Neville 6. Strange

Viola snapped awake.

Shooting up in bed, she looked out the window at the night. Stars twinkled in the sky and the half moon lit the neighbourhood with it’s eerie light. 

Her throat was scratchy and itched. 

Throwing her feet to the floor, she stretched her arms above her head and let out a long, slow yawn. Rubbing at the sleep in her eyes, she trudged slowly towards the door, ignoring the sleepy weight to her feet. 

Reaching out blindly, her eyes still half closed, she held onto the bannister as she took slow steps down towards the kitchen. 

Surrounded by shadows, she crept slowly, the thin cotton of her nightgown brushing at her ankles every so often. 

In the kitchen, she paused. 

Hanging her head, she let her hair curtain around her face as she brought her hands up to cover her eyes. Rubbing her face, she tried to rouse herself enough to pour a glass of water.

Sighing, she walked over to the cupboards. On her toes, she opened the cupboard and pulled out a glass. Moving slowly to the fridge, she poured the water and stood there, drinking it in the pale glow of the fridge before closing it and taking what was left of her water with her.

More awake now, she looks at the photos lining the walls as she made her way down the hall and back to the stairs. 

The door to her father’s office moaned as it slowly opened.

Viola’s eyes widened, her shoulders up around her ears as she peered into the darkness. “Daddy?”

Her heart stopped as she slowly pushed the door open. Walking slowly, the water sloshing as the glass shook in her hand, she made her way to her father’s desk and turned on his lamp.

The room was suddenly basking in the soft light. 

Standing behind the desk, she looked around the room. It smelt of books and work. Inhaling deeply, she looked at the tall shelves lined with books, the leather bound chair in the corner by the window. 

Everything seemed to be in place. 

Pursing her lips, she raised her shoulders in a shrug as she let out a breath of relief. 

Reaching out, she decided it was just her mind playing tricks on her and she had better get back to bed. 

The curtain behind her shifted. 

Frozen, all the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end.

Her mind screamed at her, telling her to run out of the office, up the stairs and into her room. But she was frozen, unable to get to her bed and under the covers where she would be safe. 

Turning her head slightly, she looked back over her shoulder.

Standing in the corner in his work clothes with his nose pressed into the curtains, was her father. His shoulders were hunched, his body rigid and unnatural. 

Just standing there.

“Daddy?”

Viola didn’t know if she should be relieved. Normally seeing her father in his office was the most natural thing in the world but something about the way he stood there made her heart leap up into her throat.

With her back pressed against the desk, she slowly inched along trying to get a better look at him. 

Tilting her head, she tried to see his face.

It was completely hidden by shadows as it hung pressed to his chest.

“Daddy? Are you alright?” Her voice was a forced whisper.

He said nothing.

Moving slowly away from the desk, she took a few steps to stand beside him. Leaning over, she tried to look up into his face. “Dad-“

“What are you doing in here?” His voice shook through her as he leapt towards her. Dark circles made his blank eyes look ominous as he reached out and grabbed onto the front of her night gown.

Backing up, she screamed as her back his his desk, her water toppling off, the glass shattering on the floor.

Hunched over her, he looked down at her. 

Through her.

“This is my office.” He said flatly. “These are my things… why do you always take things that don’t belong to you, Viola?” His lips curved into a malicious smile as he let out a sinister giggle. “A tie, a tie, a tie.” He murmured under his breath. 

“Viola?” Her mother stepped into the office. Her eyes looked over her husband, the terrified look in Viola’s eyes and the shattered glass on the floor. “Come here.”

She didn’t need to be told twice. Running across the room, she dived into her mother’s arms. 

“Something is wrong with him.” Viola whimpered.

Looking past Viola, she saw the way her husband stood there. He was still looking down at the spot Viola had been, his teeth bared and his face gaunt. “Honey?” 

He said nothing. 

Sweat slicked his brow. Leaning forward he pressed an open palm against his desk and leaning into it. Lifting a shaking hand to his head, he buckled, falling back into his office chair. “I feel like death.” He murmured. Dropping his hands, he looked around his office and then over at us. “What’s going on?” 

My brow furrowed. “Daddy?”

“I think you’re coming down with something.” My mother told him. “Come on back to bed, I’ll ring the doctor in the morning.”

It took him awhile to get up, eventually Viola’s mother crossed the room and helped him, ushering Viola up the stairs in front of them.

Back in her room, Viola slowly climbed in bed.

Something was wrong with her father. He had seemed…

She wasn’t sure. 

Hanging her hand off the edge of the bed, she waited.

Cool fingers clasped around her wrist. Tightly first, before loosening their grip to run long fingernails up and down her arms, tracing lazy circles in her open palm.

“Neville…”

“Yes.”

“Where is baby Edward’s rattle, and my father’s tie?” The question had eaten away at her all the way up the stairs, as she looked back over her shoulder and saw the slicked, confused brow of her father, the worried and wondering lines of her mother’s face.

Since her game of pretend, baby Edward had been odd. Like a piece of him was missing, along with his rattle. The same could be said now, of her father.

“I put them in a safe place.” He replied.

“Maybe we should put them back.”

“No.” His hand closed painfully around her wrist.

Wincing, she tried to jerk her arm free. “Ouch, you’re hurting me.”

“Why must you always be so insolent?” He asked her. “Of all I have given you, of all the countless hours I have spent telling you stories you practically beg for. I have been your friend when there have been none else and all I ask of you is one simple thing.”

Sighing, she waited for him to slowly loosen his grip. She left her arm there, dangling within his reach, despite her new freedom. “I’m sorry.” Her mind went back to the story, and the countless discussions they had in the dark. “Neville.”

“Yes.”

“Are you the sinister creature from the story?” She asked him, remembering him telling her he was.

“Yes.”

Silence filled the air between them.

“Neville?”

“Yes?”

“What does sinister mean?”

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