Three’s Company

Story by
Neha Dhunna with Zoha Haque

I still remember that day so vividly.

It was just after my 12th birthday, which I had celebrated together with my best and oldest friend, Derek Parker. His mom had arranged the party for us, but had only gotten one cake. Of course, I let Derek blow out our candles, he was older after all.

When everyone had finally left, we had ripped open all the presents, but… most of them were for him. I slumped in a corner of their grand house, wiping my eyes a bit. Quickly noticing the mood change, Derek nudged me with his foot, and I pushed it away angrily.

“Oh come on Ace, you can’t be upset on your birthday!” He exclaimed, moving his arms theatrically.

I smiled at him fondly, before pursing my lip, “Well…you could take me to our secret spot, then?”

He rubbed his neck looking at the clock, “I don’t know, it’s getting a little late don’t you think?”

I pouted again, looking up at him with tear rimmed eyes.

He shook his head looking away from me “Oh all right! But we have to head back at sunset, got it?”

Nodding enthusiastically I stood up and tackled him into a hug. Quickly packing a blanket and two slices of cake, we made our way to the spot. A couple years ago, we had found this spot playing hide and seek, and, ever since then, it was ours — for good days and bad.

Walking for a small while, we made our way downhill, to where the water sparkled in the creek below. I looked back to make sure we weren’t being followed (couldn’t have our spot exposed now could we?).

I planted myself on the hillside, not quite having the energy to continue; I let myself enjoy the cool breeze, shuddering as it hit my face. I watched Derek lazily explore the area with a stick about half his height, before shifting his attention to the foliage.

Becoming very still he gasped, before running towards me. His skin was, pale and sweat was causing his hair to stick against his forehead.

“S-Sarah…” He stuttered gripping my wrist abruptly, “We HAVE to go!”

I rolled my eyes, “Derek, I swear if you’re trying to scare me again, it’s not gonna–”

“Sarah! There’s a corpse behind the tall grass, we NEED to get out of here” His eyes drifted to the spot he was at before looking at me again, squeezing my arm frightfully.

In that moment, I realized, perhaps he wasn’t joking, so I got up placing a hand on his shoulder, trying to reassure his panic, “Show me”

His eyes widened, shaking his head rapidly, tears beginning to run down his cheeks. I sighed, forcing him to sit down, his body still trembling, I turned away walking to where he was, until I stood in the footsteps he had left in the mud.

“Derek,” I called laughing, “how could you make such a terrible joke! You nearly scared me to death.”

This seemed to snap him from his shock, and he slowly began walking towards me, “B-but, I’m not joking! Don’t you see it? It’s right there!” He pointed to a spot in the grass

I raised an eyebrow, walking to where he pointed before turning to him. “I don’t see anything here.”

He looked like he was about to get sick, holding his stomach. “You’re standing on her hand”

I looked down before stomping my feet viciously, “Just dust here Derek”

He grabbed me away, and shouted, until his eyes became glassy. He huddled over to the adjacent bush and threw up the remnants of the party food he had. I jolted towards him before he fell over. I placed my hand on his forehead as he laid in the grass.

“I don’t think you’re feeling very well…let’s get you home” I said softly, trying to calm him by petting his hair.

He nodded weakly, resting against my small frame as I dragged him up the hill, back to his home. He kept looking back to the ravine, as if something would appear before him. Or something was watching him. Maybe he still saw some toes peeking out of the bush.

After dropping him off and telling his parents how he had gotten sick, I made my way back to the rundown neighborhood I lived in.

After a couple days, I went to check up on him. After using our special knock, I was surprised when his mother was the one to open the door.

Mrs. Parker was normally a very glamourous women, but today she had mascara smeared under her eyes, her hair was scattered, and dark circles plagued her beautiful skin. She looked like she had cried herself to sleep.

“Um, Hi Mrs. Parker, I just wanted to check on Derek…is he home?”

