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This week had something a little different in store for us... we had to find somebody who has not played this season to be our mighty Champion! I was fortunate enough to badger the lovely, talented and all-around awesome [livejournal.com profile] sharya into championing me for this round! So please, go take a gander at her piece! She did a fantastic job on my behalf and I am truly thankful to her.

But that doesn't mean we got to take the week off. Oh no... of course not.


Once again, I lay my entry upon the altar of the mighty Idol gods... may they be merciful.





“Dammit Brandon.”

Lisa sighed as she looked at the shards of broken glass spread across the kitchen floor.

“It wasn’t me, mommy,” came the small voice behind her. “It was the mean man.”

She turned around to find her five-year old son dressed in his Spiderman pajamas standing in the hallway behind her.

“Again, huh?” She asked.

The boy nodded solemnly. “Uh huh.”

“You know, that’s the third glass the mean man has broken this week,” she said. “If he can’t get a drink of water without breaking them, maybe he should learn to ask for help.”

Brandon stared at her with his large brown eyes but said nothing. Lisa just shook her head as she looked at the shards of glass twinkling in the sunlight that poured through the window.

“Can I have some cereal?” Brandon asked.

“You’re going to have to wait until I get this cleaned up.”

“Okay.”

“If you want something to drink, use your plastic cups from now on,” she said. “Now go watch your cartoons while I clean this mess up. Again.”

“Okay.”

The boy turned and walked down the hall toward the living room. A moment later, the television turned on and the sound of cartoon voices filled the house. Lisa grabbed the broom and dustpan out of the closet and set about sweeping up the broken glass. As she leaned down to sweep the shards into the dustpan, a butcher knife fell off of the counter, the tip of the blade burying itself into the floor inches from her foot.

“Jesus Christ.” Startled, Lisa dropped the dustpan and backed away from the knife, the glass tinkling at it hit the ground.

“The mean man says he doesn’t like you.”

Lisa spun around to find Brandon standing in the doorway to the kitchen looking at her, an inscrutable expression on his face. Taking several deep breaths, Lisa tried to slow her heartbeat.

“Oh he doesn’t, huh?”

Brandon shook his head. “He says you need to be nicer to me.”

Anger coursed through Lisa like an electrical current. She fought to bring it under control before speaking.

“Brandon,” she said through gritted teeth. “Go to your room. Right now.”

“But mommy—”

“Now, Brandon”

He huffed and started to cry as he turned and fled down the hallway followed by his bedroom door slamming shut a moment later. Lisa walked out to the living room and shut the television off, taking a moment to compose herself before returning to the kitchen. She pried the knife out of the scarred linoleum flooring and returned it to the block on the counter. She didn’t remember pulling it out of the block to begin with but she supposed it was possible. She was forgetful sometimes. Lisa finished cleaning up the glass, grabbed a cup of coffee and stepped out onto the back patio.

She looked over the almond orchard that lay on the other side of the small dirt lane across from the house. The view wasn’t much but it was hers. Lisa had scrimped and saved and used the small inheritance her parents had left her to buy the house a few months ago. Brandon’s father had disappeared shortly after Lisa told him she was pregnant but she didn’t care. He’d been a bad mistake after too many shots of tequila one night. Though she wouldn’t regret it because Brandon was a blessing to her. And she was determined to build a good life for her son and fill it with more love than even two parents could have given him. Taking the keys from the realtor had been the first step down that path and had send a surge of excitement and electricity through her body like nothing else in her life ever had.

*******


She woke with a gasp, fighting for air and clawing at the hands that Squeezed her throat. Heat flared in her cheek, stinging and feeling like she’d been slapped. Eyes wide, Lisa sat up and looked around for her assailant. Brandon stood in the doorway silhouetted by the faint light coming from the living room otherwise the room was empty. But she couldn’t shake the feeling that there was somebody else there with her.

“Bad dreams, mommy?”

She coughed, her throat dry. “Why aren’t you in bed?”

“I had a bad dream too,” he said. “Can I sleep with you?”

Still feeling like there were eyes on her, Lisa patted the bed.

“Sure, hop on in,” she said. “I just need to go to the little girl’s room.”

