I looked at Bobby and shrugged. We didn't know yet if the girl was dangerous. In either case, I didn't intend to let Leah face her alone.
I followed Leah, stepping across the ditch and onto the lawn. Bobby followed me without further protest or comment.
“Why are you crying?” Leah asked the girl. “What’s wrong?”
“I can’t find my parents!” she said, with a loud sob.
“Where do your parents live?”
I let Leah ask her question, but it occurred to me that Leah had failed to make an important connection: This girl’s parents probably didn't “live” anywhere anymore.
“They’re supposed to live here!” she cried. “This is where my family’s apple orchard is supposed to be.”
I might have heard something once about the land around here having been an apple orchard a long time ago. There was evidence for this in some of the street names. The street we were walking down was Applegate Drive. And we had planned to take a shortcut through Old Orchard Lane—before our way was blocked by Mr. Dolby’s bear.
But all that was a long, long time ago, if it had ever been at all. This was a memory that this girl—if she was indeed around our age—could not possibly possess.
Leah said: “You know, I heard something about this land being an apple orchard.”
“I heard about it, too. But do you know how long ago that was?”
I wanted to get away from this girl on the swing, even though she did not appear to represent an immediate threat to us. If asked, I wouldn't have been able to put my objection into words at that time. Having thought about it over the years, I’ve since decided that there was simply something unnatural and vaguely indecent about the dead and the living mixing in this way.
The corpses writhing in the mud were still fresh in my memory, their desire for our life force naked and unrestrained. I’ve read in the intervening years that when spirits appear to the living, they never do so idly. A ghost always has an agenda, a desire. Spirits, when they appear to us, always want something.
But Leah seemed so fascinated with this girl. And as I’ve already told you, I was quite fascinated with Leah. That was what kept me there, even though my better judgment told me to move on...