I stood there on Ms. Smith's doorstep in confusion. How could it be? I asked her, "Well, do you have a niece or something?"
"I haven't had a visitor for months until you came. Well, other than your mom anyway. What made you think I did?"
"I must have just been seeing things."
I walked back to my house. I knew I couldn't have just imagined her. I'd clearly seen a girl at Ms. Smith's house! People don't just disappear. What happened to her?
I went up to my room and sprawled onto my bed. I heard the phone ring, but I ignored it. I knew I'd never be able to talk to anyone in my state of puzzlement. I let the clock tick away. No second, minute, or hour mattered if they weren't spent looking at the girl.
My mom came into my room after a while. She took a seat on the edge of my bed, and I sat up.
"I just got off the phone with Julie. She said you came to her house and asked about a girl. Is this true?"
"Yes," I sighed. I'd hoped that Ms. Smith would keep to herself. I didn't want to seem crazy in front of my mom, even though she wouldn't try to understand. "I thought I saw a girl from my window, but my eyes were just playing tricks on me."
"I understand," my mom said. "If you ever see her again, I want you to ignore her."
I knew she thought I was crazy with the way it seemed like she was talking to a five-year-old. I knew I wasn't crazy. I knew I had to see the girl again, no matter what it took.
On Monday, I managed to get myself another sick day, although I was as healthy as a horse. I spent the morning watching for the girl. Several times I thought I saw her, but it was just Ms. Smith's pale curtains.
Just when I had lost hope, I saw her. She drifted past the window without stopping to look at me. The window fogged again and the letters formed.
Are you coming?
I rushed downstairs and grabbed my coat. I hurried out the back door. I sprinted across the lawn and glanced at the fence. I grabbed a flower from my mom's garden and climbed over.
I landed in Ms. Smith's garden. The girl was waiting for me. She looked even better up close. Her delicate and gentle face showed no emotion. She wore a white gown that drifted along behind her as she walked?or floated?towards me. I offered her the flower, but she didn't take it.
She was like nothing I had seen before. I couldn't believe I was finally seeing her up close. There was no way I could be crazy. She was right there! I could reach out and touch her!
"Hello," she said. Her voice wasn't as sharp and cold as I had expected. It resembled snow more than ice. "She's got a lovely garden, doesn't she?"
Words failed me, so I just nodded in agreement. Radiant sunflowers grew far above my head. The reddest roses I'd ever seen grew on a trimmed bush in the center of the garden. Daisies, cosmos, pansies, and plenty of other flowers were arranged carefully in sections all around the garden.
"What is your name?" she asked me.
"Michael," I replied. "What's yours?"
"That sounds like an old name."
"It is." She smiled for a second. Then, she inched closer. "You must be very attentive to have seen me."
"I've been told that I'm very vigilant, but it was kind of hard to miss the messages on my window. How on earth did you do that?" Then, it hit me. I had finally connected the events. "You're not human . . . are you . . .?"
Victoria said nothing. She just stared at me again. I reached out to touch her face, but my hand went through it like it was mist. I felt myself drop the flower and back against the fence in amazement.
"You're a ghost."
Her eyes shifted to the ground. "Are you afraid of me?"
I didn't know what to say. I wasn't afraid of her, but she was a ghost. How could I not be at least a little scared? "I don't think so."
She looked up at me. "Good."
"Why are you a ghost?" I asked her. "I mean . . . why are you here?"
It appeared that she was finding the words to say. She looked thoughtfully at me and said, "You may want to sit down. It's a long story."
I walked away from the fence and sat down on the ground by some large sunflowers. Victoria drifted over and sat down across from me.
"I was born in this very house," she said as she pointed to Ms. Smith's home. "My parents were often at work, so I'd come to this garden when I was little. It was my sanctuary. It still is." She paused to sigh. "One day, I heard my parents quarreling, so I fled to the garden. I heard a gunshot and a scream. I, naturally, was scared. I hid in the sunflowers. I heard my father call my name. He didn't sound happy. I simply went deeper into the flowers. I found out later that he shot my mom after a long night of drinking. He probably would've done the same to me if he had found me."
"Wow," I gasped. "That's so sad."
"I know. There's more, too. Would you like to hear it?"