This was going to be it. This time I was in a good spot to beat the race. I had participated in several tournaments and never won anything but this time I had great chance of reaching first place. I focused on the road and made a perfect turn passing one of my opponents. There was only one left for first place now, my biggest rival who had beaten me so many times before, but I was not letting her do it this time. It was one turn left and that was it. It had to be perfect.
As I approached the turn my hearth beat fast. I was right behind her tail and I could picture her feeling all confident about herself, sure that she’d take home her fifth tournament in a row, but that was not going to happen this time and I longed to see her face after being beaten by a novice like me. The last turn approached and I took a deep breath to regain focus. The turn was here and I used the boost I had saved. Excitement filled me as I flew ahead of her. I was seconds away from the finish line, feeling like nothing could stop me, but then everything turned black.
“Hey,” I said, staring at the blank TV screen. “I was about to win, why did you do that for?” I have to admit, I had to hold back tears even if I was old enough not to cry over a stupid video game. Nine year old girls could cry sometimes yes, but only little girls cried over silly things like this.
“I just didn’t feel like playing anymore,” my friend Ally said with a shrug and put her controller away, like she didn’t knew I was about to beat her.
“Fine, but I won this time.” I threw my controller back, crossing my arms, muttering something under my breath. Winning didn’t mean that much to me as long as I got to play, but was one time asking for too much?
“Nu-hu. You never finished so it doesn’t count.” she stuck her tongue out. I wasn’t mad but I reached for a pillow and threw it at her. She giggled and threw it back harder and just as in my many imaginations of sleepovers, the mandatory pillow fight begun.
We threw, hit and played with the pillows while giggling and jumping around on her bed. I didn’t fear falling down because her bed was big like everything else in her house, like the TV, the hot tub, the pool and all the other luxuries. It was nothing like the tiny house I lived in. I remember asking her the first time I was there if one of her parents was a celebrity or something. I must have embarrassed myself because she said ‘no, why?’ like if everyone lived in a house like that. I was afraid that if she’d ever go to my house she would ask if my parents were rats.
My house wasn’t really small and dirty like a rat nest; I tend to exaggerate things or sometimes I like to pretend that I’m a little mouse. Anyway, I guess my house was pretty average; big enough for me, mommy and daddy. I liked it, but I really wished we had room for another family member. I begged but mommy said she didn’t want any more children.
I cured my loneliness by pretending I had my own twin sister. I called her Bella. At first I just played with her, but after that I figured since we were twins and looked the same I could also be her too. We were different in how we were though so I picked whoever fit my mood the best that day. My parent’s just shook their heads and refused to call me Bella when I pretended to be her.
The fun stopped at school when I was six and people started to wonder why I sometimes laughed for no apparent reason or wanted to be called by different names. It was also confusing for the teachers when I turned in two homeworks every week, one by me and one by Bella. They eventually made me go talk with the school counselor regularly and after a couple of weeks, Bella were expelled and hopefully out of my head too.
Things turned better last year when I started third-grade and met Ally. I let Bella out of the world then and now I was in fact at a real sleepover throwing pillows and not at home pretending I was.
The pillow fight went on. We didn’t bother to pick up the ones that had landed too far away on the floor we were eventually out of them. When that happened we began wrestling instead. I refused to lose my balance as she tried to get me down on the bed. I escaped from her grip and jumped around while she tried to catch me again. She chased me until I surrendered and let myself fall down on the bed because I was afraid that if I jumped more the pizza I had earlier would make its way up my throat.
“I think I won again,” Ally said and hit me with a pillow she had picked up from next to the bed.
“Whatever,” I said. She threw the pillow away and let herself fall too and we lay down next to each other catching our breaths. “You only cheat.”
Ally stuck her tongue out and then she said “I think its pajamas time.”
“Okay, I think I left mine downstairs.” I didn’t mind to put it on early. This was my first sleepover and I had pictured that you ran around in your pajamas throwing pillows at each other all the time. I was about to get up when I remember how my pajamas looked. The pastel pink color together with the bunnies, carrots and flower prints could as well have been designed to be worn by a toddler, and I had owned it since I was eight so it was a little small too. Ally surely had something newer and less babyish to wear and even if she didn’t say anything I would probably embarrass myself.
