As a child it is expected of us to draw pictures of everything we see. For example most children draw their families, pets, friends, cars, flowers. My favorites were rainbows, mermaids, and suns. The last time you read of my life I told you of when I was three years old and living in a funeral home in Cleveland Ohio. We haven't jumped too far ahead. My next story takes place in a small town named Madison Ohio. Just east of Cleveland and many miles away from the gentle eyes that had still managed to frighten me so much. In this story I am six years old, and still getting used to a new home.
My mother and father, now married, were ecstatic to finally have a home of their own. Desperate to create a better life for my sister and I than what they had, had consumed them for several months. They asked any question a home owner should know the answer to. How is the neighborhood? And the schools? When was the roof last checked? Plumbing, walls, and carpeting all as it should be. However, still they were fairly young. Questions may have been asked but no one said the answers were the truth. If not even stretched in the least bit.
The small three bedroom, one kitchen, one bath home sat narrow and thin much like a trailer on Claymoore Street. The first few nights in the house were as expected. Pandemonium and cluttered. It wasn't until we were all unpacked and settled that things began to seem...unordinary. At the end of the long hallway a single step separated mine and my sisters rooms from the rest of the house. The light brown carpet cut off and gained an opening to a sea weed like green carpet in my room, and a dark blood red in my sisters. Though we always meant to change it we just never did. The fabric was not placed well and curled at the entrance to the rooms. Often causing us to trip.
Many nights passed of me sitting quietly on the highest mattress of my bunk bed. Still I wanted nothing to do with the floor even as a small blue and purple dinosaur night light illuminated every corner of the room. I would listen to my parent's talk of their days and eventually, peeking from my barely shut eyes I would sadly watch as the two parted ways and went to sleep. Then, the house grew silent. One night as I tossed my blankets from my body in the unnatural heat of fall in northeast Ohio a small sound caught my attention, my closet door. Finally a reason to keep awake in the late hours. And so I did for many nights.
Then one day my mother sat in the living room watching a re-run of ER and I sat below her, construction paper and crayons in hand. The top outline of a girl nearly finished seemed to be my project for the day. A commercial came on and my mother smiled down at me. "Another mermaid?" she asked. I shook my head no.
"The girl" I replied and kept drawing. Thinking nothing of it at first she went on to get herself a drink and wait for the show to come back. My crayons fast at work I drew all through the hour and by the time the show had ended my mother had noticed that my picture was close to finish but this time it was not something she had seen before. My small hand shook the paper and handed it to my mother with a proud smile on my face.
"Who is this?" she asked such hesitance in her voice that as a child I would have never realized the problem.
"The girl in the closet...she's my friend" and she was. The woman I had drawn had long beautiful dark hair and pale skin. Her eyes sunk in deep and dark as well. And now, as I recall back most everything about her was. Her hair, her eyes, her lips, and the dark dirty splotches on her white flowing dress. This woman in my closet, she would stay there until the night time and then she would come to play. She asked me many questions. My name, my favorite color, or animal. We would play games until I as too tired to keep my eyes open.
My mother seemed thrown by this concept, taken back by the thought that her six year old daughter was playing with some one who did not exist. Had it not been my family then perhaps it would have been tossed aside as an imaginary friend. Had the girl I drew not looked so upsettingly horrifying then my mother would have further allowed her presence. But it was our family and the woman in my closet looked how she looked. That night when my father returned home from work the two of them came to my room and asked me many questions about her.
It wasn't until then that I realized this woman was not simply my friend. Had she been then why did my parents seem so scared. I sat on my bed in-between my mother and father and told them everything. On the first night the woman asked me about myself. On the second she played with me. On the third day I asked her things. And on the fourth day my mother realized what was happening.
"She likes to tell me things" I said as I played with my stuffed Simba. "Like my room, and Erica's room used to be a garage and that's why we have a step there" that was why, and it was told to my parents prior to the move. So my parents did some deeper research on the questions they thought they knew the answers to. They never asked if anyone had ever died in the house. Documents on our house were not easily obtained. Where I came from doing that type of research cost money but what we did have was the neighborhood who seemed to know plenty. All telling the same stories.
The house was built in the late fifties, for a young couple. But families grow and the money was not. It would have cost more to add onto the house than it would have to sell it. So with in a few years of the house sitting empty a new owner came along. He and his wife decided to get rid of the garage on the end and build bedrooms. One for their daughter and one for themselves.
Tragedy struck the family years later when they're daughter got in a car accident on her prom night. When the family heard of their daughter's death all they were given of her was her dress. White, dirty, and blood covered. The neighborhood stories say that that night the mother took her own life by hanging herself in the closet of her daughter's room, wearing her daughter's dress. Again, this is all hear say, not fiction just unclear of what really happened. All I know is this woman lost her daughter so spent all her time playing with me. Hung herself in the closet, and stayed there until I was alone.
That next day after I played with her for the very last time, the church came to my home and chased her out. I remember the priest holding his hand up in the air and yelling "She's here!" and "I can feel her" they ran from room to room saying that she was running, saying that she was an evil presence. She wasn't. If someone chased me I would run too. If I missed my daughter I would find a way to see someone who reminded me of her, she wasn't evil just lonely. I never saw her again after that night. And still do not know if the story of the prom girl and hanging mother is true or a demon who tried taking advantage of a naive little girl.
What I do know is she was not alive, but I saw her. As clear as though she was my mother, or father, or you standing right in front of me. And I heard her. And I played with her. And I drew her... For years to come.