Overgrown trees and shrubs guarded an abandoned house, illuminated by the faint light from the windows of a small church across the street. The sad remains of a white picket fence lay in a disorganized heap between the dirt and gravel that formed the road’s shoulder and the weeds that had killed off the lawn. In the upper windows, tattered red curtains fluttered out shattered windows in the cool night breeze.
A tall, bone thin girl wandered the front yard, looking lost and scared. She wore a filthy nightgown much too small for her lanky frame, covered in caked mud and a hint of soot. The failing braided pigtails on either side of her head hadn’t seen a brush for a long time. Stray, frizzy curls stood on end all over her head. She clutched a well-loved teddy bear in one hand, and with her other she rubbed her eyes fiercely, as if she were ashamed of the tears which stubbornly flowed no matter hard she tried to stop them. Icy rain fell on her, yet she didn’t feel cold.
A rustling sound behind her caught her attention, and she hurried hopefully to the back yard, where a boy dressed in black sat expectantly on the rocks as if waiting for her. She jerked to a halt when she saw him. Clearly he was not who she expected to see. “Who are you?”
He shrugged. “Who are you?”
“I don’t know,” she answered, keeping her chin tucked and her silver green eyes down. “I think I’m lost. But I can’t be lost, because this is my house. I live here.”
The boy smirked. “This trash heap is your house?”
The girl looked down, her brow furrowed. “I don’t know where they are. My family left me.”
“Sure they did,” the boy said. “Families are a lie. You can’t depend on them, ever. They take what they want and leave the rest, so they must not have wanted you. The only thing you can count on is me. You should come with me.”
The girl finally looked up, confused. “My mom said I should never trust strangers.”
“Your mom left you here, lost, scared, and alone. You still want to believe her? I am the only one who can help you, but you have to help me first.”
He offered his hand. “Just take it,” he whispered, a glint of red gleaming in his mischievous eyes.