“Get up then,” she said and gave me a tickle on my side. I wasn’t really feeling doing so when I thought about what I had to put on so I didn’t move. She moved closer and sat down on top of my tummy. I giggled and squirmed while at same time messing up the cover on the bed as she tickled me everywhere.
“Ok, ok, stop!” I pushed her off and sat up because I was sure that if she tortured me more, the soda I had earlier would make the bottom of my pants wet and then I would probably die of embarrassment.
“Go down and get it then.” She sat up too.
When I went to the door I couldn’t help but to take up a pillows and throw it at her. I spun around and aimed at her face and threw it the hardest I could.
“Ha, I won!” I put my hand in the air to declared victory. Then I saw how she bent over laughing. I had missed. I clenched my hand into a fist and put it down while letting out a frustrated sigh. I had a smile on my face as I went out though. It was still the best night ever and it was going to be the best week ever. Ally was my first real friend and I dreamed that maybe one day we could call ourselves best friends.
On my way downstairs I ran into her sister Alexis. She was ten years older than us and I was usually shy around teenagers but not to her. When she looked down at me with her gentle smile, being an only child, I wished I had a sister like that, a real one and not just in my dreams, however, I knew it was impossible.
“How’s it going Amber?” She asked, while fixing my long chestnut brown hair that had been messed up from the pillow fight.
“Good. We’re getting our PJs on,” I said.
“That’s great! Listen, I’m here for you. If you ever need anything or if Ally is mean or does something bad just tell me. I’ll make her stop,” Alexis said. Ally’s parents weren’t at home so she was in charge of us.
“It’s okay,” I said.
I continued to go down to get my bag. When I found it in the hall I decided I could just as well change down there and I began putting it on. I actually liked my pajamas and hoped I didn’t get teased.
The stuffed bunny I still slept with every night wasn’t going to help me in case I got teased either. I picked her up from my bag and hugged her hard because this night I feared she would have to sleep alone. I whispered good-night in her ear, but when I looked her in the eyes, I couldn’t tell her I had to leave her there so I had to bring her up with me. If Ally teased me I could tell Alexis.
I pulled out my long hair that had gotten behind my tight pajamas top before I went upstairs again. I walked straight into Alexis who came out from Ally’s room. She smiled and let me in.
I saw Ally who had also changed into her pajamas lying on her bed. Her pajamas were at least as childish as mine with baby blue with teddies and stars on, it wasn’t as tight though.
“Hey bunny girl,” she said. “I like her,” she looked at the bunny in my arms.
“Thanks.” I stroke the bunny over her ears and kissed her head feeling sorry for even thinking about leaving her in my bag. Then I felt a scent of something that hadn’t been in the room before. It smelled fresh, like the candles mommy used before we had guests. I knew it came from something but I couldn’t tell exactly what it was.
“I have a teddy!” She picked something up. It was a cute pink teddy with a bow on its head. She hugged it tight.
“We aren’t going to bed now right?” I asked and climbed up in her bed letting my bunny say hello to her teddy.
“Not yet. Meanie told us that we could only stay up until ten.” She backed with her teddy which she told me was shy.
“You’re sister isn’t a meanie,” I said, hoping she knew how lucky she was.
“Uh hu she is. You don’t know because you’re not living with her,” Ally said. Ally took her sister too much for granted. Being jealous wasn’t really going to help me feel better, but I couldn’t help it as I sat there wishing I could call someone a meanie for giving me a ten-o-clock bed time or rather I wished I had someone I could call my sister.
“So what are we doing now?” I crawled over and sat down next to her in bed.
“What about a movie?” Ally suggested.
“Sure,” I said.
“What do you wanna watch?” She asked and pointed at a shelf that was crammed with DVDs and video games. “Go and pick one.”
I didn’t have any movies at home and there were so many in there I wanted to watch so I couldn’t pick one right away.
“Hurry,” Ally said.
