The stars above twinkled brilliantly in the clear black sky. The night sky back in Newcrest had always been lovely. But this… This was unbelievable.
He was right. Evelyn thought, amazed as she stared up at the thousands of twinkling pinpricks of light. Lucas had always told her how much more beautiful the night sky was in Granite Falls than back home. And now she was finally able to see it for herself.
The girl sighed. If only he could be there to see it with her.
It had been months since the night she’d been given her life back – the same horrible night when Lucas was taken from her. And the pain was still as deep and real as it had been on that terrible night. Her new life – the one she’d been dreaming of and looking forward to for decades – felt so meaningless and empty without him to share it with.
Until recently, Evelyn’s life had fallen into somewhat of a routine – one that made the days and nights blend together in a muddled mess in her mind.
She slept for many hours each day, often until the early afternoon. The warmth and softness of the cozy bed was so comforting and safe. Most days, she didn’t even want to get up at all. And, in the beginning, there were some days when she didn’t.
It was not long before she noticed that Lucas’ garden had begun to fall into disrepair. The once-healthy plants had begun to wilt, and each garden box was becoming overgrown with dandelions and weeds.
Evelyn soon began spending long afternoons tending to Lucas’s plants, pulling up weeds, watering the dry soil, and spraying pesticide to keep the insects at bay. It was difficult work, and not exactly fun. But it was strangely satisfying too – especially knowing that she was helping to care for the garden Lucas had once loved so much.
It was the nights that were the worst. Every evening, after forcing down some unpleasant dinner, Evelyn would walk for more than an hour to visit the church where Lucas’ grave now lay. She had no other choice – She had no driver’s license, and no car for that matter. And she certainly wasn’t going to ask Krystina to take her. She won’t understand…
Part of her knew it was foolish, of course. Lucas would have moved on, eager to be with Mel and his parents again, wouldn’t he? But what if he didn’t have a choice, just like me? Evelyn wondered. What if he’s still here?
But then, if he had stayed behind, why would he keep ignoring her like this? Well, that’s what I did to him for over thirty years. She remembered. Why shouldn’t he do the same to me?
And so Evelyn held on to her foolish hopes. She sat there for hours, night after night, waiting and pleading for Lucas to come speak to her. But he never did.
The girl’s mind was brought back to the present by a soft chorus of snores and deep breathing coming from the tent beside her. They must all be asleep. Evelyn thought to herself. Good.
Now was her chance.
She rose to her feet slowly and carefully, then crept past the tent where Krystina and her family now slept. Evelyn hoped she’d be back by the time they awoke the next morning. The last thing she wanted to do was worry them.
Krystina, Mitch, and the kids had been so kind and supportive to her over the past several months. Evelyn genuinely did not know what she would have done without them. Despite Krystina’s frustration, her friend had not given up on her, and was the one who pushed her to start taking better care of herself.
It was mostly the little things – no longer staying in bed all day, changing her clothes every morning, eating on a regular basis… Maybe these things would not have seemed significant to most people. But for Evelyn, it was a huge step toward finally feeling normal.
But perhaps the greatest gift had been when Krystina presented her with something she hadn’t seen in decades – a brand new guitar.
Music had always been Evelyn’s passion – and before her death, it was what she’d always dreamed of doing for the rest of her life. When she held that guitar for the first time, it felt like stepping into a dream. And though there was a lot she would need to re-learn, it brought her so much peace and joy to be playing again at long last. In fact, now that she looked back on it, the times she’d picked up her guitar had been the only truly happy moments she’d experienced since Lucas’ death.
But the joy never lasted for very long.
Evelyn’s eyes scanned the tall trees and thick underbrush as she continued walking, searching for some clue that she was headed in the right direction. She did not have very much to go on – just the vague descriptions she’d recalled hearing from Krystina and Lucas years ago. It can’t be that hard to find… Can it? She wondered as she continued to survey her unfamiliar surroundings.
It was still difficult to wrap her head around just how far she was from Newcrest. Until just a few weeks ago, she’d barely even left the house at all, and she’d had no desire to. Being there made her feel close to Lucas. It was familiar. It was safe. It was home. Why leave?
And yet now here she was, several hours farther from home than she’d been in more than eight decades.
For the first few months, a trip like this would have been out of the question for Evelyn. Even going out in public too often was risky. What if someone asked who she was? What if she was asked for an ID? What could she say? What could she do?
