In which Emma leaves home.
“So. . .” Adelle carefully placed a hot bowl of heat up raviolis – her own microwave specialty – in front of Emma. “Besides the animals in the woods-“
“I know what I saw.” Emma snatched up a fork and jabbed into one of the pasta cases.
“I’m not saying you didn’t.”
“You just don’t believe me.”
Adelle sat down across from her. Emma could feel the woman’s eyes on her, boring into her, trying to find something, anything to hold onto. But she just kept eating.
“Well,” Adelle gave up. “What do you think about this house?”
“It’s old and drafty.”
“I mean, imagine it after the renovations. What do you think a girl your age would love about it?”
“Why’re you asking me?”
“It is a family home. It’ll more than likely be sold to a family, who might have someone your age.”
“After it’s done, huh?”
“Yes. After we’ve returned it to its former glory.”
Emma thought for a moment, eating away as she did so. She tried to imagine the house before it was thrown into neglect.
“Well,” she said between bites. “It’s not that bad, I guess . . . but I don’t think . . . any kid would want to live here . . . unless there were more plugins . . . and Wi-Fi. . .”
Adelle nodded, playing around with her own food. “I see. That’s good to know.”
“But it’s nothing like dad’s condo.”
She saw Adelle’s hands twitch. But she didn’t care.
“What if this place was fixed up better than the condo?”
“That’d be impossible.”
“It is bigger. There’d be more room to play and to put a DVD collection in. It holds so many opportunities.”
“It’s nowhere near a mall though. And what kid would want to move out here anyway?”
She felt Adelle’s eyes on her. She looked right back at them.
“You don’t mean . . .“
“Well . . . it is a nice place to-“
“Don’t tell me you expect to move down here – with me.”
“Emma. I don’t know what your father has said, but there will be some changes come this fall-“
“You do!” she jumped from her seat, gripping the edges of the table.
“Now, dear, you and your brother will love-“
“Don’t give me that crap! You’re just trying to steal us away from dad!”
“You can’t do this!”
“It’s already been decided-“
“Liar! You’re lying just like you lied before!”
Emma launched herself from the table, racing to the top of the stairs. She could hear Adelle’s pleas getting softer and softer. When she was safely in the room she had claimed, she slammed the door shut. She would have locked it, but there were no locks on these doors.
Instead, she just flopped down on the bed and reached for the phone. She tried to call her dad over and over, but the signal was too weak. Damn!
She just had to come here – to pick Adelle over camp. Was forced to leave the comfort of her own bedroom for this. And now she was being told she would have to permanently move here?!
She hated this place. And hated Adelle. Was that witch just trying to get back at her dad by stealing her and her brother away?!
Anger and tears shook Emma until she fell into a restless sleep.
“Goodnight, dear,” she heard Adelle say as the door creaked open.
Emma stayed still, glad she was facing the other way.
“Do you want another blanket?”
She wished she had put in her earbuds before her space was invaded.
It wasn’t her space.
This was an old house unfit to live in, far away from any real civilization that would choke her until she couldn’t breathe – it was already the death of her.
“Alright, dear. If you get any colder, just come to my room.” Emma heard the door creak shut.
The woman left, her steps fading more and more with each second.
She looked over her shoulder.
Finally, she was alone.
She searched for her phone under the covers – she just had to get a hold of her dad. But there were still no bars. Stupid phone! She could use her data all she wanted, but couldn’t call her own dad? Electronics sucked.
She tried to open up one of the texting apps she had. She wanted to talk to her dad, but apparently, she just had to message him another way. As the little light spun in a circle, she groaned. She hoped it would be sent through soon. She didn’t want to spend another minute-
The door creaked open.
She sat up. “Would you just leave me-“
The rat was back.
It crawled over to her bag, her eyes widen with every step it took. It was definitely not a rabbit.
It played with her zipper, trying to get into her treats.
She gripped her phone. “Get away from that!”
She jumped off the bed, spooking the creature. It ran out of the room and into the hall – Emma chased after it. She may have to put up with Adelle, but she wouldn’t put up with this- this- this thing!
It ran down the hall, her right behind it.
When the rat got to Adelle’s room, it looked up at Emma.
She glared down at it. “Don’t you dare.”
If she had something, she would have thrown it right in between the little beast’s eyes.
Its whiskers twitched.
She kept her eyes on it.
It finally leapt past a door, going straight up to the attic instead of Adelle’s room. Emma followed, determined to put that rodent in its place.
But she had lost it once it hit the boxes.
“Where are you?” she whispered. “I’m going to kill you!”
She slowly moved between the stacks of dust and objects, searching this way and that for the rat.
“Come on. You have to be somewhere.”
Emma’s head shot up. She looked around the room. No one was there.
“Great. Now I’m going crazy – again.”
“Not crazy. Just mad.”
Her eyes landed on one of the sheets. Whatever was under it was very tall. . .
She walked up to it. Her hand shook as she reached out to pull off the sheet. She took a deep breath and ripped off the sheet.
It was a mirror. Well, the back of a mirror.
“Yes. Definitely crazy.”
“You daft? I said mad.”
She darted around it.
The mirror’s face glowed, lights dancing around like water. But there was no reflection.
There was no light shining on the objects around it. It was as if the light itself was trapped behind the glass.
“You’re halfway right,” a voice echoed from the mirror.
Emma gaped. She had lost her mind.
“Oh, come on. Don’t be too hard on yourself.”
“Now,” a small hand came out of the mirror, urging her to come closer. “We have an adventure to continue.”
She didn’t know what to do, or if this was even real. No. It couldn’t be. She was probably still asleep.
The rat from before ran out into the open before leaping into the mirror.
Emma blinked. She walked behind the mirror, but didn’t spot the rat.
“The rat’s in here.”
She looked back at the front.
“Come. Before it’s too late.” The hand beckoned her.
Her shaking fingers tapped the top of the mirror, only slightly. The colors rippled under each touch.
She walked back to the front.
So, she was really seeing this . . . right? Maybe she shouldn’t-
“You want to leave this house, don’t you?”
The hand wasn’t wrong. . .
She reached for it, letting it grab her hand. It gently led her into the mirror, the world rippling around her.
© E.N. Chaffin 2018. All rights reserved. Any reproduction without author permission is against the copyright laws of the United States of America.