The woman smiled softly, as though remembering something from the past before her gaze focused back onto me. “Thank you for agreeing to babysit. My job runs from five to nine, and I really need someone to look after her till then. I’ll pay you once I get back for the night.”
I nodded my head kindly, following the woman to the door as she grabbed a coat and her purse, waving from the driveway as she got into her car and drove off on the asphalt covered road.
The running of feet on the first floor caught my attention, forcing me to make my way up the carpeted stairway, my fingers sliding up the mahogany colored banister. At the end of the hall lay a white painted door, where little stick figure drawings of two girls holding hands were sloppily stuck all over its surface.
Giggles erupted from the interior as I made my way toward the room, pausing a moment before turning the knob and making my way inside.
Mary sat there, in the center of the room, her Teddy resting in her lap and the plate of bacon and eggs laying in front of her, completely licked clean.
I watched her as she put a finger to her lips, a giggle erupting from them as the sound of footsteps running across the hallway from behind me forced me to whip around. My eyes widened as Mary spoke: “Meredith says we don’t need a babysitter.”
I turned around to gaze at the child who held her Teddy close to her chest, two chubby arms wrapped protectively around him. I slowly knelt down to her level, throwing her a gentle smile.
“Is Meredith your friend?” I asked curiously as the girl began to furiously shake her head as though I’d somehow offended her.
“No. Meredith is my sister. She’s my twin.”
Two fingers grabbed onto my pinky as we made our way onto a trail which traced the edge of a gushing stream on the periphery of the suburban home. Mary hummed a playful tune as I watched her fondly, the worn-down Teddy in her arms dangling from her fingers as she skipped beside me. Her eyes took in the dead leaves lying on the trail floor, crunching them with her sneakers and then gleefully laughing as a wisp of dust puffed out from under her shoes.
As we reached the edge of the woods, I paused, forcing the little girl to bump into me as her hands clutched onto her Teddy anxiously.
“Meredith says she wants to go in,” she muttered under her breath as I looked down at her, blue doe eyes gazing up at me matter-of-factly. I sighed, before my gaze flitted back up toward the dense undergrowth, barely allowing any sunlight to penetrate through its surface.
“She says she wants to show me something,” Mary continued, as my eyes look back at her form in curiosity.
“What is it that she wanted to show you?” I questioned, taking in the child-like innocent shrug as the girl began to pick at a loose thread sticking out of her Teddy bear’s ear.
I rushed into the room as Mary stood atop the sill of the floor-to-ceiling windows in the library, her little hands clutching her Teddy as the chilled autumn air forced her nightgown to shiver. My eyes widened as the little girl turned toward me, a haunted look in her gaze, forcing me to move into action. As I took a step forward, she took a step back, now standing on the edge of the window, inches away from a fall which would lead straight to her demise.
In two quick strides, I was at her side, scooping her up into my arms as she trembled, laying her head onto my shoulder. She didn’t fight me as we made our way back to her room. My mind screamed at me to say something but my lips were sealed shut at a loss for words. The thought that I should bring this to her mother’s attention sifted through my mind but was quickly shattered as the little girl began to murmur. The soft whisper that filled my ear as a ghost of warm breath fell upon my neck made me freeze in my tracks.