Her story begins now...
Annabel reached up with lifeless, pale fingers as her glassy, once-beautiful eyes stared into mine. Struggling with all my might, my six-year-old strength wasn’t enough to lift my older sister, my Queen Bel, from her prison of water.
I love you, Sir John, she mouthed. Her hand went limp and the sweet blue eyes drifted closed.
I sat straight up in bed, sweating and choking, with tears streaming down my face. It had been nine years since Annabel’s death, but the nightmares were just as vivid as if it had happened yesterday.
That was the darkest time of my life. Annabel had been my world. I called her Queen Bel, and she called me Sir John. After my queen was taken from me, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Every day I walked to the creek where she had drowned, sitting on the rock that had been her throne and wishing she was still with me.
But, about one week after her passing, someone unexpected decided to join me.
“Hello,” piped a sweet voice behind me.
I turned, startled. “Oh, hello. I’m John.”
The big brown eyes looked me over. “Wow, John, you’re little. Maybe I should call you Little John.” The eyes twinkled mischievously now. “And you may call me Maid Marian.” The fairylike effigy dipped into a princess curtsy.
“Where are you from? I haven’t met you before.”
“You needed me, Little John, and so I came.”
From then on, I spent every day with Marian – until school started. I tried to get out to the woods by my home every afternoon to meet her, but my mother thought I spent too much time out there and kept me in. Still, I saw my Maid Marian from the window every day, watching and waiting from behind the trees until Saturday, when we could spend the day as we wished. She reminded me so much of Annabel, and I clung to her tightly to keep my head above the sea of darkness that threatened to swallow me after my sister’s death.
Now I was fifteen, and Marian had somewhat faded into the background as high school became friends, sports, and homework. Though I never forgot her and what she meant to me, she had fallen to the wayside like so many other childhood things.
Until she returned.
It began to happen at a point when my nightmares grew more recurrent. I saw Marian more and more frequently, watching and waiting from her place in the trees. At first I thought I was sleep deprived; that my mind was reliving memories and connecting with my nightmares. Of course, Marian would also be fifteen by now, and it was silly to think this little delusion was really her. One evening at dinner, though, my mother brought up something that gave me chills:
“I just learned that there was a little girl – oh, about six – who lived around here several years ago. She died in the same spot that we lost our Annabel. Isn’t that a strange coincidence?”
Behind her, out the window, a mocking smile spread slowly over Marian’s pretty face.
After that, she was everywhere: I brushed my teeth, and she was standing in the mirror; went to get a snack, and she was sitting daintily on the counter; went to get dressed, and she was hiding in the shirts. And every time, she would say the same thing: “I miss you, Little John. Don’t you want to play?”
Every time I would leave as quickly as I could, saying, “No, Marian, I don’t want to play.” Eventually I lost my nerve and shouted at her.
“MARIAN, I DO NOT NEED YOU ANYMORE.”
She paused for a moment, then smiled. “That’s fine, John.”
I didn’t see her after that. Weeks passed without any unnatural occurrence, and I had stopped jumping at every flicker of a light switch. One day I came home from school and was looking for my mother. Thinking she was in her room, I climbed the stairs and pushed open the door.
She wasn’t there. Sighing, I decided to check the backyard, where she might be doing yard work or reading on the porch. As I turned to leave, I glanced into the bathroom and uttered a strangled cry.
There was the bloated body of my mother, floating lifelessly in the bathtub.
Behind me rose a sickly sweet voice:
“You need me, Little John. Won’t you come and play?”
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