The Mannequin Gift

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

A struggling shop. A new mannequin. A secret that comes to light.
A short story about a Mannequin which takes its toll upon the shop and its owner.

 

 

 

 

 

The Mannequin Gift.
By Andrew Halliday
The box still stood where they’d left it for the day. In the backroom, where she would usually work on her dresses. She kept the front door locked anybody who arrived would have to ring the doorbell to get her attention. Her window display and door told the customers to ring the bell and wait.
The day was late now, and she’d put in all her work and effort into the dress for Ann. It was glorious. She smiled as she hung it up on the rail, standing back admiring her work. It sparkled and would show Ann’s daughter as beautiful as she’d ever been. She saw the box behind the dress. Curious, she went to it, but fear stopped her. Her heartbeat against her chest and her palms became sweaty. She wanted to open it, wanted to grasp whatever was inside. But she had received gifts before, if you could call them that. One person had even sent her a fake bomb to which she had to call the police.
She grabbed her scissors, cut open the top of the box and down its sides so it fell open. Wrapped up looked like a naked, pale human body. When she uncovered it, a beautiful, what looked to be expensive mannequin lay there. Attached to the chest of the mannequin was a small note, scribbled on in pencil.
“I hope this helps you. Her name is Veronica. She’ll take care of everything. A gift from a friend.”
The mannequin, Veronica looked like she could move any part of her body, joints everywhere, even her fingers could move. Her body was small to medium, would fit a large selection of her dresses. Amelia posed her into several positions. Amelia was drawn to her eyes at how lifelike they were, it was almost like her eyes were glass eyes. The mannequin’s smile was kind, almost caring, and proud.
Amelia smiled, grabbed the new wedding dress she’d created and put it onto Veronica. Standing back, she admired her, knew the exact place to put her in her display window. After organising her other mannequin to her right of the window, the new mannequin to the left. Two brides stood in the window now, displaying Amelia’s hard work.
She left work with a smile, looking back at her gorgeous window display. It would defiantly make people look. She wondered who had gifted her such a present. Especially since nobody in town was a fan of hers, after the accident.

‘Hey, it’s Zach,’
He’d rung her up in the middle of the night. It was half-past four in the morning.  
‘Is something wrong?’ She answered, drunk with sleep.
‘I just drove past your shop…’
‘Oh, you saw the new mannequin?’ Amelia couldn’t hold in her excitement.
‘No. Amelia, it’s been trashed. I’d ring the police and go with them…’
‘What do you mean “it’s been trashed”?’
‘I mean, somebody’s broken in a ripped everything apart. I’m sorry, Amelia, but it didn’t look good.’
Her heart sunk into her stomach, how could this happen? She wiped the tear from her eye, swallowed the lump in her throat. It didn’t matter what she did, she would always have somebody who hated her for what she did.
‘Hello? You there?’
She ended the call. Picked up her keys and left.
Riding up the curb, she jumped from the car and pushed her face against the window. Her heart sank deeper into her twisting stomach. What clothes were on her older mannequin had been ripped up, her display card, lights, and every bit of decoration had been ruined too, all of it confetti. She dashed to the door, opened it and felt the punch in her gut. Everything. They had destroyed everything. All the dresses torn and ripped apart scattered paper everywhere, they had broken her desk. Her mannequin lay just beyond the curtains, its head missing, arms and legs broken off. The new mannequin, her new mannequin, couldn’t be seen. They had probably stolen it. It did look expensive; but why would someone want to steal a mannequin?
She closed the door, turned on the lights. A noise came from the back room. She tiptoed to the door, putting her ear to it. Silence. She touched the handle, pushing down as gentle as she could before bashing open the door and looking inside. In the shadow a tall figure stood, outlined from the back door which swung open. The figure didn’t move. As she stepped inside, her eyes adjusted to the dark, she saw it was her new mannequin. She stood in a strange pose, probably from whoever tried to carry her off. She still wore the dress; it hadn’t been touched by the way things looked. Amelia put it down to whoever had broken in had tried to take her dress, before being caught in the act. She looked out the back door but couldn’t see anybody. The back yard was small and clear. She swore, turned to look at the mess of her back room. All of her records were here, now torn confetti on the floor. The dresses which had been half made had been shredded, probably cut up by a pair of scissors she had in the shop. A breeze came from the door, a rustling of leaves. She turned to see if anybody had tried to return but nobody was there. She closed the door, tried to lock it, but the lock had been bust. Looks like they used the back door by smashing the small glass windowpane, reaching in opening the door. She touched nothing else. She tipped up her chair, sat down, held her head in her hand, and cried.

