By the time the family’s trip to Champs Les Sims arrived, Evelyn was at wit’s end. Chantia had started to ignore Evelyn completely and not a day went by when the girl didn’t get into a fight with her adoptive sister. Evelyn had planned the trip to be a relaxing vacation to introduce Chantia to her heritage, but it appeared the trip would be anything but.
As they travelled towards the airport, Evelyn couldn’t help but hope that Gustave might be able to get through to Chantia.
Soon enough, they arrived at Champs Les Sims, where Gustave waited eagerly for their arrival. He immediately took Evelyn into his arms before turning towards the girls. He greeted both of them, but Chantia was rewarded an extra smile and a pat on the head.
“Welcome to Champs Les Sims,” Gustave welcomed them. “Please, come in,” he invited them inside. The girls immediately entered the house, eager to investigate the large house. Evelyn took the time to have a quick word with Gustave.
“Please, I don’t know what to do anymore,” Evelyn explained. “Chantia’s been a right nightmare and nothing I do or say seems to help anymore. Please, can you talk to her? See if you can manage something?” Evelyn begged and explained the entire story to Gustave. Gustave listened attentively before agreeing, promising to have a word with Chantia.
The rest of the day was spent rather leisurely. Mia wanted to visit the art gallery, so the entire family took some time to tour the museum. Chantia was especially fascinated by the sarcophagi.
Later that day, when darkness had fallen over them, they spent the night at the fire-pit, the girls trying out weird combinations to roast and telling tales. Gustave told them about local myths and legends, keeping his entire audience captivated by his rich description and Chantia took great pleasure in freaking Mia out by telling the younger girl ghost stories. The ghost stories were harmless fun, so the adults did nothing about it. For the first time in many days, Evelyn finally managed to relax.
Before long, it was time for the girls’ bedtime. Chantia pouted and tried to argue with her mother, but a stern look from her father caused the girl to retreat obediently inside with Mia.
After making sure the girls were in bed and sleeping, Evelyn rejoined Gustave at the fire-pit. They sat in silence for a while, merely enjoying each other’s company and staring at the bright stars in the sky above them.
“I didn’t think you’d tell Chantia that tale,” Gustave confessed after a minute. “You know; the one about the Wilds and the Damned?”
Evelyn leaned away from him, staring questioningly at him. “I didn’t,” she stated, a hint of confusion in her voice. “She’s far too young to hear such a tale.”
Gustave raised his eyebrows in surprise at the admission. “Really? Then how did she know about the ‘Damned’? The story she told Mia definitely mentioned the Damned,” Gustave stated, causing Evelyn to frown in confusion.“I have no idea,” Evelyn admitted. “I’m telling you, something is different about her. She’s got this major fascination with the moon and sometimes, I find her talking to empty air,” Evelyn explained and relayed every strange event that had happened with Chantia ever since the girl had been born.
Silence fell around them after she finished talking, a slight frown marring Gustave’s face. He gave her hand a small squeeze before smiling at her.
“I’ll talk to her,” Gustave suggested. “See if I can’t get any explanation from her. If I can’t, I’ll do some digging around in the archives. Maybe we’ll be able to find some answers then,” Gustave promised. Evelyn smiled at him and leaned into his embrace, glad to have someone willing to help her.
The next day, Gustave made good on his promise and took Chantia for the day to spend some quality time with her. Mia expressed an interest in learning to fish, so Evelyn took the girl to the river where they spent the day catching frogs and falling on the slippery bank, but it made Evelyn smile to hear a rare laugh from Mia.
Gustave took Chantia to numerous places, including the old Landgraab mansion (where he was very careful not to let the girl get into any contact with the dangerous traps the paranoid old Landgraab patriarch had installed) and the Champs Les Sims graveyard.
During this time, he made subtle enquiries from the girl, hoping to find out what made his daughter different. Her answers intrigued Gustave to no end. Ghosts? An old, perfectly preserved house filled with fog where said ghosts lived? A song telling of life and death? The more he listened to his daughter, the more he found both similarities and differences from the tale he told Evelyn back when Chantia was still only a toddler. Her answers both frightened and excited him. Was everything Chantia told him just her imagination, or was there actually a basis of truth in her statements? Were the tales he heard over the years actually true?
Chantia was just glad that someone was willing to listen seriously to her. When she had told her mother about Charlotte the very first time she had met the ghost, her mother had just smiled and patronizingly patted her on the head.
The rest of the afternoon, Gustave disappeared, leaving the girls to spend time with their mother. Gustave had talked to Chantia about her behaviour, managing to make the girl feel guilty.
“I’m sorry,” Chantia apologized while they visited the café, refusing to look at her mother. “I won’t do it again,” she promised her mother. Evelyn stared at her for a moment before pulling the girl in for a hug.
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” Evelyn warned her daughter, but her arm around Chantia’s shoulders told the girl that she had been forgiven.
That night Gustave joined them at the fire again and they all spent time roasting marshmallows and telling each other about their days. The atmosphere was much more relaxed now that Chantia was the same sweet girl Evelyn grew used to.
Later, when the girls both retreated to their beds due to fatigue from the busy day, Gustave informed Evelyn of the results of his afternoon. He had spent the afternoon doing research and digging through archives to try and find more information about the things Chantia told him about. He didn’t manage to find much, but what he did find out was…interesting.
“You know that girl Chantia told us about – Charlotte Ainsworth – the ghost girl? What do you make of it?” Gustave questioned. Evelyn frowned slightly before shrugging.
“I don’t really know what to make of it,” Evelyn admitted. “At first I thought she was just an imaginary friend, but now I don’t know anymore. Chantia’s insistence that she exists is…she’s a bit too convinced.”
Gustave nodded in reply. “Well, that’s the thing,” he stated. “I found mention of a Charlotte Ainsworth in the archives; a young girl who died from polio early in the last century. She was the youngest daughter of the Ainsworth family; a family that belonged to the upper echelons of society at that time. It is said that at the time of her death, she begged with an unseen figure not to die,” Gustave informed Evelyn. “Now I don’t know; it could be coincidence, but some of the information I found corresponds to the info Chantia gave us.”
Evelyn sat in silence while she mulled over the information. “So you’re saying you think Chantia’s tale is true?” Evelyn enquired. At his nod, she continued. “But ghosts don’t exist! How can it be true?”
Gustave shrugged. “The only reason people think ghosts don’t exist is because nobody’s ever seen them, or nobody ever believe those who claim they have,” he reasoned. “I’m not saying you have to believe everything Chantia says; I’m just saying you should listen to her with an open mind.”
Evelyn nodded thoughtfully. “I’ll try,” she promised.
Gustave had work the next day, so he wouldn’t be able to see them off. Evelyn made the most of the night reconnecting with Gustave, knowing that she would be deprived of his company once she returned home.
The next day brought an end to their trip. The girls both took advantage of the bathtub to splash around and go on underwater adventures while Evelyn made the girls a proper meal before their flight departed.
They paid a quick visit to the nectary, but they didn’t have enough time to do anything else. Soon enough, the time for their flight arrived and they returned home, all of them refreshed from the visit, but all of them very glad to be home. While the vacation had been a lot of fun, there was still no place like home.
:( Evelyn looks so old, especially in the fire pit shots. While I'm really looking forward to getting to Chantia's generation, I kinda don't want Evelyn's to end. I know I'm still a little while off before hers will end, but her older looks remind me that she won't last forever.