We Don’t Talk About Sarah

By Chef Bellemaus

I always wanted a little sister. I would beg my parents, “Please? Pleeeeaasssee?” and they’d roll their eyes and tell me that it wasn’t as simple as I thought. That didn’t stop me from talking about it every chance I got though.

When they brought Sarah home, it was the happiest day of my life. She was so cute! I couldn’t wait to share my toys with her. I started going through them, deciding which ones were hers and which ones were mine. I borrowed my daddy’s label maker and started putting our names on each thing so we wouldn’t get them confused.

She cried a lot at first. I’d ask my parents why she cried so much and they told me it was natural. They said when she got used to us and our house she would calm down and not cry all the time. Sometimes though, she’d cry so loud that Daddy would have to take her into the basement where it was sound-proof so the neighbors wouldn’t complain.

She slept in Mommy and Daddy’s bed for the first month. Sometimes I’d try to join them but they’d always lock their door. Mommy said their bed wasn’t big enough for all of us to sleep in. I was patient. I knew the new bed with the bars that they’d set up in my room would eventually be hers.

When they felt it was safe to let her sleep on her own, they started putting her in it. She wasn’t crying so much anymore by then, and I would lie in my bed and watch her sleep from across the room. They’d take her into their bedroom first and lay with her until she fell asleep, then move her to our room. Some nights after she was moved, I’d see her lying there with her eyes open, just staring at the ceiling, so I’d go over and give her toys through the bars. A lot of the time she’d just throw the toy and then start crying and I’d have to hide under my covers before Daddy came in to deal with her.

Eventually, they started letting Sarah sit with me in the playroom. I was told that I wasn’t allowed to give her anything too small or sharp that she could hurt herself with. I was soooo happy! I would sit behind her and brush her hair and tell her she was the best little sister in the world. I showed her which toys were hers and which were mine, but she didn’t seem to care. Sometimes we’d sit on the window seat and she’d bang on the window while I drew on it with special crayons.

School started back up at Sugar Creek Elementary, and I went but Sarah had to stay home. Mommy said she wasn’t ready for school yet. I’d come home and tell Sarah all the stuff I’d learned. I drew pictures of us playing together. When I showed them to Daddy he’d tell me thank you and take them to keep in his office.

Then came the really bad day. I’ll never forget it. I came home from school and Mommy was just sitting at the table smoking. She looked real sad. I went to play with Sarah but couldn’t find her. When I went to ask Mommy where she was, she started crying. I asked her what was wrong and she said that Sarah was gone. I didn’t understand totally, but I started crying too and told her “We need to find her!” She just shook her head and said she was gone somewhere we couldn’t go.

Daddy took her bed apart. He threw away all my drawings with her in them. He took my nametags off all the toys. Sometimes I’d find one he’d missed and it’d make me cry. I started collecting them and hiding them, but he found where I hid them one day by accident and got really mad. We weren’t allowed to talk about her. It was like she never existed. I didn’t think it was fair. I told Mommy that Daddy was mean to make us not talk about Sarah, but she said it was better that way and I would understand when I was older.

I saw Sarah again.

It was just one time, but I’ll never forget it. I was with Mommy doing some errands. We went grocery shopping then went to a fabric store in Thorntown so Mommy could look at material to make some new curtains out of. She remembered that she had letters to mail, so we stopped at the post office to buy some stamps. I was humming to myself and reading posters while Mommy talked to the lady behind the counter and that’s when I saw Sarah. She was as cute as I remembered. I walked over and looked at the poster with her picture, but they’d gotten her name wrong. Somebody had written her name down as Shannon.

I rushed over to Mommy and tugged on her sleeve and told her that Sarah was up on the wall with the other pictures of children, but she got all flustered and apologized to the lady before dragging me out of the post office. I had to shout because she kept trying to talk over me instead of listening.

“I saw Sarah! They got her picture on the wall in there!”

Finally Mommy slapped me and told me it wasn’t Sarah and that it may have looked like Sarah but I was mistaken and if I didn’t stop I’d get in real trouble with Daddy when he got home. I cried and promised to be good, but even after I promised I wasn’t allowed to have dinner and had to sit in my room that night. I heard Mommy and Daddy talking in the kitchen and they got kinda loud. Somebody started banging open the kitchen drawers and then Daddy’s feet stomped up the stairs but I heard Mommy scream “Don’t you dare!” and he stopped outside my room then went back downstairs.

We never went back to that post office and I never saw Sarah again. This is the first time I’ve talked about Sarah since that day.

Don’t Forget to Lock the Door

By Chef YellaValley

//Changed the title because it was a spoiler.

