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Kim Pritekel & Alexa Hoffman
Kim Pritekel & Alexa Hoffman
Abel followed her instincts and instruction from her father. She grabbed her keys from her pocket, never once taking her eyes off the strange girl who stood before her at the end of the dock. Placing three of the sharp points between her fingers to use as weapons, she held her arm out in front of her.
"Who the hell are you?" she asked, briefly eyeing the dock around her. She was trapped. Water on three sides, and this crazy woman in front of her. She focused on the woman, trying to think. Long, disheveled dark hair, wrapping around her shoulder and face, giving her a wild appearance, though the woman's posture was calm and focused. She took in extremely baggy, dirty black pants that puddled around over-sized boots.
Her gaze drifted back up to the old, worn out, thin in places, sweater, and finally up into blue eyes that were looking into hers.
"Who are you?" the blonde asked again.
"You don't remember me?" the brunette asked, and Abel was amazed as her entire face seemed to fall.
"Should I?" she asked, still holding the keys out in front of her, her eyes darting to the picnic basket where she had left the gun, forgetting about it in her fear and surprise.
"It's me, Zac." The brunette pointed to herself, blue eyes wide, looking shocked. Zac felt a profound disappointment as she watched Spinney standing there, holding sharp keys out toward her like the brunette would actually hurt her. "Spinney?" she said, her voice quiet as she hoped that the special name for the blonde would make her remember. How could she have possibly forgotten?
"I don't know you," Abel exclaimed, her heart about to beat out of her chest as fear clasped it in a vice. Again she tried to ponder her options: Go for a swim? Try and run past the taller girl? Stay and grab the gun? The strange girl who called herself Zac didn't seem dangerous, somehow. She stood there, shoulders slumped, and her hands buried in deep pockets. Was she hiding a weapon in there? "Let me see your hands," she ordered, her voice shaky.
Zac looked at her, confused, but slowly slid her hands from her pockets, holding them out, palms up. The blonde looked at them. She could see how nervous Spinney was. I don't understand.
Feeling better to see those large hands were empty, green eyes darted back to blue. "How do I know you? And why do you keep calling me Spinney? Who is that? Do you have me confused with someone else?" Abel lowered the keys, feeling innately that she wouldn't be hurt, but freaked out nonetheless.
Those expressive eyes seemed to fall again, looking down for a moment, then meeting Abel's again.
"We used to play when we were kids." Her voice was so quiet, barely audible.
"What? As kids? What are you talking about? Why don't I remember you?"
Zac shrugged, but said nothing. Abel stared at the girl, then reached into her pocket for the ever-present cell phone.
"You stay there." She pointed at Zac, then looked down at the keypad to dial her parents' number.
Zac watched as the girl grabbed something from her pocket, then realized what it was. Her eyes widened in surprise and fear.
No cops! No Boogie Man!
Abel dialed, then looked up, gasping when she saw nothing. She was alone. She looked around, frantically trying to find where the strange girl went. She even looked toward the lake, seeing if the girl had made a dive for it.
"What the hell?" she breathed, feeling all the more frightened. "I'm going crazy." Her train of thought was interrupted by her mother's voice. "Mom? Oh my god. I'm losing my mind!" Watchful green eyes scoured the landscape as she spoke, desperately trying to find any sign or trace of the girl who called herself Zac.
Zac, once out of earshot, ran through the forest, her eyes burning as tears streamed down her cheeks. The sensation felt strange, like she was using dry, chapped lips for the first time. She could only remember crying once before.
She climbed the bluff that she used as a perch to watch over things, and over the Cohen cabin. Hastily sitting down, she swiped at her eyes, leaving dirt smudges along her cheeks, and sniffled.
Why doesn't she remember me? She was going to call the boogie men on me. Why, Spinney? Why?
Fresh tears poured down, and she brought her hands up, covering her face as a sob wracked free, startling a bull frog who was croaking nearby.
"Wait, wait. Honey, calm down. What are you talking about? An intruder? In the house?" Sherry Cohen was nearly beside herself as she listened to her daughter's impassioned voice on the other end of the line.
"No! Well, not exactly. But she just showed up, out of nowhere. God, I was so scared," Abel exclaimed, sitting back in the chair, but turning it so she faced land. She wasn't about to be snuck up upon again. "I was reading, like I told you, and she was just . . . just . . . there!" She brought a trembling hand up to her mouth, covering her lips as wide green eyes looked out into the woods. "Like some sort of mountain woman or something. It was so strange."
"Honey, I want you to listen to me," Sherry said, her voice stern but caring. "You need to call the police. Who knows who this girl is. She could be dangerous."
