I woke up this morning , walked down the stairs to the kitchen, where I saw a woman washing dishes with her back to me. The light in the window above the sink shone so brightly that I had to squint to see. The glow of the sun washed over the entire kitchen. It was surreal. For a moment, I had to stop and think of whom it was washing dishes. I recognized the face, but just couldn’t place her. I decided to call her Macy. I needed to give her a name. She was in my house, doing dishes. I had to remember who she was. I walked further into the kitchen, squinted into the door of the adjoining living room where I saw another woman on the couch, eating a bowl of cereal and watching TV. Again, I had to stop and think, “Who is that?” It took just a few seconds for me to realize it was Nadia. Yes. It was Nadia. We grew up together. Just like Macy and me. I realized we must all be house mates. This was definitely my house. The beige recliner sat in the center of the wall. The floral couch I’d purchased years ago at a thrift store was there under the picture window, where Nadia sat. The tan blinds allowed the glow of the sunlight to intensify all of the fixtures in the living room. Nadia appeared to be a shadow in the sunlight. The glow through the living room picture window was so bright, but so beautiful, the whole room glowed. I heard a child’s voice and it startled me. I looked back at Macy, looked down toward her hip and noticed a young girl pulling at the back of Macy’s shirt to get her attention and saying something. I couldn’t hear her or tell what she was saying. Macy ignored the little girl and continued doing the dishes. It was frustrating to watch, but for some reason, I didn’t think to say anything to either of them. I’d struggled to remember Macy and Nadia and thought I must know this little girl in our house. I stared at her trying hard to focus through the bright light of the sun. The sun illuminated her from behind and made her appear almost angelic. Her skin was very pale; her hair blonde and wild as though it had not been brushed in a week. She had a ponytail holding it out of her eyes and dirt on her face. She was wearing a navy blue and white striped top and a white skirt. She held a doll by one arm in one hand. The rest of doll flailed upside down and both appeared to be neglected. She didn’t seem to notice me standing behind them staring at her. I could hear her whispering, but couldn’t make out the words. She continued pulling on Macy’s shirt and then started batting at her back with her free hand. The confusion and loss of my memory was extremely troubling as I searched my mind for an answer. We must have taken in a foster child. Yes. That was it. She was a foster child but I couldn’t remember her name. I was just about to say something when Macy finally turned around and looked at the girl. She picked her up in her arms and carried her to the living room and sat her down on the couch without saying a word. She looked very agitated. After setting the girl down, Macy came back to the kitchen, looked at me and went back to washing the dishes. I looked again at the little girl. Her eyes glanced up to meet mine. She didn’t speak or move. She just sat pouting holding her doll in her lap. I looked again at Nadia who made eye contact with me and rolled her eyes. She was also at her wit’s end with the girl. I guessed her to be about 4 years old. This girl had been living in my house and yet I had no idea who she was or from where she came. I also felt like asking would make me sound crazy, so I walked slowly back upstairs to my bedroom and sat down and tried to recall who she was.
I’m not sure what happened during the night. It seemed like only yesterday I lived in this house with my teenage boy. We had a couple cats and a couple dogs, but they were all gone. I wondered for a minute if I’d been dreaming. Or maybe I dreamed the boy , the cats and dogs. Why couldn’t I remember who the little girl was? How long had Macy and Nadia been living in the house with me? I had one vague memory of pulling the little girl out of the washing machine when she was a little younger. She had the plastic ball of detergent tied around her neck and was dripping wet and covered with soap. She came right to me, but didn’t cry or scream at all. Could she speak? Why was she in the washing machine? Was I really remembering this? It all seemed so far away, like I had dreamed it, so I went back down the stairs again.
