“Mom!” Arella cried out. Arella’s mother opened the door to her room.
“Everything okay?” Arella’s mother sat on her bed.
“It’s the nightmare.” Arella reached out to her mother who scooted closer to her.
“That same nasty one?” Her mother wrapped her arms around Arella’s tiny frame.
“Yes.” Arella buried her face in her mother’s chest. “But this time, you were the monster. Another lady saved me and she called me a weird name.”
“Well, you’re safe now. Mommy’s here.” Mother and daughter sat together embraced in each other’s arms. Arella’s heart slowed to a normal pace.
“I think it’s time to go back to sleep,” Arella’s mother said.
“I don’t want to go to sleep,” Arella replied. “What if the nightmare comes back?”
“It won’t. I will be here to make sure it doesn’t.” Arella’s mother let her go and tucked Arella back into bed.
“You’ll stay with me?” Arella asked.
“I’ll always stay with you,” Arella’s mother said. Arella did her best to fight it, but eventually sleep was too powerful. Arella drifted off to sleep with her mother beside her, keeping the nightmares at bay.
~ ~ ~
“Bye! See you tomorrow!” Brooklyn waved to Arella as the school bus drove off. Arella waved to her friend until the bus became a yellow speck down the road. A woman with long black hair, red lips, and wearing a white dress stood across the street. She seemed to be watching the school bus drive pass as well. Then the woman turned her head and stared at Arella. Creeped out, Arella quickly entered the house and firmly locked the door behind her.
Both of her parents were at work. Arella’s father would be home around five and her mother would be home in a couple of hours. Arella ventured into the kitchen and made herself a PB&J. She then carried the sandwich to her room to do her homework.
Thirty minutes into writing her essay for English class, Arella heard some footsteps coming up the stairs.
She thought nothing of it; it was probably her mother home from work already. She concentrated on writing the essay. The sooner she was done with homework, the sooner she could relax by watching a couple of hours of reality TV.
“Hailey Mae.” Arella stopped writing. It was the same name the mystery woman called Arella in her dream last night. However, it was not her mother’s voice that said it. Arella turned around to face her bedroom door. She caught a glimpse of someone with long black hair walking away. Her mother had shoulder length brown hair.
“Mom?” Arella got up from her desk and cautiously walked toward the hall. She poked her head out. The hallway was empty. “Mom? Mom, are you home?” Her mother didn’t respond.
Arella stepped into the hallway and called for her mom again. There was no response. She went toward the stairs. “Mom? Are you home?”
A figure came into view. Arella gasped. It was the woman from her dream. She stared up at Arella. She had pupil-less, red, glowing eyes. Arella had never seen eyes like those before.
“Hailey Mae.” The woman started up the stairs.
“Ahh!” Arella turned and ran straight to her room. She put a chair underneath the door handle and searched for her cell phone.
“Where did I put it?” Arella rifled through her backpack. It had to be there! She found it hiding underneath her lunchbox. She was about to dial 9-1-1 when there was a knock at the door.
“Arella?” Arella’s mother called out. “Arella, are you okay?”
“Mom!” Arella threw open the door and embraced her mother.
“Arella! What’s wrong?” Arella’s mother asked.
“There… there was a woman. She was downstairs.”
“A woman?” Arella’s mother gently pushed Arella away. “What did she look like?”
“She was the same woman in my dream last night,” Arella said. “She had dark hair, red lips, and wore a white dress.”
“Stay in your room.” Arella’s mother turned to go back downstairs.
“Mom! Stay with me!” Arella begged.
“Arella, stay in your room. Do not come out until I come get you, understand?” Arella’s mother said sternly.
“Okay. But please be careful.” Arella retreated back into her room as her mother ventured downstairs. It seemed like forever until Arella’s mother knocked on the door.
“Arella? It’s me, Mom.”
“Mom!” Arella rushed to open the door. “Mom, did you find her?”
“No. No one’s here,” Arella’s mother said.
“That’s weird,” Arella said. “She was right there. She must have gotten out when you came home.”
“Arella, are you okay? You should lie down.” Arella’s mother led her to the bed. Arella lied down in it. Her mother placed a hand on her forehead.
