“Mom, am I in trouble?” Lucas asked nervously as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
His parents had been acting strange all morning, and he had a feeling he knew why.
“Of course not!” Becca assured him. “I just wanted to have a little chat about your new friend…”
Lucas sighed. He knew what was coming.
“Honey, I know you’ve been having a lot of fun with, uh… ‘Evelyn’…” His mother began uncertainly. “But you’re going to be 12 pretty soon, and … Your father and I think that maybe you’re getting a little too old for this kind of stuff.”
Lucas simply stared at her in reply.
“Don’t you think you should be spending your time with your real friends?” She tried.
Her son finally spoke. “But Evelyn is a real friend.” The boy insisted, annoyed.
“I know she’s real to you, and that’s wonderful… But… do you remember what happened with Squiggles?”
Lucas’ brow furrowed for a moment as he remembered. “My imaginary friend from 5th grade? But what does that have to do with — ?”
“Remember how the other kids at school reacted when you tried to tell them about your friend?” Becca continued. “They didn’t understand…”
She reached a long arm around her son and held him close. “We think we could have a pretty great life here, honey. Your father has his new job at the hospital, I finally found a new publisher, and you’ve been hanging out with those boys from school…” She paused. “Just… don’t forget that they might not ‘understand’ Evelyn, just like the other kids didn’t understand Squiggles, okay?”
Lucas said nothing. He didn’t tell her that he had tried telling Noah and Sam about Evelyn… And she was right, they didn’t understand.
They’d simply laughed it off and changed the subject like it was all some sort of joke… Lucas had felt puzzled at the time, but he didn’t press the issue.
Now, he was able to see things more clearly. They think I’m crazy…
His mother smiled kindly at him. “So maybe no more Evelyn for a while?”
“Yeah, sure. I think I get it, mom.” He said, his voice flat. “Thanks.”
Lucas went outside to see Evelyn much later than usual that night. He could hear his parents pacing outside his bedroom door half the night, trying to make sure he was asleep. They even poked their heads in a few times to check in on him. He was able to feign sleep easily.
It was nearly 2am when he felt certain enough that the coast was finally clear. The boy groggily pulled himself out of bed and crept down the stairs. I’ve gotta make this quick… The last thing he needed was for his mother to get up for a drink of water and see him outside, or his father go use the bathroom and find him missing.
He found Evelyn waiting for him by the back door. “I had a feeling you’d be late tonight.” She said as the boy gently closed the door behind him.
“I can’t really stay for long.” He said sadly. “But I needed to come talk to you. My parents…”
“I know.” Evelyn interrupted kindly. “They couldn’t see me… So they probably think you’re kinda…”
“Crazy?” Lucas finished for her. “Yeah… Pretty much.” He sighed. “They don’t really want us hanging out anymore… They say I’ve got to make time for my ‘real’ friends… But you’re my real friend! Why don’t they get it?” He suddenly noticed the slight wet sting of tears in his eyes. Lucas tried his best to blink them away, embarrassed.
Evelyn leaned forward, putting her hands on his shoulders. It was an unusual feeling, as touching Evelyn always was. Though he could not truly ‘feel’ the pressure of her hands, a strange coolness washed over him. It was comforting, somehow.
“Hey, don’t worry about it.” She said soothingly. “I had a feeling something like this would happen… Let’s not push it, okay? Maybe telling your parents about me wasn’t the best idea…”
“But it’s not fair. I shouldn’t have to keep you a secret.”
The ghost smiled to herself. “Life’s not fair, kiddo. Believe me.” She shook her head. “We’ve just gotta be more careful… Let’s take a little break until your parents cool down, maybe cut back to just a couple nights a week… We’ll figure it out.”
Lucas nodded. “Yeah. Okay. This just really sucks…” He said sadly.
Evelyn sighed, her own sadness and disappointment apparent on her face. “It does.” She agreed. “But hey, this will give you some extra time to work on your skills, Mr. Chessmaster. I totally let you win last night.” The girl gave a sly smile.
The boy couldn’t help but laugh. “In your dreams.” Lucas replied playfully. He smiled up at her, his tone more serious this time. “Thanks, Evelyn. You’re the best.”
Though she knew he could not feel it, she gave his shoulder a slight squeeze. “Nah, kid.” Evelyn smiled. “You are.”