I am most likely going to continue this story tomorrow. Either that, or I will rewrite parts of it and the continue it. I’m not sure which one yet. I’m going to re-read it after a night’s rest and see if I think the build up is too slow, or not slow enough. Or a bit of both (i.e. certain parts are too long while others are just glossed over). Either way, I’ll almost certainly be focusing on this story for at least another day. Babysitting gone wrong, gotta love it.
Writing Challenge Day 25: Babysitter (Working Title)
By E. W. Morrow
Word Count: 2081
“Oh, perfect timing,” Mrs. Gruberman gasped as she opened the front door. “Please, dear, come in, come in. How are you?” Nikki stepped inside, brushing a few flakes of snow off her jacket as she did and stomping her boots on door mat.
“Fine, Mrs. G. Thanks.” Nikki began mirroring Mrs. Gruberman’s actions, only in reverse. She unwound her scarf from around her neck and slipped off her heavy coat as Mrs. Gruberman put on her own coat and scarf. “Is Timmy feeling better?”
“Oh, he’s still a bit under the weather, but nothing like as bad as he was last week.” Mrs. Gruberman gave Nikki a wide smile. Everything about Mrs. Gruberman seemed wide, from her smile to the car she drove to her figure. She was an expansive person. “Now there’s ice cream in the freezer if you fancy a snack, or popcorn if you and Timmy feel like watching a movie. You have our cell numbers in case anything happens. Candles in the hall closet if the power goes out, heaven forbid. Charles, are you ready yet?!” This last question was hurled down a wide hallway towards an open door at the far end. The sound of a football game and the flickering lights of a television came back in reply. “Charles, you can watch the game later. Put it on the DVR. We’re going to be late!”
Nikki heard Mr. Gruberman grumble in reply and turn off the television. A few moments later he rounded the corner and waddled down the corridor, pulling on his shoes just as Nikki was removing her own. Mr. and Mrs. Gruberman, each a foot shorter than Nikki, looked like two brown puff balls in their winter coats and hats.
“Timmy!” Mrs. Gruberman yelled up the stairs behind her. “Miss Nikki is here! Come and give us a kiss goodbye!” From the second floor came a muffled shout that was probably something like “Not now” and then Mr. Gruberman yelled back “Mind your mother, boy!”
A few seconds later a short, chubby child in a one piece set of blue and green dinosaur pajamas and a black and red super hero mask Nikki didn’t recognize bounded down the steps. Behind him trailed a deep red bath towel that had been tied around his neck like a cape. He came crashing to a halt at the foot of the stairs just short of the legs of his mother and father then he stood up straight and struck his most heroic pose. His parents laughed.
“I see you’re feeling better,” Mr. Gruberman said. “Well enough to clean your room I suppose?” Timmy shook his head emphatically.
“Oh, Charles, let him leave it til tomorrow,” said Mrs Gruberman, idly slipping on her gloves. “Now Timmy, you be a good boy for Miss Nikki, okay? You can have a snack in an hour or so but only if you’re good and go to bed when you’re told.” Timmy nodded his head in affirmation. “Good boy. Give us a kiss.” Timmy didn’t remove his mask and instead took the index finger on one hand and pressed it to where his lips would be on the mask he wore. “Oh, alright then,” sighed his mother. She pecked him on the mask and chuckled to herself. His father did likewise, taking a moment to ruffle the hair on the back of his head.
“Have fun,” Nikki said as she waved them out out of the house. She shut the door hurriedly after they were in their car to keep out the cold. “Well, then,” she said as she turned around, “do you want to watch a movie, Timmy?” Once again Timmy shoot his head no. “Okay, how about a game?” Another nonverbal negative. “Well, alright. I’ll be in the living room if you need me.”
The boy didn’t leave right away. He just stood on the bottom step and watched Nikki leave the entry way, waited until he heard the television in the living room turn on and the channel change a few times, and then reached up and straightened his mask. Then he slowly went upstairs, shut the door, and waited for the sun to completely set.
It was an hour later and Nikki still hadn’t found anything good to watch. A bunch of reality show reruns and old, commercial infested movies. There were a few bad action movies and a rom-com she had seen a dozen times before and had never particularly liked in the first place. Outside the sky was just losing the last of its color, the darkness of night reclaiming the world for the time being. She sighed and checked her phone. The Gruberman’s would be gone for hours. After the movie they planned to go out with some friends and have a few drinks. Nikki didn’t mind. Every time they did that they always miscalculated her fee, and always in her favor.
From the floor above there came the sound of a loud thump followed by something heavy being dragged across a carpeted floor. Nikki jumped slightly at the unexpected noise. Timmy had been extremely quiet, so far, and she’d almost forgotten he was in the house at all. At least it didn’t sound like he’d hurt himself. More like he’d pulled something heavy off a tall shelf and was now dragging it to wherever it was he was playing. She went back to flipping channels again, but stopped when a second thump, this time followed by a series of smaller ones and possibly a crunch or a snap or some sort, resounded through the ceiling.
“Timmy!” Nikki called as she got to her feet. “Everything alright up there?”