Brandon ran and jumped into the bed, immediately curling up beneath the blankets and adjusting the pillows. Lisa slipped out of bed and walked into the bathroom. Turning on the light and shutting the door behind her, Lisa quickly looked into the mirror. Her eyes grew wide as she touched the dark bruising on her neck and the angry red spot on her cheek with trembling hands.

“What the hell?” She whispered.

“Mommy,” Brandon called from the bedroom. “Are you coming back soon?”

Had she somehow done it to herself? As she scratched and clawed at the hands that reached for her in her dream, did she somehow manage to injure herself?

“Y- yes honey,” she said. “I’ll uh, be right there.”

She took one last look in the mirror, her heart racing and a cold serpent of ice slithering its way down her spine. Lisa tore her eyes away, scared and confused and made her way back to bed. She got under the covers and pulled Brandon close.

“Did the mean man hurt you, mommy?” Brandon whispered.

Turning to him, Lisa looked into his wide, scared eyes.

“Why would you ask me that?”

“He told me he’d teach you your place.”

She reached out and stroked his hair.

“Brandon, there is no mean man,” she whispered. “Where are you getting all of this? I didn’t teach you to talk like this.”

Tears rolled down his cheeks which Lisa promptly wiped away.

“He’s real mommy,” he said. “I’m scared.”

She held Brandon close until he fell asleep. She remained awake long after, thoughts about bruises on her neck occupying her mind. Lisa never felt like she was alone in that room but eventually the darkness of sleep pulled her under.


*******



“I’ve seen you,” the voice came from behind her. “You and that cute little boy of yours.”

Coming to a stop in the middle of the aisle, Lisa turned to see a middle-aged man, weathered and sun-burned standing behind her, smiling. Lisa’s stomach flipped over on itself and a feeling of cold dread settled around her shoulders.

“Excuse me?”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the man said. “That was rude of me. I’m Ted. Ted Anderson. I own that almond orchard so we’re pretty much neighbors.”

Lisa felt herself relax slightly. Though the bruises on her cheek and neck had faded and the episode hadn’t been repeated, she was still incredibly on edge.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m Lisa.”

“Nice to meet you, Lisa. All settled in over there?”

“Pretty much, yeah,” she said and smiled. “I love the area.”

“Nice place to raise a family.”

“So you’re the pretty girl who moved into the old Strickland place.”

A short, plump woman with fire engine red hair and a million watt smiled walked up to where they stood in the middle of the aisle.

“Lisa, this is my wife Annie,” Ted said.

“Nice to meet you, Annie.”

“Likewise,” she said. “I was glad to see that place get bought. It’s been empty so long.”

“I was fortunate to get the deal I got on it,” Lisa replied.

Annie looked around and leaned in closer as if she were about to reveal a secret.

“So tell me, has anything… strange happened out at your place?”

Goosebumps marched their way up and down Lisa’s arms.

“What do you mean?”

“I dunno specifically,” Annie said in a low voice. “But I hear weird things happen in that house.”

The goosebumps were replaced by sudden chills and a sick, greasy, roiling feeling in her stomach.

“Annie,” Ted said. “Don’t be scaring the girl.”

“What?” She replied. “It’s what I heard.”

“I apologize for my wife,” Ted said, looking embarrassed. “She and the other old hens tend to get to cackling sometimes.”

“Oh hush you,” she said. “Why don’t you go fetch your cookies.”

Ted smiled and shook his head. “It was nice meeting you, Lisa,” he said. “Don’t forget to take what my wife is about to tell you with a grain of salt. These old gals love to talk.”

Lisa laughed as Annie gave her husband an indignant glare. She couldn’t help but like them and their playful interaction. It reminded her of her own parents. But as he walked off, leaving her alone with Annie, a feeling of dread settled over Lisa. She looked around for a friendly face, somebody who could intervene and help her avoid whatever it was Annie wanted to share. But at that time of day, the supermarket was largely empty.

“I don’t want to alarm you,” Annie said. “But my friend Janice is a psychic and she said that old man Strickland, the fella who owned the place before you never left. She says that miserable old bastard died in that house and never left.”

“He died in the house?”

“Oh yeah, long time ago,” Annie replied. “Didn’t the realtor tell you that?”

