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Having been jolted awake by the relentless pattering of rain on the orphanage window, Agatha was lying still in her bed with her eyes wide open. She listened to the girls around her sleeping, their rhythmic, deep breaths. She had been dreaming, recounting memories of the particularly difficult day. She was used to being constantly forced into the corner, disregarded and forgotten; like always, she had eaten her lunch by herself in a bathroom stall but on that day, the other girls had discovered her and they teased her until she broke down in sobs. Agatha started to sniffle again, fat tears rolling down her cheeks.
Suddenly, the door creaked open and a slim ray of light broke the darkness. She heard low whispers, and then saw a small girl come into the room with the headmistress. She clenched her eyes so she wouldn’t get in trouble and tightened her body, afraid of making any noise. She had once seen a girl get caned by the headmistress for being awake during bedtime.
“Can I sleep anywhere?” The girl asked eagerly. The headmistress shushed her, pointing a long finger silently. The girl plopped down onto the bed next to Agatha’s, her bags grating loudly on the cold cement floor. The headmistress curled her lips scornfully, narrowing her eyes at the girl, and slowly left the room.
Immediately, the girl leapt from her bed and collapsed on Agatha’s. “She’s gone now,” she whispered to Agatha, “you don’t have to pretend to be asleep anymore.” Amused, Agatha gradually opened her eyes and squinted at the strange girl. Her hair was pale blonde, wild and disheveled, and her icy blue eyes glinted with curiosity and excitement. Her mouth was stretched in a wide smile, and she took Agatha’s hand, shaking it furiously. “I’m Laurie”, she said, grinning, “what’s your name?”
“I’m Agatha,” she replied, smiling shyly. Laurie clutched her hand tighter.
“So what’s it like being an orphan?” Laurie asked, her eyes still bright with glee, “My parents died just last night, so I wouldn’t know.” Taken aback by the abrupt, intrusive question, Agatha fidgeted.
“It’s okay, I guess,” she shrugged, “My parents have been dead all my life, so it’s all I know. The headmistress is a real witch and the other girls aren’t very nice, but it’s bearable.”
“Bearable?” Laurie repeated incredulously. “Life should be fun, not bearable!” She exclaimed, stretching her arms outward as if to measure the endless possibilities. Some of the other girls started to rustle around, disturbed by Laurie’s growing volume.
“Shh! Not so loud,” Agatha admonished, “So, your parents died just last night and you think life is fun?” She asked with wonder.
“I said life should be fun, not that it is fun. I always wanted to be an orphan. It’s our job as kids to make fun now that the adults are gone!” Laurie clasped Agatha’s hand again. Agatha felt adrenaline creeping inside of her and squeezed Laurie’s hand back in response. The two of them fell asleep with their tiny hands intertwined in one bed, that first night and every night after.
New additions to the orphanage were not uncommon, but Laurie’s caused the most commotion. The next day, Agatha introduced Laurie to the girls in her room, expecting them to fall in love with her instantly as she had. She was shocked when most of the girls looked at Laurie strangely, c***ing their heads at her strange, raw wildness. The biggest girl, Molly, whispered loudly to the girl next to her that Laurie needed to comb her hair. Silence followed her comment, and Laurie glowered, anger clouding her expression.
“I heard that,” she said quietly, clenching her teeth.
“Oh, really?” Molly asked sarcastically, “I’m so scared!” She grinned widely, narrowing her eyes and daring Laurie to say something back.
Unflinching, Laurie said in a calm voice, “ I want you to apologize.” After a tense silence of both girls glaring at each other, Molly cackled with derisive laughter and promptly left the room, ignoring Laurie.
“She’ll warm up,” Agatha reassured her, “Molly’s been miserable all her life and she takes it out on everyone else.” Laurie was seething, the strange glimmer of rage still lingering in her eyes. “Let’s just go to class,” Agatha said, hurriedly pulling on Laurie’s hand.
Molly and her friends ganged up on Laurie often, talking over her, laughing at her, and treating her like she was invisible; the strange glint in Laurie's eyes always returned whenever Molly was near. Agatha protected her friend passionately, but the others simply did not see Laurie as she saw Laurie.
