When they got back to the cottage, Simon instantly went off on his own. He wandered down towards the ocean, and although she wanted to, Cassidy didn’t follow him. Instead, she walked up to the porch and settled down on one of the rocking chairs. She wanted to keep an eye on him.
She pulled out her notebook, and Charles’ book. There were many stories in it she hadn’t read yet, or had only skimmed briefly, so she started to read those more carefully. Every once in a while she would glance up to check on Simon and watch him pace.
A few hours passed. Simon had stopped his pacing and was just sitting on the sand. Cassidy had read every story in Charles’ book, and there didn’t seem to be any more “rules” she could add to her list. She pulled out her camera and stared at the picture of Simon’s tombstone. He had touched it in the middle of the afternoon. Clearly something was happening. Cassidy picked up her notebook and read over the list.
She had written that ghosts could only touch things at night, but that obviously wasn’t true. So what had changed? She turned her attention back to Charles’ book. There had been multiple ghosts capable of touching things at night, but none of the stories seemed to mention daylight.
Cassidy flipped through the pages with one hand, while impatiently tapping her pen on her notebook with the other. She read and re-read every story that mentioned touching items. Then she remembered something Simon had said, the first time he tried to explain his story.
She added a line to her notebook.
- choose to become more solid?
Cassidy shoved everything back into her backpack and started to walk towards the beach. Simon hadn’t moved. He was still sitting with his legs crossed, blindly looking towards the water, lost in thought. Cassidy made her way down the gentle grassy slope, walked across the sand, and sat down beside him.
He acknowledged her after a moment with a nod.
“I think you need to keep practicing,” she said.
Simon turned to look at her. “Practicing?”
“Touching stuff,” Cassidy said. “You said yourself that when you first started out people couldn’t see you and you didn’t need to eat or get tired or any of that, but now you do. So I think if you keep trying to touch things, eventually you’ll be solid during the day, too.”
“I have been trying, though.”
“I guess you just have to try harder.” Cassidy scooped up a handful of sand and let it trickle through her fingers. “You’ve already changed yourself, so why wouldn’t you be able to go further?”
“I guess so.” Simon held out his hand. Cassidy sprinkled some sand onto his palm, but it just went right through. Simon sighed. “I don’t know how to try, that’s the problem. Look.” He lay his hand flat on the sand. “I can’t go through this, but I can’t feel it either. I can walk and sit on the ground, but until the sun goes down I don’t feel any of it. How am I supposed to try touching something I can’t feel? It’s like asking you to try to grab some air.”
“I don’t know. But we’ll figure it out, and I’ll help you.”
Simon sighed. “I would really like to kiss you right now.”
“Give it a few hours,” Cassidy said with a smile.
When the sun finally did start to go down, they were back inside the cottage. Cassidy had made herself some dinner – something simple, spaghetti with tomato sauce, and was sitting at the table eating it. Her notebook and Charles’ book were spread out on the table in front of her.
“Aren’t you bored of those stories yet?” Simon asked.
“I might find something I missed before.” Cassidy twirled her fork in her spaghetti, and flipped to the next page.
“Do you think it’s strange that your great uncle wrote a book about ghosts, and now you’re here basically doing the same thing?”
“It’s an interesting coincidence, for sure,” Cassidy agreed distractedly. “Maybe it’s an Acres thing.”
“You know, I knew George for years,” Simon said. “And it never occurred to me that the island was named after his family.”
“Well, you don’t really pronounce it the same way,” Cassidy said. “But it’s just an alternate spelling. My grandfather used to tell me stories about how in the good old days the whole extended family still lived here. His father had a ton of siblings, but they all moved away eventually. Only their immediate family stayed. My grandfather, Charles, and their parents. Charles never got married, and my grandparents only had my mom, and then she moved away.” Cassidy shrugged. “So the family just vanished from the island.”
“That’s sort of sad. Maybe you should move back.”
“I need to go to school,” Cassidy pointed out. “It’s beautiful here, but I don’t think I could live here. You wanted to leave, too.”
“But the Battle family doesn’t have a legacy here.”
“You have your restaurant.”
“That isn’t the same. The entire island is named after you.” Simon seemed to suddenly realize the sun was down, because he grabbed a plate and served himself some of Cassidy’s spaghetti. He sat down beside her and leaned over to give her a quick kiss. “The entire island.”
“I get it.” She pushed him away. “Eat.”
Simon laughed and twirled his fork in the spaghetti. “What about the cottage?”
“What about it? It’s technically my mom’s, now,” Cassidy pointed out. “And as long as it’s still in the family, we can visit the island whenever we want.”
“Do you think you will be visiting?”
“Yeah, of course,” Cassidy said. “Especially if you’re stuck here.”
“Hopefully I’m not.”
“Of course. But if you are, I’ll come back. I’ll spend every summer here until I’m done with school, and after that we’ll see how my schedule works out. If I do become an author, I might just spend most of my year here.”
“Sounds perfect,” Simon agreed. For a moment he was silent as he finished eating, then he stacked their dirty dishes and carried them over to the sink. “So what’s the plan for this evening?”
“I’m going to keep looking for clues, and you’re going to think about ways you can practice tomorrow,” Cassidy said. “We’ll figure something out.”
Simon turned on the tap and watched the sink fill up. “All right. We’ll figure something out…” he repeated thoughtfully.