Chapter 3 - Plastic Lawn Chair

rating: +12+x

When Emma was eight, her mother Rachael Sandaran gifted her a plastic lawn chair.

It was light pink and stained in a few spots. Most days it rested on the back patio of her house facing a brick wall, gathering dust and dirt. While it was technically owned by Rachael, she never used it and wouldn't punish Emma when she caught her sitting on it. A silent agreement had been written between the two that, as long as Emma didn't break it, that chair was hers.

Like an act of silent rebellion, Emma took this agreement as a challenge. She would jump on the chair, kick it, try with all of her strength to break it or at least crack once or twice. She never did. Regardless of how many attempts at destroying it she made or how many times she slammed into it, the chair stood strong and unphased. After a few hours Emma would give up and use the chair the way it was meant to. Exhaustion would lull her into a deep sleep, and she would sink deep into the plastic seat. It was during those times that she forgot that she was alive, and for an hour or so her brain would be convinced that she was back inside of her mother's womb, untouched by the world.

That feeling of unliving came upon her again as she woke up on a smothering October evening. She was a child again. Her tiny body was filled with an energy that only came from the belief that she couldn't die, because children don't die in the real world. She had sleepwalked out onto the driveway. When she woke up, she realized that she had been sitting in the chair for hours. Her eyes were glazed over, her arms were weak. It took her a few seconds to realize that she was staring into a pair of bright yellow headlights: Rachael's car.

Emma sank further into the chair, letting the plastic scratch her back as she curled her arms and legs into herself. It was still a little warm. She shut her eyes tight and desperately tried to recapture that sense of lifelessness. She begged it to return, to take her out of this dream because it was just a little too real. None of her prayers protected her as Rachael's voice brought her back into reality.

“Emma, honey?” It was loud and feminine and had an annoying rise in tone at the end of every word. It filled up Emma's head like blood rushing to her brain when she tasted something too cold. "Are you okay?"

The car door opened and slammed shut as someone stepped out in front of the headlights. Emma could only see their shadow, but she knew instantly who it was. There was only one person that could tower over a person like that. Emma stared off into space as the other door opened and somebody else exited. She couldn't hear them at all, even thought she remembered their voice being clear and concise. Her mind smothered the sound.

“Honey, can you hear me?”

Emma refused to move. Her body jolted once or twice, trying to scare itself awake, but nothing happened. It was like she was a doll without strings; there was nothing to support her, to keep her moving, so she simply didn't. Emma probably should have been panicking. She tried to make herself panic, because she was so sure that that was what she should have felt in that moment. But instead, she was tired. She just wanted to sleep.

Rachael talked with the voiceless, faceless shadow for a little while. Emma couldn't remember what she said. All of her attention was focused on a drop of sweat that was slowly making its way down her nose. Emma was sweating. The sun was gone already, and world was dark like her bedroom when the lights were off. It was cold, and that cold stuck to her skin.

That was when the dream froze.

Over the span of a single beat, Emma became free from her body, and was finally able to resist the chair's pull, stepping out of herself like a ghost. She turned and saw her eight-year-old self, cold and still like a corpse. Everything else remained trapped, allowing Emma to examine the scene. The figure in the shadows turned out to be just that, a figure. It was barely a thing at all; it was just a strange abnormality that didn't mean anything or matter at all.

Emma felt a great fear. She sat back down, trying to phase back into her body. The chair was solid and tangible and real. She lined up her fingers with that their fleshy counterparts, contorted her body into the same posture, and even squeezed her face into its original expression. The world was still. A cold thing wrapped around her heart as she realized that she couldn't get out of this. She couldn't escape this, no matter how hard she tried. Emma flew off of the chair and ran, a last ditch attempt to escape this thing that had taken over her dreams.

Her lungs wheezed as she sped past blurry sidewalks and brick walls and picket fences. The windows of her neighbors' houses darkened into ominous black squares. Emma didn't care. She just kept running until the sidewalks and the roads ended and the darkness of the rest of her memory began.

As more and more around her disappeared, Emma soon forgot whether she was moving or not. There was no more road to run on. At some point, the ground itself faded away. There was no wind breezing past her face. There was no chill biting at her flesh. There were no signs that she was alive. Emma could feel her legs swinging, she could tell that they were doing something, but she remained perfectly in place. There was nothing around her.

No. That was wrong. There was still the chair.

