I could remember moving into this neighbourhood like it was just yesterday. Actually, when I think about it, it wasn't that long ago. Must've been about seven months ago when I first arrived. It seemed perfectly normal. I had friendly neighbours, a nice house and a fairly decent job at the gas station in the nearby town.
Although all of my neighbours seemed cheerful and friendly, there was one specifically who seemed kinder than all of them. Her name was Amanda Robinson, and she lived in the house opposite mine.
She looked about twenty, the same age as me. Her long hair was a light brown colour, just like mine, and her eyes were a moss green, also like mine. We both had fair skin, although hers was slightly paler. A warm smile was always present on her face and for some reason, she always had a few peppermint sweets in her jeans pocket.
I remember first meeting her on the day I moved in. She offered me a peppermint and I gladly accepted. I noticed she didn't eat one herself, but thought nothing of it. As we talked about the neighbourhood, I noticed someone standing in the open doorway of her house.
It was a man. He looked around the same age as Amanda and me. He had short, light brown hair and dark green eyes that had black bags underneath them. He was staring at me intently, almost like he was trying to tell me something. His skin was pale, just like Amanda's. However, he did not have the same cheerful look about him like all the other neighbours did. I put it down to the fact that his right arm was in a sling and a brace was around his neck. There seemed to be something off about him, but I couldn't put my finger on it.
Amanda seemed to notice that I was staring at the strange man, and she informed me that it was her brother, Stephen. I asked if he was OK, and she told me he was in an accident recently. She didn't give me any details, but then again I had only just met her. She bid me a farewell before walking back to her house. I watched as she ushered her brother inside, and he limped into the house. The door closed, and that was that.
Weeks passed, and I came to love the neighbourhood. Everyone was still so friendly and helpful, it all seemed like one of those neighbourhoods that you see in family films. However, there was something odd about it. A strange feeling seemed to emanate from the house opposite mine. It was an uneasy feeling, like a calm before the storm. Whenever I asked about the Robinson's, everyone went quiet and only said a few nice things about them. Every time I looked over at Amanda Robinson's house, it felt like someone was looking back at me. All that the strange feeling made me think about was Amanda's brother Stephen and his piercing gaze that I experienced on my first day.
Just thinking about it made me shiver. Those dark eyes staring at me like they were looking directly into my soul. I couldn't shake the feeling that he was trying to tell me something, something gravely important. Maybe it was about the neighbourhood. Or maybe it was about the people in it.
Whilst Stephen was still creeping me out, Amanda was still making me feel welcome. Almost everyday I would see her exit her house and check her mailbox, or she would get in her car and drive somewhere, or sometimes she'd just walk to her destination. On weekends she'd tend to her front lawn and sometimes I would offer to help. She always accepted my help and whenever she saw me she would offer me a peppermint. I always accepted the small sweet and I always noticed that she herself never ate one. Not a single sweet. However, it still didn't bother me.
A couple months had passed when it all began. The day started off as any normal day. I woke up, got ready, had breakfast and started to relax in the living room. It was a Sunday, which meant no work for me. As I was flicking through the channels on my TV, there was a knock at my front door. I wasn't expecting anyone, so it made me curious.
I headed to the front door and opened it. Standing there was Amanda, a smile on her face. I asked why she knocked on my door, and she quickly told me, ''I hate to be a pain, but I need some help with all my shopping. You couldn't give me a hand could you?''
I said I wouldn't mind, and she lead me across the street to her car, which was loaded with shopping. She thanked me for helping her and told me to take it in to her kitchen. As she spoke, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Looking through one of the house's windows, staring right at me, was Stephen.
Whilst Amanda unpacked her shopping, I directed my attention to Stephen. He was just standing there, watching me. His skin seemed paler than what I remembered, almost like all the blood had run from his face. His eyes were wide, like he had seen a ghost. For a second, I could've sworn he was shaking his head at me.
Amanda seemed to notice my lack of helping, and she followed my gaze to the window. Obviously she saw her wide-eyed, sick-looking brother standing there and her smile quickly faded. I thought I heard her mutter something along the lines of ''He shouldn't be up'' before storming into the house. As soon as I saw her disappear into the house, my eyes returned to Stephen.
He looked panicked and alarmed as he looked from me to his right and back again. I saw him mouthing something to me, it looked like he was shouting ''Go, get away!'', like he was urging me to run. Run from what?
I watched on like it was a television drama. It wasn't long before Amanda appeared in the window. She grabbed the frantic Stephen by the shoulders and seemed to be trying to calm him down. I couldn't hear what either of them were saying, but she seemed to be reassuring him whilst he shouted panicked words. Amanda probably knew I was watching, and she drew the curtains, obstructing my view.
