Melanie sighed softly as she sat down on the edge of the bed beside her husband. “So she didn’t say anything to you either, huh?” She asked softly.
Lucas shook his head. “Nope.” He replied casually, but there was a hint of concern apparent on his face.
Damien and Becca had told them about what they’d seen the night before – Krystina had snuck out of bed at nearly two in the morning and laid outside in the backyard all alone, looking up at the stars thoughtfully and wearing an expression of deep concern.
Clearly something was troubling their daughter– but what? Lucas and Melanie wondered. And could this be the reason for all of her exhaustion lately?
“I’m just so worried…” Mel continued. “I mean, staying up all night like that… it’s not normal… Is it?”
Her husband just shrugged. It was hard for him to say. I mean, for me at that age, it was totally normal. Lucas thought to himself, almost amused. Then again, his best friend at the time happened to be a ghost who had been haunting the house so… Maybe not normal for Krysti. He realized.
“It’s a little strange.” He admitted, pausing for a moment. “But hey, you’re off tomorrow, aren’t you?” Lucas asked.
His wife nodded.
“Well… Maybe have a chat with her after school.” He suggested. “See if you can get her to open up a little… Y’know, ‘girl talk’, or whatever you wanna call it.” Lucas laughed softly. “And if that doesn’t work, I’ll give it a go.” He finished, smiling.
Melanie thought for a moment. “Okay.” She decided, trying to return his smile. “I guess it can’t hurt to try.”
Lucas studied her face for a moment, and could sense Mel’s lingering uncertainty. “Come here.” He said softly, pulling his wife close to him.
A small sigh escaped Mel’s lips as she laid her head against his shoulder. “Thanks.” She whispered. “It’s just so hard sometimes, even after all these years… I’m always second-guessing myself.” Melanie shrugged under her husband’s embrace.
It was a conversation they’d had many times before over the years. Parenting was especially scary, Mel had learned, when you never had a mother or father yourself to learn from. Lucas’ parents were so wonderful, and Melanie was happy to see much of Damien in the way Lucas fathered their child. She found herself often defaulting to him when it came to the tough stuff – a habit her husband had been trying to help her break for some time.
“You’re an amazing mother.” Lucas said sincerely. “You know what you’re doing.” He assured her. “And whatever’s going on with Krysti, we’ll get her through it together. Just like we always do.”
Melanie nuzzled gently against her husband’s bearded cheek, smiling softly. “I know we will.” She whispered.
The following afternoon when Krystina arrived home from school, Mel was sitting in the living room waiting for her.
“Hey, honey.” She called happily as Krystina set down her backpack in the entryway. “How was school?”
“Kinda boring.” Krystina admitted with a small laugh. “Ooh, but Mrs. Z said she wants me to do a new painting for the art show next month.” She added, her face lighting up as she took a seat next to her mother on the couch.
“Congratulations, that’s wonderful!”
“Thanks.” Krystina smiled. “It’s pretty cool.”
Melanie hesitated, trying to figure out how to broach the difficult subject. I’ll be subtle… “So, uh… Everything’s good at school then?” She asked a bit uncomfortably.
Her daughter shrugged. “I guess.”
An awkward silence fell between them for a few moments.
Krystina looked up at her curiously. “Mom, is everything okay?”
Great poker face, Mel. She cursed herself mentally. “Of course, sweetie… I just wanted to make sure you’re okay…” The woman paused. Guess I just have to go for it. “Grammy and Grampy said that, uh… they thought you seemed a little sad the other night.” She explained. “That’s all.”
“Oh yeah… that.” Krystina bit her lip nervously. “So… they saw me go outside?” She asked.
Her mother nodded.
“W-what else did they see?”
Melanie furrowed her brow. “What do you mean, sweetie? They just saw you laying out in the backyard… They were really worried, and so are your father and I.” She explained gently.
There was a sudden flicker of confusion across the little girl’s face, then what looked almost like relief. Melanie couldn’t explain it.
“Right. Well…” Krystina took a deep breath. “I… I guess there is something that’s been bothering me a little.” She confessed. “I was kinda nervous to talk to you and dad about it, but…” The little girl paused. “I’ve been talking to Zane and Haylee a lot… And they’re getting worried… About their parents.”
Mel’s eyes widened. This is about Noah and Camryn?
“Their parents have lived in different houses for… forever.” Krystina continued. “And they’re afraid they’ll never be together again… I guess their mom went on a date with some guy a few weeks ago.” She shrugged.
