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 [STORY] THE PLEAS OF MY CHILDREN

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PostSubject: [STORY] THE PLEAS OF MY CHILDREN    Tue Sep 07, 2010 1:34 am

When I stand in front of the mirror every day, I tell myself the same thing: I listen to my children.
Now my hair is starting to grey and there are bags under my eyes. I'm a tired old woman. But I still have to say the words to soothe my soul: I listen to my children.

When my husband and I first got married, we lived in a tudor-style home from the 20s in south Texas. It had a basement, an oddity for houses in that area. Two couples, both without children, had previously owned the home, and apparently they fit right in with the rest of the street. The quiet groves and house fronts were eerie without the sound of a single child's laughter.

Shortly after we moved in, I was doing laundry in the basement when I heard someone coming down the stairs. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw black leather shoes and cuffed men's slacks, about halfway down the steps and moving towards me.

Something about it made the hair on my arms stand up, and I turned away and squeezed my eyes shut. I lifted my voice and spoke clearly to whoever was standing behind me: "I love this house. I'm taking care of it."

The stranger shifted.

"You're welcome to stay," I continued, my voice softening a little. "But you can't show yourself to me. If you do...I'll have to leave. And this place will be rented out."

After a long, terrifying pause, whoever it was retreated up the stairs. I let out my breath and tried to still my shaking hands by folding shirts.

One night, our four-year-old son came into the bedroom. He tugged on my arm, sobbing softly. "Mommy...Mommy, wake up. Please, Mommy."

"What is it?" I asked, coming awake as I sat up. "What's wrong?"

I shook my husband out of his dreams, and we listened patiently as Trevor told us that Lobster, his Beanie Baby, was moving. There were light bubbles in his room. He was too scared to sleep in his bed.

Exchanging a look over Trevor's tousled hair, my husband and I dismissed it as a bad dream.

"No!" he said, adamantly shaking his head, his face set in a little pout. "It's true! Promise!"

He refused to let it go, but we placated him by letting him sleep between us that night. On our next visit to the doctor's, I mentioned this story and was told I should watch for habitual lying.

Trevor grew, and so did his sister, Angie. When Angie was about three, she fell asleep early at the foot of our bed while we cuddled and watched cable movies. We fell asleep without moving her to her room.

In the middle of the night, I felt her little fingers pushing the skin of my leg up and down. "Mommy, wake up."

She'd started sleeping so early, I thought she was ready to wake up. I told her to lay back down.
Two more times, she tried to rouse me, her voice becoming more desperate, but with an irritated grunt I rolled over. "Lay back down and go to sleep. We'll talk about it in the morning."

I almost got up when I heard her sob once, but then she slid off the bed and her footsteps pattered away to her room.

The next morning, when somber-faced Angie came down to breakfast, I picked her up and tried to get her to look into my eyes. "Why did you try to wake Mommy up last night?"

"Those people were coming into the room," she said, rubbing the corner of her eye and avoiding my gaze.

I tried to hide my growing alarm. "What people, hon?"

"A lady and that man," she said. "They comed from here..." She indicated the kitchen with a fist. "And then they were in the hall."

"What did they look like?"

By now, my husband had shuffled into the room and was listening intently, his hand on the refrigerator door.

"The lady had round hair," Angie said, making the distinct shape of the roll-around-the-front hairstyle from the 40s, "and the man had a hat on his eyes."

A fedora. Stunned, I managed to say, "What did they want?"

She shrugged and squirmed to get down. "To play with your feet."

"What...what did you do?" My skin began to crawl.

"I told them to go away. Like always."

The phone rang, and we all jumped. Handing Angie to my husband, I ran to answer it. It was Shelby, my good friend from high school.

"You sound shaken, girl. What's wrong?"

I explained about Angie's vision, and Shelby gave a little gasp on the other end. "Oh my god, that's so weird!"

"What?"

"I was touring this bed and breakfast this morning, and the tour guide said they had some 'presence.' Apparently it likes to play with guests' feet."

A ghostly foot fetish. The thought made me want to leave the house that day. I wrapped up my talk with Shelby and found Angie playing in her room. I knelt and held her face between my hands.
"Honey, Mommy's so sorry she didn't wake up."

"It's okay," Angie said, grinning. "I made them go away. Like always."
She hugged my leg.

When I left the room, I said the words to myself for the first time: I listen to my children. It felt a little better.

But when I say the words to myself, thirty years later, staring into the mirror, I know it isn't true.


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