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Angela Smith

The Music Box

Dakota could not believe her luck.  She
had scored an awesome house sitting job for the summer.  She could not
think of a better way to spend her vacation than relaxing by a pool, reading
and getting paid for it. 

 

The house sat on a hill overlooking the small
town of New Hope.  A mansion, by the
town’s standards, it was owned by Thomas and Vivian Blakemore.  It was the talk of the town when it was being
built.  Everyone was abuzz with
excitement about the large beautiful house being built by the young couple who
had moved from California to the small town. 
Five years later, the townspeople of New Hope were sorely disappointed
as they still did not know much about the Blakemores.  The couple worked out of town and kept to
themselves.  In the beginning there were
rumors about what they did for a living, how they had come into their money and
why they chose New Hope.  However, after
a couple years with no new information and very few sightings of the two, the
town moved on to other gossip.  Although
there were still murmurings of strange things surrounding the property, that
was all they were, quiet murmurings with no real details or substance.

 

So everyone was quite surprised and excited
when Thomas Blakemore had visited New Hope high school in March and asked to
speak with the Leadership Class teacher. 
He explained to Mrs. Franklin that they were going to be taking a
vacation in Europe for two months over the summer and were looking for a
responsible young adult to house sit for them. 
They wanted to help out the local community by employing a high school
student and figured Mrs. Franklin would be able to give them a few
recommendations from her class.

 

Mrs. Franklin had chosen five students who
each interviewed with the Blakemores and in the end they chose Dakota.  She had been excited yet extremely nervous,
given how little people knew about the couple. 
However it seemed to be all for naught as they were quite pleasant with
very few rules for her.  They just wanted
someone who would stay at the house and keep an eye on things.  The Blakemores even told her she could invite
a friend over to watch movies and swim in the pool.  Just no parties.

 

In fact there were really only two rules they
asked her to follow:  No parties and don’t go into the guest room at the
end of the hall.  The door was locked anyway.  Dakota had already tried it.  She was a good kid according to most adults,
but she was still a 17 year old girl with a normal healthy curiosity.  She couldn’t be expected to not at least try
the door after being told it was the one place in the house that was off
limits.  She was not so curious though to
try picking the lock.  This was going to
be the easiest money Dakota had ever made and she was not going to ruin it over
a little curiosity.

 

The first Friday evening of summer vacation
Dakota invited Mallory to come over to swim and watch movies.  They had been friends since Kindergarten when
Mallory offered to share her fruit snacks with Dakota.  They’d been sharing everything ever
since. 

They spent the afternoon enjoying the pool
and gossiping about boys and what next year would be like.  They were
going to be seniors and were both looking forward to their last year in high school. 

 

Now that the sun was setting and it was
starting to cool down, they were bundled up on the couch in their towels with
ice cream watching movies. The perfect ending to a perfect lazy summer
day. 

 

As the first movie ended Mallory sat up,
tilting her head to one side, “Do you hear that?  It’s
beautiful.  Where is it coming from?”

 

Dakota sat up and listened, but she couldn’t
hear anything.  In one smooth movement, Mallory rose from the couch and
headed down the hallway looking for the source of what she was hearing. 
She came to the door to the guest room.  Dakota started to tell her not to
bother because the door was locked, but before she could say anything, the knob
turned under Mallory’s hand and the door swung open.

 

“We’re not supposed to be in
there.” Dakota told her, getting up from the couch and following after
Mallory.  Dakota knew she had tried the
door just a couple days before and it had not even budged.  She couldn’t believe it had opened so easily
for Mallory. “How did you open that?”

 

“I guess I have a special touch,” Mallory
said looking over her shoulder with an impish grin.  “Come on, Dakota, it won’t hurt to
peek.  We won’t touch anything.” 

 

She was already in the room heading for a dressing
table against the far wall as Dakota reached the door. Dakota paused as she
crossed the threshold of the room and felt goosebumps flow across her
skin.  It was like she had walked into a
crypt, cold and stale.   The feeling was at odds with the décor.  One glance around the room revealed it was
beautifully furnished with plush carpet and drapes and comfortable looking
furniture.  Mallory was standing in front
of the dressing table, her focus on a wooden music box set squarely in the
middle of the table.  It was the only
object on the table and was the source of the music which had drawn Mallory to
the room.  Dakota realized she could hear
the music now too.  It was beautiful, if not a bit eerie and sad. 

 

Mallory reached inside the box and pulled out
a rabbit foot key chain.  She held the
rabbit foot cupped in one hand, stroking it gently with a look of pure
enchantment on her face.  The fur looked extremely soft and was ink
black.  Dakota could not tell if it was the natural color or if it was
dyed to be so dark.  Although beautiful
to look at, Dakota hesitated to touch it herself. 