It was far away, tiny and powerless, but it reminded Emma of the scratches it gave to her and how sore it made her back after she sat on it for hours and hours. That pain made Emma think of Rachael and the shadow people and the professors in lab-coats and the cruel children and Mrs. Swinsky. Those figures swirled around in her mind, fighting with one another to put themselves at the forefront of her attention. Images appeared in front of her. She reached out to touch them, but they drew back, beckoning her to step forward and follow. And Emma, not knowing any other way out, complied.

The rational part of her mind spoke up. This is a dream. You are dreaming, it cried. This wasn't safe. She wasn't supposed to surround herself in the dream, she was supposed to realize that it was fake and run from it. Emma knew that she was dreaming, and that meant that she had control over it. She could end it, dispel all of the fantasies and the images and those feelings and come back to reality. She knew it was all fake, and yet she continued to follow the images. Her legs had to run, her arms had to reach out and grab onto something, anything that reminded her of the feeling that that chair had brought to her. It had to be in this place, somewhere. Where was it hiding? Did it still exist?

She learned the answer to that question as she stepped away unknowingly into the night.

"What's your name?"

Emma look up to the figure standing above her. They were blocking the sun, causing their body to be completely black with shadow. Emma was sitting on a curb, careful not to get dirt on her off-white skirt and off-white dress. She didn't know why she was even wearing it — she liked shorts more. "I'm Emma," she said. Her voice squeaked the same way it did when she was six.

"I like your name, but mine is even better. My name is Charlie." The figure plopped down on the curb next to her. Now that they were out of the sun, Emma saw that Charlie was a plump girl with freckles dotting her face and thick ginger curls that fell in front of her eyes.

"That sounds like it's from a book," Emma said.

"Nope. I made it all up myself," Charlie responded.

"You took that from Mrs. Swinsky's book."

"No I didn't."

"Yes you did."

Having decided that she was bested at her own game, Charlie's head fell into her hands and she looked down at the woodchips. The playground was almost empty. There was only one other group of kids that were running around the swing set. It was so hot Emma had to squint just to see. Dust filled the air from where the other kids dug into the ground. Before her eyes could fully adjust, Charlie plowed through a small mountain of woodchips, which flew into Emma's eyes and caused her to sneeze.

"You hit me right in the face!" Emma turned away, her eyes watering up.

Charlie stood at a distance. She fumbled her hands around as she figured out what to do. "Oh, I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't meant to do that."

"But you still did!" Emma couldn't see the look on the fat girl's face and she didn't care to imagine it. As she brushed away the small pieces of wood, tears staining her hands, her voice fell and she said, "You're such an… idiot."

Charlie gasped.

"I'm gonna tell the teacher!" she squealed as she ran off towards the stick-thin woman in the thick blue dress that stood watching the kids like a guard tower.

Emma sprang up, her eyes still twitching with pain. "No, you're not!" She sped after Charlie.

"And… why not?"

"Because if you tell on me, then I'll tell her that you threw woodchips in my face."

Charlie skidded to a halt. "I didn't even mean to!" she said. Emma soon caught up to her.

"Yeah, but the teacher will think you did." She thrusted a finger into Charlie's chest. "And then you're gonna get the worse punishment!"

"No! Calling someone a name is way worse than accidentally getting something in your eyes."

"Yeah, but it is if you do it on purpose, then it's a lot worse."

"That's not true!"

"It doesn't matter if it's not true! I already said—"

"Is there a problem here, girls?" An old voice rang out above Emma and Charlie.

They looked up and saw the long-chinned, large-nosed, low-foreheaded, sick-and-tired face of Mrs. Swinsky. She had only been teaching at Emma's school for a few years, but she already had a terrifying reputation. Emma had seen her a few times thus far, but each sighting gave her shivers that lasted for days on end. There was something gutturally terrifying about that woman, but Emma didn't know what it was, and she was always too afraid to ask her mother for help.

"Speak up. I can't hear you." Mrs. Swinsky's voice was harsh and bitter, like she was restraining herself from outright screaming at the two girls.

"T-There's no problem, Mrs. Swinsky," Charlie said. Emma turned to see the girl's bright red face turn pale. Her thick hair seemed to have retracted like a scared pack of dogs that had just stumbled upon a forest fire.

Emma followed suit. "Yeah, we weren't doing anything." Mrs. Swinsky took a long, careful look at her. Emma tried to solidify her face into a blank expression. She tried to take all of the life out of it.

"Are you sure? I saw you two bickering at each other like you were about to tear each other apart."

"Well," Emma began, "I guess—"

"Don't guess, girl. I don't have time to guess about what might have happened. Just tell me the truth."

