She was doubled over in the bushes at the end of the garden, struggling to breathe, struggling not to black out entirely, when she got her second fright of the evening. A hand on her shoulder was all it took to have her on her back, arms and knees up to protect herself from whatever was about to happen to her. But it was just the boy again.
“Are you okay?” he whispered.
She relaxed and lay flat on her back in the damp grass and stared up at the stars until she breathe comfortably again. “What the hell are you still doing here? I told you to go home?” She growled through gritted teeth. He glanced towards the house before answering, where the front door was still ajar and broken sobs could be heard from within.
“I couldn’t just leave you alone here. He could have hurt you.”
She rolled her eyes and was about to throw back a retort when they both heard the crunch of gravel under care tires, and it was coming their way. Someone was coming up the driveway. She immediately snapped up and grabbed the boy by the arm, pulling him to the ground just as the headlights washed over the spot where he had been standing. The car continued up the driveways unawares and stopped at the front door. They both waited with bated breath as the driver got out and entered the house. Voices were heard but what was said was not clear to them. The door was eventually closed, and silence pervaded.
“What now?” The boy whispered after a while.
“Without answering, she got up and moved swiftly up the lawn, leaning down beside the car so she wouldn’t be seen. She used it as a shield to move around the opposite side of the house to where the kitchen was as she saw a light go on in one of the windows there. The boy cursed and followed her in the same manner, though a lot more clumsily.
They were both peering into what appeared to be the study of the house. The curtains were only half drawn and through them they could make out the crying man, curled in a blanket on a small couch, grief clear and raw in his expression. Another man kneeled in front of him desperately trying to calm him down. As they watched, he disappeared into the kitchen to get a glass of water. They couldn’t hear the words that passed between them but it wouldn’t have been hard to guess.
“Why are we watching them?” the boy mouthed across at her.
She took a deep breath in exasperation and was about to wave a hand for him to shut up, but her arm got stuck half way. The caring friend of this man believed to be her grieving fiancé turned towards the window with an expression of tiredness on his face and she saw him clearly for the first time. The boy dropped to the ground automatically as he saw him turn, but she was paralysed. It was like a gunshot going off in her head. A trigger being pulled. She could hear ringing in her ears. Everything was crystal water clear now. She knew exactly what she needed to know. She stood up straight and the boy made a grab for her dress but it didn’t matter; her had already turned away from the window and had not seen her.
“Where are you going?” Again his question went unanswered and he hastily followed her. She strode purposefully to the car and slid into the back seat, hunching down behind the driver’s seat. The boy stood bewildered, unable to move, panicking at the thought that any second either one of those men could come outside and find him standing there. Time was ticking by. With a few specially chosen curse words he walked around the side of the car and mirrored her actions behind the passenger seat.
“Get out.” She growled, with a new darkness to her voice.
“No.” he answered weakly. If she had scared him before with her lack of body heat or aversion to the elements, sitting across from him now in this dark enclosed space, with the moonlight glinting off her eyes, she terrified him. She seemed less alive than ever as she stared him down, unwavering.
“This isn’t a joke kid. Get out of the car.” He held her gaze reluctantly.
“I’m not getting out.”
“You are in danger here.”
“So are you.”
With one swift movement she had leaned forward, stopping an inch from his face. “That man is dangerous. And I am already dead.”
“You don’t know that.” His voice broke momentarily. “You don’t know either of those things. “
She ignored him. “Do you really want to end up like me?” Her expression was dead, her eyes were dead, her voice was lifeless. She was just an animated corpse. And that was when he really felt it. She was right. His breath caught in his throat but he didn’t blink. She slowly moved back to the other side of the car.
“You remember something, don’t you?” he asked, finally understanding her sudden change of character. “It’s him isn’t it? He…. Hurt you before, didn’t he.”
“I know what I needed to know, now.” Was the only answer that he was permitted. She removed her gaze from him and laid her head back on the door behind her. Through the window above her she could see a small patch of sky. She felt a chill at the familiarity of the scene.
“If he hurt you, we can go to the authorities. We can have him arrested.” She was shaking her head even before he finished speaking.
“No one would believe me.” She said with certainty.
“And even if they did,” she cut across him, “I have my own plans. She lowered her eyes to look at him again. He was just a boy. A teenager. Trembling, breathing heavily. She could smell his sweat, his fear. She softened her tone. “You shouldn’t see this kid. Get out while you still can.”
“What are you going to do?” The fear of the answer itself was evident in the quivering of his voice.
“Nothing.” Was her impossibly heavy and chilling reply.
Both hidden passengers froze as they heard the front door of the house slam shut. Gravel crunched under foot and they both inched further into their corners. The lights came on as the driver’s door opened and they both held their breaths. He got in and closed the door. There was no getting the kid out now. The driver muttered incoherently to himself as he turned the key. The radio came to life. A generic country song blared out and he began singing along under his breath as he drove away from the house. She laid back and closed her eyes tight. She has heard this song before.
He was a careful driver. He slowed at every stop sign, stopped at every red light. Yet he seemed agitated; every stop he made he tapped his fingers on the steering wheel impatiently until he was moving again. The journey lasted no more than half an hour, but for the stowaways if felt much, much longer.
Eventually the car stopped though. He turned the radio off and hummed cheerily to himself. He got out of the car and they listened as his footsteps sounded on a concrete path an disappeared into a doorway.
Once she knew he was gone she moved swiftly to look over the back of the driver’s seat. They were parked in front of a small two storey house, wedges in a row of neat lawns and garden gnomes. There was a light on in the upstairs window.
The boy struggled to also dislodge himself from his hiding place. The street that they were on seemed to be deserted. She clambered into the front passenger seat. The boy started, afraid that she might try and drive the car into the house.
“What now?” he asked frantically, hoping to stall her. She didn’t answer, she just reached into the glove box and pulled out a hand gun, as though she knew that it was there. He stared over her shoulder at the weapon in disbelief. He has never seen a gun before. She held it laid out on both her palms; she held it carefully.
“Time to pull the trigger.” She whispered.