Author’s Note: Welcome back to Transient! We’re about to meet more of our ensemble. Let’s see how you feel about our do-good sheriff and Ayida’s father. If you haven’t read the first Session, please click HERE and check it out before beginning this one. Please remember to Like and Follow this blog for more updates on stories, artwork, and reviews. If you end up liking or hating this installment, leave me a comment and tell me what you think, I’m always open to critique! Now, sit back, relax and enjoy.
CW: This story contains violence, abuse, disturbing imagery, and child death. Read at your own discretion.
Ayida stared at the interrogation table in a listless daze, clenching the hem of her jacket. Not a single word had left her mouth since she arrived, especially when they let her father in. She passed him and quick glance, careful not to garner his attention but he didn’t even spare her one in return. She noted the tension lines around his eyes despite the silence between them and figured she couldn’t expect much else. She’d learned to hold back from him as much as she held back from everyone else.
Sheriff James Dennin stepped into the office and closed the door with a loud snap. His boots clicked on the linoleum in a weird sort of tap. She flicked her eyes to him as well but ended up staring at him, surprised. She expected some weatherworn cowboy or something like on TV, but Dennin looked young, even more so than her dad. His mussed chestnut hair and sharp nose rung a bit familiar to her. Even more so his hazel eyes though the severity of their focus aged made him seem… older? An adultier adult. Whatever. It made him intimidating. Despite the coffee and juice box in his hands, Ayida shrunk under his gaze.
“Not the best coffee, but it’s hot.”
His voice ran like honey with an edge of something strong that warmed Ayida’s ears. It was strangely calm in comparison to the other officers that’d brought her here. He placed the coffee down on the table in front of Tristan and the juice box in front of Ayida. She glanced at it hesitantly before taking it and opening it; her mouth had been so dry it hurt. The greetings were strained with her father nodding at the sheriff and Ayida saying nothing as she gazed just past the sheriff’s shoulder. It took her a moment to realize he was the one who’d been with Mr. Arlen when she came out of that nightmare. She couldn’t even remember if he’d said anything to her in the bathroom.
“Wow, like a high-stakes poker game,” Dennin commented with a chuckle. “Y’all so quiet, I thought my office was empty. Now, I’m Sheriff James Dennin, as you probably heard. I just got a few questions for you, lil girl. I need you to be real clear and real honest. We get through this part and you folks can go home. We won’t have to do this over again. Cool?”
Ayida arched her brow at the way he spoke and glanced up at Tristan who had a similar look. Tristan took an annoyed breath and nudged Ayida making her flinch away and reluctantly meet Sheriff Dennin’s gaze, though she stared over his shoulder.
At least he wasn’t staring at her scars.
“So, you ready, darlin’?”
“Don’t call me that.”
Tristan cut his eyes at her, his deep voice filling the already tension-heavy space.
“Just answer him.”
“Yeah. I’m ready.”
Ayida shied away when Dennin looked between them, his eyes squinting.
“Alright… let’s just start from the beginning. Why wasn’t you girls in class?”
“Really?” Ayida replied flatly.
Tristan crossed his arms. “Best have a damn good answer,” he rumbled.
“Oh my god.” Ayida closed her eyes, steeling herself. “My locker got broken into and my stuff was vandalized. I was going to go get the principal or somebody after I picked up my stuff.”
“Bad business,” he said scribbling in his notebook. “You was fumin’, I bet.”
“Not really? I mean, I know what I look like. I’m supposed to always know what I look like. I know how it makes people feel about me, too.”
Dennin went quiet for a moment, and she wondered what he was doing. His warm, kind smile spread over his face, broadening when she scrunched her face.
“Just thinkin’ that’s a pretty grown-up way to think. It’s alright if you were angry about it. Or if you felt anything at all. I ain’t blamin’ you for what happened. I just like having all the details.”
“Knowing how I feel doesn’t change what happened,” Ayida said softly.
“And what happened, Ayida. What happened when those girls showed up?”
“They just showed up. Guess wanted to poke at the freak, and they got mad that I talked back. The blonde one, Courtney, I think her name was. She ran off. She was scared of me or… scared of getting caught? I don’t know, I just know she didn’t stick around.”
“Courtney’s a bit of a scaredy-cat when the chips are down. Sorry she was involved,” Dennin said softly. “My niece and all.”
“I can understand if you’re still upset at her—”
“I’m not. Just don’t really care.”
Ayida picked up her juice box to keep from retorting.
“So, did you fight back?”
He didn’t inquire further. “So, they got ya into the bathroom and…?”
She sighed and in a dry tone she said. “They were going to put my head in a toilet.”