"I'm sorry." Emma stared at the ground as blood poured into her cheeks and ears and forehead. Looking back on that incident, she had wondered many times if that was a sign from the universe, a second chance to get it right this time. Regardless, even though she hadn't realized it then, Emma took that chance. "We were just talking."

"Yeah!" Charlie piped up with an enthusiasm that didn't last five seconds under Mrs. Swinsky's cold stare. "Oh. Um, I move around a lot when I talk. My mom says I talk with my hands."

"Are you sure about that?" Mrs. Swinsky took one last hard look at the girls, searching for any sign of deception. Charlie's face was slowly turning red with shame. Then, the teacher spoke, "Alright. But you two should have been more quiet, and stop fighting each other. You're distracting the teachers. Understand?"

"Yes, Mrs. Swinsky," the two said in unison. Mrs. Swinsky, satisfied, marched back to her past near the swing set as a group of boys sped past her. She waved at them to slow down, but did nothing more. Emma felt a little sick, but she didn't understand why. She just pushed the feeling down and hoped it went away.

She slowly made her way back to the curb, globs of sweat forming on her nose from the heat. Charlie followed, albeit staying a safe few feet away. When Emma sat, the only thing she wanted to do was cry. She wanted to cry and to scream and to kick the ground just like Charlie did. She was sad because she had lied; she was scared because of how easily it came to her; she was frustrated because she knew she wouldn't be able to tell her mother without getting in trouble. She would have to deal with it herself, and she had no idea what to do.

"So…" Charlie spoke like she hadn't just done something terrible. It was light and slightly aloof, and it just made Emma feel worse. She wanted to scream at her, stop acting so nice! Charlie said, "Do you want to do something else?"

"What else can we do?" Emma scoffed, hoping that that would drive Charlie away.

"Well, there's the swings. Those are kind of fun. Oh! I tried jumping off them once, but a teacher told me that was dangerous. I still do it, but now I know it's dangerous at least. And the monkey bars are pretty fun and there's a few games that…"

Charlie's voice faded into the background as Emma dove into her thoughts. The heat was becoming unbearable. Every second, she felt another layer of skin burn away. Mrs. Swinsky's voice still bounced around in her head, forever repeating itself until Emma wanted to physically tear her eardrums out.

"…but all of those are things I only do with my actual friends. So I guess we have to be friends if you want to do that. So, do you want to?" Emma turned to see a massive closed-lip smile on Charlie's face.

"Okay," she said.

Emma sat in her living room mindlessly staring at the television screen that was playing another episode of a cartoon that she didn't know the name of. She was wearing jeans that were tight around her legs and a navy blue shirt that was a few sizes too big. The air looked almost blue as the evening approached. If she squinted, she might have been able to imagine that she was on a cold alien planet that had been long abandoned.

There was a soft rumble as a car pulled up in the driveway. Bright lights flooded through the windows. Emma, like a moth, instinctively began moving towards it, not even realizing it until she was halfway to the door. She stood in front of it, waiting for something to open it. Mother was speaking to someone on the other side. It was a voice that Emma didn't recognize — a man's voice.

There was a click and a creak and the door opened. Mother entered first, but she didn't notice Emma standing right there. Emma kept quiet as Mother set her purse on the kitchen table and grabbed a water bottle. The man stood in the doorway, just out of sight. Mother was wearing red lipstick. Emma had never seen her wearing red lipstick before.

Mother's eyes widened when she finally looked down and saw her daughter. "Hey honey," she said. "What are you doing up so late? Your bedtime was an hour ago."

Emma mumbled out a mess of words. It took her a second to get all of her thoughts in line. Why was she up at all? "I was… I was waiting for you to tuck me in."

"Oh, Emma." Mother's voice had a low growl to it like a dog. "I can't always tuck you in at night. You know I have things to do, don't you? You're a smart girl, you should have been tucking yourself in. Matter of fact, aren't you a little old to be tucked in?"

Mother was wearing sleek black heels that were red on the bottom. Emma hadn't seen those before either. She said, "I mean… I don't know how. Could you just do it? It'll only be a few minutes—"

"Is that what I asked, honey?"

The man said something and Mother said something back. They were only noises to Emma's ears. Her eyes were locked on those two red smears on Mother's lips. They took up all of her vision, blocking out the kitchen table and the walls and the ceiling and the floor. They almost expanded off of Mother's face, like they were chasing after Emma. Those lips smiled when the man spoke, but not when they were listening to her. She was so sweet to the man.