“What about this one?” I held up Cinderella. I had actually seen it before with my cousin but I wanted to watch it again.
“No,” Ally said.
“Ok, this one?” I held up the little mermaid.
“Those are baby movies silly. I have them there because I haven’t given them away to some baby yet.”
“Oh ok.” My face turned red and I put the Little Mermaid back. Could I stop embarrassing myself already? I took my time to pick the next movie. “What about this one then?” I held up the Parent Trap.
“Booooring.” Ally sighed.
“You pick one then,” I said.
Ally got up from bed and sat down next to me.
“No kidding you couldn’t find a good one; it’s only baby movies in here. Meanie must have put the good ones away. Wait here.” Ally walked out of the room. When she moved I thought I heard a rustling sound. I waited in bed and when she came back she had three movies with her, all of them with scary covers.
“Pick one!” She held them up
“Uhmm, that one,” I said and picked one randomly, not daring to read the titles because the covers looked scary.
Ally grinned. “Sure.” She opened it and put the disc into her player. “Want some snacks?” She asked while the player swallowed the disc.
“Yea, and some more soda please,” I added because I felt rather thirsty from all the playing. I thought Ally was going to bring us them herself but then she went to her door and called.
“Alex! Come here!” and after a moment her sister came.
“What is it?” She asked.
“We want snacks and soda and please hurry,” Ally said, tapping her feet.
“Okay, but no soda right before bedtime. Are you going to watch a movie?”
“Yes,” Ally said.
“Which one are you going to watch?”
I felt a pit in my tummy because it was wrong to lie but I said nothing.
“Good choice. I’ll get you some snacks and water then,” Alexis said and turned to leave.
“But Amber wanted soda and she’s our guest.” Ally complained while tugging her sister’s shirt just as she was about to leave. I thought she didn’t really have to. She was being too nice to us already.
“Ok, fine. But you only get one glass each,” Alexis said.
When her sister left, Ally looked at me and said. “I’m going to turn off the lights.”
With a click the room turned black, except for the lamp next to her bed.
“Cozy, huh?” she whispered and climbed back up in bed.
“Yea,” I replied. In truth, I didn’t really like the dark. At home I even slept with a night light sometimes and I even had it with me in my bag. I could never tell Ally that because then I would be a total baby. Mommy had insisted I took it with me though in case I had nightmares.
Alexis came back with our snacks and soda. It was a bowl of popcorn and two glasses of cola. She placed the glasses on the night stand and put the bowl between us. “There you go girls. Anything else?” she asked.
“No. Leave us,” Ally said and stood up to push away her sister.
“Ok, enjoy the movie…” Alexis shook her head and left us. I would rather have here there to watch the scary movie with us and watched as she left.
The movie wasn’t as bad at first as the cover suggested. Maybe a little scary, but not too much to make me jump. I watched, ate my popcorns and drank my soda. For a moment I looked over at Ally who seemed to be concentrating on something, like she wasn’t watching. Then when I looked back at the screen and wasn’t ready, a scary surprise startled me. I jumped and screamed. Ally looked up and giggled at me.
“That wasn’t even scary,” she said and shifted position and there was that sound again.
“I just wasn’t ready,” I defended myself. I sniffed. There was a new smell in the room. It wasn’t like how it was when I entered. This one almost smelt like bathroom, but I said nothing and since you eventually get used to things around you, I forgot about it as the movie went on.
The movie became scarier now and I had to be on my toes the whole time. Ally didn’t seem to have any problems with it and had probably seen many movies like this one before, with her sister being there for her of course. I didn’t have any experience with the horror genre and I screamed at every little thing but then there was one really scary scene where we both did.
Hugging each other, we heard someone running to our door. Ally quickly turned off the movie just as her sister came in.
“Why are you guys screaming all the time?” She asked, looking at us both searchingly.
“Nothing,” Ally said, moving back from me. “I just told Amber a scary story.”
“Weren’t you watching a movie?” Alexis asked, crossing her arms and walked into the room.
“We had seen it before and it was boring,” Ally replied.
