The Blue Girl

Ethan kept his left hand on the wheel while reaching down with his right for the rag he kept under his seat. The rain was pouring so hard that his windshield seemed to be made up entirely of layers of streaming rivulets of water. Finally grasping the rag, he gave his window a few quick swipes, but it hardly made a difference. The fog outside was just as heavy as the steam clouding his windows from within. Ethan sighed and was just considering pulling over to wait out the storm when something in his peripheral vision caught his eye. There, up ahead to the right—a splotch of color against the blackness of the night.

Curious, Ethan carefully maneuvered his car in that direction while still trying to maintain the road beneath his wheels. In the darkness, it took several tries to find the turn, but finally he managed to get close enough to make out a small figure standing in the rain. The splotch of color he had seen was her pale blue dress, the color of chicory, now soaked through and clinging to her like a second skin. Her blond hair was darkened with rain and plastered to her face. She stood hugging herself and staring down at the ground, seemingly oblivious to the storm raging around her.

Ethan pulled the car up as close to her as he dared and rolled down his window. The girl remained motionless.

"Hey!" he called, shouting to be heard over the pounding rain. "Hello! Are you alright?"

Slowly, the girl looked up but made no motion to respond. Instead, she stared at him with frightened blue eyes, the exact color of her dress. When Ethan had first spotted her, he had judge from the girl's diminutive frame that she would be a child of ten or twelve. With this new glimpse of her face, however, he reassessed his approximation of her age to be closer to sixteen. He wasn't sure, though, because those eyes would hardly have looked out of place on a frightened five-year-old.

Ethan tried to tone his voice to sound less threatening while still loud enough to be heard over the rain. "Hey, I'm not going to hurt you. But I think you might want to get out of the storm. It's dangerous out there. Let me give you a lift home."

The girl still made no reply but took a hesitant step towards the car. Ethan gave her an encouraging smile then reached over to unlock the passenger side door. He turned back to where she had been standing to continue coaxing her in, but she was no longer there. He peered frantically into the darkness until a soft click alerted him to the fact that she was already on the other side of the car, opening the door. He had not expected her to move so quickly after her first shows of timidity, but he could hardly blame her for wanting to get out of the downpour as quickly as possible.

Now that he could see her in the light, Ethan realized that the girl was dressed to go out. Her blue dress was cute and ruffled, with a skirt a bit longer than most of the dresses he'd seen girls his age wear. Her hair had been up in several sparkling combs, but the rain had pulled large strands free and dragged the combs to the level of her neck. On her feet were dainty little heels that had probably been either blue or silver but were now splattered with mud, as were large portions of her legs and even the hem of her dress. Ethan also noted that the girl had no jacket and her arms were bare aside from the tiny, off-shoulder sleeves of her dress, now drooping with rain.

"God, you must be freezing! Here, put this on."

Ethan shrugged out of his jacket and draped it over the girl's shoulders without waiting for her to reply. He hadn't rescued her from the rain just to have her die from hypothermia in his front seat. The girl looked up and gave him a small smile, pulling the jacket tighter around her. As she seemed disinclined to talk, Ethan decided not to push her, even though he was burning with questions. They drove in silence for several minutes, Ethan occasionally sneaking overt glances at the girl, while she stared mournfully out the window. Finally, Ethan figured asking one necessary question couldn't hurt.

"So," he began, trying to sound cheery to lighten the mood, "where am I taking you? Do you want to go home? Am I even going in the right direction?"

The girl turned her large blue eyes on him and Ethan began to think that the terrified, deer-in-headlights look she wore might just be her usual expression. With eyes that bid on a person so tiny, it would be hard not to look like a startled animal. Then again, it would make sense for a young teenage girl to be frightened after stepping into a car with a total stranger in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a thunderstorm. These certainly weren't normal comforting circumstances. Come to think of it, neither was standing alone on the side of the road in a soaking wet dress and heels.

"Hey," Ethan said gently, "are you sure you're alright? Do you have someplace to go?"

When she didn't respond, Ethan continued, "If you want, I can just bring you to the next town and we can find someone there to help you. What's your name?"

"Laurel," the girl breathed, so quietly that at first Ethan didn't notice she had finally spoken.

"What was that?" he asked, "Laurel? Like the plant? That's a pretty name."

The girl just nodded, but Ethan was glad that they were finally making some progress. At least he now knew something about the girl.

