RMUB, part 5 (the final chapter!)

‘Suzanne’

Horror-ish story from 2002.
*******

      Hello, my name is Dennis Crane. No, I was never called “Dennis the menace”, not even when I was younger.
      I am XX years old now,  and believe me, I’ve reached that age more through blind, dumb luck than anything else. I often wonder how much more time I have.
      I  wonder how much time we all have.
     Ok, If I’m going to tell you my story, let’s set a few ground rules first. Number one is this: you have to believe I am sane. If you think I’m nuts, well, telling you anything further is pointless. Number two is that I am not going to lie to you. I’ll lay the whole story out before you, and I won’t embellish anything. There’s no need to. Number three is a warning. If you read this, whether you believe it or not, DO NOT try to contact me. Don’t  use phone books, the internet, or anything else to find where I live. If you are reading this, and the world still seems normal to you, give thanks and pray it stays that way. If you try anything funny, you could kill us all.
     I’m going to start this in the year 19XX. I was thirteen at the time, still just a kid, through I’d never accept the label then. My brother Harry was nine. We lived in a medium-sized town in a medium-sized state. In some ways our family was an anachronism. Mom stayed home full time, Dad worked in a bank. Our house — though the fence around it was wire mesh, not white picket – was the typical model seen in suburbs countrywide. We had a huge enclosed patio and our own pool. Our garage was the two-car variety and a basketball hoop was stationed nearby. Two tall maple trees spread their branches over the rooftop.
     The Southams lived next door.
     Ted Southam worked with my father at the bank. He was a rather large man with an anxious manner, as if he was constantly worried or nervous.  Never-theless he was kind to Harry and I, always ready to give us a lift if he saw us walking home. Dad sometimes went over with paperwork, and later, if we happened to be shooting hoops in the driveway or walking down to the corner store to buy candy, we would hear them laughing and watching TV.
     Julie, Ted’s wife, was a quiet woman who rarely ventured out of the house. The odd time she would come over to talk to Mom or borrow something, but that was it. She always wore a bright smile, but to me it seemed the smile was covering a deep sadness. She was shorter than my mother, and slim. She looked like her daughter.
     Suzanne (Suzy) Southam is the same age as Harry. She was her parents’ only child, a thin redheaded girl. Even at nine, she stood out from the other kids like a diamond surrounded by hunks of glass. People treated her differently. She had this presence, you know? In the winter I’d see Harry and the other kids walking home from school,  most of them firing snowballs at anyone who came within range. The girls were the favorite targets of the bigger boys, yet no one ever tried to hit Suzanne. She’d just walk through the hail of white projectiles, seeming to be deep in thought. That’s another thing, how often is the average nine-year-old deep in thought? Suzanne always had that look. Like she was born mature.
     Harry and Suzanne had known each other since they were two. By the time they turned nine (an age when the average boy typically believes girls possess some sort of horrible, contagious disease, and vice versa), they were best friends. They would walk home together, not saying much but keeping perfectly in step. Mom would greet them as they walked in the door, and ask if they wanted something to drink. Suzanne would usually say “Yes, please, Mrs. Crane,” and the two of them would take their Hi-Cs or Kool-Aids out onto the patio. Suzy would close the big glass door and they’d sit in the white plastic deck chairs, talking, until dinner.
    By the time I turned thirteen my mind had developed something of a suspicious bent. I went from picking on Harry about his “girlfriend” to thinking their relationship was genuinely strange. I had always gotten along well with my little brother, he looked up to me and I realized it. We had our scuffles like any siblings, but he always knew I was there for him anytime a bigger kid was beating on him or he needed someone to show him how to climb Old Man Matheson’s apple tree.
    In the summer of 19XX, however, Harry started to change. School was out, and he spent most days roaming the neighborhood on his bike. Mom had a rule about crossing Elm street, a “not until you’re older” kind of rule. Suzanne, on the other hand, pretty much went where she pleased. I would sometimes see her downtown when we were hanging out at the arcade. This was a nine-year-old, remember, wandering around a few miles from her house in the middle of the screaming traffic and assorted weirdoes who we older kids knew to stay away from. In the evening she would come to our place, to ask if Harry could come out. They never went further than the patio, usually.
    It was during this time that my brother started acting funny. While never the type to run around screaming, he became quieter than ever. He rarely spoke without being spoken to first, and began to pass me in the house without so much as a “Hey, Den.” If I tried to break the ice with a quick, playful shot to his ribs or a vicious noogy, he would glare at me and then maybe break a quick smile. “Shithead,” He’d say and then he was gone again. Mom and Dad seemed to notice the change in Harry. They made more attempts to get him talking at the dinner table and at breakfast, with limited success. Eventually they just backed off. After all, he had finished the school year with nearly straight A’s and was never in trouble. I guess they thought he was going through a phase or something. Do nine year olds have phases?
    I, on the other hand, knew better.
    It was Suzanne. There was something odd about their friendship, and something odd about her. She’d spend most of the evening out on the patio with Harry, and then when it was time for him to come in she’s disappear back to her place. After these sessions with the girl next door, Harry would be listless and pale. He wouldn’t talk much, just go upstairs and get ready for bed. Sometimes I caught a wide-eyed expression on his face, when he thought I wasn’t looking his way. I was his brother, I knew him well.
    He was afraid.

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