsense again? I thought he was past this kid stuff…” Damien put his head in his hands.
His wife sighed. “He’s got an active imagination… Like me…” She smiled guiltily, trying to lighten the situation. “Sorry.”
Damien almost smiled in return before continuing. “Did you hear that name he said? ‘Evelyn’… He must have found that old stone out back. I knew we should have gotten rid of it…”
“We’re not going to desecrate a grave or memorial or whatever it is.” Becca insisted. “Maybe it’s just a phase, like last time…”
“Yeah, and do you remember how much crap he got at school for it? He’s having a hard time making friends as it is… They’re never gonna let him live this down. He’s getting too old for this.”
“I know, I know… Let’s just… Let it be for now, see how it goes. If it gets worse, I’ll talk to him, okay?”
Damien sighed. “Alright.”
Becca and Damien were woken the next morning by a high-pitched giggling coming from down the hall. They recognized it almost immediately as their son’s.
“What the hell…?” Becca rolled over sleepily and glanced at the time on her cellphone. It’s not even 5 yet! What’s he doing up…?
“Do you hear that?” Damien muttered to his wife, still half-asleep. “He’s talking to someone…”
“I know, I know… but you’ve got time for one more, right?” Lucas’ voice grew louder as his tip-toeing parents drew closer to the study door.
“Okay, THIS time for real… I’ve been practicing!” Their son continued as they finally reached the door.
“Lucas?” The sound of Damien’s voice nearly made the boy jump out of his seat.
“Oh, hey dad! You scared me!”
Becca entered the room behind her husband. “Honey, who are you talking to?”
The boy hesitated. Guess there’s no going back now… “Mom, dad… This is Evelyn.” He nodded toward his friend with a smile.
His parents said nothing.
“Lucas…” Evelyn whispered uncertainly, glancing quickly at the boy’s puzzled-looking parents before turning her attention back to the chessboard. “I don’t think they can –” Her eyes suddenly lit up. “Aha! I’ve got you now!”
Lucas laughed, forgetting all about his bewildered mother and father watching him. “Hmmm I don’t think so.”
“What did I tell you, Bec?” Damien whispered harshly.
“Okay, okay… I’ll handle it.” His wife replied, defeated.
They looked nervously at their son as the first hints of the morning light trickled in through the window.
“Aha!” The boy exclaimed triumphantly, much to Evelyn’s amusement. “Checkmate!”