1 - Shadows
Kathy watched her parents put their suitcases in the car.
″Honey, if you need anything, don’t hesitate to call your uncle,″ Mrs. Bloom reminded her daughter for what felt like the 100th time. Kathy rolled her eyes but nodded and hugged her mum. She was 18, she can take care of herself for a week. Of course, there’d be no reason to call the police.
Her dad hugged her tightly and secretly handed her some money. ″Don’t tell mum,″ he said, winking. She grinned and quickly hid it in her pocket. Mrs. Bloom started the car. ’’See you soon, baby,’’ he said and kissed her forehead. She waved them off and watched them leave the street. ‘One week of freedom’ Kathy thought to herself, doing a little victory dance and going inside the house.
Putting on some music, she started baking cookies. Kathy’s day was off to a great start. She was making a mental to-do list of what needed to be done today. Eventually, she concluded that all she needed to do today was to have a bath and study for her chemistry test. And she had all day to get it done. Kathy danced around the kitchen singing and waiting for the cookies. This was something she could most definitely get used to.
Time flew by and the day was coming to an end, so Kathy switched off the TV. She started running a bath for herself, so she could go to her room to get her bath salts and chemistry book. The smell of vanilla filled the bathroom and Kathy lit some rose quartz candles. As she lowered herself into the bath, she thought she heard a door slam. ‘Better safe than sorry,’ she thought grumpily and threw on her silk dressing gown.
Walking slowly around the house, no one was there. She locked the doors to be safe anyway and went back to her bath. For the rest of the night, her house was quiet.
″Kathy, you must throw a party, come on!″ complained June. Kathy was growing annoyed with her best friend.
″For the last time, no!″
’’Because my parents will kill me that’s why. I’ve already got ’Bob the Cop’ waiting to hear from me, I’d love for it to not be because the neighbors complained.’’
″But, like, throwing a party would be awesome! What about just us and the gang?″
’’June, no, you’ll bring ‘just us’ plus 50 people. No.’’
″Ughhhhhhhhh.″ June groaned. ’’Okay, what about just me? I’ll bring drinks and you can have company for the night. Kathy rolled her eyes.
″Dude, you know my parents’ rules,″ she told June.
″Yea, but they won’t know,″
″BOB the COP,″ Kathy answered loudly, flicking June’s nose and wondering how the hell they were friends. They continued this debate for the whole day. Kathy walked home at the end of the day smiling to herself. She was tired and had a lot of homework, but with some work, she’d have it done fast.
At home, she decided she’d have takeaway for dinner and decided to check in with Bob as well. Two phone calls later, she had noodles and a happy uncle. An hour later Kathy threw her books into her bag. Finally, all done. She put on her pj’s and switched on the TV.
Kathy jumped. She definitely heard it this time.
’’June, I swear to God, if that’s you you’re dead meat.’’ Nothing.
Kathy gulped and grabbed the TV remote – a pretty pathetic weapon, but all she had now. She got her phone ready, in case she would actually have to call the police. Every room was empty.
″I’m going crazy,″ she said out loud. Walking back into the living room, she switched off the TV and decided to go for a walk. It was going to be sundown soon, so she’d have plenty of time. She got changed and locked the door behind her.
Kathy wandered the neighborhood, listening to music. Being outside had calmed her down a little and she couldn’t help but feel like she had acted irrationally. Surely there had been no one in the house in the first place.
On her way home she stopped at the supermarket. Armed with chocolate and crisps, she walked home. It was dark now, so she’d taken off her headphones.
Slow footsteps echoed behind her. Kathy glanced behind her. No one was there. She walked home quickly, glad to lock the door behind her. The house was dark. Switching on the lights, she threw her coat on the coat hanger and fell onto the couch, her heart racing.
The kitchen light, she noticed, was on. Kathy couldn’t remember ever leaving a light on before leaving. Getting up, she walked into the kitchen. She took deep breaths, calming herself down. No one was in the kitchen, just a cup she’d...