Lisa felt like she was going to be sick and wanted to get out of there as fast as she possibly could.

“No, he must have forgotten to mention that.”

“Strickland was a mean bastard,” she said. “Hated kids, hated dogs… that son of a bitch once shot one of Ted’s dogs for being on his property years ago. That caused quite the ruckus as I’m sure you can imagine. Lots of hard feelings about that. He was a sadistic, nasty bastard and some say he beat his wife to death. Which, if you knew him, wouldn’t come as some great shock. Anyway, he ended up shooting himself about three months later.”

Lisa unconsciously moved her hand to her cheek, remembering the way it had stung the other night. She was quickly growing more and more uncomfortable with the direction the conversation had taken.

“I should probably go,” Lisa said. “I need to finish some things before I pick up my son.”

Annie’s hand shot out and took Lisa by the upper arm with a firm grip.

“Be careful, Lisa,” Annie warned. “Janice says that more than anything, these ghosts want to find a way back into our world. They want to live again and they’ll do anything they can to make it happen. Children are the easiest targets. So watch your son. Keep him close.”

Lisa wrenched out of Annie’s grip and took a few steps back. Her heart raced and her stomach roiled as if she might throw up on the spot.

“I’m sorry, I need to go.”

“Keep your son close, Lisa,” Annie called after her. “For his sake. Don’t let that mean old bastard do anything your boy.”

Lisa turned, leaving her cart where it was and fled the supermarket.


*******



Lisa closed the door behind her and stepped into the silent house, a sense of foreboding descending upon her. Sweat rolled down her back and her body was trembling. For one of the few times since she’d moved in, Annie wished that she wasn’t alone. She’d lied to Annie; Brandon was with her sister and his cousins and would be gone for the night.
“Hello?” She called out to the empty house.

Straining her ears, she listened for the slightest movement or sound but was overwhelmed by the silence.

“Mr. Strickland, are you in here?”

She waited. And waited. When no reply came, she began to feel silly for letting herself buy into Annie’s stories. The idea that the ghost of mean old, dog-killing Mr. Strickland was still wandering the halls of her house began to feel a little ridiculous to her. Everything she’d experienced to that point, the broken glasses, the knife and even her bruising had an explanation that wasn’t paranormal behind it. She shook her head, realizing that she’d been acting like a scared, paranoid little girl.

Taking a deep breath, Lisa allowed herself to relax. She was home. And child-free for the night. She smiled and planned out her evening.



After gorging herself on pizza, Lisa soaked in a hot bathtub, steam and the scent of her favorite berry and vanilla bath salts saturated the air in the bathroom. Her favorite Adele CD played on the stereo and a glass of wine sat next to the tub. For the first time in she couldn’t remember how long, Lisa felt totally relaxed and at peace.

She sat in the tub until her wine had run out and the water became tepid. Reluctantly, Lisa got out of the tub, toweled off and slipped into her robe. She decided that some ice cream and mindless television would be the perfect way to end the evening.

Lisa hummed along with the song as she dropped two big scoops of chocolate chip ice cream into a bowl and after a moment’s hesitation, smiled to herself and added a third. Taking her bowl out to the living room, she plopped down on the couch and started flipping through the channels as she dug into her dessert. Lisa finally settled on a reality program that showed camera crews trailing unfaithful lovers and spouses before ambushing them in public places. At least she wasn’t the only one with a screwed up love life.

The first thing she noticed when she woke up on the couch was the cold. It was frigid enough that her breath escaped her mouth in steamy plumes. The second thing was that the television had been turned off leaving her in complete darkness. The third thing she noticed was the feeling that she wasn’t alone in the room. Her hair stood on end and her skin felt like it was crawling as the feeling intensified. The feeling was malevolent and evil. It was filled with darkness and hatred. She shivered and hugged her herself.

“H- hello?”

The sound of flesh meeting flesh startled her a split-second before her head jerked back and her cheek stung from the impact. A moment later, it felt like a fist had smashed into her stomach, driving the air from her lungs.

“P- please stop,” her voice was little more than a dry croaking sound.

Vision blurred by tears, she struggled to rise to her feet only to feel a hand, hard as stone slap her across the other cheek, driving her to her knees. Lisa screamed as she was yanked to her feet by her hair and her robe was torn from her body.