What?! Mel tried to hide her surprise. She talked to Camryn at least once a week, and this was the first she’d heard of it.
“I dunno.” Krystina looked down at the floor, embarrassed. “I guess… I’ve been thinking about how scary and awful it would be if something like that happened to you and dad…” The girl sighed.
“Oh, honey…” Melanie drew her daughter close. “Your father and I love each other so much.” She promised. “And we love you, too.” Mel gave Krystina a tight squeeze.
“Things with Camryn and Noah are… complicated.” She continued. “And I’m sure it’s really hard for Zane and Haylee to see that… But I promise that things are just fine for me and dad.” Mel paused. “And if anything bad ever did happen, well… We’d always be honest with you about it, okay? So you have nothing to worry about.”
A look of genuine relief washed over Krystina’s face. “Thanks mom.” She said seriously. “I was kind of afraid to say anything…” She shook her head, smiling. “Wanna know what’s funny?”
“You said you and dad would always be honest, right? And that I didn’t have anything to worry about?” Krystina asked happily. “That’s exactly what my friend said when I told her about it!” Her smile widened. “I’ll have to tell her she was right.”
Melanie eyed her daughter curiously. “Friend?” She asked. “You mean Lily?”
Krystina’s face fell. “Um… No… Not her…” She muttered almost guiltily.
The girl bit her lip. “Well… Uh…” She sighed. “It’s… kind of a… secret friend, I guess… One that no one else can see.”
There was something a bit peculiar in her daughter’s tone, but Melanie could not explain it. Maybe she’s just embarrassed about having an imaginary friend.
“I get it.” Melanie smiled. “Sometimes friends like that can listen better than anyone else can.”
Krystina let out a small laugh. “I guess you could say that.”
“So, what’s your friend’s name?” Her mother asked kindly.
Krystina smiled. “Evelyn.”
Evelyn? “Krysti… Where did you get that name from?” Melanie asked seriously.
Krystina shrugged. “Nowhere.” She replied. “It’s just her name.”
“Well… Maybe there’s another name that ‘Evelyn’ would rather be called?” Mel suggested.
Krystina just shook her head, her confusion apparent on her face.
Her mother sighed, rubbing her temples. She probably doesn’t even realize where she got it from… The subconscious mind could be a strange thing sometimes.
“Honey, that was the name of daddy’s friend, remember? The one who passed away a long time ago.”
“Oh yeah!” Krystina furrowed her brow for a moment, as though thinking very hard.
Melanie watched, confused, as the little girl finally shook her head back and forth, muttering to herself. It was difficult to make out what she was saying, but Mel picked up a few words. “Could she…? No, not that long ago…”
She finally turned her attention back to her mother. “I guess it’s just a really weird coincidence.” The little girl shrugged.
Mel looked at her daughter skeptically. “Uh-huh…” She sighed. “Well, coincidence or not, I don’t think it’d be a very good idea to tell dad about your ‘friend’, okay? When he hears that name, it might make him kinda sad.” She said gently.
Krystina was thoughtful. “I guess I can kinda understand that…” She said finally, nodding. “Don’t worry, I won’t say anything.”
The girl got to her feet. “Thanks, mom… I actually feel a lot better.”
“Anytime, babygirl.” Melanie watched happily as Krystina crossed into the hallway and headed up the stairs. That went so much better than I thought it would!
She smiled to herself for a few more moments, then finally allowed her curiosity to get the better of her. She scurried off to the kitchen to make a few phone calls and figure out what was going on with Noah and Camryn…
Jeez, that was a close one! Krystina thought as she trudged up the stairs. How could she have been so careless? That definitely can’t happen again…
Part of her truly felt happy to have been honest with her mother about her worries… But mostly she was just scared. What if her grandparents had actually seen Evelyn? The little girl could not help but feel relieved that they could not. She didn’t even want to imagine what might have happened if they did see her.
I’ve gotta be more careful. Krystina told herself firmly as she chose a book from her bookshelf and sat down on the edge of her bed.
She’d kept Evelyn a secret for the past three years easily enough, but the little girl began to worry about what would happen as time went on… What would happen when she was in high school? Or a grown up? How could she keep it up without someone finding out?
I’ll figure it out, somehow. She sighed to herself, then turned her attention back to the book in her hand.
After all, she still had plenty of time before she had to worry about that…