Content warning for child sexual abuse
Mom waited at the stop sign, folding her arms. A car honked, driving past me as I dashed across the street. “How was school?”
“There were dead bees in class today! We’re learning about pollinating.” Quiet for a beat, I asked, “Oh, who’s that parked by our mailbox?”
“Nikki’s boyfriend, Joey, came over. He brought his sister.”
“Oh, cool! How old is she? What’s her name? Is she nice?”
“She’s eight, like you, and her name is Diana. I think you’ll like her.”
“Okay. Can I get the mail?”
With the mail tucked under my armpit, I reached down to pull the yellow buds from a rush of grass. I called them flowers; mom called them weeds. Rubbing the petals between my finger and thumb left a chalky residue. They reminded me of the bees—impaled by toothpicks, that were stuck to Styrofoam. On the table under a blackboard, chalk particles fell on their black-and-yellow bodies.
I dropped the mail on the kitchen table. Then I visited Nikki’s fish. I sprinkled the flowers at the top of his bowl. Magenta stared at me as yellow petals floated on the top.
“Hi! I’m Diana,” she snuck up behind me.
In class, Diana wrote in my diary. I reached for it from my seat, but she held it above her head. When the teacher asked us what was the matter, she spotted the diary and warned us. She kept the book until the end of class before returning it to the rightful owner.
At recess, I sat on a patch of clean-cut grass—two yellow flowers were budding, and the rest lacked petals. I pulled out the stems by the root as I combed through my diary. On the very last page, Diana wrote that she had secret powers: mind-reading and calling the dead.
The wind blew gently like waves lapping the beach. In my left ear I heard,“Rachael!”
Startled, I had trouble speaking. “Ye-ye-yes?” I turned, “Oh, Diana. Hi.”
“You’re coming over later. Bring your diary.”
After school, I begged mom to take me to Diana’s.
“Fine but after you complete your homework.”
An hour later, after I completed my bee and pollen diorama, mom drove me to Diana’s house. I knocked on the door.
“Rachael, you can’t be here. Leave.” An invisible chain prevented the door from opening more than a sliver. I heard a woman screaming Diana’s name.
The following week, Diana invited me over again, promising she would explain what she wrote in my diary. This time I noticed that the doorbell was pulled out, wires hanging down like disemboweled entrails. I knocked on the door. Mom, idling with the engine, waited as Diana opened the door. Her mess of knotted, wiry brown hair looked like the sizzles of electricity.
“Is it okay I’m here?” I asked.
“This time, yes,” Diana moved out of the doorway, and I walked in.
Her mother didn’t prepare dinner, so we heated up hot pockets in the microwave. When we ate, I noticed Diana’s brown-stained, chipped snaggle tooth.
“Do you go to the dentist?” I asked.
“Well, you go to a place, and a guy cleans your teeth with silver things.”
“My brother brushes my teeth sometimes, does that count? Anyway, let’s do something. Have you ever seen a waterbed?”
Diana flopped on the bed, a short wave emitted. Daring not to jump, I climbed up and I slipped on my back. The mattress was cool and flowed along my body.
“Let’s play Truth or Dare,” Diana said.
A few rounds later, Diana asked me again: “Truth or Dare?”
“No! You keep choosing that. Pick Dare.”
“I don’t want to.”
Diana pulled out a piece of newspaper from her shorts pocket. “Ever since my father died… I just want to be happy,” now she showed the obituary to me, “See him? He wasn’t ancient yet; he didn’t live a thousand years like he promised. Can’t we have fun?”
“Okay. I’m sorry, Diana. I pick Dare.”
With a sniffle, her small tears faded from her eyes. “Great! I dare you to…kiss me.”
“No, Diana, that’s what married people do.”
A tear dripped from her eye.
“Fine,” I kissed her cheek, pretending she was family I didn’t remember but met at a reunion.
Diana turned, landing her fully saturated lips on mine.
Dad rocked in his sunken recliner, flipping between channels. An image of a child with solid black eyes flashed by. He went back to that channel. The screen faded to a title screen: True Stories of Child Possession. I saw a lot of images of the Bible and crucifixes; much like The Exorcist, a guy in shiny black robes spoke in a strange language and threw water on a child. She looked like my age, but dark marks streaked down her cheeks, her hair was matted and frizzy and knotted, her eyes with red circles were sunken in; she ate spiders, legs squirming.
The show described the girl as possessed with demons. An image of a small coffin wheeled on screen. The girl died.
“Dad, do demons take over kids? And then do kids die? Could it happen to me?”
“No. Not in America.”
“But people die. Grandma died. Why don’t kids die?”
“They just don’t.”
We pushed my floral dress and pink pants to the right. Diana pulled down the stick-figure drawing of Grandma and me, staring at it like she was in a trance.
“Your grandmother wants to talk to you,” she said, sticking the drawing back on the closet wall.
“Really?” I believed her in that moment.
Her smile faded flat, and she stayed still. I shook her shoulders, and she looked at me and laughed.
“Geez, you’re so gullible.” She spotted my diary—I grasped at it, but she grabbed it. She started to read through it, and came to a page that headlined “I Hate Diana” in blotchy red lines.
“Diana said she’s possessed, and that there’s only one thing that’ll get rid of the demons and ghosts in her. But I don’t want to do it,” she read, ripping the page out.
Diana rushed to the bathroom with the jagged piece of paper and turned on both sink faucets. The paper slumped to a ball of mush. She ripped it in soft, wet pieces, dropping them in the toilet. I watched the fragments swirl down like an inverted funnel.
In the small bathroom, Diana turned off the lights.
“It only works if we both say it.”
“But, Diana, do we have to?”
“It has to work or else you know what you have to do.”
Adjusting to the dark, our reflections shimmered in the mirror from the pale-yellow night-light. As Diana unplugged it, the yellow vanished into black.
“It has to be three times.”
“Okay, Diana, I got it.”
After we said “Bloody Mary” three times, I shut my eyes. I could see red.
“Frick. It didn’t work. Tell your mom I’m spending the night.”
I wanted it to work. If it worked, I wouldn’t have to do anything else. Diana would be rid of the ghosts and demons, as she said, and all would be fine. When I asked mom if Diana can spend the night, she, unfortunately, said it was okay.
Diana told me we had to go to bed early. Around 8 PM, we headed up to my room. She shoved my stuffed animals off of my night stand, placing a picture of her father and his obituary on it.
Under the covers, she kissed me and told me it was time. She pulled down her pajama shorts and panties, grabbing my hand. She stretched out my fingers and streaked them over her private area. I wanted to struggle.
Before she fell asleep, she said goodnight to her father’s picture. After I heard her snore, I went to the bathroom. Night poured in from the window. Black clung to my reflection as I stared in the mirror.
Rachael Crosbie is an English Literature major at Waynesburg University. Currently, she retains leadership positions in internationally recognized honorary societies: Sigma Tau Delta and Alpha Psi Omega. Also, she’s delighted to be Muse & Stone’s executive editor for the 2017-2018 year. Her previous publication credits include Muse & Stone and Mad Swirl.