Lia’s Backyard

Lia found the ghost in the shards of the mirror. It was a shadowed ragged thing, hair hanging in its eyes except for the missing patch that took out most of its left eye (right eye? she had trouble with that sometimes) and part of its forehead. Nice hair, too, dark with a hint of ripple in it, water-silky. She liked to think that, anyway.

She was supposed to be playing with the kids next door, but the kids next door had gone inside half an hour ago to watch a cartoon. They had the volume up way loud and she could hear it through the walls, tinny voices and muffled bass. That was all right. Out here she could look at the broken mirror, even if it wasn’t supposed to have been dumped in their backyard, and taste tomorrow’s rain on the back of her tongue and breathe in the leaf-rot smell of autumn.

She eyed the mirror speculatively. Tomorrow it wouldn’t be here anymore. Tonight, even. Da would come out and see what she was looking at, and he wouldn’t approve. She had to do something right now.

The ghost had become less shy and was looking at her sidewise, craning its head as best it could. It couldn’t seem to move very well around the broken empty pieces, as though it were fenced in or nailed down or some such thing. The eye that wasn’t messed up blinked mournfully at her.

Lia didn’t think it was going to harm her. But she had to get the ghost out of there, and then maybe it might be able to tell her what was going on. It hadn’t escaped her notice that its mouth was cracked just at the corner, even though the glass hadn’t fallen out yet.

So Lia set to work patching up the holes, reasoning that the ghost would be able to step out on its own once she did that. (If that didn’t work, she’d have to come up with a backup plan. She didn’t have a backup plan. But one thing at a time.) She crowded the holes closed with moss browning at the edges, and with leaves web-worn to brown mesh, and seeded tufts of grass. She closed over the cracks with cobwebs–which she thought she was very brave to do, considering how much she hated spiders–and pine sap that made the dirt stick to her fingers. She considered trying spit, but she didn’t think spit was nearly as good as pine sap.

The ghost seemed to like this very much. Its smile was becoming more of a real smile, its eye a real eye. But Lia didn’t want to stop there. She knew she could do better for it. The ghost smiled the most when she used moss and leaves and grass–maybe it hated spiders the way she did–so that was what she used to make the ghost clothes like the fancy ruffle-and-lace ones she saw in the history books Da liked to read, and fine tall boots, and long gloves.

Then the ghost sat up out of the mirror, leaving drifts of shadow behind it. Leaves were caught in its hair and fell from its fine coat of smoke and dust and roots. “Thank you,” it said. Then it was gone, that moment’s glimpse, and Lia cried out.

But she looked up at the leaf-slanted light, and her eyes widened. Her backyard was crowned with trees, tall terrible trees bigger than anything she had ever seen. And she understood then that people weren’t the only ones who had ghosts.

For Anonymous. Prompt: ghost; improvement.

I have found my share of treasures in woods and parks and playgrounds.  My mother was forever fishing odd things out of my pockets, having learned the hard way that if you run grass-and-flower-filled pockets through the laundry, the stains won’t come out.  I especially liked to collect moss, although perhaps I should have left it alone.