Abel thought back to Zac, and deep in her heart, she didn't feel she was. Those eyes, so brilliantly blue, were seemingly filled with the innocence of a child. She looked so genuinely hurt when the blonde had said she didn't know who she was. That look almost haunted her.
"No," she said, surprised as the word just sort of fell out of her mouth.
"What? No? Abel . . ."
"No. She's not dangerous." What are you doing??!!
"Wait, I thought you said you didn't know her?" Sherry was beginning to get impatient now. Her daughter had called, frightened out of her mind, damn near scaring her mother out of hers, and now she says there's no threat? "Abel, this is ridiculous."
"Mom, did I have a playmate when I was a kid?" The blonde remembered Zac's words: We used to play when we were kids.
"What? A playmate?" Mrs. Cohen was completely confused now. "What does that have to do with this strange woman?" She sat down on the couch, truly worried now. She motioned for her husband to come over, grabbing a notepad and telling him to get her cell phone from the charger.
"She said something about us playing as kids. Did I play with anyone here? At the cabin?" Abel drew her brows, a headache already beginning to pound dimly at the back of her head.
"Well, let me think." Sherry took her mind back through the years that they'd owned the cabin, trying to think of any single thing that the girl could be talking about. "Well, when you were real little, you had a little imaginary friend you used to talk about."
"What? An imaginary friend?" Blonde brows drew further down.
"Oh, yes." Sherry chuckled. "Shoot, we teased you about that for a while. Finally one day you just stopped talking about her."
"Did she have a name?"
"Oh, gosh. I don't remember what that would have been, now. I don't recall hearing about her since you were maybe, oh, eight or nine. But you always used to talk about her bright blue eyes." Sherry smiled into the receiver, remembering an excited six year old.
Abel felt her stomach drop and her hands get sweaty.
"Bright blue eyes? Mom, did she have a name she used to call me?" Green eyes closed as the blonde was afraid to hear what her mother would say. God, I really have gone crazy.
"Oh, gosh. Hmm, let me think. It started with an s, I think . . ."
"Spinney?" came the weak reply.
"That's it!" Sherry smiled. "Spinney. I never understood where you got that."
Abel felt sick now. "Oh, god," she moaned, her hand running through her hair. "Was her name Zac, Mom?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Well, uh, that sounds about right." Sherry was really worried now. "Honey, what's this all about?"
"Her name was Zac. She called me Spinney, and she had bright blue eyes. Mom," she said, near tears now. "Am I losing my mind?"
Sherry sat there, unable to speak, not sure what to say if she could. What was going on? "Honey, I want you to stay with the Wilkinses until we get there Saturday, okay?" She waved at her husband, Adam, to call their long-time friends on the cell. "Your dad is calling them now. I don't want you staying there. I wish you'd let me call the police, honey. Just let them look around, just to give us all a piece of mind."
"No! No cops, mom. It's not necessary. I'll go with Jim, but no cops. I think she's harmless." I just don't know if she actually exists. "She just disappeared as quickly and quietly as she appeared," she muttered, not understanding.
Zac watched as a white and orange truck pulled up to the cabin, a rugged-looking man getting out. She recognized him from the cabin about a mile down the lake. He walked over to the home and knocked on the door. It opened, and he went inside.
She had watched as Spinney had talked on the phone, sitting on the dock where she'd left her. Her heart was heavy, and it hurt. She felt a knot still in her throat, even once her tears had dried up. She was waiting for the boogie men to come, but they hadn't. Only the guy in the truck.
Who had Spinney called?
As if the blonde had heard, she hurried out of the cabin, followed by the man, a bag in her hand. She walked over to the truck, but stopped at the door of it, her hand on the handle, and looked out into the woods.
Zac's breath caught as it seemed those green eyes were staring right at her. She held her breath, watching to see what would happen. She knew that there was no possible way for Spinney to see her on the bluff, but still . . .
A few bloodless moments passed, then the blonde opened the truck door, jumped in, and with a muted drone, the truck drove away.
Abel sat next to Jim Wilkins, her bag on her lap as he pulled out of the yard of the Cohen's cabin. She watched out the side window, her eyes peering into the dark thicket of woods.
She felt strange, like she didn't have that feeling anymore. She knew no way to put it into words, but knew she could feel when she was watched. Right now she wasn't.
The blonde couldn't help but wonder who the hell this Zac girl was, and what her imaginary friend had to do with things. Was this girl a ghost? She looked so real! She looked as real as Abel herself was. Was she something that she conjured up in her mind? The mind of a lonely child playing in the woods?
With a sigh, she concentrated on the road before them.
