It was actually a rather strange day without Zach. Usually my friend arrived here around lunch time, but now I'm on the bus and I still haven't seen him all day.
Then the bus stopped at it's final station. I got down, Zach's bag in hand. The lamp post was already starting to flicker and the sky was getting dim. The first pick-up, the last stop. I coughed a little bit from the smoke of the fleeing bus and stared forward. My house was the orange and white house on the left of the street. Two floors and an attic and a rather small porch in front of the side walk. Directly across from it was Zach's house- a blue and grey two-story house and a slightly un-kept front garden bordered by a low wooden fence. I decided to check if Zach was already there. I was worried about him. Also, I would like to smack his bag in his face.
I crossed the deserted street, the lamp posts fully lighted. I pushed open the front wooden gate and walked in. The path was short, a small dirt road surrounded by little bushes and slightly overgrown grass. As I neared the front door, I noticed the dark brown paint starting to fade from the recent storms. I knocked thrice and then waited. After a while, there were rushed footsteps coming from inside, then the door swung open with a creak to reveal a woman in her mid-thirties. She had soft brown hair and crystal blue eyes that cinkled when she smiled. She was Mrs. Maeston, Zach's mother.
"Mrs. Maeston." I greeted, smiling politely. Her eyes widened in recognition. "Era!" She gasped. "Oh, come in, dear! Come in." She said, ushering me inside and closing the door behind her. She led me to the checkered couch and set the backpacks in my arms down on the low coffee table. The lights were a little dim, not exactly matching the fiery decor. Zach's mother had a thing for bright colors.
"Um, Mrs. Mae," I asked. "I just came to ask if Zach had already come home. And also to return his bag."
Her smile faltered a little bit, but she caught herself. "Well, I'm not entirely sure, dear. I doubt it but you can go check in his room, and bring his bag up there while your at it. And call me Lea, dear." As she said that last bit, her cellphone rang as one of the new hit pop songs. Zach's mother picked it up from the table, a little embarrassed. "Hello? Edrich! Late again? Seriously?" She motioned for me to go upstairs, and I stood, grabbing the bags. "-ore! No, honey, I'm not sure if Zach's home yet. "
I tore myself away from the conversation of Zach's parents and walked up the white steps, pictures hanging against the wall. Zach's backpack had been pretty light, but mine? Not so much. I bring my homework but I don't do all of them. Especially when there's a bookshelf within four feet of my desk. Yes, I'm a bookworm. Can you blame me? It's like a portal to another dimension! An escape from the annoying truth of reality...
Anyway, I walked up the steps and along the picture-littered hallway.I noticed two or three pictures with me in it. That's probably Zach's doing. He loved taking pictures of things. As I neared the blue, red and black painted door, the third one at the end of the hall, the heard a loud crash from inside and a string of curse words. My heart nearly stopped, but curiosity took over me, and maybe worry as well.
I reached the door, a little fear of what I might find nagging in my mind, but I gathered my wits and courage, grabbed the handle and swung it open. The room was painted dark blue with several posters and photos pinned up against the right wall. There was a desk beneath where the photos were placed containing a laptop, camera, phone, and several other stuff. There was also a sound system, bookshelf, and closet up against the left wall. But in the far right corner, under the window, was the bed where Zach sat. His blond hair was matted with sweat and he was clutching his left arm which had blood flowing from it, staining the sheets and his clothes. He was muttering a few swear words until he saw me and his eyes widened.
I dropped my bags in shock and rushed forward. "Zach, wh-what happened? "
"I'm fine." He growled, eyes falling to the floor. "Look, Era, you shouldn't be here. It's, not safe."
"It's your room, idiot. What danger could happen in this lovely little nest?" I rolled my eyes despite the situation. "Hold on." I told him and rushed outside to the bathroom, grabbed a random shirt on his bed, soaked it in the sink, grabbed some medicine, and rushed back into the room. I seated myself beside him on the bed, and despite his protests, rolled up his sleeve and dabbed the wet cloth on his wound. At first, Zach cringed up a little bit, but soon started to relax. When the blood cleared, I saw nothing more than a little, healed scar the size of my thumb. I stared at his shoulder-wound in shock and confusion while Zach stared back at me, anticipating my reaction.
