Hallie was too exited and worked up to go to sleep. Instead, as soon as they got back to her house, she set the kettle boiling and made tea. She paced in the small kitchen while waiting for it to be ready. Cassidy and Simon started to settle down at the table, but then Cassidy decided she wanted her notebook and went upstairs to grab it. When she returned, Hallie was sitting, cupping a mug of tea in her hands. Simon had apparently taken over, because he made two more mugs and set them down on the table.
Cassidy flipped through her pages of notes on Gemma, which were mixed in with random other ghost observations. She didn’t like how messy it was, and she turned to a new page to rewrite everything in one place.
-Got lost during a snowstorm, after an argument with her brother Jerold
-Leaves footprints that disappear during the day
-Re-enacts events that lead to her getting lost – fight in the house, running through the woods
-Only appears at night? (2:00am)
-Sightings – left footprints around town – maybe around the time the farm was lost
-Harriet’s story – Jerold didn’t talk about her very much. Felt guilty because the argument was over something small. Growing up, Harriet sometimes saw footprints outside when she lived on the farm
-Gemma wants help - “Help Me” “Find Me”
-“Jerold, Harriet, Wyatt, Hallie” – her family
Cassidy circled Hallie’s name thoughtfully. Hallie and Simon had been talking, but she wasn’t really paying attention. “Do you think,” she spoke up, and they both fell silent, “she was repeating the names because she wants to meet more of your family? Maybe “Jerold, Harriet, Wyatt, Hallie. Find me,” means she wants the rest of your family to find her, like we did.”
“We didn’t find her,” Simon pointed out. “She found us.”
“What if no one ever found her?” Hallie said. “I don’t mean—obviously she wasn’t rescued. But what if no one ever found her body? What if ‘find me’ literally means ‘find me’.”
This hadn’t occurred to Cassidy somehow, maybe because Gemma had a gravestone, but that didn’t necessarily mean that they had found her. “That makes sense,” she agreed. “But how are we supposed to find her, if they couldn’t?”
“We keep thinking she’s trying to show us something,” Simon pointed out. “Maybe this is it. Maybe all of this has been about us finding her body, and she’s been showing us what happened to help us figure it all out.”
“Maybe,” Cassidy agreed. “OK. Tomorrow night we’ll see what happens, but we can’t do anything else tonight.” She yawned, which almost proved her point for her. “We need to get some sleep. Tomorrow maybe we can find out if Gemma was buried. At least then we’ll know for sure.”
“OK,” Hallie said. “You two go to bed. I just need some time to think about all of this.”
“Of course,” Cassidy said. She finished off her tea, then reached over to take Hallie’s hand and give it a squeeze. “Good night.” She began to gather up her notebook and pen.
“Wait. Can I read through your notes?” Hallie asked.
“Oh, sure,” Cassidy put the notebook back down. “It’s a bit of a mess, but you can look through it.” She slid the notebook closer to Hallie, then took Simon’s hand. “Good night, Hallie.”
“Good night,” Hallie replied distractedly, already flipping open the notebook.
The next morning they all slept in. Cassidy and Simon got up and went downstairs before Hallie. While Simon poked around for something to make for breakfast, Cassidy looked at her notebook and noticed that Hallie had added a few lines to the list about Gemma.
-What really happened? Did she run away from Jerold or towards him?
-Does she want to meet grandma and dad?
“Do you think Hallie’s going to be OK?” she said, as she flipped the notebook closed.
“Yes,” Simon replied easily. He had found frozen waffles and was sticking some in the toaster. “I know it’s a lot to take in, but she’s interested in this stuff. I think she’s more interested than scared, just like you were. And you were fine.”
“Sure,” Cassidy moved around him to get the kettle boiling. “I guess that’s true.”
“What’s true?” Hallie strolled into the kitchen, saw that they were already getting food ready, and sat down at the table. She continued without waiting for an answer. “A lot of impossible things, apparently. I’m going to visit my grandma later, and ask if she knows anything about Gemma being buried or not. I have some other things to do in town, too, so…“ She shrugged. “Life goes on, right? Anyway, I had an idea. Grandma showed us that picture of her as a kid, right? What if we showed Gemma some pictures? Of her brother, or grandma, or the farm. Maybe it would help her focus.”
Simon brought some plates of waffles over to the table, along with butter and syrup. Cassidy poured the tea. “That might help. She did respond more once we knew more information about her. It couldn’t hurt.”
“OK, perfect. Once we’re done eating, let’s head to town,” Hallie said, pouring syrup over her waffles.
Hallie rushed around to do her errands first, and in the middle of the afternoon they pulled up outside her parents’ house. They were out, but Hallie walked in and led them back down the hall to her grandmother’s painting studio. Harriet was working on a painting again, but she smiled when she saw them and stood up. “Hallie, you never visit this often!”
Hallie gave her a hug. “I know, sorry about that. We just had some more questions about Gemma.”
“Oh?” Harriet wiped the paint from her hands. She was painting a snowy scene of a farmhouse sitting in front of a dark forest. “I think I told you everything I know.”
“I know,” Hallie said. “It’s just a weird question. Do you know if… did they bury her?”
Harriet looked between the three of them. “I don’t think they did,” she said after a moment. “I don’t think they ever found her. Hallie, honey, I get the feeling there’s more to this story.”
Hallie’s cheeks reddened. “Grandma, there’s nothing more to it. Cassidy’s just trying to learn more about ghosts, that’s all. And I was hoping we could look through your photos.”
Harriet clearly didn’t believe her, but she nodded. “Go ahead.” She gestured at her shelf, and picked up her paintbrush again.
Hallie pulled down the same album as before, and lay it out on the table. They flipped through the pictures as Harriet painted, and occasionally glanced over to comment on a photo they were looking at. At lot of the earlier pictures were of Harriet, or Harriet with her mother.
Then Cassidy turned the page to see the perfect photo. It was Harriet again, standing in front of her parents, with a farmhouse behind them. The farmhouse looked familiar, and Cassidy’s gaze darted up to Harriet’s painting. It was very similar. “Harriet,” she spoke up. “Are you painting the farm?”
Harriet nodded. “I’ve been thinking about it ever since your last visit.”
“It’s beautiful,” Cassidy said. “And this picture of you and your parents. Do you mind if I take a picture of it, for my notes?”
“Go ahead,” Harriet said.
“Thanks,” Cassidy took a picture, and they kept looking. By the end of their visit, she had taken pictures of some of the other photos as well, mostly of Harriet as a child, a family picture of Harriet as a young woman holding baby Wyatt, and another picture of Hallie as a kid, at a family gathering. But the picture of Harriet with her parents was Cassidy’s favourite, and the one she thought most important to show Gemma.
They said goodbye, Hallie promised to visit more often, and then they drove back to East. They all agreed that printing off the pictures Cassidy had taken would probably be better than trying to show Gemma a phone, which might confuse her. After printing the photos, they ate an early dinner before heading to bed. They were going to have a busy night.