The sounds from upstairs stopped abruptly. No more dragging, no more thumps.
“Timmy! Did you hurt yourself?” Silence was the only answer. She made her way across the living room and into the entry hallway. At the foot of the stairs she called out again. “Timmy, is everything okay up there? Do you need anything?”
This time the answering silence was short and then was interrupted by the scamper of feet and the slam of a door. Then more silence.
“Timmy!” Nikki called in an exasperated tone of voice as she started climbing the stairs. “Come on now, I just want to make sure you’re alright. You aren’t in trouble.”
At the top of the stairs was an open space that the Gruberman’s used as a computer room and storage space. An old, boxy computer monitor gathered dust on a modular IKEA desk in the corner. Along the walls bookshelves full of mouldering National Geographics and a set of dated encyclopedias fought for space with filing cabinets and a credenza full of what Nikki assumed were important family documents like birth certificates and tax forms. At the end of the room was a single hallway that veered off to the left at a right angle. Nikki turned the corner and made her way to the end of the hall, past three other doorways, to Timmy’s bedroom door. It was shut tight and Nikki could tell the light was off. He turned the handle, pleased to find that it wasn’t locked, and pushed it open.
“Timmy,” she said as she fumbled for the light switch. “are you in here? You aren’t hurt are you?”
The room was dark, lit only by a pale, silvery glow from whatever nightly light was reflecting off the fresh bed of snow on the ground below. All the light did was to throw vague shadows and hints of shape around the room, seemingly at random. Nikki found the light switch and flicked it on with a sigh of relief that vanished when the light bulb winked on and then popped and winked back out. The sudden flash of light left its afterimage on her eyes, temporarily rendering the room even less visible than before.
“Come on Timmy,” she said, alternating between opening her eyes as wide as they would go and screwing them shut to rub them. “Just let me know that you’re alright.
Behind her she heard a door creak open suddenly followed once more by the sound of scampering feet. She turned around quickly, catching the barest glimpse of a pajamaed foot as it disappeared around the corner and down the stairs.
“Oh, I see!” Nikki called after the retreating figure in a long, sing song voice. “Hide and seek, is it? So you do want to play! Well alright then. You have until I finish changing the light bulb in your room, and then I’m gonna find you!”
Nikki descended the stairs, listening for the telltale sounds of a little boy, especially a chubby little boy, cramming his way into a hiding space. She thought she heard a faint rustling coming from the left, somewhere in the living room or dining room most likely, but wasn’t positive. She smiled to herself and opened the hall pantry by the bottom of the stairs, fished around for a moment and then pulled out a new light bulb, still wrapped in it’s impotent cardboard protector. Then she climbed the stairs again, grabbed the old metal folding chair from beside the dusty computer, and dragged it into Timmy’s bedroom.
Nikki cursed under her breath as she made her way across the little boy’s room. It was indeed messy, and she found herself wishing that Mrs Gruberman had listened to her husband and made Timmy clean it tonight instead of putting it off til tomorrow. After stepping on the second toy, a pointy bit of plastic that felt like it belonged to a toy tank or monster truck, she resorted to shuffling her way across the carpet without picking up her feet, kicking aside discarded toys rather than treading on them. She set up the folding chair beneath the shadow of the ceiling fan in the center of the room and got unsteadily on it. Her free arm flailed in the dark as she struggled to find the light fixture. Finally, she found it and, after a moment or two of repositioning herself, unscrewed it. She left it part of the way in so that she could find the fixture again the second time as she transferred the new bulb to her dominant hand. Slowly, she guessed her way back to the spent bulb.
Metal tinkled against glass as the new bulb collided with the old. The old bulb, less secure in the fixture than Nikki had thought, was sent plummeting down. It bounced off her foot painlessly and went tumbling into the dark room. Oh well, she though, just one more bit of junk on the floor, I’ll find it later. She groped for the now vacant hole and managed to socket the new bulb in on the third try and screwed it in.
About halfway through the act the bulb flared to life six inches from Nikki’s face. Brilliant incandescence poured in through her expanded pupils in a painful blinding flood. Nikki jerked her face back, almost unbalancing herself on the shaky perch of the old metal chair. With her eyes closed she reached out for the light bulb, eager to finish tightening it before it grew too hot to touch.
So engrossed in her task was she that she didn’t hear the scamper of little feet behind her, or the faint sound of something being dragged across the carpet. Not until it was too late. She opened her eyes, still partially blinded by the flood of light after minutes in darkness, but she saw a masked, pajama clad figure in the corner of her eye, saw the blur of motion as it swung the object in it’s hands, and felt the object, which turned out to be a baseball bat, strike her on the ankle.
Nikki’s body lurched as the weight on that ankle suddenly became too painful to bear and the sudden motion coupled with the change of balance sent the chair beneath her feet toppling. She landed on hard on the carpet below, her head mercifully missing the edge of the dresser as she fell but not the bag of Lego building blocks below it. Her elbow landed on a Power Rangers action figure and a small gash opened up. The rest of her hit nothing more than floor, which proved solid enough in it’s own right to be agonizingly painful.
Then the light above her went out, and the sound of feet receded into the distance.