The room was quiet for a moment.
“Huh… Kid’s still do that kinda shi—eh – stuff?”
“So, uh, you say they were going to? What changed?”
Ayida took a last sip to stall, not wanting to say. She wound one of her curls around her fingers as she looked off to the side. When she didn’t answer, Dennin cast a quick glance at Tristan. She felt him tense at her side and his gaze settled on her. The added pressure made her coil her finger faster. She knew what it would sound like. She knew that if she told the truth… A lie would make more sense!
“Hey, Miss Ayida? S’okay, you know.”
She knew that already.
“Like I said, ain’t nobody lookin’ at you for this. We can even take a break if you want.”
Ayida shook her head, breathing in through her nose and licking her already dry lips. “I tried to leave.’
“They wouldn’t let ya.”
“No. And… I passed out or something. When I woke up, they were gone.”
Ayida averted her eyes so she didn’t have to see the skeptical look she knew was there. After all, they found both girls still in the bathroom.
“I… I mean I didn’t see them when I first woke up. I got up, slipped. Water was all over the floor and—”
“Honey you were dry when we found—”
“I know that!”
Tristan’s large hand was suddenly on her shoulder and she hyper focused on its weight and the discomfort of its squeeze.
“I… I…” Ayida swallowed and stared at him indignantly. “I know I wasn’t wet when you found me. My clothes are dry. But I did slip on some water and when I went to see where it came from… I opened the door and… Mellissa… Her—her body was—”
Ayida clasped her hands over her mouth, the sudden rush of bile burning her throat.
“Straighten up. You can’t act like this here.”
Ayida took a few breaths, fighting down stomach acid. Finally, she took a sip of juice, though the sticky sugar of it almost brought everything back up. She cleared the burn from her throat and steadied her voice with a loud sigh.
“We ain’t gotta keep going here. Maybe it’s better if—
“Mr. Jean-Baptiste, this can wait a little—”
“She said she’s fine.” Tristan crossed his arms. “I don’t want to have to come back here.”
“Alright… Alright. Can’t argue. So, what happened after whatever it was you saw. I’m assuming it was—”
“Yeah,” she said sharply. “It was Melissa. She was… uh, broken. Like in pieces in the toilet. I uh… after that, there was something in the bathroom. Something really, really big. Like long and skinny arms and all these legs and like just white. Super white.”
“Legs? So, he was gangly or?”
“I… it wasn’t a…” She scoffed and looked down at her lap. “I don’t think it was a person.” The faceless entity came across her visions like a film reel. Flashes of it staring her down with its faceless gaze choked her. The way it held her with no eyes.
“Okay. Well, uh, what did this not person look like?”
“I—” Ayida’s eyes lost focus, her heat knocking against her chest. “Uh. I don’t know.”
“Look, we can stop if ya want to, but can’t you gimme something—”
“I said I don’t know!”
Ayida shrank at the boom of Tristan’s voice, brought back to reality. She sat breathing hard and she tugged at the hem of her skirt. Dennin cut his eyes at the man, but Tristan only crossed his arms and glared back. Ayida didn’t want to be here anymore. She didn’t want to have to say it out loud. She didn’t want to say that she’d seen a monster in the bathroom. Dennin gave her a gentle smile that managed to be soothing but not enough. She didn’t hate it, but she knew very well that she couldn’t trust it. There was no such thing as an honest smile on an adult.
“Look, it’s okay. You saw a lotta stuff and I’m sure that man was scary. Don’t wanna pressure you or nothing. Alright?”
Ayida scoffed, her eyes burning, but her voice came calm and even. It was fine. She knew how to do this part.
“I couldn’t see them. They didn’t have a face, or I just couldn’t see it. It was dark like I said, or it looked dark.”
“You sayin’ he was wearin’ a mask or something?”
“I don’t kn—”
Ayida’s functioning pupil shrunk as she stared over Dennin’s shoulder. The room grew unbearably cold. The Girl in Red scrubs stood just behind Dennin, her full head of curls obscuring her face. Dennin glanced over his shoulder, right at her! But he turned back to Ayida like he saw nothing. Instead, he waved his hand in front of her. Couldn’t he see her?
Why are you here?
A R E Y O U H E R E T O P L A Y?
What are you?
Ayida only blinked once, and the pale creature towered over Dennin’s shoulder, extending bony, translucent arm out to her. A chorus of children called out to her.
I S I T T I M E T O P L A Y?
Ayida gasped but continued to stare straight at the hand. The croak that came from her gaping mouth cut her throat and hot tears ran down her cheeks.
“What’s wrong with her!?”
