When Cassidy woke up the next morning, Simon was already gone. She couldn’t even hear him in the kitchen or smell breakfast cooking. She stretched her arms before sitting up and glancing at the alarm clock. It was nearly 10:00, much later than she had meant to sleep in. With a groan, she threw off her blankets and got up.
In the kitchen, the first thing she did was put on the kettle. Cereal seemed like the easiest thing to eat, so she quickly poured herself a bowl. Then she noticed the note on the table. It was very simple.
Trying to figure this out. Be back tonight.
The kettle whistled, and Cassidy made herself a cup of tea before sitting at the table and starting to eat. She stared at the note, wondering what he could possibly figure out that they hadn’t gone over already. Or maybe “figure it out” simply meant that he wanted to think about what had happened the day before.
Cassidy suppressed a shudder. She had almost fallen, and from that height it would have certainly been fatal. Somehow Simon had caught her. But how? Emotion had to be important, that much was clear, but she had no idea how he turned his emotion into having a physical presence.
He’d been solid for almost half an hour after catching her. Most of that time, after they’d backed further away from the cliff’s edge, was spent just holding each other. In the daylight it seemed so unreal. He’d faded slowly, too. She had felt him changing, but it took almost five minutes for the process to finish.
Cassidy sighed. There was no point sitting around the cottage, she wouldn’t get anything done and she’d be bored. So once she had put her dishes into the sink and gotten changed, she grabbed her backpack and headed outside. It was a beautiful, sunny day, making the walk to the village very pleasant. There were a couple of things she wanted to get done. First, she wanted to visit Bertha and buy some more bread. Then the grocery store. And she wanted to call home. It had been a long time since she’d actually spoken to her parents, given that cell reception wasn’t great. There was a payphone down by the pier she could use. Finally, she wanted to visit the library.
After some thought she decided to visit the library first, so that she wouldn’t have to carry around groceries the whole day. Luckily, the friendly librarian was sitting at the desk, making Cassidy wonder if anyone else worked there.
The librarian smiled when she noticed Cassidy approaching the desk. “Good morning! Are those ghost stories helping with your inspiration?”
Cassidy nodded. “They’re fantastic. Actually, I have kind of an odd question about the book.”
“Well…” Cassidy leaned on the counter. “I was wondering if there are any other copies?”
The librarian looked thoughtful. “I don’t believe so… just give me a moment.” She turned to her computer and quickly typed in the name of the book. “Um… no. Looks like that’s the only one. Why do you ask?”
“Oh.” Cassidy tried to not look too disappointed. “I was just hoping to buy a copy. I’m George Acres’ granddaughter, so I thought my family would like to own it.”
“You’re George Acres’ granddaughter? Why didn’t you say so when I showed you the book?” the librarian asked.
Cassidy smiled sheepishly. “You caught me off guard, that’s all.”
“Well, I should have seen it myself. You look like him.”
“You knew him?” Cassidy asked.
“He came here quite often,” the librarian said. “The man loved books. Tell you what…” she paused, and a mischievous smile spread across her face. “If you happened to… misplace the book, you’d owe the library twenty dollars.”
“Oh?” Cassidy put down her backpack and rummaged through it to find her wallet. “That’s a real shame. I just can’t find it anywhere.”
The librarian nodded. “Well, it happens.”
Cassidy pulled out a twenty dollar bill and passed it over. “I’m Cassidy, by the way. Cassidy Acres.”
The librarian took the money. “Alice Cleary.” She clicked a few times, then added, “The book is officially lost. I hope your family enjoys it. It certainly is an interesting heirloom.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Cleary.”
“Just Alice is fine. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
“I don’t think so. I just have a couple novels to return, and I might take another one or two out.”
Alice smiled. “Don’t misplace them.”
“I promise I won’t,” Cassidy said. She placed the novels into the return bin, then went to wander through the aisles for a bit. She almost couldn’t believe what had just happened, but she was grateful. Even if Charles’ book didn’t help her solve Simon’s mystery, she had gotten very attached to it. It was also a fragile little book, Cassidy thought to herself, so it was better off not on the shelves where some irresponsible teenager might grab it.
