Please note: this story was provided by the author and published as is.
This is a story from my babysitting days, around five years ago when I was fifteen and desperate to save up for a car, despite not even having a learners permit at this stage. I would babysit for family, and then family friends, and pretty soon word of mouth was getting me calls from people I had never met before.
People want to hire a babysitter they know won’t just sip from the liquor bottles in the cupboard and invite their boyfriend or girlfriend over. I was a very patient teenager, so good with kids, and far too chicken shit to ever properly snoop around people’s houses, rifling through cupboards or bedside drawers. And I had only ever been drunk once before, and hated it so much it put me off alcohol for a good while. I was the ideal babysitter, in other words. So anyway, one Friday I get this call from a couple who had heard about me from somebody they met someplace, I don’t know. They asked me if I was available for Sunday night.
Now it was the school holidays, I was available pretty much every night, every week. My most popular nights were Fridays and Saturdays, and even though I had been planning a sleepover with friends that Sunday, I cancelled it in order to sit for this couple. My rate was fifty dollars a night, but most parents were a bit drunk and very grateful when they got home from a night out, and pressed extra tens and twenties into my hands insistently as I left. Mostly, they would drive me home, but sometimes my mum or dad had to pick me up if the parents were drunk or the house was really far away from mine. This couple that were asking about Sunday said that they would be out until very late, and would pay upwards of a hundred dollars for my services.
They also offered to pick me up from home to get to their place, which was a good forty minutes away, and drive me back home afterwards. Now, my dad always insisted he drive me to the house I was sitting at, and come in to meet the couple if they weren’t people we knew well. Sunday was no different, and so after telling the couple I would be dropped at their place by six, I got set for the night.
I never brought homework because back then I was a good little nerd and always did it as soon as I got it. What I did bring was my book The Secret History (a great read, but slightly creepy) and a bag of Jaffa’s in case there wasn’t any nice food there or they didn’t say ‘eat what you want’.
So, we leave, and my dad drops me at the house, waits for me to knock on the door of the little flat with the nice roses in the front garden and he drives off when it opens. So anyway, this old lady is standing there, and she goes ‘can I help you?’ and I told her who I was and she looked totally baffled, when a man runs up to us, about forty and sort of good looking, kind of like Alec Baldwin but thinner and sharper featured. ‘Sorry! My wife gave you the wrong address, thank god I didn’t miss you’ he says, gesturing to his car. ‘Sorry Miss’ he says to the lady, and she goes inside like what the fuck is going on.
‘We used to live there and my wife always forgets our new address’ he explained. Now this, looking back, was suspicious as fuck and if I hadn’t been so naïve I would have called my dad and noped all the way back home, but he was sort of charming or something and I was naïve so I got in the car. We drove for about fifteen minutes, and he sort of asked about general stuff, school and that sort of thing. When we got to the house, which was the nicest house I had ever seen (super modern sort of angular architecture, amazing garden), the wife who was thin and really pretty was outside, waving.
She apologises, same story blah blah blah, and we go inside. ‘Our little angel is asleep upstairs’ she goes ‘please don’t wake her up, just stay down here unless she cries. She’s a very light sleeper, you see, so we’ll be very upset if you wake her. We’ll be up till dawn, really, in that case’ she said, and I was nervous because the house was nice and they looked all rich – sort of well groomed maybe, and here I was in my grubby runners with my messy hair in a ponytail.
They were very dressed up, and after showing me the living room, where bowls of chips and lollies were sitting out, they left, after once again telling me not to wake their daughter.
Now, I found it strange that they hadn’t introduced me to their child. Mostly, the kids were awake when I got their, and we played and watched television until way past their bedtime, and then they fell asleep full of pizza, asking me to tell them another story. The only other proper baby I had sat for slept most of the time, but the parents, my mums cousin and her partner, told me to check on her a few times and change her nappy when needed.
I just sort of sat there, feeling cold in the big, sparsely furnished house, but they hadn’t told me about heating and I hadn’t thought to ask. The food they put out was stuff I (probably very luckily) didn’t like. Salt and vinegar chips instead of plain, and the chocolate biscuits had an off smell to them.