The police arrived forty-five minutes later. Amelia didn’t move from the chair until she heard the knock on the door. The officer introduced himself as officer Pickerell.
‘Hello, Miss Rose. Has anything been stolen?’
‘No, I don’t think so. It’s just been trashed.’
He put a hand on her shoulder, ‘Can you tell me what happened here? Did you see anything? Hopefully, we’ll be able to find some evidence.’ He leaned on the desk as she sat on the chair.
‘I don’t know, my brother saw it before I did. He rang me and said somebodies trashed my shop, I came here as soon as I could.’
‘I see. I know about you and what happened, your file is… something. does someone have a vendetta, maybe? What does your brother do?’
‘He works in construction. What’s that got to do with this?’
‘Oh, I’m sure it’s nothing, but we have to check with him what he was doing. Can you contact him? Get him down here perhaps?’
Amelia grabbed her mobile and rang Zach. He answered, said he’d be down as soon as possible. While they waited, Officer Pickerell asked her all kinds of questions, when she was last in, who was her last customer.
He asked question after question until Zach finally arrived. He had been let in through the cordon, entered and smiled at Amelia.
‘Bloody hell. They’ve totally ruined it.’ He ran his hand through his hair as he looked around the shop.
Several police officers had come in and were still sorting, dusting and going through the shop.
‘Hello Mr Rose,’ The officer talking to Amelia said. ‘You’re the one who informed Amelia about the shop?’
‘I was. I didn’t see anybody, or see anything though. I had to get to work early,’
‘This early? For construction?’
‘Yeah, I had a lot of paperwork to do. I recently had a promotion,’
‘I see. Have you come from work?’
‘Yeah. What’s going to happen here?’
‘We’ve investigating. We’ll take evidence and then check local CCTV. Hopefully, we find something to help us track whoever did this.’
‘Thank you,’ Amelia said.
Zach and Amelia didn’t speak much while Officer Pickerell helped in the shop's search. After three and a half hours, they decided they’d no longer find anything else in the shop and left. Pickerell told her he’d be in touch with any information.
‘I don’t know why anybody… Well, I do, yeah, but it’s been over a year…’ Amelia said.
‘No, he and his kid moved miles away. It can’t be them, or anyone they know, I don’t think.’
They sat in silence. Unable to speak about the accident, or not wanting to. Zach smiled at her, stood up and went over to Veronica.
‘She the new one? She’s freaky. I’m not sure I like it,’ He went up to Veronica. ‘Hello,’
‘Her name’s Veronica.’ She told him. ‘Wish I knew who sent her. They could be the ones who wanted to take her back,’
Zach was looking over at Veronica. ‘Don’t like her smile. Looks really creepy. I don’t like dolls or mannequins at best, but just look at her,’
‘Yeah, but she’s beautiful. I’m glad that they didn’t damage the dress.’
Amelia looked to the floor, thinking about the accident.
‘Aargh! Help me!’ Zach shouted.
Amelia jumped up. As she looked at him and his stupid laughing face, she laughed too. He’d got the hands of Veronica around his neck and was joking he was being choked.
‘It’ll serve you right,’ She told him. ‘Trying to be a lady killer as usual.’