Evelyn Magee had died over eighty years ago, and so too had all public record of her existence. She had no birth certificate, or social security number, or driver’s license… Nothing. Evelyn knew she could not go on like that for much longer. Eventually, they’d have to do something about it… But what?
A little more than a month ago, Krystina had done some digging, and found an answer at last. She and Evelyn met with a rather intimidating man in a shabby little office on the outskirts of the city. He’d chuckled to himself as the two women greeted him, and explained that they were nothing like his usual clientele.
A few hours (and several thousand dollars) later, Evelyn left with a completely new identity – and a phony paper trail to back it all up.
Her name was Evelyn Ainsworth. Her mother, Krystina, had given birth to her after a brief fling, and put her up for adoption many years ago before marrying Mitch. Evelyn had grown up at an orphanage in Oasis Springs, but was never adopted. And now, more than twenty years later, Evelyn had returned to Newcrest and was reunited with her birth mother at last.
Mitch was not very happy with the implications behind the tale, of course. And Krystina wasn’t thrilled either… But it was the easiest explanation for Evelyn’s sudden appearance in their lives. And with her lack of an identity no longer holding her back, Evelyn no longer had an excuse to avoid going out in public anymore – something Krystina and her family quickly took advantage of.
Sometimes Danica would coax her out of the house and drag her on a visit to the mall.
Or some evenings, Evelyn would join the family for a trip to the movies, or a picnic in the park.
And she had to admit, it was fun spending time with the family somewhere other than home for a change. But it was extremely awkward and uncomfortable too. Every glance or smile or word of greeting from a stranger was terrifying. What were these people thinking of her? How was she supposed to respond?
Though she continued to put on a brave face during their outings, Evelyn much preferred the days when she could be alone, and fall back into her usual routine – sleeping in until noon time, tending to the garden, practicing a few songs on her guitar, and keeping her nightly vigil at Lucas’ grave.
As Evelyn continued walking, she noticed the ground begin to slope upward. That’s good, right? She thought nervously. It was so difficult to remember… Part of her wished she’d been brave enough to just ask Krystina if she remembered the way. But Evelyn simply couldn’t bring herself to do it. She can’t find out about this…
About a week ago, Krysti and Mitch had sat her down and told her about their plan to spend the weekend in Granite Falls. It would be their first time bringing the entire family to the mountains, and they wanted Evelyn to join them.
“You’re family too.” They’d told her warmly. “And not just because that bogus birth certificate says so.”
It was an incredibly sweet gesture, one which Evelyn appreciated greatly. And I have always wanted to visit…
But Evelyn knew it was an invitation she could not accept. Venturing out to the mall or movie theater was already a challenge for her. She simply wasn’t ready to travel that far away, and for that long. Not yet, at least. And maybe she never would be.
Krystina and her family were always so eager to get her out of the house, but Evelyn could not understand why. She’d learned to take care of herself, just like Krystina wanted her to. So what if she didn’t want to leave? It was her choice, wasn’t it?
Can’t they understand? I just want to feel close to him… She thought sadly.
And that was when it hit her. Maybe she could do more than just feel close to Lucas… Maybe she could truly be close to him again. And there’s only one person who can help me do it…
“I’d love to come.” Evelyn smiled gently at a surprised Krystina and Mitch as she accepted their invitation. “Thank you.”
She shivered slightly against the crisp mountain air as she headed deeper and deeper into the woods. Everything seemed so cold and still now – even the crickets had stopped chirping. Evelyn felt uneasy as her eyes scanned the rocky cliff face in front of her. Coming here had seemed like such a brilliant idea at first, but now she wasn’t so sure…
Wait. Oh my God… Is that it?! The girl’s breath caught in her throat as her eyes fell upon a dark opening in the rocks up ahead.
It looked just like Lucas and Krystina had described – a small, dark passageway through the cliff, partially hidden by tall grass and dangling vines.
Evelyn’s heart began to race with anticipation and for once, the feeling was welcome. She approached the opening eagerly. I can’t believe it… I found it! She paused for a moment at the entrance to the tiny passage, her eyes studying the eerie blackness that lay before her. From somewhere up ahead, the distant sound of rushing water reached her ears. The waterfall! This has to be it…
Lucas and Krystina had both come here before, searching for answers years ago… and they’d found them. Evelyn silently prayed she’d be just as lucky.
With a deep breath, the girl leaned forward, pushed past the hanging vines, and disappeared into the darkness.