Weeks later, Agatha and Laurie were eating lunch in the cafeteria, a gray meal of squished tuna sandwiches, when Molly, over at the next table surrounded by her friends, suddenly pounded on the table with clenched fists and clutched at her throat. Grasping at the air and her chest heaving, she fell down onto the hard floor with a loud clunk. The girls around her broke out in a uniform scream, a singular high pitched, sharp wail, and the headmistress quickly rushed over with the nurse. Molly’s face was pale blue, and she was twitching, eyes rolled back in her head, shaking and quivering on the floor while the nurse attempted to examine her; then, as quickly as she had fallen on the floor, she grew still and motionless. Agatha was paralyzed, mouth open with horror as she stared at Molly, limp and lifeless on the ground in front of her. Laurie had stood up and walked toward the scene, her expression unreadable and her bright eyes clouded.
They held a short and obligatory funeral for Molly. It poured thick rain as she was lowered into the wet, black dirt to rest forever. Frenzied rumors were flying around about how Molly had died from rat poison and about how it might not have been an accident. The next day, the headmistress called the girls in Agatha’s class into her office one by one and interrogated each girl about Molly’s death.
When Agatha passed Laurie on her way to the headmistress, she saw that Laurie’s face was ashen and her bottom lip was quivering uncontrollably. She didn’t even look at Agatha, swallowing hard and averting her questioning gaze.
Agatha stepped cautiously into the office, fidgeting. The headmistress’ gray eyes scrutinized Agatha, her harsh features hardening.
“Hello, Agatha”, she started in a level, measured voice, “I’m going to ask you some questions regarding the tragedy that happened to Molly yesterday.”
Agatha nodded, her eyes widening in fright. Her heart clanged against her chest; she had no idea why she was so nervous.
“Are you aware that Molly and your friend Laurie had a little fight some time before she died? That their relationship never recovered after this argument?” The headmistress asked. Agatha was shocked.
“Laurie? What does that have to do with Molly’s death? Did the other girls say something about Laurie?" She cried out immediately. The headmistress shook her head disapprovingly.
“I asked you if you know that they had a fight,” she said in a cold, iron voice, “It is a simple yes or no question, Agatha. No need to get so defensive of your...friend.”
“Yes, they did have an argument of sorts,” Agatha responded shakily.
“Good,” the headmistress nodded, “Agatha, Laurie is dangerous and savage, so unlike your usual self. You need to let go of her and find yourself again. Will yourself to make her disappear from your mind.”
Agatha was silent for a long time, her face darkening. “Yes ma’am. ” she finally whispered. The headmistress stared at her with her piercing gray eyes for a while longer.
"You have to promise us that you will never see Laurie ever again. She will disappear," she repeated firmly. Agatha nodded without a word. The headmistress then told her quietly that she could leave.
Agatha learned as soon as she left the headmistress’ office that Laurie was taken from the orphanage after her interrogation. She would be gone forever.
Agatha’s newfound solitude was unbearable. She was invisible once more at the orphanage, the girl crumpled in the corner depraved of attention. She felt like without Laurie, there was an emptiness inside of her nothing else could fill. She was lying awake in bed one night, listening to the rhythmic tapping of rain on the window and remembering the night she and Laurie met with a sharp pang in her heart, when the door cracked open and a shadow of a figure appeared in the doorway. Agatha bolted up from her bed in disbelief. It was Laurie. She was more disheveled than ever, her eyes bloodshot and her nest of hair frazzled; she stumbled into the room, catching herself just before she fell.
“Laurie?” Agatha squinted, trying to make sense of the darkness.
Laurie rushed over to her, shushing her, and pulled her outside the room. The milky moonlight reflected in the windows, lighting their way. They tiptoed across the cold, dreary halls and Laurie heaved the entrance door open with one swift movement.
Laurie led Agatha through the rainfall to a gray, deserted park just behind the orphanage. They stepped through glossy grass, their bare feet leaving deep imprints in the soft mud, when Laurie suddenly stopped in her tracks in front of a giant, towering tree, staring up at its outstretched, wrinkled branches. Agatha couldn’t keep quiet any longer.
“What are you doing here?” she burst out violently, “How are you here? I thought they made you disappear.”
Laurie curled her lips, eyes glinting like wet stones. “I need you to help me hide a secret,” she whispered hoarsely, ignoring Agatha’s questions, “I can’t do it by myself.” She was pointing at a dirty pile of yellowing twigs, branches, and leaves in front of them enveloped by the shadow of the tree. “She’s too heavy for me to do it alone.”