“Put it back.  We’re not even
supposed to be in here.” Dakota said. 
Mallory showed no sign of putting it back or even hearing Dakota.  She kept slowly and reverently petting the
foot. Dakota was starting to get freaked out. 
Mallory never acted like this.  She
wondered for a moment if Mallory was just playing a joke on her, trying to
scare her.  She reached out and touched
Mallory’s shoulder.

 

“Mallory, can you please put it back.  We shouldn’t be in here.  I could get in trouble. And you’re kind of
freaking me out right now.”

 

Mallory did not respond. Dakota felt a chill
travel down her spine and had the urge to wrap her towel more tightly around
herself.  She slowly reached out and took
the foot from Mallory, bracing herself for a feeling of revulsion.  However, she felt nothing but the soft warm
fur.  She set the rabbit foot back in the
box and gently closed it.  The music
immediately stopped. 

 

As the lid closed Mallory let out a deep sigh
and then turned around and walked out of the room.  Dakota looked after her, unable to comprehend
what had just happened.  After a few
moments she could hear Mallory in the kitchen opening cabinets.

 

“Come on Dakota, we have another movie to
watch before I have to head home.  I’ll
get some popcorn started.”

 

Dakota stood a moment longer, thrown off by
Mallory’s abrupt change in demeanor.  As
she started to turn back towards the door, she glanced at the music box and
noticed the cover for the first time. 
She leaned in to study it closer. Whoever had carved the wood was
extremely talented.  A very life-like looking rabbit had been carved into
the lid.  It looked so real, Dakota caught herself starting to reach out
to touch it.  As her fingers hovered over the lid, she noticed hearts
carved around the outside edge of the lid like a border encasing the beautiful
carving.  The music box had been stained a glossy mahogany color.  Looking closer, Dakota noticed some of the
hearts had been stained a deep dark red.  Not all of them though and there
was no real pattern as to which were stained and which were not.  She
noted the entire row at the top of the box and about half a dozen along the
right side were colored.  The rest were not.  How odd, she thought.

 

“Dakota, are you coming?” Mallory yelled from
the kitchen.  Dakota could hear the beep
of the microwave buttons as Mallory started another bag of popcorn.  She turned her back on the music box and
quickly left the room, locking the door behind her.  She double checked again before walking to
the kitchen, making sure it was in fact locked before she joined Mallory.

 

At 10:30 the last movie ended and Mallory
gathered her things. 

 

“I promised Mom I would be home by 11
tonight.  She gets all freaked out when I’m out late on Friday nights. 
Especially on nights like this – Friday the 13th.  OOOOhhhh!” 
Mallory finished with a deep scary voice holding her hands over her head like
claws.  Dakota giggled. 

 

“Yeah, moms can be a bit overly dramatic
at times.  My mom did not want me to take
this job.  She was worried about me
staying by myself, especially since nobody knows much about the
Blakemores.  But I finally convinced her
I would be okay.  She met Thomas and
Vivian and they totally charmed her for me. 
I’m going to be on my own soon anyway. 
She needs to get over it!”

 

Dakota walked Mallory out to her car and
stood in the front yard watching as she pulled away from the house. After her
tail lights faded into the trees lining the driveway, Dakota headed back in,
picking up wet towels and stray kernels of popcorn along the way.  She locked the door behind her and set the
alarm.  Her plan was to fall asleep on the couch watching another movie. 
A romantic comedy should do the trick.

 

It did not take long before she was gently
snoring on the couch. The movie ended and the only light in the house was the
blue blank screen of the television.  All of a sudden Dakota awoke with a
jerk.  She looked around the room trying to figure out what had woken her
from her dreams.  Then she heard it – the beautiful eerie music from the
music box in the guest room.  She groggily got up and walked down the hall
towards the music.  Although she knew she had closed and locked the door
earlier, she noticed it was now standing slightly ajar.  She reached out
to touch the door and it swung open silently under her fingertips.  She could see the music box across the room
standing open.  Fully awake now, Dakota looked around the room for an
intruder.  However, it was empty and
nothing else had been touched.  She quickly walked across the room to shut
the box. That’s when she noticed the rabbit foot key chain was missing. 
Had Mallory gone back in and taken it? That was so unlike her to do something
like that, but what other explanation could there be?  She had been so
entranced with the music and the rabbit foot. 
Dakota was surprised but could think of no other explanation for the
missing foot.

 

She left the room in search of her cell phone,
once again making sure to lock the door behind her.  She needed to ask
Mallory about it and have her bring it back first thing in the morning.  She
had no idea what had gotten into Mallory tonight, but she was not going to lose
this job over it.

