Everybody has ghosts, she said.
Is that so?
Don’t be silly, Dad.
I sighed, knowing ghosts weren’t real. At least, not the kind she was searching for.
Okay, work your magic, I said, scooting closer to the Ouija board.
Eva moved closer too, a light in her eye, a partial smile, a sight as rare as diamonds.
She was too young to have ghosts. Just a girl, barely 12. An awkward, gangly thing. Boyish, even. A little gap between her front teeth, freckles dotting her nose. She wore her hair over both shoulders, black as coal. It draped onto the board as she bent over it, brushing the letters. She toyed with the hair at all times of day, couldn’t stop if she tried, twirling it, pulling it taut, giving pause, twirling again, a subtle tick, a unique but unremarkable feature, a parting gift from her mother she could never return.
Place your finger on it like this, she said.
And who do you expect to talk to?
She eyed me, shook her head. That’s not how it works, just put your hand out, she said.
I did as I was told, studying her face. I wanted to tell her a girl her age shouldn’t have ghosts, that I carried enough for the both of us. I wanted to say she shouldn’t feel the need to establish a correspondence, that she should just focus on being a girl.
But I could see it, had for some time. She wore her ghosts like a pendant. A stunning brooch. An elaborate tattoo across her face. Her ghosts stuck by her side, tagged along, fell in line with both her and her shadow. They watched her as she slept, tucked in beneath the sheets, visited her in her dreams, called to her to wake.
If I could I’d turn back time.
Eva looked me straight in the face: Are you ready?
I don’t know, dear, I said.
She rolled her eyes — Don’t be a wuss.
Eva lit the candles stationed around us one by one before turning off the lights. She sat back down, another shy smile. Shadows danced on the board, little wisps of smoke roped between the letters.
Who do you talk to?
You don’t really talk, you just listen.
Listen to ghosts?
Does any one in particular come talk to you?
She shifted on to her knees, her hair falling across her face. She tucked it behind her ears and looked me in the face. No one special, she said.
But do they reveal themselves?
Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.
Are you ready?
I suppose, I said.
Eva took my index finger and held it gently to the planchette, moving it in a circle around the board. She nodded at me to begin.
I sighed once more, ready to move on.
Hello? Is anybody out there?
A pause. Nothing. A rush of relief.
Say it with conviction, Eva said.
Eva, I’m trying, I said, attempting to hide my impatience.
Eva nodded toward the board, the candle’s glow alight in her eyes.
The planchette was moving.
A rock rose in my throat. I looked to Eva and back at the board, unbelieving.
My voice wavered: Darling, is that you?
Born in Raleigh, N.C., Aaron Wood moved to Charleston in 2013. He is a husband, dog-dad, full-time cook, part-time student, and a writer.