(Story for The
Blood is the Life: A Frightful Halloween Quest)
I learned how to spell my name at school, before we moved into The House. People said it Marie, or MARIE EVE BRINSON when I do something bad. My parents always said it loud, which is why I used the big letters, even though my teacher told me not to.
The House was huge, and smelled like dead things when we moved in. My mom told me the smell was because the wood was bad, and that I shouldn't go near the stairs. Sometimes I don't listen to my mom. I did this time, though, and sat outside The House to get away from the smell. It made my face scrunch up. The House seemed different from the outside, and looked like the haunted one I went to the Halloween before we moved. It was gray and sagged a little, and some of the windows were broken. The ground was all covered in glittery bits and nails when we got there, so I had to wear my shoes. Dad called it 'magnificent,' and mom called it 'a hellhole.' I'm not sure what a hellhole is, but she was laughing when she said it.
While mom and dad were still looking inside The House, I decided to find a secret place. In the story they read to us on my last day of school, the girl had a secret place where she could go to be alone with herself. I don't know why she wanted to be alone, but I wanted a secret place anyway. I found a good one, too; a little open patch of dirt hidden by a bent-over, branchy tree. My secret place was even better than the one in the story, because she had to build hers and mine was waiting for me. I sat in my secret place until I got bored, and by then my mother was outside helping to unload the truck that brought everything to The House. It was white with huge orange letters painted on the side, and it swayed back and forth when it went fast. The driver had let me sit in the front on the way over, and I could see the tops of all the other cars, but mom yelled at him later for not being careful enough. It was funny seeing her yell at somebody bigger than her, but when I laughed, she started looking angry, so I stopped.
When mom was done moving boxes, I took her to see the place I had found, even though it was supposed to be a `secret' place, and you don't tell secrets. It was my secret, so it was ok to tell her. Dad told me then to go choose my room, but not to go up the stairs because they weren't safe. I didn't want to smell the dead things again, so I held my shirt in front of my nose and mouth, which made it a little better. Later, once we had all the boxes piled up, we went to sleep. Everything smelled a little better by then, but the blanket mom gave me must have had bugs or something, because I couldn't stop itching all night. The House was noisy, too--it made loud creaky sounds every few minutes until I thought it was going to fall on top of us. I got a little scared then, and pulled the bug-blanket up over my head to keep myself from being squished. It was morning when I looked out next.
For the next three days all we did was unpack boxes, and listen to The House make noises at night. It turned out that my blanket did have bugs, and when mom saw them she took it away and gave me a new one. On our fourth day in The House, mom and dad went on a walk. Before they left, they told me again not to play on the stairs or go too far away. Like I said, sometimes I don't listen to my mom. As I walked up the stairs a few minutes later, the wood made cracking sounds under my feet. When I was about halfway up, one of the stairs made a loud noise and disappeared under me, and I fell right through the hole. I hit my head on one of the boxes, and everything went dark and quiet. I don't know exactly when my parents got home, but it was dark when I woke up. I felt sick and a little scared, so I found my room and curled up in bed.
They had a big party the next day. It wasn't as noisy as most parties, but it still woke me up when I heard them through my door. I went out to see what was going on. There were lots of adults crowded around, all wearing suits. I had a new dress, a white one that twirled out around my legs when I walked, and I would have worn it too only I didn't know which box it was in. This one guy started talking really loudly, and waving his hands around. That was sort of interesting, only I couldn't really see him because everyone was in my way. I asked mom to pick me up so that I could see, but she didn't. She looked really sad, and when I looked at her I started feeling sad too. I tried to crawl into her lap, but her dress was too slippery. Everyone else looked so serious that I got bored, and went back to my room. I don't think adults have very good parties. Maybe that's why they all looked so unhappy.
Once everyone went home I came out to see if mom was feeling better, but she was still ignoring me. It made me a little angry and I started yelling. It felt weird to be yelling at her instead of the other way around, but she just walked away. She was crying. I ran out to my secret place so that I could cry too. It was colder outside, and I hugged myself, trying to keep warm. I didn't go back inside for a long time. When I did, mom and dad were pushing boxes out into the hall. I wanted to know where we were moving now. Mom wasn't crying anymore, though she still looked sad, and I ran up and gave her a hug to make her feel better. When I saw that the truck was back, I ran out to tell the driver about my secret place and about the big party. He's not a very noisy person, and he let me talk without telling me to stop, or even asking a question. As I was running around I stepped on a piece of glass, buried in the mud, but it must not have gotten into my foot very far because I couldn't feel it. I took it out myself, and I was so brave that it didn't even hurt.
Mom and dad drove away, though it was raining so hard that I don't know how they could even see what was in front of them. They were talking, but I couldn't hear them through the glass, and the sight of their mouths moving without any sound coming out made me laugh. I wanted to tell the driver about it, but he was inside the truck already. The laugh turned into a shiver, and I could hear my teeth chattering. I listened to the clicking noise for a minute, and then went over to the other side of the truck so that the driver could let me in. Instead of opening the door, he just started driving away. The wheels sprayed mud, and I had to jump backwards so that he wouldn't hit me.
That was a long time ago, and they haven't come back even once. Sometimes I get angry at them for leaving me, just because I didn't listen and went up the stairs after they told me not to. There were lots of times that I didn't listen to them, but they never left me alone before. I didn't even go all the way up the stairs, either, just half. Only one time someone did come to The House--a woman in a suit, with a sharp face. She looked right through me, and later turned her back on my crying as if she couldn't hear it. But her eyes were scared, too, as she walked away. I am alone now, and I'm always cold. Sometimes I want to leave, but when I walk too far away from The House I start feeling sick again. Sometimes I sit in bed in the dark, with no blanket because they packed it back up, and I listen to The House creak, and I get so scared that I can't stop shaking. There is a stone out behind The House, in my secret place. It's like the other stones, only flat, and it got stuck in the ground somehow. And there are some letters on it, the same kind of letters I studied in school. I see my name, Marie. I don't like seeing that. It's in big words, like the rock is always yelling at me for going up the stairs. Sometimes, when I'm sad, I try and sound out the rest of the letters to myself.