“Ugh…” Evelyn groaned to herself as another wave of the horrible noise filled the night air. What the hell?!
She’d been laying in the grass near her grave, watching the stars as usual, when her train of thought had been rudely interrupted by an ear-splitting screech.
Evelyn’s existence had become quite calm and peaceful over the years — though also quite lonely. She had stopped listening in on the Ainsworths years ago. She’d tried to continue, for a while, but that strange conversation she’d had with that mysterious man kept echoing in her mind, telling her she needed to stop.
It did no use, she’d realized. All it did was cause her more pain. And for what? Lucas was happy, and that was all she needed to know.
It was still a challenge sometimes though, to let go of all her sadness and anger. Maybe she never would. Not completely, anyway. But things were getting easier and easier as time went on.
Without her nightly eavesdropping, Evelyn gradually grew used to existing in near-complete silence. It was much like how it had been all those years ago, before she met Lucas. The whistling of the wind or soft chirping of the crickets in the night air were the only sounds she’d heard for a long time.
And so, after spending so many years in relative silence, the loud, shrill noise that broke the silence that night was especially jarring to her.
Evelyn lifted herself from the ground, her entire body shifting to a disgusting orange as she winced against the unpleasant sound.
She passed through the hedge, feeling a bizarre mixture of annoyance and curiosity as she searched for the source of the noise. And then she found it.
It was just a little girl, attempting (quite poorly) to play the violin.
Evelyn’s irritation quickly gave way to amusement at the sight. For a moment, she was reminded of herself when she was that age. But I’m sure I wasn’t that bad… She thought to herself. Was I? In truth, she could not remember.
The little girl was so focused on her playing that she completely failed to notice she was being watched… If she could see Evelyn at all, of course. There was no way to be sure, really. But Evelyn continued watching for a few moments regardless.
Who is she? She wondered, studying the girl’s face as she continued to play.
For a moment, she wondered whether the Ainsworths had sold the house and another family had moved in. But all the furniture remained unchanged, both inside and outside. That can’t be it…
The longer Evelyn watched, the more familiar this young girl seemed to be. But how was that possible? There was no way she could have met this girl before. I’m just imagining things. She told herself. Unless…
Oh my God.
Time could be a funny thing for Evelyn. And now, without Becca and Damien as a frame of reference, there was no real way to be sure just how much time was going by. Has it really been that long?
Evelyn remembered the last time she’d seen Lucas as if it were only yesterday. She’d been hidden behind one of the pillars, watching full of envy as he, his wife, and his parents learned the gender of his future child…
A little girl.
She looks so much like him… Evelyn’s heart seemed to ache with a strange mixture of sorrow and happiness. Could this really be her?
The ghost was so caught-up in her thoughts that she failed to notice when the girl had stopped playing. But she did notice when the violin clattered to the ground and the girl cried out in alarm.
The little girl breathed heavily for several moments, eyeing Evelyn nervously.
Guess she can see me after all… Evelyn had no idea what to do. So she just stood there, trying to appear as non-threatening as possible as the little girl drew closer.
“Um… hello.” She called out, giving a small wave.
And for a brief moment, Evelyn was transported back in time to a near-identical greeting she’d received so many years ago…
It is her.
But unlike last time, Evelyn did not run or hide. Instead, she just smiled. “Hello there.” She said kindly. “I’m sorry if I scared you.”
The girl smiled nervously. “You did, a little.” She admitted. “It’s just… I’ve never seen, a… I mean… I’ve never met a…” The little girl shook her head as words continued to fail her.
“A ghost?” Evelyn tried.
She nodded in reply. “I used to be really scared of ‘em.” The girl continued. “I’d get really nervous sleeping in my room at night. But Mommy said there’s no such thing. And Daddy said that if I ever did meet a ghost, they’d be nice to me, and I shouldn’t be afraid.” She explained, smiling. “I guess he was right.”
For a moment, Evelyn almost let her emotions betray her. “Your daddy sounds really smart.” She said, keeping her voice as steady as she could.
“He is!” The girl nodded. “Mommy too.”
“I bet you’re pretty smart too.” Evelyn continued kindly. “I’m Evelyn, by the way.” Her smile widened.