For a moment, I contemplated what to do next. The front door was still open, and the shopping was still there. I couldn't just leave it, could I? Picking up the nearest bag to me, I carried it up the front steps, through the neat house and into the clean kitchen. That was when I noticed something unusual. Very unusual.
The shelves in the kitchen were lined with large jars filled with peppermint sweets. They were filled to the brim with the sweets. It unsettled me slightly at just how many jars lined the wooden shelves. There were enough jars to last for a lifetime. And then I thought back to every single time Amanda offered me a peppermint. She never at one. Ever. And if she didn't eat them, why did she have so many?
I headed for the front door. On my way, I noticed a small photo frame hanging on the wall. Looking closer at it, I saw the photo was of two children, a boy and a girl. Both looked around the same age, both had light brown hair and both had moss green eyes. They were smiling happily at the camera. The boy and girl instantly reminded me of Amanda and her brother. It must've have been taken during happy times, as it was the first time I had seen Stephen smiling.
I was brought back to reality by the closing of a door. It was Amanda emerging from what I assumed was the living room, where I last saw Stephen. Her smile was not on her face, instead she wore an emotionless expression. She was not looking at me, her eyes focused on the wall to her right. More specifically, her eyes were focused on the jars of peppermints. I went to speak, but she spoke before me.
''I hate peppermint sweets.'' She said, her voice almost a whisper. ''You love them though, don't you Stephen?''
Her eyes were now looking at me. Why did she call me Stephen? Did she mistake me for him? Maybe she just mixed-up our names, no big deal. I went to speak again, but once again she got in before me.
''I missed you for so long. That day you went missing all those years ago was the worse day of my life. All those other people, they looked like you. But they weren't you. I know it's you Stephen, I know this is the real you.''
She gave me a crooked smile and I noticed she was slowly advancing on me. My eyes went from her to the picture of the two children. The boy...he did look remarkably like me, but surely Amanda didn't think I was him. 'All those other people'? What did that mean? As I stood frozen, I noticed the shiny metallic object in Amanda's hand. It was a knife, covered in blood. Now I realise what Stephen was telling me, he was telling me to get away from his sister. She was insane!
I ran for the front door and she chased me. I was only a few steps away when I felt a sharp, stabbing pain in my upper back. Amanda had sunk the knife into my flesh and had covered my nose and mouth with a strange-smelling rag. I yelled in pain, but it was muffled by the poignant cloth. My hands flailed and reached for the open door, but to no avail. The world around faded into darkness and my body fell limp. The last thing I heard was Amanda's voice telling me ''We'll be a family again, Stephen.''.
It's been a few months since I moved into my new home. I sit in my comfortable chair, resting beside the living room window. The sun is shining brightly outside like a beacon. It's been ages since I went outside and it shows with my pale skin. I look at the house across the street. It's been empty for a while, but apparently new neighbours are arriving today. That's what I heard anyway.
I feel an itchiness in my arm underneath my cast. It irritates me, but I try my best to ignore it. My fingers move up to my throat, and I feel the sloppy needlework that closes up the wounds there. Suddenly, a sweet voice calls out from the doorway.
''Don't touch your stitches! They won't heal otherwise.''
I don't even try to answer the brunette standing there. There's no point anyway, it's difficult to talk without a tongue. The young woman marches over to me and hits away my hand from my damaged throat. She beams down at me and I give a faint smile back. She still scares me today, but what would you expect after what happened? Although, I have to say she's not as crazy anymore. Not now after getting her 'brother' back.
The young woman reaches into her jeans pocket and pulls out a handful of peppermint sweets. I feel sick just looking at the things. It's all she's fed me over the past few months. I give her a sort of pleading look, but still she beams down at me, her hand extended towards me. Giving in, I grab the sweets, and it seems to make her happy.
''How are your injuries doing, Stephen?'' She asks as she goes to check my bandaged back. Before she can, a noise outside catches her attention. It's the sound of a moving van pulling up outside the house across the street. My old house.
Both of us stare out of the window at the van and the people coming out of it. There is also another car parked just in front of it. A family of four exit the car. There's an elderly-looking man and woman, a young girl and a young man. The young man looks around twenty, has short light brown hair, moss green eyes and slightly pale skin.
I look over at Amanda and see her warm smile turn into a wide, manic grin. Without hesitation, she sprints to the front door of our house and steps outside. I watch through the window as she enthusiastically greets the family.
As I watch, an unfamiliar emotion washes over me. I'm unsure whether it is worry for the young man's sake or worry for myself. Another feeling takes over my body like a virus.
It's the feeling that I'm no longer necessary.