The nightmare again!
Why had it returned?
Amelia crept out of bed, got her gown on and stood in the kitchen, drinking a glass of water. She rubbed her arms, looked off into the distance. Such a horrible dream. It probably happened because of the stress. She remembered the accident only in her dreams; of the crash itself, nothing. Her mind had blocked out the memories. She’d seen a psychiatrist talked with Zach about what’d happened. She had even spoken to the family who they’d collided with. But she couldn’t get a clear image or memory about what had happened, apart from the nightmares. Although what she saw from her own eyes was slightly foggy, she knew she’d been driving, she remembered, somewhat when the accident happened, Zach was pulling her out of the driver’s side of the car. They’d gone around a sharp, blind bend and came bonnet to bonnet to the Halford’s family car.
Black was all she could remember after seeing the open screaming mouths and wide eyes of the Halford family.
A month after she’d heard that the woman who’d been the mother had died. The family didn’t take it well. The farther had got his legs trapped under the steering wheel, they had pulled him out, like Amelia, but he wasn’t lucky enough to keep both legs after the incident. Sometimes Amelia would look down at her naked legs, see the scaring, and think about Iain Halford with guilt.

When morning finally came, Amelia was fast asleep on the sofa. She woke up with pain in her neck. She stripped off her sweat-soaked clothes. Again, those dreams of the crash. The screaming. The grinding of metal. The pain in her leg. But something annoyed her about this dream. She hadn’t been in the driving seat. In fact, she had been in the passenger seat, and she did what Zach had done.

Should she ring Dr Thema? She didn’t think so. She thought about the dream while she showered. Somehow the images were more vivid now than they’d ever been. She had been in the passenger side. Hadn’t she? Thinking long and hard, but nothing made sense. She still didn’t have a clue who’d left her Veronica? Who’d tried to break in and steal her? Why trash the shop too? She tried not to cry, feeling the lump in her throat. Was it all related to the car crash?
When she climbed out of the shower and dressed, a knock came. She opened the door to Zach, smiling at her, holding out a paper cup of coffee.
‘Morning. Nice sleep?’ He said.
‘No. Nightmares again,’ She admitted. ‘They’ve returned. I’m not calling her though. All that’ll happen is there’s a big waiting list, and by the time I finally get to her, the problems have gone again.’
‘But she’ll help, Amelia. She did last time,’
She took the coffee, they both sat down on the sofa. 'Yes, and remember how long it took them to even see me?’
Zach nodded. Was about to continue arguing when her mobile rang.
‘Hello?’ She answered.
‘Hi, this is officer Pickerell. Are you able to come to the station?’ The voice on the other end of the phone.
‘Yes, when? What’s happened?’ She asked.
‘It’ll be best to come here as soon as possible. We have CCTV footage and would like to talk to you about what we’ve found.’
‘Yes, I’ll come in a couple of minutes.’
She put down her mobile, looked at Zach.
‘That was Pickerell. Wants me to go to the station,’ She said.
‘I’ll come with if you don’t mind?’
‘Sure.’ She replied.

