Estimated reading time — 20 minutes
Fabled Oaks Elementary School – 1998
The bell rang out through the corridors and classrooms of Fabled Oaks Elementary School, signalling the end of another day for the children and teachers within.
“Okay kids, that’s the bell!” Sarah Rogers stood up from her desk and made the announcement to her 2nd grade class, who had already started packing up their things. “Don’t forget your homework for tomorrow! Write out one rule you have to follow at home and why you think it’s a good idea to follow it.”
A couple of the kids looked up at Sarah and nodded or smiled politely. Michael Redman kept his eyes on the floor, slung his bag over his shoulder and made a b-line for the classroom door. Sarah moved to stop him, crouching down to his level.
“Did you hear that Michael?” She enquired sweetly.
Michael stopped but didn’t look up from the floor. “Yes Miss Rogers” he mumbled.
“For tomorrow, yes Michael?”
Michael scuffed his foot on the classroom carpet. “Yes Miss Rogers” he repeated in an identical mumble.
Sarah placed a hand on Michael’s shoulder in an effort to at least inspire some eye contact. It didn’t work. “It’s a just few sentences, no more than half a page. Ask for your mom for help if you get in a bind okay?”
Michael stood in silence with his eyes still fixed on the floor, waiting to be dismissed.
Sarah stood up and stepped out of his way. “Go on home now Michael and you have a great evening!” She tried to sound as chirpy as possible but couldn’t help letting out a heavy sigh as Michael hurried out of her classroom and down the corridor.
Stepping out into the crisp winter afternoon, Sarah breathed in the fresh air. She watched all the parents gathering kids into their arms, wrangling them into cars or forcing on gloves and scarves for the walk home. Sarah wrapped her own scarf round her neck and strode off towards her apartment. It was only around a 15 minute walk back home but Sarah relished the opportunity for some time to herself to get a little exercise and listen to her walkman. Today however, she couldn’t help thinking about little Michael Redman as she walked among the bare trees that lined the picturesque streets of Fabled Oaks. Of course she’d taught quiet kids before, daydreamers and artistic types, but they usually came at least a little out of their shell after a few months. Michael had come into her class nervous and introverted and had remained that way for the 7 months she’d taught him. She wasn’t aware of any problems at home, though she’d never met his mom, his dad seemed pretty together, providing a stable home with his stable job. There was just no reason for Michael to be quite as distant as he was, save for the fact he might just be a weird kid, which was of course okay as far as Sarah was concerned. Most famous and well respected singers, actors and artists claim to have been weird kids at school, he probably had a lifetime of greatness to look forward to. Just as long as he wasn’t being bullied, wasn’t being damaged at school… or at home.
These thoughts stayed with Sarah right up to the door of her apartment, but they were immediately pushed from her mind when her roommate Ryan swung open the slab of bleached wood and grabbed her by the shoulders.
“He called this afternoon!” he cried theatrically before practically dragging Sarah over to the answering machine. He forced her down into a chair and then sat opposite her, a captive audience.
Sarah reached out and pressed play on the machine. What followed was a message from a man named Derek, with whom Sarah had been on two dates. They’d gone well and now Derek was asking if he could come over on Friday night and cook her a romantic meal. The message ended and Ryan waited expectantly for a reaction.
“Okay, cool” was Sarah’s muted response.
“Okay cool?!” Ryan flew up from his chair. “Okay cool?!” he repeated incredulously. “This is the third date Rogers! The third date!” Ryan clapped his hands together with glee as Sarah stood up and started taking off her coat and scarf.
“So?” she replied, uninterested.
“So? So?!” Ryan marched over to the window and flung it open. “Let the world rejoice! This Friday the great dry spell of 1997 to 1998 will finally be broken!”
“Ryan!” Sarah switched into teacher mode as she told him off and slammed the window shut. “Our neighbours already hate us” she snapped.
“No Sarah they hate me, they pity you because they’re all closed minded bigots!” Ryan made a point of raising his voice and angling its direction towards the wall as he said the last three words.
Sarah threw a pillow at him, shushing him aggressively.
“Be more excited Sarah” was Ryan’s giddy response, “my God do you need this!”
