Christine awoke with a headache. She rubbed her head and groaned. She couldn’t remember what happened last night. Christine pushed herself up and looked around. A confused look came over her face.
“This isn’t my room,” she said. The twenty-something woman sat up in bed. Nothing about this room looked familiar. No pictures on the walls. She didn’t have her daughter’s big white bear in the corner staring at her. The walls were all made of wood. Even the bed didn’t feel right.
“How did I get here?” Christine asked. The woman jumped out of bed. She looked down at her body.
“And where are my clothes?” she asked. Christine tried to cover her breasts. What happened last night? She looked around for her clothes. She couldn’t see anything of hers in the room. No clothes. No purse. Not even her keys. Christine tried to look for a phone in the room. That’s when she noticed that there wasn’t much in her room. “Her” room. The only thing she could see was a bed, nightstand, closet, and a dresser. She tried to make herself calm down. Christine took in heavy breaths.
“Okay,” she said to herself. “Try to think. What happened last night? Think. Think. Think.” She rubbed her forehead and closed her eyes. Christine kept drawing blanks. She would have to get dressed first.
Christine began looking around the room for her clothes. She walked over to the closet and opened the door. Only one dress hung up inside. That short black cocktail dress. Seeing it made Christine cringe. That dress was a symbol for how low she had sunk. She promised herself that she would change. But look how well that turned out. It cost her daughter.
“Oh crap, I have to get home to her,” Christine said to herself. That poor child was probably hungry and wondering where her mother was right now. Was the baby-sitter still there? Christine slapped herself in the cheeks. She couldn’t focus on that right now. She needed to get home. If she was going to wear this slutty dress, so be it.
Christine reached out for the dress and put it on. The fabric made her skin crawl. But what else was she going to do? This was all she had. Now for some shoes and her purse. Christine looked around in the closet. She spotted a pair of black kitten heels in the corner. They would have to do for now. At least they weren’t crazy high heels. Christine slid them on her feet. They felt rather tiny. She looked down at her feet.
“Are these even my shoes?” the woman asked. They didn’t feel like it. The back straps already cut into her heels. Come to think of it, this dress didn’t feel like hers either. None of it felt like hers. She didn’t have much of a choice. Now for her purse. Christine looked in the closet again but found nothing. She frowned to herself. How was she going to get home? How was she going to pay for the cab? How was she going to get in the house? Christine rubbed her head. She must have left it back at…
She didn’t know where she left it. Where did she even go last night? Christine could feel her head hurting.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” she said to herself.
A black 2017 Suzuki pulled up into the driveway of an abandoned house. Owen and Ally looked out through the windshield.
“This the place?” Ally asked.
“Yeah,” Owen said. He turned to the back seat. A young woman with long dark hair sat in the middle, looking down at her hands.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Owen asked. The young woman looked up.
“Yes,” she said.
“And you are okay with whatever happens next?” Ally asked.
“Yes,” she said again.
“Right,” Owen said. He turned to his partner.
“Ready to do this?” he asked.
“Yes!” Ally said.
“Okay, let’s do this,” Owen said. Everyone got out of the car and walked up to the house.
Christine turned her head when she heard the door open downstairs.
“Huh?” she asked. She walked over to the door. She turned the door knob and looked out. (She was surprised that the door opened at all.)
“Hello?” Christine asked. There was nobody in the hall. She had to back into the room due to the brightness of the room. Christine shielded her eyes.
“Gah!” she said.
“Hello?” a man’s voice asked. “Anybody home?”
“Of course not,” the woman said. “This house is being sold after all.” Christine froze. This house was being sold? Did she break in and enter? What happened last night? Christine took in a breath and walked out of the room again. She shielded her eyes the whole time.
Christine walked over to the stairs. From her vantage point, she could see a man’s body dressed in black at the front door. She couldn’t see his face. The man stood there for a moment. He then turned to the doorway behind him. Two more people joined him. Christine looked confused. Who were these people? It didn’t look like they were house shopping. There wasn’t a realtor with them giving them the tour. Were they here to rob the place? That couldn’t be it. What was there to steal? From what Christine saw, there wasn’t much to take.
