She thought she heard her name again. Sadie….Elijah’s voice, soft and somewhere in the distance. Sadie ignored it. A stab of longing for the sight of his face made her turn anyway. A tall stack of cereal boxes stared back at her. They were on sale. She left the store, happy for the dark hour. The autumn air smelled like rain. It must be raining somewhere close. Arizona storms moved with a life of their own, unpredictably, forcefully. Perhaps the rain would fall at Heather’s, follow her home to Jen’s, and deign to stay all night.
She twisted the bag dangling from her wrist and walked. Heading south, she only had three blocks to cover in her sister’s quiet suburban neighborhood. Sadie thought it oddly lucky that the bus route brought her so close. Their last home, an apartment, had to be driven to. Heather would pick her up, drop her off. This place, though, was close and quiet. Tree lined streets, gas lamp style lampposts. Not a cactus or palm tree in sight. She felt transported.
The darkening night cloaked her, making her feel free and invisible. How she imagined sane people felt. Only normal people took for granted how freeing being average, blending in, was. Sadie certainly had. Four years felt like a lifetime. Sometimes, she wondered if her memories of then were real. Her graduating high school, sneaking into clubs with Jen, cramming for a test an hour before class, seemed like fantasies now.
She had lived through days of it, without seeing him. She couldn’t even be certain if he had or had not been there on any of her scheduled days. Progress. Soon, it would get easier. If it didn’t, well, she doubted she had more than a handful of months to suffer the crush through.
Once again, the question loomed: If she didn’t have much time left of this near normal, what was it she meant to make of it?
One thing for certain, she would take Jen up on her next offer for any normal social function, be it coffee and donuts or a rave. She would keep her sister in the dark for as long as possible, she would buy new clothes and cut her hair. She would do the things she missed most about the normal days.
Crossing the empty street, somewhere not far, a dog barked. Sadie inhaled the scent of wetness in the air, closed her eyes against the breeze so she could feel it on her eyelids. Let there be rain. Tonight’s dinner would be nice. She would do everything she could to make sure it was. No arguing, no defensiveness. Just eat, chat, laugh. Like everything was going to be okay.
Another bark startled her enough that she jumped. She opened her eyes wide and searched the night. Trepidation prickled over her skin. Don’t panic. She increased her pace. Two more blocks and she would reach Heather’s. She considered cutting across the wide expanse of park but the playground equipment and trees’ looming shadows turned her stomach. Another bark, closer, a growling sound in it that called to mind movies of rapid, snarling jaws smashing against a window.
The breeze picked up, fingering through her hair, chilling her bare arms. Sadie glanced furtively around her, behind her, unable to quell her suspicions. Someone was following her. Someone, somewhere in those shadows, watched her. She closed another block but her pulse couldn’t seem to quiet back to a normal rate. It vibrated in her throat, shook her hands. Fear. The whispering voice seemed ever closer, louder and she couldn’t convince herself it wasn’t real. Knowing she was crazy, that she was prone to auditory hallucinations only made them more real when they might be happening. She didn’t know what to trust, what was real and what was imagined.