“The town was small. If you drove through the small town past the post office, there was a dirt road. It was wide enough for one car to drive through, thick trees on both sides. The dirt road was bumpy, making it impossible for most vehicles to drive more than ten miles an hour unless you had the right truck for it. If you drove down that road for about thirty minutes you would arrive at a house.
“Large and welcoming, the house was brown. Large wooden logs made up most of the house aside from the right side, which was made entirely of brown brick. The shutters were a deep green. It seemed one with the woods it lived in, a welcoming porch going all around the large house told anyone who drove up to it that the people who lived there enjoyed sitting in the woods, being a part of it.
“In the house lived a happy family. A smiling mother, who was loving and caring except for those seldom moments she needed to be stern. A father whose eyes shone when he looked at his wife, even after twelve years of marriage. He worked hard and loved to drive up that long dirt road at the end of the day. A daughter who was young and curious at the tender age of eight, and their baby boy.”
The door opened and Viola jumped.
“Viola, have you seen baby Edward’s rattle?” Her mother asked her.
Looking up from where she sat cross-legged on the floor, she shook her head. “No mother.”
Sighing, her mother put her hand on her hip. “It’s really the strangest thing, I could have sworn I put it in his cradle with him last night before bed.” She paused in thought for a moment before looking back at Viola. “My darling girl, what are you doing on the floor?” Walking over, she squatted next to her daughter.
Viola’s eyes went under her bed and into the shadows for a moment before looking back at her mother. “Talking to Neville.” She told her.
Raising a brow, her mother turned to look under the bed. Dropping to her knees, she peered into the shadows.
Silence sliced through the room.
Her mother jumped when Viola touched her shoulder. “Have you tried the basinette in the sitting room?”
Looking over her shoulder, she shook her head and quickly got to her feet. “Yes, I have. No sign of it.” Walking to the door, she stopped, looking towards the bed again. “Viola, honey. Come downstairs for a while. It’s no good, you sitting up here talking to the shadows for hours on end.”
She nodded. “Okay mother. In a minute.”
Hesitating, she looked at Viola once more before leaving the room.
Crawling closer to the bed, she stuck her head underneath. “Hurry then, I have to go downstairs.”
“Later.” He told her.
“Neville, that is our house… in the story. Isn’t it?”
He said nothing.
“But not our family.” She told him.
He laughed low. “You don’t think so?”
Shaking her head, she propped her chin on her fists. “No. In your story the girl seems dark, evil. The things she does,” She shakes her head.
“Perhaps you’re right then. A different family… from before you lived here.” He told her.
Smiling, she nodded. “Later then?”
“Later.” He repeated.
Shimmying back from under the bed, she got to her feet and brushed at the knees of her jeans before going downstairs.
Viola could hear her mother muttering to herself as she moved things around in the sitting room. Her shoes could be heard on their floors as she went into the next room to continue looking.
Walking into the sitting room, she looked down at baby Edward who was lying on his stomach on his play mat. His eyes looked up at her for a moment before he resumed looking down at his hands. A thick trail of saliva connected his mouth to his hands.
Her mother poked her head around the corner as she came into the room. “Wonderful Viola, keep an eye on your brother for a moment will you? I am going to check a few other rooms.” She dropped her voice to a murmur. “He just loves that rattle.”
Her brow creased as she looked down at her brother.
Baby Edward did love his rattle, she thought. So much so that he held onto it every waking moment of every day. When he lost sight of it for a single moment he wailed and wailed and wailed until it was returned to him.
Viola looked down at his quiet brother.
“Edward.” She sung his name as she dropped down to her stomach in front of the mat to look at him.
His eyes slowly looked at her.
She made a silly face before hiding behind her hands. “Peek-a-boo.” She said, opening her hands to look at him.
He looked at her.
Reaching her hand out, she brushed the knuckles of her fingers against his cheek. “Edward.” She sung again. “Who’s a handsome boy?”
It was usually effortless to get a reaction out of her brother. Whether it was laughter or hysterical crying, he usually reacted right away to anything she did to him. Now all he did was stare at her.
Her stomach ached as she looked at him. Getting up, she picked him up and walked into the other room, looking for her mother. “Mom.”
Poking her head out of her father’s office, her mother looked at her. “Yes, Viola.”
“When is lunch?”
Turning her head to look at the clock, her mother lifted her shoulders. “Would you like lunch now? I was going to keep looking for Edward’s rattle, but he seems calm enough without it.”
Viola nodded. “It’s strange, isn’t it? He usually cries the moment it is out of his sight.”
Her mother lifted her shoulders, taking Edward from Viola’s arms as she walked by. “Sometimes babies outgrow their favorite toys. Perhaps he likes something more now.”
Following her mother into the kitchen, she sat in a chair to wait for her lunch. Her mother put Edward in his high chair and pushed him over to sit next to her.
Edward’s eyes seemed different as he sat there, looking straight ahead.
He was silent all through lunch. Accepting the food her mother gave him without the usual giggling or fussing.
Viola kept her thoughts to herself as she finished eating and went back upstairs to her room. The house seemed too quiet as she closed her door and went over to lie on her bed.
“Neville.” She said finally.
She wondered what he would say to her, if he would call her a foolish girl like he usually did. Yet she felt as though she had to ask. “What did you do with Edward’s rattle?”
“I think I will just keep it with me… for a short while.”
Viola bit down on her bottom lip. “And… that game of pretend we played…” She didn’t know what to say to him, how to bring up how different Edward had seemed from the day before.
She was just being foolish, she told herself. There were days when Edward was quieter than others, just as there were days when he was obnoxiously loud. Perhaps he would be loud tomorrow, or even later.
Babies were… well, babies. She didn’t know what he was going to do. One minute he would be laughing and the next he would be crying.
She was sure she heard him crying this morning.
Maybe he was just quiet because he didn’t have his rattle to entertain him.
Yes, that was probably it.
“Nothing.” She said finally.
“Do you want me to finish the story?” He asked her.
Rolling onto her side, she let her hand slide off the side of the bed. She waited until she felt the familiar pressure on her wrist, felt her hand swaying slightly as he pushed it. “Yes please.”