Sarah flopped down on the sofa and finally let a smile spread across her face.
“Yes!” Ryan cheered, “stay right there, I’m making celebratory spaghetti!”
Sarah sank back into the cushions. She’d always prided herself on the fact that she didn’t need a boyfriend to be happy and while that fact still remained, it had felt like a long year… Derek seemed fun and Sarah would be the first to admit that she could really use some fun in her life.
At 3 o’clock the next day the bell rang out again and again the kids in Sarah’s 2nd grade class began packing up to go home for the night.
“Anyone who hasn’t handed in their homework yet needs to do so before they leave!” Sarah called out over the rumble of chairs scraping across floors and books being shoved into bags. Everyone handed in their sheets of paper and left in a hurry, eager to get home to their comic books and cartoons. Sarah would not be leaving so soon, choosing to grade the aforementioned homework in the peace and quiet of her classroom, away from Ryan and his distractions. She didn’t read the papers in the order they were handed in, instead she went straight for Michael Redman’s, eager to get a further insight into his home life. She found it near the bottom of the pile, scrawled in red pen.
At home I have to eat all of my vegetables.
I think this is a good rule because even though I don’t like vegetables Mommy says if I don’t eat them the ghost of Lisa Lynn will come to my room at night and pull out all my teeth and my tongue for not looking after them.
I like my teeth and my tongue so I think it is a good rule.
Sarah shuddered as she read the words, even more so when she saw the macabre drawing at the bottom of the page. Still in stark red biro, scribbled with violent strokes was a woman crawling across a floor on all fours. She had messy, thin hair hanging limply over her face and her mouth was gaping wide open, filled in with nothing but red spirals. Sarah was all for using a child’s imagination to drive home important life lessons, but this seemed a cautionary tale too far in her opinion. She tried to work out if Michael’s mother had helped him write the piece, whether she knew this was what his teacher was going to read. The grammar was fine but Michael was a smart kid, he was capable of writing at this level on his own. Had he made up the story? From any other kid Sarah might not have been so worried about the thought, but stories that dark coming from kids as introverted as Michael were usually not a good sign. Sarah put the paper aside and tried to push those thoughts from her head while she graded the others.
“Have you ever heard of Lisa Lynn?” Sarah asked Ryan as he emerged out of the kitchen clutching two glasses of red wine.
“Is she the guy who’s gonna bring you back from the land of sexual repression?” Ryan smiled as he handed Sarah a glass. “No? Let’s talk about Derek instead then! Have you called him back?”
Sarah knew she wasn’t going to be able to breach any other topic with Ryan until they’d laid that one to rest, so she obliged. “Yes, I called him at lunchtime, he’s coming over tomorrow to cook me a meal”
Ryan stamped his feet with glee. “And you’ll-”
“Shave every inch of my body below the neck tonight, yes” Sarah cut in. “And you’ll-”
“Make sure I’m not here from tomorrow lunchtime to Saturday afternoon” Ryan responded in kind. They took a moment to look at each other in shared excitement before Sarah pulled the conversation back.
“So. Lisa Lynn. Ever heard the name before?” She asked, taking a sip from her glass.
Ryan thought for a moment before his eyes widened just a little and he opened his mouth to speak.
“Serious answers only please” Sarah cut him off again.
Ryan faked a frown before seriously considering the question. “Are we talking someone from School? Work? Mutual friend? Long lost cousin?” A surprisingly valid question, at least he was taking this seriously.
“We’re talking urban legends, cautionary tales that kind of thing. Like Bloody Mary or The Sandman.” Sarah replied.
Ryan was suddenly a little more interested. “Oooooh, can’t say I have. What’s her deal? Say her name three times and she appears and eats you?” Ryan was seriously into urban legends, so his lack of knowledge concerning this particular one suggested it probably hadn’t reached an audience any wider than the Redman family.
“Close… kind of.” Sarah took another sip of wine as Ryan leaned in, relishing the idea of a new tale he could tell at Halloween parties.
“She visits you if you don’t eat your vegetables and she pulls out all your teeth and your tongue”
Ryan fell back in his chair in a fit of giggles. “Eeeeeew, that’s gross!” he spluttered. “But lots of people don’t eat their vegetables… pretty crappy story if you ask me, most people will know it’s not true straight away.”
