Never Seen A Ghost

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My fourteen-year-old daughter pushes grass through wire for our hens to peck at. I watch, eyes soft behind dark sunglasses, as she crouches in the dry grass and whispers to them.

It's been a long, dry spring. Leaves have turned from lime to emerald, pumped full of chlorophyll and stretching to shade each other out, and there's not a cloud in the sky. It is easy to imagine the world is at peace.

Miles away, where the skies aren't so open and where concrete buildings replace trees, other daughters are screaming until their throats burn. Other sons are dying under us-versus-them laws. Other siblings are being chased by wolves in bullet-proof vests.

My daughter is safe, here in her white skin and at our rural cottage. She has the privilege to learn about this, and I have the duty to teach her.

The hens tire of grass and go back to bathing in dust.

"Emmeline," I say, pushing my sunglasses into my hair so I can see the way she turns to beam at me. "Time for lunch."

"Okay," she says, dusting her palms against her jeans. "Can Caspar eat with us?"

I look around, wondering if she's spotted a cat in the undergrowth. "Who's Caspar, hon?"

"My new friend."

I thought she'd grown out of imaginary friends but, if she needs to pretend someone's sitting with her while she speaks to the hens, that's fine by me.

"Sure, both of you come on in. There's some of that nice bread you helped me bake."

I prepare two plates of sandwiches by cutting her portion in half. With a polite 'thanks', Emmeline takes both plates and goes back to be near the hens.

I watch her while she eats, and while she talks to an invisible boy on her left.

She doesn't touch Caspar's sandwich. I wrap it up and put it in the fridge for tomorrow.

*

In the evening, we catch up on the latest day of protests. Emmeline asks again how we can help, so I show her the article I've spent today writing.

She frowns. "But, Mum. You're white. We need Black voices out there—like Caspar's."

I close the document and think about this. "Okay, hon. You're right. I could interview him, if he'd like. Use my platform. What does he want to talk about?"

Emmeline glows. "His brother's gone missing but the police wouldn't help and they had to move away before they found him—if he comes over tomorrow, you could write about that."

The writer in me is fascinated. Is Caspar a manifestation of Emmeline's grief for the world? Could he be a ghost, reaching out to her?

Am I going to interview my daughter's imaginary friend? You bet I am.

"That's a great idea, hon."

*

The doorbell rings at nine AM. I answer and there's a young black boy, barely into his teen years, wearing a baseball cap backwards and smiling nervously up at me.

"Hey, Miss Anderson. I'm Caspar."

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