Krystina lay on the soft, cool bed of grass and stared up at the thousands of twinkling stars above her. She sighed softly, enjoying the peaceful stillness of the night. A small smile came to her lips as she relished in the feeling.
“I missed this.” She whispered. “And I missed you.”
“I know.” Evelyn agreed. “Me too.”
As Krystina had predicted so many years ago, keeping up her friendship with Evelyn had become more and more difficult as time went by. It had been months since Krystina had come to visit her friend. In fact, now that she thought of it, Krystina had only seen Evelyn a dozen or so times over the past three years. It was hard not to feel guilty.
“I wish we could see each other more often…” She muttered sadly. “It’s just not as easy as it used to be, y’know?” Krystina paused, and could not help but smile as she recalled the countless evenings she’d snuck out of her parents’ house. “Things were a lot less complicated when I was still living with my parents.” She shrugged her shoulders slightly.
Beside her, Evelyn smiled, though her tone revealed her disappointment. “Don’t worry. I understand… Not quite as easy to sneak out of bed now, huh?”
Krystina shook her head. She’d learned the hard way just how difficult it was to sneak out of bed without waking the person you shared it with. And then, even if you did, there was the worrying – what if they got up for a drink of water, or to use the bathroom, and found you missing? How could you possibly explain yourself?
One of the only things that had saved Krystina from stopping her visits with Evelyn altogether were those rare times The Newcrest Knights played a game just far enough away to have to spend the night in the rival team’s city. Normally the games were all within a few hours’ drive. But some nights, like this one, the players would not return until the next morning, and Krystina would have the tiny house all to herself… And plenty of opportunity to pay Evelyn a visit.
“So… I’m gonna assume things are still going pretty well for you guys, huh?” Evelyn asked, stifling a giggle.
Krystina was not quite as successful. She laughed softly to herself, nodding. “They are.” She confirmed, her laughter finally beginning to subside. “What was your first clue?” The girl teased.
They were going amazing, actually. Things had changed so much for Krystina over the past few years, and wonderfully so.
But it wasn’t always wonderful.
After nearly seven years together, Krystina and Silas had broken up a few weeks shy of her 22nd birthday. Krystina was absolutely devastated, but she knew that it was for the best. The young couple had been struggling for a long time with reconciling their visions for the future – Krystina had always dreamed of getting married and having children. Silas, on the other hand, was not so sure that a lifelong commitment was right for him. After years of tiptoeing around the subject, Krystina finally gave Silas an ultimatum – and his response was to walk away.
It took a long time for Krystina to feel “normal” again. She’d always foolishly hoped that she could find a way to change Silas’ mind – that her love would be enough to make him want the same things she did. And when she learned that it was not the case, her whole world seemed to fall apart. And there by her side to help her pick up the pieces was Mitch.
Along with Lily, Mitchell had been one of Krystina’s best friends for as long as she could remember – almost as long as she’d known Noah and Sam’s kids. Between his support, her parents’ encouragement, Lily’s comforting phone calls, and a series of late-night heart-to-hearts with Evelyn, Krystina got through it.
During the next several months, Krystina and Mitch grew closer than they’d ever been before. And then one night, nearly a year after her break-up with Silas, Krystina’s eyes finally opened to what had been in front of her all along…
Her parents were thrilled, of course. They’d known Mitchell just as long as Krystina had, and he already felt like a member of the family. He was smart, caring, funny, and very driven in his career as a minor league baseball player – all qualities which the Ainsworths valued greatly (and, they now finally shared with their daughter, they had failed to see much of in Silas).
“So… have you guys set a date yet?” Evelyn continued, her tone almost hopeful.
“Not yet.” Krystina replied. “We’re gonna wait until things, uh… settle down, I guess you could say.” She laughed. “But not too much longer.” She assured her friend. “We never really planned on a long engagement. We’ve got a kind of a big to-do list at the moment though…”
The ghost nodded beside her. “What about the gallery?”
“Still a work-in-progress.” She explained. “Just another item on the list…” Krystina sighed. “But that money from Grammy is definitely burning a hole in my pocket… Hopefully I’ll have some better news on that front this time next year.”
After graduating from school, Krystina had chosen to make painting her career. She had a deep love for her artwork, and a real talent for it too… But Krystina was learning just how difficult getting a start in the business could be.
Nearly a year ago, however, her grandmother surprised her with an extremely generous gift, and made Krystina promise that she would use it to follow her dream of opening her own gallery. Krystina was floored by her grandmother’s generosity, but wondered the reason behind the incredible gift.
“I’m not getting any younger, honey.” Becca had explained. “And while inheritances are a lovely gesture, I’d much rather be around to see you enjoy it.”
Unfortunately, Krystina had not gotten far in her research of finding the perfect spot for her gallery when circumstances had changed, and fulfilling her dream had to be put on the back-burner. For now, at least.
With a heavy sigh, Krystina rose rather clumsily to her feet. Evelyn floated up from the ground, reaching out instinctively to help her friend. But of course, she could do nothing.
“I’ve got it, Ev.” Krystina laughed. “Don’t worry.”
