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Peanut Butter Kisses
Little John bites into his peanut butter and jelly sandwich, coating his teeth and lips with brown and purple. He speaks as he munched, even though he knows Mommy doesn’t like it when he does that.
“Caroline, aren’t ya gonna eat?”
Caroline shakes her head, her blonde ringlets bouncing.
“Sorry, I don’t want a sandwich. Do you have anything else?”
Mommy pushes her chair back and gets up.
“Of course dear. I’ll make you some quick macaroni and cheese. How’s that?”
Caroline nods happily. Meanwhile, John swallows the sticky mush in his mouth.
John whistles as he approached his apartment door. The tune is interrupted when he puts down his professional briefcase and reaches into his pocket. After a few seconds of fumbling, he finds the right key and opens the door.
The apartment is actually more of a penthouse. John is a successful lawyer, so he can afford pretty much anything he wants. The entire apartment is spotless; a maid comes in every Friday for cleaning. The walls are whitewashed, and and a giant flat-screen TV sits in the living room. The expensive furniture is made for both aesthetics and comfort. All in all, John lives in a luxury house.
John reaches up towards his neck. He loosens his tie and exhales loudly. On the way his living room, John turns on his coffee machine, setting it in the middle of the dining table. While the machine whirs, he lies back on his pristine leather couch, satisfied. No worries, a nice job, good pay. In John’s opinion, this is all it takes to make a twenty year old bachelor happy. He picks up his remote control and turns on the TV.
John frowns. His coffee machine is on the floor, leaking brown liquid. With exaggerated effort, he stands up, stretches, and makes his way towards the mess.
The TV screen splutters and goes black. John’s head swivels as he looks around wildly, his heartbeat hammering.
One of the fluorescent lightbulbs overhead begins shooting sparks. In less than five seconds, it fizzles and dies. The three other lightbulbs followed suit.
The room is hurled into darkness.
John stays relatively calm. It is a blackout, nothing else. What is there to be afraid of? A gust of wind sweeps around the room, causing John to shudder involuntarily. When did he open the window?
At the very edge of his vision, something pale shifts.
John’s heart pounds in his chest. He whirls around to face the intruder. Nothing appears. Again, the white figure darts behind him, moving too quickly for John to establish a definitive shape. Just like before, John spins on his heel to face the opposite direction... and stares into the wan eyes of a little girl
John releases a terrorized screech. He trips over his own feet, falling backwards onto the floor. His head cracks against the linoleum, and a trickle of blood slides down his scalp. He doesn’t know this, and he doesn’t care, either; his eyes are fixated on the girl.
The form that John sees is ashen and emaciated. Her limp, colorless curls have no gloss or shine. Her skin is a pasty white. The flimsy nightgown around her droops down towards the floor, and she is wearing no shoes or socks. But John can only look at the eyes, the eyes with no color, the eyes without pupils, with irises the shade of muddied snow. When she speaks, her raspy, scratched voice grates on his ears.
“John. John, do you remember me?”
John can’t see anything past those eyes; the eyes are half-dead, barely awake, reflecting no light. His lips are glued together, and his throat is constricting on its own.
The chalky irises grow hard and silver, like broken shards of a mirror. Her lips contort into an beastly snarl, revealing two rows of porcelain teeth.
“You forgot. You don’t remember me, do you? You forgot me! YOU SAID YOU LOVED ME!”
Love? Love? John doesn’t even know this girl!
John’s head bangs against the floor again. This time, the girl is holding him down by his neck, strangling him, squeezing his windpipe so that no air could move in or out.
The girl’s expression darkens even more.
“Remember the night you said you loved me!,” she screams in his face.
Mommy hangs up the phone. When she turns around, the corners of her mouth are lifted into a smile.
“Caroline, your mother says you can sleep over tonight.”
Caroline squeals with delight. She grabs Johns hands and they waltz around carpet. Mommy walks over and puts a hand on each of their shoulders.
“Come on, Caroline can sleep in the guest room. Your mother said she’d bring over a toothbrush and pajamas. One hour of playtime, and both of you have to go to sleep.”
John pouts, and Caroline’s eyes grow wide, filled with hurt. Mommy gives in.
“Alright, two hours.”
The children cheer and scurry away.
John’s vision blurs. The infuriated, sliver eyes grow hazy. His head feels light and weightless, but imaginary claws rake his lungs.
Caroline adjusts the blanket around her.
“G’night John. We’re gonna play again tomorrow, right?”
“Yeah, we’re gonna have lots and lots of fun! But Mommy’s gonna get mad if we don’t sleep now.”
Caroline nods knowingly.
“Okay. See ya tomorrow.”
John starts to walk out the door. Right before leaving, he hesitates. He looks back.
Suddenly, he rushes back towards the bed. He mashes his lips against Caroline’s, not really knowing what he’s doing, but knowing that it feels right. She is surprised and thrilled at the same time. John pulls away, and both children blushing.
“I love you Caroline.”
Embarrassed, he races out the door.
John’s fingernails scrabble uselessly against the girl’s steel grip. His mouth opens and closed like that of a landed fish. His eyes roll towards the back of his head. Still, the girl holds on.
John wakes up to the sound of sirens. Screams penetrate the air. Excited and a tad bit afraid, he dashes out the door.
Just as he reaches the guest room, a gurney is carried out by two scary looking men. He tries to see what’s lying on top of it, but the figure is covered by a thin white sheet. Before he can shout or cry out, a hand grasps his arm and pulls him into the room. John wriggles and squirms until he realizes the hand belongs to Mommy. His voice comes out high-pitched and squeaky.
“Mommy, what’s wrong with Caroline? Is she sick?”
Thin red veins are visible in Mommy’s eyes.
“Listen to me John.” Her voice has a tone of urgency and just a tinge of desperation. “Something Caroline ate yesterday made her sick. Did you give her anything other than what we ate for dinner?”
John shakes his head.
“Naw, she just ate the macaroni you gave her.” A grin lights up his face as he recalls the night before. “Mommy! Mommy, I kissed her last night!”
At first, Mommy’s confused, uncomprehending. When she finally understands, she stares at her son in horror.
John’s limbs jerk spasmodically, once, twice, three times. His face is turning blue, and he thrashes continuously.
John is bored and upset. He doesn’t want to be here, in a crowded cemetery where he’s not allowed to yell or run around. He yawns, and several black-clad adults turn around to give him hostile glares. He wishes Caroline were here to play with him, but he knows it’s no good. A few days ago, after the Caroline got sick, Mommy said that Caroline’s parents sent her to a school in a different country. When he asked why, she didn’t have an answer.
Shifting in his tight shoes, John watches a big black box being lowered into a hole in the ground. At the sight, almost all the people begin to cry. Why are they crying? What’s so sad about a big black box?
A few meters ahead, John catches a glimpse of Caroline’s mother, sobbing loudly while her husband holds her against him in a tight embrace. Her voice is muffled, but John can hear exactly what she’s saying.
“She was allergic. God, if it weren’t for that stupid allergy... it was less than a spoonful, but it was enough to... to... oh God...”
Caroline’s father whispers to her soothingly, but water runs down his cheeks. When he turns around, his eyes lock onto John’s. John doesn’t understand why, but those eyes are filled with hate.
John’s arms fall limp at his sides. The girl lets go of his throat. A sigh, like a deflated balloon, escapes from his lifeless lips. His tortured eyes are still open, but the girl doesn’t bother to close them. She disappears, leaving the maid to discover the grisly corpse.