He stroked a white thigh, just a sprinkling of hair smattered across it, as if she hadn't shaved in a couple days. That was okay. He could handle that. He preferred the smooth softness of a child, but this would do.
Dark eyes looked up into terrified brown ones. A smile spread across his face, pink tongue poking out between missing teeth, rotten and pungent. He could already feel himself respond to what he knew lay ahead. Blonde hair, cut a little too short for his tastes, but silky and beautiful. Forever that way. His eyes traveled down, real slow like, over the face, then down the neck, bare, white skin that opened up to the expanse of a chest, small breasts. How he liked them, if none at all. They were small, so he could appreciate this one.
That tongue licked chapped lips.
Abel stretched out on the twin bed that resided on the opposite side of the room to Marie Wilkins. The twelve year old slept on peacefully, while the blonde stared at the ceiling, her body tucked under the covers, her arms behind her head.
Her mind was whirling on the events of the day, as well as the last few days. She was going to stay with the Wilkinses until Saturday, when her parents would be coming up to the cabin. It had taken some persuasion for Jim Wilkins to not grab his hunting dogs and go search the woods. Abel didn't want Zac to be harmed, and if there was no Zac, she didn't want others to think she had lost her mind.
So she lay there in that small bed, in the even smaller, cramped bedroom, and thought about the mysterious girl. Who was she? Her mother remembered Zac, and supposedly the blonde had talked about her as a child. Why didn't she remember?
She turned to her side, staring at the wall, hands curled up under her chin. Was this girl a figment of her imagination still? Was she even real or alive? Abel didn't believe in ghosts, but now she was beginning to wonder. Apparently, the blonde was the only one who had seen her. Upon talking with Jim's wife, Ava, no one had seen or heard from some dark-haired girl. Abel tried to think of how old the girl looked. Probably not much older or younger than herself. She looked as though she had been in those woods forever. She was so dirty, and looked weathered. Obviously not someone who had spent her life in a warm cabin or house somewhere.
What if Zac was a ghost? What if at some time she had been killed, or had gotten lost and died from exposure? What if she had fallen into the lake and drowned, destined to forever roam those woods?
Abel shivered, thinking her scenarios were ridiculous, but they disturbed her all the same. Why her? Had she totally made up this apparition in her mind as a child, and it was still there in her sub-consciousness? Had she been so lonely at the cabin that she'd conjured her up again?
"That's ridiculous," she muttered, rolling her eyes. "So who is she?"
She had realized in the two days she'd been with the Wilkinses that she hadn't felt that, that, well . . . feeling. She knew she wasn't being watched, and though calming, it was slightly disconcerting.
Zac wandered through the woods, looking out over the lake, her hand on the trunk of a tree. The water was calm, the surrounding woods and foothills reflecting off its glassy surface. She picked up a small rock, and threw it, breaking that perfect picture, turning that upside down world into ripples that spread out.
Felt a little like she did. She was torn up inside, disappointment being a nasty bedmate.
Spinney had been gone for two days, and the brunette missed her. Despite what had happened on the dock, and the obvious fear that Zac had instilled in the girl, she still missed having her presence around. She hadn't been able to feel Spinney since she'd been whisked away in that orange and white truck. She felt empty again. Now even the blonde's memory couldn't keep Zac company.
She turned away from the lake and walked some more, knowing her little furry buddy with the big, bushy tail, was following her. He was scampering from tree to tree, wiggling his nose, and cleaning his face with reddish brown paws at every limb. She looked up, seeing Teddy sitting up there, beady black eyes looking down at her.
"Hey, little fella," she said, waving to him, hearing a squeak in return. The squirrel's jerky movement followed it. Zac chuckled and moved on, shoving her hands deep into the pockets of her pants. The sun was hot today, but she dare not leave too many layers at home. She knew that she had to conserve her body heat and not allow herself to get too cold. When night came, her body heat would drop substantially, and she'd be cold. So, she plowed on with the pants, boots, and two sweatshirts.
Just up ahead, she saw the edge of the cliff and stopped, not wanting to get too close. Just beyond was the ghost town, called "Spectreville" by her dad. It was haunted, an old lumber town back in the nineteenth century. It had been abandoned for seventy years or more.
The place scared Zac. She heard noises from there all the time, and it's said that when people venture inside, they never come back out again.
Shivering in the warm May sun, she hurried away from the scene below her, and continued on through the woods. Maybe she'd start making maps again. That's what she used to do to keep herself busy. She would tear out a sheet of paper in one of her books and draw maps. She's map out the entire area, including each little stump, large set of rocks, anything.
Yeah. That's what she could do. That would keep her mind busy, and she wouldn't have to think about Spinney.
