Through the crack of the door, Phaedra heard the familiar six chimes of the grandfather clock in the grand hallway. “No, not yet. It’s far too early,” she moaned. She turned onto her side and covered herself with the thick satin quilt, settling in for a few more moments of sleep. It’s always cold in this mausoleum of a mansion! She thought.
Suddenly, she heard commotion in the antechamber. In one fluid movement, Phaedra threw off the covers, swung her legs over the side of the bed and jumped onto the floor without using the step stool. She walked barefoot on the gelid marble floor to the top of the staircase and saw Malcolm, the butler, awkwardly trying to comfort Alister Bradley, mother’s friend, who was flailing her arms and weeping.
“Mz. Bradley, Madam will be with ya soon,” Malcolm said nervously.
Phaedra felt her mother whisk by, the sweet scent of her perfume lingering in the air. She watched as her mother approached her friend and said in her feigned motherly voice, “There, there my dear, tell me all about it.” And turning to Malcolm she said, “Bring us some tea in the sitting room, please.”
Returning to her room to dress for school, Phaedra wondered what horrible thing could have happened to Mrs. Bradley. Then, she remembered what Mavis, the housekeeper, had told her and her friend Alexandria after school one day while sitting in the kitchen. Mavis had said that a tragedy would befall Alexandria’s family soon. Mavis must be a fortune teller. How else would she predict things are going to happen? Phaedra thought.
Practically running up the steep hill toward her friend’s house, Phaedra could see her breath in the cold air. She had worn her kelly green high school blazer which was little protection from the threatening frost. As she approached the Bradley estate, Phaedra saw her friend, Alexandria, walking slowly toward her with her head hung low.
“Lexy, are you alright? What awful thing has happened?”
“They had one of their fights last night. It was the worst yet. Father has left us! Phay, he’s gone! What will become of us?”
“Lexy, I don’t know what to say. Hey, let’s skip school and go down to the cabin by the lake. You’ll feel better. It’s your favorite place.”
Walking hand in hand, the girls headed out across the baron field. The grass was turning its winter brown and dark clouds overhead concealed the sunlight. As they approached the tree line they kicked playfully at the red, orange and yellow leaves that littered the ground beneath the old oak trees.
“Hear that wind, Phay? It reminds me of the day that we went on the hay ride when we were eight years old. Remember Mavis went with us because your mother thought it was dangerous? The wind was howling that day and even the horses wanted to turn back.”
“I remember, Lexy. And you wanted to jump off the wagon because you got so mad when Mr. Keenan wouldn’t let you sit up front with him to drive the wagon!” Phaedra said laughingly.
The laughter was soon replaced by fear as Phaedra recalled a warning that Mavis had given her later that same day. “Miss Phaedra,” she had said. “You be very careful, now, ya hear! That friend of yours is evil. There’s somethin’ dark about her!” Phaedra knew Mavis was always right about the things she foreshadowed but Lexy was her best friend and she had never seen her hurt anyone.
Inside the cabin they sat on an old, warped, wooden bench and huddled together to warm them but Phaedra felt a growing sense of doom as she looked around the dusty, dark, old cabin that until then had been a place she and Lexy felt at home.
“What happened Lexy? What were they fighting about?”
“They were fighting about me.” Alexandria said flatly as she looked at the floor.
Nervously Phaedra stood and walked to the window. “What about you?”
“My father thinks I need to go back to the hospital. He said I’m a ticking time bomb but my mother said I can stay home and she’ll take care of me. She said she can keep me from getting so angry. I don’t know what they’re talking about Phay. I don’t think I get angry. Do you think I do?”
Shocked by hearing her words and the strange tone of her voice, Phaedra thought, Whatever is she talking about? Why would she go back to the hospital? She was there because she had pneumonia, wasn’t she? Could this be what Mavis warned me about?
Out of the corner of her eye Phaedra saw movement in the trees. She focused on the spot and began to see the outline of a man. As he emerged from the shadows, she saw an old man with long, white, tangled hair and a beard filled with leaves and dirt from the forest. His tattered clothes hung loosely on his thin frame. In an instant he was within inches of the window. When Phaedra looked into his large, round, brown eyes, she saw that it was Mavis. She held a crooked finger to her lips motioning for Phaedra to stay quiet.
Gripped with terror, Phaedra turned to Alexandria only to find her friend had transformed into someone she barely recognized. Her eyes wide and glazed over seemed to pierce through her. Alexandria held a machete in her hand. In an instant she was on her and thrust the knife into Phaedra’s stomach, ripping upward.
“Lexy why?” Phaedra garbled as she collapsed to the floor.