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The Secret by Maxine Flam


Raina went out to play with her friends as she did every day after school. She was a precocious seven-year-old and as with all children her age, she had a big imagination.

One day, Raina came home and wasn’t her happy self. She opened the front door and slammed it as she entered. Raina took off up the stairs with lightning speed, opened the bedroom door, and slammed that closed too. Raina’s mother, Lisa, was making dinner, but stopped and ran up the steps after her daughter.

Lisa tried the bedroom doorknob, but it was locked.

“Raina, it’s mom. Please open up.”

Raina opened the door and then ran back to her bed. She threw herself face down and started to cry. Lisa turned her over as she lay there. Raina’s body shook violently as she sobbed. Lisa held her until she calmed her down.

“Raina, what’s wrong?” Lisa said. “You know you can tell me anything.”

Raina rubbed the tears from her eyes. She stared at her mother without saying a word.

“What happened? Is Johnny telling ghost stories again? You kids like to go over to old Mr. Johnson’s house and imagine the worst. Johnny starts it off by telling some story of how Mrs. Johnson died. Then the wind will whip up through the old place. The boards creak. All of you get scared and then you run home. Is that it?”

Raina didn’t answer.

“Well?”

“No, that’s not it and I can’t tell you. I promised not to tell anyone. It’s a secret. Pinky swear.”

“Who did you promise?”

“I can’t tell you that neither.” Raina hugged her mother and then pulled back. She looked down at the carpet and started twirling her long blonde hair.

“You can tell me anything. I’m your mom.”

“NO! It’s a secret.”

“Raina, mothers and daughters don’t keep secrets from one other.”

“If I tell, no one will ever trust me again with a secret.”

“That’s not true and you know it.”

Raina looked up at her mother with fright in those big blue eyes. Lisa could sense her child’s innocence was gone. It was a feeling that Lisa couldn’t explain. This secret wasn’t some childhood ghost story but sinister in nature.

“Raina, please tell me,” Lisa pleaded with her daughter.

“You need to pinky swear to me you won’t say anything.”

After thinking for a moment, Lisa replied, “I promise.”

“You know, Mr. Peterson.” Raina swallowed hard before continuing. “His son was supposed to have left early this morning to visit his cousin in Westchester.”

“Yes. I know all about it. The trip has been planned for weeks.”

“Only that’s a lie!” Raina said emphatically.

“What’s a lie?”

“His son didn’t go to visit his cousin.”

“So, Mr. Peterson didn’t tell the truth about where his son went. No big deal.”

“No, it is a big deal.”

You know where his son went?” Lisa’s mouth suddenly went dry.

“Uh huh.”

“Raina…where did he go?”

“He didn’t go nowhere. He’s still at the farm.” Raina’s voice changed from a normal child’s voice to a whisper. “He’s dead!”

“What?”

“He’s dead! Me and the other kids saw Mr. Peterson bury him in the cornfield. That was the thing that I had to swear not to tell. Mr. Peterson looked up and saw us kids watching him. He pointed his shotgun at us and said if we ever told anyone, he would kill us all and bury our bodies in the cornfield too. Mom, you can’t tell. If you do, Mr. Peterson will come after all of us. Don’t you see? That’s why all us kids said we wouldn’t tell... And you pinky sweared to me you wouldn’t tell neither.”

“But…what Mr. Peterson did was wrong.”

“Maybe…but you know Mr. Peterson and how mean he is. He’ll do what he said…. Mom, I don’t want to die and be buried in the cornfield like his son,… do you?”

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