“Lots of people never eat any vegetables?” Sarah commented dryly, “and are there any urban legends that anyone actually believes?”
“Yes Sarah, this is America” Ryan shot back, “and have you ever said Candyman 5 times in a row?”
Sarah didn’t respond, which was enough of an answer for Ryan.
“Exactly!” he laughed triumphantly before standing up and heading to the kitchen to fill his empty glass. “Maybe she only appears once you know about her, like there’s no excuse after that?” he suggested as he came back into the living room with full glass and a fresh bottle. “Where did you hear about her anyway?”
“One of the kids wrote about her in a homework assignment.”
Ryan stopped, mid movement. “Jesus Sarah what was the assignment? You teach 2nd Grade right?!”
Sarah laughed and Ryan seemed pleased with the reaction, realising she was worried he’d decided to cheer her up.
“It was about writing a rule that they have to follow at home, and why they think it’s a good one to follow. This kid Michael wrote about his mom making him eat his veggies so Lisa Lynn wouldn’t come and… do her thing.”
Ryan began to put together why she was so worried. “Wow, that’s kinda messed up.” he observed. “What’s the kid like?”
“Who, Michael? He’s small, introverted, quiet” Sarah sighed.
“Ain’t it always the quiet ones” Ryan growled like a hard boiled detective, managing to extract another little laugh out of Sarah. “You think he made it up? Pretty dark for an 8 year old.”
“You’d be surprised at the kind of shit 8 year old’s can conjure up out of their twisted little minds, Ryan” Sarah laughed again, but then her face dropped a little. “If it was any other kid I wouldn’t be worried. From any other kid it’d be a joke, seeing how far they could push the boundaries y’know? But Michael’s different.” Sarah looked down at her wine, lost in thought.
“You’re gonna call his mom, right?” Ryan asked.
Sarah snapped back to reality. “I think I have to, don’t you?” Her eyes searched for reassurance.
“I most definitely do!” Ryan obliged.
Sarah stood up headed for the phone.
“You’re gonna call now?!” Ryan gestured at the bottle and the empty glass in front of Sarah’s chair.
“Yeah, I’m fine! Plus I won’t be able to concentrate on anything else till I sort this out.” Sarah dialled for the operator and looked out the window onto the street while she waited for an answer. “Hi, can you connect me to the Redman household please? In Fabled Oaks, yes” she twisted the phone chord between her fingers while she waited to be connected.
“Hello?” came the voice on the other end of the line. “This is Harry Redman, who’s this?”
“Hello Mr Redman” Sarah’s phone voice was soft but professional. “This is Sarah Rogers, I’m Michael’s 2nd Grade teacher.”
“Ah, hello Sarah, am I okay to call you Sarah? Please call me Harry.” His voice was warm and friendly, as he had been the few times he and Sarah had met previously.
“Of course Harry, how are you? I was wondering if I might speak to Michael’s mother?” Sarah cut straight to the chase; she hated talking to parents about their kids’ issues.
“Oh we’re all fine thanks but Rachel can’t come to the phone at the moment, she’s- she can’t come to the phone. Is there anything I can help you with?” Harry’s tone was suspicious, suddenly his warmth wasn’t so easily felt.
“It’s just a little question about a homework piece Michael wrote” Sarah tried to retain her composure through the conversation’s sudden shift in tone. She looked round at Ryan, who responded with an encouraging thumbs up. “It would actually be great if I could meet with her in person to talk about it, could she come in after school on Monday?”
“Oh no, she wouldn’t come into the school.” As Harry said the words Sarah could hear a strange noise coming from the other end of the line, as if someone else in the room was groaning. Trying to ignore the disturbing sounds Sarah pressed on.
“She wouldn’t come into the school? May I ask why not?” she asked.
Harry struggled to make himself heard over the groaning. It was as if someone was trying to talk to him but didn’t have the capacity to form the words properly. “I mean, she wouldn’t wait until Monday, could she see you tomorrow?” He asked, distracted.
Sarah sighed in frustration, remembering her plans with Derek. “I’m afraid I have to be back home as soon as school finishes tomorrow.” The noise on the other end of the phone got louder.
