Chapter Five 

Look at them, all happy -- makes me nauseated. Nylah shouldn't be with him, what does he have that I don't? I'm upper crust, hot as fuck and I bang like a champion -- who wouldn't want me?

 

Look at him trying to be all sugarplum -- who brings a girl to the playground? Cheap, broke motherfuckers, that's who. Wait until she learns what I can offer her, she'll become conscious to how life can be. We will test how much she loves you then. Not yet have I met a whore who is immune to my money and charm. -- you're no different, sweetheart. Your type acts like you are, but you're not. They're so happy, fucking makes me groggy -- gag. I sit down, I'm getting another one of those headaches, feeling sleepy again.

 

***

 

Man, hasn't been three days since our get-together, should I call Nylah? She doesn't believe in that whole foolish, three-day rule thing, does she? Perhaps she's going through too much and doesn't want me to bother her? Or is she going through so much that she yearns to talk to someone? I'm so befuddled, fuck, I'm calling. I take my cell from my pocket and hit her name and send fast, so that I can't reverse my mind.

 

"Nylah?" man, do I sound like a dweeb?

 

"Took you long enough." Nylah joked. Fuck. I knew I should have called before now.

 

"What are you up to?" she asked me.

 

"I'm just working on this scary story. I was bored, felt like writing." I answered her.

 

"Oh, I love me a spooky tale, tell it to me please?" Nylah begged me. "I need to take my mind off some shit, please let me hear it?" she asked me again.

 

"Are you sure? I'm not Stephen King or anything, but I'm not too bad either if I do say so myself. If it makes you feel better, I'll read it to you -- I'll do anything you want, my love."

 

When you're good at something, you tell everyone. When you're talented at something, they tell you. People tell me I have a writing talent.

 

"Of course, I love that you write -- I do too, sometimes. Go on, read it."

 

"Here it goes, the title is 'Phantom Ride,' -- I made it about the old Shady legend."

 

"Oh, I know that one!" she eagerly exclaimed.

 

I cleared my throat and launch my story to her.

"I'm exasperated and the rain is plunging hard. The road in front is so foggy I can barely see it. This asphalt goes on forever. My eyelids weigh a ton and my head lowers -- I'm doing the nod. Just me and my little red car out on the road and the time is late -- super fucking late. What a long day.

 

"Snap out of it, Jasper! You're cracking out!"

 

Been driving for about 5 hours and should've stopped at that motel a few miles back, but I figured I'd catch the next one, I guess. Had a long day and I'm so exhausted. Something white off in the visible scope, catches my eye -- a person, a little girl in a white dress with rose ribbons. She's holding a soft amigo, it has a salmon bow, tied around its neck -- it came from her dress. She's quite unruly, black soot or dirt on her face -- the dress is filthy, too.

 

What is she doing out here at this hour of the night by herself? The time is three-fifteen in the morning. My turn signal clicks, and I pull into the lane closest to the side of the road, crawling to a stop. She doesn't pay any attention to me, nor walk up to the car -- she stands there, trance-like.

 

"Do you need help; would you like a run wherever?" No reaction.

 

The little girl was looking at me, but as though she couldn't see me -- like she's looking right through me.

 

"Little girl, can you see me?" I waved my hand at her but still nothing.

 

Should I call someone? I can't leave her out here like this, and I certainly can't lift her up and put her in the car. What should I do? How did it come about for her to be here?

 

"M-M-Morelly." said a quiet, shaking voice.

 

"Morelly?" I said again. She nodded her head yes, lackadaisically. She doesn't blink and locks eye contact with me.

 

"Do you need transportation there, is that where you live?"

 

She walked all zombie-like towards my car. Her frail pale arm reaches for my car door. It almost seems as though a tug on the door would break such a frail-looking limb. She gets inside and leaves the door ajar and doesn't say a word. I reach over her, yanking the door closed. Now, off to Morelly Road.

 

"What's your bear's name?" I asked, trying to make conversation until we arrive, but she doesn't say anything.

 

"What does your house look like, do you know your house number?" Still, no answer.

My car slows down as we draw near to Morelly Road. Maybe she will distinguish her house and tell me. Cruising slowly past each house, I look to her for a reaction of some sort. The dark, tree-covered street has a ghastly vibe to it, I look at her face for any signs, but nothing.

 

All the lights are out in these houses -- well, all except one. In one window, a candle -- the flame flickers as though it were fire fingers, calling us to it. As we approach the cozy-looking, dimly lit dwelling, she slowly lifts her arm and motions to the house.

 

"Is this your house?" I asked her.

 

I stop the car, but before it even entirely stops, she bails, and skips to the front door and knocks. My decision is to stay in the car to watch if anyone comes to the door -- an older woman ever so little cracks the door. When she realizes who it is, she fully opens it, and the little girl jumps in her arms. They clinch and go inside -- the woman might be her grandmother, she's too old to be her mother.

 

Strange, things were so casual? Should I rap on the door and ask the woman why this little girl was out here all alone, this late at night? The little girl knew the woman and the woman knew her. It didn't seem like she was gone at all, strange.

