Saturday dawned bright and clear. Kristy was in rare form.
“Not only is today the perfect day to go shopping for gorgeous gowns, but it's also the perfect day for spying on neighbors!” She rifled through my closet and threw some jeans and a top at me. I put them on. She ushered me from my room, making sure I was presentable for Mall shopping. “Those jeans make your butt look.. oh hi Mrs. Washington!”
Kristy would never speak less than respectfully around Mom. Too many pre-teen slumber parties were crashed by saying something my Mom did not approve of. It took months for Mom to realize Kristy wasn’t some hooligan with a dirty mouth, nor a bad influence on me. She didn’t have to utter a curse word, just a reference to an R movie was enough to make my Mom think less of her.
“So, what are your plans today, girls?” Mom wanted an itinerary in detail, but like most teenagers we didn’t even know, or care, about such things.
“We’re going dress shopping for homecoming at the Mall, which may take us several hours because we have to find the Perfect Dress. Then we'll come back here to tackle this crazy science project I have. I need an assistant. I am doing some bird watching plus classifying living and nonliving objects in its habitat for Earth day. We have to be outside in the tree house. Two eyes are better than one! Er, I mean heads! Yes! Ha ha! And I have to get pictures, too! So I have a lot of equipment; cameras and such, that have to be set up and taken down, and with my crazy work schedule, and homecoming, well, I just don’t have a lot of time. I really need her!”
Most Moms would have tuned her out and waved us on long before Kristy’s speech got boring and rambling. But not mine. She analyzed each word for schedule information; time, place, and lies. She listened for the hint of boys, reading between the lines, we were teenage girls after all. Since she couldn’t put her finger on any specific flaws in Kristy’s speech, she just looked at us for a moment, hard. She sighed and dismissed us with a, “Have fun, then!”
The Mall was crowded with last minute homecoming shoppers. Kristy grabbed a couple dresses, held them up to me, and put them back. “These just look better on the hanger. With your skin.. hm. Oh let’s try this!” She soon had a stack of dresses for me to try on. She shoved me to the dressing room. I shrugged out of my Mall clothes and zipped myself into the first dress. It was blue and had a zigzag ruffled front and a low back. I hated it.
“Wow, that looks amazing!”
“I hate it.”
“Well, you do resemble a hooker,” she conceded.
This sort of thing went on until I had tried on every acceptable dress in three stores. I flopped on one of the mall chairs where the husbands sit while their wives shop. “I liked the black one,” I declared.
“Yeah, cuz it was a granny dress.”
“It was not!”
“It was too big anyway. It hid your natural curves.”
“It was warm. It covered me.”
“You should have gotten the red one. It looked great on you.”
“It had no back!”
“So? You looked hot! That guy would be drooling over you, drawn to your very presence by that dress!”
“Stop!” I felt my face grow warm. Then I felt something else.
Behind me I sensed a magnetic presence, feeling my energy bend around an object. It was very wrong. I had been ignoring everyone's auras, until now. I watched as auras were drawn towards the magnetic presence, ever so slightly. People shifted to account for the disturbance, but never looked around. I on the other hand, searched for it, turning around in my chair completely.
“What is it?” Kristy turned too. “Is it the guy?”
She didn’t understand my gift, but she trusted my ‘intuition’ and took my irrational behavior seriously, because it usually led her to some great gossip and was always interesting at least.
“No, I don’t think it’s him, but it’s something.”
A man walked through the crowd, ignoring everyone, dressed in a long black duster, headed toward the front doors. He passed behind us. I saw wisps of Kristy’s aura get sucked up by his presence. They swirled around him and disappeared. His aura was a very dark red, and it almost seemed to grow around him as he collected the aura energies of others.
“That guy gives me the creeps.” Kristy shrank closer to me.
I stared after him, mouth agape. I felt a sick sensation in my stomach, like I’d stepped off the roller coaster after a particularly quick stop. “Yeah.”
“He’s the kind of guy your parents warn you about, the stranger, the evil man who comes in the night.” Kristy said very low, almost in a whisper. I nodded. She had not seen what I had seen, but she felt her aura shift.
“Let’s go find a dress and get out of here,” I suggested. She demonstrated her agreement by jumping up out of the chair and leading the way.
I chose some black and white dress we both didn’t quite hate, and then we made it home in time to set up for the spy mission.
When I was 10, my dad built a tree house out back in the old sycamore. I was really into clubs back then and wanted badly to have one of my own. I made invitations and gave them out at school. But no one came. I shunned the tree house for weeks afterward. When Kristy first saw it, she fell in love with it. We spent many a summer hour out there. We could see int many of the neighbor's yards. We learned that Mr. Smith had a younger mistress who sun bathed by the pool nude. We saw Mrs. Shoemaker pause while gardening, look around, then squat and pee, too lazy to go inside. We saw 11 year old Jeremy Finch taunt his dog into a frenzy and then beat it with a stick. It was a good spying place. It also fit her bird watching story perfectly.
Just for good measure we took a few pictures of birds, but we scanned both sides of the neighborhood for the guy. Stakeouts are not fun. From up here we didn’t have to be silent, but we had to keep watch. No magazine reading, no manicures, and no food fights, all things we used to do up here. Kristy had packed a ton of snacks in her three camera cases though. I had a red licorice hanging out of my mouth when a figure walked up the alley. “Kristy!” I hissed. She stealthily joined me at my clubhouse window.
We squinted at the guy walking calmly towards us, the evening sun at his back. I was certain it was him. I reached out, searching for an aura, but I did not see one at all. Maybe it was just white, and at school that day without so much practice I'd missed it. Today with the sun behind him, illuminating everything from behind so that it all seemed to have extra aura, I was still unsure. Switching tactics I searched for a thought pattern. It was impossible for people to stop thinking, to clear their minds completely. Even breathing and heartbeat would still show up faintly in my second sight. I really concentrated, straining so hard I could see the natural gray auras of the gravel in the alley, but around his head there was nothing. It was like he could turn off his own aura. He didn’t take aura from plants or rocks around him, like the guy in the mall. He simply blocked it all like a shadow or dark curtain blocks a view.
Kristy did not breathe, but slowly smiled as he neared a house with a privacy fence. It was a house we knew. We used to go visit the old lady who lived there. She had a lot of cats, and she baked us cookies and brownies which we would eat with lemonade on her porch every Thursday all summer long. She fell, broke her hip, and went to live in a home, and her house went up for sale.
Just then, two men in black suits stepped from behind the fence and flanked him on either side, each taking one of his arms. They wore sunglasses and their auras were dark which meant they had evil intent. He struggled. Then his chest puffed out and his back arched, like he was shocked or poked with something. His body went limp and they dragged him through the back gate and into the house. The hair on the back of my neck stood up.
“This is bad, very, very bad.” I whispered.
“What should we do?” Kristy breathed.
“I don’t know.”