Kalea unknowingly walks into a world that very few know about. She doesn’t miss her old life at all, and the mystery of the guy who got her into this mess makes her want to stay, even without knowing what she’s getting herself into. She has to find a way to convince them that she can be trusted and that they need her, and in doing so has to dig up some memories that she had vowed to keep forgotten.


3. Curiosity


       I look up to see if Ryder is anywhere around, maybe he has realised he dropped it and is coming back for it. I wonder if I should pass it to the old lady at the checkout counter, in case he comes back for it, or maybe the police. But a part of me wants a reason to see him again. Plus, I tell myself, it’s not like the cops could do much, since there was no ID with an address in the wallet.

       I continue walking away from the store and onto the sidewalk, then look up and down the street for some sign of him. I don’t think he could have gotten that far, he was only about a minute or so ahead of me. Toward the left I see a figure walking, but it is a distance away, and also in the opposite direction from my house. It could be him, but the distance and the shadows of dusk make it hard for me to be sure. He’d been wearing a black t-shirt, I remember, and there’s nothing distinctive about that.

       I know full well what the sensible thing to do would be, but curiosity gets the best of me and before I know it I am quickly walking toward the figure, hoping it’s him. I begin to close in on the distance between us; he seems to be just taking a casual stroll. As I get nearer I am more confident it’s him, as I see the broad shoulders that minutes ago were just a breath away from me.

       I’m tempted to call out his name, but what if I’m mistaken? He takes a turn to the left and disappears from my sight. I up my pace, and as I turn the corner I see him make another left. I keep my eye on him as he approaches a cobblestone house and strangely, doesn’t go up to the front door. Instead, he makes his way toward the back of the house and yet again disappears from my sight.

       This is starting to feel like a chase, and I’m starting to feel like a stalker. But I remind myself that my intentions are perfectly innocent. From a distance, the house had looked like those around it, but as I get closer I see that it looks abandoned and unkempt, with flaking paint and decaying foliage. A voice of reason tells me to turn around now, but another part of me tries to recall the last time I did something even remotely crazy.

       I can’t.

       So I make my way to the back of the house, the same way I’d seen Ryder go. There’s no real footpath, more like a worn trail of earth and dirt that is slowly being taken over by the grass, weeds, and bushes that grow wild and free. I have to duck and push several branches out of my way, but when I get to the backyard I don’t see anybody there.

       Like the rest of the house, the back porch is aged and uninviting, its wooden corners stained by mold. At first I wonder if he’s gone in through the sliding door, but as I edge closer to it I notice the cobwebs around it. That door definitely hasn’t been moved in quite some time. For a moment I wonder what to do, and shake my head at the absurdity of this whole situation.

       Maybe I should leave the wallet by the front door. I turn to leave, and that’s when I notice them – slight indentations left in the grass by a pair of boots. They’re not distinct, but crouching down, I can just make out a couple of them. They appear to lead to a small cubby house at the very back of the yard.

       The wood of the cubby house, seasoned and weathered, has begun rotting at the edges. The pink paint suggests that it belongs, or belonged, to a girl. The fading paint saddens me a little, as though the cubby house is just begging to be played in again. Could he actually be in there? It doesn’t make any sense. And yet here I am, slowly making my way toward it. It seems ridiculous to knock.

       “Hello?” I call out.

       No response.

       I reach out to give the wooden door a slight pull, and to my surprise it swings open easily. I’m not sure what to expect, but when I peek in I find it empty, with just a slight layer of dust covering everything. Except for two bootprints. But that’s it. Just two. Like he vanished.

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