“Do you want another drink, Mel?” Laura shouted a little louder than necessary.
Melanie shook her head. “No thanks.” She replied, raising her own voice slightly to be heard over the music, then turning her attention to her other friend. “Thanks for inviting me, Cam.” Melanie said kindly. “This is fun!”
Of course, it would be more fun if they’d gone somewhere that wasn’t quite as loud – or at least where they weren’t about 30 years older than everyone else in the room. But Mel didn’t mention that. Lucas’ friends had always been more into drinking and going out than she and Lucas were – something that had not changed much over the years. Melanie could already sense the other women’s growing intoxication while she sat there with barely more than a buzz.
Still, when Camryn had called and invited her out that evening, it was hard to pass up the invitation. After the emotional and physical exhaustion of her trip to Bridgeport last week, it was nice to finally unwind a bit.
“It’s only fair, right?” Camryn replied, laughing. “There was a lot of ‘guy time’ over at your place while you were gone… So tonight’s our turn!”
“How’d everything go, by the way?” Laura chimed in, her smile fading slightly. “I know it must have been tough.”
Melanie smiled. “It was really good, actually. It was so hard to leave, of course, but…” She shrugged. “A nice visit, all things considered.” The woman paused, hesitating for a few moments.
Tonight offered Mel a rare opportunity – she was here with Lucas’ friends, but for once, her husband was not around. Should I ask them? She wondered nervously. Her mind had been haunted by one thought, nearly from the moment she first arrived home – Evelyn. And as the days went by, her curiosity only grew. How could she pass up the chance to find out more?
Melanie took a deep breath. “And, uh… I found out about kind of a funny coincidence while I was down there.” She continued, trying to sound casual. “One of Caroline’s best friends used to live in Lucas’ old house.”
“Really?” Camryn smiled. “Small world!”
“I know.” Melanie agreed. “And what’s even weirder, her name was Evelyn…” The woman paused, trying to judge the others’ reactions. They said nothing, so she continued. “Wasn’t that the name of one of Lucas’ old friends, back when he was a kid?”
There was a beat of silence, then the air was full of the sound of her friends’ hearty laughter. “Evelyn?! Oh God, I haven’t heard about her in a long time.” Laura choked out through her giggles.
Camryn managed to calm down before Laura did, wiping a few tears of amusement from her eyes. There was a slight smirk on her lips as she spoke, while Laura continued belly-laughing beside her. “He told you about her?” She asked, her disbelief apparent. “Mel, Evelyn was Lucas’ old imaginary friend.” She explained.
Cam nodded, and Laura’s laughter had finally died-down enough that she could speak normally. “He used to tell Sam and Noah about ‘Evelyn’ all the time.” She added. “And when we were in high school, he even said she was his girlfriend.” Laura almost started laughing again. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry… I shouldn’t laugh… Lucas was always a little ‘funny’ though, y’know? Really lonely, kinda kept to himself…”
Camryn shook her head. “You sound like such a bitch, Laura.” She said through giggles.
“Hey, it’s true!” The woman replied, stifling her own laughter.
Melanie fought the urge to lash back defensively. They’re drunk. She reminded herself. They don’t have a filter right now… Still, it was painful to hear them mocking her husband like that… But what they were saying concerned her greatly – it was exactly what she’d feared.
“Imaginary friend?” She asked nervously.
Laura nodded. “Or at least, that’s what we always thought…” She turned to Camryn. “Remember that weekend we went to Granite Falls?”
Camryn smiled in apparent amusement. “Barely.” She confessed.
“We got smashed.” Laura explained, turning her attention back to Mel. “We were just a bunch of stupid kids… And Lucas… He starts going on and on about his girlfriend…” She shook her head. “And he told us that she wasn’t imaginary – she was dead. Hah! Dating a ghost! Can you believe it?”
“Yes! Now I remember…” Her friend chuckled. “Okay, it was a little weird.” Camryn admitted. “But he calmed down a lot with all the creepy stuff after that… This was way before he met you.” She assured Melanie.
But Mel was no longer listening. She suddenly felt incredibly sick to her stomach, her mind travelling back to a few days before, when she’d paid her mother-in-law a visit.
“And she told me her friend used to live here, in this house. Crazy, right?” Mel finished her story, setting her mug of coffee down on the dining room table as she did so.
“That’s so strange!” Becca smiled, looking thoughtful for a few moments. “Her friend… She wasn’t named Evelyn, was she?”
Melanie eyed her mother-in-law curiously. How does she know? She wondered. “She was, actually!” Mel laughed softly. “So… you’ve heard of this ‘Evelyn’ then?”
Becca’s smile widened and she rose to her feet. “Come on, I’ll show you something.” She gestured toward the glass back door.
Mel followed uncertainly as Becca led her through the back door and around the long hedge that bordered the back patio.
“It used to be covered with a bunch of old bushes and weeds,” the old woman explained, “but Lucas insisted on clearing it all away… Trying to have some respect for the dead, I suppose.” Becca shrugged, smiling as they approached an old white marble stone.
Melanie peered curiously at it, struggling for a moment to make out the words of the inscription.
June 9, 1965 – December 21, 1985
In Loving Memory
“This must be her, you’re right…” She said softly. “I never knew this was here before.”
“Well, Damien and I never really liked to call attention to it.” Becca explained. “It’s a little creepy, isn’t it?”
Melanie thought for a moment. “Maybe a little.” She admitted at last. “Did… Did Lucas know about it?”
The old woman laughed softly. “Oh yes.” She replied. “All too well… He used to have a ‘friend’ named Evelyn… He’d stay up all night pretending to play with her.” Becca shook her head. “Must’ve gotten the name from this old thing.” She gestured down at the marble tombstone. “Always an active imagination on our boy… Just like Krysti.” She smiled. “He grew out of it eventually, of course. We helped a little with that…”
“Wait.” Melanie furrowed her brow. “So… Evelyn wasn’t real?”
Her mother-in-law shrugged. “She was real to him.”
Mel hung back as Becca headed back inside. An uneasy feeling washed over her as she continued staring down at the marble stone. Evelyn wasn’t real?! Surely that couldn’t be true…
Hadn’t Lucas said his parents never approved of her? Maybe it was all some weird misunderstanding.
That’s gotta be it. Mel told herself, though the thought did little to relieve her unease.
She lingered by the grave just a few moments longer. Melanie now understood what had happened to Caroline’s Evelyn… But what about Lucas’? The whole thing just seemed to be getting stranger and stranger…
With a soft sigh, Mel tried her best to shake off her concerns and followed Becca back inside.
“Are you okay, Mel?” Laura asked kindly.
“Huh?” Melanie nearly jumped as she was abruptly called back to reality. “Y-yeah… I’m fine… I uh, think I may take you up on that drink offer though.” She smiled.
“I’m on it!” Her friend got to her feet and headed across the dancefloor toward the bar.
Camryn rose a bit shakily to her feet as well. “Alright, if we’re gonna take a minute to stretch our legs, then I’m heading to the bathroom… Be right back!”
Melanie said nothing as she watched her friends walk away. She’d said she was fine… But in truth, she was anything but fine right now.
This is really getting freaky… What could it all mean? But the more Mel tried to think about it, the more puzzled and uneasy she became…