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Steven

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The young boy stared at the coffin, a twisted smile set on the small female body within. The tiny girl’s mousy brown hair lay limp about her face, once smiling features now calm and placid.

“We’ll give you a moment alone, Steven,” the caretaker holding his childish hand said.

Steven nodded, never looking up at the sweating, pudgy man. He felt the chubby fingers release their grip on his, and heard the soft whisper of his brown loafers as he exited the room.

Steven, now alone, walked forward so that he stood at her side closely observing the body. She was dressed in a pale blue summer dress-her best and only, if he remembered correctly. The thin, silken material covered a majority of the bruises left behind on her creamy skin. A black swell of clotted blood caught his attention, the remnants of a busted lip that had never had the chance to fully heal before she passed. The rim of her left eye was purplish blue.

Steven lifted his hands to block his gaze, thinking that maybe, if he did this, that when he removed them, it will go away. She’ll be sitting there, not in the dress, but in the rags their parents usually had her wear. And maybe, she’d be quiet when he covered her face with the pillow this time. Like she usually was when they played like Mommy and Daddy did. And-and it hadn’t been his fault she’d started yelling. It had scared him…so he’d pressed the pillow harder. He’d just wanted her to stop screaming so much…

So, he thought, maybe when he uncovered his eyes, they’d be back in that room again, this all turning out to be a bad dream. And, perhaps…perhaps this time, she wouldn’t scream…

Giggling, he moved his hands away, smiling happily when he saw her eyes were open. He leaned over the casket to say something, but stopped suddenly when he realized that they weren’t moving, and her body was still limp.

Frowning, Steven moved back. So, she wasn’t awake, her eyes were just open. But, had they been like that before?

Steven shrugged, sighing as he met her lifeless stare.

'Steven…'

Blinking, Steven looked around the room. “Yes?”

'Steven…'

He turned around, surveying the rest of the white room. “Is someone calling me?”

'Steven…'

He checked behind the floral displays scattered throughout the area. Nothing. He chuckled quietly. Of course no one was there. He must be dreaming again…

Returning to her side, he noticed something. Had her eyes moved? No, it was all in his head again. That’s what the caretakers said the screaming he heard at night was. All in his head. It was always all in his head.

He continued to stare at her. “I don’t want to feel you die,” he whispered, “but, if that’s the way that God has planned you…” He paused, then gasped as a sudden idea came to him. “I know!” He started searching through his pockets, pulling out two copper coins. “I’ll put pennies on your eyes! And it will go away, see?”

He placed the bits of rounded metal over her gaze, standing back once finished to survey his handiwork. She was so young, he noted. They both were. She’d only lived a minute of her life…

'Steven…'

There it was again, that voice. He looked around, repeating his earlier question. “Is someone calling me?” He waited, with no aswer. “No…”

'Steven…'

He turned to the closed door. “I think I hear a voice…it’s outside the door.”

'Steven…'

He scowled, hand coming up to clench in his crown of deep brown locks. “I hear my name.”

'Steven…'

“What do you want?” he asked, then more frantically, “What do you want?!”

'Steven…'

He twisted around, facing the coffin and its occupant. He could have sworn the voice…but it had sounded just like…but it couldn’t be…?

“Steven.”

He spun back to the door, where the caretaker was standing. He was giving him a wary look, and he hesitated before stepping further into the room.

“Steven,” he repeated his name, “are you alright? I heard screaming.”

Glancing at the body, Steven replied, “I’m fine.” The caretaker’s statement brought back some of his earlier thoughts. “Screaming,” he mused quietly, “maybe, if she hadn’t screamed so much, I wouldn’t have pressed the pillow so hard.”

“What are you talking about?” the caretaker asked sharply. “It was your father that did this.”

Steven pouted. “No, I never said that.”

The man’s brow furrowed. “But we asked-”

“You asked if Daddy ever hurt her,” Steven interrupted cocking his head innocently, “you never asked if he was the one who made her die.”

He then laughed suddenly, skipping from the room. “Come on! You said we could go to the park today, didn’t you?”

Steven walked out the door, never noticing the glance the caretaker stole at the girl’s body, or the horrified stare he pinned him with. No, he was too focused on his new friend-the young female voice with a girlish giggle, that echoed in the back of his head; whispering his name.

As it would for the rest of his life.

'Steven…'





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