Her raven black hair was pulled back from her face. Small braids from her temple pulled that unruly hair out of her face. Mother so hated when her hair covered her face.
Under her bed, she played, almost in darkness. Aside from one small light, barely bright enough to illuminate the space before her, let alone all the emptiness under her twin bed. With her dust runner hanging all the way to the floor, she whispered to herself in hushed tones.
“Tell me the story again.” She whispered.
He wouldn’t, she knew. It was just like him. Always the same.
He would bait her, tell her the story and watch as she listened so intently. She wanted to commit it to memory, has to commit every detail to memory.
There were parts missing, she frowned. Moments when she had been too consumed by what she had just heard and what she was about to hear that she didn’t fully listen to the words being told to her just then. Her memory, no matter how she pleaded with it, would not recollect those moments for her.
So she wanted to hear the story again.
Bare foot, she had stripped her stockings off once she had come home but she was still wearing her dress. Her good dress.
‘Under your dusty bed in your good dress!’ Her mother would surely exclaim once she found her there. But she had been listening, and mother had not even started looking for her yet. She had time still. Time enough… for a story.
The boards from the bottom of her bed pulled at her hair slightly, not enough to hurt, but enough to loosen the braids just so.
Crawling towards the wall, she pleaded. “Please. Just one more time.”
“You’ve heard it just now!” He remarked, annoyed. “It’s too soon to hear it again. You’ll tire of it, it will lose it’s wonder for sure.”
She shook her head. “No it won’t! I’ve barely heard it at all. Just the one time.” She was young, only eight. It made it difficult for her to keep the whine from her voice as she pleaded with him, even though she knew it irked him. Swallowing hard, she tried to remind herself to keep her voice calm, to cut her words short. “One final time and I’ll not ask to hear it again unless you offer.”
“Lies!” He all but spat at her. “You’ll be back here again in an hour, after your scolding. You’ll come right back to this very spot, press on your light and ask for a story. Which story? I can bet you anything it will be the very one you just heard and are asking now to hear again!”
Her first urge was to roll her eyes, but she knew better. Rolling her eyes at him would only make him leave, and she needed him to stay so he could tell her the story just one more time. “Perhaps,” She thought, suddenly thinking herself sly. “You won’t tell me again because you’ve already forgotten the story. So often your stories are made up right on the spot when you tell them. Can you not remember it either?”
He scoffed at her. “A fool’s trick.” He looked at her with eyes glowing, like a cat looking straight at you in the dark. “Besides, I could never forget the details of this story. It’s true, you see.”
She began to shake her head in disbelief. “I don’t believe it.”
His laugh was loud, harsh. It made her jump before she brought her fingers up to her lips to shush him, but he ignored her. “Your belief, foolish child, has no effect on the truth. What is true is always true… no matter who believes it.” He scoffed at her again. “If I were to reach out right now and snatch your little nose right off your face, I doubt you would believe I was capable of such a thing, but that wouldn’t change the fact that I did it.” He smiled, his teeth gleaming in the darkness. “What if I were to tell you that I was the sinister creature from the story.”
Frowning, she furrowed her brow. “I would not believe it.”
Sighing, “Well, I can see you are not capturing the point I am throwing at you. Perhaps I should just tell you the story again…”
“Yes please!” She beamed.
“Well,” He began. “In a white house, a long drive off the road, hidden by the trees, lived a little girl with her family. The little girl was naive and curious, as most little girls are. And in that house, desolate from the rest of their small town, she heard a whisper. Curious as she was, she went to investigate.”
“In this story, you said the sinister creature who whispered to her convinced her to give up the souls of her family.”
“Are you going to let me tell you story?” He asked her.
“Yes… but why would she do that? How would he ever convince her to do something so… awful?” She wondered.
“Children are ignorant little things. They do not understand the ways of the world, therefore, it’s simple to convince them something is one thing, when really, it is another thing entirely.”
His words wrapped around her, making her dizzy. “I don’t understand.”
“No. You wouldn’t. For you see, you’re a child. And as I’ve just mentioned, you don’t have the capacity to understand such things. Not yet.”
The story still had so many questions to be answered. “What does it mean? To give up the souls of her family?”
“Well… souls are tricky things. And you’re too much of a child to understand right now.” He cleared his throat. “Back to the story.”
“I just can’t believe it’s true.” She told him.
“This little girl, how lives in a house in the woods just like mine. What is her name?”
“Viola!” She jumped as her mom pulled up the dust ruffle and stuck her head under the bed. “How many times have I told you not to go under your bed in your good dress? It’s dusty under here! What are you doing?”
“Mom!” She clutched her hand to her chest and let out a long breath. “You scared me!”
“Clearly I don’t scare you enough to keep you from under your bed while you’re wearing your good dress. Honestly Viola, do you hear me at all when I speak to you? Get out from there this instance!”
“But mom, I am talking with Neville.”
Annoyance shook through her mother as she reached under the bed and pulled Viola out by her arm. On her knees, she pulled Viola up to her feet so they were about the same height. Setting her jaw, she held onto her arms and kept her voice stern. “Viola, you are too old for imaginary friends. Come now, out of that dress and down for dinner. You have exactly five minutes.”
Sulking, she walked into her closet to get changed, hanging her good dress back on the hanger before emerging. Pushing a headband on, she stood there looking at her dust ruffle.
“I still don’t think your story is true.” She sighed before turning to walk downstairs for dinner.
The dust ruffle blew slightly as the light underneath the bed went out. “Oh it’s true. Even if it hasn’t happened yet.”