Alexis looked suspicious. “What movie were you watching?” she said and peered her eyes her sister.
“Cinderella, no, the parent trap, no I mean the little mermaid!” Ally replied but I noticed her squirming around nervously and there was that rustling sound again.
“Are you lying to me?” Alexis went to the TV. She checked the disc and saw that it wasn’t Cinderella, The Parent Trap or the little Mermaid. She sighed. “You know what I think about you watching horror movies, but even worse you lied to me!” She took big steps towards Ally’s side of the bed. “You’re a bad girl!”
I sat up and froze. This was almost scarier than the movie.
“Look how scared Amber is! Bad girl!” she yelled at her sister and reached for her. Ally tried to crawl away across the bed, but Alexis acted quicker and grabbed her feet and pulled her back. Grabbing both her sister’s arms she lifted her up and sat her down in her lap.
“No, no please no. Please don’t Alex. Look, I’m sorry!” Ally struggled, but Alexis had a firm grip of her arms. In her lap, Alexis turned Ally around and put her on her tummy while holding her still. Ally kicked her legs around and tried to squirm free. “Help me Amber!”
“For every second you struggle I add three more!” Alexis warned.
“Please, don’t!” Ally pleaded.
My eyes went wide when Alexis gave her a hard slap on her sister’s butt. Ally stopped kicking her legs and another slap hit her. I looked away and sat there shocked, feeling tears welling up in my eyes, fearing I would be next.
Through Ally’s whimpering I heard Alexis slapping her at least five more time, but they were suppressed somehow. It didn’t sound like she hit her directly through her pajamas pants and on her butt. I was sure I heard something in the way.
The slaps stopped. I could hear how Ally sniffed while her sister shhh’d her. I dared to turn around and saw how she hugged her while gently rubbing her back, calming her down by whispering ‘I love you’ in her ear, rocking her slowly back and forth. My tears stopped. I felt warm because somehow their love was radiating on me.
Alexis stood up holding her sister close to her chest, like a baby.
“I think Ally needs to brush her teeth and go to bed,” she told me and carried her sister out of the room.
When the sisters came back, Alexis put Ally down in bed and helped her get under the covers. I looked down.
“Amber, it wasn’t your fault.” Alexis said when she was done tucking her sister in. “I did say you should have told me if Ally did anything bad though.”
I swallowed. “I’m sorry,” I hung my head low, scared my butt was about to get red.
“You’re getting away with a warning this time if you promise me you’ll tell if Ally does something bad again, you’re staying here a week now and this is important” Alexis tried to get eye contact.
“I pwomise,” I said softly still looking down.
“Look me in the eyes when you say it,” Alexis commanded.
I lift my head and did so. “I promise.”
“Good. I think it’s time to brush your teeth and go to bed now just like she did. Come.” I looked over at Ally and saw the she had already fallen asleep. I picked my tooth brush from my bag and followed Alexis out of the room. She led me into the bathroom where she left me and said good-night and sleep well.
The strong taste of mint filled my mouth when I made sure to reach every tooth because I hated going to the dentist. I looked at myself in the mirror and saw my tear stained face and that my eyes were puffed red.
My legs crossed and I realized I had waited long before going to the bathroom. I quickly opened the lid, pulled down my pants and panties before sitting down to relieve myself. I wiped myself, flushed the toilet and washed my hands before I made my way back to Ally’s room where I crawled up in bed.
“Ally,” I whispered and waited for a reply. When she didn’t answer I rolled back to my side and put the blanket over me.
I tried to fall asleep, but I wasn’t used to sleep at someone else’s place. I moved around and shifted position but couldn’t lay comfortable. Ally’s bed was softer than mine and I thought I was going to like it at first but it wasn’t as nice as I thought.
In the dark, I heard something and sat up. I reached for my bunny, held her close at my chest and I felt how my heart beat fast. I was sure that something was standing at the door. I stopped breathing. I narrowed my eyes to see better and saw that there was nothing there. I started breathing again, laid down and closed my eyes.
When I was about to fall asleep Ally poked me. “Hey,” she said. She sat up and turned the lights on.