“Could she drop by your house, then?” Harry asked blithely, as if he didn’t realise the irregularity of his question. It took Sarah aback and she answered without thinking,
“I suppose. I live pretty close to the school, the Pine Grove, apartment 203.” She regretted the words as soon as she said them.
“That’s great! She’ll come over around three-thirty?” Harry’s full concentration was still focused elsewhere as the moaning continued.
“Okay, tell her I’ll see her then.”
Harry hung up without saying goodbye.
Sarah stood for a moment, phone still at her ear, unsure of what to do next.
“Well that sounded odd.” Ryan’s observation snapped Sarah out of the confused daze the conversation had left her in. “Am I right to think you’ve just asked this kid’s mom to come here? The same evening you’re supposed to be ‘entertaining’ Derek?” His tone was almost accusatory.
“Well I couldn’t wait around at school for her!” Sarah snapped back.
“And why is waiting around here any better?” Ryan still sounded like he was telling her off and Sarah raised her voice and sharpened her tone in response.
“Because I can be tidying and getting ready while I wait and as soon as she’s gone I don’t have to make time to get home or anything, I can just be getting ready.” She was coming up with accuses as she was saying them, afraid to admit that there was no reasoning behind her decision to have Michael’s mom over to the apartment, she’d just panicked and agreed to it out of politeness. “Besides, what do you care, you won’t be here remember?” Sarah was shouting now, her knuckles turning white as she gripped the phone and waved it in Ryan’s direction.
“Yeah, I’ll be at Kate’s house!” Ryan was shouting right back at Sarah. “If you’re still cozying up with this kid’s mom when Derek gets here send him over to me, I’ll make sure he doesn’t waste any more of his time!” He swiped the wine glasses from the table and stormed out of the room.
“What’s that supposed to mean?!” Sarah shouted after him but it was too late, he’d already left her company.
The next day at school was much like any other. Fridays were always harder because the kids knew it was the weekend soon, so they were more easily distracted, more excitable. Sarah did her best to try and teach them something through the constant hum of chat and giggling, but she too was preoccupied. Her phone conversation the previous night still had her spooked. Something was seriously off with Harry Redman and that groaning noise. That horrible groaning noise, Sarah could still hear it if she closed her eyes. It wasn’t like someone in pain or anything, it was just like they were trying to communicate with Harry, or whoever else was in the room. It was high pitched, like a woman or a child’s voice and it was calm, like someone slowly and methodically trying to form words without the proper capacity to do so. Like someone trying to talk without a tongue. The thought hit Sarah in the middle of third period. Harry had originally said that his wife wouldn’t come to the school, but even when Sarah questioned it he had simply suggested meeting on a different day. It was Sarah who said she couldn’t meet at the school that evening, but Harry had never suggested meeting at the school, he did suggest meeting at her apartment, though. Away from the judging eyes of the public. Why would Michael’s mother be afraid to meet in public? Who was making those strange sounds on the other end of the phone? Sarah was suddenly terrified of meeting with Michael’s mother. She didn’t want to hear any more about what Lisa Lynn might do if you don’t eat your vegetables, especially if she might hear the story told by someone with first hand experience.
“You think a ghost took this kid’s mother’s teeth?” Sasha handed Sarah a strong coffee and sat down opposite her, shifting uncomfortably in the cheap, itchy armchair that had occupied the staff room since the school was built in 1964. “Are you sleeping enough?”
Sarah couldn’t help but laugh at herself, hearing it laid out in plain english she realised how ridiculous she was being. “After hearing it out loud? No, I don’t believe that.” She looked down at her coffee nervously, swirling the liquid around and staring into the blackness. She was telling the truth, she didn’t believe Lisa Lynn had visited Michael’s mother, so why did she still have a knot in her stomach?
“You don’t even know that was her making noises on the phone, right?” Sasha asked.
“No, I guess I don’t.” Sarah replied.
“So there’s a pretty strong chance that this woman will come to your house tonight, get offended that you’re either questioning her parenting methods or calling her child a psycho, and leave mumbling something about moving schools, right?”
