Things feel different. I’m off my game. The dark deeds I once yearned for would excite me to my very core. After years of perfecting my craft, I felt confident about my endeavours. Assured. Tonight, the key glistens in my hand and I find myself hesitating. A frost has descended across the ground, casting an icy glaze over the surfaces. My black canvas smeared with white. The key’s edges graze against my skin as they turn over in my palm. I think back to the first time I stood here and the motivations that drove me. How different I am now.
The key glides into the lock. A swell of adrenaline builds in my chest. I fight against its pleasure. This mission is not for me, it is for her. The door swings open, releasing the familiar smell that infuses Sophia’s clothes. Closing the door behind me, the usual darkness persists all around. The quietness envelops like a heavy duvet. With my eyes adjusting, silhouettes of the house begin to slowly develop - just as polaroids do. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot a shape that is not in keeping with the lounge. A shadow within the shadows. Before I could escape, the figure begins to speak.
“I was hoping you’d return,” Fred declares.
Fear paralyses my limbs. My feet anchor to the ground, unable to work.
“It took me a while to figure it out. Not the note. I knew that was you straight away. What I couldn’t understand was how you knew.”
The words cascade from his mouth with such arrogance, I knew that he’d manage to answer his dilemma.
“Sophia would never tell anyone, she has too much at stake. Of course, it didn’t stop me from asking her, just to be sure. There’s no disguising true disbelief. She seemed as shocked as me when I showed her the note.”
My fists clench at this information. No. What has he told her? I think back to the perfect day I’ve shared with Sophia. Had he spoken to her before or after? It didn’t make sense why she’d act so happy if she knew what I’d done.
“The only possible explanation is that you somehow saw something for yourself, so I asked her. Did you ever give Lucas a key? Well, she seemed to piece things together pretty quickly herself after I said that.”
A vision replays in my head. Me scooping up the keys from the pavement, Sophia confused from the silence of their descent.
“I have to applaud you really. Innocently dropping the key on the concrete, why would anyone think that suspicious?” A laugh ripples through his chest, he’s amused. “I have to ask Lucas, exactly how many times have you broken into my house?”
A thought suddenly dawns on me. Where is everyone? How is he managing to speak so candidly?
“Where is Sophia?” I muster.
An even louder and more sinister cackle rips through the air. To him, I am a fox caught in a snare.
“They aren’t here, Lucas. I arranged for them to go on a last-minute spa break. I thought it would be more fun this way.”
“What would be more fun?” I ask, petrified by his response.
Fred’s dark outline stands tall and creeps towards me. His black eyes move so close to mine, I can see their unblinking dominance. If I die here, Sophia will never know the truth. I will never be able to protect her. As Fred’s immense body towers over me, a fight or flight response takes over. I raise my hand, still grasping the key, and pierce it against Fred’s neck. As he fumbles against the wound, wincing in pain, I fling open the door and make a run for it. I am dumbfounded when I hear Fred’s cries turn to laughter yet again. What could he possibly find funny now? He stands, with blood dripping down him, looking at me. Unflinching. He isn’t coming after me and he isn’t calling for an ambulance. What I can’t see is what he is truly starring at. Unlike Fred, I don’t notice my downstairs light turn on and my parents approach the door. The seal respires behind me when they open up onto the scene. I spin around to face them, and it is only then that I notice the blood on my hands.