“Wanna play video games?” She started into nothing with a weird smirk on her face.
“Sure,” I said while blinking to get used to the light. Ally didn’t move. Instead she sat there looking at me.
“What?” I asked, maybe she wanted me to go and turn on her video game; I wasn’t sure how though as I didn’t own a video game console myself. Then I noticed a faint pounding, like someone was hitting a hammer on something in an even beat.
“Oh no,” she said with a tone that sounded indifferent like she didn’t mean it. “We have to get out.” She slid off the bed.
“Why?” I asked and looked at her strangely. Then I felt how the pounding coming closer.
“Someone is coming.” I saw Ally dashing to the door. “Hurry or he’ll come for you!” The pounding got stronger and stronger.
“Who is?” I asked while the beat was slamming on my chest.
“The Axeman, he’s here!” Ally yelled.
“Wait!” I yelled back and tried to get up from bed and follow her, but the pounding was somehow pushing me back. “Help me Ally!” I couldn’t move as I was held back by the hammering sound.
I saw Ally leaving the room. The pounding beat was somehow forcing me down on the bed and it was so loud I couldn’t hear anything. I thought it was going to compress my chest but then it stopped. I caught a gasping breath. Paralyzed, I had my vision fixed on the door. Nothing moved but then everything happened in what seemed like a minute but happened actually in maybe just a few seconds. I saw a man with his face covered by a black cloth rushing in towards me. I gasped as he swung his axe and I tried to scream but my voice failed. When the axe was an inch away from cleaving me into two pieces he disappeared. I saw him vanishing into blue sparks.
I sat up with a start. I panted and I felt sweat drops running down my back. I tried to figure out what was happening and where I was. Did I die? No, as I looked around I saw that I was still in Ally’s room. Her room was nice so it couldn’t be hell but it wasn’t quite as I pictured heaven either with all the fluffy clouds and stuff.
The room was dark again and I saw her sleeping next to me.
Shaking I let out a relived sigh when I figured that everything must have been a dream. Falling back to sleep again wouldn’t be easy though as I knew I almost always fell back in the same dreams if I went to sleep right after one. It was one of those nights I would have brought my pillow and sneaked down to sleep in mommy’s and daddy’s bed. They had begun shooing me off there recently though, saying I was too old to sleep with them.
The pounding sound started again just as I closed my eyes and when I sat up it stopped. There was no way I could go back to sleep like this so I decided I would sit there until dawn came. I sat there for what seemed like hours but was probably less. I looked around her room trying to find thoughts to entertain me. I felt a need to pee. I didn’t bother me much at first but soon it was all I could think off.
I got out of bed to head for the bathroom. When I looked out in the dark corridor I almost changed my mind. I took a breath and gathered my courage. One step at a time I tip-toe’d my way through, but when I was half way to the bathroom the hammer started beating again.
I panicked and began to run. I ran the fastest I could through the corridor, but then I lost my ground and fell. This time my voice didn’t fail me and I let out a loud scream. The pounding stopped and the house became quiet for a moment until I heard the sound of footsteps. I crawled into a ball and hid my face in my hands feeling the tears on my face.
“Amber?” I couldn’t see her but I heard Alexi’s voice. “Are you alright?” I lied there whimpering. “Hey, what’s wrong?”
“N-nightmare,” I stuttered feeling how I was about to cry.
“Come let’s go back to bed,” she said.
I held up my hands excepting her to pick me up like she did to Ally, but she just took one of my hands and led me back to the room. She moved the blanket and patted for me to lie down. I did so and she tucked me in and said goodnight.
“It’s so dark in here,” I said.
“You don’t have to be afraid of the dark. You’re not a baby like Ally who sometimes sleeps with a night light.”
I just looked at her. I wished she had put me in her lap and consoled me just like she did to Ally.
“Right, she let you watch that horror movie didn’t she? Ok then.” She picked a night light from the drawer in Ally’s nightstand and plugged it in. “Night.”
I watched the faint glow from the star shaped night light as I drifted off to sleep and thankfully without the nightmares.