“Right.” That particular scenario didn’t exactly make Sarah feel better.
“Worst case scenario?” Sasha continued. “It was her making weird noises in the phone and she hasn’t got any teeth or a tongue. She probably lost them in a horrific accident and now struggles through life without the ability to talk or chew properly, the one silver lining being that she can use her disfigurement to make her kid eat his vegetables.” Sasha stopped and took a moment to lean in and make eye contact with Sarah. “Remember, I’m making this up, I don’t believe any of this is true for a second.” Point made she leaned back into her armchair again. “So you have to make it through an awkward evening of trying to communicate with this woman whilst making it seem like her total lack of oral furniture doesn’t totally freak you out. That’s all you’d have to do.”
Sarah smiled timidly and looked out through the window at all the children on their lunch break, running around in the playground, not a care in the world.
Sasha reached out and touched her arm gently. “You won’t have to do any of that, Sarah. This kid’s mother is going to be a normal, functioning human who thinks her horror stories teach her kids more lessons than you do, just like all the others.”
For the first time that day Sarah felt okay about the whole situation. It was a talent of Sasha’s, rationalising and explaining things clearly and honestly, it’s what made her a phenomenal teacher despite her rampant pessimism.
Sarah had called to try and cancel the meeting several times throughout the morning, but there was never any answer at the Redman house. Sasha’s pep talk had put her mind at ease dramatically, but given the choice she would still rather not go through with the meeting. When three o’clock rolled around and school finished for the week, Sarah checked in at reception to see if anyone had called back to confirm the cancellation. A frail shake of the head from the ancient receptionist dashed any of her last hopes and she resigned herself to the fact she’d have to find out in person whether her hunch about Michael’s mother was right. She watched Michael as he left school to see if anyone came to pick him up, but he got on the bus with the other kids as usual. She didn’t listen to her walkman on the journey home, she just thought about Michael and Lisa Lynn. Or rather she thought about Michael’s mother and Lisa Lynn. She got home around three-twenty and busied herself with some tidying, although to Ryan’s credit he’d done a pretty good job of clearing tables and washing dishes before he left. Sarah hoped that meant they were okay after last night’s argument. Three-thirty came and went with no visitors at the door. Sarah’s hands began to shake less as she allowed herself to think that maybe Michael’s mother had got one of the messages she’d left. Maybe she wasn’t coming after all.
The knock came at three-fifty three. Sarah’s heart jumped into her throat as the sound of the banging shot right through her. She took a minute to calm her breathing and straighten herself out before answering the door. As she got closer the banging suddenly stopped. The visitor obviously saw Sarah’s shadow through the peep hole or heard her footsteps, nothing too weird or out of the ordinary there. It was the sound that could be heard now that the banging had ceased that put Sarah’s teeth on edge. Through the door she could hear a low rasping noise, strained and sinister, getting louder and faster. Knowing full well she’d lose her nerve if she listened to the noise any longer, Sarah steeled herself and opened the door. The woman standing on the other side was small and slender and she looked to be in her early 40s. She was dressed conservatively and smiled sheepishly but sweetly when Sarah reached out to shake her hand.
“Hi there, you must be Rachel, Michael’s mother? Is it okay if I call you Rachel?”
The woman gave a small shrug as she smiled again and nodded.
“Please come in, I’m hoping this won’t take long. I just want to quickly talk to you about a homework paper Michael wrote this week.”
Rachel entered the apartment as she was ushered in and sat in the chair at the dining table Sarah was gesturing to.
“Can I get you a tea or coffee?” Sarah asked.
Rachel shook her head but still didn’t say anything.
“Okay then, let’s get straight to it!” Sarah tried to sound upbeat as she retrieved Michael’s homework from her bag and sat down next to Rachel, but the only thought swirling around in her head was that Rachel had not said a single word since arriving at the apartment. Sarah handed over the paper and waited for Rachel to read it. A few minutes passed and Rachel was still staring at the piece of paper in front of her, so Sarah decided to cut in before the meeting dragged on too long. “It’s not down to me to tell you how to teach your children valuable lessons Mrs Redman, I just wanted to check that you were aware of this and that it’s not something we need to worry about. Michael seems to be a very sensitive child and-” Sarah suddenly noticed the look of satisfaction on Rachel’s face as she seemed to be reading the paper over and over again.