"Oh, Spinney," she moaned into the unfeeling forest.
Abel was following Marie's trail back to the cabin, a stack of freshly cut wood in her arms. She watched as the pre-teen stacked it neatly next to the house, and followed suit. She hissed as a small piece of wood snagged into her finger.
"Damn." She picked at it, hating splinters.
"You okay?" Marie Wilkins asked, looking up at the girl she had idolized since she was a small child. Abel Cohen was so smart, and pretty and fun. She loved that the blonde girl was sharing her room right now, and wished she wasn't going back to her own cabin tomorrow.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Do you guys have tweezers?" asked hopeful green eyes. Marie nodded.
"Uh huh. In the bathroom upstairs. In the cabinet over the sink."
"Okay. Thanks." Abel smiled, and hurried inside. That girl drove her nuts. She was a nice kid, but she followed her around everywhere she went, constantly asking questions. She had definitely become more annoying than she had been last summer.
The blonde hurried up the stairs, taking them two at a time, and opened the cabinet, finding the metal tool immediately. Sitting on the closed toilet lid, she began to concentrate on trying to pull the bugger out.
She grimaced as the sharp tips of the tweezers pulled at the skin of her fingertip. As she worked, her mind began to wander. She wanted so badly to just go home. The Wilkinses had been so nice, and she'd known them forever, but still, she wanted her own cabin with her own things.
Abel thought about just going home, but decided against it. There was still the question of this Zac person. As she had thought about it in the past few days, she began to wonder if that feeling of being watched was purely linked to Zac. Had it been her for the first few days the blonde had been at the cabin? Why? Why had the brunette been stalking around the place? What did she mean to do?
"Ow!" Abel pulled the splinter out and looked at it, holding it up to the light that streamed in from the small window above the bathtub. Cleaning the tweezers off into the trashcan under the toilet paper dispenser, she put the tweezers away, and ran a hand through her hair.
What was she supposed to do with this girl? With the situation? Should she head out into the forest once her folks got there and look for her? See if she could find the brunette? How long had Zac been there in the forest? Did she live in one of the neighboring cabins? That would make sense. There were a lot of families that lived in Wachiva Forest, but she had never seen her before. Though Zac seemed to know Abel, or thought she did.
But then her mind spun again to her conversation with her mother. Imaginary friend. Spinney. Bright blue eyes. Zac.
It was all so confusing. There was a part of her that wasterribly curious about all of it, but the larger part that was wary and frightened.
"Damn." She blew out, her bangs ruffled in the puff of warm air.
Zac peered around a tree, watching as the orange and white pickup truck pulled up in front of the cabin. She saw Spinney smile at the burly man behind the wheel, and nod as he said something to her. She grabbed her bag and opened the truck's door, stepping out into the dirt.
"Bye, Jim!" The blonde waved to the man, then headed for the porch. She set the bag down, then stopped.
Abel looked around. The moment she stepped out of the truck, she could feel again. Green eyes scoured the trees around her, then she looked toward the green dock. She knew someone was around, and on a whim, decided to try.
"Are you there?" she called out, her voice echoing off the trees and into the early afternoon. "Come out!"
She jumped, grasping at her chest when a figure stepped out from behind a tree not six feet away. It was the same girl, dressed in the same clothes. She just seemed to appear out of nowhere.
Zac stood there, hands shoved into her pockets as she looked at the blonde, deciding to come out when called for. She wanted another chance to talk to Spinney.
"You scared me," Abel gasped, taking several deep breaths.
"I'm sorry," the girl said, her voice that same quiet, soft sound.
"Were you watching me?" the blonde asked, taking the girl's appearance in more now that she was closer to her, and felt slightly less fear. But only slightly. The brunette nodded.
"Why? You scare me, you know," she said, then was surprised as that same pained look crossed Zac's features again. Like she had just lost her best friend.
"I'm sorry," was whispered, and Zac's head hung. She had no desire to scare Spinney. She wanted the blonde to like her again, not be afraid.
"Are you real?" the blonde asked, having to know, having to try and understand. The dark head raised, surprised blue eyes boring into hers. Abel looked into those eyes. They certainly were bright blue as her mother said she used to say. Zac nodded. "Why don't I remember you? Why does my mother say you were my imaginary friend?" Abel crossed her arms over her chest in a defensive position. She was defenseless, and felt that vulnerability. She did have her pocket knife in her back pocket, if it came down to it. "Why did my parents never meet you?"
"I didn't let you," Zac stated, as if it was the most obvious answer.
"Because they'd take me away."
Blonde brows drew in confusion. "Taken you away to where?"
Zac shrugged. "I don't know. Away."
