Happy Girl

"She has to smile, but she's not happy."

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1. Happy Girl

No, wait. Don't leave. 

The two ladies walk off anyway, no matter what I say. I can't see them anymore. But that's okay. There are a lot of other kids in this place; they've probably gone to visit someone else. 

And besides, I'm not sad about it. Those ladies were so nice! Both of them smiled at me, and kept telling each other how beautiful I was. It made me so happy I could've laughed.

I didn't, but I would've. 

So the ladies leave to tell the other kids how adorable and pretty they are; that's what the people here usually do. I just stay where I am in the grass. The place is lit by what I had always assumed was the sun. Or maybe it isn't; I never did look to see. It's quite annoying in the mornings when it suddenly flashes with a buzz, about the same time every day. But I'm sorta used to it by now. I barely even notice it anymore. 

I hold the bundle of flowers in front of me, held together with a pink ribbon knotted into a bow. They're all daisies, just like me!  And they are so pretty! I remember how I used to pick flowers in the backyard, and how my mama would always have a vase ready for when I was satisfied with my bouquet.

Maybe that's why I have these flowers. I have found a few daisies before, growing near the woods behind the house. If only Mama was here with one of those vases she made. That would make them even more pretty! 

So many happy memories, gathering flowers with my mama. I love my mama so much. She's a very beautiful lady, the beautifullest I've ever seen ever. I can remember her eyes are green, and she has chocolate brown hair, which she pulls up into a ponytail when she goes to work.

And her work is whatever she can get her hands on. Mama can do anything she puts her mind to! She grows fruits and veggies in her garden in the backyard, which she cooks into the best food in the world! She makes pots and vases out of clay, and she paints them such pretty colors. She reads me stories before bed, a few that she wrote by herself. Mama even makes clothes, any kind of clothes. Shirts, pants, dresses—there isn't anything she can't make! 

She even made me this dress. Mama bought the nicest fabric she could find, a light green roll of thin felt. She worked so hard on the dress, bunching the material in places and stitching on lace at the trim. A golden ribbon wraps around the waist, and the sleeves are puffy like balloons. Mama's fingers got so sore and red every night, but I think the pain was worth it. Because even she said it was "the most wonderful garment she had ever created." 

I really do have the best Mama ever. 

I'd love to see her again. I wonder why she never comes to see me. Does she know where I am? 

I haven't seen my mama in a long time. And I don't exactly know where I am myself. 

All I know is that this place is nice. Very very nice. The floors are so shiny they're like mirrors, and the walls are painted mustard yellow. No one's here when it's dark, but when the sun flashes there's always people walking around. A lot of them are men in nice suits, who are usually the first people to come see us in the morning.

But not all of them. Sometimes weird-looking people in funny outfits come visit me and the other kids. The ladies wear shirts with pictures on them, but also blue pants. I don't mind it, but I know that my mama would be appalled by them, and would get right to work making all of them really nice dresses, or maybe some pretty skirts. Though sometimes, their pants are ripped up at their knees. I feel bad that their clothes are ruined, and I hope they have Mamas that can sew too. But the men dress just like the ladies, and some of them have long hair too. I would giggle at them; they look like girls! 

They all dress silly, but that's okay. Because they're so nice! People come over to me all the time, and all they do is say how pretty and happy I am. I love it! It fills me with even more joy! Some of them even tear up, and that does concern me just a little. Am I so cute that I make people cry? That would be a little weird. 

I've never asked them why though. I can't do that. But I don't want them to be sad around me. They should be happy! I just want to tell them to smile! There's no reason to cry! 

I want to tell that to the boy across the room too. I always see him there, standing in a corner every day. He looks upset, like he's weeping very quietly. I can never hear him, but I know that he's sad. I want to go tell him too that everything is okay, that there's nothing to be sad about. He's staying in a beautiful place! And I hear people tell him every day how he's a sweet boy. Everyone here is very kind! 

"And this here is Happy Girl." 

Oh! More people! 

Lots of eyes fall on me. I can feel their hot gazes; they're all so sullen. I can't stand to see those people sad. I have to fix this! So I look straight ahead, and smile my best smile. Just as I had. 

"From what we've gathered, she was around the tenth of O'Connell's." 

I've heard that person's name a lot, and how I am the tenth of something. I'm never sure what the nicely-dressed people mean by any of it. 

The man in the suit is rubbing his hands together. I can't see him, but I know he's right next to me. I've spotted many nicely-dressed men walking into my vision before. This is the pale and bald one, and he's stern whenever I see him. He always rubs his hands when he shows off me and the other kids. I think he gets nervous, but I don't know why. 

