Welcome to Macabre Macaroni, 2017. I’m Lisa Burton, the robot girl, and I’m going to host the stories this year. I posted my new image full size this time, because some of you collect them. I’ll tone it down in the following weeks.
Macabre Macaroni will post every Tuesday in October, and it’s a collection of micro-fiction from my author C. S. Boyack. Today’s story explores the special relationship between parents and children. Some things are a bit confusing here, but that’s on purpose. It all becomes clear in the end.
Oh, and try not to cry, it’s bad for your circuits and messes up your cool Halloween mascara.
Life in the Shadows
Mindy folded a corner on the book she was reading. Something called an Experimental Notebook of some sort. She looked up at her daughter, Olivia, running around the playground.
Mindy decided to read another short story. Olivia seemed to be enjoying herself and it was such a nice day. Flowers bloomed, and the scent from the municipal rose garden made it all so much more lovely. She turned back to her book, when a man caught her attention.
He was only in her peripheral vision, and looked so tired and lonesome. He watched Olivia as she went down the slide. Mindy panicked and walked over to her daughter. The man was nowhere to be seen. “Time to go, honey. I still need to fix dinner. Your father’s working late again tonight.”
She buckled Olivia into her booster seat and drove three miles to her apartment. Olivia never fussed and always did what she was asked, the perfect child.
At the apartment, she sorted through the mail, then started cooking. “Honey, can you set the table for me? Then you can run upstairs and get into bed. I’ll heat up your bottle and be right up.”
Mindy tested the formula on her inner wrist before heading upstairs. Olivia was so cute. Six pounds, three ounces, perfect size for holding in the rocker while she ate. Ten little fingers and toes. She sucked at the bottle and her eyes grew heavy.
Olivia’s father was missing too much. They needed the extra income, but sometimes it would be nice if he could share in all this.
She ate her meal alone at the table, while Olivia slept. She caught a vision of the man again, from the corner of her eye. She snapped her head around, but no one was there. She went through the house and tested all the locks before checking on Olivia.
The next morning Mindy yelled up the stairs. “Olivia, you’d better hurry up, or you’ll miss your bus.”
Olivia ran into the kitchen, wearing her cheerleader uniform. She grabbed a breakfast bar from the pantry, and picked up her backpack. “Chill out, Mom. I’ve got time. I won’t be home until after the game. Can you pick me up around nine?”
“Sure, honey. Have a nice day.”
She spent the morning reading, and cleaning. In the afternoon she colored the Easter Eggs, and wrapped all the Christmas Presents. Olivia was going to be so excited. The bicycle she bought for Olivia’s birthday was exactly the one she talked about all summer.
On the way to the gym, she spotted the man again on a street corner. He seemed to be crying and watched her drive by. When she looked back, he was gone.
Olivia looked so pretty, arm and arm with the handsome basketball player. She never protested when Mindy honked the horn, and came straight to the car.
The drive home was uneventful, and the man never appeared again. “I made all your favorites for supper. I waited for you. Get changed and we’ll eat together.”
Mindy sat the table like a gracious hostess and waited nervously for Olivia. When she finally came out, Mindy placed her hands over her heart and teared up. Olivia’s hair had been cut short, her three-piece business suit looked perfectly tailored, the huge diamond on her left hand sparkled under the lights. “Oh, honey, you look so beautiful.”
“Thanks, Mom. You really are the best, but we need to talk.”
“I don’t want to talk about that now. We have so much to do tomorrow.”
“I’ll bet it’s all wonderful too, but I’m not supposed to be here. You aren’t supposed to be here either.”
“Oh, nonsense. We have a perfect life together.”
“Life isn’t supposed to be perfect. It has struggles and imperfections. We have to accept some of that and move on. It’s time for you to move on too.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“It’s called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.” Olivia reached across the table and took her mother’s hand. “It happens, and none of it’s your fault. You need to forgive yourself and get on with your life. I need to get along too.”
“Aren’t you happy here, Honey?”
“It’s been great. You had so many plans for me, so many hopes and dreams, but none of this is real. A birthday every month, trick or treating every week.”
“But you’re so cute in your little princess outfit.”
“I really would have been, but it never happened. Daddy is worried sick about you. He spends every night in your hospital room, reading to you. Your coma has lasted seven months now. He can’t afford the long term care any longer, and you have to help him out.”
“But you’re my only daughter.”
“I’m your first child. You can have others, and what happened to me isn’t likely to happen again. I know you’re aware of him. I’ve seen him too. Always there in the fringes. He’s so sad.”
“He’s a grown man. He can take care of himself for a little longer.”
“This conversation always comes back to a little longer. He’s there right now. I know you can see him.”
Mindy looked, and the man was there on the edge of her vision. His rumpled suit looked like he’d been wearing it for days.
Like wind-blown leaves, a voice whispered, “Please come back to me, Mindy.”
Mindy’s blood ran cold and she straightened up in her chair.
“I heard him too, Mom. He’s at his wits end, and his financial end. His work is suffering and he could lose his job. You can’t help me, but you can help him. You can help yourself too.”
Mindy’s eyes blinked, and tears flowed. The dining room faded, along with Olivia. A plain white room took form over the elaborate dining table.
The voice of her husband came across loud and clear. “Please, Mindy, I’m begging you. I’ll do anything. I miss you, and I want you back in my life.”
Like a whisper, Olivia’s voice barely came through. “I love you, Mom. Try again, and stay away from those sleeping pills.”