Jennifer smiled as she sipped her coffee, watching her oldest children walk out towards the school bus. Today would be an excellent day to spend in the garden with her youngest daughter.
Walking back inside the house, she started making her way up the stairs and towards her bedroom. She paused when she heard a loud thud coming from down the hall, but waved it off. Angelica liked to play with her dolls in a far more rambunctious manner when her siblings were away. Shrugging off her robe as she walked into her room, she didn’t even stop to think when she heard her little girl giggling, the high pitched laughter echoing down the hall.
Changing from her night clothes into some old jeans and a worn tee shirt, Jennifer took a moment to pull her curly black hair back, tying it into a loose ponytail in order to keep it out of her eyes. Smiling at her reflection once this was done, she walked out of her room and towards her daughter’s playroom, fully expecting to find her daughter up to something.
Opening the door, she found her six-year-old daughter sitting in a small chair at a low plastic table, a checkers board sitting in front of her. The dark –skinned girl was wearing a light pink and yellow dress that came down to her knees. Her hair was a mess as Jennifer had yet to have a chance to comb it; instead it jutted out in every direction imaginable, a complete bird’s nest if ever there was one.
“Emily,” Jennifer said, catching her daughter’s attention. “What are you doing in here?”
“Playing checkers with Holly,” Emily replied. Jennifer smiled at that, knowing full well that Holly was Emily’s imaginary friend.
“And how is Holly today?” Jennifer asked, moving into the room, bending down to scoop up toys from the floor. The room held a large toy box, and it would appear as if Emily had pulled nearly every toy out this morning while playing.
“She’s sad,” Emily said, moving a checker forward.
Jennifer looked over at her daughter, eyebrow raised. “Really? Why is she sad?”
“She doesn’t want me to say,” Emily said, staring at the checkers board.
“Well you know I would only want to help Holly, right honey?” Jennifer said, dumping an armful of toys into the toy box.
“Yeah, I know. But she doesn’t trust you,” Emily said, moving another one of her pieces after a moment of silence.
“And why doesn’t Holly trust me?” Jennifer asked, moving to the closet to fish out the wicker basket that held Emily’s stuffed animals.
“Because you remind her of her mother… ouch!” Emily said before yelping.
Jennifer spun around, looking for what caused her daughter to let out a cry. Seeing the checkers board clear of the small black and red discs, she stared at her daughter who was rubbing her arm, tears welling up in the corners of her eyes. Jennifer marched over and knelt down, rubbing Emily’s back.
“What happened?” Jennifer asked looking below the table and across from it at the empty chair, worrying something may have bit Emily before scampering off.
“Holly pinched me… she says I shouldn’t be telling you any of this,” Emily said, now crying. “I didn’t mean to say anything bad Holly, I’m sorry!”
“Here now, I’m sure Holly didn’t mean it, did you, Holly?” Jennifer said, asking the blank expanse of air across from the small table. Jennifer nearly fell over when a dozen or so plastic discs fell from above, scattering around the room as they rained down. Emily cried louder while Jennifer looked up, wondering how that had happened.
“Emily… did you throw the checkers up there?” Jennifer asked, her eyes never leaving the ceiling.
“No, Holly did. She said she doesn’t like this game and threw the pieces away so we couldn’t play anymore.”
Jennifer looked back at her sniffling daughter before looking across the table at the empty chair. “Honey,” Jennifer said, “is Holly sitting down right now?”
Before Emily could respond the small plastic table was thrown to the side of the room hard enough to crack the plaster of the wall, the small chair flying backward. Jennifer screamed, scooping Emily up into her arms, standing up to run from the room. The door slammed shut before she could get to it, forcing her to run into the closet instead as the toy box began disgorging toys at a rapid pace.
Closing the closet doors behind her, Jennifer looked through the slated wood as the room outside the darkened sanctuary became a chaotic rhapsody of flying toys and torn pages from coloring books, markers flying across the walls drawing out crude designs. And just as quickly as it started, so too did it stop. Jennifer, now terrified out of her mind, set Emily down on the ground.
“I’m going to check to see if it’s safe. If it is, we’ll go outside until Daddy gets home, okay honey?” Jennifer said to her six-year-old daughter.
“Okay Mommy,” Emily replied, wiping away the tears streaming down her face.
Jennifer opened the closet, slipping out into the disheveled room with her eyes wide and searching for movement. Stopping to look at the drawings on the wall, Jennifer’s jaw went slack.
A crude drawing of a black girl in a house strung up by the neck. Another girl, bent at an angle, stood in front of the black girl. Turning around, Jennifer rushed to the closet and flung open the doors, only to shriek.
Her daughter hung from the bar in the closet, her head lolled over to the side as her face was flushed an even darker color, her eyes bloodshot. Jennifer stopped screaming for but a moment when she heard the giggling behind her. Turning, Jennifer had just enough time to scream before the room went dark and she found herself being drug into the closet, a noose tightening around her neck like a serpent slithering around a branch. Jennifer’s last moments were spent thrashing alongside her dangling daughter, to the sound of sinister giggles.