Until one of the boys lay down a “vampire” card. Suddenly, her smile vanished, and though it was merely an artwork on the card, the sight of this pale-faced, long-fanged abomination awakened in her a memory she wished she had forgotten and she felt the air in her lungs grow colder and colder. She shivered at the sensation of a hand on her shoulder, and swiftly, instinctively, her own hand reached out and grabbed the attacker.
“Aouch!” her friend Raj yelled, and gasping as she came back to her senses, she released him and sprang up, red with embarrassment. Everyone was staring at her like she was an alien.
“Are you okay?” the boy asked as he nursed his aching wrist.
“Yes!” she gasped. “Sure! What's wrong?”
“You've been staring at the floor for about twenty minutes, it was creepy! And you're pale as death, are you ill or something?”
“Nah, don't worry...” but she could no longer stand the puzzled gazes all around. “I just need to get some water,” she said, forcing a smile, before she rushed downstairs.
The kitchen was quiet and she took deep breaths over the sink, trying to calm her frenzied heart. With a trembling hand she grabbed a glass and helped herself with some water. She was really thirsty. She felt better now, the kitchen door was open and she could see and hear the telly in the living room from where she was. Raj's parents and sister were watching EastEnders. She had always thought this show was boring as hell, but right now, this boredom seemed extremely comforting. It was dark outside already. What time was it?
She startled at the sound of her name, and turned to see Raj standing by her side. “Oh, hi,” she stammered.
“A bit, yes.”
“Is... is there something on your mind?”
“No, it's okay... just... my life is pretty messed up right now.”
“Alright... you know, if you, like, need to talk or something... I can help.”
He said that awkwardly but eagerly, and the girl felt touched by his concern. But she knew he was a good friend and she couldn't inflict that on him. Sally was already involved, but at least Raj could be spared.
“That's sweet, Raj, but I can't get you involved. That wouldn't be cool of me.”
“Oh, I wouldn't mind! I want to be here for you... you know, maybe this is not the best time to say it, but... actually I've felt very close to you, ever since we started talking and became friends... I'm really happy you came today because I've wanted to tell you for a long time, I really like you, and... well, I was wondering if we could, like, go out together sometimes... Rebecca?”
He had summoned so much energy to just spill it out that he hadn't even noticed the girl wasn't listening to him any more. She had returned to her sickly pale, wide-eyed trance, as though she had seen a ghost standing behind Raj's shoulder. The boy felt a shiver as he turned around. No ghost. The telly. It was the telly that had mesmerized her. The soap opera had been brutally interrupted by an emergency newsflash showing a familiar face. Donnie's face:
“...just learned that another young girl went missing tonight, last seen at 5:30 this afternoon leaving Starbucks Coffee on George Street in Richmond-upon-Thames. Madonna Manilow, daughter of MP Conrad Manilow, is 15 years old, 5.6 feet tall, has long red hair, and was last seen wearing brown boots, a black skirt and a red leather vest. Please call Scotland Yard for any information regarding...”
“What the hell?” Raj wondered as he turned back to his friend, and was struck by the air of sudden determination that had replaced her pale look of terror. She looked like a boxer ready to step on the ring, as she rushed back upstairs to warn Sally she was leaving, and then came down and apologized to Raj.
“I'm sorry I got to leave like that,” she said as she put on her jacket and shoes, “I have some urgent business.”
“What's going on? If you're in trouble, I want to help!”
Before she could answer, Sally had joined Raj to ask her as well. “Listen,” she said, “I'm sorry to both of you guys, but this is something I have to deal with alone. Please don't be mad at me, I'll come back soon.”
“Don't you want us to come with you?” Sally asked.
“No! Raj, you have all your friends upstairs waiting for you. Sally, you stay with him, you'll be safe. I'll be back.”