I haven't seen my tormentor in a while. I hate having him around but now that he's not here I feel... oh, I don't know... uneasy? It's just that I keep expecting him to pop out of the blue at any given minute and continue to haunt me for the rest of my life. I've been jumping at the sight of my reflection, spying on my own shadow and even checking under my bed like I'd done as a child because I'm so paranoid.
'Where are you going, Maria?'
'Out.' I answer flatly, opening the front door before Mrs Kew, Reno's mum, can stop me.
The cold bites at my nose and ears as I walk through the snow and a sick feeling is growing deep within my belly but none of this is enough to deter me from going back to the doll shop. My mind is burning with questions that I want to, need to, ask the shop keeper.
Go back! Go back! That's what my conscience is saying. I ignore it.
The delicate sound of wind chimes infiltrate my ears as I near the small shop of dolls in the secluded corner of the high street. Suddenly, I feel as if an unseen force is pulling me towards the shop. The closer I get the stronger the tug. I'm now peering into the ornate display window of the shop to see if the shop keeper is in. My face is literally pressed against the glass.
'They're really pretty, aren't they?'
The mellow voice startles me. I detach my gaze from the display window so that I can see who it belongs to. A girl around my age is standing right next to me. She has lovely long black hair and an equally lovely face which is adorned with two of the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen. They look like sapphires.
'Yeah, I guess they are.' I reply, still oogling her. She's so pretty she could fit right in with all the other dolls in the display window.
She gives me a friendly smile. 'Are you alright?'
'Y-yes. I'm fine. Why?'
Do I look crazy? Is my paranoia starting to show? Am I secretly being turned into doll? What? What is it?!
She shrugs. 'Well, they say that the wind chimes attract troubled souls.'
'Did the shopkeeper tell you that?' I ask, lowering my voice to a whisper.
'That's right. He's told you too, hasn't he?'
I nod. 'C-can you see... things?'
'Things?' She repeats, tilting her head to one side.
Despite the cold, I'm beginning to feel hot from embarassment. What am I even trying to accomplish by asking her if she can see 'things'? She must think I'm a nutcase.
'N-never mind.' I say, waving my hand in a dismissive gesture.
'Do you mean hallucinations?'
Yep. She thinks I'm a nutcase.
'You know,' she continues, 'just because other people can't see what you're seeing, doesn't mean that what you're seeing isn't real. Have you ever heard of the third eye? Some people possess this gift, and maybe you're one of them.'
'Are you saying that I can see ghosts?'
'I'm saying that you have a gift and that you should embrace it a bit more. Being able to see 'things', as you put it, isn't as bad as you think it is. I see 'things' all the time.'
'Doesn't it scare you?'
She laughs. 'No, not at all. If you want, I can help you to stop being so afraid. What do you say to that?'
'I guess it wouldn't do me any harm.'
Yeah, then maybe I can stand up to my tormentor if he appears again.
'Great! I'm Lily by the way. Let me give you my number. You can call me any time, Maria.'
She hands me her calling card, treats me to another one of her smiles, and then walks away.
I take a look at her calling card and frown. Lily, huh? Well, how did Lily know my name? Did I tell her without knowing I had?
The familiar feeling of being watched sends a shiver down my spine. I turn my head and almost scream when I see that the shop keeper is leering at me through the display window. I don't have to think twice about running back home. I should never have come back here in the first place.