“Morning baby doll,” Nadia proclaimed, as she burst through her daughters' bedroom door. Drawing open the curtains, with an attitude far to chirpy for this early in the morning. “It’s a beautiful day.”
As she gained consciousness, Ana squinted at the blinding light, flooding in through her window. With a heavy sigh, Ana sat up and scowled at her mother. She was seemingly floating, bubbly with a huge smile.
It was hardly a bewitching experience. She always did this the morning after a birth. It was as though she was attempting to erase Anas' memory, by being unnervingly happy. The overcompensation was the only downside in Anas' perception.
“Hey, what do you say we play hooky today? We can go have a girls day, just you and me, How does that sound?”
“Mama, I have school.” Ana insisted, striving to repress the sheer panic brewing inside. “I can’t stay home today, I have a presentation.”
Lies, lies, it was all lies. Ana knew damn well that if she were to stay home, she would never be able to get past her helicopter of a mother. She needed to get out of the house, and the only way to do that, was to go to ‘school.’
“Okay sweetheart, but you know mamochka loves you very much, right?”
“Yes mama.” Ana painted on her best possible, fictitious smile, in hopes of her mother leaving the room. This way, she could gather her things, and get to the forest as soon as possible. Thus, Nadia kissed her daughter on the forehead. She brushed through her long, silky hair, and took the hint, that her presence was no longer wanted. As Ana was very clearly growing impatient.
When the door was securely shut, Ana sprang from her bed, and frolicked across her room to the wardrobe. She dressed herself in a blue, floral halter top, a pair of black jeans, and a red ribbon, which she used to tie up her Rapunzel length hair.
Whilst she skipped to the bathroom, Ana envisioned her day, and how it would play out. She visualized all the methods she would use to mutilate that kitten. The kitten whose body she had left laying alone, in the freezing snow. With an enthusiastic smile, Anastasia lifted her bag, cloaked her body in winter apparel, and barreled to the door.
“Woah, woah, woah baby doll.” Nadia hollered from the living room. Ana came to a dead halt, tensing her face, and gritting her teeth. Her breath became obsolete, and her heart nearly jumped from her chest, as the panic set in.
“Do I get a goodbye at least? Or were you just planning on going to school without hugging your mama?”
As her nerves began to alleviate, Ana turned to her mother, and gave her a brief hug. Before running out the door, and down the shoveled walk.
For forty-five minutes, she hiked through temperatures below zero. Her fingers returned to the numb state they were in the night before, and her ears stung, as though they were about to fall off.
“One more left turn at the old oak tree, and I’ll be there.” Ana muttered through chattering teeth. Her visible breath escaped in puffs of smoke, from her cracked, blue tinted lips.
As the clearing came into sight, Ana became numb to the pain of the cold. Racing to her victim, amongst the cluster of lifeless trees.
The animal had become stiff, it was like an ice cube. Ana sat in the snow beside her kitten. She plopped the bag in front of her and pulled out the garbage bag. After she slipped it over her jacket, Ana reached for the handle of her knife. She held the blade in front of her, admiring the sharp, glinting metal.
With a deep breath, Ana brought the knife to the kitten’s throat and cut a slit from left to right. She plunged it into the stomach again and again, until her arms were too tired to go any longer.
Looking back at her work, Ana glared at the knife. There was no blood, how was there no blood? She stared at the body in front of her. In a last ditch effort to get some dark, red blood, Ana cut a deep slit, from stem to stern, all the way down the kitten’s stomach. As she did, not a drop escaped from the body. The snow was still as pure as it was when she arrived. It was too late, and the body was too far gone. She needed a fresh victim, with fresh blood.
As she sat, staring at the scene, Anastasia begrudgingly slipped the knife back into her bag, and began gathering a pile of snow. As she placed the snow over the body, Ana made sure to cover the entirety of the scene. You always have to clean up, that’s how not to get caught. Anastasia checked her watch, as she gathered her things.
How is it already five? Ana’s thoughts raced as she frantically grabbed her things, running as fast as she could possibly go. The snow slowed her down, fighting against her will to go faster. Nadia got home at five on Wednesdays, and sure as shit, it was a Wednesday.
