“Pirates? Like in Peter Pan?”
“Well, technically pirate. Singular. Just one. A girl.”
“A girl pirate?”
“She says her name is Anne.” Evelyn fidgeted uncomfortably, pulling at her skirt.
“I didn’t know there were girl pirates.”
“Well, there were. At least two, anyway. Anne tells me that she had a friend called Mary and they were pirates together on the sea.”
I tore into the scone Evelyn had given me with unladylike vigor so I’d have time to process this. The only pirates I’d ever seen were the mustachioed men from that Peter Pan play I saw last time I was in London. Still, though, I supposed it was easier to believe that there were lady pirates than that Evelyn was seeing the ghost of one.
“And, uh, she’s not the only one.”
“Another? You’re seeing two ghosts?” Below my nose, my tea had grown cold. Oh well. Evelyn wasn’t particularly good at making tea anyway—leaf bits always got stuck to my teeth.
“Three, actually.” Evelyn tucked her long hair behind her ears. “I see three ghosts.”
Evelyn bit her lip and broke eye contact, looking up and over my left shoulder and I couldn’t help but turn even though I knew I wouldn’t see anybody y there.
“Who are…” It was hard to get the words out—the situation was unbelievable enough as it was. “Who are you looking at?”
“Hegelochus,” Evelyn said slowly, as if she was trying to get the pronunciation right.
“He’s… he was an actor in ancient Greece.”
“I see.” If this was all just Evelyn’s imagination, I thought, she sure was being creative. “And, uh, who’s the third?”
I had expecting a far more interesting name after Hege-whosit. “Just… Thomas?”
“Thomas Keeny,” Evelyn said, looking over my right shoulder this time. “He’s from the colonies. Died of diphtheria, apparently.”
“I see,” I said, lying. I took a sip of my room temperature tea and sure enough, bits of leaf stuck to my tongue. Gross.
“I know you must think I’m crazy,” Evelyn started, looking at me nervously. She pulled at her skirt again, and I couldn’t help but wonder how uncomfortable it was. I hadn’t the foggiest idea why she was wearing her uniform in the first place—it was the middle of summer. Maybe she was using it as proof; after all, a lady of Peplum Prep would never lie about something as important as seeing ghosts, right?
“I didn’t say you were crazy.”
“It makes sense though. I mean, seeing ghosts? I’d believe I was crazy if I were learning it.”
“Well, I mean… Can you prove it?”
Evelyn paused for a second, looking over my head. “Hegelochus can speak Greek, if you want me to… I don’t know… relay some Greek?”
“How would that help? I don’t speak Greek—you could be talking gibberish for all I know.”
Evelyn paused for another second before her entire face went pink.
“What? What happened?”
“Thomas would like me to tell you… uh… he wants me to tell you…”
“What? Evelyn, spit it out.”
“He wants me to tell you that when you were eight, he saw you draw a picture of Avery Robinson from church and put it under your pillow so you could kiss it goodnight.”
My ears and cheeks burn. “There’s no… I mean I never… Nobody… knew that…”
“He wants to let you know he wasn’t trying to be a creep.”
“How is spying in a girl’s window not being a creep?”
“He was looking for me and he felt my… presence in your mind, apparently.” Evelyn’s nose twitched and I knew she was going to say something mischievous before she opened her mouth. “Of course, I don’t know how he could ever have sensed me in your mind with Avery Robinson—”
“Sorry, sorry.” She chuckled lightly. “Just trying to relieve tension a little bit.”
I took a deep breath. I had to hand it to her—the tension had certainly been relieved.
“So… why are you telling me?”
“Why are you telling me?”
Evelyn deflated slightly. “I thought… I thought we were friends?”
“No, no, we are!” I didn’t know we were that close though. When we were young and I had just moved to this tiny town, escaping the Great War that had eventually killed Evelyn’s parents, we had been thick as thieves. But Evelyn’s uncle had sent her off to boarding school with her cousin when she was twelve and I hadn’t seen much of her since. And if she was seeing ghosts… well, it didn’t really seem normal that I’d be the one she’d tell. “It’s just… you know… I haven’t seen much of you since you went off to Peplum. Why didn’t you tell Jasmine, or…” Actually, the only person I’d seen her with since she came back was her cousin.
Evelyn pulled a face. “Jazzy… she’s great, but I… just don’t think she’s quite… get it, you know? She still treats me like I’m a dainty little flowerpot. I just thought if anyone… you’d understand the best.”
For a second, neither one of us spoke and I couldn’t help but picture Evelyn’s three ghosts standing at my shoulders and peaking in my bedroom windows. “So… what do we do now?”
Evelyn smiled, glancing up to her right where I supposed her pirate must be standing.”
“Well, that’s the other thing I wanted to talk with you about. The ghosts say—sorry, what? —okay. Well, Anne and Thomas say that there is buried treasure somewhere on the outskirts of town and… I thought it might be fun to try and find it.”
Anne and Thomas, I thought. And Evelyn saw three ghosts. “What about Hege… Hegemony?”
Evelyn rolled her eyes. “Hegelochus says that the Romans were inarticulate war-mongering fools and any treasure they might have is completely stupid.”
“Wait, it’s Roman treasure? From Rome? Then why is it here?”
“The Romans conquered all over Europe,” Evelyn said, smiling proudly. “Including here. There’s the remains of a temple of Claudius not far from here, according to Thomas.”
“Thomas… the kid from the colonies?”
“He was a classicist, he studied all this stuff.” Evelyn pursed her lips. “And Anne was a pirate, she knew about treasure, and Hegelochus knows how the Romans think.”
“Wow, that’s… lucky.” It seemed almost too good to be true.
“I know, I know, it sounds too good to be true.” Evelyn looked down. “But I think… I think they were sent to me.”
