“When your child is screaming and crying and you run in there, thinking something is horribly wrong, you’re expecting to kill a spider or fix a boo boo. I’ve had…these things happen to me in Parkville before you kids were born, but it never happened to my kids. It kinda makes you wonder what it was [that happened] and was it dangerous? Is this gonna happen all the time or was it just a sign of things to come?”
“You girls coming in?”
“No.” Danny took off into the living room. “I just have to go potty!”
“Okay, make sure you flush!” Deborah said.
Danny tore down the hall and swung a sharp left. She dropped her floppy bunny plushy in the bathroom corner and climbed atop her step stool to her training potty.
“Don’t look, Mr. Rabbit. It’s not ‘propriate.”
At the kitchen sink, Deborah squeezed a yellow sponge against the plate that had just served her daughter a plain turkey-and-cheese sandwich. Suds drenched the dirty dish and she scrubbed it clean before passing it onto the next compartment for rinsing.
The sweet breeze laced its fingers through Deborah’s bleach blonde hair, luring her attention from chores to the sunny afternoon outside. Heaven’s light mystified the blooming honeysuckle on the chainlink fence, making the white petals glow. A flittering gold aura enchanted the rather mundane backyard. An in-ground pool would be better than dirt and grass. At least the girls loved their playhouse. Building it from scratch with cement, wood and elbow grease hadn’t been easy or cheap.
Sara came out of the playhouse with an old baking pan. She squatted, dug up some of the yard with a hand shovel and plopped it into the pan before carrying it back into the house. The miniature screen door smacked the wood behind her. Must be mud pies, Deborah thought. Mud pies and giggles and endless hours of outdoor play made for one memorable spring.
“MOM! MOOOOMY! AHHH!”
Deborah dropped the dish in her hand, but it crashing on the kitchen floor didn’t register in her frantic state of panic. She turned the corner and found her daughter hobbling out of the bathroom with her overalls and undies at her ankles, desperate to escape whatever terror pursued her.
“Danny, what is it?” Deborah squatted before her daughter. “Oh honey, you’re shaking. What’s wrong?” She was also wet. She must have slid from the potty in mid-relief.
“They were coming for me, Mommy.”
“What was?” Deborah pulled the wet clothing off Danny’s ankles. “What was it, baby?”
“The little circles. They were coming right to my face!”
“They were up there.” She pointed toward the top left corner of the bathroom doorway. “There were lots and lots of them, Mommy. They were green and purple and they were coming to get me.”
That was all Deborah could come up with, words of comfort. What else was she supposed to say to scary green and purple circles? What else could it have been? Clearly it was something. It was real enough for Danny to urinate on herself.
“All right. There we go.” Deborah sat Danny on the bed. “All cleaned up. Feel better?”
Danny pushed her curly blonde hair from her eyes and hummed, “Mm-hm.”
Deborah gathered the soiled clothes. “Are you gonna go back out and play? I think Sara’s out there making mud pies.”
Out of her two youngest girls, Sara had always preferred to get messy. Danny being the firstborn thrived in organization and cleanliness, so “mud pies” probably wasn’t the most alluring suggestion. Hooking her with the playhouse she adored might better motivate her to go back out and get her mind off the “circles”.
“How do you like opening the cabinets? I bought fifteen hinges so every window and cabinet could open in there. Just for you, Ray. Is the screen door still your favorite?”
Danny had an affinity for the process of opening and closing things. Barbie cars with real doors would keep her entertained for hours.
“Ray?” Deborah balanced the laundry basket on her hip.
Danny stared out into the hallway. “Mommy, don’t you see her?”
Deborah didn’t want to. She hesitated looking down the hall where Danny was pointing. The spine-chilling electric charge in the air summoned the hairs on the back of Deborah’s neck. Her maternal instincts were temporarily overridden by adrenaline and fear.
“She’s looking right at me,” Danny said.
Logic rationalized fear and Deborah leaned in, peeking into the hall. She sighed, relieved to see nothing at all. “Who, Danny?”
“The little girl. She’s playing jump rope in the hall.”
Deborah looked again. There was no girl there. “What—what does she look like?”
Without hesitation, Danny spat out details. “She has a long white dress, black shoes, a bow in her hair. Her hair is long and dark. She’s jumping rope right there, Mommy. Don’t you see her?”
Deborah did not. But there was no refuting that Danny thought she did.
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