She sighed opening the door for me, “Come in Sarah”

She sat on the couch before patting next to her. I thanked her, taking a seat, swinging my legs waiting patiently, but his mother didn’t move. She didn’t call him, and Derek didn’t come. I looked at her for a long time. My legs slowed. I considered asking, but the room itself seemed dead. Before I could say anything, she broke the silence.

“Ever since the party, Derek has been acting very strange” She sniffled as she spoke, “It started when he told us he saw a blood covered knife in his room. But when we went to check, there was nothing there. And you know him, Sarah, he loves pulling jokes, but this was inappropriate, even for him.”

I opened and closed my mouth, while she wiped her cheeks again. Should I tell her? Did she know?

She continued shakily, “Then he started seeing shadows in his room, a hand under his bed, writing on his walls — every single time we checked there was absolutely nothing,” She placed her hands over her face, sobbing into them.

I reached over to squeeze her shoulder, handing her the box of tissues, to which I received a watery smile.

Mrs. Parker looked down clenching the tissues she had, “My husband took him to the doctor yesterday. They said he wasn’t mentally stable,” she just looked down, “he won’t be home for a long while.”

I stared at her, twisting my eyebrows, like I was unable to comprehend what she was telling me.

I couldn’t understand how I lost my one and only friend. He was always there for me when I needed him; like a big brother. I missed him terribly; the pain welled in my chest. But, then again, he did deserve it.

The corpse? Yes, indeed, it was actually there, and I guess I’m not a half bad actress. Don’t you agree?

I played it cool, as if it wasn’t even there, and Derek trusted me far too much to ever think I was lying. Instead, inflating his own self-doubt.

All I needed to do was plant a knife in his room, which just happened to be the same knife used to kill the corpse. I didn’t bother to wipe off the blood because I knew it would just enhance Derek’s fear. By the time he had convinced his parents to come to his room, I had already removed the knife. On the window sill, then off. Derek had a habit of not bolting his window. I would come over sometimes, and talk to him through it at night.

That’s all I did; it’s just my good fortune that things kept playing into my hand. He was so terrified that he began seeing things that weren’t there. He continued questioning himself, and day by day, his sanity kept slipping away. He called me, told me about it. I already knew the things he said he’d saw. But I knew how to push his buttons. “Really? Are you sure you saw it?”

Derek was granted everything his little heart desired. He had a peaceful and happy family. I had only an addict mother, one who was too busy avoiding reality to care about her one and only unwanted child. I lived in squalor except for the few nights I would sleep over at Derek’s house. And now, as we got older, his parents were getting skeptical.

I didn’t deserve this kind of life. What made him deserve his?

Still, I couldn’t kill him, my one and only friend. I’m not a monster. And even now, sitting on the couch, I felt a feeling of some hotness swell, vaguely, somewhere. I wasn’t just telling myself it: I would miss him. I would really miss him. But I could always visit. And now he could never run away, try to shirk me to hang out with the rich kids. But there is one thing you don’t know yet – who was the body?

I’m not that good at special effects.

And my mother isn’t too good at anything else, except for shooting up and hitting the bottle. Never good at taking care of me, anyways. I killed her while she was drunk one night, she didn’t even stir as a I stabbed her. Serves her right.

Being a worthless human being did have some perks though; nobody even noticed she was missing. I disposed of her body without anyone noticing, and it was probably the easiest part of this entire game.

My façade was a child’s play.

Mrs. Parker was just crying. I rubbed her back, “Well, you know I’m always here for you…” I trailed off the words, made them get caught in my throat.

“Thank you, thank you,” she said. She hugged me – less of a purposeful action, and more just slumping into my lap. “You’ve always been like a daughter, you were here so much with Derek,” the word of his name made her break into a further sob, “Maybe you could stay with us tonight? Or for a little while.”

I smiled. It was okay; her head was down, her husband was gone, nobody could see me. Still smiling, I could make my words croak, “If you think it would help.”

Don’t tell anyone our little secret, or I’ll have to get you like I got her.

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