As the two entered the kitchen, everything was exactly the way they had left it the night before. All the dishes were stacked neatly in the cupboards, the cutlery was organized to perfection in the drawers, and the hand towels were folded over the railing beside the sink. It was exactly as the teenage girl had left it before she stormed out of the house, in a hurry away from her parents. The stillness in the entire house gave Cora the eerie feeling like she was constantly being watched, but when she reached the doorway to the kitchen, with the sunlight streaming in from the window, she felt comfortable, more at ease. She broke away from Alex and examined the kitchen with a tangible excitement that actually sent shivers running through his body, as if someone was blowing against the nape of his neck. He watched her with keen eyes as her fingertips skimmed the countertops, the refrigerator, and the stove. When she approached the one window in the room, her hand left a wet mark against the frosted glass just above the sink; it was the only clear spot that enabled you to view the winter wonderland outside. After the kitchen was imprinted onto Cora’s memory for the last time, the two teens then shuffled periodically from room to room in the house, always with Alex standing at the very edge of the floor to allow Cora to scrutinize everything on her own.
Cora took her time, fighting back tears in the rooms that were full of moments that nobody ever felt were important; her father sitting in his chair, watching the news, and her mother with her nose in a novel. Despite the short time she lived in the house, her parents’ absence made those moments all the more painful to remember, and she was thankful for how patient Alex was, who gave her the space she needed with no questions at all. She tried her best to maintain perfect composure, and she was succeeding incredibly, but when the two finally made it upstairs, to her parents’ bedroom, Cora lost it. The burgundy and gold comforter that was spread across the bed sent the girl reeling back to the earlier days when she’d have a nightmare in her previous house and she would frantically run to the safety of her parents’ bed. Without warning, her knees buckled and she broke down in the middle of the room. Thankfully, she was close enough to the enormous king sized bed to collapse onto it and crawl into the fetal position, to which she hugged her legs to her chest and sobbed wearily into the bedspread. When she lifted her head slightly, Alex could see that her tears had already soaked the material. The feral boy hung back at the doorway, unsure if he was wanted for comfort or if she just needed to cry again. The girl’s sobs rocked through her whole body, conquering her movements with every sniffle and choking breath. Alex just stood there, fighting the urge to not run to her side and cradle her in his arms like he had before. He almost couldn’t stand it anymore. All he wanted to do was stroke her hair, tell her it will all be okay, that he’d protect her from anything and everything, but at the time, he didn’t think it was what she wanted to hear. After several minutes of unhindered bawling, Cora finally wiped her eyes and tried to get the bouncing thoughts of her dead father out of her head. Maybe verbal expression is the answer, she thought, and once again, Cora tried to articulate her thoughts.