When I hear the key in the lock, I get scared. I forgot to find a place to hide so I have to jump to it. The apartment is real small but in the corner by the one window there are long curtains so I tuck myself up in them then pull them straight down so they quit moving right away.
“Can I get you a drink of water?” he asks her.
“Yes, please.” She says. Her voice sounds so little. And sweet. Ha.
“Sure thing. We’ll just get you warmed up and then we’ll call your parents.” No way he’s going to call her parents but his voice sounds so kind I might believe him if I didn’t know better.
“Thank you for finding me.” I can still hear the sniffles in her voice. I guess she was crying when he found her. I bet he asked her if she was lost and she said yes. He was probably extra nice. Maybe he told her he was a fireman. You are supposed to trust the fireman.
Sometimes I get bored waiting. Sometimes it takes a long time and my legs get tired from standing and my breath gets tired from being quiet. But there are lots of ways it can get screwed up, so I just wait until it’s time to come out. I can see her from behind the curtains.
She’s going to blow it. Her hands are clenched into little fists and her voice is getting too big and mad. She wants her mom and she wants the phone but he isn’t going to try to call her parents anyway, and she knows it. She doesn’t even have any parents. Faker.
He hasn’t done anything yet. He’s just whispering and I can’t hear what he’s saying and this is the part I hate. His one hand is touching her hair and his other hand is grabbing on to the arm of the dirty brown chair. As soon as he does something I’ll move.
There’s a teeny tiny chance that he won’t. That he’ll realize how horrible he is and just stop. Miranda says we have to let them.
Make that choice.
But we only have to wait until we’re absolutely sure.
But I’ve never been not sure.
Ashley has no patience. She’s already grumpy because she has to be the worm again. She hates being the worm but she’s the littlest. His hand has slipped up her shirt now. Her eyes are squished shut and I can tell she’s making herself stand so so still because the effort is making her shoulders shake.
I feel bad for her because I remember this part. How you try to imagine that it’s something grosser than his hand, like bugs or worms or rats so you don’t have to think about what his hand is doing.
That means it’s time.
“Stop it.” I say. Stepping out from behind the curtains. Miranda used to let me watch Wonder Woman, who I love, because she’s the only girl I’d ever seen who has powers kind of like me. Even though she’s all grown up and can stand out in the sunshine. I try to make my voice mean business like she does even though Miranda says it doesn’t matter if they’re scared or not, in the end. Just her voice, though, not the way she stands with her hands on her hips because one time I did and the pervo started laughing and it took a long time to teach him that I wasn’t joking before…I made a big mess and Miranda was Very Disappointed and we had to move. And then we had to start all over again. It’s okay, though. Every town has a list. That was before Miranda found Ashley. Back when I had to be the worm and the hook all by myself.
Miranda says we aren’t superheroes. We’re very strong, but we’ll never ever get big so people will never be out right scared until is just about over. She says …we are angels. We aren’t here for punishing we’re here for Retribution which as far as I can tell is just a great big word for punishing.
Anyways, it’s not just about being strong. If we get to like hurting them just because we’re stronger then it makes us just like them. At least that’s what Miranda says. We hurt them because they have it coming. Miranda says we were made for it.
His head whips around trying to find my voice. For a moment there is confusion, then a slow smile. I know what he’s thinking. I’m a bonus. That when he’s done with Ashley he’ll start all over with me and he won’t even have to go hunting. He pulls his hand out of her shirt and her shoulders finally get still.
“What do we have here?” he says real slow like a song. He licks his lips and his forehead is wet.
“Poor Mister Taleno…” I say as I shake my head back and forth. I say it a lot lately. I like the way it sounds.
“Poor me?” his face pulls up on one side like he’s calling the whole fact of me a liar. I like this part. I like the moment when they figure out they’re not in charge anymore. He takes the few steps over to where I’m standing and bends down so his face is right in front of mine. “Poor you.” He says, in a rough kind of a whisper that smells like an ashtray.
He says it almost sadly like he feels sorry for what he thinks is about to happen to me but his hand snatches out for a handful of my hair. “Now where am I going to put you until it’s your turn…”
“It is my turn.” Which does sound kind of cool. I reach out with my mind and he freezes. His mouth starts to form the question, like it always does. I must have heard the dumb “who the hell” or “what the fuck” or “oh my god what’s happening” a hundred times before I realized I could just shut their yuck mouths down just as easy as their yuck hands. I snap it shut and make his hand let go of my hair. I twirl my finger in the air and he robot walks back toward the chair. I don’t have to do that. With my finger. But I like how it makes them know that it’s me. In charge. His eyes are big and round like he’s screaming on the insides. Everything is going normal.
Except for Ashley.
Stupid, grumpy, “I’m tired of being the worm” Ashley, who launches like a big old cat from the floor, right at his shoulders. She knocks the air out of him with a giant “oof” in spite of his mouth being zipped. She hits him so hard that he flies right off of his feet and his head hits the door jamb with a sound like the biggest hard boiled egg in the world cracking open. He doesn’t move and I realize that it’s already done. She kicks him the side twice before her hands start to untangle. I can’t believe her sometimes.
“God, Ashley, couldn’t you just let me finish for once?” She can be such a brat. Miranda says I have to be patient because she is so young but it’s not fair because nobody (not even Miranda) knows how old she really is.
I mean geez I may be only be seven and a half but I‘ve been seven and a half for a really long time. She could be like a hundred and fifty.
“No, Jessa, he didn’t have his grody hands all on you and you were taking forever.” She’s got some nerve. This doesn’t look at all like something he did to himself unless he tripped and he is the worst ever at falling down. It’s always supposed to look like they did it to themselves on purpose, because anybody could believe that some old chester got sick of living with himself and decided to flip the switch. We are in so much trouble. There’s blood pooling up on the floor and I have to step back to keep my shoes from getting dirty. I swear, I’m going to kill her if we have to move again. I’m just kidding. I don’t think she can get killed. Plus maybe this time I can get my own room.
“They can’t all die by wall, Ashley.” Miranda is going to be so miffed…” I let that hang there because she always tries to look so perfect and this time it is so not my fault. She lets out a roar but she’s so little it sounds like a cartoon and I can’t help it and I laugh out loud.
She puts her hands up like claws and runs at me and I just crack up harder because she knows she can’t hurt me. I’m at least 3 inches taller and it’s not like I’m some flabby old human perv. I duck aside at the last minute anyway and she hits the wall with a big old thud.
“Girls.” Miranda’s voice comes from the doorway and I don’t think I’ve ever heard her sound so ice cold. “Explain to me why the two of you are fighting when there is a mess to clean up…”
Kristi Lovato is a Portland based writer and performer. Her work has appeared on the stages of The Mind Meld, Truth or Fiction, Tesla City Stories and The Hour That Stretches. She occasionally haunts the graveyard shift at the biggest bookstore in town.