“Oh all right then. Show Mummy,” said Laura, glancing at her watch.
Dominic took her hand, led her to the front door, out of the house, across the patch of grass and stopped in front of the lilac bushes.
“What did you want to show me?” she said, looking at her watch.
The meeting was due to start in twenty minutes. What with the traffic, if she set off now this minute, she might make it in time, but she couldn’t leave until Polly arrived to look after Dominic. Strange, Polly had never arrived late before, not once. The opposite. She always arrived early, quietly let herself in at the back door and started getting on with things, so that by the time Laura left there was a smooth transition and Dominic didn’t get upset. Polly was very reliable, and wonderful with Dominic; he doted on her. Laura had been lucky to find her. So where was she now? What on earth was keeping her? Typical — today of all days, Polly had let her down for the first time.
She looked at her son. He was staring at the bushes.
“What? What?” she said.
He didn’t answer, just kept staring at the bushes.
“I haven’t got time for this right now, Dominic,” she snapped, and then, when he looked up at her fearfully, immediately regretted it.
She took a deep breath.
“What did you see, sweetheart?” she said.
He didn’t answer.
“Come on, let’s go in, Mummy has to go to work now,” she said, turning back towards the house and pulling him along with her.
“Monster,” said Dominic.
He pointed timorously to the bushes.
He saw monsters everywhere. The psychologist was puzzled, and put Dominic’s behaviour down to the fact that he was by nature a sensitive child, easily upset, and the divorce and subsequent move to a different city had affected him badly, made him withdraw into himself. Too young to fully understand events round him, he lived in fear of new upheavals, fresh threats to his ordered existence.
Sighing again, Laura parted the leaves and peered behind.
“There’s no monster here, Dominic. See? Nothing.”
He looked confused, and Laura felt a sudden pang. He seemed so small, so vulnerable, and she loved him so much. She knelt down, put her arms round him and hugged him to her, wrapping her love round him like a soft blanket.
“Don’t worry, my sweet, Mummy won’t let any silly old monster hurt you, I promise.”
She kissed his cheek and gave him another reassuring hug, then picked him up and carried him indoors, where she set him down in the hall.
“Polly,” she called.
“Oh, where is that stupid girl?”
Dominic’s eyes strayed off her face and stared past her down the hall.
Laura looked at her watch. Right, nothing else for it, she’d have to take him with her —
A floorboard creaked behind her.
She turned round.
“Hey,” she said, forcing a smile, “looks like you’re going to work with Mummy today. Wait here and I’ll just go and get the car keys in the kitchen.”
As she was going past the living room she spotted the back of Polly’s head, on the sofa. She was watching television, as usual. Immense relief washed over Laura. She wouldn’t have to take Dominic with her after all, she’d make it to the meeting, although a little late; everything was going to be all right.
‘There you are. Why didn’t you answer when I called? Anyway, I must dash, I’m late.”
She ran to the kitchen, grabbed the keys, ran back to Dominic.
“Polly’s in the living room. Bye, see you this evening, sweetheart.”
A quick kiss and she was gone.
Dominic stood listening to his mother drive away, then he walked down the hall to the living room.
Polly was staring aghast at the television, mouth slightly open. He glanced at the screen, where a sad-looking man was quietly speaking about something, then he climbed up on the sofa beside her. There were purple marks round her throat.
A floorboard creaked.
“Hello, Dominic,” said the Monster suddenly beside him.
Dominic gasped and cowered against Polly, but she didn’t look at him, didn’t move, kept right on staring at the television.
“I’ve come for you,” said the Monster.
‘No!’ screamed Dominic, and pressed harder against the unyielding Polly.
So it was happening at last, the thing Dominic had dreaded ever since he first spotted the Monster looking at him through the school railings. Nobody else knew it was a Monster because it looked like Daddy. He’d heard Mummy say on the phone to someone that she didn’t realise she’d married a Monster, so even she had been fooled, at first. She’d also said that the Monster was now in J-L, where it belonged. This was where Monsters lived. And now it wanted to take him to J-L.
“Mummy!” screamed Dominic.
The Monster scowled.
“Your mother can’t hear you. She thought she was so clever, she thought I wouldn’t find you, but I did. I’ve only come for what’s mine. My boy. Now you come quietly or you’ll see what happens to you if you don’t. Understand?” said the Monster, jabbing a finger at his face.
Trembling, wide-eyed, Dominic nodded.
Then the Monster took his hand and led him to the front door, out of the house, across the patch of grass, past the lilac bushes, and away.
Krystyna Smallman has stories published in various magazines and e-zines, and won first prize in the JBWB Winter 2007 Competition and also the City of Derby 2008 Short Story Competition.