“What?” Agatha hissed.
Without another word, Laurie stooped down and began to dismantle the pile, piece by piece, with her knees digging into the mud. Agatha’s shrill shriek suddenly broke the damp silence of the dreary dawn.
The headmistress’ stern face peered out at her underneath the heap of filth, her gray eyes wide open and piercing, but unmoving. Without pausing, Laurie continued to unveil the rest of her body. Agatha staggered backward, crumpling onto the ground. The headmistress’ corpse was now in full view, every inch of her dusted in black dirt, and Laurie was standing over the body, staring at the ground.
Agatha was speechless; she continued to back away, terror rising in her throat.
“She tried to take me away from you,” Laurie breathed without looking up, “I didn’t mean to kill Molly, Agatha, I swear. I only wanted to teach her a lesson for treating me like I was invisible. I didn’t know that rat poison could actually kill her! The headmistress was trying to punish me from something I didn’t even mean to do!” She lunged toward Agatha, squinting through the heavy rain, and reached for her hands. Agatha yanked herself back, staring at Laurie in fright.
Agatha began sobbing, thick tears starting to gather and stream down her ashy face. The storm worsened with each sob, muffling her.
Laurie abruptly snapped her head back and cackled, her mouth split open to drink in the black rain. She was advancing toward her; horrified, Agatha gaped at her. “Why are you crying? We have each other!” Laurie said in a strange, shrill voice, forcing her clammy hands around Agatha’s. “We’ll always have each other.”
“I don’t think we can be friends anymore,” Agatha croaked through her thick tears intermingled with the rain. Without warning, Laurie locked her in a fierce embrace, her pale locks and the wet wind choking her.
“Don’t you understand?” Laurie screamed directly into Agatha’s ear. Thunder boomed around them, inky clouds swirling the sky. Agatha tried to escape but Laurie only tightened her grip. “We’ll always have each other!” She repeated, shouting.
With those words, realization rushed through Agatha like a river, knocking her down onto the blackened dirt. She trembled. The grip around her eased, and Agatha shook her head to try to clear her confusion. “We’ll always have each other…” she echoed in a hushed whisper.
There was a puddle of rainwater in front of her, and she slowly crawled toward it. Her heart was clanging in her chest. She squeezed her eyes shut before opening them once again to peer into the puddle. She saw her own stormy, streaked eyes and her pallid complexion, but she couldn’t see Laurie’s reflection. She slowly turned around with dread. Laurie was watching her with sympathy. “Do you understand now?” she asked calmly.
She did understand. Laurie didn’t exist, not in the real world; she only existed in Agatha’s world. In fact, Laurie was not only a part of Agatha – she was Agatha. The others didn't understand because they couldn't understand. They thought Laurie was an odd figment of Agatha's untamed imagination, an artificial solace and comfort from solitude. But Laurie could never disappear, because she existed in Agatha's mind. Everyone has secret, dark demons deep inside; Agatha’s was Laurie.
Agatha collapsed on the dirt, rain and mud melting beneath her. Laurie pressed on her shoulders reassuringly. “I still exist. You created me because you needed me, so I’ll always be a part of you. We killed Molly together, and we did this together,” she murmured softly, looking at the headmistress’ muddy corpse. “Now it’s really time to make life fun.” The heavy rain had eased, and a ghostly ray of sun started to illuminate the park. Laurie cradled Agatha’s face, kneeling down with her in the damp dirt, wiping away the stains of tears and rain.
Nodding, Agatha slowly rose and stepped toward the headmistress, slightly recoiling at her soggy, dripping skin, and lifted her body, trailing her across the mud by dragging her lifeless hands. Along with her, Agatha would bury the last part of herself that had resisted Laurie. They would become one, because they were already one. She started to claw at the dark dirt with her bare hands, slowly at first then digging deeper and faster, relishing the feeling of the grainy soil underneath her nails. Life would finally be fun.
She raked furiously through the dirt, ready to bury her demons and lies. Only the dirt would ever know, its blackness caressing her secrets. She continued to dig up the earth with her hands- the hole was nowhere big enough yet, but soon it would be.