New Friend by Julie Lynn Hayes
“Please, Mother, please!’ Jemima coyly batted her long dark lashes, confident in her ability to get her own way. Puppy dog eyes and a slight pout added emphasis to the six-year-old’s fervent plea.
Mother cast a discerning glance toward the horizon. The sun had begun its nightly descent, striping the ocean in crimson and gold, bathing the beach in a gentle glow. “It’s getting late,” Mother gently fretted.
“I can still see the wooden posts,” the girl pointed out practically. Mother could not argue with such logic. She cast a quick glance toward Father. He slept soundly, his contented snores evidence of his satisfaction with this afternoon’s repast. She had not the heart to wake him. She could deal with the question herself; she generally did.
“Very well,” she acceded to the child’s request. “But only for a few minutes. When I call, you come to me, no argument. Understood?”
“Understood!” the child cried in delight, victory in her voice. She clapped her hands together, turned and ran a few steps, before pausing in her flight. Returning to her mother, she bestowed a sticky kiss upon her cheek, smiled, then raced off in the direction of her heart’s desire.
“Don’t forget to wash your feet before you come back!” Mother called after her, but the child was lost from view. She smiled in fond indulgence. Jemima was her only child. A long delivery and difficult birth, followed by unforeseen complications, precluded having other children. So Mother clung to the one precious babe she had, although she tried not to smother Jemima in the process.
She carefully folded the red and white checked gingham picnic blanket into a neat square and placed it inside the large woven basket which was now empty of food. She’d brought a cobbler she’d made for the very first time. The recipe had come from her mother-in-law, and was one of Father’s favorites. Mother tried to please Father in every way she could, even if she felt she’d disappointed him in her inability to carry other children. Not that he ever complained. He was not the sort who would. But Mother felt the loss, keenly.
Lost in reverie over what could not be, she was startled to see the sun had sunk from sight. A chill breeze raised goose bumps along her bare arms. She frowned, knowing their return would be in the darkness. She needed to wake Father. But first, she would call Jemima in.
“Jemima!” She pitched her voice in no-nonsense tones to carry toward the sea. What if the girl could not find her way? Her breath caught in her throat at the thought, but moments later, she saw Jemima’s slight figure and she sighed in relief.
However, she was not alone. A man walked beside her.
The man was tall and dark, with eyes like pools of clotted blood.
“Good evening.” His long teeth tickled her throat just before she passed out.
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