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By dinnertime, Lynn was all smiles and cheer again. She talked non-stop about her new clothes and insisted on modeling them for Gary when dinner was over.
She pranced around the living room, twirling about in her skirt and strutting in her new jeans.
“You look gorgeous, sweetie,” Gary commented, watching her pirouette around the coffee table.
He picked her up and swung her around the room.
“Fashion show is over, though,” Gary said as he put her down. “It’s time for bed.”
Lynn made no protest when Gary led her up the stairs to tuck her in for the night. Kimberly went through her nightly routine of clearing up the kitchen and getting the dishwasher started.
In a few minutes, Kimberly could hear Gary’s heavy tread on the stairs.
“Lynn wants you to finish tucking her in, and she requested a story,” Gary informed her with a smile as he rummaged through the cupboards. He grabbed a Twinkie.
“Oh, God!” Kimberly exclaimed, wrinkling her nose in disgust. “Gary, that’s not even food. When did you buy those?”
Half of the cream-filled treat disappeared into his mouth. “Picked up a pack on my way home,” Gary replied through a mouthful of processed sugar and fat. “I couldn’t resist; they’re an addiction.”
“Yuck,” Kimberly protested. “I think they make those things out of Vaseline and caulk.”
Gary chuckled. “Tasty,” he remarked, reaching for another.
As she headed up the stairs, she tried to think of a story Lynn might like. They’d been reading Charlotte’s Web the other night. Had they finished it?
When Kimberly opened the door to Lynn’s room she saw, with a pang of disappointment, that her daughter had already fallen asleep. She sat down on the bed next to the little girl and smoothed her hair.
Lynn looked so peaceful, like a little angel. Her lips were parted and her blonde hair fanned out over the pillow like a halo. One arm was flung carelessly over her head.
It was hard to believe anything strange was happening to her.
Kimberly pulled up the sheet and covered Lynn, moving her arm into a more comfortable-looking position. Lynn sighed and rolled over but didn’t wake.
As she rose to turn out the light, a flicker of movement from outside Lynn's bedroom window caught her eye. One finger poised on the switch, she pulled the curtain aside and looked out.
A light was on in an upstairs window at the Bellevue house. The blind was drawn up all the way, and Kimberly could make out pink wallpaper and a canopy bed. Off in a corner sat a stuffed horse that had seen better days. Kimberly smiled. She had given that to Claire for her very first birthday.
The figure appeared so suddenly within the frame of the window, Kimberly started, nearly knocking the small lamp over in the process.
It was apparent Claire was spending another night with her grandparents, because there she was, staring out the window.
Kimberly smiled and waved but the smile died on her lips as she got a closer look at Claire. The child had a very odd look on her face, almost as if she were looking, but not seeing.
Was she saying something?
It appeared to Kimberly that Claire was moving her lips but, despite the closeness of their houses, she couldn't read her lips.
Then, the light went out and the blind came down in a flash. Just like that, the strange scene was over.
Kimberly waited a moment or two longer, then, when nothing else happened, she backed away and turned off the light.
She crossed the room and gave her daughter’s cheek a light kiss.
As she descended the stairs, she found herself wondering when she’d taken a detour from real life into The Twilight Zone.