Neighbours whispered about them, the peculiar duo that dwelt in Number 12. A polite little girl, Abigail, and her father. People on the block were drawn to their lives with the same morbid fascination that slows car on the highway after an accident. Mothers who walked past slowed their steps, turning their heads to catch a glimpse of life behind the curtains of Number 12. Fathers invited the pair over for barbeques, cook-outs, picnics, block parties; when Abigail and her father showed up a hum of nervous and excited energy coursed through the rest of the attendees. The neighbourhood children called upon Abigail, asking her to come play, come run, come hide. She'd look to her father, and with his consent she'd hit the streets, her white-gold hair flashing in the last rays of the sun. She never quarreled, never raised her voice, never pouted, never whined. She was polite to a fault.
Yet the whispers continued, grew; swept through backyards and mudrooms and book clubs and neighbourhood watch meetings. Her mother, they said. His wife. Children made up stories to tell their friends at sleepovers, horror stories, ghost stories, stories about the sudden, unexplained disappearance of Abigail's mother. Over the weekly poker game, fathers smelling of Doritos and emboldened by scotch slam their palms onto the green felt and swear there's something not right about those two. No one dares to breathe life to the feeling they all have. No one so much as whispers, suggests the word murder. But it hangs in the air, it snakes down the street, snapping at heels and hissing from shadows.
And all the while, Abigail and her father smile, thinking we're finally free.
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