"Wh-what...?" I finally uttered after what seemed like an eternity. Zach laughed nervously, rolling down the sleeve of his blood-stained shirt. "I heal fast." He said unsurly. I let out a shaky breath and looked him in they eye, making him feel a little nervous. His hands jittered and foot twitched, but his blue eyes stayed expectantly on mine.
"Zach Maeston," I said calmly. "Tell me what happened. Everything."
Zach sighed and hung his head low against his chest, messy blond hair dangling over his face. He looked up again and out the open window, which I guessed was how he got in. A cold breeze blew over me and I shivered. It was less than a month before winter. "Okay," Zach said, his voice lowered. " I was, honestly, walking through the street looking for someone. I needed to find this specific person for specific reasons, but I was too gullible enough to think that this person wouldn't be in the school. So anyway, out of this alley, a couple of rouge dogs attacked. I fended them off but, as you can guess, got a scratch on the shoulder. So yes, that's my story."
I stared at him blankly. I wasn't convinced. "The dogs- I believe." I told him, setting my hand to rest on the bed. "But there's a lot of holes in that story of yours. Why were you even looking for this 'person'? And who is this person? And is it really that important that you have to skip?"
Zach looked at me with curious blue eyes, as if he was trying to calculate what lie I could believe. But he knew me too well to lie to my face. And if that's the case then I guess this person might be very important. "Well," Zach started, hands a little jittery. "The reason is a little too confusing to take and I can't tell you. Name and gender of this person? Sorry no. But that third question? Yes, it's that important."
I let out a small laugh despite myself. "So what are you now?" I asked humorously. "Some sort of bounty hunter?"
Zach laughed. "No!" He defended, but he was smiling. "It's
... something else."
I let out a small laugh too. I decided to give up for tonight. I'll get it out of him sooner or later. "Yeah, whatever." I stood up from the bed and picked up a sweater from his closet and tossed it to him. "Get changed, bounty hunter. And then get down and eat dinner." I told him, picking up my bag from where I dropped it.
"Yes mom." He mocked, catching the sweater in his hands.
"Your mom's downstairs. C'mon." I chided and left the room. He flashed me one more smile before I closed the door. I leaned my back a against the door, rethinking everything that happened today. I wondered who this mystery person could be and how important this guy really is and why Zach had to find him. Then, my thoughts just randomly flashed back to this morning when I saw the strange shadow. It was so weird. Yes, it could have been a bird flying over head or a child throwing a ball, but it was.... different. The shadow's form was that of a creature- complete body parts. A human could never move that fast. Then again, how could I be sure? It was moving fast.
A sudden knock from behind me pulled me out of my thoughts and I pushed myself off the door. Zach walked out of it, now dressed freshly in his grey and red sweater. I could still see a small smudge of blood on his palm, but I chose to not mention it.
"So, dinner?" Zach asked.
I grinned, leading him down the hallway. "Go ahead." I said. We walked side by side keeping pace with each other.
"So are you eating dinner here?" Zach asked me as we descended the white stairs.
I shook my head. "Nah. I'll just get going." I said.
Zach frowned in concern. "But won't Lisa be there?" He asked.
"Yeah. And mom's away too. A business trip, I think."
"Then how are you-"
"Want me to walk you home?"
"No thanks. It's cool."
"I insist. I-I could... it's almost dark."
"I'll be fine, Zach. I live across the street!"
He looked at me unsurly, but eventually gave up. "Okay, but if I see one scratch on you tomorrow then I swear Lisa is going to die."
I laughed. "She's my sister." I said. "And you're not killing her."
"Okay, one- she's killing you. Two- who said I was doing the killing?"
I rolled my eyes at him, which just caused him to grin casually.
Zach nudged me as we reached the front door. He grabbed the knob and the door swung open. The sun was now just a faint orange glow in the west as we stared onto what lay beyond the door. The lamp posts were shining bright onto the now darkening street. It was empty, almost deserted. But from where I was, I could see a bright light shining throught the left window of my house across the street. Zach turned to me. "And Era, if someone calls you on your way home, run." He warned. Goose bumps appeared on my skin from the tone of his voice and I felt a chill run down my spine. Not knowing exactly what to say, I nodded. I said one last goodbye before walking out the front door, Zach watching my every move. I could feel his gaze on me up until I reached the porch of my house. The paint was a little bit worn down now and the chairs were unstable, but it was home. I could see the light inside open and I could also hear loud music blaring from the sound system. Typical of Lisa.
