The chilly autumn breeze whistled loudly through the trees outside the girl’s bedroom window. It was sharp and sudden, breaking the eerie silence of the night – Certainly loud enough to wake anyone but the heaviest of sleepers. And it probably would have woken Krystina too, if she had not already been lying there for hours, unable to sleep.
She kept her eyes closed, trying desperately to calm herself and clear her mind, but it was no use. Krystina sighed softly against her pillow, which was still damp from tears. Nothing could calm her, it seemed. She’d tried painting at her easel and playing her violin, but her mind was too unfocused to find inspiration, or allow her to get out any of her emotions.
I just need to talk to someone. She thought. But who? Her parents?
Krystina had a great relationship with her mom and dad, most of the time. She loved helping her father with his garden, especially when he experimented. It was always exciting to see some of the unusual new seeds hidden within some of the fruit and flowers, and it was always delicious when he used the fresh ingredients in his already-incredible cooking.
She loved spending time with her mother too, of course. One of Krystina’s favorite things to do was have long talks with her mother over a game of chess. It was especially enjoyable on the rare occasions when she actually won, usually using a technique taught to her by her grandfather.
But as close as she was with them, what could she even say to them? They were hurting just as much as she was…
Krystina sat up slowly. It was no use. She was never going to get any sleep, and just lying there in the dark was doing her no good. But what was she going to do?
When Krystina was hurting, or upset, she usually had no problem opening up to her parents about what was worrying her. They usually had some pretty good advice, too. It almost always made her feel better.
But not this time. Krystina held her face in her hands, allowing a few soft sobs to finally come out. It felt like there was nothing anyone could say to make her feel better now… And especially not her parents.
It was so painful to think of it. Krystina had never seen her father cry before, but that was all he’d been doing, all day.
The girl shook her head, rising to her feet. She knew exactly who she needed to talk to. Krystina headed for her dresser to find a sweatshirt – it was a chilly night, and it was a long bike ride to her grandparents’ house.
As soon as she entered high school, Krystina’s sleepovers with her grandparents became almost non-existent. She still visited them during the day, of course, but her childhood excitement and desire to spend the night with them were soon left far behind.
But what Krystina had not left behind was Evelyn. She just had to find more creative ways of visiting her friend – ways that usually involved sneaking out of her house in the wee hours of the morning, hopping on her bike, and riding nearly 45 minutes across town to her grandparents’ house.
It was exhausting, of course. But always worth it.
Along with Lily and Mitch, Evelyn was one of Krystina’s best friends in the world. She felt like she could tell her anything – there was just something special about her. Evelyn was so easy to talk to, and always seemed to know just the right thing to say or do. Krystina shared everything with her – the good and the bad.
On nights like tonight, it was nice to remember some of the good times. Krystina still recalled the night after the Homecoming dance last year. She’d snuck away to see Evelyn as soon as she was sure her parents were asleep. She would never forget all the excitement and giggles they’d shared as Krystina gushed all about her magical evening with Silas, and how he’d kissed her when he walked her to the door. It all felt so long ago– it had been more than a year now, and they’d been dating ever since.
Krystina paused her train of thought to focus on being as quiet as possible as she gingerly closed the bedroom door behind her. She hesitated for a moment, listening intently. But the house was still silent. She felt a small wave of relief wash over her as she continued.
As she crept carefully into the hall and tiptoed past the closed door of the guest bedroom, Krystina glanced up at a few of her paintings that hung on the walls above.
Though she still loved music deeply, Krystina developed a true passion and talent for painting and drawing as she got older. Despite her shift in focus from aural art to visual, Evelyn remained supportive and encouraging, just as she had been when she’d mentored her in the violin all those years ago.
Krystina thought of the time she’d snuck away late one evening to tell Evelyn all about the beautiful new painting she’d completed. Her teacher had chosen it out of hundreds of submissions to represent the school in the state art show.
She wished there was a way to show it to her friend, but the canvas was much too big to transport on her small bicycle. Still, Evelyn had been so genuinely delighted and proud, and listened with interest as Krystina described the piece in detail.
If only tonight could be like that… Krystina thought sadly as she crept down the stairs. She nearly held her breath as she passed by her parents’ door. But, as with the guest bedroom, there was no audible sign of movement on the other side.
No, Krystina’s disappointed thoughts continued as she tiptoed toward the front door, Tonight will be a bad one…
Her visits with Evelyn were not always so joyful. There had been many nights over the past few years, just like tonight, when Krystina was deeply troubled and was looking for a sympathetic ear to vent to, or a friendly shoulder to cry on. Thankfully, Evelyn was very good at both.
Most of Krystina’s more unpleasant visits seemed to involve her parents in some way. Sometimes, Evelyn even sided with them, much to Krystina’s surprise.
The worst was probably when she crashed her mom’s car into a mailbox, all because she’d taken her eyes off the road for a few seconds to reply to a text.
She’d never seen her parents so angry before. They went on and on, lecturing her about the crash that had killed her mother’s first husband, and even had her uncle Sean come by in full uniform to give her another endless speech about the dangers of distracted driving. It was so embarrassing. And to top it all off, Krystina lost her driving privileges for a week, her phone for two weeks, and had to give her parents all of her babysitting money for the next two months to pay for the damages.
But when she complained to Evelyn about her parents’ overreaction, the ghost’s eyes went wide and her entire body glowed crimson. “What were you thinking?!” She’d cried.
Other times, Evelyn was a little more sympathetic. Like the time Krystina’s parents freaked out at her for getting drunk at a party with her friend Lily. She was grounded for two weeks after that, even though nothing bad had actually happened.
When she told Evelyn about it, the ghost had burst into a fit of hysterics. “Your da—er, parents – lectured you about drinking?”
Krystina never understood her friend’s amusement, but appreciated that she saw just how ridiculous it was too.
She won’t be laughing tonight… Krystina’s heart sank as she stepped out into the chilly night air.
Evelyn had been there for her through the sad times too… It was still painful to remember just a few months ago, when her friend Lily moved away to Willow Creek. They still talked often, but it just wasn’t the same anymore…
It was the most upset Evelyn had ever seen her when Krystina showed up that night, nearly in tears. But as always, her friend knew exactly what to say to lift her spirits.
But what about tonight? What would Evelyn say now? Only one thing was certain — if anyone could make her feel better tonight, it would be her. Krystina pondered this the entire way to her grandparents’ house.
When she arrived, she found Evelyn where she always was – laying by her grave looking up at the stars.
“Hey, Ev.” Krystina muttered softly, her voice thick as she spoke.
Evelyn looked up in surprise, pulling herself quickly from the ground. “Krysti, what’s going on?”
Of course. She realized. I’m a mess. Her friend knew right away that something was wrong.
The girl walked past Evelyn, staring at the ground. “Do you remember… When I told you about my grandfather? And all the trouble he was having with his heart?” She asked softly.
“Oh no.” Evelyn whispered as Krystina finally lifted her eyes to meet hers. “He…?”
Krystina nodded slowly. “He died this morning.” She managed to choke out. “It… It was a heart attack… He’s gone.”