Linda watched Shawn place the “For Sale” sign in the lawn and then turned back to the kitchen. Angie was preoccupied destroying a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the table and she didn’t notice Linda wipe the tears from her face. Linda was happy, sad, and scared all at once. She knew they needed to be out of this house, but it was their first house as a family. And yet she was still constantly terrified of what else was living here.
Sold or not, they were moving into an apartment at the end of the month. Linda had made it clear to Shawn that they weren’t staying there any longer than they had to. Their realtor had assured them it would sell fast, but she wasn’t taking any chances.
Shawn reentered the house and ruffled Angie’s hair. “Who wants to come with me to get boxes and tape?”
“I do! I do!” Angie erupted at once and flung the remaining bits of her sandwich back onto the plate.
“Okay, go get a clean shirt on and we’ll go.”
Linda took the plate over to the sink and Shawn wrapped his arms around her from behind.
“It’s going to be okay,” he whispered into her hair after she jumped. “Come with us. You don’t have to stay here alone.”
“I planned to go with you. I’m tempted to say let’s stay in a hotel, but I know we can’t afford that with everything else going on.”
“Well, if it’s bothering you that much, I could try –“
“Mommy!” Angie screamed from down the hall.
They both ran to her room and found her curled up in a corner by her dresser.
“What is it? What happened?” Linda asked and pulled Angie into her arms.
“The girl! The girl over there!” Angie pointed to the rocking chair across the room and hid her face in Linda’s shoulder.
Shawn looked at the rocking chair, then back at Linda. His face was pale and his expression was confused. Linda’s eyes filled with tears and she pushed past Shawn to get out of the room. Shawn edged backwards and watched the chair until he was in the hall. He found Linda comforting Angie at the kitchen table.
“She…she smiled and there was…blood in her mouth….and…and…” Angie whimpered.
“Shhh….shhh, sweetie, it’s okay.” Linda wiped the tears off Angie’s face while she let her own fall off her cheeks. “Why don’t you go in the backyard and play for a little while? Your daddy and I will take care of everything in here and we’ll let you know when it’s safe to come back in, okay?”
Angie nodded and hopped off the chair. Once she was out the door, Linda rounded on Shawn.
“That’s it! I’ve had enough. We need to get out of this house. Now.”
“It’s on the market, we just have to wait – “
“We can’t wait! Did you not hear what she said?”
“Kids have active imaginations, Linda.”
“No, that’s bullshit! She was terrified. Kids don’t get terrified about things they imagined.”
“What do you want me to do? We haven’t even had offers yet. We have to be patient.”
“No! I can’t be patient! I can’t just not worry about it anymore! We need to do something. We need to – “
Linda was cut off by a cabinet door swinging open and a stack of plates crashing to the floor. She let out a shriek and covered her ears.
“What the….” Shawn stared at the shattered pieces of glass.
“Don’t you see?” Linda took deep breaths to try and calm down. “We need to leave. Today.”
“Okay… okay. Go pack a bag. I’ll get Angie. We’ll…stay at a hotel for now. I’ll call the realtor on the way….”
Linda was out of the room before he’d finished talking.
Two weeks later, the realtor unlocked the door to let Mrs. Hernandez into the house to look around.
“It’s very cozy. The rooms are back this way –“
Mrs. Hernandez shook her head, barely glancing around. “No. Not
this house.” And she walked back out the door.