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This week’s prompt is …frog… + up to 1,000 words
Frankie’s nerves were as brittle as her fingernails. She hated the house since the divorce, and everything else afterwards. Thoughts of selling it weighed heavy on her mind. The whole rigmarole involved overwhelmed her, but she had no alternative, had no idea what to do next. Would she survive the wait between selling and moving? Should she have called the priest?
She pretended to read the paper, but watched her five-year-old daughter at play instead. Thick black curls bobbed around the serious little face. Forehead pinched, Suzanne tucked her doll into the toy pram muttering under her breath. “Bad dolly. You go sleep. Now.”
“Dolly’s not bad, Sweetie. Babies are never bad.” Frankie folded the newspaper and tossed it on the coffee table. “Maybe it’s not her bedtime yet.”
“She not listen all day. Baby needs sleep to grow big and strong.” Her mouth in a pout, the little girl yanked the carriage handle and headed for the hallway. Where’d she learn those words?
“Suzanne, Mommy’s running your bath now.”
“Don’t want no bath now.” Leaving the carriage at the bottom of the stairs, she raced upwards as fast as her pudgy legs allowed.
Temperature adjusted and water streaming, Frankie poured in fragrant bubble bath and listened to the busy footsteps overhead. Then silence. “Mommy, what I come here for?” The girl’s call sounded puzzled.
Clamping down a giggle, her mother’s nose crinkled. “I don’t know. You didn’t tell me.” She sing-songed the words back to her daughter. Silence continued. Mandy, skulked out from wherever she’d been catnapping and tore up the stairs after her precious. Susanne soon thumped down the stairs, short arms under the black cat’s belly, whose legs hung limp as a ragdoll almost brushing the floor.
“Bath time, sweetie.”
“Mm-mm. My favorite. Strawberry.” Suzanne dumped the cat and pulled at her clothes. Mandy sauntered into the bathroom and hopped onto the edge of the tub, content to watch the suds froth. Suzanne bolted and climbed in, her mother close behind pulled off her purple Tee, then turned off the faucet. The girl squealed; Mandy curled her tail tight around her and relaxed on all fours for comfortable guard duty.
Frankie froze, washcloth in mid-air. The cat recoiled and dashed towards the sound. “Sit tight, Sweetie. Mommy will be right back.” She handed Susanne the cloth. “Don’t move. I’ll only be a sec.” The girl, too involved with her singing, paid no attention. Twinkle, twinkle weetle star…” One foot over the threshold, Frankie flashed a quick glance towards her daughter and dashed down the hall. Mandy sniffed at the framed picture leaning upright against the baseboard. She stared at air and bounced about the room. Not again. At least no broken glass this time. Frankie scrutinized the empty spaces in the room, her face pinched, brows drawn. She plunked the picture on the coffee table and rushed back to the bathroom.
“Good girl. You waited for me. Out we come. One. Two. Three.” She plucked up her daughter wrapping a towel around her. “My, oh my. Somebody smells go-od.” The young girl clapped and shrieked. Frankie bit her lip as she clutched her daughter and buried her face in the girl’s damp curls, a frog in her throat.
“Tomorrow, we’ll buy a new pillow for the rocking chair in your room.”
“Can’t. The lady upstairs won’t like it.”
Lips flopping like a guppy, Jackie cast around for words but nothing came out. “W-w-what lady?”
“The lady that lives in my room. Can I have a drink, Mommy?”
“A small one, ‘kay? What does she look like?”
“Like a gamma, and gamma hair.”
Frankie fought to keep her voice light. “Is she a nice lady?” She set the girl on a kitchen chair and poured an ounce of water into a glass. Sounds like the lady I saw when we moved in, but that was seven years ago.
“She sits in the rocking chair and sings to me sometimes.” Frankie handed the girl the glass.
“Mommy. Let go.”
No-one and nothing is messing with my baby. Blinking to suppress determined tears, Frankie released the glass. “How about we have a girl’s night and you sleep in Mommy’s bed tonight.”
Suzanne yelped and clapped. The cat streaked into the kitchen, eyes black, fur standing on end. “Mandy we sleep wiff Mommy tonight.”
* * *
Her daughter asleep, the cat curled beside her pillow, Frankie crept downstairs. While she let the water out of the tub, she peered into the living-room. Strange. The picture wasn’t on the coffee table. It hung on the wall where it belonged.
Pushing fists into her mouth not to cry out, Frankie closed her eyes rooted to the floor. No more ifs or maybes. She’d made up her mind. Enough. Let us make it through this night. No more ghosts at the foot of the bed, nor children in the basement nor white-haired ladies singing to my child. No more falling pictures.
Time to leave. Morning wouldn’t come fast enough. She shut off the lights and rushed upstairs to her sleeping, daughter. Not even the cat twitched when she slipped into bed. The rain outside picked up, the crimson maple thrashed the windows. Sleep didn’t come. The house creaked and sighed. Frankie tossed.
No more. Time to say goodbye.
Something or someone knocked on the bedroom door. The cat sprang up and glared at the sound. Frankie squirreled closer to her baby.
© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.
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