Sleeping Beauty

"Hi, Katherine!"

"Hey Claire, it's you!"

"It sure is." Claire smiled warmly at her friend.

"So...how's your daughter, Claire?"

Claire felt her heart warming at the mention of her daughter. Just like the old times.

"Oh, you mean Kelly? She's great! She wanted to come with me to the supermarket, but she's feeling a bit under the weather so I told her to stay home." Claire felt her smile widening, and her heart was filled with so much love she feared it would burst.

"You really love her, don't you?" Katherine asked.

"Oh yes, I do. With all my heart and soul. I can't imagine life without her. I'd do anything to keep her by my side. Anything at all."

* * * * *

"Kelly, honey, Mummy's home," Claire called out. She went into the kitchen and dropped off the groceries. She poured herself a glass of milk, and asked her daughter, "Do you want some milk, Kelly?"

She received no response, but she poured one for Kelly anyway. She entered her daughter's room and set it on her dressing table. She surveyed Kelly's room, and was glad to see it was still neat and tidy.
"Kelly is such a good girl," Claire whispered to herself. "She never messes up her room. She knows how tiring it is for me to clean up after her."

Claire was a widow in her late forties. She had a rather haggard face; her skin hugged her skeletal cheekbones tightly and made her appear older than forty-seven. She had dark circles under her eyes due to sleepless nights. Her dark hair was long and unkempt, making her look uncivilised and cold. Some might even say it made her look crazy.

She lied down on her daughter's empty bed and glazed her fingers lightly over the bed sheets. They smelled fresh and warm, just like Kelly. She laid there for a few minutes, inhaling the peace she felt inside.
When she was contented with the spiritual closeness she had established with Kelly, she got up, retrieved the glass of milk, and took it to her bedroom where Kelly was resting peacefully.

She put the glass of milk down. Kelly was resting on Claire's bed. Lovingly, Claire gently stroked Kelly's face and then planted a soft kiss on her cheek. She pushed Kelly's long fringe away from her forehead and planted another kiss there. She was dimly aware of how dry Kelly's skin felt, but she did not care.

Kelly was her perfect angel, her sleeping beauty. She was all that Claire had and all that Claire would ever need.

Despite her age, Kelly was a mature woman at heart. On the outside she was a six-year-old girl; but on the inside, as Claire believed, she was a mature seventeen-year-old. Nevertheless, Claire still felt the urge in her to protect and shelter Kelly for as long as she could, and it had nothing to do with her maternal instincts.

Again she touched her fingertips to her daughter's skin, which felt warm and full of vibrant to her. To Claire, the daughter that lay before her was beautiful beyond words. Sweet fringe that framed a even sweeter face; large eyes that stared back at Claire, saying things that only Claire could read; perfect rose bud lips; pretty face that would leave a string of broken hearts behind it.

If Katherine would to come and visit Kelly, however, she would get the shock of her life. Because beyond the make-believe world that Claire had constructed, Kelly's skin was cold and clammy. In fact, it was decaying. Her hair was limp and dead, and her eyes were hollow with death. Kelly's face was beautiful once, but now it was...dead. She was ugly and decomposing.

Claire's bedroom reeked of death. To Claire, though, the stench was sweetness. It was a symbol of love between her and Kelly. It was the spilled remains of the life she and Kelly had, before the tragedy tore them apart.

Claire had not mean to kill her. In fact, it was an accident. Kelly was six and she was getting in her way. Claire was trying to concentrate on her work. Heck, she was trying to make a living to support Kelly. She had told Kelly over and over to keep quiet, but Kelly had only cried louder and louder and louder, until her cries became a loud ringing in Claire's head. Naturally that set her off. She had took out her cane and caned Kelly repeatedly, until she could hear her cries no more.

Then she had gone back to her work and only realised Kelly had moved on when it was too late.
Claire had vowed to make it up to her daughter. She would keep her forever by her side, and no one could tear them apart.

She climbed into the bed with her dead daughter's body and held on tight. She could not let go.