She had a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach.
Owen and Ally looked around the house.
“Sense anything yet?” Owen asked.
“There is something here,” she said. The young woman looked up behind them.
“Where?” he asked. Ally looked around the empty living room.
“Not here,” she said. Her eyes moved towards the stairs. She pointed toward the top. The young woman looked at the line of direction.
“Is that her?” she asked.
“I believe so,” Ally said. She walked up to the stairs. The other two followed behind.
Christine didn’t know what to do. Did that lady see her? But how?
“Hello?” Christine asked. They didn’t respond.
“Hello?” she asked again. No answer. The woman puffed up her cheeks and walked down the stairs. Maybe she should call the police. But what should she say? That she woke up in a strange house and now there are strange people inside as well. The bobby would be asking what she was doing in an empty house in the first place. She didn’t have an answer for that.
“Should we go up?” another woman’s voice asked. Christine froze. Were they really going to come up here? What should she do?
“Not yet,” the first woman said. “Let her come to us.”
“You sure about that, Ally?” the man asked.
“Yes,” the woman said. “We don’t know what else is here.”
Christine looked so confused. What were they talking about? They wanted her to come to them. She quickly shook her head. No. No way! She didn’t know what they wanted. They could be here to rob her for all she knew.
Still, she couldn’t stay up here forever. Her daughter needed her.
The baby-sitter probably left by now. Maybe she called the police. Christine rubbed her forehead. No! She couldn’t have that happen again. They would take her daughter away. Her father would never let her see her again. She had to get home. But how was she going to do it? Christine couldn’t go out the front. They would see her. Maybe go out the back door?
She was going to have to try.
The young woman looked up, nervously.
“Anything yet?” she asked.
“Shhh,” Ally said, putting up her hand. The three of them listened in closely. Owen took a step forward. His partner kept her hand up. The man paused. Ally counted down in her head.
“It’s okay, Christine,” she said. “We aren’t here to hurt you. Just come down. We have someone who wants to talk to you.”
Christine looked confused. What was she talking about? How did this Ally person know her name? Who were these people? This could be a trap. Maybe she could turn back around and hide in the room. Just stay in there and wait until they leave.
Christine slapped herself in the face. Come on, think. She had to get back to her daughter.
Maybe the baby-sitter should call the cops. Christine figured that she could take the risk to save her life. She could explain that she held up by three strangers. Would they believe her? She needed to in order to home. Maybe there was a phone in the kitchen.
“Come on, Christine,” Ally said again. “We’re not here to hurt you. Just come out and talk to us.” Christine held her breath. It looked like she didn’t have a choice. She would have to try and go out the back. She did entertain the notion of going out the window at one point. Christine didn’t know how high up she was. She had to get home. She had to see her daughter.
They were supposed to go to the beach this weekend. Christine only took her daughter once to the beach when she was four. Since then, they hadn’t had the chance to go back. But Christine didn’t give up with her promise. She was going to get her daughter to the beach one way or another.
But first, she needed to get home. She needed to get out this house. She needed to go down the stairs.
Christine took a deep breath. Okay. Here goes.
Christine lifted her chin and made her way down the stairs.
Ally looked up.
“She’s coming down,” she said. The young woman looked up. She was about to step forward when Ally held out her arm.
“Not yet,” she said. “Let her come to us.” The young woman hesitated before stepping back.
“Do we need to do anything?” Owen whispered.
“Not yet,” Ally said. “Stand down.”
Christine listened as she walked down the stairs. She fought the urge to run back upstairs. She needed to get back home. Just get down the stairs and run to the kitchen. Christine could call the police and book it out the back door. She forced herself to keep walking.
Owen and Ally waited by the stairs. The young woman cowered behind them.
“Don’t be afraid,” Ally said. The young woman lifted her chin. She held her hand to her chest.
