His name was Jamie.
He was your typical cutie pie who would give you a flower if he noticed you sitting by yourself at the park. Everybody loved Jamie, the only son of the kindly doctor couple who had their own clinic just a few blocks from school. Maybe it was because whenever one would be at his parents’ clinic for their regular checkup, he’d be hanging around offering you cookies or whatever snack he was eating.
I remember how one time, he found a pair of stranded, shivering kittens in front of his house during fall. Being the sweetheart he was, he adopted them. Another time, he assisted this elderly person in crossing the street. Jamie was the town’s little angel.
I didn’t know why I loathed him so much.
I hated everything about him. Unlike Jamie, who had a complete and happy family and a well-off life, I was dumped in the orphanage where fellow parent-less kids always cried a lot. I hated Jamie as much as I hated my parents. I hated how my father raped my mother when she was only sixteen. I hated how my mother tracked down my father and murdered him a month right after I was born. She was in an asylum in the neighboring town. Turns out she had a few more loose screws than people would usually tolerate.
Then one day Jamie came. He came strolling in the orphanage playground donned in his brand-new Batman t-shirt and shorts looking for a playmate. I remember how he looked just like a young prince among unfortunate peasant children dressed in rags. As always, everybody chattered about him being so nice and sweet to even think of the poor, lonely kids at the poor, lonely orphanage. If I didn’t know better, I would have joined them. But I did.
The moment he entered the playground, his dark, dark eyes fell on me, the saddest looking kid in town. “Hey there!” was his greeting. At first, I was mesmerized by his blinding, cheerful smile. “Do you want to be my playmate?” He raised his toy robot, shaking it almost tauntingly in front of me.
“I don’t.” I knew at once something was wrong with this perfect little boy in front of me. His grin was too wide. His gaze was too piercing. His question, I realized, wasn’t very polite. He made it seem as if playing with him was a privilege, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Other kids would have grabbed the opportunity. I didn’t.
“Oh, come on! You don’t mean that.” He sat beside me on the bench I usually only had to myself. He then smiled his too big a smile once again. “I’m Jamie! And you are?”
Clutching my one-eyed doll in my little arms, I shook my head. “I mean it,” I said, deciding to just stand and leave him. I hadn’t gotten far when loud wails erupted behind me.
“Why are you so mean?” he demanded, crying loudly. “I just wanted you to play with me! I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!”
“I hate you too!” I shouted back, infuriated. “I don’t want to play with you! Leave me alone!”
I didn’t know how long I had been screaming my head off at Jamie until I realized the other children were looking at me with terrified faces and the orphanage care takers were already scolding me. When I was being steered away from him and into the orphanage building, I caught Jamie’s gaze and I swore I saw him snicker.
“What am I supposed to do with you?”
Jamie glanced at me from the sand box he was in. “You’re supposed to play with me of course!”
It had been a week since our first conversation at the playground. One way or another, I was somehow forced to be his companion every time he visited the orphanage. Everybody admired little eight-year-old Jamie spending time with ten-year-old, emotional, depressed little me. It seemed that once you get me to talk in at least two sentences, you’ll be deemed a hero among the children. Nobody wanted to talk to the daughter of my mother, a psychopathic murderer.
“But I don’t want to.” I glared at him from my seat on the bench. “I don’t like your games.”
“My games are fun,” he countered with a frown. He stood from where he was crouching on the sandbox to reveal a mewling kitten buried neck deep in the sand. Jamie grinned as he approached me. “Look. You only need to hit it three times then you win.” He offered me a pebble. I didn’t take it.
“Isn’t that your pet cat?” I asked as I watched him try to hit the animal’s head with the smooth stone.
“Yeah, it is.” His first pebble grazed the kitten’s right ear, making it meow loudly. “Oh, so close!” he exclaimed.
“Then why are you hurting him?”
“It’s an animal. They don’t feel hurt,” was Jamie’s cold reply. He threw another pebble and the cat yowled loudly as the stone hit it square on the nose. “I bet if I hit it one more time it will begin to bleed.” It was a wonder how no one’s disturbed with all the noise the kitten was making.
I said nothing as he continued pelting the animal with his stones until it did bleed. The moment the cat no longer had any life in its small body, Jamie began crying so loudly a care taker went out to check up on us. Jamie immediately hid behind her, tears gleaming on his cheeks as the care taker scolded me.
Apparently my only purpose in accompanying him was to take all the blame in every cruel, twisted thing he did.
His “games” ranged from stoning the cat to poisoning the other kids’ lunches to making insect soup and making me eat it. Every single time, he always got away from his little escapades. After a few months, Jamie came up with his most horrible game yet.
“Clara, look what I found.”
We were at the orphanage’s storage room. It was a shabby little thing found a few meters away from the orphanage’s main building. Nobody ever went to this place—probably why Jamie chose the location. He had his hands behind his back and an excited grin on his face.
“I don’t want to know.”
Jamie just continued smiling his impossibly wide smile. “We’re going to play knights,” he said as he produced the two kitchen knives from behind him. “You’ll be the bad knight and I’ll be the good knight.”
I stared at the sharp object offered in front of me, eyes wide. “No.” I hugged the doll I always had; for the first time truly scared of the boy before me. “I don’t want to play with you anymore. I don’t want to be your playmate anymore.”
“Oh, you don’t mean that.” Jamie stepped closer to me, the sleek metal of the knives he had glinting maliciously. He took a jab, expertly cutting my left arm. “You’re still my playmate.”
I gave a small shriek as blood oozed from my cut. “I-I don’t want to.”
“Come, play with me.” Jamie tossed the other knife at me, causing me to fumble for it. “See? You want to play.” He approached me steadily like a predator cornering its prey.
Slice, slice, stab. I coughed out blood.
Jamie’s grin turned feral. “Ooh, red! Do you know that’s my favorite color?”
I shook my head as I stumbled to the ground, helpless despite my own knife in my hand. “S-S-Stop, Jamie—“
“What was that?” He thrust his knife into my leg, making me scream in pain. “I can’t hear you!” he sang. I chocked as he pierced me in the stomach, cackling loudly. “Good knight! Bad knight! What fun!”
Blood flowed from my wounds like an open faucet and my breaths were becoming quick and shallow. I was sure I was already nearing my death. At that moment, I supposed dying was better. Better than staying at the boring orphanage where nobody liked me. Better than living with the knowledge that my mother was a psychopathic murderer and my father a rapist. Better than playing heartless games with cold, cruel Jamie.
Mustering what little strength my dying, ten year old body was left with, I tried to reach for my doll, my only real friend.
“Bad knights don’t get to have the princess!” Jamie shrieked, stepping on my arm with much force. I cried out in pain. “Bad knight! Bad knight!” I heard a rustle and footsteps pounding despite my fading consciousness. Jamie looked up. “Oh, no! Bad people!” He gave me one last hysterical grin before dashing away, laughing loudly. “Let’s play again, Clara!”
Before my consciousness left me completely, I heard heavy footsteps hurrying towards me.
“Oh my goodness, Clara!” I felt my body being gingerly lifted from the ground by tender hands. “W-Who did this to you?”
I forced my eyes open to see the terrified faces of the orphanage care takers. “J-Jamie ran a-away,” I muttered with much difficulty as one of the women carried me inside the building and the other one called for an ambulance. “M-My playmate.”
“Jamie?” the third care taker repeated, paler than snow. “But there was never a child named Jamie in town since Jamie Anderson’s murder at least two decades ago!”