Lollies were something I only ate as a last resort, and I had my bag of Jaffa’s, so I didn’t touch what was there. I decided to read because I could not work their ridiculously large television, but something about the darkness and silence of the house left me feeling a little edgy. I decided to see if there was anything else to eat, and went looking for the kitchen, which I eventually found. The shiny metal fridge was almost completely empty aside from a carton of milk, and the cupboards were also very empty, and I there were no bottles of milk or jars of baby food that I could see. Freezing cold and seriously considering ordering takeaways, I began walking around the house in search of a heater.
The house was very dark and most of the doors were locked, which wasn’t too uncommon, though mostly people just locked their bedroom door or maybe a messy storeroom or something. I decided the heater was probably upstairs. Now, on that note, I hadn’t heard a peep from upstairs, and I started to get anxious, because what if something was wrong with the baby? I always checked up on whoever I was babysitting as a rule about every twenty minutes.
So I made the decision to go upstairs. First weird thing was there was a fucking ‘child gate’ or whatever it’s called blocking them off, so I had to climb over. I wondered why they needed that if they had a baby. I walked up, and it was pitch black up there. I tried a door, locked, I tried another door, locked. All the fucking doors were locked. Now, who locks an infant in a room like that? I started to panic, and sort of realised something was very wrong about the whole thing. I decided to call my dad to come and wait with me. So I went to call him when I realised the address he had was the one of the old lady, their “old address” and I realised in that moment they didn’t want my dad to know where they really lived.
I started panicking, and just sort of froze in the dark hallway. I walked slowly down the stairs, and climbed over the gate as quietly as I could. My heart was pounding at this point. So I walked to the front door, and tried it, but it had been deadlocked. I walked through the house to the back door, and again, deadlocked. I was trapped in this fucking house. I could have called the police, but I had no address to give them, and I was starting to feel like maybe I wasn’t alone in the house. With shaking hands, I went into the living room and packed my stuff into my backpack, and just sat on the edge of the couch wondering what to do.
I decided to try a window or something, so I did, I tried every window, and all of them were locked. At this point I swore I heard a noise from outside. I told myself I was just being paranoid. I thought about how bad it would look if I left the baby and just ran off, but I didn’t feel safe. I felt like I was going to die.
So I was standing in the living room wondering what the fuck to do when I heard a faint clicking sound, the sound of a door being unlocked, the back door. I just froze, ringing in my ears, liquid stomach. I heard footsteps walking slowly through the house, and I crept shakily into the dark kitchen, and then through to the laundry. I crawled into one of the big cupboards next to the washing machine and sat trying to control my breathing, and trying not to be sick. I heard the footsteps walking through the house, and muffled voices. When the footsteps reached the laundry and stopped, I thought my heart would pound through my chest.
‘She must be upstairs’ the man’s voice said, and I heard the footsteps walk away. I Was sure the wife would be waiting outside the cupboard with a kitchen knife, but I opened it anyway, and she wasn’t. I heard them walking upstairs, and crept quickly through the house. I opened the back door and ran, hearing it slam behind me and knowing they would be after me. I didn’t even look back, I just ran through to the front garden and down the driveway and I climbed over the gate so quickly I scraped all up my legs, but I didn’t stop running. Adrenaline works wonders even on me the fairly unfit teenager. When I got to the nearest main road, I called my dad, hysterical.
Every time a car drove past I ducked into a yard or under a tree, because I was sure it was them. When my dad arrived, I told him the story. I have never seen him go so white, like a sheet. We went to the police and everything, but I hadn’t even stopped to look at the street name when I was running away, so I had nothing to give them other than a description of both of them and their very fake names. They didn’t ever track down the couple, either, even though they drove me around the suburb for hours trying to help me remember the house.
I couldn’t, I had been too scared and it had been too dark. How I wish I had been more observant. What scared me most was that they had my phone number, but unsurprisingly I never got a call from them again, as I had changed my number the next day, and I haven’t babysat since.
Well, I say I never heard from them, but now that I think about it, there was one call, a few months ago actually, an unknown number, of course. When I picked up the phone, all I heard was a baby crying on the other end. But not a real baby, a fake cry like one of those dolls you can buy. I guess I’m hoping it’s just some prank caller messing with me.