Ayida jumped and she began to breathe again, her head snapping to Tristan’s voice only to scream at the girl in red and the looming monster behind her. Ayida couldn’t hear anything. Couldn’t see anything. Couldn’t move. The only thing she could perceive was the girl reaching down towards her, a menacing violence nearly dripping from her dirty nails.
YOU AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE HERE!
“Ayida! Ayida come back! Darling, come back!”
Ayida gasped, air filled her lungs and she refocused. Her body wrapped tight in Tristan’s arms, his massive form blocking Dennin from her.
“She alright, man? Do I need to call someone?”
“Just stay over there!”
Ayida slowly began to relax, her body going limp as she rested her cheek against Tristan’s shoulder. She breathed in her father’s scent. Felt the warmth of his body. Tangible. Real. Sobs choked their way from her chest as she melted fully into him and panted. The hold, more utility than affection, tightened and she slipped further into calm. A reaction tempered by vigilant repetition. One she wished she didn’t need.
“Mr. Jean-Baptiste, is that girl alright?”
“She’ll be fine. It was just an episode.”
“Take her home. Let her sleep this off and get herself together.”
“Then this all you need from us?”
“Probably not, but I ain’t cruel. That girl ain’t up for anymore of this shi—crap. I ain’t gone push her. She a child.”
Ayida closed her eyes and didn’t bother object. She was tired and wanted badly to get the hell out of here.
“I’ll let Dr. Chandler question her? He helps us out all the time with the kids and not-so-put together folks. He’s already her therapist ain’t he?”
“Then it’s fine. Had thought to do it in the first place. He might soften the blow better than me.”
“He’ll be able to keep her calm, but he’ll say the same thing I did. Ayida’s not like those other girls. She’s sick.”
“Yeah… Come on, I’ll walk ya’ll out. Don’t need to be harassed.”
“Why is the other girl not being questioned like this?”
“Tsk, truth? Cause I ain’t want to.”
Ayida’s eyes opened, and she looked wearily at Sheriff Dennin, her face mirroring her father’s.
“Ain’t nobody but her and Brittany was in that bathroom. Well, now she catatonic—or so the doctors say. She just sits there not movin’ and not talkin’. Your daughter was the only one coherent. We ain’t never had nothin’ like this happen before. Calista’s a fuckin’ safe place. But here we are.”
“No place is completely safe, Sheriff. Ayida needs time. I’d appreciate it if you gave it to her and let Dr. Chandler ask her when he’s ready.”
“No objections. We’re close-knit out here. I can skirt some rules for the sake of having an expert.”
Tristan stood up, taking Ayida with him and keeping her face close to his chest. She burrowed deeply into Tristan’s shirt, eyes hooded and face worn. There wasn’t any comfort in the action; that wasn’t why she did it. Even though Tristan didn’t falter at the weight of his daughter—Ayida practically fae-like in his arms—there was a swagger in his gait belying a bum leg. Her father hid it well and to most people’s knowledge, the weakness meant nothing to the imposing figure Tristan Jean-Baptiste presented to the town. No man in Calista stood at Tristan’s impressive height. It was an intimidating edge even on Dennin who stood at a solid six-two. That implication of power from sheer size was one of the reasons Ayida knew Dennin wouldn’t bother them. Ayida was grateful for it, but… well, all that size didn’t do anything for her when he took more care covering the scarred half of her face, hiding her from view.
The Petersons—Melissa’s parents whom they all hoped to avoid—were huddled closely as what sparse information the authorities had was handed down to them by Deputy Cyrus. Mrs. Peterson noticed them as they passed and sprang to her feet to bar their way physically and verbally.
“You seent him ain’t ya? You saw the bastard who did that shit to my baby right?! What did you tell Jim? Who was it? Tell me please!”
Dennin stepped between them. “Come on now, Viv. Ya need to go back to your husband.”
“No. No! Tell me!” she pressed. “Tell me who it was! What’d he look like! This don’t happen here. You had to see somebody!”
“Ma’am,” Tristan interjected, words polite but annoyance coloring his tone. “I understand how you feel, but my daughter can’t help anyone right now.”
“P-please. You have your daughter! You have yours. Mine… mine’s gone. Mines… That lil’ girl the only one who saw what happened!”
Ayida trembled in Tristan’s arms and kept her eyes squeezed shut. “I-I didn’t see anything.”
Vivian smacked her lips. “You were there! You were the only one who saw anything! What did you see!”
“Viv, that’s enough! Now stop!”
“No! She’s a liar! She knows she saw something!”
“I didn’t see anything!” Ayida snarled, turning a near sobbing glare on the woman. “I didn’t see anything!”
