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Meredith Article by: Kavya Jeganathan & Photos by: Maren Celest & Graphic by: Maxwell Zaleski

“Mommy, can me and Meredith go out and play?”

I stared at the little girl holding a worn-down Teddy’s arm, her little brown curls bouncing atop her head as the sun glinted onto the kitchen island where she sat while her feet swung back and forth mindlessly. Two plates of breakfast lied untouched on the polished granite, stacked high with pancakes piled on one and a pair of scrambled eggs and bacon on the other. A woman with similar brown hair and doe blue eyes turned to face the child, a stern look crossing her otherwise delicate features as she uttered out a, “finish up your pancakes first, sweetie.”

Our eyes met as a weary sigh left her lips, and my eyebrows knit in sympathy. The little girl looked up between the two of us as she crossed her arms stubbornly, a petulant pout forcing its way onto her face. “But mommy, Meredith doesn’t like waiting. She says she wants to go to the woods, today.”

The woman froze in her tracks, a wooden spatula hanging from her fingers as a frown riddled her features. “Not the woods, Mary. You can play outside in the garden, but not the woods, okay?”

My eyes lit up with curiosity as Mary quickly placed forkful after forkful of pancake into her mouth, speaking between bites, her voice lowering to a mere whisper, “she doesn’t like it when you ruin her plans.”

The woman tossed the spatula into the sink before rinsing her hands, as though attempting to cleanse herself of some invisible dirt. “Well, maybe next time you can ask Meredith to talk to me about it herself.”

I raised an eyebrow as Mary jumped off of her chair, landing on the floor with a soft thump. She grabbed the plate with scrambled eggs and bacon and headed upstairs, acting as though nothing had happened. The woman turned toward me with another sigh, her hands loosely hanging by her sides as she approached me.

“I’m sorry you had to see that.”

I shook my head with a nervous laugh, “oh no, it’s quite alright, she seems like a great kid.”

Sometimes the whispers in the dark aren’t just a figment of your imagination

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.”

Oct. 27

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 dunno.”

Oct. 29

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.

She only did what she did because “Meredith told her to do it.”

“Meredith told me to do it.”

Oct. 30

“Has Meredith always been around?”

The woman stared at me with a surprised look etched onto her face as I looked at her over my glass of water.

“What brought this on?” she asked concerned, her voice raising in anxiety, “did something happen?”

I shook my head, hesitantly, placing a crumpled piece of paper on the counter top. Upon it was a picture of two siblings, laughing as one of them whispered into the other’s ear. Familiar brown curls and doe eyes were frozen in time, childish giggles at a permanent standstill.

The woman stared at the photograph with an emotion akin to nostalgia, her eyes lit up in sadness.

“They’re twins, I doubt they’ll ever separate.”

I nodded my head.

“Mary says she wants to go to the woods again today. So, I thought I’d bring her over.”

The woman stared at me with wide eyes.

“The woods?” she whispered, her voice hoarse with fear.

I blinked, but then shook my head stubbornly.

“If it concerns you then I won’t bring her, but I’m still going to go, myself.”

The woman swallowed, nodding her head hesitantly before turning on her heel and walking out the front door.

The soft pad of footsteps behind me caught my attention as I turned around, catching a pair of blue eyes and a mischievous smile peeking out from the doorway toward me. I smiled back, cocking my head to the side curiously, as the little girl put a finger to her lips.

“Meredith?” I mouthed, as she nodded her head in agreement. “Hide and seek?” I asked again as the girl nodded once again, confirming my thoughts.

Oct. 31

Meredith Lucielle

Beloved Daughter and Sibling

Forever in our memory

Mommy and Mary love you

2006-2013

“Down by the creek, hidden deep in the woods, there lies a moss-covered ground where dead leaves crunch as you make your way through the dense undergrowth. As you head a little further down, tracing the stream’s edge, you’ll find yourself pausing in front of a grave staring back at you as though beckoning you forward into its unrelenting grasp.”

Meredith was dead. The gravestone at the entrance of the woods had told me that her body was buried there. But what caught my attention wasn’t the marble angel statue which hovered over the cold stone. It was the worn-down Teddy which sat innocently next to it, seated in front of another grave with a familiar name embedded into it. As if it were a dark omen, I stared at the bear’s beady black eyes that watched me as though mocking my current predicament.

Mary Lucielle

Beloved Daughter

You will be missed

Mommy loves you

2006-2013

Meredith was dead.

But, so was Mary.

Not everything is as it seems

Kavya Jeganathan can be reached at kjeganathan@umass.edu.

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