Rough draft. Written as it came to me in that space between dreaming and wakefulness.
Jessie wasn’t much for one night stands to begin with. Casual sex had never developed into a “thing” for her. She instead would much prefer to develop a relationship, enjoy being courted, then if the stars aligned, she’d marry and all would be right with the world. Except she remembered what her Aunt had said, “never anyone you love. Love makes it worse.”
But let’s face it, a single twenty-something in today’s world; relatively attractive and fairly out going, she consistently attracted those who just wanted to “hook-up”. The guys she liked were turned down gently but firmly. Those who were most obnoxious, well…they tended to get the invtiation they were so adament about. Jessie often wondered when she woke up the next morning, alone, in the middle of the bed, if they regreted their decision. She honestly didn’t care.
Jessie inherited the house she lived in from her crazy Aunt Sylvia. “Crazy” was the only word she’d ever heard repeatedly used to describe her dad’s sister. She’d run away from home at sixteen, then showed back up at twenty three, married to a man twice her age that no one had been properly introduced to which folks agreed was odd. Girls didn’t do such things back in the day. They’d settled in this small two bedroom, one bath house out on Sycamore, right next to the old cemetery. Which was of course, odder still. No one was ever sure how they survived seeing as how neither one of them was seen going to work, in town at the grocery store, or out back of the property doing any kind of gardening.
Subsequent stories about them kept Jessie’s proper family members at a great distance. When Jessie was born, or so the story went, Sylvia showed up at their house one evening. Jessie was a little over a month at the time. She was a fussy baby. Especially at night. She’d been screaming since her mom had put her down at seven. Her parents were just about to call for the doctor when Sylvia showed up.
“I want to see my niece.”
“Sylvia? Oh, um, she’s already down for bed. We weren’t expecting you. You should have called first.”
Sylvia didn’t look out of sorts. She was in her late thirties by then. Still attractive. Healthy looking, you know? Her clothes were clean, if a bit out dated. She smelled clean. Obviously not wearing any perfume but not stinking of musk either.
“I’m sorry. I should have called. But I wasn’t given enough time. I have to see Jessica.”
Jessie’s mom and dad supposedly at this point started to feel a little freaked out as they would remind anyone they were telling this story to, they hadn’t spoken to Sylvia in years. They definitely hadn’t told her what the baby’s name was. Granted someone else in the family could have been in touch with her, could have told her but her parents had only shared her shortened name, ‘Jessie’. They’d never intended to call her ‘Jessica’, the nurse at the hospital who’d filled out the birth certificate had taken it upon herself to put the formal name down instead of what she’d been told. Her parents had planned on correcting it as soon as the excitement of having a new born wore off.
“I’m sorry Sylvia, but you’ll have to come back during the day.” Jessie’s mom was attempting to put her foot down. Didn’t work. According to the tale, Sylvia looked at both of Jessie’ parents, then marched her formidable, five foot – four inch frame right past them and into Jessie’s room. Within minutes Jessie quieted. Her parents, fearing the worse made their way quickly into the bedroom. They found Sylvia holding Jessie in her arms, tears on her cheeks. Her lips moving as she uttered a prayer, or a curse. Her parents were never sure as she stopped talking as soon as she noticed them in the doorway. Sylvia kissed Jessie’s forehead, then handed her to her mother. She left immediately after.
She showed up again on Jessie’s sixteenth birthday. This was the only meeting Jessie remembered. Sylvia was looking old. She was single by then. Her husband had reportedly run off in the middle of the night years before. There had been two or three boyfriends but each of them too had disappeared into the night. All those leavings had marked Sylvia. Unlike her cousins and most of the adults in the family, Jessie wasn’t afraid of Sylvia on site. Instead, she was curious. She’d wished she’d been able to sit with her aunt, to talk about her life and find out the mysteries that scared her family so. It wasn’t to be. Sylvia walked into the back yard, her presence shocking most into silence. Sylvia didn’t speak to her parents, her brother or sister, nor any of her other nieces and nephews. She walked right up to Jessie, once again, tears on her cheeks. She placed a kiss on her forehead and handed her a small box. She said Happy Birthday, then with a stifled sob, turned and fled the party.
The box had contained a beautiful hand made necklace. Jessie had worn it ever since.
A lawyer’s letter when Jessie was twenty-five prompted her to have the necklace appraised. It was valued at over six thousand dollars at the time. The silver it was made from was pure, the tiny jewels that made up the pendant were various precious stones. According to the lawyer’s letter, Jessie was now the proud owner of the house by the cemetery and a trust fund of fifteen thousand dollars. She had to take possession of the home, the trust fund would pay for all associated expenses, taxes, utilities, etc.
Walking into Sylvia’s house was like walking into a museum. Clean, neatly appointed, it gave the appearance that Sylvia lead a minimalist lifestyle. Jessie loved it immediately. There was a packet of paperwork along with the keys to the house. A deed, tax notes and such. And a letter addressed to Jessie in what she assumed was her aunt’s beautifully flowing cursive.
Jessie, I’m sorry. I can’t explain how or why, but you were chosen to follow me. To be the next guardian. I tried to run from it but once chosen, life conspires to make sure you fulfill your duty. You’ll be okay. I always was. Just keep your arms and legs inside the sheets at night. There’s never a mess in the morning. There was never an inquiry either. Just make sure it’s no one you love. Love makes it worse. So much worse. But I love you. I know you’ll be safe. I always was. Good bye.
Jessie believed then that Sylvia had indeed been crazy. Delusional, lonely, crazy. That was ten years ago though. Now, Jessie made sure to keep her arms and legs inside the sheets at night, to never bring anyone back to spend the night that she cared anything about. There never was a mess in the morning, nor an inquiry, and the thing that lived and fed underneath the other side of the bed took wonderful care of its guardian.