These cryptic answers weren't helping anything. Abel decided to try a different track. "Why do you watch me? Do you watch me?" The brunette nodded.
"Yes. I like watching you."
"Okay, that's creepy. Why?" Abel shifted her weight to her other leg, her eyes never leaving this strange girl in front of her.
"Because you were my friend. And to protect you."
"From who?" Abel asked softly, sensing that Zac was telling the truth, but still feeling like something was missing.
"The Boogie Man," Zac answered, her voice deepening just a bit, hardening. Abel watched the slight change of the girl's face, but was not afraid of it. She felt that hardness was not meant for her.
"Boogie Man?" Blonde brows drew, confused, and slightly amused.
"Oh," was all she said. Weird. "Where do you live? Why are you here?"
"I live here," Zac said, indicating the forest behind her. "I'm here because you are, Spinney."
"Why do you call me that?" The blonde sounded slightly agitated, as if she were hearing a joke that only Zac knew the punch line to. Zac looked at her, slightly cocking her head to the side. Spinney didn't remember anything?
"Well, you like to spin," she said simply. "When you do, your hair would fan out around you, looking like spun gold." She smiled at the memory, one of her favorites. Spinney had such pretty hair. Still did. Though now it was even longer than the shoulder-length style of her childhood.
"I did like to spin," Abel whispered, then shook herself out of her reverie. "Tell me more. Something that would convince me you're not a loon, or are real. Why did you run the other day?"
"You were going to call people and get me in trouble," Zac answered, feeling the sting again from the other day.
"Call people? What, like the cops?" The brunette nodded. "Should I? Are you in some kind of trouble?" The blonde drew her brows in suspicion
Abel stared at the girl for a moment, then said, "Show me where you live."
"How am I supposed to believe you, or know anything about you if I don't even know if you're real?"
"Touch me," came the simple response.
"Oh, no! Not a chance in hell I'm getting that close to you, Zac." Abel stared at the girl like she was nuts. The brunette looked hurt, then looked down.
"Then throw something at me. There are rocks down at your feet."
"No. Just show me where you live. If there's a slim chance that I'm going to trust you, this isn't the way to do it, by being obstinate." Abel pointed an accusing finger at her.
Zac looked at her and nodded, turning around and heading off into the woods. Abel brought out her pocket knife, opening the blade and casually, discreetly, marking tree trunks as she went. She had no idea where this girl was leading her, nor how to get back if they got deep enough into the foliage.
The brunette led the way, her heart heavy as she had to prove herself to her friend, confidante, and only person in the world she cared about. She felt an immense sadness consume her, taking over the absolute joy of being with the blonde again. She knew Spinney didn't trust her, and she hated it.
She led the way through the dark forest, some places even the full overhead sun couldn't penetrate. She knew the way, the path marked by small, subtle markers that years of roaming and experience had alerted her to. The smallest group of leaves acted as the biggest highway sign marking an exit.
"How do you know where you're going?" Abel asked, her voice hushed in the dense trees as her ever watchful eyes tried to take in everything, in case she needed to remember something.
"Lots of walks," Zac said simply. She headed toward a large cropping of rocks, turned the bend around them, and suddenly, they were upon a camp sight. Abel took in the burned pile of rubble next to the rock overhang, where a small, thrown together lean-to, was set up. Next to it was a fire ring, the rocks covered in soot on the inside.
She took in the blue tarp that was tied to a tan canvas, both anchored to the ground to form a wall and entryway. The blue stuck out in sharp contrast to the natural colors of everything else.
"This is where you live?" she asked, her voice a whisper. Zac nodded. "My god. How can anyone survive in this?"
Zac looked hurt for a moment, digging her hands even further down into her pockets, and kicked at some rocks at her feet.
"I just do," she muttered.
"What was that?" Abel pointed to the burnt out ruins. Zac glanced over at them, then looked at the blonde.
"That's where I used to live. When I was a kid. When I knew you. My dad and me lived there."
"Your father?" Abel looked at the girl, and saw her nod. "Where is he now?" She walked over to it and looked through the rubble, noting the semblance of certain things, including a dented, half melted teapot. "What happened?"
"I don't know. He died when I was 13, so I left here. When I came back a few months ago, I found it like this. Don't know when it happened. I plan to rebuild someday." She met the green-eyed gaze.
"Do you own this land?" Abel asked quietly. She felt her fears begin to melt away as she saw the humble, yet proud dwellings of this girl, though she still wasn't sure she was even talking to a living, breathing person. And if she was, was she a total mad woman, there to rob her or worse?