"I don't know," Emma said. "I guess I am a little too old. I'm sorry. I'll go to sleep now."

"Mhm. You go do that." Mother spoke with the man a little longer while Emma walked to the stairs. The floor was cold on her bare feet. It was like walking on the flat sides of glass shards.

She never saw the man's face. By the time he had entered the house, Emma was already at the top of the stairs and his face was out of view. Emma sat at the top step and watched him speak with Mother. He only said a few words, then suddenly he turned and left. Mother was sitting at the kitchen table, her head in her hands. Steam billowed from her ears as she tapped her shoe on the ground. It looked like she was on the verge of breaking something.

Emma got up and went to her room, like she should have done hours earlier. The carpeted floor bruised her feet now as punishment. She heard the television switch off, and Mother sigh, defeated. Emma inched closer to her room, darkness slowly filling her vision.

She felt like a ghost. No, more like a robot: something that walked and spoke like a person but fucked everything up right when she was on the verge of doing something right. It had to be something with her programming. There had to be some bug or anomaly in her brain that made her act like this. She had no control over where and when she would mess everything up, she just knew that at some point, it would come. There was no reason why she sat on that couch for hours, terrified of turning off the television, she just did it. And that was a problem.

She wished that things would stop, or at least slow down enough for her to tell what was wrong. She knew that, somewhere deep inside of her, something was going horribly, horribly wrong. Everything felt fine, though. Maybe that was the problem. Would she have felt fine if she had gone crazy and stabbed Mother in the chest with a knife? Would she feel any kind of regret whatsoever? She felt like a selfish god, one that Mother constantly had to appease to keep her from destroying everything with a flick of her finger. If Emma had the chance, she would cut off her wings and dethrone herself. She would give it all away, because being powerless was better than whatever this was.

Reality melted around her as her brain rejected the rest of the scene. Everything was wrong, it decided. It wasn't just with her, but with everything around her. That was the only way her actions made any kind of sense. This couldn't just be the way that things were. They just couldn't.

"Tell me what happened between you and Charlie, Emma. This is very serious, so you need to tell me the truth. Do you understand?"

Emma sat inside of the principal's office along with Mother, Charlie, and a large round woman with orange hair that Emma assumed was Charlie's mom. The principal sat behind a wooden desk with ornate designs that made it look almost royal. There was a giant bald spot right on the top of his head. Emma could almost see the hairs falling off as he scratched his neck.

"Emma, do you understand what is happening right now? You know we have a zero-tolerance policy for fighting, so you and Charlie could both get in very big trouble if—"

"Mr. Fischer, I think she understands." Mother's voice took on a formal tone that it didn't possess when she was home. It was almost robotic, but still held a charismatic inflection to it.

"Let her speak for herself," Charlie's mom said.

"She can, and she will." Mother put a hand on Emma's shoulder and squeezed tightly. Emma bit her lip lip to avoid expressing the pain she was feeling. All eyes were staring at her.

She had to tell them the story of what happened, and it had better be good.

"Well, um," Emma fumbled, "Charlie and me were out on the playground, near the swings I think, and we were talking about how we really don't like… like, the homework we just got. Charlie is really big and really… active and things like that. I think we might have gotten angry, but we stopped after a little bit."

Mother said, "You stopped after she hit you, honey."

"You said you weren't going to interfere!" Charlie's mom grew three shades redder as she hurled an accusatory finger at Mother.

"I'm just clarifying what she meant."

"Ladies," the principal piped up. "Let the girls speak for themselves. Charlie, can you tell me what happened?"

Charlie tried to squirm in her seat, but the weight of her mom's hand forced her to stay in place. It seemed like every time she pushed against her mother, she just pushed back with twice as much force. Charlie seemed to deflate them.

"Okay. Well, it's like what Emma said. We were talking and then I got kind of angry, but I didn't hit her at all. We were just having a conversation. It didn't mean anything."

Emma's mother began to bury her nails into her daughter's shoulder.

The principal asked, "Is this what happened, Emma?"

After a few seconds, Emma nodded.

"Okay. If both parties agree that this incident was just a misunderstanding and there was no real harm done, then I don't feel the need for there to be a punishment. I see this kind of thing all the time on the playground, boys being rough with boys, but not so much with girls. I encourage you, moms, to have a chat about your daughters' behaviors, but you two are free to go."

Charlie's mom dragged her out of her seat, and began marching towards the door. Mother stayed firmly in place.

"Excuse me, Mr. Fischer? Are you seriously going to allow that girl to walk out of her after what she did to my daughter?" Mother asked.

