The Golden Girl

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

A simple experience of someone whose reality mirrors none.

Submitted: July 13, 2018

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Submitted: July 13, 2018



The Golden Girl

Every morning when the yellow birdie thrust himself from behind the face of the clock and the little bell rang ten times, steps echoed up the porch. Always she came with red shoes rounded at the tip and a pink knee-length dress frilled at the hem. Golden curls bounced across her shoulders as she hopped, skipped, and hummed along her way, trailing the wagon with the crooked wheel behind her.

Ian hated her toy; the squealing wheels pierced him like the wails of a tortured pig, reminding him rudely of his mother’s shrieks.

He didn’t answer the door when her chubby little finger rang the bell. Instead, he sat with his back to the front of the house in the red leather couch Marcy’s parents gifted them at their wedding. He drowned in thoughts of his wife, her smile, and the way she twirled the ends of her hair around her fingers when she was stressed or angry. She would be home today after a week of being away, and they could sit beside the fire and she would tell him all about Janet at work, the woman who brought her cat in on her shoulder, or Michael in the coffee shop who always offered to pay for her morning coffee because he thought she was cute. They would be silent and Ian would apologize again. He would apologize for the state of the house, for the dead tan of the lawn, for the half of his social security check spent on fixing the house so the girl and her curls couldn’t get in. She would smile but it would be the thin kind only given when it was forced.

With the back of his hand he wiped sweat from his forehead. The girl hissed his name now through the cracks of the door: “Ian, open up. Open the door, Ian. Come out and play with me, Ian.”

“I don’t want to,” Ian murmured.

“Open the door, Ian!”

“Go play with someone else!”

Above him a light fixture of purple, blue, and red stained glass rocked to the thud of his heart. For a brief moment he felt someone—or something—finally understood his panic.

Just yesterday he replaced the deadbolt lock with a new chrome piece so the girl couldn’t get in. She liked to pull the bobby pins from her hair and pick into the lock. He watched her once, terrified of the way her grin curled upwards against her cheek bones. When her gaze caught sight of him she screeched loud enough for the angels in heaven to flinch. Her jaw dipped below her chin, and her eyes rolled backwards in her head. He’d scrambled across the shag carpet to the basement with her screams rattling behind his eyes; the cement walls were just thick enough to keep the girl from feeding off of his fear.

This day however she pressed the bell ten times, to echo the clock Ian assumed. She knew how much he hated that clock. The bird stood with one leg, the other broken in half, and hung sideways on the edge of a wooden plank. One of its eyes was red, the other black. Marcy’s niece had dug into its eye, popped one of the black beads out, and replaced it with a red one.

The girl and her curls whispered other words. He could never catch the other words. They were faint and whispered, like smoke, and encircled his head just briefly enough for him to notice them. Curses, he assumed.

Ian breathed deeply. People were always telling him to breathe deeply and it never helped. He did it because he knew it would make his wife proud. If he did what he was told, it might take her mind off the paint cracking from the walls and the spider webs gathering dust in the corners of the windows. Ian loved the windows. They stretched six or seven feet up the wall. Those windows were the saving grace of this old house, beautiful but delicate and gothic when he got the ladder and hung up the maroon curtains his wife loved so much.

The walls needed to be repainted and the girl and her curls knew this. That’s why she stood on the porch this morning as a barrier. Ian had the last of his check for this month sitting on the corner of the dining room table. He’d planned to walk to the corner warehouse where the pretentious paint consultants waited and hated with their eyes. They hated the way Ian wore gloves in the summer, they hated the way he often stumbled through speech, and they always whispered about him when they caught him mumbling to the thoughts in his head. They didn’t understand the thoughts weren’t his, the thoughts were his neighbor’s thoughts. His neighbors were so loud and malicious they often suffocated his memory of why he walked in the store in the first place.

The girl with the curls knew he was a bad person, she told him so. She hissed through the cracks and her giggles echoed along the empty walls of the house. Some more paint sprinkled to the carpet. Ian would vacuum when she left.

With clammy hands, he pushed himself up from the leather and stepped into the dining area where he pocketed the cash. His stomach grumbled: had he eaten? He couldn’t remember. When he ran his fingers through his hair, he paused and frowned at the oily texture; when had he last taken a shower? He couldn’t remember that either. The neighbors were always draining his memory.

Shadows danced across the patio and the glass doors trembled. There the girl stood, four feet of chubby torso and pink dress. She slammed her hands against the glass and chanted words which were only smothered by shouts of the neighbors.

“Your wife is dead!”

“Why can’t you do anything right?”

“We all hate you. We want you dead.”

“You’re useless! Useless!

The girl’s curls, now serpents striking at the glass, hissed. She giggled and raised her voice over the others: “Nowhere to run, Ian; Come outside and play!”

He had to go. But where? The basement couldn’t protect him now, not with the snakes and the neighbors and all the screams vibrating his brain against his skull and muddying his blood and blurring his vision. No amount of squatting, of praying, of breaking plates against the wall could ever thwart their advances; they would close in and bring the darkness with them and the windows wouldn’t shine anymore, not from morning glow, and the clock wouldn’t ding anymore, and Marcy wouldn’t exist, and the house would drown in golden curled serpents hissing curses from hell.

“Ian? Hey, you alright?”

Surrounded by shards of broken glass, Marcy stepped carefully. Small pieces played a symphony of chaos underneath the soles of her shoes when they crunched. She set a large brown paper bag on the marble countertop and spoke again. Ian stared, but words crashed and burned in his frontal cortex beneath lightning bolt thoughts from the neighbors. Marcy peeled her sweater from her arms and draped it over the chair. She pulled a smaller brown paper bag from the large one and popped open two of three orange bottles.

“I called the pharmacy. They said you hadn’t picked these up yet. I thought I’d do you a favor.”

He stood slowly and breathed deeply. The girl and her curls stood in silence. He had to remember they weren’t real, even when they were. 

© Copyright 2019 A.D. Ware. All rights reserved.

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