Christine made her way down the stairs. Now, she got a good look at the three intruders. The man had short curly blonde hair and looked pale. He had on a long black coat and boots. Ally was dressed the same only she had on high-heeled boots and strawberry blonde hair down to her shoulders. She glanced behind her.
“It’s okay, darling,” Ally said. “She’s here. You can come out and talk to her.”
“Will she hear me?” the young woman asked.
“Of course,” she said. Christine looked on, confused. She waved at the two people in the front. Why were they talking like she wasn’t here?
“Hello?” she asked. They didn’t respond.
“Hello?” Christine asked again, frantically waving. The young woman took a breath.
“Okay,” she said. She stepped out from behind Ally. She had her some of her long dark hair up in a messy bun with the rest brushing against her shoulders. Unlike her other two companions, she wore brown jeans and a light purple tank top. Christine’s jaw dropped.
“Hazel?” she asked. But that couldn’t be? Her Hazel was only four years old. This was woman had to be twenty-one years old now. Christine backed up, shaking her head.
“What the hell is going on?!” she asked. “Who are you people?!”
“She’s getting upset,” Ally said. “You have to talk to her.”
“What do I say?” Hazel asked.
“Just speak from your heart,” Owen said. “What do you really want to tell her?”
“Okay,” the young woman said. She turned to Christine’s direction.
“Mum,” Hazel said. “You have to move on from this place. Please!” Her mother looked confused. What was this woman talking about? Owen stepped forward.
“Christine, what year is this?” he asked. Christine blinked.
“1997,” she said. But then she paused. Owen shook his head.
“No,” he said. “It’s 2014.” The woman had a confused look on her face. This couldn’t be, could it?
“What is the last thing you remembered before today?” Owen asked. “This is a big ask. Try to think back.” Hazel waited with bated breath. Christine tried to remember everything that led up to this point. What did happen? Ally pulled out some sage and lit it up.
“What is that?” Hazel whispered.
“Sage,” Ally whispered back. “This will help with the process.”
“Do you think that’s necessary?” Owen asked.
“Shhh,” his partner whispered. “Just let mother and daughter talk.”
Suddenly, that’s when it clicked.
Christine did die that night. She was at a friend’s party. Once again, she left Hazel with another baby-sitter. Christine was going back on her word, again. She didn’t mean to. It was going to be her last night of partying. That was what she told herself anyway. Christine grabbed the sides of her head as she remembered exactly how and when she died.
Christine sank to her knees. They didn’t even notice that she had Oded in the upstairs bedroom until morning. Tears welled up in her eyes.
“I’m so sorry, Hazel,” she said. “That was supposed to be my last party. I was planning to take you to the beach that weekend. I know that I don’t have any excuse. I wanted to get better.” Christine lifted her head.
“I am so sorry, baby,” she said. “Can you ever forgive me?” Ally turned to Hazel and repeated the whole time. The daughter was now crying. Hazel nodded.
“I forgive you, mum,” she said. “I forgive you, but you have to go now.”
“Go?” Christine asked. Owen stepped forward.
“You have to go,” he said. “You can’t stay here. You have to move on.”
“But…” Christine said.
“Please,” Hazel said. “I am letting you go. Please leave. Do it for me.” More tears rolled down her cheeks. Her mother’s heart began to ache.
“Alright, alright,” she said. Ally waved the burning sage around in the air. Christine rose to her feet.
“What do I need to do?” she asked.
“Just go out the back door,” Ally said. Christine turned towards the back. She could see a bright light through the glass. Christine turned to the trio.
“Is this really okay?” she asked.
“Yes,” Ally said.
“Wait!” Hazel said. Everyone turned to her.
“There just one more thing that I have to say,” she said. Hazel lifted her head.
“I love you, mum,” she said. Christine bowed her head with tears in her eyes.
“I love you too, baby,” she said. She turned and walked towards the back door. The bright light engulfed her.
When Christine opened her eyes, she found herself on a beach.
“Wait… this is…” she said.
“Mummy!” a little girl shouted. Christine turned to see Hazel at age four waving at her and building a sand castle near the waves. Her mother couldn’t help but smile as she walked over to the child.