NINE YEARS AGO…
"I'm gonna KILL you, Zack!"
Wet, sodden, and fuming with anger, eight year-old Kaylene charged as fast as her sopping wet sundress would let her. She had just found a wild rose – a rare find where she lived - peacefully minding her own business, when a shadow fell over her – following by a bucketfull of cold water.
"Zachery Merridson, you are SO dead!" She shrilled, charging after the young boy ahead of her.
"You gotta CATCH me first, slowpoke!" Zack laughed, jogging ahead of her. Being two years her senior as well as playing Little League soccer, the atheletic boy had little trouble staying ahead of the angry girl.
This was regular interaction for the two of them…ever since the Merridsons' first visit, Kay could not stand the sight of Zack. He was mean-spirited, rude, and loved tormenting girls.
In short, he was a boy.
It was clear the feeling was mutual towards her. Much as she wanted to slap him however, she had refrained. After all, her parents had told her to be polite, and no matter how much it pained her, she just smiled and ignored Zack best she could.
Now she was past the point of caring. Regardless of consquences, if she happened to catch Zack, she'd go far beyond slapping him.
"Get back here, creep! I'll kill you!"
"Maybe in a million years, slowpoke!" The sandy-haired boy taunted her, dashing around a corner, Kay in hot pursuit.
Not wanting the game to end so soon, Zack turned his head to look back and laughed. Sure enough, Kay was still giving chase, waving her arms and screaming.
Because he was looking back however, he didn't the mud puddle ahead of him. With a shout of surprise, Zack slipped, slid – and went smack face down in the mud.
Before he could pull himself up, he felt Kay's weight crash on top of him, flinging mud and punching him.
"You big creep! You jerk!"
"Get offa me, brat!"
The two rolled around in the mud, both fiercely trying to pin the other down. The strange mud wrestling match was brought to an end by a loud voice.
"Kaylene Woods, what on EARTH do you think you're doing?"
The young girl looked up, and bit her bottom lip nervously. Her Aunt Maggie didn't look too impressed to see the two of them covered in brown mud.
"He started it!" She pointed at Zack.
"Nuh uh! She hid my action figures, and won't tell me where she hid them!"
"Serves you right, for pulling my Barbies' heads off!"
"Alright, BOTH of you! Enough! Inside, now!"
The two of them plopped just inside, mud dripping on the tile floor. Sighing in exasperation, Kay's aunt began ushering her niece into the washroom.
"Kaylene, take off those muddy clothes and get in the shower immediately! Your father will be home soon, and we can't have you covered in mud! Zachery, you'll have to be hosed down outside."
Even through the closed door, Kay could hear the evil boy's response.
"Yes, ." His voice became the prime example of sweetness and politeness.
Oh, how she hated him.
Getting some relief from her tormentor for a little while, Kay rinsed her hair out and scrubbed the mud off her body, then grabbed the towel her aunt had put out for her. Her muddy clothes lay on the floor in a mess, but fortunately the bathroom floor was tiled as well, so it would be fairly easy to mop up.
She had just finished changing into a set of clean clothes (also provided by her aunt) when she heard voices in the hallway. She winced; no doubt her father would learn of what transpired from her aunt, and she would get a lecture for it. She opened the door to face the music – and came face to face with Zack.
She scowled. "Go bother someone else. I've had enough of you for one day."
He grinned. "What if I haven't had enough of you?"
She glared at him, teeth clenched. "If you do anything else to ruin my day, I'll scream and say you peeked up my skirt!"
Zack rolled his eyes. "No one will believe that. I doubt there's even anything there worth looking at."
Kay barely managed to restrain herself from lunging for his throat. Her face felt hot and flushed – whether it was from embarassment or anger she couldn't tell. But she was already in enough trouble as it was – starting a fight would not improve matters. Zack had a way of finding just the right buttons to push in order to aggrevate her, and even more infuriating was that the more angry and furious she got, it only seemed to amuse him. So she simply turned on her heels and stomped away.
Or rather, she would have, had not a strong male voice cut into the scene.
"Kay? Stay here for a moment, please."
She heard the voice, wincing inwardly, and turned to see her father standing in a doorway with Zack's parents.
"Hello, Daddy." She offered him a bright smile, but it did nothing to brighten the mood of the adults.
"Kay, your aunt has told me that you pushed Zack into a mud puddle. Is this true?"
"No! I didn't push him! He tripped and fell in!"
"Yeah…then you jump on top of me, fatty." Zack muttered, though everyone could hear.
"Zack! Don't say such a thing to Kaylene!" The boy's mother scolded him.
"Kay?" Her father raised an eyebrow.
She lowered her head. "Yeah….I did do that."
"And just look at the mess she made! All this mud everywhere!" Her aunt shrieked in a shrill tone.
"It wasn't my fault! He…" Kay's voice trailed off. It was obvious her father didn't want to hear the rest of the story.
"Kay, I think you owe Zack an apology." Her father said calmly.
She made a face, but knew she had to do what her father asked. She turned and faced Zack. "I'm sorry." She managed to get out, trying not to sound sarcastic.
"Kay, do you know what you're apologizing for?"
"For jumping on top of you after you fell." She answered her father's question, still looking at the boy.
"Zack?" looked at his son expectedly.
Zack looked as equally thrilled as Kay had, but likewise apologized to Kay. A minute later, when the adults turned away to talk with each other, he looked at Kay and stuck his tongue out. She would have returned the gesture, but realized the adults had turned their attention back to the children.
"Maggie, would you see them off? I need to talk with my daughter for a second."
"Oh, are you leaving so soon? I barely got to see you!" Maggie protested
"We'll stay longer next time. We were only stopping in…." Zack's mother responded as she and her husband took their evil son with them towards the front door, and the rest of the conversation was lost.
Kay's father had taken a seat on an full-backed chair. "Come over here, Kay."
She walked over and sat on the padded footstool in front of the chair.
"Kay, I understand you and Zack have your differences, but his parents are old friends of mine. You really need to try harder to get along with him."
"But he's so mean, Daddy! I mean, every time I talk to him, he makes fun of me! And he pulled the heads off all my Barbie dolls! And, when I was minding my own business, he poured a bucket of cold water all over me! It was freezing!" She complained.
Her father placed one hand on her shoulder. "Barbie dolls can be fixed. But listen carefully Kay. The next time he pours cold water on you, or does anything to bully you like that…..I want you to belt him in the stomach, as hard as you can."
Kay blinked in shock, then let out a giggle as she saw her father's broad smile.
"You have to be nice, but you don't have to be a pushover either." He winked at her.
Father and daughter then embraced, laughing together.
And that was the last time in nine years I had to associate with Zachery Merridson, the demon child from hell.
Until one week ago.
When everything changed.