Eileen Goodwill, 62.
She’s sitting in a park staring listlessly at the moving trees. She’s thinking of her adopted child. It’s cold, and she shivers a little. She probably should get back to her flat, get something warm on, but the thought of moving at this moment is unbearable.
Teresa Goodwill. Died when she was 11. To be more specific, she had committed suicide.
There are probably birds chirping, but she can’t hear them. Or maybe the sound of the world is just muted.
Eileen had been young, full of optimism. She could handle her burgeoning career and do a good deed by giving an orphan a good life.
No one had bothered to tell her that Teresa had severe depression. No one had given her the money needed to help treat her young daughter, and she was already overwhelmed because her belief in her ability to take what life threw at her didn’t match reality. No one, not even Teresa’s teacher, warned her that she’d talked about suicide.
Even the light seems dimmer.
She got called in to work unexpectedly, an ‘emergency’, and couldn’t find anyone to look after Teresa on short notice. She returned home to find her daughter on the floor. They’d gotten her to hospital as quickly as possible, but she’d ended up dying later from complications.
The air is biting. Cold.
She went to jail for child neglect. 10 years. She’s not sure if it’s better or worse than she deserves. Because on one hand a troubled little girl is gone from the world, but she hadn’t been prepared no matter what she’d thought, and nobody had bothered to take that into account, to help her.
Like the world is continually judging her.
When she got out, she got the best job she could. It’s not the life she imagined when she was small. And she gives to charity, but it will never erase her sins…
She’s just tired. She’s spent her entire existence trying to make up for what she’s done—
“Excuse me, Miss?” There’s a small tug at her skirt. She blinks, trying to pull herself back into the present.
She glances down to see a girl, tears in her eyes but otherwise keeping herself together. She’s being terribly brave.
“What’s wrong, little girl?” she asks, and another thought occurs to her. “Where are your parents?”
“My sister told me to stay put,” she answers, her lip quivering.
“Your sister’s probably looking for you, frantic. You probably shouldn’t have disobeyed her,” Eileen informs her gently. It’s not a problem that the little girl decided to talk to her, considering her motives are good, but if she’d chosen the wrong person…the parks were safer than they used to be, but it’s far too dangerous for a small girl to be wandering around on her own.
“I always listen to what she tells me,” the girl states proudly, before pouting. “But Murr ran away. She jumped out of my arms and she’s lost and she’s more in danger than I am! Sis wouldn’t want me to just abandon Murr. She got her for me after all.”
Eileen smiles, the burden lifting off of her shoulders. She might have failed Teresa, but she’s not going to fail this little girl, no matter how cold it is, or the fact that she has a weird feeling—all the better than she stays with the girl and helps her.
“Well, let’s find Murr and your sister, all right?” She stands, a little slowly—her joints aren’t what they used to be—but she smiles down at the little girl. “I’m Eileen. What’s your name?”
“I’m Pixie. It’s nice to meet you, Eileen!” Pixie states brightly. She reaches up and takes Eileen’s hand, and her small hand is warm and shy.
“So, what kind of animal is Murr?” It’s a strange name, but she’d named her dog Floppy when she was four, so it’s not like she can talk.
“Murr is my fluffy bunny. She knows who the bad people are and she keeps me safe.” Pixie starts dragging Goodwill through the park.
“That’s good,” the older woman states, even as she’s not sure if that’s actually true. She’s never heard of a runaway rabbit and isn’t sure if they’ll even be able to find this Murr, but she’ll at the least try. Of course this Murr ran away in the most secluded area of the park, where hedges are cut in a small maze. They look neglected, like no one has bothered to trim them and keep them in good condition. They’re overgrown and uninviting. “Has Murr ever run away before?”
“She likes to run away when we go to the park. I think she thinks it’s a game. She’ll come with the clicker, though.” Pixie holds up what looks like a dog clicker proudly and starts using it. The clicking is actually slightly ominous, but if it helps them find the wayward rabbit, it’s worth the effort.
It’s actually slightly anticlimactic when the rabbit emerges from a shrubbery as they pass it not two minutes into the maze. It looks at them apparently entirely innocently, like it hadn’t run off and scared a little girl. Fluffy and adorable.
Eileen blinks. If she didn’t know better, she’d say that the rabbit has…three eyes. But that’s absurd.
Pixie kneels down, letting Eileen’s hand go, arms open wide. “There you are, Murr. I was worried.” The rabbit jumps directly in her arms, as if it had been waiting. Something in her voice sounds wrong—and don’t rabbits usually dislike being picked up? She vaguely remembers that from somewhere…
It happens quickly, too quick to properly catalogue in her mind. One moment, she’s fine. The next, there’s something cold pressing into her back, a sudden wetness spreading. It takes a moment for her to even comprehend what’s going on, and honestly she doesn’t realize until there’s a second instance of the cold and the pain hits her.
“Pixie, run…” Eileen manages, gasping out the words as she falls to her knees, coughing up blood with the force of the blows.
She blinks in utter confusion as the girl smiles angelically at her, seemingly unworried about the presence of a killer. She strokes the fur of the rabbit in her hands. “Daddy always told me that I wouldn’t amount to anything. I had to show him how wrong he was.” She smiles calmly. “Miss Murder says you’re a bad person. You’re the reason your daughter’s dead, Miss Eileen. Isn’t it lucky that your sins always come back to haunt you?”
Eileen opens her mouth to ask a question, deny it, ask Pixie what’s wrong, but all that comes out is a scream as the blows come again and again. Her last sight in this world is the pure, smiling expression of the child as she strokes the rabbit.