"Miss Daisy Jensen was eight years old, and she truly was a happy little girl. And...O'Connell thought so too." 

I feel I can brighten the room even more with my joy, although I'm not sure if my smile has gotten any wider. Yes, I am a happy girl! But they're all still so sad. Why? I'm happy; why can't they be? 

"God," I hear a lady mutter. I can't see her either, but she sounds like she is about to burst into tears. "She's so beautiful." 

Thank you! I want to shout, but I don't say anything. 

"Honey, look," a man's voice whispers. "She's holding daisies." 

"Jesus, that's sick." 

This confuses me, because I don't think I'm ill. In fact, I feel quite fine and dandy—a phrase my mama uses all the time. And my daisies aren't wilted either; they're just as lively as ever.

Not that I've ever peered down to see them. 

"This painting was found nailed to a tree in a wooded area near her home in 1951, while her body had been left lying below it. It...wasn't a pretty sight, but I need not get into the horrid details." 

I never understood what he meant by this either. I don't ever remember sleeping under a painting, or laying in the woods for that matter. And why would he say I wasn't pretty? That wasn't very nice of him. 

"Thankfully, Miss Daisy had been sleeping when O'Connell broke into the Jensens'. If I dare say, she was one of the lucky ones." 

I've never gotten anything he's said, and I still don't get it. Why am I lucky for sleeping? It just doesn't make any sense! 

"Her mother had said she knew her daughter was watching over her from heaven, just as happy as she always was." 

No! I yell, but don't. I'm here! Tell Mama I'm right here! 

"We hope she's up there too, despite O'Connell's deranged and psychotic intentions." 

But I'm not! I'm right here! Just listen to me! 

I feel like I'm screaming but I'm not. I feel like I'm scowling but I'm not.

I stay silent, and I keep smiling. 

"Now, moving on, we have Angry Girl, one of his earliest and more gruesome victims." 

No! Please don't go! I'm here! 

The crowd moves on, and the bald man's voice grows softer. 

Why won't you listen to me?! You never listen to me! 

Why can't I speak? 

Can't you hear me?! 

Why can't I move? 

I wanna go home!

Why can't I stop smiling? 

Where's my mama?!

I can't stop smiling. 

I want my mama!

Can't stop smiling. 

This feels wrong. 

Can't stop being happy.

I'm so cold. 

I'm happy. 

I'm not... 

I'm happy. 

Am I...? 

Happy girl.

...help me.  

Happy girl. 

 

<><><><><>

 

"Mommy?" 

The woman turned back toward her gawking child. "C'mon, sweetie," she goaded. "We're moving on." 

"She's not happy." 

She stopped. "What do you mean she's not happy?" she asked, eyeing the painting once more. "Look; she's smiling." 

The little boy kept staring at the brushstroke girl. "She has to smile, but she's not happy," he said. 

The woman was certainly baffled, but also a bit annoyed. The tour was moving on without them, and the guide was already relaying the gut-wrenching misfortune of Adelaide Smith, the Angry Girl. "Russel, sweetheart, you're not making any sense," she said. "She's called Ha—" 

"Mommy, she's crying." 

She froze. 

"W—what did you say?" she spoke, sure she must have heard her five-year-old wrong. 

Little Russel turned to his mother. "Hear it, Mommy? She's crying loud." 

The woman didn't know how to respond, or what to do. 

"All of them are crying. Do you hear it?" 

No no no, she was not going to have this. This museum tour was supposed to be an educational experience for her son, not a horror show. Why was it the one day she was free from work, this terrible serial killer gallery was set up? Now these tall tales of horrid murder and paintings possessed by emotional youths were fluttering about her kid's vulnerable mind. 

"Russel, there's no little girl in that painting," she said, strolling over to her son. "It's just a scary story. Now come along." 

"But Mommy, she—" 

"I don't want to hear any more about crying. No one is crying; they're paintings, sweetie." 

"But the man said—" 

"What did I say?" she raised her voice ever so slightly. 

Russel paused a moment, but then bowed his head in obedience. The woman gestured with her hand, and he grasped it. Mother and son walked back to the tour guide, who was concluding what is currently known of Angry Girl.

The little boy looked up at the pouty-face girl in the painting now before him, knowing that she, too, was not angry at all. 

And while the bald man rambled on facts and choked up at sobering moments, the art gallery was silent to all but Russell. For it was he and only he, for whom the dozens of tortured cries to go home, and the agonized screams for Mommys and Daddys, rang about in his ears. 

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