In the small kitchen of our holiday cottage, I was cooking eggs for breakfast when my husband Karl spoke. ‘You said you would kill it this morning, Frida.’
I turned from the oven, frying pan in hand and face him unsure whether he was making a statement, or asking me a question. Due to the lack of deep sleep last night, the question floated around my foggy mind. I looked down at the cooling eggs and felt my guts tighten.
‘What are you thinking about killing, or were you just muttering in your sleep again?’ Karl said before dropping onto the sofa in his lazy, annoying way.
At two in the morning, I woke with a start and lay listening, frightened to move, unsure whether the sound came from outside, or in the room itself. When I was sure I couldn’t hear the sound, I checked the clock on the bedside cabinet. It glowed two in the morning. Suddenly a toilet flushed, alerting me that Karl was on his midnight wanderings. The bathroom door opened, and I withdrew my hand from under the pillow and sat up.
‘Oh, sorry, love, if I woke you, I did try not to disturb you.’
‘You shouldn’t flush the loo,’ I snapped.
As I lay listening to my husband’s breathing as he drifted back to sleep, memories of my past came flooding back in waves of anticipation. My hand slipped beneath the pillow, as my heart raced. Through the gap in the ill-fitting curtains, the glow of the moon bathed the room in an eerie, silvery light. I tilted my head slightly and focused on the corner of the room.
Was a shadow moving there?
My head pounded as I strain to listen. The timing was everything. I waited; my hand shook, though the handle of the knife gave me a certain amount of comfort. At moments like this, I call to mind my first time. The knife slipped so easily into the flesh as though I was about to butter some toast. The surprise on my victim’s face matched my own. Of course, she thought she had the upper hand, and I would be her victim.
At the time, the adults believed there had to be a logical reason for what happened, but there wasn’t one. Oh, yes, everyone analysed my behaviour, not hers. She became an angel and I became the devil incarnate. No normal excuses could explain my behaviour on the day. The newspapers couldn’t find the normal list of excuses. You know the ones, born into a poor background, divorced parents, or a single mother trying to raise her children on benefits, I had educated parents, no lack of guidance, or zealous parenting, the list was endless, but no one wondered if it was a case of children exploring the question of life and death?
Why do psychological behavioural specialists assume all misfits wish to harm animals? Angel and I missed that stage completely. We were on perfectly good terms with each other. Some might’ve called us, friends. Our mothers were both first-time mums when they met at the local playgroup when we were just two years old so you could, I suppose, blame our mothers, after all, they were the ones who introduced us to Casper, the ghost, too.
‘This is so funny,’ Angel’s mother had said as she clicked on the program and told us to get comfortable before the television.
‘Oh yes, I remember watching this with my parents.’ My mother said, ‘Casper always made me laugh.’ As Mum left us alone to watch the cartoon, Angel’s Mum followed her into the kitchen with a bottle of wine in her hand.
Angel and I watched in silence as the little ghost floated through walls and sneaked up on people who would cry out in fear and then run away. No matter how careful he was, no one wanted to be his friend. I felt sorry for him when the other ghosts started to laugh at him.
‘Wouldn’t it be fun to do that?’ Angel said, bobbing her blonde head, causing her ringlets to bounce. ‘To float around, and walk through walls.’
‘But, wouldn’t we need to be dead?’ I said, looking at the screen.
‘I think we should try it,’ Angel said.
I tried to question her logic, but knew it was pointless. Angel always won by saying, she was a month older than I was, so knew far more than I did.
One bright morning, our mothers took us to the park. While they chatted, and checked their phones, on a bench nearby, Angel led me away. Once out of sight, she pulled me into some shrubs.
‘I’ve got something for you,’ she said handing me a black metallic pen.
‘What do I need a pen for?’ I studied the heavier-than-normal pen, and then looked around, but Angel hadn’t brought any paper with her.
‘You can’t write with this pen, Silly.’ Angel’s blue eyes sparkled, with glee. ‘My brother, Johnny showed it to me yesterday. You press here.’ Angel pressed a button on the side of the pen, and with a click, a thin silver blade shot out. ‘You just press again,’ with a click, the blade was gone. ‘See, I have one too.’ She held up a blue one that matched her eyes.
‘But… what are we going to do with them?’ The pen rested heavy in my hand, I didn’t like it.
‘Become ghosts, of course, Stupid, and scare our mums,’ she said.
I didn’t like the idea and glanced over to where our mothers sat, staring at their phones. As I turned to challenge Angel’s crazy idea, a flash of silver caught in the corner of my eye as Angel bore down on me yelling, ‘now,’ in a snarling voice. I threw my hands up and heard a click. Then something warm sprayed my face, and hands as Angel made a guttural sound, her pen hit the side of my face as she fell with a thud beside me.
‘Angel…’ I said shaking her. Blood was leaking from one of her eyes while the other stared blindly up at me. For some reason, I hid the pen Angel had given me, beneath the roots of the shrubs and picked up hers before running to my mum.
‘Angel wanted to be a ghost,’ I said as I held out Angel’s pen to her. Angel’s mother looked up and went pale. ‘My God, what have you done to my daughter? Where is she?’ she screamed at me.
I pointed to the shrubs. The top of Angel’s blonde head and her blue hair ribbon were just visible among the dark bushes. My mum shook me so hard I thought my neck would snap. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she said, ‘What have you done, Frida?’
‘I didn’t do anything. Angel gave me the pen, and said she wanted to be a ghost.’
My mum turned away from me as a piercing scream filled the park. On turning back she said, ‘Stay here and don’t move.’
I waited. My mum lifted her phone to her ear and began to pace up and down. Angel’s mum sat on her knees, hugging Angel to her. Not once did Mum look over at me to see if I was being good.
As the park became a hive of activity, I sat alone in a police car and felt as Casper must have done, alone with nobody to listen to me, and everyone seemed to be afraid of me, as everyone had been of Casper, the ghost.
Paula R C Readman lives in a small English village. She's happiest either at the keyboard, with a paintbrush in her hand being creative, or out walking with a camera in her hand. Paula is a published author of five books and has over a hundred short stories published, too. She is now working on her seventh book, her sixth one is to be published this year.