by Lisa McCourt Hollar
"Katie, come here please."
Susan winced, as the sound of feet pounding down the stairs reached her ears. Too many times to count, she had told Katie not to run down the stairs. Images of her daughter, missing a step and falling to the bottom were still fresh in her mind. The accident had only been a few months ago and Susan still remembered the terror she had felt when she'd reached Katie. She had been certain her daughter's neck had been broken. The fall, as they had bugun to refer to it, hadn't even fazed Katie. She'd had a bump on her head, but no permenant damage and despite Susan's warnings, her daughter insisted on living life on the edge, or at least as on the edge as a six year old could be.
"Is that for me?" Katie skidded into the room, coming to a stop right before crashing into the couch. Her eyes immediately fixed onto the package in her mother's hand. Susan took one look at her daughter and nearly burst into laughter. Katie had been playing dress up and her face was smeared with makeup.
"It is. It doesn't say who sent it, but there is probably a card inside."
Tearing into the box, Katie pulled out a smaller package and a card. HAPPY BIRTHDAY was scrawled in bold letters across the front.
"Who is it from?"
"It doesn't say." Tossing the card, Katie reached for the smaller package. The gift was wrapped in yellow paper, that was decorated with the pattern of a dancing, pink ballerina. Shredding the paper, Katie tossed the scraps in the same direction as the card.
"Oh Katie," Susan said, puzzled as to who could have sent the present, "it looks like a jewelry box."
Opening it, Katie's eyes nearly popped. "Wow!" She lifted the object out, revealing a necklace with a blue jewel.
"That...that looks expensive." Susan picked up the card, looking inside for a signature. Just as Katie had said, there was no name to indicate who had sent the gift.
"Can I wear it," Katie asked, already trying to work the clasp, so she could fasten it around her neck.
"I don't know sweetie. We don't know who sent it to you and it looks expensive. It might have been an accident." Susan was sorting through the original packaging, looking for a postmark. Maybe it was from John's parents. It had been mailed locally, leaving Susan even more confused. She couldn't think of anyone in their circle, that could afford a gift like this.
"It was wrapped in birthday paper," Katie protested. "It's my birthday!"
Susan couldn't argue with Katie's logic, but she couldn't help but be uncomfortable with the gift. Katie was only six years old and the necklace looked like something a grown woman would wear. The tear shaped jewel, which was a deep shade of blue, worried her. There seemed to be something wrong with it. The chain though was short, just the right size for a child to wear and Susan couldn't think of a reason to deny her daughter the gift.
"I suppose you can wear it, until your dad comes home. Then we can ask him what he thinks."
Katie squeeled and handed the necklace to her mother, so she could help her put it on. A jolt of energy ran down her arm as soon as her fingers grasped the chain. Troubled, she fastened it around Katie's neck and sent her back to her room to play.
"I have called everyone I could think of. No one has sent Katie a necklace."
"So the sender wants to remain annonymous," John said, "so what? It's probably a good immitation. Anyone that knows Katie, knows that she loves to play dress-up."
"It feels wrong." Susan folded her arms, refusing to admit her husband was right.
"Susan, for once, please stop. Ever since Katie fell down those steps, you have tried to stop her from being a little girl. You are going to turn her into a paranoid child, if you keep this up."
Turning away, Susan concentrated on the stew she was cooking. She didn't answer her husband, allowing her back to speak for her.
"Who is Elizabeth Bathory?"
"What?" Susan nearly dropped the ladel. Even John looked shocked. His daughter had applied more makeup, but this time, instead of looking like a clown, she looked like a small adult. A small, seductive adult.
"Go upstairs right now and take that makeup off."
"But I don't want to daddy. I want to be beautiful. Like Elizabeth."
"Do as your father said." Pointing towards the stairs, Susan's voice was strained. "Elizabeth Bathory," she said, shooting her husband a look as soon as Katie was out of earshot. "Where would a six year old have heard that name?"
"The nurse at the hospital," John said. "Remember. She was studying midevil history. She was talking about reincarnation. I remember she said something to Katie about it. Bowed to her and called her, M'lady. I thought she was joking."
"You don't suppose she sent Katie the necklace do you? How would she know our address?"
"Hospital records," John said, beginning to worry. I'll call the hospital tomorrow"
That night at dinner, Katie was silent, picking at her food. John made her take the necklace off and she pouted, asking to go to bed early.
"She'll get over it," he told Susan, when they went to bed themselves. Susan wasn't sure, having nightmares of her daughter bathing in blood. When she woke, screaming, Katie was standing over her. She was once again wearing the necklace. In her hands was a bloody knife. Smiling, the girl brought it down, sinking it into her mother's heart.
"Now, wash yourself in their blood," a voice behind her instructed. The nurse smiled as the girl obeyed. It wasn't virgin blood, but it would have to do, for Elizabeth to be reborn.
Word Count: 990