Rachel had become accustomed to sleeping in Millie’s bed. For the first few weeks following the murder of her mother, she would sulk to her own room and pace back and forth, back and forth in a panicked kind of hurry. When she changed direction, she jerked to the left instead of allowing for a gentle arc. And when the blood pounding in her ears deafened her and she was scared of screaming, she would squeeze her eyes, swallow hard, and jog in place. Then she would, as calmly as her jittery body allowed, crawl into bed with Millie. But after a while, she dropped the act. Millie loved her and never protested, but Millie was becoming more uncomfortable with each passing sleepless night. Rachel wasn’t really sleeping at all it seemed.
Rachel had announced one night, lying next to Millie, that she would tell bedtime stories every night. Millie thought it was a cool idea—she sang, and maybe Rachel could be a storyteller. It was so easy to forget Rachel was 13 because she was so small, but her bedtime stories were the stories of someone who was finally able to see what had been broken in her life—what was keeping her broken now. For the first time, she understood how weird her life had been. Now that she was living the life of a “normal family,” she was surprised to find that even those things which she thought were commonplace in Mother’s home were not found in Aunt Tracy’s home. Mother was a sick fuck, she thought as she tried to adapt. This family showered her with love. They hugged her when she came home. They talked to her when she misbehaved. They helped her with homework. Somehow, however, Rachel felt uneasy. Maybe she just didn’t know how to respond to their light touch. Or maybe she was still grieving her mother. Her bewildered family had a hard time pinning down her quite palpable unrest. But more likely, Rachel was feeling guilty. Guilt accompanied each hand on the shoulder, each kiss on the forehead, each “I love you…”
When you are loved, you are expected to love back. You are expected to be honest when others have been honest with you. But lying was all she knew. And so she told these broken tales—horror stories from a reality she somehow wanted to preserve—because they were some backwards way of sharing truth, and because a large part of her wasn’t ready to be fixed. If normal people fuck up, then they’re just fuck-ups, but when broken people fuck up, it’s expected, she would tell herself every time she considered honesty. It was so easy for her to validate her dishonesty: self-defense.
Millie had taken to recording these dark stories during her study hall as nearly as she could remember them. This was partly because they were disturbing and she was considering showing someone, but mostly, she had a sickening suspicion that these characters and their lives were quite true. She reread the stories constantly, hoping Rachel would mess up. She could resurrect a character, much like a soap opera in that this slip up would make it cheesy and unrealistic. She could have told a fantastic twist that would have stripped the legitimacy from all the others… but Rachel never messed up. And although the names and even genders changed, Millie thought she could guess most of the characters.
They all began the same. “Once upon a time, there was this lady. She lived in a small town.” And the stories kept coming and coming and coming. Every night there was a new one, each more disconcerting than the last until they took a turn towards indisputably sickening. Every night there was a new one until they stopped. “Once upon a time, there was this la—“
“—STOP!” Millie had had enough. She loved Rachel, but this was getting out of hand. Neither of them was getting sleep. Millie couldn’t sleep after what she heard, and Rachel was far too restless to sleep. Millie told her she needed to sleep in her own room. And Rachel almost threatened to tell on Millie for being a lesbian or having tattoos or for being a liberal. But she didn’t. Because deep down Rachel knew she’d crossed a line. These stories were a fucked way of telling Millie what it had really been like to live with Mother. She wanted to just tell her what she’d been through without all the bullshit, but she was so scared that if she started talking, she would never stop, and then everyone would know everything—then everyone would know she was a killer.
But this fear is so good. I feel alive for the first time. It’s like I woke up when I killed Mother and never went back to sleep. And she was thinking this as she apologized while trying to hide her brimming tears from Millie. She thought of all of that because she couldn’t slow down her thoughts. She just. Kept. Thinking. And her heart was starting to pound in her chest. She quickly left so Millie wouldn’t see her cry. And Millie laid her head on her pillow, alone for the first night in many, and considered what she should do for Rachel. She prayed to God for an answer. She asked that He may free Rachel of her demons. Through only a few inches of plaster, Rachel lay in her bed opposite Millie, their heads together. She was thinking thinking thinking thinking about Mother, about the paint on the ceiling, about whether or not she wanted to have children, about her paper due next week. Her thoughts moved rapidly and almost painfully. These thoughts sped, turned, and wrecked in their flight to gain ahead long enough for her to consider it. But things were moving so fast in there, that she hadn’t enough time to be considered. She didn’t believe in God.