“I’m guessing from your reaction that you know about this? That’s all fine then I suppose?” Sarah asked hopefully. She was relieved that further discussion might not be needed, but Rachel’s expression of grim pleasure was hugely unnerving.
Rachel put the paper down and smiled, nodding again.
Sarah smiled back and let out a small polite laugh. “I’m guessing such a tale really works! Michael always eats his vegetables?”
Rachel nodded again and started to laugh with Sarah, a slow, low laugh from deep in her throat.
“Did you come up with the story yourself?” Sarah wasn’t laughing anymore. She couldn’t, Rachel’s laugh was far too sinister. Her heart started beating faster as the laugh got louder, surging up through Rachel’s throat and forcing her lips open.
Rachel started tapping the piece of paper with her finger, then pointing at her own chest with the same finger. Nodding. Laughing. Her mouth opening wider and wider as her laughing grew more violent. It soon opened wide enough to reveal two rows of empty gums, surrounding a hole where her tongue should be.
Sarah just sat, frozen to her chair as Rachel laughed her guttural, toothless, tongueless laugh.
She maintained eye contact, rocking back and forth as she tapped the piece of paper on the table then tapped her chest triumphantly.
When Sarah couldn’t take any more she stood up abruptly, marched over to the the door and flung it open, gesturing for Rachel to leave. “Well I think that’s everything Mrs Redman, I’ll let you get back to your evening.” she said, briskly.
Rachel rose slowly from her chair, her laugh dying down back into her throat as she shuffled out towards the open door. She stopped in the hallway and turned back to Sarah, croaking something at her in a low, but somehow familiar moan. Through her toothless gums the words were almost comprehensible as she repeated them again for Sarah’s benefit. It sounded like she was trying to say,
“Take it from me, it’s a very good rule.”
Sarah screwed her mouth shut and slammed the door, fighting back tears. She immediately went for the phone, dialling the only person she felt she could talk to about what had just happened.
“Hello?” It was such a relief to hear a familiar voice as Ryan’s friend Kate answered the phone.
“Hi Kate it’s Sarah, Is Ryan there? Could you put him on please?” Sarah tried to sound as normal as possible but her voice quivered through the sobs trying to escape her lungs.
“Uh sure, everything okay Sarah?” Kate could obviously tell it wasn’t.
“Yeah everything’s fine don’t worry, I’ve just got something I need to tell Ryan.” Sarah heard Kate put the phone down and call for Ryan, who picked up soon after.
“Sarah? What’s up? Has something happened with Derek?”
Sarah let out a small laugh, she’d completely forgotten about Derek. “I don’t think that Lisa Lynn thing is an urban legend, Ryan. I think Michael’s mom knows about her from personal experience.” Sarah could hear how crazy she sounded as she said the words. She was only half joking.
“What? Lisa Lynn?” It really wasn’t what Ryan was expecting to hear.
“I just met with Michael’s mom, she didn’t have any teeth or a tongue.” Sarah felt herself calming down just from the act of telling another person what had happened. There was a long pause on the other end of the phone before Ryan suddenly remembered their conversation from the previous night.
“Because she didn’t eat her vegetables.” He whispered, almost in awe of the revelation.
“Because she didn’t eat her vegetables.” Sarah repeated “Or she was in a car accident or something.”
Ryan laughed at the bluntness of Sarah’s explanation, but Sarah didn’t join in. “So she made up the story so she could use the disfigurement to really drive home the point? That’s pretty smart, you gotta admit.”
Sarah allowed herself a small chuckle. “It also explains why you’d never heard the story before.” There was a moment of satisfied silence as the puzzle pieces aligned. Sarah broke it when she glanced back over at the table and saw Michael’s homework still sitting on it. “I just really wish you were here right now Ryan, she was terrifying.”
“Ouch! Don’t think you can say that about cripples Sarah…” Ryan laughed.
“I don’t think you can call them cripples either, Ryan.”
“Fair point, but isn’t Derek gonna be there soon anyway?”