They arrived at the police station. Pickerell took them into a large conference room.
‘Thanks for coming. I’ll get right down to it,’ He told them. ‘Please take a seat. First, I have to show you some CCTV footage.’
They took a seat, Pickerell brought out a TV on a stand and put in a tape.
‘What have you found?’ Amelia asked.
‘Just watch the tape, please.’
The tape played on the small TV. The shop flickered into view. The CCTV gave great footage of the shop window, you could clearly see inside if it wasn’t for the grainy footage. The mannequin stood in her window, but there was no sign on Veronica. Amelia said nothing about it; more concerned with seeing who’d done such a thing against her. The image flickered a little, then the window display came alive. A young girl like herself came from behind the curtain. Pushed over the mannequin, thrashed everything not nailed down and shredded all the clothing that was inside the window display. He paused the video.
‘This is what we found. Along with the evidence and motive… We believe that this woman is you, Amelia.’
‘No. What crap! That’s not me,’ Amelia almost shouted.
‘It is you. The clothes we found point to that, too. And glass we found outside your door. And the motive that you will claim on your insurance. After the accident, the shop was failing. A claim on your insurance would help, a lot.’
‘No. none of that’s true!’ Amelia claimed. ‘I don’t even know what happened. Zach rang me, didn’t you?’ He nodded, she carried on, ‘And I went and, and…’
Amelia cried, wiped away the tears and looked at the floor.
‘What can we do now? You’re not going to investigate?’ Zach asked.
‘No. This looks like fraud. We’ve already spoken to our fraud team, so if you do, decide to claim on your insurance, then we will have to arrest you,’ Pickerell said.
‘OK fine, screw this.’ Amelia got up and stormed out, leaving the two of them sitting there.
‘I’m sorry,’ She heard Zach say. ‘Wait for me.’
Zach drove her home. They didn’t talk about what’d happened until he parked the car outside her house.
‘Who was that?’ He asked.
‘Not me. Don’t you dare assume it was me,’ She warned him. ‘I’ve had enough, I’m going home.’
‘Make sure you…’ She closed the door in his face.
When she sat down on the sofa, she stared at her reflection in the TV and cried.

For the rest of the day, Amelia didn’t move from the sofa. She’d stopped crying, at least. She thought about the nightmare she’d had, about her being in the passenger seat. If, she had been in the passenger seat, how did she get into the driving seat? If the car had crashed sideways, she was tossed there, but her legs had been under the steering wheel. If Zach had moved her, why did he? He wouldn’t have lost his licence. He would have gone to jail like she did, but why would he put her in that place?
She decided that she wouldn’t stay home. The only way she’d get anything done was by going to the shop, organising and cleaning up. There was no use in feeling sorry for herself.
She arrived at the mess of a shop. Opening the door and was welcomed by a hit of warm air. She couldn’t see Veronica, where was she? In the back room. Her other mannequin stood near the window, almost pointing somewhat at the closed back door. Opening the back door, Veronica stood straight, a grin on her false face, her eyes blazing with the fire which surrounded her. Amelia looked into the room. Flames licked up the walls and covered a majority of the floor. She grabbed the extinguisher from the side of the door and tackled the flames. It took her some time to get the flames to die down. She sat down, sighed. The dark patches on the floor, up the walls, and the burnt ashes of paper and clothing made the place look somewhat worse than it already was. She looked to Veronica, who stood smiling at her.