"Well, Laurel, my name's Ethan Summers. I'm a freshman up at Sacramento State but was trying to make my way down to the shore for the weekend. I got a little lost though during the storm, so now I'm just sort of wandering around. Not much point going to the beach now, so it really wouldn't be any trouble for me to drop you off since I don't have any real destination. You know, maybe when we get to the next town, I can even take you somewhere to eat. You look like you could use a nice hot meal."

Ethan kept chattering in the hopes that his candor would awaken something similar in Laurel. She, however, seemed content simply to sit and listen. At least she wasn't staring out in that gloomy way of hers anymore. But Ethan really couldn't help her if he didn't know what was wrong.

"Well, it's a lovely night to dress up and go stargazing," Ethan joked. When Laurel didn't take the bait, he pressed further. "So, what were you doing standing by the side of the road?"

Laurel was silent for so long that Ethan began to think she wouldn't answer. Then, in a small voice, she said, "I was waiting for…someone…" her voice trailing off at the end. Ethan was surprised to see tears start to well up in her eyes.

"Oh, hell no. Don't tell me some asshole left you to stand out in the rain!" Ethan exclaimed incredulously, then caught himself and added, "Excuse my language."

Ethan's open support and concern seemed to encourage the girl to speak again.

"I've liked him for months, but I didn't think he'd ever notice me. A guy like him couldn't have much time for girls like me. But on Friday, he finally asked me out!"

With this last sentence, the girl's countenance brightened and Ethan was shocked at the change it made in her appearance. For a moment, the frightened fawn was gone, replaced by a glowing goddess of surprising beauty. Her blue eyes lit up and sparkled and her tiny angel mouth split into a smile. Just as quickly as it had come though, it vanished, and the light dimmed from Laurel's eyes as they regained their melancholy cast.

"He hasn't come yet though," she murmured. "He said he'd come at seven, and I've been waiting all night. He said he'd come."

Ethan could hardly resist the urge to reach out for Laurel's hand or to take her into his arms, the girl just looked so crushed and dejected.

"Aw, honey, don't go crying over this guy. He's not worth it. If it took a guy months to notice you, then he must be blind. And if he's not even going to show up to your first date, then he's stupid, too. You're a beautiful girl, and you seem like you're kind and loyal as well. You deserve a guy who can see that in you and will treat you accordingly. But more importantly, you need to have some respect and confidence in yourself. Because you deserve that."

Ethan stared angrily ahead while he made his speech. He was surprised to find himself getting so worked up over a girl he hardly knew. But it really bothered him that there were guys out there who would take advantage of a girl so small and innocent.

"Thank you," he heard Laurel whisper.

"You're welcome."

Ethan turned back to give her a smile, but the passenger seat was empty. Laurel was gone. Vanished. The only signs she had been there at all were the soaking wet seat and his crumpled jacket.

Author's Note: I originally intended to just end the story here. However, after writing it, I was worried that the ending might be a little unclear. I wrote a sort of epilogue chapter that explains things a little bit, but I'm not sure if I like it. Please read the whole thing, then review and tell me which way you like better: ending it here, or including the epilogue. Or adding a different ending entirely. Review with any other comments or corrections you have as well. Be brutally honest, I know this piece needs a lot of editing.

On to the rest of the story….

The next morning, Ethan woke up in the Super 8 Motel. He made himself some coffee then began to idly flip through the informational packets from the nightstand drawer. One of the articles in the Local Culture section caught his eye. It read:

Ashville's Local Ghost Stories

Tourists and locals alike report sighting the spectral Blue Girl walking the streets on rainy nights. The legend goes that several years ago, young Laurel Burrs lived with her grandmother in a small townhouse that has since been demolished to make way for the new roads. Family members and acquaintances later reported that Laurel was somewhat of an outcast at school and often subject to practical jokes. One classmate thought it would be entertaining to ask Laurel out and then stand her up. Laurel was excited by the attention and optimistic about her date. She waited at the end of her street long past the allotted time. She waited through wind and rain, even through lightning and thunder. It was well into the night before her grandmother reported her missing. By then, the storm had grown so fierce that even the police were forced to seek shelter after just an hour's searching. Laurel has never been seen in the daylight since. But she still wanders the roads where her house used to by, waiting for her date to come pick her up.