Macy was still cleaning in the kitchen. She had a damp cloth, wiping down the countertops and the stove. Nadia was still watching television seemingly oblivious to everything that was happening. I saw the girl again trying to get Macy’s attention. She whimpered and pulled on Macy’s shirt again with the doll flailing being held by one arm. I wanted to speak up and ask Macy why she wouldn’t pay any attention to the girl, but I was terrified for some reason. Maybe the girl wasn’t really there. Maybe I was seeing a ghost. If I talked to the little girl and she wasn’t really there, I would sound insane. What was happening to me? Where were my dogs and my cats? Where was my son? Then, Macy turned around sharply and yanked the girl up under her arms and carried her to the living room again. I followed them still not knowing what was happening. Macy nodded to Nadia to get up and the two of them carried the little girl out the back door into the garden. I watched as Macy put her down again and Nadia and Macy began pulling up the heavy cement pavers in the garden. They pulled up two of them and kept digging. The little girl was whimpering louder now almost crying. Nadia picked her up without looking at her or speaking to her. Macy had a shovel and continued digging a hole. None of them seemed to see me at all and I began wondering if I were a ghost. I pinched myself quickly and it felt real. This was actually happening. I felt paralyzed. It seemed as though I couldn’t do anything about it. I watched as they kept digging. Occasionally, Nadia and Macy would look back, make eye contact with me, and again roll their eyes or shake their head or some other indication of exasperation. I looked at the little girl crying softly. She wasn’t hitting or kicking. She was just held in Nadia’s arms tightly and tears were streaming down her pink cheeks. Her lips were bright pink and her eyes were swollen from tears. I felt intense sympathy for her, but felt powerless to help her. I watched as the hole became deep enough and Nadia placed the girl in the hole. I could feel tears welling up in my own eyes as I watched powerlessly as they buried her alive. Macy had dropped the shovel now and they were both throwing and pushing the dirt in the hole over the little girl as quickly as they could. When the hold was filled, it took the two of them to put the heavy concrete pavers over the top of the girl. I wondered why they seemed to think I would tolerate what they were doing and again thought maybe I was a ghost or I was in a dream. They both looked at me as they walked back inside and washed their hands. “Problem solved,” Macy said out loud. Hearing her speak made it all too real. She and Nadia both looked at me and smiled as though I should be relieved that the little girl was gone. The problem had been buried and it seemed to them that was the right solution. I felt afraid of them now. I also suddenly feared the little girl. Surely, there was a reason they would bury her alive. Maybe she was evil. I’ve seen enough horror movies with evil children that must be stopped. Yes, of course, the child was demon spawn and needed to be stopped. Of course, they wouldn’t kill an innocent child….would they?
Having no other memory of the girl but the washing machine, I started wondering if that had been the last attempt to get rid of her. One of them tried to kill her with the washing machine. I was the one who saved her then, but I had no memories of what happened after I’d saved her. Why couldn’t I remember?
Macy reached down, grabbed her keys, purse and she and Nadia left the house without a nod or a good bye. It was up to me again to decide if I should save the little girl or if it was best that she stay buried. Again, I wondered if she were evil; if she’d done something terrible. Both Macy and Nadia seemed to be terribly annoyed by her, but maybe that’s all it was? They didn’t seem to want the child around at all. If I save her again; if I dig her out of the back yard, who will care for her? If I save her this time, I will have to take care of her; pay attention to her; make sure she doesn’t get hurt again. It would be my job alone to make sure she is safe. I couldn’t leave her there to die, not knowing if there was something wrong with her. If there was a chance for me to save her, I had to do it.
I ran back to the backyard , picked up the shovel Macy had left on the ground, and wedged it underneath one of the pavers. It was so heavy! I pushed, pulled and finally got it to tip over out of the way. I didn’t know if I had time to move the other paver and dropped down on my knees, frantically pushing the dirt away. I saw one of her tiny, dirt covered hands with the fingers curled and hoped I wasn’t too late. I grabbed the shovel again and started fighting with the other paver. It seemed even heavier than the first and I felt myself losing hope. I pushed, pulled and grunted and prayed that I could rescue the little girl. The other paver gave way and now I was back on my knees digging. Her arms were outstretched as if waiting for me to pull her out. The dirt seemed so heavy and deep. I kept digging until I saw her head. The soil seemed to get looser as I dug and soon it was falling away easily. I was able to reach down under her arms and pull her to me. She was alive. She put her tiny arms around my neck and squeezed. I was overcome with tears at first, but the tears quickly turned to terror once again. Macy and Nadia will be home. They will see the girl is back and know that I rescued her. I tried to remember what happened when I pulled her out of the washing machine. They just thought the girl was possessed, I think; that she just came back on her own. Maybe they will believe that again. It became clear to me that it was my job to rescue the little girl every time someone tried to destroy her. I couldn’t worry what might happen to me and I couldn’t think there was something wrong with her. If I had to spend the rest of my life rescuing and caring for this little girl, that’s what I had to do. There’s a reason she’s here with me and a reason I have to keep watching her and looking after her. I don’t remember how she got there or what her name was. But, for some reason, I know it’s my job to keep this little girl alive.
Macy and Nadia returned home shortly after I’d helped the little girl get cleaned up. There was nothing wrong with her. She was quiet and needed a little hug or kiss once in a while, but she certainly wasn’t harmful to anyone. She smiled at me as I helped brush her hair and get her clothes on. I put her in a very soft, comfortable night gown, knowing that she deserved some comfort after being buried. It would take a lot of love and care to make sure she was alright. When Macy and Nadia saw her, the mortified looks on their faces were priceless. They looked at me with fear in their eyes and I looked straight back at them, smiled and shrugged my shoulders. That’s when I knew, they would leave the girl alone for a while, but if they should try to dispose of her again, I would be there to save her.