Lucas was completely exhausted at work that morning. Not only had he literally had no sleep the night before, but his mind was full of so many thoughts that he simply could not focus. At first, it was mostly thoughts of Evelyn, and how overjoyed he felt to have been reunited with her at last. But his joy was quickly overtaken by uncertainty and dread as he thought of his wife, and how he could even begin to explain all the things he’d been withholding from her for so many years…
When he finally arrived home late in the afternoon, Lucas felt more nervous and more exhausted than he could remember feeling in a long time. I can’t put this off for much longer… But where to start?
He crossed through the entryway and into the living room where Melanie sat on the couch, reading. Just looking at her made the uneasy feeling in his stomach slowly rise. With a deep breath he headed around the side of the sofa and sat beside her.
“Hey, sweetie.” Mel smiled, glancing up from her book.
“Hey.” He replied weakly.
Her face fell when she looked at him. “Long day?” She asked, concerned.
Her husband nodded. “Yeah, you could say that…” He tried to smile. “Would you mind if… Maybe we order a pizza or something tonight? I’m just feeling pretty beat…”
Melanie’s eyes widened, and Lucas knew why – they almost never ordered takeout or delivery. Lucas had always loved cooking every meal in their household, and was usually quite picky of other restaurants’ food – especially chain restaurants or takeout places.
She knows something’s up… He realized nervously.
To his relief, however, she did not question him. “Sure.” She said, a hint of uncertainty in her tone. “I don’t mind.”
“Thanks, honey.” Lucas replied, sighing softly and closing his eyes. He was just so tired. Maybe he’d feel better after a little rest.
How the heck did I ever manage to get by after all those nights I spent with Ev? He wondered. Of course, he was about 35 years younger at the time. I guess that had something to do with it… Lucas thought with a yawn.
A couple of hours later, after a quick nap and a somewhat dissatisfying dinner, Lucas did not feel much better. Mel continued to eye him curiously throughout their meal, and stole a few sideways glances at him as they sat on the couch together after supper to watch some TV.
They’d been hoping to catch a rerun of one of Sam’s routines on the comedy channel – it was still so exciting to catch a glimpse of their friend on the big screen – but they seemed to have missed it. Lucas only half-paid attention as the young, unfamiliar comedian went through a somewhat predictable routine. Beside him, Mel did not seem very focused on the show either.
Don’t put it off any longer. He told himself firmly. You just have to do it.
Lucas picked up the controller and turned off the TV, saying nothing as he did so. His wife turned to face him uneasily. “Is everything okay?” She asked him softly.
“No.” Lucas replied honestly. “Mel… I… I really need to talk to you about something.” He took a deep breath. “It’s a really long story, and I… I don’t exactly… Well, I’m not sure where to begin…” The man stumbled awkwardly over his words. Goddamn it, how am I ever gonna spit this out?
“Just try.” His wife urged him gently, though there was a strange expression on her face as she spoke that Lucas could not quite describe. It did nothing to help his unease.
“Okay… Um… Do you remember my friend Evelyn?” He choked out nervously.
Melanie nodded. “Of course. The one who passed away, right?”
“Y-yeah… Well…” Lucas took a deep breath. “What if I told you… That… She didn’t… Didn’t really… Pass away, exactly?”
“So… She’s still alive?”
“No. Yes. Kind of… Ugh.” Lucas shook his head. “This is really hard to explain…” He paused. “She did die… But not when I told you she did…” He looked at Mel uncertainly.
Melanie said nothing for a few moments. “So… She died earlier, then?” She asked softly.
Lucas was surprised. He expected that she’d assume it was later. He nodded. “Y-yeah…”
“And… how much earlier, exactly?” Mel’s tone was suddenly much less sympathetic than before.
“Uh, well –”
“Months? No wait, years, I bet…”
“Honey, what’re you –”
“Like maybe… I dunno, before you were even born?”
For a moment, he was confused. But then it hit him.
Holy shit. She knows.
All the color drained from Lucas’ face.
Mel was just staring at him now, wearing a scowl. Lucas didn’t know what to say. How did she figure it out?! Did Krysti tell her?!
“Mel…” He paused nervously. “How long have you known? How did you find out?”
His wife took a deep breath. “A few days after I got back from Bridgeport, I had coffee with your mom, and I mentioned that Caroline’s friend Evelyn used to live in your house… She showed me the grave in the backyard, and told me all about your old ‘imaginary friend’…” Melanie explained. “And then the night I saw Cam and Laura, I tried asking them about it, and they told me about some camping trip? When you told them your girlfriend was dead?”
Oh god… Lucas held his face in his hands. He couldn’t believe that a drunken slip-up from more than 40 years ago had somehow come back to bite him now.
“And then I talked to Krysti.” She finished at last. “She’d told me once about her ‘imaginary friend’ named Evelyn too… And it finally all seemed to make sense.” Mel shrugged.