About ten years ago I was recently divorced and living alone in a one bedroom apartment. The place was clean and the rent was decent. One of those places that had a doorman, I felt safe here. I was alone and loving it, focused on my career and not on my clingy ex husband. Things were finally looking up for me.

At the time I was working pretty late at the office and would often stumble into my apartment sleep deprived in the early hours of the morning and wake up by 6:30~7:00 to start the day. I started noticing that in the morning my door would be unlocked sometimes, I usually dismissed this as my sleep dead brain thinking that the bed looked more appealing than locking the door. Another thing that I noticed since moving in was that I seemed to misplace things more than I used to, little things like a hairbrush or nail polish, that sort of thing. It wasn’t really that big of a deal, just enough to be a slight annoyance in my day.

The longer I lived there the more frequently I seemed to forget to lock the door, at first it was every once in a while then it seemed like an almost daily occurrence. More things went missing, things like pictures, shaving razors and most disturbingly, my underwear. This went on for long enough that I started to get a little paranoid. I started to take the time at night to make sure the door was locked, I got into a habit of every night after I locked the door to turn the handle three times and say to myself “It’s locked, it’s locked, it’s locked.” Time after time I would wake up and the door would be unlocked. One time I even tried staying up all night to watch the door, but I ended up falling asleep in my chair.

I decided that my mind was not reliable enough to stay up all night so I invested in a video camera. I went all out and bought the fanciest camera that I could get my hands on. So one night I set the camera up facing the door. I hid the camera under a pile of towels on the floor. I locked the door and went to bed.

When I woke up, my apartment looked normal. Nothing missing that I could see. I decided to check the tape. I fast forwarded through hours of footage, not seeing anything. I was just about to give up when I noticed the handle of the door jitter. Then it slowly crept open. A figure slid through the half opened door. And walked towards the camera. It paused. Looked around as if it was listening for something. Then walked forward into direct view of the camera. I paused the camera, the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck started to rise. I was staring directly into the face of the maintenance man of the building. I could see those big thick glasses and curly hair. I had no doubt who it was. I played the tape a little more. He looked comfortable as he walked around the apartment. Then he turned and walked towards my bedroom and out of the view of the camera.

I didn’t know what to do, sobbing I called the police. I tried to explain over the phone but couldn’t. Soon enough two officers arrived at my doorstep. I told them everything and showed them the tape. I remember seeing the blood drain from their faces. They promised me that I was safe, and that they were going to get this guy.

I needed to lay down, but didn’t want to be alone. One of the officers offered to stand outside my apartment door as I took a nap. As I was laying in bed unable to sleep but to drained to move, something kept nagging at me. I laid there for a few minutes tossing and turning, unable to get comfortable or rest. My mind was racing. Then a realization slowly washed over me and chilled me to the bone. We watched the tape, and saw the man enter my home…but we never saw him leave. I froze , then started shaking. I needed to get to the front door. I sat up and looked around the room. I couldn’t see anyone. I swung my legs over the side of the bed cautiously, my feet hit the cold wood floor and I felt warm breath on my ankles. I raced out of my apartment as fast as I could and to the safety of the police officer. He called for backup. They found the man under my bed, clutching a knife and a Polaroid camera.

To this day I cannot sleep alone.

//Original title is “It’s Locked”

I Don’t Regret Helping My Friend

By Chef ChristinaMD

Hello, my name is Tina. It’s actually Christina, but everyone has always called me Tina. I’m a physician of internal medicine, specializing in geriatrics, and I have attained the respect of my peers, the hospital that employs me, and my community. I’m not stating these things to boast, but to lend credence to what I am about to tell you. I’m not one who takes things lightly or acts foolishly or impulsively. I do everything with deliberate and compassionate forethought.

My story begins with a friend (let’s call her Ginny) who needed my help. Ginny had just suffered a terrible tragedy (death in the family) and she reached out to me because she was having trouble coping. Unfortunately, I have a lot of experience in dealing with family members and their bereavement since most of my patients are of an advanced age and sometimes all I can do is make the ailing patient more comfortable before they pass.

My friend had a request. She wanted me to meet a woman named Charlotte Bustos, a forty-three-year-old woman who whose husband and nine-year-old-son died several years ago. Ginny said that Charlotte was a friend of her family, but she lived alone and was a bit reclusive. It was likely that Charlotte didn’t know about the death in Ginny’s family. Ginny thought a phone call would be too crass (especially in light of Charlotte’s own relatively recent tragedy) and wasn’t sure the number she had for her was still valid. Ginny thought it’d be best to tell her person. Actually, Ginny wanted me to tell her.

