The dark night sky above was completely clear – not a single cloud obstructed any of the thousands of twinkling stars from view. Evelyn smiled to herself as she looked up at them. She’d been watching the stars nearly every night for decades, even before her death. Perhaps to someone else, it would have gotten old by now. But not to her.
Caroline had been the one who’d first gotten Evelyn interested in examining the night sky. Her best friend was always fascinated by various fields of science and discovery, and astronomy was no exception. They’d spend hours laying out in the grass while Caroline would identify all the various constellations and celestial bodies above. Evelyn always loved hearing her friend speak so passionately about the subject that fascinated her so much.
When she met Lucas, Evelyn had passed on much of the knowledge that Caroline had once taught her about the planets and the stars. Even from the time he was a child, Lucas loved turning it into a competition, seeing who could identify the most stars, or find all the major constellations the quickest. As he got older, their stargazing game continued, but some nights things were a little quieter, and more thoughtful. They would simply stare up at the stars, each lost in their own thoughts, occasionally pointing out a shooting star or hard-to-spot formation in the stars above.
It was hard to say which Evelyn preferred – Just being there with Lucas was wonderful enough, no matter what they did together.
With Krystina, things were a little different. She knew the names of the major constellations and was good at identifying them. But what Evelyn always found amazing was how Krystina would find her own shapes in the sky above. She would trace her finger along a line of tiny twinkling stars, describing in detail some fantastic scene she imagined hidden in the tiny pinpricks of light. It gave Evelyn a whole new perspective on the wonders that hid in the vast night sky.
Looking up at the stars helped Evelyn feel close to all three of them again, even for just a little while. So much had changed over the years… But the stars never did. They were still the same stars she’d once watched with Caroline, and then with Lucas, and now again with Krysti…
Evelyn liked to remember what Caroline had taught her long ago, about how when a star burns out and fades away, its light will still shine on, sometimes for tens of thousands of years.
Maybe, she sometimes thought, that’s true about other things, too…
The sound of footsteps broke the silence, waking Evelyn from her reverie. She knew right away exactly who it was.
“Krysti.” Evelyn smiled, floating gently to her feet at her friend’s approach. It was unusual for Krystina to visit her so late. She had no idea what time it was – it had been years since Evelyn had thought of time in terms of hours or minutes – but she could sense that dawn was fast approaching.
“Hey.” The girl replied, returning the smile.
Evelyn drew closer. “How are you feeling?” She asked somewhat nervously. “I mean, I haven’t seen you since…” She left the sentence hanging, knowing her friend knew exactly what she was talking about.
“I’m better.” Krystina said seriously. “A lot better, actually. It’s still hard sometimes, y’know? But… I’m getting there.” She smiled.
Evelyn could not help but feel relieved. It had been so difficult seeing Krystina in so much pain. She hoped that Lucas was able to start healing too. I wish I could ask…
“I know it’s not easy,” Evelyn replied, smiling gently. “But I’m so happy things are getting better.”
“Thanks.” Krystina said. “And I took your advice… I tried talking to my parents.” She explained. “I think it helped a lot. They’re doing better too…” She paused. “Especially my dad.”
Evelyn hated it when Krystina made comments like that… It made her so nervous. Was Krystina really onto her? Or was it just innocent conversation? Sometimes it was hard to tell.
“That’s great.” She replied simply. As always, Evelyn did her best to say as little as possible whenever Krystina brought up her father.
“Listen, Ev, I know it’s kinda late… But there was just something I wanted to talk to you about.” Krystina explained. “Is… is that okay?” She smiled as she spoke, but Evelyn could sense a hint of uncertainty in the girl’s tone.
“Of course.” Evelyn replied, trying to keep her voice as casual as possible.
The two girls walked across the edge of the yard to the small park behind the Ainsworth’s house and took a seat on one of the old wooden benches. It was a few uneasy moments before either one of them spoke.
“So… Like I said…” Krystina began, breaking the silence at last. “My dad’s feeling a lot better.” She explained. “Smiling more, laughing… And working a lot in his garden…” She paused. “And I guess it kinda got me thinking…”
Oh no… Evelyn felt a horrible sinking feeling in her stomach, but said nothing.
“He loves doing all these experiments with his plants…” Krystina continued. “And he told me he started back when he was a kid… And that made me think of the boy you used to be friends with… You said he experimented in his garden too, right?”
Evelyn just nodded, her mind racing as she tried to figure out what to say.
“My dad said he used to go fishing too… Just like the boy you knew…” She paused, and for a moment, her expression looked almost guilty. “Ev, my dad used to live in this house. You know that.” Krystina took a deep breath. “And he had a friend named Evelyn too. A long time ago.”
What? Did he tell her about me?! Why would he do that? Evelyn tried to contain her panic.
