I went down to the harbor, which was only a couple of blocks from the big shop. A little girl was sitting on a bench there, crying, and I knew she was a ghost, too.
She was a pretty little thing, maybe ten years old. She had on a fancy pink party dress, ribbons in her curly yellow hair, shiny black shoes. She looked like one of the rich children from my time. Or maybe a while later, I thought, studying her. She was like children I’d seen, but just a touch different.
Of course, I’d never have spoken to a rich man’s little girl when I was alive. But now that we were both dead, why not? So, I went to her and knelt on the ground.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
She sobbed. “I want my mother.”
I sighed. I didn’t really think I could help, but it tugged at me. I was sure I hadn’t had children, but somehow, a little girl crying for her mother was something I couldn’t ignore. “Where is she?”
“I don’t know!” she wailed.
“We could look for her,” I suggested. “But I don’t think she’s around here. At least, I haven’t seen any women likely to be her.”
I wanted to ask if her mother was dead. Or if she realized that she was. I thought she probably knew, but it didn’t seem polite to ask. I guess children don’t worry so much about that kind of thing, because the next words out of her mouth were, “You’re a ghost.”
I nodded. “So are you.”
She didn’t pipe up and agree with me, but she didn’t disagree, either. “Where are the others?” she asked.
“The other ghosts. We can’t be the only ones.”
It was a good question. I didn’t know the answer.
“I haven’t seen anyone. Just live people. I don’t think they can see us.”
“Where should we go?” she asked. “To find Mother, I mean.”
I thought about it. “Maybe out to the cemetery? There might be more like us there.”
She looked me over carefully. “Mother told me to not go with strange men.”
“I’m not a man. Like you said, I’m a ghost.”
She looked at me even more doubtfully. “She didn’t say anything about that.”
“Well, she wouldn’t, would she,” I said. “Look, it’s all right. The rules are different now. Or maybe there aren’t any. I’m Henry. What’s your name?”
“That’s a pretty name. Charlotte. Where was your house when you were alive? We could go there.”
“I don’t know.”
She looked like she was about to cry again, so I said, “You know, if we walk out toward the cemetery, we might meet your mother on the way. Or maybe she’ll be out there, or someone else you know. We can try.”
She scrubbed her hand across her face, erasing the tears. She nodded without saying any more, and we both stood up. It was a long way from the harbor to the cemetery, but I didn’t think that was likely to matter.
The town was awake now, the streets thronged with people, but we passed by everyone unseen. We walked along quietly together, and after a while, Charlotte slipped her hand into mine.
No child had ever held my hand before. I was sure of it. I couldn’t possibly have forgotten how it felt to be trusted like that.