‘You’re not supposed to find this funny. You could have been killed,’ Amelia scolded Veronica.
Veronica didn’t respond. Of course, she didn’t. She couldn’t. She’s a mannequin.
Amelia called the police and asked for Officer Pickerell.
‘Hello, Amelia,’ He came onto the phone.
‘Hello, there’s been a fire here. You need to come investigate and open the case.’
‘No. I don’t think anybody has done anything of the sort. Amelia, you’re probably running high on emotions and are reaching out to get some kind of help. We can’t help you. Sorry, Amelia. I hope you ask someone for help.’ He hung up the phone.
‘Thanks!’ She sneered. ‘Useless twat.’
She cleaned the front of the shop, leaving the backroom closed. Picked up the pieces of ruination feeling a little better about the shop. Maybe it would only take a few days to clean up and get started again. When daylight became twilight, she looked around. It looked better. A few pieces of tattered cloth, paperwork, fabrics and bits remained. She smiled at the progress. As she put rubbish into a bin bag, she couldn’t hear the scraping that came from the back door until she’d finished rustling the plastic bag about. She looked to the back room opening the door looking at Veronica who stood wobbling on the spot. Rubbing her eyes, she looked again. Maybe she was coming down with something. Maybe she’d become too tired and needed to sleep. Those nightmares had kept her up somewhat through the last few nights.
‘I’m going mad!’ She said to herself. ‘You’re not alive… are you?’
Silence, then a small thin voice came, ‘He did it,’
She looked around nobody in the shop but the two of them.
‘He did it. You know,’ It came again.
‘Who did what?’
‘He put you there!’ The voice hissed. The back door slammed open, the broken window smashed out onto the floor.
Amelia felt her heart bash against her chest, took deep breaths and tried to control her nerves.
‘Who are you?!’ She yelled at the top of her lungs.
‘Bring him here. He deserves it. We’ll take care of him. Together,’
‘No. Who the fuck are you?’
The light popped, making her jump again. In the darkness, she heard a scraping of something moving. In the twilight she saw Veronica moved. She was still now, but her arm held up a silver petrol lighter. l
‘Make him burn. You know he lied, he made you a fool. Ruined your life, our life.’
Amelia couldn’t move. Her head screamed for her to run. To dash to the door, never look back. Yet rooted to the floor, in the dark, she couldn’t believe she’d seen Veronica move, she didn’t move now; the shop was silent. Amelia looked around the darkroom, with her eyes off Veronica and back on her again, she had moved. Closer now. The figure silhouetted against the back door moonlight.
‘You’re lying, Veronica.’ She said calmer than she’d expected.
She shook. Her hands trembled as she wiped away her tears. She refused to take her eyes off Veronica. The tall, slender silhouette stood motionless. When her head moved, unnaturally, stuttering, leaning left then right, sizing her up, she ran. Ran from the shop, not even closing the door as she jumped into her car, fumbled with the keys. She cursed several times as she attempted to slot the key into the ignition. She looked towards the shop’s open door, dark and empty her shop stood. Her stomach twisted. She got the key into the ignition. Started the car pushed down the clutch, geared up and drove away from the dark, nightmare. Away from Veronica.