“H-he did?” She asked softly.
Krystina nodded. “Back when he was a kid. He said she was his best friend.” The girl seemed to be studying Evelyn’s face for a few moments. The ghost fought to keep her expression neutral. “Now, dad says this girl died a long time ago, around the time he first met my mom… That’s the only part that doesn’t fit.” She admitted.
Of course he says I died… Evelyn thought sadly. Her life had already ended long before Lucas was born, of course. But Evelyn knew that wasn’t what he meant. After the horrible way she’d ignored him after their breakup… She was probably well and truly dead, in his eyes. Gone. Forgotten. Nothing. I hurt him so much… He probably hates me now. And could she really blame him if he did?
Krystina seemed to be waiting for Evelyn to respond.
“What are you trying to say?” She asked at last.
“Is this really just the weirdest string of coincidences ever?” Krystina asked, her skepticism apparent. “Or…” She bit her lip. “Or is my dad that little boy who was trying to bring you back?” The girl paused. “You can tell me the truth, Ev. I just need to know… Do you know my dad?”
For the briefest moment, Evelyn considered telling the truth.
Yes, she wanted to say. Your dad was the best friend I ever had, and he made me a promise a long time ago that he’d do anything to give me my life back. I loved him so much, and I really believed he could do it. But when he met your mother, he broke my heart… And when he did, I shut him out and ruined everything… And that’s why I could never tell you before.
But of course, she couldn’t do it. It was too painful. And too shameful too. Evelyn felt her panic begin to rise as she thought of what could happen. What if Krystina told Lucas she was friends with her? What if she tried to bring him here?
A small voice in the back of her mind recalled the words of a mysterious stranger many years ago. “…He hasn’t forgotten about you. I promise. In fact, I bet he still thinks of you every day…” Could it be true? Could he really miss her? Did he want to see her again? Maybe…
But then, what if he didn’t? What if he’d never forgiven her for what she’d done? Evelyn had already grown accustomed to her pain… She couldn’t bear to risk any more. Not after she’d finally begun to feel normal again.
I can’t face him… She thought sadly. I can’t do it.
“I’ve never met your father.” Evelyn said, slowly and clearly.
And it was not a total lie either. The man Krystina so often described – The hard-working businessman who owned his own restaurant, the affectionate husband who still kissed his wife goodbye every time she left the house, the over-protective father who made sure the door was open whenever Krystina’s boyfriend was in her bedroom – that was not the Lucas Evelyn had once known.
“Really?” Krystina asked. Evelyn knew she was not entirely convinced.
“Really.” She insisted. “Sometimes when you talk about him, he does reminds me of that little boy.” She confessed. Another half-truth. “And it makes me a little sad…” Evelyn sighed. “But no, I haven’t met him.”
Krystina said nothing. Evelyn looked away from her uncomfortably. Does she even believe me? She wondered. It was impossible to tell.
The ghost took a deep breath, turning to look at Krystina yet again. “So I guess… Now you know.” She said with a small shrug. “Sorry if it wasn’t the answer you were looking for.”
Krystina hesitated. “So… that’s it, then?”
“That’s it.” Evelyn nodded.
“Well… Thanks, I guess.” Her friend replied flatly, glancing up at the grey pre-dawn sky. “Looks like I should probably start heading home… And you probably should too, right?”
Evelyn nodded. “In a few minutes, yeah.” She agreed.
The living girl rose to her feet slowly. “I’ll talk to you soon, okay?” Krystina said.
The ghost nodded yet again. “Bye, Krysti.”
Evelyn sat in the silence for a few more minutes, listening as her friend’s footsteps faded further and further away.
The girl shook her head side to side as she replayed the conversation in her mind.
She lied to me… Krystina thought in disbelief as she walked along the side of her grandparents’ house. How could she?!
Something just wasn’t right about what Evelyn had told her. It was impossible to believe that it could truly be just a coincidence, and Krystina had taken note of the unpleasant color the ghost had turned as she spoke. Her friend was keeping something from her… But why? Evelyn was one of her best friends in the world – surely she’d be honest with her?
Krystina wanted to give her friend the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she’s not lying… She tried to convince herself. But even if it wasn’t a total lie, there’s no way she was telling the whole truth either…
Ugh! I don’t even know what to think anymore! The girl thought, frustrated.
She’d tried being subtle with Evelyn countless times, but it never worked. And now, when she tried being direct… I still don’t know the truth. Not really, anyway.
When she’d tried being subtle with her father, it had backfired horribly. He’d gotten so upset… What could she do now?
The sun was already beginning to rise as she began her journey home, feeling even more confused than ever before. I’m gonna go crazy if I don’t figure this out…
Krystina knew exactly what she had to do. But how am I gonna do it?