"Oh, calm down," Charlie's mom replied. "You heard what the man said. There was no harm done. Stop being so ridiculous."

"I am absolutely not? You were the one that's been accusing me during this conversation."

"Ladies…" the principal began.

Mother snapped towards him. "Do not call me, 'lady'. I have a name, use it. Thanks." Her words wrapped around the principal's mouth like a snake, preventing him from speaking.

"And there she goes again," Charlie's mom said. She continued on her way to the exit when Mother lifted Emma's arm and flashed the underside to the principal. There was a large red mark on the other side.

"Do you think this was the result of play-fighting? Hmm? My daughter was seriously injured by that girl and you're just going to let her walk away? Are you delusional?"

The principal's face darkened as he looked at the bruise. He raised a finger, beckoning Charlie's mom back inside. "Now, what is this?" Charlie slowly waddled back to her seat, unable to look at Emma. "Did you do this, Charlie?"

A red stain of embarrassment grew on her face. After a few seconds, she slowly nodded her head.

Mother let out a triumphant breath. "There, she just admitted it. So don't tell me that I'm acting—"

"But it was an accident!" Charlie blurted out, salty tears forming in her eyes. "I didn't mean to hurt her! I just got excited and kind of accidentally scratched her a little."

"Shh, Charlie," Charlie's mom said. "We know it was an accident. You don't have to explain."

"Yes she does, actually," Mother said.

"Mom!" Emma interjected.

"Quiet, honey. Listen, I don't want this girl in my daughter's class anymore. Clearly, she is reckless and unable to control her emotions. Just look at what she did today. Who knows what she'll do to the other children. Until she is able to control herself, I don't want her anywhere near my daughter."

"Excuse me? You heard what she said: this was an accident. If my baby needed counseling, then why hasn't something like this happened before, huh? Charlie has known Emma for how many years now and nothing like this has ever happened."

Mother beamed her eyes at the woman. "Then something must have happened to your daughter. Or something has been happening and you never noticed."

"Mom…" Emma turned to Mother. Her face was burning red, and she was on the verge of breaking down in tears. She was met with a finger telling her to stay quiet.

"I'm just saying what everybody else is thinking," Mother said. "Your child is hurting my daughter. And that is something that I am not willing to put up with under any circumstances."

"You don't have to 'put up' with anything because nothing has happened. This wasn't even a problem until you made it one! My baby and Emma were perfectly fine just talking it out, but you had to get involved, didn't you? How dare you…"

That was all Emma's brain could take before the voices fell away, degrading into wailing sirens and loud static and mindless drumming in her ears. Mother's hand faded away like a ghost. A feeling came to her. It was something more powerful than anything she had ever felt before. If she could have, she would have smiled. When she tried, however, she found that her face was paralyzed.

She wasn't worried about anything. She wasn't anxious about a monster lurking around the corner. Even if she had suffered years upon years of screaming and yelling and fighting, she knew that this room in her mind existed now. Emma could visit it anytime she wanted and leave reality behind. It didn't matter if she were on her deathbed or just eating lunch with a friend. She could always leave.

And that was better than anything else in the world.

Emma stood in her back patio, her arms cold, her legs trembling, as Mother looked her up and down. She held Emma's lawn chair in one hand, dangling it ever so close to her daughter. Emma remembered that there were tears in her eyes. There were wet stains on her sleeves and her stomach was aching with hunger and fear. The only sound was that of the summer wind scratching against her skin like sandpaper. She looked up at Mother.

Her face was something unworldly. Her bangs casted dim shadows on her eyes as she ran her tongue over her chapped lips. She was wearing a white lab coat. There were dark red stains on the bottom of her pants and her shoes that smelled like rotten flesh. Emma kept her eyes on those stains.

"It'll be fine. You'll be fine, honey. I even found a new school that I know you'll love. You'll meet new friends, new teachers. They might even be better, you never know. I'm sure it'll be okay."

"It's not okay!" Emma screamed. Mother shushed her before looking over to the neighbor's yard to see if anybody noticed. "I don't want to go!"

"Why don't you want to go?"

"My…" Emma mumbled to herself for a few seconds. More wet spots appeared on her sleeves. Her vision started to blur, but she didn't wipe her eyes. She kept her hands at her sides, defenseless. "My friends don't want me to go."

"Who doesn't want you to go? Oh, it doesn't matter. Why are you complaining? You can just call them, or do any of the other things kids can do nowadays. Why are you crying? Come on, tell me."