‘Wait,’ she thought. Did she drink coffee today? She racked her brain. Kathy couldn’t remember whether she had coffee that day, but she was confident she’d not made herself any. Shrugging, she put it in the dishwasher and switched off the light.
Kathy woke up tired. Her alarm was going off, but she couldn’t be bothered to go to school. Groaning, she switched it off and went downstairs. The coffee cup was in the same spot as yesterday. She raised an eyebrow but shrugged and put it in the dishwasher again, pulling out a fresh cup. A cup of coffee would be just what she needs today. The coffee maker whirred as she ran upstairs for a jumper.
It was a mental race between the sleeves of the jumper and the coffee maker. The coffee maker was currently winning. Kathy slid along the hallway, giggling to herself, imagining how it would appear to a stranger looking in. Sipping her coffee, she checked her phone for texts. One was from June and one from her parents.
She closed her phone and drank her coffee. The house was quiet, the pattering of the rain on the living room window the only noise. Once done, all she had to do was get dressed and grab her bag. Thirty minutes later, she was in school.
The day dragged on slowly since June was off with a hangover. Eventually, the last lesson finished, and Kathy could go home. As she walked along her street, she noticed the door wide open. She froze. Could she have not closed it properly? Reaching for her pepper spray, she warily walked towards the house. The house was empty, yet Kathy couldn’t help but feel a sense of being watched. She shrugged it off and locked the door behind her.
She woke up tired again. ‘Only 3 more days until Friday,’ she told herself. Throwing on her silk dressing gown, she wandered along the house. The cup was on the bench, but she didn’t think anything of it today either. Yesterday was a long night studying, so she probably just forgot.
Checking the door, it was still locked. Kathy had goosebumps remembering the day before. As she left the house today, she made a point to lock the door behind her, even pulling on the handle to make sure of it.
June didn’t show up at school again, so Kathy was left to herself. She sat with her classmates at lunch, reading and waiting for the day to pass. Something felt odd, but she wasn’t quite sure what. The day finally came to an end and Kathy raced home, just so she could assure herself no one was home. She sped down her street, ignoring the neighbors’ greetings, and ran to the house. As she turned to her house, her heart stopped. The door was unlocked. Again. Kathy pulled out her phone, ready to call the police. No one was in the house. She slammed the door and locked it. Why was this happening to her??
Her eyes wouldn’t shut that night. Kathy contemplated calling her uncle but decided to leave him alone. He would be tired from work anyway. Around 3 am she heard shuffling downstairs. Grabbing her switchblade from under her pillow, she carefully walked down the stairs.
The kitchen light was on, and the coffee maker was whirring. Her heart started racing wildly as she quickly ran back to her room to call the police. Phone and blade in hand, she walked towards the kitchen. The door was locked, and it seemed like no windows were open. How could they have gotten in?
Kathy slowly crept towards the entrance. When she was only two steps away, the lights flickered. A step closer, they switched off completely. Her heart stopped. Flipping open her blade, she quickly switched on the kitchen light. Empty.
Kathy slept with one hand under her pillow. When she woke up, her hand had cramped from how tight she had been holding the hilt. Debating whether to call her uncle or not, she got out of bed.
It wasn’t until she was standing in the kitchen that she realized she was still holding the knife. The coffee cup was still in its place next to the coffee maker, confirming to Kathy that someone had really been there the previous night. She decided to simply get dressed and leave the house early. There was a café near her school where she could grab breakfast and a coffee.
Locking the door behind her, she walked along the street just as the sun was rising. She had at least an hour and a half before she’d need to be in school. Happy to be anywhere except in the house, she wandered into town. The streets were rather empty, with a few cars driving past on their way to work. Kathy was thankful to be an early bird, it meant fewer people to talk to.
She sat down near the window and ordered a sandwich and tea. Her phone buzzed once. It was Thursday and June finally decided to come to school. Kathy rolled her eyes at her friends’ message and closed the conversation.
The street was beginning to fill with people. After a while, her food came. Thinking and eating usually go hand in hand, but all Kathy could think about was the kitchen light and not the crispy bacon and egg sandwich dripping down her fingers. When she was finished, she ordered a coffee to go, and went to school.