Tristan pushed Ayida back to his chest. “Shut up,” he whispered harshly.
The distraught woman backed away, crossing herself, eyes comically wide and mouth agape. “Lord have mercy. You survived. You got to live while my daughter… my sweet beautiful little girl. You got to live?!”
The entire station felt the shift from annoyance to anger and Ayida couldn’t tell whose was larger—hers or Tristan’s. Tristan held her just a bit tighter, making it so she couldn’t move. The action kept her silent while Tristan towered over the woman and simply looked down at her. Dennin quickly took Vivian by the shoulders and forcibly jerked her away from the Jean-Baptistes.
“No! No! You had something to do with it!” she screeched. “What did you do?! Did you help him you fuckin’ monster!”
Tristan scoffed, his face a typograph of stress and fury as he glanced down at Ayida in his arms. Ayida looked up at him, impassive but said nothing. Her heart sunk into her stomach leaving behind a burn that was very much the same tense anger she could feel in Tristan’s hold. She just wanted to go home.
Finally leaving the statin, Tristan pressed his fob to unlock the door to his truck and opened it for her. She climbed into the passenger seat with effort, her body sore from the day’s events. Cautiously, she broke the silence just before he closed the door.
“I didn’t do anything to those girls. I was just there.”
“Yeah, I’m not stupid, lil girl. But, sometimes that’s more than enough for people to blame you.” He looked directly at her when he spoke. It made her uncomfortable. He was the only who never shied away, and the only one she wished would. “We have to blame someone when we don’t know who’s at fault. So, we look for whoever’s the most foreign. You just happened to put yourself in that position.”
“Dad, they attacked me. I didn’t do anything to them.”
“And what the hell were you doing alone with them? You should’ve ignored them and went to class? Or you should’ve left and got—”
“How?! How, dad?! They ganged up on me! They put their hands on me! What was I supposed to…” Ayida’s mouth remained open as her brows furrowed. “Y-you really don’t believe me either… do you?”
“Christ Ayida!” Tristan grabbed her face with both hands, forcing her to cringe and look him in the eyes. “You didn’t see anything. We’ve been through this over and over again. You change things you can’t handle. That girl died in front of you, you got scared so you did the only thing you could do. The only thing you ever do! You made something up!”
“Yes, you did! A monster, Ayida?”
Ayida’s mouth opened then closed and she turned away, seething at how sure he was and even more at how unsure she was. Tristan shut the door and she rested her head against the passenger window. Her eyes slid to her father as he climbed into the truck, adjusting his leg and slamming the door. Building courage to engage him again took a moment and what needed to be said certainly wouldn’t help matters either, but she needed to know.
“D-dad? I… I didn’t take my meds today.”
Ayida licked her lips and averted her eyes, focusing on the dashboard.
“I lost the pill because someone ended up making friends with me. Like, I made a friend like Dr. Chandler wanted so I kinda forgot to take another one. I thought it wouldn’t do anything, but… now I don’t know. I mean, I kept seeing things all day but… I just wondered if maybe that’s the reason I saw the monster so clear—”
“You fucking know better Ayida!” Tristan yelled.
Ayida clenched her eyes shut, jumping.
“You do not skip your medication! Ever! You know it’s important; you know why it’s important! You want to go back to the hospital? You want all those nurses and doctors poking at you all the time! Huh?”
“No! I just—I get it! It was an accident, okay! I swear I won’t do it again, but I think we should’ve told the Sheriff. We should’ve told him I take it and what it’s—”
“Don’t you dare tell anyone about them. Much less that you skipped them! It won’t help anyone, especially not us!”
“Stop!” he hissed. “You keep it to yourself. Don’t tell anybody, not even Dr. Chandler. You understand me?”
Ayida nodded slowly, still unsure but not wanting to talk about it any longer. Tristan sighed, letting some of the anger seep away, though agitation still lay in the ridge of his forehead.
“You’re always doing this,” he muttered. “Always finding every reason you can be to be a burden. Why can’t you just be a normal kid.”
Ayida looked away to the window, sighing.
“You didn’t know what to do with me when I was normal,” she snapped nastily.
Tristan said nothing, yet Ayida felt like she hadn’t won a damn thing.
A/N: thank you for reading! If you enjoyed or hated it, lemme know what you think in the comments. Don’t forget to like and follow this blog for the next installment. If you guys want to help support what we do here, consider joining our Patreon starting at $2 or donating to our Ko-Fi. You could also patron our Shop to help us keep the doors open. Thank you so much! Please follow all our social media to stay updated! Consider joining our Discord Server as well!