“I’m going to get some clean towels out of the laundry. Hold on just a minute for me girls.” Erica walked down the hall to her laundry room to retrieve clean towels from the dryer. Why are there never any clean towels? The splashing sounds and high pitched squeals made her smile as she fished around in the dryer. She was two steps away from the bathroom door when the downstairs phone rang. The only reason she kept a house phone was for her husband’s home based business. There weren’t a lot of job opportunities in the sleepy mountain town of Norfolk, Conneticut and Jerald needed to be creative. He was currently out of town and the call might be something important. Erica turned to go downstairs to answer the phone figuring Madeline and Jessie would be okay for another few minutes. She remembered a time when she hadn’t felt comfortable taking her eyes off of her twins for a second, at the age of five, however she figured they were relatively safe.
Erica noted the temperature downstairs was slightly chilly. It was late September but the New England winter was already starting to settle in. She would need to get the gas turned on again soon “Headrick LLC how can I help you?”
Her brother Tedd’s voice came through the other end.
“How many times do I have to tell you not to use this line for personal calls?” Ted never called unless something was wrong. Usually the thing that was wrong, he needed money.
“Hey sis, don’t be like that. I just called to talk.”
“Sure you did. I’m in the middle of bath time right now, could you just get to the point? Tell me how much you need?”
“Wow. I just wanted to talk about what your plans were for the holidays. I didn’t call to ask for anything.”
She felt the tiniest bit guilty for jumping to the conclusion. That was until he asked for airfare to come see them for Thanksgiving.
“Can we talk about this later Tedd?” she asked. She listened to his protests and explanations for how he would help out around in the house and babysit for free. It was at that moment that Erica became aware of how silent the house had become. She didn’t hear the splashing and giggling that usually accompanied bath time. The silence was ominous. Erica was suddenly filled with an unreasonable sense of dread. She dropped the phone and let it fall to the floor with Tedd still explaining himself on the other end. She ran up the stairs her heart thudding in her chest and nearly sick with worry. When she got to bathroom Erica was horrified to see that it was firmly shut. She would never shut the door like that while the girls were bathing. A high pitched shriek broke through the silence followed by wild splashing sounds. Erica put her hand on the knob and threw her body weight into the door. Her slight frame didn’t have much force behind it and the heavy oak door did not give an inch.
“Girls! Open this door!” she shouted. There was no response from either Maddie or Jessie. The splashing stopped and Erica could hear the sound of small wet feet padding toward the door. The door unlocked. Jessie was standing there looking up at her soaking wet and naked. She looked up at her mother and her mouth began to tremble at little.
“Maddie has a boo boo mommy!” Erica looked past her little blonde daughter to see the other figure that still remained in the tub.
“Maddie! What’s wrong?” She was floating head down in the bath water her fine blonde hair fanning outward from her head. Erica went to her daughter and pulled her out of the water. She wrapped a towel around her little girl and laid her gently on the floor. Erica tried to remember what she’d learned in CPR training but it had been so long ago. She gently rolled over Maddie’s tiny chest and gave her two rescue breaths. Nothing. Erica continued to work on her daughter with tears rolling down her face screaming for Jessie to call 911. Her other daughter just stood there staring as if mesmerized. After nearly two full minutes of heart rending effort Madeline burped up the water she’d swallowed and started breathing again on her own. Erica held her as she cried.
Later that night Erica put Maddie to sleep in her own bed so she could keep watch over her all night. She then went to the girls room to where Jessie was sleeping alone with her unicorn night light.
“Honey, are you awake?”
“Yes mommy,” she said immediately.
“Aren’t you sleepy?” Erica stroked a strand of Jessie’s hair in a comforting motherly gesture.
“Is Maddie alright?” she asked.
“Yes, your sister is fine. Can you tell me what happened in the bathroom today? And how did the bathroom door get locked?”
“Am I in trouble?”
“No. But is there something you’d like to tell me about what happened today?”
“No,” she whispered.
Erica decided that they had all had enough traumas for one day. She kissed her daughter’s for-head and wished her goodnight promising that everything was okay. But everything wasn’t okay. Something was seriously wrong. She didn’t want to believe that her suspicion was correct. Could Jessie really have tried to do that to her sister? The thought made Erica’s spine tingle. Standing in the doorway she looked back at her innocent little girl lying there.
Jessie smiled at her. “I love you Mommy,” she said. A purple glow covered her daughters face and settled into her eyes. The bright purple eyes stared at Erica and seemed to burn into her skull. She looked away breaking eye contact with Jessie and looked at the floor until the stars were gone from her vision. When Erica looked back at her daughter the light was gone and only the smiling face of a little girl looked back at her. Erica forced herself to smile back and then she slowly closed the door and locked it behind her.