“The trees are looking at me again,” Kyra said, playing with her hair. “They do that, mummy, when they think you’re not looking.”

“Don’t be silly,” her mother said. “If I hear you say that again, I’ll have to be cross with you. Now go and play with your dolls.”

“I can’t,” she sighed, still looking out of the window at the rain. “They’re not speaking to me.”

Abigail sighed, put down her pen and looked at her daughter. “What utter nonsense you do talk, Kyra.”

She turned and looked at her mother. “It’s not nonsense, mummy. Just what I see.”

Kyra stood up and walked away from the window, over to the table, and sat at one of the chairs.

“Oh, Daddy wants to kill you,” she said. “He doesn’t say it, but he’s thinking about it.”

“What?” Abigail laughed. “Don’t be so silly.”

“He was thinking about poisoning your dinner last night, but he was afraid you’d taste it.”

Kyra sat on one of the chairs at the kitchen table, and started staring intently at the grain in the wood.

Abigail looked at her daughter for a few minutes. Kyra had been – well, not right, was perhaps the term – for a couple of years. She kept saying she saw monsters, things living in the cupboard. Once she saw a monster that told her he’d just eaten someone’s uncle.

“It’s just a phase,” she whispered to herself, and went back to marking.

After a few minutes, Kyra went back to the window and started looking out again.

What is she staring at? Abigail thought. She tried to resist, but couldn’t.

“What are you watching?” she asked.

“Just a bird in the tree,” Kyra said. “It’s sad because it can feel death coming.”

“Kyra that’s enough!” Abigail shouted. “I’m trying to work here, I have essays to mark and I can’t concentrate with you –”

The girl turned to look and there was something in her eyes Abigail didn’t like. Something not human.

“With me what, mummy?”

“Interrupting me,” she said, sheepishly. “I mean, distracting me.”

“But I like to sit here,” Kyra said. “I can watch the people as they go along. I just saw a man who is going to jump off the bridge tomorrow morning because he’s lost all his money gambling. It’s very interesting.”

“How Kyra?” Abigail felt close to crying. “How do you know these things?”

“I just do, mummy,” the girl shrugged.

Abigail put the marking down and cradled her head in her hands.

“I wouldn’t worry about it, mummy,” she said. “It won’t matter soon.”

Abigail didn’t know what that meant. She didn’t want to know. What on earth did she do to be landed with such a crazy daughter?

She stood up, turned around and filled the kettle from the sink. She replaced it on its base, switched it on, brought out a mug from the cupboard above and put a spoon of instant coffee from the jar into it.

“You know, Kyra,” she said, without turning round. “Sometimes, you really are weird, do you know that?”

“I know, mummy,” the girl replied. “And I’m sorry.”

“It’s OK, honey.”

“I will miss you, if that helps, when you’re dead.”

She turned round and looked at the girl, who was staring at her with that unearthly stare again.

“What do you mean, when I’m dead?”

“You’re dying already, mummy,” she said. “Daddy poisoned the milk you used for your last coffee with warfarin.”

She blinked, twice.

“What?” she asked, feeling her chest growing tight.

Kyra nodded. “He’s been having an affair with a woman at work, and he wants to run off with her.”

Abigail was finding it difficult to breathe.

“Only, if you die, you see, then he’ll get the insurance money.”

Abigail slumped down the side of the cabinets, her fingers grabbing at the counter top.

“Kyra,” she murmured. “My pills.”

“What pills mummy?”

“For my heart?” Abigail gasped.

The girl shook her head. “I wouldn’t worry about those, mummy. Daddy replaced them with sugar ones yesterday.”

Abigail tried to scream but couldn’t. The crushing pressure on her chest was worse than ever, her jaw felt tight, and she needed to sleep…

Kyra watched for a few minutes, trying to work out whether her mother was actually dead or not. Eventually, she decided that she was.

It had been an interesting experiment, and she was delighted it had worked so well at the first try. She’d expected this project to last all year, but mummy’s heart had been worse than she had hoped for.

The little girl giggled to herself, then gathered herself together, took a deep breath and started to cry. When she felt she had enough tears to be convincing, she started screaming.

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