The Smiling Lady

(Originally posted on Minds+) She's downstairs. She's letting me hear Her footsteps. She wants me to be afraid, to go insane. My whole life has been leading up to this moment. My very first memory is seeing Her watching me from the door to my bedroom. I remember Her lips so well. Always smiling, the lips of an angel. Nothing like the rest of Her. She held a finger up to those beautiful lips in a shushing gesture and I couldn't make a sound. The last bit of memory is the sensation of a damp warmth as I pissed myself. My older brother drowned in a creek near our home a month later. He was 8. The police said he must have been sleep walking and slipped on the rocks. Tragic accident. We moved soon after. I saw Her off and on for the next two years. She'd be wandering through the house like she owned it, never speaking, just smiling, always smiling that perfect, flawless smile. Mom didn't do well. The death of my brother broke her. We, my sister, father and I, couldn't do anything for her. Mom walked around the house, keeping us fed and clean, but she was just going through the motions. We caught her talking to my brother sometimes. Reliving old conversations, making new ones out of things that had happened to my sister and I. Trouble at school, getting an A on a test, that kind of thing. One night as I went to the bathroom, She was standing outside my parents bedroom as Mom cried. She knelt down to look me in the eyes and gave me a kiss. I woke up a month later in the hospital. No one knew why I fell into a coma, I was perfectly healthy in every way. They eventually put it down to stress and I was given a clean bill of health. Mom wasn't so lucky. She stopped living. She was there physically, but whatever was left of her mind, her soul, had left. My Dad and sister had to make sure she ate and cleaned herself. Soon after, I came home from school to find Mom in the kitchen, lying in a pool of blood. She'd slit her own throat. I didn't see Her again until I was 12. I'd put Her out of my mind, my therapist had convinced me She was a childish delusion brought on by trauma. I believed him because I so desperately wanted to believe the world was sane. We had gotten on with our lives. My sister was applying for college, Dad was dating again, I was a quiet boy, not many friends, but doing well in school and mostly ignored by the bullies. She was waiting for me when I came home one day. Sitting on the couch smiling. Always that damned smile. I ignored Her. Pretended She wasn't there. Just went to the phone and called my therapist. We talked for an hour on the phone as She smiled and blew me kisses. I was put on medication. It seemed to help a little. That summer, my sister went to a party. When she came back home it was like she was in shock, unfocused, barely speaking, staying in her room hiding under her blanket. Her friends swore she had been fine when she headed home. The drive only took 10 minutes, not enough time for anything to go wrong. I was feeding her soup when she mumbled something about a beautiful smile. College was cancelled and we had to put her in a hospital to be properly cared for as she deteriorated. She's still there, totally catatonic. Dad became overprotective, to the point of paranoia. I was allowed to go to school and then home, nothing else. If I went outside it was with him. He quit his job and started working freelance at home. It didn't go well. She made herself at home, settling in my sisters old room. She would go to the kitchen before meals, spend the evening in the living room, join us in the car. Never doing anything, just smiling that beautiful, never ending smile. Dad wasn't making much money, we had to sell the house and move to a cheap apartment in a bad part of town. He didn't like my new school so he home schooled me. This just left me with Her all day, and She loved it. At 15 my Dad died of a heart attack. I was pawned off to some relatives. They tried to be nice, but they had no idea what to do with the 'traumatized' son of the insane branch of the family. She followed me. Bad things would happen to my relatives, a sudden illness, night terrors, a mental disorder, bad luck, and I'd be passed onto another relative. I couldn't blame them. At 18 I was out of relatives willing to deal with the Jonah. I found myself on the street with a few bucks and a backpack to my name. On the plus side, She was gone. I spent the next ten years working odd jobs, lived on the street sometimes, bummed my way across the country, barely living, not letting myself get close to anyone. Then I found a good construction job. I let myself get comfortable. I knew She was real, but maybe She was only a childhood monster, I wasn't a child, it was safe for me now. Eventually I married a wonderful woman. We weren't suppose to have kids, she was sterile. I checked her medical records, it would take a miracle from god to get her pregnant. She thought that I'd walk away when she told me. I surprised her by proposing the next day. We were happy. Then I saw Her. Just out of the corner of my eye on a busy street, but there was no mistaking that smile. My wife missed her period that month. 9 months to the day, I was holding a beautiful little boy. I became religious. While my wife was out, I had a priest come and bless the house. The next week an Imam came by, then a Buddhist monk. Holy symbols and new age crystals were placed around windows and doors. My wife was confused and worried, she knew a bit about my family's mental history. She didn't appear again, I calmed down. We kept the symbols around, but my wife was willing to deal with that. For 3 years we had a good life. Then She came to stay. I found her in my sons room, smiling like an angel. My wife died of a stroke that night. We just got back from her funeral. My son is asleep behind me. She's coming up the stairs now. She's taking Her time, tormenting me. I don't know what She is. I don't know if I can hurt Her. But I have a shotgun, a bottle full of holy water, and a can of gas. One way or another it ends today.

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