Eva’s Dark Secret
A walk by the River
With Author A. F. Stewart
I am walking today with a young college woman. She just arrived back in town to support her family, and I’m afraid she has come in to a scene of chaos. See, tonight, I am with a number of townspeople involved in a search party. Eva’s sister Layla disappeared today: she went out for a walk by the river, and did not come back. The girls’ mother organized us to look for her. What are we finding? She was here, we can tell, but other than that, the news does not look good. It has been hours now, and we are unable to find anything except some confusing traces of her visit.
Layla is a sister by adoption — Eva’s adoption; but the two are as close as twins. That’s how I’ve known them through their entire childhood. I taught both girls a few music lessons once, but I kept up with the news of them after that. I think of my students as family, so my nerves are a bit on edge tonight. You will read that as you eavesdrop on my talk with this understandably tense young woman. I tried to hide it, but I, too was very worried about her sister.
“Eva!” I called her, “Over here! I don’t know if you remember me. I taught you some songs way back in grade school. That was a long time ago, but I would recognize you anywhere.” She walked closer, examining my face. “I’m trying to help with the search, and . . . maybe you could help me? Can you tell me a bit about her, her habits? Would she run off? Why would Layla come out to the river?”
Eva shifted uncomfortably. “I’m sure you’ve seen her around town, hanging out with her friends. She’s your typical teenager, with her ups and downs, and a bit of a rebellious streak.” The young woman’s eyes shifted, as if she was gazing at something. “Her and Mom were at it for a while, but Dad says they worked things out.” She sighed, “Layla loves the river. She walks here to think, or to be alone. Not like me, I’m never comfortable here.” I noted the dank moss-covered trees, the mist, and I had to agree. Eva continued, “She trains here sometimes too, along the trails. She runs track, you know, at school. She knows this place inside and out. I don’t understand any of this.”
“I don’t think anyone here understands it,” I nodded my head, “But Eva, your mother has me worried. She seems . . . well, fragile today.”
Eva blinked back at me, “I don’t think fragile is a word I’d ever use to describe my mother. I’m sure she’s upset, though. We’re all upset. I’m sure that’s it.” She hugged herself, hands rubbing her upper arms as if she felt chilled. “I can’t imagine it would be anything else. But if it was, I’d be the last to know. Things—well, things aren’t good between us. Communication wise.”
I was quiet for a moment. “I did not know that your relationship with your mother was so strained. How long have you been like this?”
Eva shrugged, “You know how it goes. Things happen. It puts stress on a relationship. Add in teenage trouble, and my moving out, well… typical mother and daughter baggage, you know.”
Of course I knew. I also knew that Eva had not seen her mother since arriving, and I only assumed it was because of this. Their relationship was more than strained, her mother’s reputation for over-protection was well-known. Many people with loose tongues had their theories, but we all knew that Eva just left town one day. But I didn’t go to the river to practice family therapy. I was there to look for a missing child.
“Eva, tell me, where should I start to look for your sister?”
“I—I don’t really know,” she answered. “They say she disappeared—somewhere… They found her cell phone by the water… and maybe her shoe prints in another place. I don’t know what’s going on! It’s all so crazy and surreal. I just talked to her last week. And now…”
I realized that we both feared the same thing. Quietly, I asked her, “Eva, do you believe your sister is still alive?”
The young woman placed her hands over her eyes, “I have to believe that. I have to!” she sobbed. “I’m sorry, but the alternative, well it’s unthinkable.”
I placed a hand on her arm, but she shrugged it off. “Eva, I hate to put it this way, but we have to think and act fast. It looks like an abduction to me. Who are her enemies? Who would take her?”
“Enemies?” Eva’s eyebrows shot up, “She’s only fifteen. She doesn’t have any enemies. If she was abducted—and I’m not ruling out an accident yet—then it would have been a stranger, or… oh, this seems like a bad dream. I can’t wrap my head around the fact she’s missing.”
I looked around me, studying the landscape. “The mist is thick today,” I said absently. “Normally I like it, it keeps me cool. I don’t know if I like this fog by the river.”
Eva surprised me. Behind my back, I heard a sharp intake of breath. “No,” she was trembling, “No. I don’t like the mist. I avoid it. It—it’s too spooky for me.”
“I agree,” I shuddered. “And there’s another thing, I have heard a voice all day, as if someone is crying. I keep looking, but I can’t find the person who is making that sound. Maybe I’m just imagining things. Do you think so?”
“Probably just a mourning dove,” Eva shot me a sideways grin. Finally, I recognized the kid I taught to sing. “Or maybe it’s the town ghost.” I smiled back at her. “You know the one,” she continued, “the legend about a figure aimlessly wandering the river, crying. What do they call it, the Weeper Woman or something?” She and I both shivered, “Weird,” she said. “I haven’t thought of that in years.”
“I know you and Layla are siblings by adoption, but I also know that your bond with her is strong. I’m sorry you had to come home to this.”
Eva’s face tightened, eyes blazing with resolution. “So am I. Layla’s my sister, no matter what. She and I do the sister thing and butt heads, but we’re close. I’d do anything to save her.”
“We will find her, Eva,” I tried to sound more reassuring, “Everyone here will search until she comes home.” I tried to put a hand on her shoulder, but again she flinched. Respectfully, I left her alone. “I’m saying this because you look frightened now. Please, try not to worry.”
“Everything about this place frightens me,” she whispered. She relaxed some, sighing, “Sorry. I guess I’m not thinking straight. It’s just… never mind. My imagination gets carried away, that’s all.” The young woman turned her face to gaze at the water, “It’s just a river.”
This Character Walk was co-authored by A. F. Stewart
A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada, and still calls it home. The youngest in a family of seven children, she has always had an overly creative mind and an active imagination. She is fond of good books (especially science fiction/fantasy), action movies, sword collecting, and oil painting. Ms. Stewart is an indie author with several published novellas and story collections in the dark fantasy and horror genres, with a few side trips into poetry and non-fiction. She has a great interest in history and mythology, often working those themes into her books and stories.