As she shot through the forest, Ana went over her cover story on repeat.
“I was at school, and Lily wanted me to stay a couple hours to play at the park. My phone died, so I didn’t see the time and I couldn’t tell you because I didn’t have a phone. I’m sorry for scaring you mama, I won’t do it again.” She recited these words aloud, until they sounded natural in her mind. Until she almost believed it herself.
When she turned onto her street, Ana held her breath and peered into the driveway.
“No, no, no, no,” The black jeep was parked in its usual spot, which meant that she would need to use her story.
“Ok, ok, ok, calm down. Calm, calm, come on, come on, just chill.” Ana mumbled to herself, as she slowly walked towards the residence. As she approached the door, Ana was startled to see it swing open from the inside.
“Anastasia Eloise Mikhailov, get in here, right now! Let’s go!” Nadia gritted her teeth as she spoke. It was a rage Ana was not prepared for.
“Mama, I was at school, and...”
“Now Anastasia, I’m not fucking around, inside now!”
Nadia practically dragged Ana inside. She couldn’t move, she was paralyzed with fear. Usually, her mother would at least let her explain before going all ballistic. However, this was different, this, was terrifying.
When the door slammed shut behind them, Ana stared at her mother. She was never like this. Not even when she was screaming in agonizing pain, while giving birth, year after year.
“Take your coat and boots off, and go sit down. I need to talk to you.”
“About what Anastasia? Really, don't play dumb. Its beneath you.”
“Just take your shit off, and get in the living room.”
Ana felt her hands begin to shake, as she removed her winter gear. Timidly, she shuffled towards the couch. Ana could feel the tension radiating from her mother.
“Mama, can I please explain?”
Nadia folded her arms and sat back, motioning for Ana to continue.
“I was at school, and Lily wanted me to stay a couple hours to play at the park. My phone died, so I didn’t see the time, and I couldn’t tell you because I didn’t have a phone. I’m sorry for scaring you mama, I won’t do it again.”
“huh, interesting, you were at school?”
“Of course, where else would I be?”
“Ana, you are eight years old. When you’re absent, the school calls me. So I’ll give you another chance, where were you?”
Ana felt her stomach drop, and her heart skipped a beat. She was speechless.
“Mampchka I, I” As her mind ran, Ana’s eyes began to well up with tears. Her lips began to quiver, and her face turned beat red.
“I was walking to school and a man drove up beside me. He got out of the car and grabbed me. He took me to the woods and he... he.” Ana stopped to catch her breath, through the tears and sniffles she couldn’t control. “He told me not to tell anyone what happened or he would kill me.”
“Are you sure that’s what happened Ana? Because it’s pretty unusual for bad people to just let their victims go."
“He told me if I didn’t tell, that he would let me go.”
“Ok, so then I guess we should call the police then, huh?”
Ana squinted her eyes and squeezed her toes together as hard as she could. 'Please be bluffing.' She hoped beyond hope, but she knew her mother, and the police were not coming to this house. She just wouldn’t risk it, and Ana knew this all too well.
“He told me if I told anyone he would kill me, what if he sees the police here?”
Nadia was silent, glaring at her daughter, who was giving the best performance of her short life.
“What did he look like Ana?”
“He had blue eyes, and brown hair. He was white, and he was wearing all black. That’s all I remember, I swear.”
Nadia’s face turned from red, hot anger to flushed, pale, and white, in a matter of seconds.
“Mama, are you ok?”
“Huh, yeah no, um, ok, you need to not leave this house without me again, ok?”
“Why, What's going on?”
“Just trust me Ana, this is serious, do you understand?”
Ana nodded, and put her head down to hide the shame.
“Ana did he, hurt you?”
Ana shied away, avoiding eye contact as she lightly nodded her head yes.
Nadia pulled her daughter in, hugging her tight, and rubbing her back. “I’m so sorry baby. What do you need?”
“Can I just please be alone?”
Nadia hesitantly nodded, “if you need anything, I’ll be right here, ok?”
“Ok mama, I love you.” As Ana grabbed her bag, and held it close. She kissed her mother on the cheek, and made her way up the stairs. Narrowly escaping apprehension.