Dilly James saw her first ghost when she was six years old. She tells me this in our third meeting, a startlingly confession from a child who refuses to make eye contact with me.
I'm not sure how to react. We've only known each other for three hours-- technically, two hours and fifteen minutes, as our third session has only just begun-- with long two-week breaks between. Those first two hours were marked by long silences as Dilly scanned my office, her green eyes resting the longest on a jade funerary mask I brought back from Singapore. It sets on the bookcase behind me, peering down on the ten year-old girl. As she watched the mask, Dilly had willingly answered any questions I put to her, but her answers remained short, unadorned.
Today I notice she has a habit of pushing her ginger-colored hair behind her ears and then brushing her index finger over the bridge of her nose, as if trying to wipe away the constellation of freckles there. I am suddenly struck by how much Dilly looks like Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap. I can only hope she has a brighter future in store. But then again, that is what we are suppose to be working on in these sessions.
"Tell me about this ghost," I prompt. She shrugs her shoulders, which are peeling from an early-summer sunburn. "Was it in your house?"
She shakes her head. "No. She was crossing the street."
"Was it late?"
"July, I think.Maybe August. It was hot."
"Oh! I meant, what time was it?"
"Before lunch. I was riding my bike."
"Really? How interesting! Most people see ghosts at night." She shrugs again, pushing hair behind her ear, swiping at her nose. I wait.
"I was riding my bike, and this woman was walking on the sidewalk in front of my house. She was really old, and she was wearing this long black dress, really long sleeves, and one of those things on her head-- it covered her face--"
"Yeah, but like--like a Spanish one--" Dilly's hands become animated, illustrating her words by wiggling her long fingers in front of her face. I notice she bites her nails.
"You know, lacy. Black."
"I think so. She must have been really hot, wearing so much black in the middle of the day in the summer."
"She was a ghost. I don't think she noticed."
I smile. "So tell me how you knew she was a ghost."
Dilly pauses for so long that I think she isn't going to answer. Then she takes a deep breath and pulls her feet up into her chair. She has slipped off her sandals. She wraps thin arms around her legs and rests her chin upon her knees. There are small bruises running down the ridge of her shins.
"Cause she went across the street, to the house across from my house. It was falling down and no one had lived in it for a really long time. And then she walked through the front door without opening it."
Dilly keeps her chin on her knees as she tells me this, and I realize she has locked her green eyes on mine.
This is going to be interesting, I think to myself.