Lucas sighed. “Can’t keep anything from my girls…” He tried to smile. “Too clever.”
Mel was not amused. “Lucas, exactly how many more decades of marriage were you planning on letting slip by before you told me the truth?” She asked. Her hurt and anger were apparent in her voice as she spoke.
It was a few moments before Lucas replied. “I don’t know.” He confessed. “I… I thought she was gone… I never thought I’d really have to…” He looked at his wife nervously as he spoke.
“Why weren’t you just honest with me from the beginning?” She asked.
“Because I was scared.” Lucas answered honestly. “Do you realize how insane this whole thing sounds?”
“I do.” Mel agreed. “But… Do you realize that you can tell me anything? I’ll always listen, no matter what.” She said seriously.
“I know.” Lucas sighed. “I’m sorry, Mel. I never should have kept this from you.” He paused. “So please, will you let me try to make it up to you?”
“By telling you everything.”
Mel bit her lip. “You promise?” She asked. “Everything?”
“Everything.” He agreed, pausing for a slow, deep breath. Here goes…
“Okay. I guess I should start at the beginning.” Lucas began. “It all started back when I was a kid. When my parents and I first moved here, things were pretty rough, y’know? I felt like such an outcast, and all the other kids were so mean… So one night, I decided to run away…”
“So… that’s everything?” Mel asked, speaking at last.
He eyed her nervously, waiting for her response to the whole unbelievable tale. What could she be thinking? He wondered.
She had only interrupted him twice as he shared the whole story with her– Once to express her shock and confusion at Lucas’ mention of meeting Death, and once to express her dismay that Lucas and Evelyn had still been together back when they first met.
“All you told me that night was that you ‘weren’t looking for anything’!” She’d cried. “Lucas, ‘I’m not looking’ and ‘I have a girlfriend’ are two completely different things!”
“I know.” Lucas agreed, biting his lip. “But… You were so beautiful and sweet and funny…” There was an almost wistful look in his eye for a moment. “I really liked you, Mel. From the first moment we met.” He confessed. “And ‘I’m not looking’ is a lot less final than ‘I have a girlfriend’, don’t you think?” He asked guiltily.
Mel simply sighed in reply and let him continue.
“So… what happens now?” Melanie said finally, bringing Lucas’ attention back to the present. There was a strange sort of sadness in her voice.
“What do you mean?” He asked uncertainly.
“It sounds like you two are friends again.” Mel replied with a shrug. “Does this mean… You’re still gonna try to bring her back?” Her voice was almost a whisper.
“Of course. I have to.”
The look on his wife’s face told him instantly that she did not agree.
“You don’t want me to.” Lucas said softly. It wasn’t a question.
A look of guilt slowly crept onto Mel’s face. “I know it’s what you’ve always wanted… And I guess… it is the right thing, but…” She bit her lip. “What happens when you do?”
“What are you saying?” Lucas asked, fearing he already knew the answer.
His wife hesitated. “She still loves you, doesn’t she?” She asked softly. “And you loved her, right? M-maybe part of you still does…” Mel added sadly. “And, once she’s alive again…” She shook her head and did not finish.
Her husband’s face fell. “Mel, how can you even talk like that?” Lucas tried his best to hide just how deeply her words had hurt him.
“I know, I know.” She hung her head for a moment. “It’s awful of me to say… But… I can’t help feeling kind of…” She did not finish the sentence, but Lucas knew exactly what she was thinking – jealous.
Lucas considered his next words for a moment. “Well… What if it was Christian?”
“What if you could bring him back? Give him a second chance to live the life he never got to live?”
Melanie didn’t even hesitate. “Of course I would! I’d do anything.” She said seriously.
Mel said nothing, though she appeared suddenly thoughtful.
“And… I’ve gotta admit… I’d be pretty jealous if you did, too.” He confessed. “But…” Lucas continued, a bit more nervously this time. “If you did manage to bring him back… What would you do?” He asked. “Would you leave me? Go back to him?”
Mel shook her head. “Never.” She said softly. Lucas could tell by her face that she understood exactly what he was getting at.
“And why not?”
His wife sighed. “Because… I’m a different person now than I was with him. When we were together, I was just a kid… I’ve grown so much since then… With you.” She smiled slightly. “And I’d never throw what we have away. Not for anything.”
Lucas simply smiled at her.
“Okay.” She said softly. “I get it.”
Her husband placed a large, warm hand over hers. “Evelyn means a lot to me.” He explained. “But I love you, Mel. You’re the person I chose to spend my life with. And if I could go back in time a thousand times, I would always choose you. Nothing will ever change that, okay?”
Melanie placed her hand over his. “Okay.” She replied gently. “This will take a lot of getting used to…” She confessed. “And… I think I’d appreciate it if you maybe warned me before you go to see her again? But I trust you.” Mel paused. “Just… No more secrets. From either one of us. Deal?”
It was amazing how after all these years, her smile still gave him butterflies…