 

She found her phone on the floor next to
couch and noted the time, 11:54 pm.  Mallory should still be up and if she
wasn’t it would just go to voicemail.  Not that Dakota would leave one.  Voicemail was lame.  She would just text
her.  She could actually just text her now, but Dakota wanted to hear her
friend’s voice.  Mallory taking the rabbit foot still seemed so out of
character and she had to admit she was starting to feel a bit uneasy in the big
house all alone.  A friendly voice would
help put her at ease.

 

The phone rang only once and Dakota could
hear Mallory’s voice.  She sounded a bit
distracted.  “Hello?”

 

“Mallory, its Dakota.  I need to ask you something and you need to
tell me the truth.  I promise I won’t be
mad.”

 

“Ok, what’s up?”

 

“Did you go back in the guest room and take
the rabbit foot out of the music box?”

 

The line was quiet for a moment, then Dakota
heard Mallory whisper, “Yes.” 

 

Dakota heard Mallory sigh deeply and then she
blurted out in a rush of words, “I’m so sorry.  I just don’t know what
came over me.  It is so soft and I just had to touch it again. 
Please don’t be mad at me!  Please
Dakota!  I just can’t stand it if you are
mad at me!”

 

Dakota sighed.  “I’m not mad, just
surprised.  You have to bring it back first thing tomorrow though. 
You can’t keep it.”

 

“I know.”  Mallory replied. 
“I’ll come by in the morning and bring you donuts and coffee too.  To
say I’m sorry.  Deal?”

 

Dakota could not help but smile.  That
had been their makeup meal ever since they were in elementary school.  Well, it was hot chocolate with donuts back then,
but over the past couple years they had replaced the hot chocolate with coffee.

 

“Deal! 
You know I can’t pass up donuts and coffee.  Have a good night Mallory, I’ll see you in
the morning.  Bright and early, ok?”

 

“Definitely!  Hey Dakota?”

 

“Yeah?”

“I just wanted to say thank you.  For
not being mad at me and thank you for always being a great friend.  I
really appreciate it.  I love you!”

 

“Thanks,” replied Dakota. 
“I love you too Mallory.”

 

And with that they ended the call and Dakota
started another movie.

 

The next morning Dakota woke up and quickly
showered, knowing Mallory was an early bird.  Her phone rang as she was stepping
out of the shower.  She hurriedly wrapped
a towel around herself and ran down the hall to the living room where she
searched for her phone.  By the time she
found it under the edge of the end table she had already missed the call. 
She looked to see whose call she had missed and saw Mallory’s home number
listed.  That was weird.  Mallory never used the home phone. 
Dakota hit redial as she walked back to the bathroom.  She started to dry her hair with the towel as
she set her cell phone on the counter and hit the speaker button.

 

Mallory’s mom, Dolores answered.  She
sounded funny, almost like she had been crying.

“Hi Mrs. Davis.  I just missed a
call from your house phone.  Was Mallory trying to call me?”

 

Mrs. Davis started sobbing and Dakota could
hear the phone being passed to someone else.  She recognized Mr. Davis’
voice.  “Hi Dakota.  I need you
to sit down.  I have some really bad news for you.” He paused for a
moment and Dakota could hear him take a deep breath before continuing. 
“Mallory never made it home last night.  She was in an
accident.”

 

Dakota sat down on the edge of the bathtub in
disbelief.  She heard Mr. Davis take another deep shuddering breath and
then continue. “There was a witness, some drunk guy walking home from a
friend’s who saw her come around the corner on Tanda Way.  He said he saw
a. . . a rabbit run out in the road and Mallory swerved to miss it and hit a
tree. I always told her not to swerve or slam on her brakes for an animal
because it was dangerous, but you know how she is…” she heard him take
another deep breath, “…or was about animals. I don’t know, the guy was drunk so
maybe it was not even a rabbit.  Whatever
it was, the police said the airbags malfunctioned and . . . and she d-died
instantly,” he stammered the last part after taking another shaky deep breath.

 

“No!  That can’t be true!  I
talked to her last night.  Right before midnight, I called her!”

 

Mr. Davis was quiet for a few moments,
“I’m sorry Dakota, but that’s not possible.  She died on her way
home.  It happened at about 10:45 according to the police.  Her phone
was destroyed in the accident.  There is no way you could have talked to
her after that.  It must have been a
wrong number or something, or you have your times mixed up.”

 

Dakota jumped up, knocking her cell phone off
the counter as she ran out of the bathroom.  She was not surprised when
the handle of the guest room turned with no resistance.  She ran over to
the dressing table and opened the music box.   It was silent, no
music came forth when she opened the lid.  However, nestled in the middle
of the box was the ink black rabbit foot key chain.  The one that she knew
had not been there last night.  In shock she closed the lid.  As she
did her eyes caught a flash of red.  As
she studied the lid of the box, she realized there was an additional heart in
deep red that had not been colored in the night before.

 

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