She paused, looking thoughtfully at her friend for a few moments. It was so strange sometimes to see just how completely unchanged Evelyn was from the night they’d first met all those years ago. Krystina could still remember a time when the ghost had felt like an older sister. And now…
I’m five years older than her. Krystina thought. It made her sad, somehow. She almost wished she could slow down time, just for a little while. But of course, she could not. Things were never that simple.
“I wish I could stay.” Krystina said softly. “But I really should get back… I’m so tired.” She confessed. “And my dad’s coming over for lunch tomorrow, so I don’t wanna sleep in too much…”
For nearly a decade, there’d been something of an unspoken understanding between the two friends. Krystina knew Evelyn had been friends with her dad, and she was pretty sure that Evelyn was aware she knew… But neither one ever acknowledged it. Despite Evelyn’s poker face, Krystina knew she liked hearing news about Lucas from time to time, so she always tried to drop a few bits of information.
“Just your dad?” Evelyn asked kindly. “Is your mom working?”
Krystina shook her head. “No, she’s away all this week, actually. Dad’s got the house to himself.” She laughed. “He’s loving it… He’s been having Noah and Sam over a lot, he says. ‘Guy time’, or whatever.” The young woman rolled her eyes with a smile.
“But I think he’s secretly a little lonely too.” She added. “He’s been calling me all the time, and finding excuses to come over…” Krystina shook her head.
“Well I’m glad he’s keeping busy.” Evelyn smiled. “Where’d your mom go? Business trip?”
Krystina’s face fell. “No…” She said sadly. “She flew out to Bridgeport. She’s visiting her friend… Well, maybe ‘friend’ isn’t the right word…” The girl paused. “My mom used to be married.” She explained. “A real long time ago, when she was even younger than me. He was killed in a car accident years ago, way before she even met my dad.”
She took a deep breath. “Even after all this time, she’s still close with her first husband’s mom… And she’s a really sweet woman, actually. I’ve met her tons of times when I was growing up…” Krystina felt her voice shake slightly as an unexpected wave of sadness welled up inside her. “But she’s dying… And mom wanted to go see her one last time.”
Evelyn nodded sympathetically. “That’s so sad… But it’s nice that your mom gets to say goodbye.”
“I guess…” Krystina agreed, managing to compose herself. “I talked to her on the phone last week, and it was just so sad to hear her sounding so weak, and frail…” She shook her head. “It’s hard to think that it could be the last time I ever talk to Caroline again.”
Evelyn furrowed her brow. “Caroline?”
Krystina nodded. “Caroline Bouchard.” She explained. “She’s actually a pretty famous scientist… Pharmaceutical research. My grandfather used to love talking to her about it.” She smiled. “But I think she’s a little, uh… after your time… So maybe you’ve never heard of her.”
The expression on the ghost’s face indicated otherwise.
“Caroline… Bouchard?” Evelyn was suddenly muttering under her breath. “Jimmy Bouchard? From sophomore chemistry?! No way…”
“Um… Evelyn, is everything okay?” Krystina asked nervously. “Did… Did you know her?”
Her friend seemed to be ignoring her. Evelyn furrowed her brow for a few moments, as though struggling to remember something. Then finally, she continued muttering under her breath distractedly. The ghost’s eyes widened with every word she spoke. “She’s a scientist… In Bridgeport… And she had a son who died…” Her entire face suddenly lit up. “So if that was him, then his wife was…” Evelyn shook her head, looking almost amused.
But her amusement quickly gave way to something else. Krystina watched as her friend’s face suddenly fell. “You say she’s dying?” She asked, addressing Krystina once more.
She nodded, watching as the bright, happy green of her friends’ form quickly faded away. Krystina gave up trying to ask Evelyn what was going on – her friend’s reaction had said enough. “She lived an incredible life though.” The girl explained. “She’s leaving behind quite a legacy…”
Evelyn was thoughtful for a moment. “Good.” She said finally. “That’s great to hear, actually…”
The ghost was silent for a few more moments, her dull gray slowly brightening back to green.
“Okay, I’ve been keeping you here long enough.” She said at last, with a laugh. “You need to get some sleep! I’m not even sure it was the best idea for you to come here tonight…” Evelyn confessed. “I’m thrilled to see you, of course! But, I mean… in your, uh… condition…”
Krystina just rolled her eyes. “Condition? Seriously?”
Her friend laughed. “You know what I mean! Ahhh, this is so exciting though!” Evelyn grinned as she floated forward, reaching out for Krystina’s stomach. “I can’t believe it!”
“How much longer again?”
“Three more months!” Krystina beamed proudly. “I’ll find a way to bring her here to meet you. I promise.”
“I’ll hold you to it!” The ghost laughed. “God, I haven’t seen a baby in…” She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. Just… a really long time.”
Krystina couldn’t help but giggle as she pulled Evelyn in for a hug. “I miss you, Ev. But I’ll try to come visit as soon as I can… And I’m so glad I got to see you tonight.”
“Me too.” Evelyn replied warmly. “Good luck with the baby, Krysti. I love you.”
“Thanks, Ev.” Krysti smiled. “I love you, too.”