Sarah glanced at the clock. “Shit! Okay I’ll see you tomorrow Ryan.” Sarah slammed down the phone, thoughts of accidents and disfigurements quickly fleeing her mind as she ran into the bathroom to get ready.
When Sarah stepped out of the shower she could hear the phone ringing in the living room. She squelched through, wrapping a towel around her as she went.
“Hello?” Sarah balanced the phone between her chin and shoulder as she started drying her legs.
“Hi! Is this Sarah? Michael’s teacher?” Came the voice on the other end of the phone.
“Yep this is Sarah, who’s this please?” Sarah replied.
“This is Rachel, Michael’s mother. I’m so sorry I just checked our machine and heard your messages, I didn’t even know we were supposed to be meeting today!”
Sarah stopped drying her legs.
“Did you make the appointment with my husband? He’s been so preoccupied with our daughter Megan, I’ve been working late and he’s been looking after her, I’m afraid he completely forgot to tell me I was supposed to be seeing you.”
“That’s okay Mrs Redman” Sarah’s mind was whirring, her hands shaking uncontrollably.
“Oh please, call me Rachel! What was the meeting about anyway?” Suddenly the same moaning from Sarah’s conversation with Harry started up on the other end of the phone.
It gave Sarah chills as she remembered that woman’s parting words, spluttered out through an empty mouth.
“Shhhh, sorry about all the noise Sarah” Rachel chuckled down the phone, “that’s Megan, she’s just learning she can make sounds but it’s not quite words yet, it just sounds like-”
“Someone trying to talk without a tongue or any teeth” Sarah cut in without thinking. Out of context, it was a pretty strange thing to say and it led to a long, awkward pause before Rachel made the connection.
“Is that what this is about? Michael’s homework paper about the rule?”
Sarah didn’t answer, which Rachel took as her cue to explain further.
“It’s an old story my mother used to tell us years ago when I was just a kid. There was this girl who lived in the apartment directly below us who was missing all her teeth and her tongue. The rumour around the building was that her mother had pulled them all out because she refused to eat her vegetables, to teach her a lesson. It goes on that the girl went mad and killed herself after 20 years of not being able to talk properly, not being able to tell people she was being abused by her mother. Now she wanders around beyond the grave, visiting kids who aren’t eating their vegetables to teach them the same lesson, make them feel the pain she was never able to explain or whatever.” Rachel recited the tale as if it was the least interesting thing she’d ever said.
“And you told this story to Michael?” Sarah couldn’t conceal the judgement in her voice.
“Oh no, of course not!” Rachel chuckled down the phone again. “I only found out the whole story from my mom when I was much older, horrible rumour really, the poor girl was probably just in a car accident or something, but you know how people love a good horror story. My mom just used the name and the pulling teeth thing to make us eat our vegetables and it worked wonders. I figured it would work with Michael too, I mean it didn’t do any lasting damage to us, despite how gruesome it was!”
Sarah didn’t say anything, it was all she could do to remain calm and professional.
“Was that all it was? I can still come round if you want to discuss it more?” Rachel asked.
“No no, that’s okay Rachel that’s all there was to it.” Sarah just wanted to escape the conversation now, forget about the rule and the story and the woman who had visited her earlier that evening.
“Oh okay. It’s a shame actually, it would have been a nice trip down memory lane!” Rachel was chuckling again and it was grating on Sarah’s already frayed nerves, but she couldn’t leave that comment dangling.
“Memory lane?” She asked.
“Yes! Harry said you lived at the Pine Grove? That’s where we used to live years and years ago when I was a kid, apartment 303. That’s where I first heard the now infamous story of Lisa Lynn!”
Sarah’s blood turned cold.
“Let’s see, he’s written here that you’re in apartment 203?” Rachel continued. “Well how about that, you live directly below our old apartment!”
Sarah’s heart stopped as Rachel laughed down the phone at the coincidence. The phone slipped from her hand and onto the floor, but Sarah could still hear Rachel’s laughing. Somehow the sound didn’t seem to be coming from the phone anymore, though. It was coming from the kitchen, or maybe Ryan’s bedroom, she couldn’t quite tell but there was definitely someone laughing in her apartment. Someone with a deep, low, guttural laugh.