The request itself wasn’t strange. It’s not that I’ve become adept at delivering bad news, but I have a way of staying calm and showing concern that seems to resonate with people. Ginny was still a bit of an emotional mess, lapsing into occasional bouts of hysterical grief and anger, and she understood that she wouldn’t be the best person for this task.

But the urgency of her request was bizarre. Ginny knew that my work schedule was intense (forty hours a week in an office, forty-plus hours at the hospital), and she liked to advise me to stick to my priorities (she even dissuaded me from rekindling a past romance since it was taking up too much of my time). Yet she still pressed me to meet Charlotte as soon as possible. She even told me to call in sick. I’ve never called in sick before, but reluctantly complied since Ginny was starting to become visibly distressed.

I took two days off of work: last Thursday and Friday. Two days because I needed the first day to track down Charlotte Bustos. Ginny wasn’t sure of her address and I needed to confirm it. Being a recluse, it wasn’t easy, but I did manage to find Charlotte’s last physician. I paid him a visit and convinced him to give me Charlotte’s address. I know that may sound unethical, but I always try to act on behalf of the greater good. Ginny was becoming more upset by the minute, and we needed to get this over with. Charlotte lived about fifty miles away and I drove Ginny down there as fast as I could on Friday. It took longer than expected. I had to stop several times along the way because people were pestering me with phone calls and texts wondering where I was. I couldn’t believe I had to justify my absence. People always expect the worst out of others.

Charlotte lived in a quaint neighborhood in northwest Burbank, quiet and serene despite signs of gang activity, but her house was a wreck. It reminded me of one the abandoned homes I had seen in a documentary about the decline of Detroit. I almost thought it was abandoned, but a woman was standing at doorway, behind a closed screen door.

I walked up a driveway carpeted with weeds. Ginny followed me closely, quiet and a bit jumpy. The woman in the doorway didn’t move, she just kept starting at us as if our visit wasn’t unexpected, but possibly unwanted. As I reached the steps leading to the entrance, the woman opened the screen door and stepped outside.

It looked like we had made a mistake. This woman was not forty-three years old. She appeared closer to seventy. Deep, leathery wrinkles were etched into her face and arms. She was wearing dingy flip-flops and a faded Hawaiian dress, a muumuu, that did little to conceal her obesity. In fact, her ankles were severely swollen and her neck was covered with dark blotches of velvety skin – clear signs of uncontrolled diabetes. Worse, she was glaring at us like a frightened pit bull terrier.

I tried to alleviate the situation. “I’m very sorry to intrude. But we’re looking for Mrs. Charlotte Bustos. This was the address we were given as hers.”

The woman spit out her reply. “Who’s we?”

“I’m Tina and this is my friend, Ginny. We’re looking for Charlotte because she’s a friend of Ginny’s family.”

The old woman cracked a smile. “Little Ginny? Is that really you? Seems like it’s been ages! Come in, come in.”

I looked at Ginny. She shrugged her shoulders. We decided to follow the woman inside the house.

Unbelievably, the house looked worse inside. Newspapers, trash and empty boxes were scattered all over the floor. A broken table was propped up against a smoke-stained wall. A feral-looking cat bounded past me and hid in a darkened corner. I was glad I had a full bottle of Purell in my car that I could lather on as soon as I left this place. The woman asked us to take a seat with her on a couch that looked like it had been exhumed from the local dump. Ginny and I chose to stand.

I got right to the point. “We need to speak to Charlotte. There’s been some unpleasant news.”

The woman flopped down on the couch. Her dress rode up her leg and I could see the garbled tracks of her varicose veins against her pasty, flabby flesh. She grabbed a pack of cigarettes off a dilapidated coffee table and lit one up for herself. After a deep drag on her cigarette, the woman finally responded. “Sweetie, I am Charlotte. I know I don’t look my age, but life’s been a hard bitch. And I’m damn sure there’s no news you can tell me that I’d find unpleasant.”

I looked at Ginny. She was staring at Charlotte as if in shock or about to go into another fit of despair. Probably both. I tried to keep the conversation as emotionally neutral as possible.

“I’m terribly sorry. I heard about the loss of your husband and son. You have my sincere condolences.”

“My husband was the fucking devil! Don’t you know that?”

This was starting to get out of hand. I put my hand on Ginny’s shoulder. She was starting to tremble. I spoke as compassionately as I could to Charlotte. “I didn’t mean to reopen any bad memories. We mean no disrespect. Ginny and I came here to tell you that there’s been a death in Ginny’s family and–”

Charlotte started laughing. It sounded more like she was coughing up a golf ball-sized chunk of phlegm. “Why are you friends with her?”

I couldn’t tell if she was talking to me or Ginny. I let my hand fall away from Ginny’s shoulder.

