“Shhh,” I whispered in Mia’s ear, rocking her back and forth on my lap. “Shhh, Just go to sleep sweetie.” We were freezing. I had my arms wrapped tightly around my little sister, our tattered flannel blanket wrapped tightly around our shivering shoulders.
Mother had passed just 3 months ago, leaving little Mia with only me as her guardian. I had to take her, but I had no money and no home. My mom was single my whole life and we had always lived pay check to pay check. The first month I managed to scrape up enough cash selling my mom’s things to stay in her apartment. But when I had no more money and I was overdue paying, we were forced to leave.
There was a small homeless shelter in town and we stayed there as often as we could. I searched for a job while Mia went to school or played with a friend. I found occasional jobs, cleaning houses or babysitting. But I didn’t make much and I needed to be available to Mia. Tonight was the first really cold night of the season. It was November and winter was around the bend. We tried to get a bed in the shelter but it was already full by the time we got there. All we had to keep warm were a couple of ill fitting coats and a blanket but the icy wind sliced through all of our layers with ease.
I felt Mia’s boney arms through her coat shivering convulsively. We really needed a warmer place to sleep.
“F . . . F . . . Faith,” Mia said, turning her little head up to me. “I’m r . . . r . . . really cold.”
“I know Mia, I know.” I said. I looked around for someplace we could go, or even some corner to shield us from the wind.
It was late, and most everywhere was dark and abandoned. The only place that looked inhabited was a small church on the corner of the street. A few dim candle looking lights shone through the windows. Attached to the church was a cemetery, only a couple dozen worn grave stones standing in the yard.
I had two options. One, to stay out here in the freezing cold where we wouldn’t get a wink of sleep. Or two, to be brave and ask if we could sleep in the church.
Seeing Mia’s tired pleading face, made it so there really wasn’t any choice. We were going to go to the church.
“Come on Mia,” I said, helping her to her feet.
We walked hand in hand up the block and onto the steps of the quiet church. I lifted my hand up in a fist and knocked hard on the door three times.
No one answered.
I gave the door a shove and it creaked open. I slid in through the cracked door and Mia followed. The door led into a hall, a pair of glass doors directly parallel to the entrance lead into the main sanctuary.
Through the sanctuary doors I could see candles lit but no person in sight.
I decided it was more important for Mia and I to get to sleep then anything so I took her by the hand and went to look for the children’s nursery. They would have blankets there and it would be much more comfortable then sleeping on a pew.
We came to a stair case with a sign showing that the sunday school rooms were on the lower level. I descended them, straining my eyes to see. At the bottom of the stairs I searched along the walls for a light switch or a door. I found a door and pushed it open, finding a light switch on the other side.
“There,” I said, relaxing a bit. “We can sleep here Mia.”
Mia laid her backpack on the floor to use as a pillow and covered her self with the blanket.
“You mind if I go use the bathroom real quick?” I asked.
“No,” Mia said, her eyelids heavy with fatigue.
I walked out into the hall, newly illuminated with the light from our temporary bed room. The bathroom was only a couple of doors down. I went inside and flicked the light on.
I was extremely comforted in the sight of a clean bathroom. I turned on the sink and cleaned my face with warm water. My face looked tired and ugly. New lines around my eyes and mouth were visible. I was only twenty two, yet I felt my whole life had already gone by, and now I was just awaiting death.
I walked out of the bathroom and into the room we were sleeping in. But to my confusion, Mia was no where to be found.
“Mia,” I said, searching around the room. “Mia.”
She must have wandered off. I thought. Maybe she had to use the bathroom or something.
I herd a door creek down the hall and I went to where I thought I heard the noise.
“Mia,” I said, this time a little bit louder. “Mia!”
Down the hall a door was crack a bit. I opened it trying to adjust my eyes to the darkness. All I could see was a rocking chair, a couple of cabinets, a baby changer, a box of toys, and a door to an adjoining room. I went to the door and tried to open it. Damn. The door was locked. I went back out the door and looked around. Nothing.
“Mia!” I was yelling now. “Mia! Mia!”
I headed back for our room.
In our room was not Mia, but a woman. She had sleek gray hair all the way down to her waist and she was as thin as a twig.
“Hello,” I said, in complete bewilderment.
The woman turned to me. “Why hello,” she said, in a rickety old grandma voice. “What are you doing here so late?”
“Um,” I said, trying to think of a valid excuse but instead returned to the topic of my missing sister. “Have you seen a little girl? Brown hair, dimples, wearing a red shirt.”
“Hmm,” Said the woman, looking into the sky as though she were thinking hard. “I don’t believe I have. But take care not to be to loud. You wouldn’t want to wake anyone.”
I gave her a half of a strained smile, turned, and walked out of the room.
“Mia! Mia!” I stared yelling again. Where could she be?
I heard a scream and I felt my heart begin to quicken.
“Mia! Mia! Mia!” I was speed walking down the dark corridor, looking left, right, up, down. There was no sign of anyone. “Mia! Mia!”
I was at the end of the hallway, there was a glow of light through the crack of a door. I pushed it open. Instead of a room, there was a stairway leading down.
“Hello,” I yelled down the stairs. “Is anybody down there?”
I heard something glass shatter. My hands began to shake.
Swallowing my fear, and grabbing courage from some unknowns source I ventured down into the dark basement alone.
At the bottom of the stairs there was one big wide room, with one old door on either end. There was a chandelier with dripping candles and pieces of a mirror broken on the floor.
“Hello?” I said. Fear swelling in my belly like a ballon.
“Faith? Is that you?” I heard Mia’s sweet childish whisper in the shadows of the room.
I ran to where I heard her voice and saw her, sitting at a little desk.
“Mia what are you doing?” I asked, my voice shaking.
Mia’s eyes were red and her face was twisted with terror.
“Pl . . . Playing,” She said.
“Who brought you down here, who are you playing with?” I asked, taking a step closer to her, my arm out reached.
Mia started shaking her head violently. Silently telling me not to come closer.
“Well well well,” said a deep gruff voice behind me. “Who do we have here?”
I turned to see an old man. Poor looking with a worn old dress shirt and dress pants.
“What the hell are you doing with my sister,” I said, feeling my whole body fill with courage and anger. What had he done to make Mia so afraid of him?
. . . to be continued . . .
Tag der Veröffentlichung: 09.05.2010
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