After supper, Andi snuck a couple of cans of soda into her room and at bedtime, before brushing her teeth, she chugged them both even though they’d gone all warm and nasty.
Tucked in, kissed goodnight, and reassured by both parents, she lay in the dark, feeling the caffeine jitters tremble through her system. The clock on her nightstand read 9:00.
Six hours to go.
She’d never used the headphone jack on her alarm clock, but tonight she plugged in her bulky set and clamped them over her ears. It wasn’t comfortable lying on the pillow like that, but anything extra to help her stay awake was worth it.
So she lay there and counted the crawling minutes, ears getting sweaty from the headphones, and turned over all of the last week’s craziness in her mind. She wanted to be organized when she picked Benjamin’s brain, because goodness knew how much time she’d have at his bedroom window before a roving parent burst in on them…or before Andi’s own folks found her gone and called the cops.
What would she do if that happened? She opted to push the thought out of her mind rather than dwell upon it.
Instead, she went back to considering what she’d say to Benjamin…which led her to thoughts about Benjamin himself.
What had drawn her to him? Curiosity about his game, at first, but in the whirlwind since, she hadn’t had time to think much about it.
She was old enough to date (according to her parents), so when Andi had started junior high, she went out with the sort of guys a go-getter like her was ‘supposed’ to date — a couple of boys from the JV football team.
She found them one-note and boorish. Both had taken her to the movies; both had copped a feel in the back row, their pizza breath clammy in her ear.
Both got a slap in the face, and both might have gone on to spread awful rumors about her if she hadn’t reminded them about her homicidal friend Wren.
Benjamin? He’d be too terrified to grope her. She’d have to make the first move…and the thought gave her a shiver, there underneath the warm blankets.
He was shy and clumsy and single-minded…but when he talked about something that interested him, his passion gleamed like mirrors in the sun.
And unlike most of her peers, he didn’t seem interested in growing up at all. If you asked him to play freeze tag, he’d jump at the chance, and probably find some way to make the game even more fun.
She knew she was getting older; who didn’t? But why the rush? You could be a kid and act like an adult all you wanted, but that didn’t mean you could legally drive a car, or vote, or buy alcohol or cigarettes or a house…
Why not be a kid when you were a kid, and let everything come naturally?
She shuddered awake and looked at the clock. Midnight. Halfway there.
She needed to talk to Benjamin about Jason, about the fugue state they all seemed to go into at Randall’s house, about Eddie’s lightning and Andi’s intangibility…
…and about Lloyd.
It was just last year when it happened, but Andi was too caught up in her activities to feel anything other than general-purpose sadness when he died. And later, general-purpose regret for having felt general-purpose sadness. She’d gone to the candlelight vigil, and now wondered how many of the students there had actually known Lloyd Sono before he died.
The clock read 12:10, and she debated taking off the uncomfortable headphones and simply going to sleep.
She compromised, leaving the headphones on and slipping into a doze while the wind picked up to a droning howl outside.
Later she woke feeling refreshed, then feeling worried about that because it meant she’d slept for a while.
She looked at the clock, which was flashing 12:00, over and over.
The power had gone out. What time was it? Panic, better than any soda pop or music blaring through headphones, slammed her awake. She made to scramble out of bed, but something held her back.
What time was it? If her parents had just gone to bed, Andi thumping around and making noise would certainly stir them. She took deep breaths and counted to ten, forcing herself to settle down. Then, when her pulse was under control, she slipped out of bed cautiously, putting one soft foot on the floor, then another.
Andi crept to her dresser, found her wristwatch by touch, and held it up to a sliver of moonlight that sliced through a gap in the blinds.
2:30 AM. Another deep breath, followed by a sigh of relief. Thirty minutes ahead of schedule was close enough for government work.
She shimmied out of her pajamas and pulled on the dark clothes she’d nonchalantly draped over a chair back earlier. She stuffed her hair under a black toboggan as best she could, then pulled on her jacket, its pockets already packed with a flashlight and other tools.
Andi took one look around her shadowy room, focusing on the crack under the door to see if a hallway light had been switched on since she awoke. With a quick blink of determination, she went to the window and pulled it up just enough to slip through.
And with that, she was loose in the night.
Benjamin’s house was too far to walk, but her bike was too noisy to ride in the dead of night. She met herself halfway by walking the bike a couple of blocks after leaving her house and a couple before reaching Benjamin’s.
Arriving at his place revealed her next labor: figuring out which bedroom window was his. As she crept to the house, she could hear a strange tapping noise, like a slow woodpecker. Andi looked around, but couldn’t locate it.
She decided to try window roulette. She walked up to the first window on the left-hand side of the house, held up her flashlight, and clicked it on then off again in a quick light-dark, staring into the room as hard as she could.
The burst of light revealed a Madonna poster next to one of Strawberry Shortcake.
Eury’s room: it had to be. Andi felt a chill wander up her back.
She waited for sounds of movement from inside the house, but heard nothing except the tapping, which had neither slowed nor sped.
She went to the next window, and sent in another quick burst of light. A model of a spaceship hung from the ceiling with fishing line. On the wall, a tacked-up poster of Batman.
She nodded to herself there in the dark. With a trembling hand, she reached out and dragged her nails down the wire mesh of the window screen.
Today’s Words: 1143
Total Words: 26951
Notes: The four of you who have been reading these posts will notice this one is two days late. Well spotted!
I’m attempting to write a Halloween-themed horror novel in October! Visit Day Zero for more information or Day One to read from the beginning, and check out Countdown to Halloween for more blogging that’s altogether ooky!
(And the cat is Valentine — I figured the presence of a black cat would make things that much more Halloween-y!)