“No,” I answer her.
She takes a sip in response and with it, I’m given an answer to my own unspoken question. It’s nine in the morning and the whiskey is in the cup she’s currently clinging to.
“She’s talking about having kids right now. Back in high school.”
“Kids,” my sister repeats, rolling her eyes and taking another sip.
“Yeah, she said she wants daughters.” I don’t know why the lie slipped out. I think I just wanted to comfort my sister.
My sister throws the mug back, downing its contents before tossing it into the sink.
“Really? She told me the other day she’d hate to have daughters.”
A bang close by brings me back to now. Back to the present. Away from my sister and away from my mother.
My eyes open unhurriedly, not wanting to see but forcing myself to take in anything I can in the dark space. Tremors run through my legs and up my spine to my shoulders, leaving goosebumps in their wake. With a single unsteady exhale, I stare through the bright slit in the cabinet door as faded, broken-in blue jeans show themselves. I can see the seams and the stitching even. He’s that close to me. Just behind the door. I nearly whimper when the creak of the pantry closet proves he’s searching for me.
He heard me moving around in the kitchen. I feel lightheaded for a moment, maybe from fear, maybe from holding my breath.
A buzzing from the other room makes him turn on his heels and I watch all the while with both hands over my mouth, my palms sweaty and clammy. He stands still as the other person walks out of the kitchen. They’re louder now, reckless and bold as they open doors and search for something or someone.
It doesn’t have to be me. Please, don’t let what they’re looking for be me. Be looking for something Jenny left here. Please, for the love of God, be that. Find it. Find it and get out.
The thoughts don’t go unanswered. Fate lets me know the worst-case scenario is in fact my reality.
“Her car is still in the driveway. You think she heard us and ran?” A muted voice I don’t recognize is coming from the living room. Another voice, one from farther away, maybe in the foyer answers, “Nah, she has to be here still. She wouldn’t leave her phone.”
The man just beyond the cabinet door walks away swiftly and moves toward the voice – that’s when I catch a glimpse of the red stripes on his white sneakers. A single horizontal stripe runs along the length of each shoe midway up the side. White shoes with red stripes. I can hear him smack the man after a gruff response from his throat and then it’s quiet again.
The man who was so close to me knows better than to talk and give away their thoughts.
Thump, thump, thump. They don’t say another word as I inhale the musty smells from the cabinetry, willing my body to obey me and not betray my position.
Every time a loud bang or the crash of something being overturned startles me, my shoulders push harder against the rough wood behind my back and I bite down on the inside of my cheek to silence the instinctive scream.
My nails dig deeper into my skin on my thighs as the bangs get closer and louder. It’s obvious they’re trashing the place. All the while, I pray. Please don’t find me. Please leave.
For a moment, I think they might.
The recognizable noise of the front door opening is suddenly clear. As are the sounds of them leaving, one by one, but I don’t believe they’re truly gone. It’s too obvious. It’s a trick and a trap; one I won’t be caught in. Time passes, each second seeming longer and longer, gauged by the steady ticking of the clock above the kitchen sink.
All I can think about is every time a girl is in the middle of the woods running from someone in the movies. She hides behind a tree or bush – something that offers her a hidden spot – and she waits until she thinks they’ve run by and can’t hear them anymore. She thinks they’ve moved on, as if they’ve kept running through the tall trees and didn’t see her. She doesn’t hear them, so she takes off.
That’s when they catch her. They know she’s hiding and they’re just waiting until she comes out to snatch her up.
Not me. They won’t catch me that way. For the first time since I heard someone come in, strength and conviction outweigh the fear. I’ll stay here until I know for certain it’s safe.
I don’t know what these men wanted with me, but I know they were looking for me and that’s all the reason I need to stay right where I fucking am.