My daughter slept over at my home over the weekend. At eleven years old, she was finally within the age-range where she couldn’t get enough of those silly creepypasta things. She had been driving my ex-husband up the wall over the past month or so, always with the things crawling around at night, either that or it was stories of murderous children with white faces and large knives. I’m a level-headed man, you won’t see me finding any qualms with a sudden change of plans, so when he called me one day with a suggestion that was also a plea to take her under my wing for a couple of days, I gladly obliged.
Everything was set for the weekend and I’d spent over half an hour on the phone with Jonah, polishing the plan out loud to him as he expressed approval. We had been exchanging our thoughts regarding what we should do to encourage Mara, that’s our daughter’s name, to put her wild imagination to rest so she could get some sleep. Luckily, it was over the near-spring break and so it would definitely be easier for her to get to bed without the distraction of homework and school night curfews.
“You should’ve seen her the night before, Andy,” Jonah said, “She wouldn’t put her iPad down, spent long before suppertime scrolling through updates and sharing stories with her friends. She barely ate and made little to no conversation. Ridiculous.”
He had expressed his growing frustration over her lack of attention span for anything that wasn’t a short story involving ghosts and monsters. I can admit here and now that I had already read a few, chuckling to myself over some of the childish writing, mildly impressed with other compositions. One story caught my eye for a greater length of time but I soon had to shovel the compact driveway to rid it of that slushy sort of snow that only appears close to springtime. As usual, I was meticulous in giving the grass a sort of sweep to free small blades from their layer of permafrost. Glancing at the slightly heavier blanketing of snow, I noticed some footprints by the front wall of the house. The toes pointed directly toward the window of the bedroom on the other side of the glass. While I struggled to recall whether it was I who had stood there sometime before, Jonah’s car pulled into the driveway. Mara eventually emerged from the vehicle with a curiously sombre expression creeping across her face. I pulled my thoughts away from the footprints and invited them both into the house.
After a brief cup of coffee and some words shared with Jonah, he left to return to work for the evening. This gave me the opportunity to show Mara around the house, I felt giddy since she hadn’t been here before. She gave mild-mannered nods to each room, maintaining that slightly dark expression.
“So do you like my new place?” I asked her in a curious voice that almost managed to be devoid of overt prying.
“Yeah dad, it’s alright.”
She responded in what could only be described as an offhand form of reassurance. She was always so nice to everyone and that made me think she was perhaps too focused on keeping those around her in a happy frame of mind. This is something she got from Jonah, and I mean that in the most endearing manner possible.
She set her bags down in the guest room, which would now become her room, and peered out the window. “It’s a nice view,” she said sitting down on the bed.
She side-eyed me as if to urge me to leave, waiting until I was only halfway out the door until reaching into her bag for the iPad and its charger. She hadn’t been at it for very long until I called her for supper. The rest of the night following the food went according to plan. She had begun to yawn around 9:30 so I prompted her to get ready for bed, which she did. Unfortunately, she fussed for a good half an hour about how the curtains in the guest room were transparent. I dismissed her paranoia as having been caused by spending hours reading stories that frightened her and stirred the imagination. She disagreed with me and soon dropped the matter altogether.
“Mara, I could always tack a bedsheet in front of the window,” I offered as an attempt to try to make her feel comfortable. Regardless of how her fear was caused, it was my job to ensure she felt safe.
“Nah, it’s alright. I’m sure someone on the street couldn’t see into my room, right?” The end of her sentence lilted upward into a question.
“Oh no, there’s no way,” I confirmed. I left two tacks, a stool, and a bedsheet by the window in case if she were to call me back into the room. I would be up and about for a number of hours, either way.
Mara pulled her pyjamas out from her bag and placed some of her other clothes in a dresser. I had offered that she store some of her things here since the house was now ready to truly be lived in. I smiled to myself, relieved that she felt comfortable enough to settle in. I left the room until it was time to say goodnight, fancying myself a cup of tea and a cigarette out in the backyard.
I had recently purchased the house after moving out of Jonah’s place. Although we had ended our romantic relationship, we were an extremely odd but well-suited pair of friends. There was no messy divorce and no custody battles. Of course, there were some disagreements but we had both realized the marriage was heading south and had decided to do something about it before our feelings soured. For some time, Mara had thought it was strange for me to move out and into my own place when she didn’t witness any fights, yelling, or resentment contaminating our interactions. This confused her, and it had taken Jonah months to explain the situation in a way that would not pressure her to adjust outside of her comfort zone. When I did find the new house, she had expressed disdain at how small it was, particularly compared to where she lived. In truth, the new house was exactly the same size as the old one but lacked a second storey.
I personally thought it was quaint, satisfyingly tidy with a great deal of sunlight and a newly renovated kitchen. There was a basement I would use as a personal gym. I had given up my membership at the local facility upon deciding in favour of the move. There were also two bathrooms and a lovely sitting room with a large window. I suppose the house would be called a bungalow, although I couldn’t imagine myself saying that word aloud. Such a strange combination of syllables and letters.
The house itself did not look silly or strange, the front of it was made of brick and the window for Mara’s room made the residence overall look slightly bigger than it was. It had just enough personality to be called either cute or cozy, both terms were felt suitable to me. The real estate agent had knocked two thousand dollars from the price because we had gotten along so well, I imagine that was why, anyhow. The neighbourhood itself was quiet but too diverse to be categorized as the suburbs.
Mara called me to her room, yelling “DAD” only once, which I thought was odd because her exclamations were always accompanied by a string of words declaring her plight. I kicked off my boots, set my mug of tea on the counter in the kitchen, and padded to her room to find her pressed against the wall by the window.