"No. That's why I stay out of trouble," Zac said, trying to defend herself, and her right to be there and stay there. Though she was with her beloved Spinney, she still felt violated in a way, having to show the blonde her sparse home, and having to defend it. She had never shown anyone where she lived before. Not even Spinney when they were children.
"Can I look inside?" Abel asked quietly, and at the brunette's nod, she walked over to the flap, knelt down and peered inside. It was small, maybe large enough for the tall girl to stretch out, but not much more than that. She had a rolled up bedroll at one end, with a small stack of books piled near it. An old, weather beaten canteen hung on a natural ledge in the rock wall, and a small leather pouch sat on the ground under it, with a nearly completely melted candle next to it.
Zac's heart raced as the blonde looked around her home, her body flowing with natural energy as she began to lightly bounce on her toes. She worried that Spinney would be disgusted with her few, meager belongings, and not want to be friends at all. Not that it was looking so hot for that, anyway.
Abel backed out of the small space, and stood, brushing her knees off. She looked at the darker girl who watched her, hands still in those ever-present pockets.
"Tell me something about me then, Zac. Why should I believe you?" she asked, her voice quiet. She wanted to understand this great mystery.
"Um," Zac looked up into the blue sky, chewing on her lip as she thought of what she could say to the younger girl to make her understand and believe. Then it hit her. She looked at the blonde, and began to sing:
"El coqui, el coqui a mi me encanta
Es tan lindo el cantar del coqui
Por las noches al ir a acostarme
Me adormece cantandome asi
Coqui, coqui, coqui, qui, qui, qui
Coqui, coqui, coqui, qui, qui, qui
Coqui, coqui, coqui, qui, qui, qui
Coqui, coqui, coqui, qui, qui, qui"
Abel listened as Zac sang, her voice quiet, but not unpleasant, the blonde's mouth falling further and further open with each chorus.
Oh my god.
"How did you know that?" she breathed. Zac looked at her, confused, head slightly cocked to the side.
"You taught it to me," she said, the smallest of smiles tugging at the corners of her mouth. That had been a fun day.
"When?" Abel was flabbergasted. She remembered when her mother used to sing that to her as a small child. She always planned to sing it to her own children someday.
"That summer. You used to sing it all the time." A full out smile broke across the brunette's face now, her mind years away as she saw them, the little blonde girl, and the tall brunette, sitting on that big rock in their special place, singing. "I told you I was afraid one night, so you taught it to me. You said the frog song would keep me safe."
"I don't believe this." Abel put a hand to her head, covering her eyes for a moment. "Did I ever see you again?"
"Not after that summer, no." Zac's voice became even softer, making it hard for Abel to hear. She looked into those bright blue eyes, and was near gutted by the immense sadness she saw in their depths.
"Why?" Abel took a slight step forward, but realizing what she was doing, quickly moved back to her original spot. She felt compassion fill her at whatever was troubling the strange girl.
"I saw you with your friend. She had dark hair and a blue bow in her hair," Zac said, looking down at her boots. "I didn't want to intrude, so I stayed away."
"Friend?" Abel thought for a moment, then brought her hand to her mouth, remembering that summer. She had been six years old. Her parents had made her bring a friend along, for some reason, so she'd asked her friend Melanie to go to the cabin with them that summer. "You saw us?" Zac nodded, finally meeting the green eyes.
Zac's head turned, and she looked out toward the road, and Abel looked to see what the brunette was looking at, or had heard. Then she heard it, too. A car.
"My family's here," the blonde said absently. She turned back to Zac. "Will you meet them?"
"No," Zac said, shaking her head.
"I can't." Zac took a step back from the blonde, looking like she was terrified out of her mind.
"Okay, okay. I won't make you." Abel put her hands up to placate the frightened girl. "But I have to go. Um, can you lead me?" Zac nodded.
She walked toward the way they'd come, Abel sure to give her a wide berth as she passed, keeping her eyes on the brunette the entire time. She had the distinct feeling that the girl was not dangerous, but seeing as how the situation was so totally crazy and beyond her reasoning, she decided to be cautious anyway.
As they walked, and the car got closer to the cabin, the girls were quiet. Zac was trying to reconcile the fact that someone had just been to her home, while her blonde counterpart was trying to reconcile that such a place existed at all.
Finally Zac stopped, turning toward Abel.
"Spinney, I've taken you halfway. Follow that line of trees and it'll lead you to the dock," she explained. Abel looked up at her and nodded.
"Thank you." She looked up into the troubled blue eyes, then looked away, about to start walking, but stopped, looking over her shoulder. "Zac?"
"Yeah?" came the quiet response.
"Please don't hide. It makes me uncomfortable."
The brunette looked down, and nodded. "Okay."
