“Aren’t ya’ gonna let me in?” she said with a grin.
She was no longer carrying the stuffed lamb by this time. Said she got rid of it. I found its remains in a heap of ash in my backyard.
Seraphina never did tell me everything about her ‘project’, but she did say that one day she was going to get away from her parents and that her project was her ticket. I had stopped asking her questions about it.
That afternoon, Seraphina spent the rest of the day at my house, tucked away in my room with me. We watched TV and talked about whatever. She bragged about stealing some of her mother’s perfume and stuck her wrists under my nose so that I could smell it. I really liked that perfume. By nightfall, when I heard my father coming in from work, Seraphina got nervous. I could see it in her eyes, her posture, the way her back stiffened and her chest stopped moving as if her lungs forgot how to work. Like a lot of things I thought about Seraphina, I thought her reaction to my father coming home from work, was strange. Especially after it seemed she wasn’t even afraid of her own father anymore. So, why would she be afraid of mine?
“Cassia!” I heard my father call out, “Come eat dinner!”
Seraphina’s eyes widened as she stared at my bedroom door.
“Just a minute, daddy!” I called out.
Turning back to Seraphina, I said with a jerk of my head toward the bedroom door, “Come on, I guess it’s time for you to go home.”
Seraphina shook her head and it seemed she didn’t even blink.
“I’ll go out the window,” she said. “I don’t want your parents telling mine that I was over here.”
She was still afraid of her father, after all, but had only gotten better at hiding it, I realized.
I nodded. “OK,” I said and walked over to my window, flipping the latch open and raising the glass.
“CASSIA!” my father shouted. “GET YOUR ASS IN HERE AND EAT!” I gasped sharply at his tone.
He was a good father—nothing like Seraphina’s father—but intolerant to disobedience.
Seraphina had just started to climb out the window, but when she heard him the second time, she stopped and looked back at me with an enraged look in her big brown eyes.
I waved my hands at her, trying to hurry her up and shuffle her over the windowsill.
“Why is he talking to you like that?” she asked with narrowed eyes and anger in her voice.
I kept looking back and forth between her and the bedroom door, growing more nervous the longer she took. I didn’t want to get grounded.
“He’s always like this when he gets home from work,” I said. “Now hurry up. I’ve gotta go.”
A few more seconds of looking between me and the door, Seraphina finally slipped outside and ran through my backyard. I saw her slip through the secret hole in the fence instead of waltzing through her front door boldly as I expected her to after so boldly coming to mine earlier.
A week later, I was sitting in the shed writing in my notebook that I kept as a journal, when Seraphina joined me. She had a spiteful and cunning look on her face, a grin that sent a chill up my back. Her eyes were dark and she looked upon me as though about to tell me something I knew was going to make me uncomfortable.
She plopped down on the concrete shed floor and kissed me on the cheek.
“Do you love me, Cassia?”
I smiled ridiculously. “Of course I do. You’re like my sister.”
She cocked her head to one side and folded her hands in the hollow of her lap.
“Remember that time you told me you wanted to go wherever I go? That you wanted us to be sisters forever, no matter what?”
I nodded with an even brighter smile, because it was true. I did want to go wherever she went. She was my best friend. I wanted us to grow up and grow old together.
“Yeah, I remember.”
She smiled and softened her eyes. “Good. Then tonight we’re going to run away together.”
My face fell and I tried to swallow the knot that had suddenly formed in my throat, but it was too dry.
“W-What do you mean, run away?” I felt guilty for even having the conversation.
Seraphina pulled me into a brief hug, afterwards letting her hands brush down the length of my arms until her fingers found mine. She held my hands firmly and said, “I want to go to New York. I’ve got it all planned out. We can get on a bus—it’s easy, they do it in the movies all the time and no one ever checks for identification unless they look like kids. But we don’t look like kids”—she waved her finger back and forth between us—“I can easily pass for seventeen, and you, well I think you could too if you put on a little makeup.”
I was shaking my head absently the whole time she was explaining her plan, but she just kept on talking with the excitement of it all ever-growing in her eyes.
“I want to be a singer,” she said with the biggest smile of wonderment I had ever seen on her face. She gripped my hands tighter. “And Cassia, you could, too. We could both be singers. You sing even better than me!”
I blushed and lowered my gaze to our hands.
“I-I don’t know, Seraphina.” I looked toward the shed door, terrified my parents might’ve been listening in. “Running away won’t be easy. My parents check in on me every night. First my mom. Then later my dad. They’d know I was missing before we made it to the bus station—and what about money? I don’t have any money.”
Seraphina grinned and leaned forward so she could reach around to her back pocket. There was a wad of cash in her hand when she brought it back around.
“Stole it from my mom’s jewelry box,” she said with a proud smirk and then placed the money into my hands. “This’ll get us both to New York.”
I looked down at the cash and then back up at her. I didn’t want to tell her no, but at the same time, I was scared. I was scared of running away. Getting caught. Getting grounded for the rest of my life.
But I think most of all, I was scared of Seraphina.
“So, are you going to leave with me?”
She sat there with her hands in her lap, her fingers coiling anxiously around one another. Her face was full of excitement and danger and risk and trouble—everything I always steered clear of. Everything I was afraid of.
But then finally I said, “But what if my parents wake up and see that I’m gone? What if they catch us before we get to New York?”
“They won’t catch us,” she said with such resolve that I couldn’t help but believe her. “I’m going to take care of that before we leave.”