She took her time perusing the shelves, until she found some books that seemed interesting. She checked them out, had another short conversation with Alice, and then decided to grab some lunch.
After eating, Cassidy went to the pier. The first thing she did was use the payphone. It took a moment for anyone to answer, and Cassidy had almost hung up when she heard her mother’s voice.
“Hey, mom. It’s me!”
“Oh! Tim!” Her mother’s voice got a little muffled, but Cassidy could still hear her perfectly. “Timothy! It’s Cass. Come down! Just a second, let me put you on speaker phone…”
Cassidy supressed a laugh and smiled. Her mother always had trouble figuring out speaker phone. She listened while her parents talked to each other, and then finally spoke to her again.
“Still there, Cass?”
“Yeah, dad. I’m on speaker?” Cassidy asked.
“You are,” her father replied. “So what’s going on?”
“How’s the island?” her mother added.
“It’s beautiful,” Cassidy said. “I’ve been taking a bunch of pictures, and doing some sketches.”
“And how’s the writing going?” her father asked.
“It isn’t going, exactly,” Cassidy said. “But I have a pretty good idea that I’ve been making notes about, I just haven’t gotten to the actual writing part. I’ve been getting ideas from some of the ghost stories around here.”
“Akre Island’s teeming with ghost stories,” her mother commented with a chuckle. “I’m not surprised they grabbed your attention. Any one in particular?”
“Kind of. There was a murder, a couple days after I was born. Grandpa wrote about it in an old journal I found. It’s pretty interesting.”
“Are you going to write about it?” her father asked.
“Not about the actual thing, no, but some of the details are interesting. I’m thinking of taking some of the details, maybe making it into a ghost story of some sort. I haven’t completely figured it out, but I have a lot of notes. And the Island would be the perfect setting, there are already so many ghost stories.”
“It certainly would be,” her mother replied.
“I’m thinking about staying a little longer, actually,” Cassidy said. “A couple more weeks or so. But anyway, what’s going on at home?”
Cassidy stayed on the phone for about twenty minutes, as her parents filled her in on everything that had been going on at home, and she answered some more questions about the island and her idea. She didn’t mention Simon, unsure of how to actually explain who he was. After they said their goodbyes, Cassidy hung up and walked over to the bakery.
Bertha was behind the counter, humming to herself as she lay out some cupcakes on a platter. She glanced up when Cassidy walked in. “Good afternoon, dear!”
“Afternoon, Bertha,” Cassidy replied with a smile. “Those look delicious.”
“Would you like some?”
“Well, I came for some bread, but if you insist,” Cassidy grinned. “I’ll take two.”
“Perfect!” Bertha pulled a little box from under the counter, and carefully placed in two of the cupcakes. “For you are your “friend”?”
“What’s his name? You didn’t say last time.”
“Oh.” For a moment Cassidy froze, then she remembered the name Simon had first used to introduce himself. “Steven Donahue.”
“Steven? Lovely name,” Bertha said as she closed the box. “What kind of bread would you like? The kind George liked?”
Bertha grabbed a loaf and slid it into a paper bag. “Well, I hope you and Steven enjoy the cupcakes.”
“I’m sure we will, thanks.” Cassidy said, handing over some money. “I’ll let you know next time I stop by.”
“I suppose he’s gotten over that gluten allergy of his?”
Cassidy blushed, having forgotten about the lie. “Oh… right.”
Bertha smiled. “Go on, dear. Invite him in next time.”
“I will. Thank again.” Cassidy scooped up the bread and box of cupcakes, and left quickly, before Bertha could ask more questions about Simon.
She swung by the grocery store quickly to pick up a few things. Luckily, most of it fit in her backpack. She walked back to the cottage at a leisurely pace, stopping every once in a while to take pictures. When the cottage finally came into view, she was momentarily confused by what she saw. Simon was standing off to the side, in front of the little metal outdoor fireplace Cassidy had been ignoring. What confused her was that she could see flames. It was still bright out.
A few minutes later she joined him by the fire. “Did you do that?”
