She jerked up with a sharp pain in her neck, light hair matted to her sweat soaked face. Flashes of crunching metal and air bags popping to life haunt her even after she’s awoken. She touched the rear of her scalp, feeling the soft tuft of hair growing over her long white scar before calling out to Annie.
“Why am I on the floor? ” A round, freckled face came into view as Annie leaned over the edge of the bed above her and peered down. “I kicked you off. You were moaning about being saved again. Stop thinking about what happened.”
They’d had this conversation every morning since Annie came to stay. Annie liked to be in control, and hated when Rebecca got the chance to slip into her subconscious and think freely. Routine was very important to Annie. She knew what she wanted, and Rebecca had come to accept this. She didn’t like to make Annie mad, because she knew just what to say to hurt her.
“Stop crying, you look like a hideous child. Now get up, we have school.”
Rebecca felt extremely uncomfortable around people, as Annie had made her believe they all thought negatively toward her. They know what you did; they blame you. All you have is me, Rebecca. Her high school was a deep brown brick with barred windows. A tall, wide building with pine trees surrounding the property and casting a constant darkness. It poured rain as they ran up to the school. Annie breathed to her, “You don’t look so good today . . . Better keep your head down, you know how people talk.” Rebecca immediately shifted her gaze to the wet and muddy tiled floor.
“Rebecca!” A loud, familiar voice called her name from down the hallway. She pivoted away from the sound and quickened her pace toward her first period homeroom.
“Don’t talk to her,” Annie commanded viciously near her ear. Annie didn’t like other people talking to her.
“Rebecca,” a strong grasp connected with her forearm just before she reached the room. She immediately stared at the floor, her face heating up. It was Sam, her best friend before Annie came. She sounded annoyed.
“I was shouting your name all the way down the hall, didn’t you hear me? We need to work on the science project. You didn’t forget, did you? ” She hadn’t forgotten, the project was completed and already fitted into its box in her garage. Annie had helped her; she didn’t want Rebecca having a partner. Sam was not impressed with the response she received.
“No. We have to do the work together. It’s partner work? ” Rebecca continued to stare at the moist floor until the school bell rang, forcing Sam to leave for her own class.
“That was close, I don’t like that girl. The only reason she even talks to you is because she feels bad that he died. That’s the only reason anyone talks to you: they want to know how you killed your brother.” Rebecca sucked in her breath as her heart stopped at the mention of her brother.
The day was long. Rebecca was used to Annie’s harsh words and constant put-downs, but lately it was wearing on her. She knew Annie was irritated about dreams about the crash, but it wasn’t her fault. Thoughts of her brother clouded her concentration throughout math, and she knew Annie could tell. She could feel Annie’s eyes on her the entire class, could even hear her sharp words in her mind. You killed him. It’s your fault, everyone knows it. You feel guilty, don’t you? You should. He isn’t here anymore because of you. Rebecca had come to believe this was true; she had been driving that night, but the roads were dark and slick from a heavy rainfall. All it took was a quick glance to the backseat to check on her brother to lose control. He had died on impact, at the hands of his older sister. She lowered her head to her desk as her eyes filled at the thought.
“Stop your little pity party, Rebecca, no one cares.” Apparently she had not been cautious enough; Annie was glaring from the next desk over. Suddenly something flew past Annie and landed in Rebecca’s lap. A crumpled piece of gray paper read:
We need to talk about the science project . . . Please stop avoiding me, I just want to help.—Sam
Rebecca looked over her shoulder and caught Sam’s eye. Her face flushing red, she quickly turned around before anything could be said aloud. Still, Annie knew something was going on.
“Sam wants to talk to you, doesn’t she,” Annie hissed as they walked home from school. The sky was still dark from the morning’s rain, the trees dripping tiny drops onto the damp pavement. Pink and gray worms covered the cement every few steps, mostly dead. Rebecca didn’t answer; she didn’t want to make Annie mad. Instead she focused on the sidewalk: she knew the exact amount of steps it took to get home from school. Ever since the accident, she didn’t trust herself to drive so she walked everywhere she could. It took ten minutes to walk home, two hundred small steps, three crosswalks and four fire hydrants. She walked at a slow pace to ensure her mother would be there when she arrived at home. She didn’t like being home alone with Annie. One hundred twenty-five, one hundred twenty-six, one hundred twenty-seven— “Stop that. People are going to think you’re crazy Rebecca.”
They stepped up the stairs to her porch with keys in hand just as Rebecca realized that her mother’s car wasn’t in the driveway. She froze with the realization that she would be home alone with Annie.
“Well, what are you waiting for? Open the door.”
Rebecca held her breath as she shoved her key into the door and pushed it open. A mixture of silence from her empty house and blood pounding filled her ears. Shakily she kicked off her shoes at the front door, and began her usual motions of clicking on every light in the house. As usual, Annie followed her throughout her process: there were eight lights to be turned on before Rebecca could stop. Just as she reached for the last lamp, her doorbell chimed loudly from the lower level. Her heart froze. Annie didn’t like visitors. She got up with her knees quivering like a baby, and stepped down the staircase to answer the door.
“Rebecca,” Sam’s voice was quiet and she looked uncomfortable. “I’m sorry to come to your house like this but we need to talk. This project has to get done.” Rebecca shook her head slowly back and forth. Suddenly Annie was behind her, so close to her ear that she could almost feel her hot breath moving her hair.
“Rebecca, get rid of her now . . . Now!” Annie’s anger vibrated through her, it was unlike anything she had ever felt before.
Suddenly it was as though she was trapped in a dark tunnel, with rage and memories controlling her every thought. She sank to her knees as if Annie were forcing her down. In the back of her mind, she could hear Sam calling out her name and trying to help her, but she couldn’t escape the tunnel. All she could see was Annie. They were in the car, the roads slippery and soaked with rain. She glanced into the backseat to see her brother smiling happily and playing with his stuffed turtle. Something was different about her memory though, Annie was there. Headlights flashed as she spun around and swerved the steering wheel, but it was too late.
“Can you hear me Rebecca? Rebecca! I’m calling for help if you don’t answer me,” Sam choked, her voice cracking as she tried to force back her tears.
“Where’s Annie? I don’t see her, I need her here with me,” Rebecca whispered frantically, opening her eyes. Her heart sped up as she jumped to her feet and scrambled around the house in search of Annie. She was nowhere to be found.
“Rebecca, there’s no one else here besides you and me. Who is Annie? ”
Rebecca ignored Sam’s worthless questions and started screaming Annie’s name. She couldn’t understand why she had left her; they were all each other had. Finally she couldn’t take Sam’s voice anymore.
“Shut up and help me find her! She was right here, you know who she is.”
Sam shifted in the doorway, obviously terrified. Rebecca thought desperately back to all of the times Sam had seen her, but slowly came to the realization that Annie had never actually talked to anyone. Sam slowly backed away from her, shaking her head.
“She isn’t real, is she? You made her up . . . she’s all in your head.” Rebecca spun around to face Sam.
“What did you just say to me—”
She didn’t get a chance to finish her sentence, as Annie’s voice had suddenly erupted into her mind, taking over her thoughts. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about Rebecca, I am here. I will always be here, and you will never be rid of me. We’re a part of each other.