When Lucas finally returned to the campsite, the afternoon sun was already high in the sky. He found his friends seated around the firepit, cooking various things over the fire for lunch. He gave them a quick nod of acknowledgement before heading into the tent to safely stow away the cuttings he had taken from the old woman’s garden.
Lucas grabbed a few empty bottles that lay strewn around the tent and poured some water in each from his water bottle. I hope this works… He thought as he placed each cutting into the water, one by one. His mother would know what to do, once he brought them home.
Satisfied that the plants would survive (for now, at least), he pulled out the fish he had caught that morning (still fairly fresh thanks to the ice packs he’d carried with him) and emerged from the tent to join the others.
Before he could even reach the campfire, Noah intercepted him, looking more serious than Lucas could ever remember seeing him.
“Hey, Luke… Can I talk to you for a second?”
“Sure…” He replied hesitantly.
“I just wanted to say sorry for last night… I don’t know what got into me… Wait, I take that back… I know exactly what got into me.” Noah glanced down at the bottles that still lay around the campfire.
Lucas couldn’t help but chuckle.
“Look, I just… I feel like a total dick.”
“We all do.” Sam chimed in from behind Noah.
“We never should have talked to you that way.” Camryn agreed.
Noah glanced over at the others. “None of us should have… But especially me. I was way outta line.”
He was amazed. In all the years he’d known them, it was the first time Lucas’ friends had ever apologized for making fun of him. Hearing them do it now gave him a strange feeling, but a good one.
Lucas smiled slightly. “Hey, we all say crazy things when we’ve had a few too many… I mean, look at all the stuff I was spewing…” He shook his head. Bringing up Evelyn had been a huge mistake, he could see that now. Never again… “But thanks. It means a lot.”
“So… we’re cool?” Noah looked at him nervously.
In reply, Lucas let out a laugh and raised his arm for a high five. “Of course.”
Noah chuckled loudly as he smacked his palm against his friend’s. “Thank God you forgive me, dude. Otherwise the ride home would have been reeeeeeally awkward…”
Lucas punched him playfully on the shoulder and grabbed a stick to skewer his fish. He smiled to himself as he watched his food crackle over the open flame. He was on a beautiful vacation, everything was back to normal with his friends, and he was one step closer to helping Evelyn. Life was good, and he hoped it would stay that way…
Evelyn gazed up at the stars above her, lost in thought. Lucas should have been home a few hours ago, and she was getting anxious.
He probably doesn’t even want to come home… She thought. And who could blame him, with all the fun he was probably having?
Evelyn sighed. Lucas would never understand just how lucky he was. She would have given anything to have what he had. She missed going places. She missed having friends. She missed seeing the clouds. She missed feeling the sun on her skin. She missed playing music. She missed going to school, and having a job… She missed being alive.
On nights like this, when she was all alone, Evelyn often thought about what Lucas had said to her more than five years ago…
“Maybe your unfinished business is… living.”
It was such a silly thought, but she sometimes wondered if he was right…
“Psst… Evelyn?” A familiar voice called out into the darkness.
The ghost rose to her feet excitedly. “Over here!” She called back, floating through the hedge to meet him.
Lucas held out his arms as she approached, and she eagerly entered his embrace. Evelyn wished more than anything that she could truly feel him, just once. But for her, what they had was enough. It had to be.
Evelyn pulled away from him and lifted her hand, brushing it gently across Lucas’ cheek. “I missed you.” She said softly, smiling.
“Me too.” Lucas replied warmly. He reached up, placing his hand over hers and cupping it gently. “You would have loved it there, Ev. It was amazing. But it wasn’t the same without you.”
“So tell me all about it!” She said eagerly. “What did you see? What did you do?”
Lucas’ green eyes lit up. “You’re gonna love this…”
He began talking very quickly, and Evelyn struggled to keep up. Something about twisted vines, a waterfall, a whistling old woman, and a pair of rusty garden shears…
“… I texted mom about them on the way home and she said she’ll take a look and we can try to plant them in the morning. I mean obviously I didn’t tell her the whole story – She’d think I was totally nuts! But she knows I have some clippings I wanna plant, so hopefully she’ll know what she’s doing. Isn’t that amazing?” Lucas finished excitedly.
Evelyn stared at him for a few moments, trying to take it all in. “Um… sure?”
Lucas laughed softly. “Just trust me, okay? I think we could finally be on to something.” He said confidently.
The ghost shook her head. “I think your mom would be right about you being nuts… How can you even know this will get us anywhere?”
“I don’t.” Lucas smiled. “But hey, I’ve gotta try.”