Simon jumped a little, apparently startled. He had been so engrossed in the fire that he hadn’t noticed her coming up the path. He grinned widely. “I did! It was hard, but I thought about how much I wanted to cook hotdogs with you, and…” he trailed off a gestured at the fire. “Took me hours, to be honest.”
“But you still did it!” Cassidy exclaimed. She tried to hug him, and although her arms went through him, she could feel something. “You’re almost here!”
“Yeah, well… how about those hotdogs? I think you should probably get them out of the fridge. Unless you want to eat in two hours.”
“Are you hungry?” Cassidy asked.
“A little bit, actually,” Simon admitted. “Oh, and while you’re in there, I found some folded up lawn chairs in the basement. But they were too heavy.”
“I’ll get them,” Cassidy promised. “Be right back.” She went into the cottage and quickly dropped off all the food in the kitchen before heading downstairs. Soon, she had pulled out two lawn chairs and a little folding table, which she set up near the fire. She made multiple trips, bringing out the hotdogs, buns and condiments, as well as some drinks and the box of cupcakes.
Simon had already found the hotdog roasting sticks. Cassidy got them ready before offering one to him. It took him a few tries, but then his fingers gripped the wooden handle and he smiled. Aside for the smile, neither of them acknowledged that he was holding the stick – almost as if talking about it would break the spell.
They each ended up making a few hotdogs. As the sun started to set, touching things became even easier for Simon. He even managed to restock the fire a few times when the wood was getting low. For dessert, they ate the cupcakes and laughed about the gluten allergy lie.
When they finished eating, they watched the fire slowly die out. Cassidy had pulled the lawn chairs side by side, so that Simon could rest his arm over her shoulders. It was still light enough that he didn’t feel completely solid, but he was definitely there.
“I called home today,” Cassidy spoke up, breaking the relaxing silence. “I told my parents that I plan to stay a few more weeks. I didn’t say anything about you, though… I told Bertha that your name’s Steven Donahue. So maybe we should tell my parents the same thing. My mom grew up here, so she might be suspicious if she hears your real name.”
“How old was she when you were born?” Simon asked.
“So she’s seven years older than me,” Simon said. “Older than I was, at least. She probably won’t recognize me, but you’re right, she might know my name. So Steven Donahue it is.”
“You don’t mind?” Cassidy asked.
“You want to introduce me to your parents, why would I mind?” Simon asked with a smile. “Assuming I can leave the island.”
“I’m assuming that you can,” Cassidy said. “I bought Charles book, by the way. Well actually Alice, the librarian, and I pretended that I lost it, and I paid the fee. I explained who I was and she agreed that my family should have it. Anyway, we have it now. We can keep searching the stories for clues.”
“What if there aren’t any?” Simon asked. “What if there isn’t a reason I’m back, and it just happened?”
“There has to be a reason.”
“What if you’re the reason? Maybe we won’t figure it out.”
“Well… at least we have time to try.”
Simon nodded. “I’m glad you’re staying longer.”
They fell silent, as the fire finally burned out and the sky darkened. The fields around the cottage were filled with crickets, and they could still here the gently lapping on waves on the beach. Then it started to get cold, and they gathered up the leftover food and went inside.
Simon helped put everything away, but as soon as they were done, he said, “Mind if I go to bed early? That concentrating and touching things really tired me out.”
“Oh, no, go ahead,” Cassidy said quickly. “Get some rest.”
“Thanks.” He shuffled away, and Cassidy could see how tired he was. But she wasn’t tired at all, so she decided to make herself some tea, grabbed her notebook and Charles’ book, and settled down on the couch. Simon passed her to go to the bathroom, and on the way back he paused.
“Good night. I love you.”
Cassidy smiled. “I love you too. Now go get some rest.” While he dutifully disappeared into the bedroom. Cassidy flipped open her notebook to a new page, picked up her pen, and wrote-
The Memory of Simon Battle
*Note* Thank you for reading The Memory of Simon Battle! I have recently self-published an updated version. I also hope to write more stories about Cassidy and Simon! If you enjoyed the story, please consider learning more at juliecotewriter.com/ghosts-of-akre-island
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