The rain slammed hard against the thick, old window panes of my aunt's house. It was the kind of torrential storm that made the indoors seem safe, sheltering and warm.
Then a crack of lightning illuminated a thin, white figure standing against the side of my neighbor's home. A tall, spindly figure soaked through. A thin, bare white arm plastered against the window pane.
I rose to my feet and stared, my face to the glass as I observed the flailing arm.
I ran to the kitchen.
"Aunt Mary," I said. "There's a girl outside in the rain. I want to take her something."
Aunt Mary turned from her preparations at the stove. "Don't fool with that girl," she said. "That's Shirley. She doesn't want anything from you. Everyone feels sorry for Shirley. But you have to leave Shirley alone."
"She's trying to get into that house. They won't let her in." My voice had risen in disbelief.
"Do you know why she wants in?" Aunt Mary's tone had changed, and a chill went down my spine. "That other girl.
"The reason she was cast out, was because her father brought those two into her mother's house. The stepmother took over everything and effaced Shirley. She became like an outcast in her own family. Her own daughter was given Shirley's room and Shirley's things.
"And so one night Shirley went to the girl's room with a knife and stabbed her repeatedly. The parents intervened. The poor girl didn't die, but her recovery was long. She lost a great deal of blood and became confined to her room. Shirley's parents are great names in this town, and they didn't want any official scandal, so no charges were pressed against Shirley. She was sent away to boarding school, but she came back soon enough.
"She lives in the woods outside their home. Normally she keeps to herself, but I think she is looking for a way back into that house. I believe she will kill that girl if she gets the chance. Poor Ellie can't even leave the house alone."
"Poor Ellie," I whispered.