‘The shop’s on fire!’ Zach screamed.
‘What?’ Amelia sat up in bed, moving the mobile from her ear as he shouted.
‘Fire! Get to the shop, now!’ He shouted.
She leapt from the bed, dressed in whatever clothing that lay on her bedroom floor. Whether or not they were clean it didn’t matter. She drove almost as quickly as she’d left the shop last night. Back there again she could already see the flames lit up the street as she got closer. Zach stood outside waving her down. She climbed out went to him.
‘What happened?’ She asked him.  
‘I don’t know what’s happened. Somebody must have a very hard vendetta against you,’ He told her.
The flames licked up the shop windows the door lay open, flames covered the flooring. She looked inside. Veronica stood in the middle of the shop floor, flames poked at her feet, she was smiling or grinning. Amelia wasn’t tired, the shock of the fire made sure of that, but now she understood. She understood that the last couple of years of her life had been a lie. Like a switch, she knew the truth. She’d been betrayed by her only friend and family member who stood by her side. They had punished her for someone else’s mistake. She looked to him, his eyes wide with shock and horror as he saw the shop in flames. He looked to her, giving that half-smile that said he was sorry. Sorry for what? Crashing the car and letting her take the blame? Sorry her life was in ruins because of HIM? No. He wasn’t sorry, he was a liar and a cheat. Amelia looked into the reflective glass eyes of Veronica and walked into the burning store.
Zach called out to her, but she was already in the heat and flames.
‘He’ll follow,’ The voice came to her.
Amelia walked up to her and stood shoulder to shoulder with Veronica. The heat made her sweat. She swallowed hard. There was real danger here.
‘What are you doing?’ He called after her, standing by the front door.
‘You’re to blame,’ She called out. ‘All of this… everything.’
‘What?’ He stepped inside. ‘How is this my fault?’
‘Because you killed her,’ A hiss came from Veronica.
‘What?’ Zach open-eyed, tried to step back, falling onto the floor over his own feet.
‘You caused…’ Veronica hissed.
‘How did you know?’ Zach said. His shoulders relaxed. Looking at the floor he said, ‘I mean… How did you find out?’
‘I remembered. And now you just confirmed it.’ Amelia told him. ‘Why did you do it?’
‘Selfish,’ Hissed Veronica.
Zach stepped forward slowly, looking around him as the flames grew. The door closed, unable to hear it close through the crackling of the fire.
‘I want to help you, Amelia. This isn’t right. Did you set this fire?’ Zach said.
‘No. For God’s sake! This is all because of you. Say it. You lied to me, to the police…everybody,’
‘Tell her the truth, Liar!’ Veronica hissed.
With remarkable speed, she stepped four times closer to Zach as he stepped back. Then she stood motionless, standing in the flames. Zach looked to Amelia; Amelia looked into his eyes. She knew he was scared now, could see the fear in his eyes. Did she enjoy it?
‘Tell me the truth,’ She said. ‘I just want to know what really happened.’
‘Nothing. I mean, sure, we both had a drink, and the accident happened. But neither of us could control it. Could we?’
‘Stop avoiding it. You were driving. You caused the crash. You killed her.’
Veronica gradually moved. Unnoticed by the two of them as they looked at each other. Until Zach looked to Veronica, within moments her hands wrapped around his throat, he dropped to his knees. Amelia looked on in horror. Or was it? She could get the answers out of his own mouth now. She asked him to tell her the truth again, not caring about his sputtered words or choking sounds he made. He fought with the hands around his neck, threw several punches at Veronica.
‘Tell us the truth!’ Amelia shouted.
He looked to her, dropped his hands and could barely speak as he eventually choked out, ‘It’s…true,’
Amelia felt the tears fall down her cheeks, the weight off her shoulders, she wiped them away and stepped to him. As she stood over him, she felt no pity for the man before her. What a coward he was. Even while Veronica’s hands wrapped around his neck, it took him long enough to accept he was to blame. He was defeated. If she told him to go tell the police, she knew he would do. Veronica stood still, her grip never lessened, Amelia looked her over. The mannequin really was a gift. But she wanted answers.
‘Why?’ Amelia asked.
‘I… couldn’t do it.’ He muttered, struggling within the grip of Veronica. Amelia tapped Veronica on her shoulder letting her lessen her grip on his neck. He took a deep breath and carried on. ‘I couldn’t take the blame. I had to get on with my life. You had so much more than me. The shop, friends. You were successful. I wasn’t any of these things. I know it was wrong, so I helped you after the crash. I… guess I was jealous.’
‘What about when I went to prison? Why didn’t you come forward?’
‘I’m a coward, alright.’ His voice raised and Veronica’s grip tightened again. ‘Look, we’ve got to put this fire out. Get this thing off me and we can talk now the truth is out.’
His eyes pleaded with hers, tears rolled down his cheeks. Amelia smiled, removed her hand from Veronica’s shoulder.
‘He needs to suffer.’ The voice didn’t come from Veronica, but behind her.
The flames took a vague form of a woman. She walked out of the flames, touched Veronica. The flames burned Veronica like she was covered in some type of flammable liquid. Amelia jumped back, pulling her hand quickly away. Zach could not move. His eyes wide, struggling as the fought with the flaming mannequin with the death grip on his neck.