“I’m Krystina Lynn Ainsworth!” The little girl replied proudly.
“What a pretty name.”
Evelyn glanced over at the pink violin, which now lay on the ground beyond the hot tub. “That’s a pretty cool violin you have.” She said.
“It is, huh?” Krystina smiled. “My grandparents got it for me for my birthday.”
“That was really nice of them.” Evelyn said. “I wish I had a cool violin like that when I was your age. I used to play, you know.”
The girl’s face lit up. “Really?!”
Evelyn nodded. “Piano too. But guitar was always my favorite… Violin was the first instrument I ever played though.” She paused for a moment, looking back on how much she used to love music. It felt like another lifetime ago… And in a way, it was.
“Do you think you could teach me?” Krystina asked hopefully.
Evelyn hesitated. “I dunno…” She said slowly. “I mean, I haven’t played in years… And I can’t really… I mean, I’m not completely physical, you know? So sometimes it doesn’t exactly work when I try to… touch anything.” She finished lamely.
Small, light objects like playing cards or chess pieces were fine, but a violin? Guess the hands-on approach won’t be happening…
“Don’t worry, I get it.” Krystina replied. “But… maybe you could try?”
Evelyn could not resist the look on the little girl’s face – maybe because of just how painfully familiar that face was.
“Okay.” She said finally. “I guess it wouldn’t hurt.”
Less than five minutes later, Evelyn found herself regretting her decision.
“Okay, okay…” She interrupted the girl’s performance yet again, rubbing her temples wearily. We’re getting nowhere. The ghost thought, half-amused, half-annoyed. “I’ll make a deal with you.”
Krystina lowered the instrument, listening intently.
“How often do you visit your grandparents?” Evelyn asked kindly.
The girl was thoughtful for a moment. “Maybe once a week?” She guessed.
“And what about sleeping over?”
“I don’t know… Maybe once a month or something? Or a little more than that.” Krystina said uncertainly.
Evelyn smiled. “Okay. So you keep studying and practicing on your own, every time you visit your grandparents. And the next time you sleep over, once you’ve had a little bit of practice, I’ll try again to help you.”
“Okay, deal!” Krystina replied happily. “This is so cool! I can’t wait to tell Grammy and Grampy that I found a violin teacher! And Mommy and Daddy too!”
Evelyn’s eyes widened.
“Listen, Krystina… You can’t tell anyone you met me, okay?” She explained seriously.
Evelyn sighed. She hadn’t asked Krystina how old she was, but she was clearly younger than Lucas had been when she’d first met him – Everything seemed harder for her to understand than it had been for him. Evelyn still could not decide whether it was annoying or endearing.
“Grown-ups… Just don’t understand.” She said slowly. “And if you told them, they might not want us to see each other again… And that would be really sad, don’t you think?”
“It would.” Krystina agreed. She paused, looking up at Evelyn curiously for a moment. “I… I guess that makes sense.” The little girl said at last. “Okay. I won’t tell.” She promised.
Evelyn smiled, relieved. “Good.” She replied. “Thank you.”
The little girl bit her lip. “I should really go back to bed.” She said quietly. “But I wanna keep talking to you.”
The ghost laughed softly. “Go get some sleep, kiddo. And keep practicing that violin.” Her smile widened. “I’ll see you the next time you stay over, okay?”
“Okay.” Krystina yawned softly, but her smile did not fade. “It was really nice to meet you, Evelyn.” She gave a small wave of farewell. “I can’t wait til next time.”
“Me neither. Sweet dreams, kiddo.” Evelyn gave her a tiny wink as the little girl picked up the violin and headed back inside.
As Evelyn watched Krystina trudge up the dark stairway, she felt a rush of different emotions wash over her.
Seeing Lucas’ child – a living piece of the man she still loved so deeply… It made her miss him more terribly than she had in years.
But she also felt so happy, so hopeful. Evelyn hadn’t had anyone to talk to in so long. No one she could laugh with, or be a friend to – no one who could give her existence meaning. But maybe now…
Evelyn was not sure when she would see Krystina again, but she was willing to wait for as long as it would take.