Abel turned and quickly made her way through the woods, following the path Zac had pointed out, and indeed found herself at the dock. She saw the SUV pull into the drive, and hurried over to it.
Abel, running at near breakneck speed, reached her family, which was quickly unloading from the car.
"Honey!" her mother called out, hurrying over to her daughter and taking her in a huge hug. "We were so worried." She brushed a soft kiss atop her oldest daughter's head, and looked at her, making sure the girl was, in fact, okay.
"Oh, I'm fine." The younger blonde brushed off the concern. "I just talked to her, actually." She glanced over her shoulder at the woods behind her. Adam Cohen joined his wife and daughter.
"Is she still here?" he asked, body stiffening slightly. He wasn't too thrilled at the idea of some strange, crazy girl scaring his baby girl.
"Yeah, but she's not dangerous, dad," Abel said, suddenly feeling the need to defend Zac. "She's harmless, really."
"How do you know, honey?" Sherry asked, slinging an arm around her husband's waist.
"I talked to her," Abel said simply, as if that should be answer enough. "She lives out there, and . . ." She looked pointedly at her father. "We're going to leave her alone." She eyed him, knowing full well the mighty father routine her dad could sometimes try.
"Adam, go help the kids unload the car," Sherry said, seeing her husband's protests already start. Once he walked away, she turned to her daughter. "What's going on, sweetie? I mean, you called us up, frightened out of your mind, and now you're protecting this girl." She looked at Abel with concerned.
"I know. I know it doesn't make any sense. She's still creepy, but this morning when Jim brought me back, I called out for her, and there she was!" She pointed to a nearby tree. "She just stepped out from behind that tree right there. I don't know how she does it." She ran a hand through her hair, realizing that she was still a little weirded out by the situation, but no longer frightened.
Sherry looked at her daughter, not sure what to say or think of the situation. She knew Abel, and had never heard her be so frightened as she had been the other day when she'd called after first seeing this Zac person. She had tried to talk Adam into dropping everything and loading up the kids that day, but he had convinced her that that Wilkinsed would take care of her, and she'd be fine.
"Honey, what is Zac? Who is she?" Sherry put an arm around her daughter's shoulders, and led them toward the cabin. Abel shook her head.
"I don't know. She told me things, mom, things that should couldn't have known unless she really knew me." The blonde looked perplexed, trying to figure this out. "She knows the frog song," she said quietly. Sherry looked at her daughter, stunned.
"How on earth could she know that?" The two women headed into the kitchen where bags of groceries waited to be put away. "Help me, Abel." They began to unload the bags, putting things in the cabinets and fridge.
"She said I taught it to her, said that I told her to sing it to herself when she was afraid." Abel laughed, just so unsure about so much. "It's crazy. Oh, she also remembered Ben running around in his diapers, as well as that summer I brought Melanie Waynes. Remember that?" She looked to the older woman, standing just an inch shorter than herself. Sherry Cohen nodded.
"Yes. Your father and I felt it would be best if you brought someone up to play with." She glanced at the girl. "Because we thought you were so bored you had to make up imaginary playmates." She shook her head sadly. "Is . . ." She stopped herself, not sure how to ask the next question. She and Adam had discussed this at length over the past week, and still had come up with no real conclusions.
"What?" Abel asked, putting a carton of milk away before turning to her mother. She could see the older woman was troubled. "What is it?"
"Is Zac real, honey? Is she still just something that's around when you're lonely or alone up here?" She didn't have to wait long for the expected reaction.
"What! Are you asking if I'm crazy? Mother! I'm almost twenty years old. I think I can be alone without having to make up some damn imaginary girl to keep me company," the blonde steamed, a hand on her hip. "God, you make me sound like I'm crazy or something!" Abel took a step back, hurt with her mother.
"Oh, honey. Please don't be mad," Sherry begged. "I didn't mean to upset you. We're just trying to cover all the bases." She walked over to the girl, and bundled her up in strong, motherly arms. She spoke as she stroked the long, blonde hair. "I've even thought if perhaps this girl is a ghost." Sherry chuckled at her own foolishness.
"Me, too." Abel laughed in turn. "Crazy, yes. So maybe I am. I don't know. She took me to where she lives," she explained softly, still nuzzling into her mother's warmth.
"Yup. She just has this crappy lean-to under a group of rocks. I was so stunned."
"How can anyone live like that?" Sherry asked, the concern of a mother of five in her voice.
"I don't know. I wonder the same thing. How she doesn't freeze I'll never know." The blonde pulled away from her mother. Continuing to put groceries away, she said, "You know, the strange thing is, I think I can feel when she's around." She glanced out the window, wondering if she'd see the girl out there. She felt that feeling. Kind of like a constant hum.