It was Charlie. Charlie didn't want her to leave. But Emma could already see the disdain that was filling Mother's eyes and the punishment she would dish out should Emma say that name, so she kept quiet. Emma wasn't supposed to talk to Charlie anymore. She still did though, almost every single day. They shared little moments together: passing each other in the hallway, sitting at the same table during lunchtime, and swinging next to each other on the swing set. To Mother though, none of that mattered; Charlie was her enemy, the girl that dared to scratch Emma's beautiful, pristine face.

Emma hung her head low. It was better for Mother to think that she had no friends than for her to know that she talks to someone like that. A familiar warmth began to fill her body, but it only got halfway before stopping suddenly, leaving the rest out to freeze from the chilling wind. She needed her chair back. She needed to feel the plastic scratching her arms in just the right way and she need to feel her back being forced into an uncomfortable position and she needed to feel reality run far, far away from her for just a few minutes.

In the distance, dark storm clouds rolled into view. It would rain that evening.

"You can tell me, honey." Mother reached towards Emma. She suppressed her instincts to pull away as Mother touched her hands. Mother squeezed tight until Emma's wrists turned white and numb.

"Ow… um, it was Mrs. Swinsky. She said that she would miss me."

"What?" Mother pulled Emma unbearably close. "I thought you didn't like Mrs. Swinsky? Why are you so… ah, but you'll have better teachers at your new school. I'm sure you'll find somebody you like."

Emma bit her lip. Would she find somebody better than Charlie? Mother said so, and Mother was almost always right. Emma couldn't imagine anyone better than that girl, the one that hit her a lot and said stupid things all the time and screamed a little too loud. And despite her faults, Emma had never found anybody like her in the decades that she had been searching. Every time she got close, she just saw that chubby face and those ginger curls and wouldn't be able to talk to that person. There was something about Mother. Emma could sense something behind her eyes and her lips that still smelled like something toxic. When they contorted themselves into a smile, it never seemed genuine — and when it did, it was never genuine happiness, but something dark and sinful. No matter how hard Emma tried, though, she couldn't figure out why a pit formed in her stomach upon seeing her. Her brain would shut off and start yelling exactly one thing at her.

There was something deeply wrong with Rachael.

"Okay," Emma said.

"Oh, I'm so proud of you!" Rachael replied. "Now let's go and get your things ready. The flight is tomorrow morning. There'll be a whole new house waiting for you when you get there. It'll be an adventure with just you and me."


Thunder brewed in the distance. Rachael peeked away towards the sky, her hand still wrapped around Emma's lawn chair. A raindrop splashed on the ground nearby. She let out a soft groan, and dropped the chair. Before Emma could scramble towards it, Rachael grabbed her and began to pull her inside. Emma gave way instantly, unable to resist Rachael's grasp.

"Rain's coming," Emma whispered, to herself mostly. On command, rain began to sprinkle onto the bushes and the trees. The air grew wet. Emma watched as her lawn chair was left behind in the backyard. Cries of panic, sadness, and frustration rose in her throat, but they didn't have time to escape her mouth before the world disappeared and she was left in the darkness of her mind.

Emma's feeling burned away and were replaced by an overwhelming warmth that made her feel like she was floating. Those subconscious, somnambulant waves carried her gently, ever so gently…

…back to her driveway.

Emma sat in a plastic lawn chair. She had never left it. Rachael and the shadow of her lover were still frozen in the car's headlights. The moon was stuck in the same spot in the dark sky. Even the leaves were in their exact same position. It was like she had never left at all. Right when Emma noticed it, the world started again.

"Honey, can you hear me?" Rachael reach out to grab Emma, and the little girl didn't have any strength left to resist. "Why the hell were you out so late? Don't you know what happens when you leave the house? Why can't you just do what I tell you…"

The figure reached out. Emma saw their fingers, and they were all black. All she wanted to do was sleep. She wanted to sleep and to forget that this mess ever happened. She wanted to forget how she lied to Mrs. Swinsky and how she had ruined her relationship with Charlie and how much shame Rachael had to endure having her as a daughter. As Rachael cradled her like a baby, all Emma wanted to do was be murdered right there. She would have forgiven Rachael instantly.

"It's okay. Everything's fine," Rachael whispered. The night and the cold were gone, and all that remained was the sound of Rachael's manic heartbeats. Warmth dripped down from her shoulders and accumulated into a pool that grew and grew until it consumed her and all she could was float. Emma promised herself that as long as that warmth remained, as long at that plastic lawn chair stood, she would be fine.

And for a long time, it did.

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