“N—n-no,” she gasped. “Please God, no.”

Pushed down to the couch, Lisa struggled and thrashed as she felt her hands being pinned above her head. Rancid breath smelling of stale cigarettes and alcohol was blown into her face, making her retch. Blinking the tears from her eyes, she looked up into the face of her assailant and saw… nothing. There was nobody there. Despite the fact that there was a firm hand holding her down, there was nobody above her that she could see.
Her blood ran cold as the sound of laughter filled her ears.

Bitch.

The voice, just as the hands seemingly came out of the thin air above her.

Whore.

Hands, rough from years of manual labor groped her body, squeezing her breasts painfully. She struggled and fought harder, squirming and wriggling, her mind and body filled with confusion and outright terror. There was a solid pressure on her chest as if somebody were sitting on her that made it hard to breathe

“Get the fuck off of me!” She managed to shout.

The first punch landed hard on her face, stunning her. The second took her to the very edge of consciousness, the darkness rising up and threatening to swallow her whole. She floated in numbness as she felt the rough hands on her body, smelled the stink of old Strickland’s breath in her face.

“Please no. Stop.”

Filthy stinking slut.

Another fist slammed into her face with a crunch and Lisa felt the blood flowing freely from her broken nose. She teetered on the edge of darkness for a moment, vaguely aware of what he was doing to her body, how he was using her. A pain, sharp and intense flared up inside of her like a ball of fire.

She cried out before the darkness took her and she knew no more.


*******



It had been more than a month since that night. When Lisa came to, the room had been warm and the presence no longer lingered near her. She could have almost convinced herself that it had been an exceptionally vivid night terror but for the blood and bruises on her face, the aches in her body and the pain in her soul. She’d cleaned up as best as she could, packed a few things as quickly as she could and had fled to her sister’s house. When Brandon saw her, his eyes filled with tears and he’d clung to her tightly, sobbing every bit as hard as she was.

“It was the mean man. I hate the mean man,” he’d said over and over.

Tessa had pressed for them to go to the police, to report the attack. She’d questioned Lisa about this “mean man” Brandon was talking about. Lisa had declined and said it was her own fault. She’d been stupid. She’d said that the “mean man” was just a creation of Brandon’s imagination. She knew that she couldn’t go to the police with a story about a man more than ten years in the grave raping her. She’d be tossed into the nearest mental institution. When Lisa insisted that she wouldn’t file a report, firmly and with finality, Tessa had simply held her, cried with her.

Lisa hadn’t been back to the house since, staying with her sister instead. She didn’t know what to do. She had little money and nowhere to go. She couldn’t stay with her sister forever though Tessa insisted that she could stay as long as she needed to. But Lisa knew that she’d eventually need to figure it out.

Tessa’s husband Steve had gone back and had packed all of their clothes and brought them back to the house for her. She couldn’t go back. She wouldn’t go back. Not after what had happened. And what was still to come. The life she’d struggled so hard to give Brandon was falling apart before her eyes. And she didn’t know if she cried harder for what had happened to her or for that.

She could hear Brandon and his cousins outside playing in the pool. Their shrieks, squeals and laughter should have made her heart lighter, should have brought a smile to her face.
But it didn’t. Nothing could penetrate the darkness that had engulfed her as she leaned against the counter in Tessa’s bathroom dumbfounded and terrified. Her hand trembled and hot tears flowed down her cheeks. She stifled a sob with her hand, not wanting anybody to hear her.

The words of Annie with the fire engine red hair came floating back to her again and again… These ghosts want to find a way back into our world. They want to live again and they’ll do anything they can to make it happen.

She’d taken the test three times and it came back the same every time.

Lisa was pregnant.



This has been my entry for [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol Week 35: "Sin of Omission"... and this is Champion week, so don't forget to check out my wonderful Champion [livejournal.com profile] sharya's piece as well! As always, thank you SO much for your support over these long weeks, guys. Your constant reading of my drivel and supporting me means the absolute freaking world to me. We're now at the Top 10 and I wouldn't be here without you! But your support means more than ever! Don't forget to swing on by the polls, read some great stuff and spread a little voting-love around! Thanks for everything, guys!!!
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October 2012

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