I went inside as quietly as possible, hoping to avoid my sister. The door close behind me without any sound but a soft click that drowned out in the blaring music. My breath was steady and my movements were hushed. But of course, the floorboards betrayed me. Yes, they had to.
One little unleveled plank of wood stuck to the ground beneath me was all it took to send me flying. I tripped, my backpack sprawled on the floor. In just three seconds, the music stopped and I sat up on my knees. A pair of feet and ripped jeans came into view, and I looked up to see none other than Lisa Clarckson scowling down at me. She was wearing her dark blue tank top and her frizzy blond hair was up in a messy bun. Her ear peircing and dark make-up extremely noticeable. I sighed.
Let me give you a little background here:
Lisa Clarckson is my older sister by three years. She is seventeen years of age and is pretty much your stereotypical wild teenager. She smokes, she parties, she brings home boys, she picks on me, and for all I know she might even be drinking. She never lets mom see it, though. She pretty much makes my life a living hell and will take any chance to make me miserable. I honestly don't know what drove her to do these sort of stuff. She used to be a normal big sister, didn't really bother me much. She was six when dad died, and being older, she didn't handle it so well. I suppose that's what brought out her wild, rebellious edge. But I can't be sure. She was closer with dad, so I suppose it scarred her.
But that doesn't excuse her for pretty much abusing me.
"Oh my God, Era!" Liza hissed, her similar green eyes narrowing. "I thought I told you to stop messing up my nights! You're making such a racket!"
"Sorry." I mumbled, getting up to my feet. I was shorter than her by about two inches. I tried to avoid her poisonous gaze, but it still burned through me. I tried to walk past her, but she stuck her foot out and tripped me again, but grabbed my hair back so I fell backwards. I squirmed but said nothing.
"You miserable excuse for a sister." Lisa spat. "I can't believe mom forced me to babysit you. Ugh! You better not show up for the rest of the night or you're dead!"
I crawled my way to my bag and rushed up the stairwell as she made her way back to the living room. Halfway up, I paused and saw a boy with dark brown hair and dark eyes sitting at our velvet couch. He paused as he looked up at my sister, eyeing her. Yep. One of her boys.
"HEY, LISA! THAT ANOTHER ONE OF YOUR LOVE TOYS?" I yelled at the top of my lungs and ran up the stairs. I was grinning as I heard Lisa scream after me.
"I'LL KILL YOU, YOU MISERABLE BRATT!" I heard a loud thump at the stair where I stood just a second ago. Probably something she threw. And then came her rushed footsteps and screaming. I turned sharply as I reached the top stairs and rushed through the hallway until I reached my room. I slammed the door shut and locked it, just seconds before Lisa's banging could be heard on the other side. The knob jiggled as she tried to unlock it, but no avail. One last loud thump was heard before she stalked away, screaming "I HATE YOU!"
What a loving relationship we have here.
I sighed in relief, then tossed my bag to the floor and threw myself onto the bed at the edge of my room. It faced sidewards towards the door, under a window. The walls were a dark, creamy shade of white. There was a closet at the foot of my bed and a wooden desk right beside it. Opposite from the desk was my lovely, five foot tall bookshelf and random posters on the wall behind it.
I felt sore, my body tired from the exhausting day. I kicked my sneakers off and left them in a heap at the foot of my bed. I had lavander sheets and fluffy white pillows. I stared at the book on my bedside table. It had a shiny red cover and golden writings.
"Maybe tomorrow." I decided. I was too tired to read. I stared back up at the ceiling, my thoughts drifting back to the earlier events of today. From Zach's cutting classes, to the strange shadow, to my best friend's shoulder wound, Lisa's outrage, and then Zach's warning: if someone calls you on your way home, run. The room was silent, except for the muffled music heard from below me. I did not want to imagine the things going on down there.
And then I heard it, a voice so familiar and so close I felt it was right next to my ear: "Era..."