Something was wrong.
Evelyn couldn’t quite put her finger on what that something was, but it worried her.
Lucas had already been growing distant for a while. Evelyn hated to admit it, but it was true. He’s just stressed, and busy. She’d been telling herself, hoping to alleviate her concerns. For the most part, it worked.
But this was different. It was like he was avoiding her.
Every night, he’d return home late from work. Every night, she would linger in the backyard, waiting.
And every night, he would walk right past her without a second glance.
It was not the first time that this had happened, of course. Some nights, after a particularly long or stressful shift, Lucas would retreat to his bedroom as soon as he got home, without so much as a hello. But he would always come to her the next night and apologize, and things would go back to normal.
Not this time. Night after night, it was the same. Evelyn felt a constant mixture of sadness and anger. What’s wrong with him? Why is he ignoring me?
One night, when Lucas arrived home, he was shocked to find Evelyn waiting for him.
Lucas tried his best to hide his nervousness as he greeted her. “Oh… hey, Ev.” He tried to smile.
“Oh good, you remember my name, at least.” The ghost said sadly. “Lucas, what’s going on?”
Lucas stared at the floor, unable to meet her gaze. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I think you do.”
He sighed. “Look, I’m just busy… There’s been a ton of big events this week… two weddings, a big business convention, the Landgraabs even hired us to cater a birthday party…” He muttered all of this very quickly. “Sorry I haven’t been around more… It’s just a lot of work.” Lucas peered up at her cautiously, gauging her reaction.
Evelyn seemed to hesitate. “You’re sure that’s all it is?”
“Yes.” There was a hint of annoyance in Lucas’ voice. “It’s tiring, that’s all.”
“Okay…” The ghost said sadly. Lucas could tell she was not entirely convinced. “Just don’t forget that I’m here for you.” She said seriously. “If you ever need to talk about what’s troubling you… I’m here.” She lifted a hand and stroked his cheek gently.
Lucas sighed softly at her touch, trying to chase away the memory of the warm, living hands that had touched him the night of his birthday. Why couldn’t he get it out of his head?
“Thanks, Ev.” He smiled. “It’ll be better soon, I promise. As soon as things die down at work.” Or as soon as he could get over his crippling guilt.
“I guess I should let you get some sleep then…” Evelyn pulled her hand away.
“Thanks for understanding, Ev.”
The ghost tried to smile. “Of course.” She paused. “I love you. Goodnight.”
A new wave of guilt seemed to wash over Lucas at her words. You wouldn’t love me if you knew…
“’Night, beautiful.” He managed a small smile before turning away and heading up the stairs to bed.
Lucas awoke the next day shortly before the sun came up. The restaurant was catering an important breakfast that morning for a big company meeting, and he had to go in early to do the final preparations.
He dressed quickly, tip-toed down the stairs, made some coffee, and slipped out of the house quietly, avoiding waking his sleeping parents. Lucas had barely made it out of the house when he heard a strange, gravelly voice call out to him.
“Mr. Ainsworth…” The voice laughed deeply. “So nice to finally meet you…”
Lucas turned around, confused, and his eyes fell on the person who had addressed him.
A dark and shadowy figure hovered before him, waving a grey, scaly hand in greeting.
A strangled cry of fear escaped Lucas’ lips. He held his hands up defensively, cowering in fear. “W-what do you want?” Lucas asked, trying to sound brave. Could this be him? He wondered, terrified. Death?
The figure looked just like Evelyn’s description of the being that had turned away from her in the darkness all those years ago.
The figure chuckled heartily. “You humans are so easily spooked.” It shook its head in amusement. “I just want to have a word with you… I’ve been meaning to for quite some time.”
It turned away from him then, floating away down the sidewalk. The creature raised one boney grey hand and beckoned for Lucas to join him.
Lucas wanted nothing more than to run. But something told him that disobeying this hooded figure would not be wise. So he took a deep breath, gathered all the courage he could muster, and followed.