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By Lisa McCourt Hollar
They came alive every night. She tried to tell them, but they didn’t believe her. Jessica watched from her window, waiting. She thought maybe tonight she would go to them.
“Jessie, darling, it’s time to get up?” Nora opened her charges door, expecting the usual groans and protests. Instead, she found an empty bed. “Jessie?”
The window was open. A breeze blew a yellow leaf into the room. It fluttered through the air, landing on the child’s bed. It didn’t even look like it had been slept in. With a sense of foreboding, the nanny rushed to the adjoining bathroom and threw open the door? “Jessica?”
The police came. The grounds were searched and Nora was questioned. Mr. Rosenberg spoke up for her, saying he knew she would never have done anything to harm the girl. Mrs. Rosenberg nodded agreement.
“It was that boy,” she insisted, “the one that works for the butcher. He’s daft in the head. He was looking at Jessica when we were there the other day.”
“Andrew?” Nora shook her head. “He wouldn’t harm a fly.” She was quiet a moment, not sure if she should speak up. “Jessie claimed that there were children that played in the garden at night…”
“There were no children,” Mr. Rosenberg snapped. “Foolish nonsense she dreamed up.”
“What is this about children?” Officer Brady turned towards Nora.
“Just a child’s imagination. She thought the statues came to life.” She gestured out the big French doors that opened from the dining room, into the court yard. Officer Brady stepped out to examine the statue of four children in a circle, holding hands. That’s odd, Nora thought. There should only be three children. She started to say something, but then stopped, not relishing being scolded by her employers.
“It’s just silly nonsense,” Mr. Rosenberg said again. “Poppycock and claptrap dreamed up after Nora read some ludicrous story about a boy that never grows up.”
“Peter Pan,” Nora said helpfully.
“I know the story,” the officer said. “I’ve read it to my nephew. He likes to pretend that he is Peter, fighting the dread Captain Hook.”
“Foolish nonsense.” Mr. Rosenberg took hold of Officer Brady’s arm and led him back into the house. “I think my wife is right, it has to be that butcher boy. I saw him outside the house last evening.”
“He was delivering a roast to Cook,” Nora said. “Perhaps she climbed out the window to play with the children? I don’t mean the statue,” she said, stumbling over her words when Mr. Rosenberg turned her way, his eyes angry, “but maybe there were children that came to play... maybe she wasn’t imagining it.” She knew it sounded weak.
The police searched the butcher’s shop. A red ribbon was found in Andrew’s room, a red ribbon that Mrs. Rosenberg swore was Jessica’s. Andrew said he found it on the sidewalk, outside the shop. Andrew was arrested and found guilty. They promised him mercy if he would tell them where he’d hid the girl’s body.
“I don’t know where she is!” He insisted this, even after they put the rope around his neck.
Nora stopped in Jessica’s room before leaving. She’d packed her bags slowly, wondering about the singing she had heard in the garden the night before. When she’d looked out the window she’d seen four children dancing around the shrubbery. One of them was Jessica, but when she’d run out to the garden, the statue of the children stood still. One of them did look like the girl she’d cared for. She was smiling, which was so unlike the girl that lived in fear of her father. Nora knew he had been doing things to her. She hadn’t caught him, but Jessica had told her enough, that she knew.
“I should have said something.”
Nora looked out the window. The sun was just beginning to go down. She could have left earlier, but she wanted a chance to say goodbye. She thought she saw one of the stone faces turn and look her way.
“Good bye, Jessie. I hope you are happy.” Then she left the room, running down the stairs and out the door to the waiting cab.
Daniel Rosenberg stood staring up at his daughter’s window, sipping the brandy he’d poured himself. He wondered if she really were dead or if she’d run away. He found it hard to believe that the idiot butcher boy had done anything to Jessica, but at least his execution stopped the questions. And now that nosey bitch was gone too. He saw the look in her eyes, she knew about his and Jessica’s special secret. He probably should go find her, wherever it is she went, and kill her. Not that anyone would believe her. Honestly, believing Jessica’s story about the children. She was just about as daft as Andrew.
Behind him he heard the faint sound of singing. Turning, he stared in surprise as the statue of children dancing came to life. The children surrounded him, their faces smiling, their eyes gleaming.
“Ring around the rosies, pocket full of posies…”
“Jessica?” His throat tightened when his daughter’s beaming face smiled up at him. His cock grew hard as she brushed against him. The other’s touched him too. Was he dreaming?”
“Ashes, ashes, we all come down.”
They fell on him then, their teeth biting. At first he found their touch pleasurable, but then he realized they were tearing at him, consuming his flesh. Daniel screamed, but no one heard.
The next day the police came. They searched the yard. Some that speculated that the loss of his daughter had been too much and he’d left, possibly jumping off a nearby bridge.
Officer Brady wasn’t so sure, especially after he saw the statue of the dancing children. There were five of them now. He thought there had only been four… and one of them, his face screaming in horror, looked very much like a young Daniel Rosenberg.
Word Count: 1,000