“I’m fine,” Arella insisted.
“You don’t have a fever.” Arella’s mother removed her hand. “Are you stressed out at school?”
“You don’t believe me, Mom?” Arella couldn’t believe her mother was brushing aside the fact that a strange woman was in their home.
“Arella, you told me the woman from your nightmare last night was in our house. I searched and found no one here. Sometimes…. sometimes when we’re stressed, our minds can play tricks on us.”
“I’m not stressed, Mom,” Arella said. “I saw her! She was there! She looked up at me and she called me Hailey Mae!”
“Hailey Mae?” Arella’s mother furrowed her brow. “Where did you hear that name?”
“From the woman!”
“Arella, I want you to be honest with me.” Arella’s mother looked directly into her eyes. “Where did you get the name Hailey Mae from?”
“The woman!” Arella didn’t understand why her mother was fixated on the name the woman called her rather than the woman herself. “Why do you care more about the name she called me? She is a crazy woman who broke into our home!”
“It’s fine. No one was here. Just breathe. Can you do that, Arella?” Arella’s mother asked.
“Yes, Mom,” Arella said. If her mother was right, the woman or whatever it was that Arella saw, was not in the house anymore. Besides, her mother was there with her. Nothing bad could happen now.
“Good. I’m going to get you a glass of water. Do you want anything else?” Arella’s mother stood up.
“No. I just had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
“Okay. I’ll be back.” Arella’s mother left.
Arella couldn’t believe it. Was her mother right? Was she stressed about something? But that woman looked pretty real. As real as Arella and her mother.
Her mother returned quickly with the glass of water.
“Thanks, Mom.” Arella took a sip of water.
“I’ll need to prepare dinner,” Arella’s mother said. “I’m just downstairs if you need me, okay?”
“Got it.” Arella’s mother exited Arella’s room. Arella set down the glass on her desk and tried to focus on her English essay. Unfortunately, Arella’s mind was too focused on the mysterious woman from her dream.
Arella couldn’t take it anymore. She had to find out who this woman was. The only clue she had was the name Hailey Mae.
Arella opened up a search browser and entered Hailey Mae. She didn’t quite know what she would find when the results came back. But she wasn’t expecting this.
The newest search result was an article written a couple of days ago. The headline read, nine year anniversary of missing local girl, Hailey Mae. Arella clicked on the link.
Underneath the headline was a photo of a two-year-old toddler with a large pink ribbon against her dark hair. She smiled at the camera. Arella began reading the article.
Arella learned that nine years ago, two-year-old Hailey Mae Lu was taken from Weston Hills Mall while out shopping with her mother, aunt, and cousins. Her mother, Elissa Lu, frantically searched the mall, while Elissa’s sister called the police. The toddler wore a bright orange jacket with embroidered tulips on it.
“Funny. Mom told me I had a similar one when I was a kid.” Arella’s mother said she had looked so beautiful in it. She read on to learn more about the kidnapper. The kidnapper’s face was obscured by a purple bucket hat with the letters of a local college. But investigators were hopeful that it would lead them to their identity.
Arella gasped. Her mother had thrown out a purple bucket hat when they did some spring cleaning the year prior. Her mother didn’t know she still had the hat. When Arella asked her mother about the hat, she had shrugged and said it was all part of the past. Her mother was looking toward the future.
“If I ever find her, I’ll hug her and let her know she will never be lost again. I will tell her about all the times I thought about her and prayed for her. I hope she is able to see how much her mother loves her.” Arella read a quote from Elissa Lu. She scrolled down the article and her blood ran cold.
The article had a picture of Hailey Mae sitting in the lap of a woman, presumably her mother, Elissa Lu.
“What the…” Arella couldn’t believe it. Elissa Lu was the woman from Arella’s dream! She was the one who was in the house earlier that afternoon. Furthermore, underneath the picture of mother and daughter, was a photo of what investigators think Hailey Mae would look like today. Arella felt like she was looking into a mirror.
“There has to be an explanation.” Arella couldn’t take her eyes off the photo of Hailey Mae and Elissa Lu. “Mom is…”
Arella dialed 9-1-1 as her mother called out to her.