The day passed in a blink; she didn’t even realize the last bell had rung. June could tell her friend was tired and left her alone. Kathy almost didn’t want to walk home. Again, she was sure she’d locked the door and closed all the windows.
As she walked home, she heard footsteps behind her, in sync with her own. Not bothering to turn around, she walked home faster. The footsteps sounded nearer as Kathy closed the distance between herself and the house. Her street seemed to wind on forever.
Finally reaching her gate, she wanted to scream. The footsteps stopped with her. Slowly turning around, Kathy realized no one was there. And there was nowhere they could’ve gone. Turning to face the house, her scream caught in her throat. The door, before locked, now was wide open.
Pulling out the knife from her pocket and opening it, Kathy opened her phone. She didn’t even need to enter the house and she saw it. A pair of red trainers was in the hallway. Not waiting a second longer, Kathy slammed the door, locking whoever was inside, and called the police. Within minutes she heard sirens and two cop cars pulled into the driveway.
“Kathy, you ok?’’ her uncle asked her as the officers unlocked the house and went inside. She shook her head.
“You’re as pale as a sheet. Talk to me, what happened, exactly?’’
Kathy recalled the events of the week and told him about the incident the night before. Her uncle was frowning and stroking his goatee. When the police came back outside, she was shaking. They were alone.
“There’s no one inside the house, ma’am. Not even a trace of anyone there, except for a cup of coffee in the kitchen.’’
“Was it warm or cold?’’ Bob asked his colleagues.
They shook their heads.
Sighing, he took his nieces’ hand.
“You’re welcome to stay with us if you want Katie,’′ he told her. She only nodded.
“I’ll be fine. You’re sure there’s no one there? I’m sure I saw a pair of red trainers in the hallway, and the door was wide open!’’
The police officers confirmed what they said. Kathy’s uncle waited a bit for her answer, but then left, reminding her if anything happens to call him immediately. She nodded and stood outside until they’d driven around the corner.
Almost as if on purpose, when she stepped into the hallway, what else could have possibly been there than the pair of red trainers? Kathy flipped open her switchblade.
“Hey, bastard! Show yourself!’’ she screamed into the silent house. The coffee machine started whirring and she slowly made her into the house. When she got into the kitchen, all she could see was coffee spilling over in the cup – but that was it. No one was there.
Kathy rubbed her face and cleaned up the mess. Putting on her pj’s, she opened a packet of crisps and decided she’d probably skip school the next day.
Her neck had been cramped from sleeping on the couch. It was the first time all week that Kathy had slept all night. Regardless of whether or not she wanted to skip school, she now had no choice. Either show up three hours late or just don’t show up.
She called June and invited her for a sleepover after school. No drinking. Kathy just didn’t want to be alone another night. Her heart hammered in her chest every time she had to go somewhere in the house.
Kathy was wondering whether or not to just sleep over at her friends’ house instead when the doorbell rang. Or at least, she was sure it rang. She warily checked the peephole and saw a young girl standing behind the door. She frowned.
Opening the door just a crack to ask her why she was standing there, Kathy suddenly realized something was off. She slammed the door shut and checked the peephole again. This time the young girl wasn’t there, but the delivery guy who always came by with the Chinese food.
Kathy blinked quickly, pulled away, and checked again. Her heart stopped beating for a second. For a moment, she forgot how to breathe.
Her sister was standing behind the door. The person whose grave she hadn’t visited in three years because she was too scared to face the reality of her loss and the reason she’d never, ever drink. The person who in good faith sat down next to a friend in their car, not knowing they’d already had a drink.
Nothing in the world could convince Kathy at that moment that she had not lost her mind. She had no idea what was happening to her. The doorbell rang again. Kathy hadn’t realized she was sitting down leaning against the floor. Shakily, she got up.
June was tapping at the door in her usual 1-2-3 rhythmic knock that drove Kathy absolutely mental any time she heard it.