The next few weeks were something of an emotional rollercoaster for Krystina and her family. It was all so overwhelming.
The funeral was probably the worst. The initial shock of learning of her grandfather’s death had been difficult enough – but seeing him lowered into the ground made it all feel so real, so final.
It was a difficult goodbye for everyone, and part of Krystina secretly began to fear that no one in her family would ever be happy again — including herself.
But slowly, things started to get better.
Less than a week after the funeral, she started painting again. Krystina’s artwork proved to be a powerful outlet for expressing her feelings – with each brush stroke, she felt a little lighter.
Krystina took Evelyn’s advice, and tried talking to her parents about how she was feeling. And her friend had been right – not only did it make her feel better, but it seemed to lift their spirits too.
And her family were not the only people Krystina confided in. She had long conversations on the phone with Lily almost every evening. And even from hours away in Willow Creek, her friend was able to make her feel so much better.
Krystina spent a lot of time hanging out with her other friends too. Being with them helped take her mind off her sorrow, and allowed her to start to feel normal again.
And of course, being with Silas helped too. He could make any day brighter, it seemed. And Krystina was so grateful to have him.
But amid all these highs and lows, there were some puzzling twists and turns as well.
By far the strangest came one night a few days after her grandfather’s burial. Krystina had been unable to sleep all night, and was planning to go pay a visit to Evelyn. But as she opened her dresser drawer to change into something warmer, a thought crossed her mind.
She remembered what Evelyn had told her about her grandfather’s spirit moving on. And Krystina knew she was probably right – she could not imagine what could possibly be keeping him here. But she just had to be sure. What if he was still there? What if there was still a chance to see him one last time? Krystina knew that if she never learned for sure, she would never forgive herself.
So she had bundled up, tiptoed down the stairs, hopped on her bike, and headed straight for the church.
When she arrived, all of the lights were off, of course. The church and surrounding yard were completely deserted… Except for one lone figure, standing off in the corner by her grandfather’s grave.
For a moment, Krystina felt her breath catch in her throat. But as she drew closer, she quickly realized that the figure was decidedly solid… But still very familiar.
She thought she’d seen a familiar-looking car parked on the street corner. But it was so hard to tell in the dark.
Krystina practically dove behind the nearby hedge to hide, though she tried to do so as silently as she could. Her father did not seem to notice.
What’s he doing here? She wondered, watching him for a few moments. Guess he couldn’t sleep either. Krystina thought. He did just lose his dad, after all. Maybe he just needed some time to mourn in private.
But the longer she watched, the less sure she became. At first he’d just been standing silently over the grave. But now he seemed to be looking around, like he was waiting for someone. Krystina had to duck down to avoid being seen.
“Are you there?” His voice was so quiet, Krystina had to strain to hear. “If you are, just… Come talk to me. Please.”
Is he talking to me? Krystina wondered nervously. Did he see me? For a moment, she considered showing herself, but the girl quickly thought better of it. Instead, she crouched down low and continued listening for a few more minutes.
Finally, a soft defeated sigh reached her ears. Krystina found the courage to peek once again over the hedge just in time to see her father drop his face into one of his hands.
“I guess you really are gone.” He said softly, his voice thick with emotion. It was a few moments before he spoke again. “Bye, dad. I love you.”
Krystina watched as her father hung his head low and slowly walked down the stone path back toward the street.
She waited in the darkness for a bit longer, until she heard the distant sound of a car door slamming and an engine rumbling softly to life. When she was sure the coast was finally clear, she finally emerged from her hiding place.
What was that all about? The girl glanced uncertainly toward where her grandfather’s grave lay. Was he looking for…?
Krystina hung around for a few more minutes, but she knew there was no point. If her grandfather’s spirit still lingered, he would have shown himself by now. Evelyn was right… He was truly gone.
As she headed back around the front of the building, Krystina could not stop thinking about her father, and what he could have been doing there in the middle of the night.
And if he really was there for the reason she suspected he was… What could it all mean?
A thousand unanswered questions now buzzing in her mind, Krystina climbed carefully onto her bicycle and began the journey home.