by Eric J. Krause
Little Lisa zipped down the stairs, a white sheet draped over her entire body. Jenna sighed and hoped she hadn't cut eye holes in it. The only white sheets in the linen closet were the expensive Egyptian cotton ones. Why couldn't she have decided to be a pink ghost? Those sheets were from the discount bin at some department store.
"Wow, you sure are a scary little ghost." Thank goodness. No eye holes.
"Yeah, we both are."
Both? Since when did Lisa get an imaginary friend? "Who are you playing with, sweetie?"
Lisa's head tilted to the side, and if Jenna could see her face, it'd probably be scrunched up in concentration. "I don't know her name."
Jenna suppressed a chuckle. That was her daughter. An imaginary friend, maybe, but not a whole lot of imagination behind it. "Make sure you're careful with that sheet."
Lisa ran back upstairs, and Jenna forgot all about it. Lisa always behaved so well that there was no doubt the sheet would be fine. In fact, she'd probably be playing something else soon enough.
That's why, a half-hour later, Jenna was shocked when she saw something small and white streak by in her peripheral vision. Damn it, that sheet had to be getting wrecked by now, no matter how careful Lisa was.
Jenna searched all around downstairs, but couldn't find her daughter. Strange. There hadn't been enough time for her to get back to the stairs. Jenna would have seen.
"Sweetie?" she called up the stairs. "Where are you?"
Lisa's voice came from her room. "In here, Mommy."
As Jenna reached the second floor, she saw the sheet folded next to the linen closet. There was no way she'd have had time to race upstairs and do that. Though Jenna would need to refold it properly, it was a pretty good job for a four-year-old.
She stuck her head into Lisa's room and found her having a tea party with two of her stuffed animals. "Were they playing ghosts with you earlier?"
Lisa gave Jenna a look like she was insane. "No, that was my new friend." She pointed to her bedroom door, and a small figure walked past in the hall. Jenna's blood ran cold, and all the hair on her arms stood up.
"Who was that?"
"My new friend. She didn't want to tell me her name. She's very sad. She can't find her mommy."
Jenna darted into the hallway, but there was no sign of this mystery girl. She ducked her head into each room, but no luck. The little girl, whatever she was, had disappeared.
"She likes to go into your sewing room. That's where she last saw her mommy."
Jenna looked over at that closed door. The little girl couldn't be in there. The door's hinges squeaked pretty loud when it opened or closed, and she hadn't heard anything. Why, then, was her arm shaking as she reached for the doorknob?
The door bellowed out a long, drawn-out screech as she pushed it open. Her breath streamed out in clouds as she stepped inside. Damn, it was cold enough to chill Jell-O in there. A quick glance around didn't turn up any strange girl. Before she could turn her attention to the frigid air, a strange voice, which she wasn't sure if was real or in her head, assaulted her.
"Mommy, Mommy. Where's my mommy? Mommy, Mommy. Where's my mommy?" Over and over again.
Jenna turned and found a little girl, glowing white, standing in the corner. The girl looked up at her with dead, glazed over eyes, and Jenna lost it. She let out an ear-splitting scream, which caused Lisa to run sobbing from the room. She wanted to chase after her baby girl, but her legs wouldn't obey. She couldn't tear herself away from the dead girl's stare.
"Mommy, Mommy. Where's my mommy?"
The girl stepped forward and spread out her arms. Jenna wanted nothing more than to get out of there and never come back, but her feet might as well have been nailed to the floor. When the ghost girl's arms touched her, they were so cold they actually burned. The girl embraced her, and the room spun and went black.
Almost immediately, everything stopped. The room had a dingy gray film over everything. She looked down and saw her body lying on the floor, an unearthly grimace etched on her face. The little girl, now more real than anything else in the room, smiled up at her. "You're my mommy now?"
Jenna thought about it for a second. She already had a little girl who called her mommy. Didn't she? Lisa? Lila? No, she was remembering wrong. She smiled down at this little girl, her little girl, and nodded.
"Of course, sweetie. I'm your mommy."