All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
— Leo Tolstoy
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“Get out of my room!”
Anya leaped forward and shoved Todd aside, so hard and fast that he stumbled backwards and hit his head against the bed frame. The loud thud resounded throughout the house.
Mary-Anne and Papa quickly appeared. Mary-Anne rushed to Todd but Papa merely stood in the door frame and looked at Anya. She clenched her teeth, not meeting Papa’s eyes, and ran a finger along the jagged edge of the merry-go-round where the horse’s leg had snapped off.
Mary-Anne cradled Todd in her arms as he wiped his nose on his sleeve, the broken piece held tightly in his little hand. Rubbing the stubble on his chin, Papa looked pointedly at Anya.
Anya said: “It was an accident.”
Papa held up a warning finger. “I want you to—”
“He was in my room again.”
“He broke it!” said Anya, barely keeping her voice below a shout. “It was Ma’s.”
Papa grabbed her by the arms and shook her, “Anya!” The key at the end of her necklace slipped from her blouse and swung violently.
“That’s not a reason,” said Papa. “I want you to apologize to Todd.”
Their eyes met. Anya gaped at him like a fish out of water, eyes wide and glazed.
With her back against the wall, Anya slouched outside Todd’s bedroom as Mary-Anne read Todd The Three Little Pigs. Papa chuckled in the armchair by the bookcase.
“Little pig, little pig, let me come in.”
Todd put his finger to his nose and frowned. “Mmm…”
He leaned his head back as far as he could, and then shouted, “No!”
Mary-Anne said: “Then I’ll huff,” she put the book down on the bedside table. “And I’ll puff,” she raised her hands as if they were claws and loomed over Todd’s head, “And I’ll blow your house down!” Todd burst out laughing, squirming as Mary-Anne pinned him down and blew raspberries on his belly.
“Alright, kiddo,” said Papa, “time for bed.”
Quickly, Anya tiptoed back into bed and pulled the covers up. She shut her eyes and pretended to be asleep as Papa came into her bedroom. He brushed her hair from her face and kissed her goodnight. Anya waited until Papa and Mary-Anne went downstairs and she could hear the faint murmur of the television before taking the music box out from under the sheets. She set it beside her pillow and unclasped her mother’s necklace. Anya pushed the key into the winding hole, and turned it. With her head against the pillow, she hummed along to the cheery tune and watched the horses prance, spinning round n’ round n’ round … and round.
It was dark, but the light of the moon shone into the bedroom. Rain came down in silent sheets, droplets glistened on the window as lightning lit up the sky. A long, reed-like shadow seeped from under the door, filling the air with the burnt smell of caramel. Anya’s nose twitched. The shadow gambolled awkwardly across the bedroom, for its legs wiggled like paper in the wind. Quietly, it looked at the music box on the bed beside Anya. It reached out to touch the jagged edge of the horse’s leg, where was the broken piece? it wondered.
Seeing the table set up for tea, it rubbed its hands in delight and decided it would look for the missing piece later. Swirling up the chair like a ribbon, it took a seat between the stuffed bear and the red-headed doll. It doffed its top hat before pouring itself a cup of tea with a bit of milk and sugar. Leaning back, it swung one leg over the other, raised its long, thin pinkie high, and chomped into the rim of the cup, crumbs gathering at the corners of its round mouth.
The horse’s leg wasn’t in the closet or in a drawer; it wasn’t hidden in the jewellery box or in a pair of socks. The shadow looked around the bedroom once more, when from the corner of its eye it spotted a black bottle on the bedside table and eyed it suspiciously. With the tip of its fingers, it uncorked the perfume bottle and peeked inside— just then the door creaked, startling the shadow who drew back hastily.
Todd crept past the door frame. Lightning flashed and a loud burst of thunder roared across the sky, startling the little boy. He broke into a sprint and climbed into the bed beside Anya.
“Go away,” she said flinging her pillow at Todd. It missed him by an inch, falling against the tea set. The cups bounced and clinked together. Todd gasped and Anya clasped her hands over his mouth, casting a worried glance at the door.
“I’m sorry I broke the merry-go-round.” Todd said when the coast was clear, furrowing his brow and reaching out to touch the key necklace. Anya quickly snatched it up and put it around her neck.
Todd whispered: “Can we fix it?”
“No, we can’t,” said Anya. “Now get off or I’ll push you again.”
Todd hopped down. The handles of the dresser drawer rattled as he rummaged through a heap of crayons, sheets of paper and bead bracelets. Todd emptied Anya’s pencil case and hurried back.
“What are you doing?” Anya hissed between her teeth. “You’re going to get me in trouble again!”
Todd held out the horse’s leg and showed her the glue stick in the palm of his hand, but Anya swatted his hand away.
“You can’t fix it,” said Anya. “Now go—”
All of the sudden, the shadow launched itself from under the bed, snatching the horse’s leg from Todd’s outstretched hand.
“Give it back,” said Todd, but it was too quick. The shadow grinned as it perched itself on top of the wall and gobbled the broken piece up. With a satisfying gulp, it flitted past Todd’s feet and vanished under the door. Todd chased after it.
“Wait!” shouted Anya and she rushed out of the bedroom. She caught a glimpse of Todd’s pajamas as he disappeared up the attic steps. Anya followed him, but when she reached the attic, it was empty. Todd had disappeared, as if into thin air.