“Sent to you?”
“Like, by God?”
“Well, no, I don’t think so. I don’t know… by who they’d be sent but I…” Evelyn smiled up, over her right shoulder. “Nevermind. I don’t know how to explain it. Anyway, I just… wanted to know if you’d be in.”
“In our treasure hunt.”
“Oh.” I smoothed down my skirt. It wasn’t as nice as Evelyn’s nice uniform skirt, and my underdress was sticking to my bum. “I don’t… I don’t know, Evelyn. I mean… maybe I told you about the Avery Robinson thing when we were both eight.”
Evelyn’s lip wobbled. “I’m not… I’m not lying. I promise.”
“It’s just…” I bit my lip. “You haven’t been the same… for a while. I mean—”
It wasn’t like I didn’t believe that she was telling the truth—it was more like believing it would be far harder than believing it was the case.
“Please?” Evelyn slammed her hand down on the table and I jumped back in surprise. Evelyn was never violent or loud.
Before I could answer her, Evelyn’s Aunt appeared in the doorway. “Evelyn? Honey?”
“Do you want to come upstairs, honey? You seem upset.”
“No, I’m not,” Evelyn said, grabbing the edge of the table. Her gaze darted back and forth from me to her Aunt. “Please, Peg. You have to believe me.”
And part of me really wanted to believe her. I’d missed Evelyn so much in the four years she’d been gone, and she wasn’t crazy—she really wasn’t. She’d always been the most practical one of the two of us. But ghosts? Really? It just wasn’t feasible, even if she knew about the Avery thing.
“Actually, Evelyn, I think I’m going to go before I head out.”
“Oh?” Aunt Gladys looked at me. “Do you need an escort? I can go get Benjamin right—”
“No, no, it’s okay. It’s not dark out.”
“I never let Evelyn and Jasmine go out without an escort.”
“I’ll be alright, Mrs. Andersen. I promise.”
Evelyn went quiet with frustration, just like when she was a kid. Just before I reach the door, however, she called out to me. “Peg! Please, if you… if you change your mind, we could go… we could have an adventure, just like when we were little kids. Please believe me. Please…”
As I shut their heavy oak door, I hear Aunt Gladys tell Evelyn to come up stairs with her. Then the door closed, and once again I was shut off from Evelyn. The walk home was serene, as always—the war never seemed to touch this place, and it’d been trapped in time for seemingly ever.
I picked at my skirt as it snagged and dragged on the dirty streets. It would’ve been nice if I could’ve worn knee length dresses like everyone else, but Mother insisted on cladding me in her old hand-me-downs. Nothing ever seemed to happen in this sleepy little town, which is probably why it had taken me so long to get back to my senses when Evelyn had started talking about ghosts. I sighed—I hadn’t meant to think about her on the walk home, but passing the bookstore reminded me of her. And the bakery. And the cobbler.
By the time I reach my cottage on the top of the hill, I wish I would’ve said yes and gone treasure hunting with Evelyn. Maybe she wasn’t crazy, just imaginative. Or kidding. That could be the case, couldn’t it?
“Margaret! You’re home!”
“You’re late!” That was a fast turnaround.
“Sorry, Mother. Evelyn asked me over.”
“Oh, Evelyn Andersen?” Mother perked up again. Fickle. “Get in good with that family. Their young son would make a good husband for Katharine.”
I kept myself from rolling my eyes. Katharine’s six and Evelyn’s cousin was two. It was a little early to be thinking of that. “Alright, Mother.”
“Are you feeling okay? You look a bit fevered.”
“I’m fine, Mother. I think I’m going to go up to my room.”
My room reminded me of Evelyn too. I should’ve just agreed to go. It took me a moment to prop open my window, but once I did, I felt much better. The evening air was cool, breezing over my arms. In the distance, an owl called. A flash of wings over the wings served as a reminder that birds weren’t the only wings in the skies tonight. As peaceful as I could imagine—at least, until a bright white light suddenly flashed in my peripheral. As I stuck my head out the window, I thought I saw something at my front door.
Startled by my mother’s yell, I hit my head on the window frame and startled back into my bed just in time to hear her mutter something.
“What was that?” I called downstairs.
“I don’t know,” she yelled back. “A letter for you.”
“So you do know then.”
“Don’t yell,” she shouted. “You’ll wake your sister.”
The stairs creaked as I walked down the stairs and received the letter, which was packaged in a strange brown envelope. “Who gave you this?”
“I didn’t see the man,” my mother said, turning back to her needlepoint.
I took the envelope back up to my room to open. Inside, I shook out a torn-out page from an encyclopedia, a photograph, and a scrap of paper with a hand drawn picture on it. Someone had drawn three people on it; my gaze immediately jumped to a woman with puffy pants, a gun, and a shirt that, ahem, covered hardly anything at all. Next to her was a drawing of a chubby man in what looked like a bed sheet dress that also didn’t cover enough, and the third figure was a man with curly black hair in a vest and dress pants. Evelyn’s ghosts, I presumed.
The encyclopedia page looked as if someone had cross certain things out and added in notes and then the whole thing had been smudged with ink, but I could still make out the general gist. “Anne Bonney,” I muttered. So there were female pirates after all. The photograph matched the young man.
“Huh.” If Evelyn was lying, she was doing a very thorough job.
I sighed, sitting down on my bed. I wanted to believe Evelyn. I’d missed her so much. She couldn’t possibly be crazy, right? I just needed a sign.
The window was shut, I noticed. Had I shut it before I went downstairs?
It didn’t matter. What mattered is how I was going to help Evelyn. I wished so badly I could just blindly believe her, go on a wild adventure with her, tell her…
I looked at myself in the mirror above my drawers. I was pathetic.
Then, I noticed a face right behind me in the mirror.
And the lights went out.
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