“Where’s your sister?” Missy Winters asked her niece Maggie Robinson as the elder girl came thumping down the stairs after a marathon video game session in her room.
“I don’t know,” the four-year-old replied, staring rapturously at the fast-paced cartoon on the medium-sized television screen in the family room of their new old house.
It was new to them, but rather old in age. Missy was staying at her elder sister Misty’s house until their parents moved to Las Vegas from Chicago. The only house Misty could afford on her working mother’s paycheck was in a ramshackle neighborhood filled with a wide assortment of interesting characters, including Missy and Misty’s cousin Jordyn, and her boyfriend Leo.
“Sara!” Missy bellowed. Seven-year-old Sara did not answer. “I remember!” Missy exclaimed, plunking down on the couch beside Maggie, who immediately snuggled with her. “She’s across the street with your Auntie Jordyn. We’ll have to get her later. We can take Coco with us. The poor dog hasn’t been out all day,” Missy said reassuringly to her niece who nodded her big head beneath her arm. They broke out into uproarious laughter as the star of the cartoon walked straight into the wall.
Hours passed. The vicious desert sun sank into the horizon as Missy made sandwiches for dinner. Little Maggie gobbled hers up with a smile on her face. Missy became nervous as the day became night. Missy trusted Jordyn to watch over Sara, but that familiar inner voice of hers (which sounded strangely like her mother) was asking, “Where’s Sara? She’s been out too long. Go get her!”
Finally after a rousing game of memory during which Missy allowed Maggie to cheat more than once, Missy heeded her nagging conscience. “Let’s go get your sister.”
Maggie jumped up, knocking aside her cards and yelled, “Yay! Sissy!” The round-faced child ran for the door to put on her grubby sandals.
Missy went to the spacious kennel which housed her sister’s Chihuahua, Coco. “Good boy,” she said, snapping on the long black leash to the jumpy bundle of energy. Coco led the way to the front door, knowing full well he was going out.
Missy figured because Jordyn lived less than 150 feet away, she wouldn’t need to lock the door. “Wait Maggie!” she warned the rambunctious child in front of her. “Don’t cross the street without me!” Missy carefully closed the front door. Instinctively she looked up. The full moon was peeking out of the clouds above, making the hair dryer heat blowing her straight black strands around more bearable.
“Remember what we practiced. Look both ways before you cross the street,” Missy instructed her youngest niece.
“Okay,” Maggie replied in a sing-song voice. Clutching Missy’s hand tightly the niece and her young aunt looked left and then right together before making their way across the desolate street.
The overtly lived-in two-story homes that peppered the cramped street looked a lot more ominous now that the sun was gone, Missy quickly decided. Cicadas hummed their jarring mating call around them as they made their way to Jordyn and Leo’s place. The single-story was dark, but their cars were both in the driveway.
“Go on, girl. Ring the doorbell,” Missy prodded Maggie. Bouncing to the illuminated doorbell on the side of the door, Maggie pressed the button. Coco shifted around and Missy waited for someone to answer. Leo and Jordyn hadn’t bothered to cover the window beside the door, so Missy shamelessly peeked through, as did Maggie, who was tall enough to see through. It was dark.
Missy looked down at Maggie. “Maybe they’re in the back somewhere,” Missy explained. Maggie lunged for the doorknob. “Megs! No!” Missy scolded her but it was unlocked. Maggie led the way into the house. Missy felt weird just barging into the house like that, but she’d put the blame on Maggie of course. That always worked.
Coco and Maggie walked side by side across the spooky dark foyer and into the main part of the house with Missy bringing up the rear. There was a loud crash to their right. Maggie and Missy gasped in the same breath. Coco barked at the sudden disturbance.
“Hello?” a familiar voice called.
“Jordyn?” Missy sighed with relief. “It’s Missy!”
A door opened to their right and Jordyn Brown, Missy’s older cousin and Sara and Maggie’s godmother, appeared, looking flushed.
“Hi Auntie Jordyn!” Maggie squealed happily. Coco strained at his leash; he adored Jordyn. Jordyn bent down to pet Coco, who relished in the attention.
“Heya Megs,” Jordyn said squeezing Maggie with one arm.
“Sorry for bursting in,” Missy apologized. “The front door was unlocked and we let ourselves in. We tried the doorbell, but I guess you didn’t hear it.”
“No, I didn’t,” Jordyn said agreeably. “Sara was helping me and Leo clean up the pantry. What’s up?”
“Nothing. Just wanted to get Sara back.”
“Oh, of course.” Jordyn peeked at her gold watch. “God, is it really after nine? Sara!” Jordyn hollered behind her into the open door of the pantry.
