The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Emma tiptoed across the Bauman’s front porch. When she twisted her key in the lock, she held tight to the heavy unicorn keychain Addie had gifted her just last week. It was a glittery thing emblazoned with NATALIE, the fake name she’d assumed when she’d moved to Minnesota. The name the Bauman’s used each and every day to address her.
The Bauman’s foyer was uncomfortably warm. Selina Bauman, soccer mom extraordinaire and Emma’s employer, ran cold, so the heat was always cranked up. Emma had learned to plan her wardrobe accordingly. She wore layers, so she could simply peel off a cardigan, an extra T-shirt, or tights when she grew too warm.
Or when feelings of loneliness, grief, and failure made Emma feel like her skin was boiling. That had been happening a lot lately.
Emma would be braiding Addie’s hair before school, twisting the girl’s silken locks between her fingers, and thinking, Why isn’t she mine? I could give her so much. When this happened, she’d pause and remove a scarf or a pair of socks. She’d finish Addie’s plait, her fingers shaking all the while, then watch the little girl bound off to find her mother, sadness ripping a hole in her chest.
Emma padded down the hall to the kitchen, a stuffed bear tucked gingerly beneath her arm. She kept her eyes forward, refusing to look at the family photos that lined the walls. The crystal-cut memories displayed there, the happiness frozen in time—it was all she’d ever wanted. And now, she was doing something about that.
In the kitchen, Emma set the stuffed bear on the linoleum. Only then did she remove her gloves, granting her hands, which were sweaty and sticky, much-needed reprieve from the heat.
Addie would be up soon, Emma knew. The child had an internal alarm clock that woke her, without fail, at 4 AM every morning, much to her parents’ dismay. They paid Emma extra to show up early.
She and the little girl’s routine would be different this morning. Emma had a gift for Addie, the plush, huggable teddy she’d propped up on the floor. She knew Addie would scoop it up immediately in her little-girl arms to squeeze and nuzzle it, pressing her cherubic face into the artificial fur. And then, within fifteen minutes or so (according to Emma’s dealer), Addie would fall into a deep sleep. A sleep that would take about twelve hours to shake off.
Addie wouldn’t feel anything as Emma scooped her up and retreated quietly down the hall, gazing lovingly into the little girl’s slumber-soft face. She wouldn’t notice the change of temperature as the two slipped into the chill of the night. And, of course, she wouldn’t hear a thing when Emma locked the door behind them, leaving the Bauman’s home nearly as she’d found it.
Fiction © Copyright Tiffany Michelle Brown
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
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Women in Horror Month 10