"Really?" Sherry tossed a box of cereal on top of the fridge, and turned back to the bag of canned goods.
Zac laid on her bedroll, the night sky making everything dark and beautiful. She loved the dark, the way it could hide her and keep her safe. She almost saw better in the dark, feeling her way through the woods, and allowing her senses to take over for her.
She smiled, remembering that afternoon. She still felt slightly uneasy about having her privacy so intruded upon, but let it slide, knowing it was for Spinney. She'd do anything for her, and if bringing her to her home helped Spinney to remember her, or at least not be afraid, then it was worth it.
Oh, how she wished the blonde would remember her. The feeling of being around Spinney again was priceless. Just for the one hour of time they'd had that day was worth all of it. The blonde of her hair, the green of her eyes.
Zac sighed, feeling happy and content. She knew that Spinney was okay, and safe and happy, and that meant everything else would be okay. She had watched from the bluff as the blonde had joined her family, and had certainly been surprised at how much that family had grown. And when she had spotted the little one, her heart had leapt into her throat.
The girl looked young, younger than Spinney when she'd met her, but had that same blonde hair and curious face, looking at everything. Zac had to smile when she'd seen the youngster. She could read trouble all over that girl. It had been Spinney all over again, and nearly made the brunette's heart weep for a time lost. A time when she had been trusted by Spinney, and had been her friend. And remembered.
Zac sighed, folding her hands behind her head. She'd just watch from afar, making sure the entire clan was happy and healthy and safe. No Boogie Man for them.
The nighttime was a good time. It was dark, though the stars and moon shone brightly overhead. The lone figure walked through the night, that familiar buzzing still whirling through his veins. He felt the roughness of his hands rub together as he tried to clean the large paws, blood and grime and dirt getting trapped between the cracks in the skin.
Running thick fingers through greasy hair, too long forsaken by soap and water, he squinted ahead. What was next? Where would his trail lead now?
He saw a sign, then heard the drone of a car, and quickly jumped back into a thicket of trees. Headlights scanned across the sign, then the car drove on, but it was too late. He had already seen what the sign said:
Welcome to Wachiva Forest!
"I've been here," he mused, and continued, sticking to the dense foliage.
Abel grabbed her brush from the dresser near the window. It felt good to not only be back in her family's cabin, but also in her room on the third floor. The attic room.
She looked around, all the posters and pictures hanging on the walls. Some had been there for years, while others were only a year or two old. Sports figures, movies she'd liked, actors and actresses, or just simple sayings. In the corner near the closet was a stack of crates, all filled with memories of the cabin, and her family's years there. She was quite the nostalgic one, and loved to keep everything.
Just fresh from her shower, she stood in the center of her room, the slanted ceilings on either side, also covered with posters. She wore her sleep wear, tired from a long week. The boxers, covered with little Tweety Birds, and a tank top. She carefully ran the bristles of the brush through the wet, golden locks, mindful of the tangles she usually got.
She thought back to her day. The blonde had finally convinced her parents to trust her. They, especially her dad, was determined to borrow Jim Wilkins' hounds, and set them free through the woods. It was ridiculous, and she couldn't do that to Zac, no matter what the situation was. She'd never allow Zac to be hurt, regardless of how odd the whole thing was.
Abel closed her eyes, letting the comforting strokes of the brush brings a smile to her face. She figured that the feeling of being watched was from Zac watching her, and nothing else. She had no idea what the brunette had meant by protecting Abel from what the taller girl called the boogie man. What the hell was that? The cops? Was Zac afraid of police?
She had no idea, but she did stop, brush in mid-stroke. There it was. That feeling.
Abel set the brush on her bed, walked over to the window, brushing the sheer curtains aside, and looked down. She was not surprised when she saw the figure standing below, half hidden by a tree. She smiled, knowing it was Zac, and knowing that she was safe. The blonde raised a hand in greeting.
Zac leaned against the tree, her head peeking out from behind the mighty oak. She saw the silhouette in the window on the third floor, and knew it was Spinney. She looked up at the dark figure, wishing she could see those green eyes again.
A soft smile spread across the brunette's face when she saw a hand lift in greeting, and she mirrored the action, her stomach rising in her throat as she was nervous. But happy.
She watched the figure for a moment, then it slowly slipped away, the curtains floating back into place. Within a few moments, the light flickered off, and all was silent and still.
Zac turned, making her way through the darkness to her home.
Abel smiled as she climbed into bed, knowing for certain now that it was indeed Zac that she felt, and knew that it was Zac that watched her. She also smiled because she realized she didn't mind that so much anymore.
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