I met Mollie Henderson when she was eight years old and frightened of two things: her daddy, and the basement. Sometimes he gave her a choice between a beating or the basement, and she always chose the beating.
I went down myself once, though she begged me not to. There was nothing scary down there but the scratches round the frame, from all the times she’d tried to get out. Those scratches tore at me, and I aimed to help her then. I taught her a few tricks to keep from panicking down there. We made up a little song together, something to hum, to take her mind away from the fear. She hummed our tune day in, day out after that, but said it still didn’t help when she was down in the basement.
When she was fifteen, her daddy got ill and needed Mollie upstairs more. Course, she didn’t mind – she’d take a thousand bedpans any day over the basement.
Time ticked on until her daddy was too sick to work, so Mollie left school altogether and started in the diner. She was happy there, liked being out of that house. Enjoyed the chat and the company, so she told me. But she point blank refused to go into the walk in freezer, no matter how much they teased her. I spent many happy evenings that summer in the diner, laughing, drinking and watching her serving while humming our little song.
It was early winter when I heard the old familiar yelling at the Henderson place, and I just knew that my poor Mollie was being sent to the basement. I cried myself to sleep that night, thinking of her back in there after all that time. She must’ve thought she was free of it.
When I swung by the diner next evening I wasn’t surprised to see that Mollie wasn’t right. Her well-worn smile no longer reached her eyes.
I said ‘Hey, Mollie’ and waited for my usual, but she didn’t bring it. I figured it’d been one night too many in the basement and she’d snap out of it soon enough, but then I noticed she wasn’t humming.
‘Hey, Mollie,’ I tried again, ‘Why aren’t you humming our tune today?’
She whipped round and looked at me dead straight, with eyes I didn’t recognise.
‘Well, I don’t know, darling. Why don’t you just remind me of it? Hum a few bars yourself?’
She purred at me like a feral cat and I knew it then – clear as I know it now. It was not Mollie stood behind that counter.
I stayed away after that. Out of the diner and away from her house. I never heard her daddy yelling again, and I never heard her humming again.
I put her out of my mind, I’m ashamed to say it now. But I was young myself, and life was presenting other opportunities. So I let myself drift away from Mollie, as young friends often do.
We both grew older and left town, and I rarely thought of Mollie again until I heard that her daddy had died.
I was on the team emptying the house that summer. And we found something in the basement that we kept out of the papers, though the town folk talked about it plenty.
A dried up body crouching down there, more skeleton than flesh. Fingernails all broken and mouth gaping. There was no record of anyone but Mollie and her Daddy ever living there, in the legal documents and in the town’s minds. And we all knew Mollie had moved on years before. We all knew that.
But the coroner, he told me he checked that body over a dozen times, and he swore on his life that the bones were that of a teenage girl, and that the dentals, well the dentals were a perfect match for poor Mollie Henderson.
Gaynor Jones is a stay at home Mum and freelance writer from Manchester, UK, who loves writing short, flash and micro stories.