 

Feeling ambivalent, I argue with myself about what to do, my thought is to leave, and so I start to hitch off. That is until I see something pink out of the corner of my eye. I gaze down to realize that her companion with the ribbon around its neck, is still sitting in my passenger seat. Oh, no, she forgot her friend.

 

Slamming on the brakes I put my car in park again and get out, walking to the door -- friend in hand. I tap quietly a few times, it’s quite late, I don't want to disturb her neighbours. Some slipper-shuffling glides forward to the door and the same woman answers it.

 

"Yes, may I help you, sir?" the older-looking woman from earlier asked me.

 

"Sorry to bother you at such a late hour. The little girl who lives here -- the one I just drove home; I saw that you let her in. She was out here by herself, at this hour. Well anywise, she left her toy in my car, so I'm returning it to her -- every little girl covets her stuffies." I say, while handing over the bear with an awkward expression.

 

The woman smiles and surprisingly, she doesn't look angry or confused about why this little girl was out at this hour. Or why I'm at her door this late. Her smile turns to a frown though, and she blankly gazes up at me -- while tears fill up her eyes.

 

"I'm so very sorry for your loss, sir." she apologized.

 

"My loss, what, why are you apologizing?"

 

"There is no little girl who lives here per se, but one used to a long time ago. Her name was Abigail Adelaide. She and her fortuneless mother were in a terrible, horrific accident a few years back, out on that road. Her mother met the sandman while driving home from her daughter's birthday festivities.

 

It was pouring rain, much like now, and they were both killed. The car disintegrated in the ditch, rolled over a few times and caught fire. The body of Abigail's mother was found inside the car, severely burned. Abigail's body was never recovered because she was so tiny, scanty little thing burned away.

 

Pieces of blush fringe floated in every direction -- from her dress and her fluffy stuffed friend. That cemetery right across the street over there -- it's where her mother is at. She comes out of her grave on nights like this one, she watches over her kin and the tired souls of that path." the older woman paused.

 

"Nowadays, you listen to stories around the campfire, about the little girl who takes home the souls of those who died on that highway. Please sir, do come in -- again, I'm so sorry."

 

I'm speechless and my legs are weak, but somehow, I step inside. The woman presents me with a seat and turns on the radio. Static, but I can make out what is said. She doesn't say another word and points to the transmission playing. My appendages are shaking now, so I sit. The guy on the air is giving the traffic statement from earlier, my heartbeat can be felt in my knees.

 

"This just in, nasty accident on forty-eight early this morning. Happened between three and four, says a bystander. You might want to stay away from that road if you can, try to find another way. Patrol officers and the coroner are on the scene now. One of our reporters drove by the event a few moments ago. She told us, and I quote -- 'I can't see much, the rain is coming down hard. What is visible are the remains of what was a little red car -- and a teddy bear. There are tassels floating in every place -- back to you at the newsroom, Tom.'"

 

"So, what do you think?" I'm so apprehensive about her feedback -- I never let anyone read my writing, well except for teachers, of course.

 

"Love, love, love your story!" she exclaimed.

 

"You're just saying that."

 

"Hey, do you want to come to a thing with me? I'm not going to go if you won't be my date, but I will if you'll come with?" she asked.

 

"Sure, gratitude for the invite -- who's having the party? Oh, wait -- not that Ducas twat, he won't let me at his social."

 

"He'd really like me to go, and he said that I could bring anyone, and so I choose to take you -- could be fun."

 

"Anything for you, darling." I accepted.

 

She laughed; her glee is amazing. I'm going to spend the rest of my life making her live in merriment like that. I wish I’d started sooner, so I could've done it longer.

 

***

 

Time to call the love of my life. I take out my cell and phone my wife, she always expects one from me around now and I'm sure never to miss it. Promised her this when I took this job. Knew I wouldn't be home all that much, so our phone dates are our everything. The hours of sleuthing suck, and I hate leaving her alone so much, but she understands.

 

"Hi honey, how is your day going?" I asked.

 

"Been eventful. I got a conk at the door, but no one was there. I also got a phone call about an hour later, but again, no one -- so odd," said my wife.

 

"Some kids just playing pranks, you think, or do you want me to come by the house in case?"

 

"No dear, everything's fine -- stay at work. Find that bad off girl, Emmett, her mother must be something worried!"

 

"I'll do my best, love -- and yes, her mother is frantic, as expected. There doesn't seem to be a father in their lives."

 

"The world is mad as a march hare my love and getting crazier by the day -- stay guarded, I love you."

 

"Love you more baby." I hung up.

 

I look through the pages of the case -- the report says she was last seen around four in the afternoon, while coming home from school. She always comes right home, straight 'A' student, doesn't get into much trouble. According to her mother, but how much do parents know about their teenagers' lives? Only what the adolescent allows them to see, I suppose. She has communicated to the young girls' friends, and they all said she was supposed to go and drop-off her due books. The library says she never put those books on the turn-in rack.

 

What happened between school and the book return? I asked her picture. She has long blonde hair in low pigtails, and eyes like the sky with a small frame and freckles.