“Coming!” Sara’s muffled voice replied.
“Sara accidentally knocked down a shelf full of cans,” Jordyn explained.
“Oh no way? Did you want any help cleaning up or anything?” Missy asked fretfully.
“Nah, it’s okay. It’s nothing that big,” Jordyn replied.
Sara appeared soon after. “Hi Aunt Missy,” she said congenially.
“It’s time to go.”
Sara stuck out her bottom lip. “Aw, do I have to?”
Jordyn and Missy shared a Look. “Well yeah. You’ve got school tomorrow, you have to take a shower…”
“But Aunt Jordyn can take me and Megs to the bus stop tomorrow, couldn’t you Auntie?” Sara looked up at Jordyn.
“Yay!” Maggie cheered from beside Sara.
Missy and Jordyn shared another Look. Missy’s eyes clearly said no.
“Maybe next time,” Jordyn said, ruffling the younger girl’s hair.
“No fair. You always say that!” Sara pouted, as she stomed her way from between Jordyn and Missy.
“No fair,” Maggie echoed.
“Thanks for watching her,” Missy said.
“Anytime,” Jordyn replied as Maggie threw herself at her. “G’night Megs.”
“Bye Auntie!” the girls said as they left the single story.
Coco strained at his leash as soon as they got to the end of Jordyn’s driveway, whimpering.
“What’s up dawg?” Missy asked.
They crossed the street without bloodshed, but that’s when Missy noticed: the front door was open a crack. Sara and Maggie went headlong towards the front door, their demeanors resigned to the fact that they couldn’t sleep over at Aunt Jordyn’s house, before Missy was paralyzed with her woman’s intuition.
“Stop!” Coco whined louder as the younger children came to an abrupt stop at the top of the driveway.
“Mags, did I leave the front door open?”
“I don’t know,” Maggie replied, taking a few more steps towards the open door. Sara followed her lead.
“I swear I closed it,” Missy said. “We have to go back to Auntie Jordyn’s.”
“Yay!” the two younger girls cheered loudly.
“In that case, never mind,” Missy said quickly, allowing Coco to pull her towards the front door.
They stridently walked towards the front door and were assailed in a wave of bitter cold.
“Auntie Miss!” Maggie scolded. “Why did you leave the air conditioner on so high?”
“I didn’t.” To make her point, Missy walked towards the box on the wall that controlled the air conditioning. The digital display read 78 degrees, which is what they had kept the thermometer set at always. She checked the the power button and for some reason, it was off. Missy shivered and inadvertently dropped Coco’s leash. The miniature dog streaked up the creaky wooden stairs and began barking.
“Shut up Coco!” Maggie screamed instinctively. The dog wailed like a siren in response.
“Let’s go get him,” Missy said to her nieces. “Your mom won’t like it if Coco steals socks again.” The young girls followed the dog upstairs with Missy leading the way. Coco’s frantic barking was coming from the master bedroom. As they came upon it, they discovered an eerie blue light emanating from around the open door crack.
“Auntie?” Sara whispered. “I don’t wanna go in there.”
Missy didn’t know what to say. “But the, uh, dog needs to be put in his kennel. And you have to take a shower.”
Maggie expertly dove around her older sister and her teenaged aunt, heading straight into the room.
“Megs decided for you,” Missy said, her hand temporarily touching the doorknob. She withdrew it quickly as it was ice cold to the touch. “Or you can stay here by yourself and I’ll go get your stuff so you can shower in my bathroom.”
“I’ll-I’ll go with you,” Sara said, stuttering slightly. Missy held her hand out and Sara clutched onto it like a death grip as they entered the cold room.
Maggie was frozen at the closet door. Coco puttered around her, alternately sniffing to investigate and jumping back in quiet terror. Missy and Sara stood by Maggie in a cold tableau.
Over the years, I have tried to get answers out of my mother and my cousins as to what that blue light in the closet was.They smile and pat me on the arm saying, “It was nothing Mary. Don’t worry about it.”
But I got one definitve answer from my cousin Maggie after I had pestered her long enough. “I don’t know about Auntie Miss, I mean your mom, or Sara, but all I can remember is fear. I saw my greatest fear in that blue light. I was only four years old, but that blue light was the fear that I had been born with.”
“Which was?” I persisted.
Maggie shook her head. “It was nothing Mary. Don’t worry about it.”
I’ve come to accept, even all these years after my mother passed, that the blue light in that room was their fears manifested. I’ll never know Sara or Maggie’s fears because they refuse to tell me to this day, but my mother’s was to die unloved. I’ll never know if her fear came true though.