"No! Leave her alone! Don't hurt her!" I scream. A dark figure holds a pistol against my mother's forehead. He whirls around and almost hits me with the gun. For a split second, his eyes seem sad. When that split second is over, he places the end of the gun on my temple.
"I need you to do something for me," he puts his finger on the trigger.
"Anything," I sob.
"Use this," he closes my trembling fingers around the barrel,"on her." He points at my mom.
I just stare, mouth open, eyes wide. Do I shoot the woman who took the place of my first mother, then locked me away for as long as possible, or disobey a killer and risk my life for someone I don't even trust?
"Or not. If you don't, I will," he sounds pitiful. People pound on the door, desperate to protect us.
I hold the pistol how my birth mom taught me. Mom begs me not to shoot. But I dry my tears. All that anger that's been building up since my birth mom was killed, it flows out of me. I pull the trigger once. Twice. A third time. I had my chance to get revenge. And I took it.
I wake up. For a few minutes, I press my ear to the wall. Jake snores in his bedroom. I climb out of bed and get dressed in my jean shorts and neon green shirt. I've only been here a couple weeks, but I already have a hidden hole in my closet. I grab my bag and sneak out the doggy door. I honestly don't know why they have it. They have no pets. I've seen some rats, but they don't count.
I start running. When I get about a block away, I open my bag and grab my flashlight and Ritz. I packed this bag specifically for this. I do this a lot.
I get to a dark alley. From a hole in the wall, I pull out a ladder and climb up to a balcony. Nobody lives or works in this place. It's been abandoned since I moved here. Janiah drops a rope from the roof. I start to climb. At the top, she grabs my hand. She pulls me up along with the ladder.
"Aw, yes! Ritz!" She doesn't carry a bag. She only carries the rope ladder.
"You're welcome. You really need to pack a bag for this. Jake is starting to wonder where the Ritz dissapear to." When we moved from D.C, she ran all the way down here, to Safford. It's a big change. This place is tiny. Quiet. Easier to sneak around.
"Hey. You can't blame him. You can't have cheeseball without Ritz."
"I still think it's disgusting."
"So, Thatcher Elementary School. Who do I avoid?" I ask. I know she doesn't know, but we talk for the rest of the night, up until the sun is high in the sky. Then we head home.
"Where have you been?" Jake asks, tears in his eyes.
"With Janiah. Why?" I ask. Then I decide that sounded rude, so I add, "Look, I didn't want to scare you. I just wanted to go out with a friend."
"You've been gone since before I woke up, Tamara! I woke up at eight. Wait until I wake up next time," he grabs my shoulders. "I need to know when you're going to leave so I know where you are."
"Thank you." He kisses my cheek and retreats to the kitchen.
Now I have to tell Janiah.