“What the hell do you have in common? You’re not even the same age!”

Ginny spun around and ran out of the house. This was a disaster. I couldn’t imagine how this disgusting, irascible woman could be friends with Ginny’s family.

“It’s clear that this was a mistake. I’m very sorry for disturbing you.”

As I turned to follow Ginny out the door, Charlotte shouted out to me. “Do you want to be an actress too? Like Ginny?”

It was Ginny’s ambition to be an actress. Or a singer. Or a dancer. She had some talent, but she changed her mind constantly. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she wasn’t ever going to be as successful as she believed. But some dreams die slowly.

“No. I’m a doctor.”

Charlotte hacked out another laugh. “So you don’t hear the voice when you wake up?”

I shook my head. Not in response to her pointless question, but over the fact that I had allowed myself to continue this conversation.

“Come closer, sweetie.”

I balked. “I really can’t treat anyone off the clock.” That was a lie, but there was no way I was going to conduct any kind of free examination on this barely breathing malady.

“No. I only want to tell you something. It’s all right. Come closer.”

I decided to humor her. No sense in upsetting a seriously ill looking woman. Cautiously, I crept closer to her. “What do you want to tell me?”

Charlotte snuffed out her cigarette on the coffee table. “My boy wanted to be famous. Joey was so handsome and such an amazing singer. Sounded just like that little Canadian twat.”

“I’m sorry. That’s really heartbreaking. But I think I need to find Ginny.”

“Joey was an angel. Until Ernie got a hold of him.”

Before I could ask who Ernie was, Charlotte continued. “My husband. Ernie. He was a real catch. There wasn’t a drug in this world that he didn’t cram into his body. But that wasn’t why I hated him. He did everything he could to make Joey a star. Everything.” Charlotte lumbered up from the couch. Reflexively, I took a step back.

“He prayed to things that no one should pray to. Unspeakable things.”

Charlotte took a few steps towards me. I took several steps back. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Really? You’re friends with Ginny aren’t ya? Ginny’s dad and uncle were friends with Ernie! They were all fucking devils!”

Clearly, the woman was very psychologically disturbed. As I continued to backpedal to the exit, Charlotte said something that caused me to freeze in terror.

“That’s why I had to kill Ernie, don’t you see? He was turning Joey into a devil too.”

“You need help. Or be in jail.”

“No, sweetie. Look at me! I got what I deserved. I got off easy. And it all made sense to the police when they found Joey’s bones in the backyard. They believed me when I said that Ernie had killed him.”

It was time for me to get the hell out of the house. As I turned to the door, I saw Ginny standing in the doorway. She was crying. How much of this insane woman’s ranting had she heard?

Charlotte had somehow snuck closer to me. She latched onto my arm as words oozed out of her throat. “The police saw the teeth marks on Joey’s bones. They thought Ernie had eaten him. I made them believe that too, but of course, it wasn’t true. I had to eat my boy, don’t you see?”

As I struggled to wrestle myself free from the grip of an apparent psycho killer, Ginny burst into the house, her face scrunched up into a knot as if she were ready to explode.

Charlotte looked at Ginny. “You know what I’m talking about, don’t you Ginny? You might only be seven fucking years old, but you know exactly what I’m talking about!”

Ginny, the little child that I had become friends with, stepped closer to Charlotte. Ginny’s eyes were boiling red and flared open. Her chest heaved quickly and her arms stiffened as if Ginny was a cornered, wild animal about to strike. Blood started dripping from Ginny’s forehead and down the sides of her face.

Charlotte finally let go of my arm and began to back away from Ginny. She shouted at the little girl. “She didn’t eat you, did she? Your mother should’ve fucking eaten you!”

Ginny flew at Charlotte, jumping onto the woman’s immense stomach and knocking her down to the ground. Ginny clawed at Charlotte’s face, tearing away thick pieces of bloody flesh. Charlotte’s screams were stifled by Ginny’s hands, small hands that wielded unbelievable strength, as her fingers wrapped around the old woman’s thick neck and tightened until I could hear the sounds of Charlotte’s cervical vertebrae being crushed.

As calmly as I could, I exited the house and went back inside my car. As I generously applied Purell to my hands and arms, Ginny joined me. She was smiling and looked like the playful, innocent little girl that I had hoped would return. I smiled back at her. Ginny was no longer the least bit distressed.

Ginny whispered to me. “Thank you. I heard everything I needed to.”

As I drove away, I asked Ginny only one question.

“Did your mommy kill you too?”

Ginny just giggled at me. I giggled back. At the hospital, I have heard many stories of lost souls who still wander the earth, but none of them were quite like my friend Ginny.