Anna clawed at her mother’s black dress. Tears welled up behind Anna’s eyes. She strained to hold them back. Her voice warbled. “No, mommy.”
The floor creaked behind her; she spun. Joshy stood in the doorway. He cradled a ragged stuffed goose, Mr. Honkers, in his arms.
She shouted. “No, you can’t see.” And slammed the door.
It muffled his voice. “She’s my mommy too.”
The door groaned open. “Fine but you have to promise you won’t cry. If you cry they’ll come back.”
He nodded and wrapped his arms around her.
Anna moved the wide brimmed black church hat off the bed and set it on the velvet chair in the corner. She lifted Joshy up and set him next to their mother.
He curled into a ball. His voice was small and tired. “Will she be like this forever?”
Anna wrapped her arms around them. “Once the Broken Heart Police have you, they never give you back. But we should be happy for her.”
Joshy sniffled. “Why?” He ran fingers across her face up to her long brown hair. He pushed a clump of strands behind her ear. He gasped when he saw the thick red scar and the stapled flesh just above her eye.
Anna was quick to put the hair back. “She’s happy now.”
“She wasn’t happy with us?”
Anna picked up the picture of their father. His eyes were bright blue and his smile stretched wide. Tears splattered against the glass. Her fingers leapt to her face. “No.”
She jumped down from the bed and raced to the front door. Any second she expected to see their eyeless faces and cruel smiles.
The porch light out front flashed on. It could be a cat. She told herself. Her stomach twisted. She screamed. “I won’t go with you.”
She dashed back to the bedroom. Joshy was curled up on their mother’s stomach. He sobbed. “I want her back.”
She leaped onto the bed. “Stop it Joshy.”
“She’s not there. They took her.”
“Do you want them to take you too?”
His heaving sobs shook the bed. She dug her nails into him and pried him from their mother’s clammy skin.
He bawled. “No, I’m staying with mommy.”
She dragged him into the hallway. The back porch light flickered on. Through the glass double doors she could see their sand box and beyond it thick bushes. Silver flashed in the night. The leaves fluttered.
She clenched her hands into tiny fists.“Joshy if they take you, I’ll be all alone. I won’t have anyone. Nana is dead. They’ve taken Papa and daddy and mommy. If they take you I won’t have anyone.”
He relaxed. “Just let them take you too Annie. People made them to help.”
She pleaded, “But they don’t help anymore Joshy. They’re broken.”
Joshy’s sobs grew further apart. He wiped his tears and snotty nose on Mr. Honkers and set him on the floor. He nodded and slipped his hand into hers. She led him into their bedroom. The moon wept yellow tears through their window.
She rubbed Joshy’s back as she settled him into bed. “In the morning we’ll try and find Uncle Kenny.”
He twirled her hair through his fingers.“Your hair is like mommy’s. He wiped his snotty nose on his sleeve. “It’s really pretty.” His voice was thin. He yawned. “Can you get me Mr. Honkers?”
She slipped out from under the purple comforter and tiptoed across the room. She ducked across the hall into their mother’s room. Maybe it was better that they took her. She can be with daddy now. She kissed mommy on the cheek and picked up Mr. Honkers. The door behind her slammed closed.
Her hands slipped over the handle. It wouldn’t turn. She screamed, “Let me in.” The door creaked open. She slipped her hand into the darkness and felt along the wall for the switch. Her bed was empty. The fluttering curtains framed an open window. A cat shrieked. The door groaned behind her.
His face was like ashes. His smile seemed carved from stone. His face was flat where his eyes should have been. She clenched her fingers into fists and gritted her teeth. “I’m not sad. You can’t take me if I’m not sad.”
It cocked its head to the side and smiled wider.
Her voice was taut and eager. “Give them back. I can make them better.” It staggered forward. Its limbs snapped and jumped as it moved. She howled and chased it into the hall. “You’re making things worse.”
Anna slapped and punched it. She dug her nails into its rubbery arm. “Give them back, they don’t belong to you.”
Its arm dropped like the guard at the train tracks. Its sharpened steel finger pointed to her mother’s room.
She stumbled to the door. The window was open. The night was cold. Mommy and daddy and Joshy lay in bed. Their eyes were propped open. Their lips were turned in thin, narrow smiles.
She curled up between mommy and daddy. She took Joshy’s hand in hers. She could call Uncle Kenny. She could pick up the phone and he would come and get her. He’d take her into the country away from everything. And then it’d be all over. But it’d be easier to cry.
©2013 Ian Florida