‘Holy fuck, shit, help me. Jesus Christ help me!’ He screamed, kicking his legs, flailing his arms around, tugging and pulling himself, but Veronica’s grip never lessened.
The heat grew, Amelia could only watch. She looked around her shop. There was nothing left, nothing to salvage anymore. The walls were black, the floor full of fire. The building creaked and was becoming unstable. Amelia felt unsafe, but the door wasn’t open. She couldn’t remember if they had closed it or it’d closed with the flames and heat.
She couldn’t even touch the door handle. She dabbed it, pulled her hand back quickly. She couldn’t get out that way. The flaming inferno was getting worse. Zach was still screaming, kicking, thrashing. Veronica looked down at him. Strangling his screams. And for the first time since coming here, Amelia looked at the place wide-eyed, hand to her mouth; What have I done? She thought. She tried to claw off Amelia’s hands from Zach’s neck. The heat built up more. They’d burn alive if they didn’t leave ASAP.
‘Let him go. That’s enough!’ She shouted at Veronica.
Her face didn’t change. Burning with pure hatred. She felt Veronica’s hands tighten around his neck more. Zach could barely breathe. He choked and spluttered. Amelia grabbed anything she could to hit Veronica off Zach. She was as hard as a boulder, unmoving. Amelia cursed and hit her again and again. Zach was turning blue. The flames got hotter and hotter. Amelia couldn’t handle it anymore and let out a wailing scream.
Sirens could be heard in the distance. She prayed that it would be firefighters, and they’d be here soon. Amelia wept as she tried to leave through the back door, only to have the back room door close on her. When she tried the handle, it would not move. Zach was silent. The flames crackled around her. Veronica stood up straight, her back to Amelia.
‘He’s not dead, but he’ll burn here. And so, will you.’
Amelia shuddered, turned in the nick of time to see Veronica launching herself at her. Her arms reached out for her throat, her face a painted image of rage. She ducked, feeling the wind above her head. Out she ran to Zach on the floor. She shook him violently, but he didn’t stir. Veronica’s footsteps sounded behind her, dragging her base behind her.
‘Burn like you always have, Amelia. Nobody cares. Nobody. They all hate you. You’ll always be the one who killed that family, ruined that family.’
‘But… It wasn’t me,’ She sobbed.
The sirens were getting closer. Amelia hoped that the building wouldn’t collapse onto them. She couldn’t leave, Veronica blocked the way to the back door. The front door handle was too hot to touch. She could try it with her clothing, but knew it’d take extra time, time she didn’t have, Veronica was closing in on her. Hope was fading. She gagged on the flames, scorched by the heat. She could jump out of the front window. She knew that if she did that the glass would rip at her skin; it wasn’t like in the films where they don’t have a scratch on them. She looked to the window display, the flaming curtains flowing like an entrance to hell. But beyond it was perhaps salvation. She ran towards the window, to be knocked back by a jet of water and glass. She felt the shards of glass rip and tear her flesh. The shouts of men and women gathered outside. A banging of the front door. Amelia lay on the ground. The water pummelled through the shop, killing the fire as quickly as it could. Turning to see where Veronica had stood, she saw she’d been knocked down and now lay on the floor.
The firefighters broke into the shop, helped her up from the floor and carried her out. Amelia muttered about Veronica, turned in the arms of the firefighter and saw another one carrying Zach. Whether he was dead, she didn’t know. Flashing lights, the flames blurred her vision. She sat defeated yet victorious. Her shop now truly ruined. Her brother was not dead they had told her. Her victory was that she was alive and with it she’d be free of the charges that’d held back her life and business.

Amelia spent several days in hospital. She’d received several cuts, grazes and burns to her body, arms, legs and hands. She didn’t hear off Zach until they had released her and went home. She arrived, opened her door and noticed a handwritten note. She picked it up, read it and put it into her bedroom draws.
They had arrested Zach. Or he would be now, the note had said. He’d gone forward to the police about the car accident, confessed to everything. She smiled; she was too tired to cry anymore. She took a quick shower, climbed into bed. She lay in the dark. Waiting. the ticking of the clock, the only sound, along with her breathing, in her head she could hear a faint dragging outside in the dark. She climbed out of bed and looked out of the bedroom window. There, looking directly at her, stood Veronica. She closed the curtains, opened them again, but Veronica wasn’t there any longer. Flopping onto the bed, she tried to sleep. As she closed her eyes, a tapping came from the front door. She was too tired to open the door to even see who it was. The longer she ignored it, the harder the taps, until they became banging at her door. She fell asleep through pure exhaustion. Her dreams were of fire.


Submitted: February 10, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Andrew Halliday. All rights reserved.

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