They got their mother to take them home from school that Thursday. Normally, Kate and Jeremy rode the bus from their middle school, but it was Jeremy's birthday and he wanted to avoid the crowded noise of a school bus.
Of course, there was a small detour. Mrs. Benson brought the car to a stop when they reached a long line of cars.
"What on earth?" she muttered.
"What is it, mom?" Jeremy piped up from the backseat of the gray minivan.
Mrs. Benson sighed. "Looks like another wreck on the bypass."
Kate rolled her eyes. "You can't be serious. That's, like, the fourth time this week. You'd think they'd, like, fix the road or something." She checked her iPhone. "Mom, I have to do a project tonight. Can't we, like, go around?"
"Should've done your project before, loser!" Jeremy teased.
"You're lame if you actually try in class, like, honestly, little bro."
"Would you be quiet, you two?" Mrs. Benson interrupted, "I'm going to call your father."
He didn't answer. Kate sighed and reclined her seat. "We're gonna be here all day."
Sure enough, it was dark before they reached home.
"Finally!" Jeremy exclaimed, running for the door. Kate sighed and scrolled through her instagram.
"Come in whenever you want," Mrs. Benson said sarcastically.
"Mom. Go away," Kate replied. Mrs. Benson shrugged and went inside with Jeremy.
Kate texted her boyfriend, Darien.
K: omg we just waited like hours to get home
D: me too heard it was another wreck
K: its like that road is cursed or something
D: lol probably is
K: gtg love u
D: k love u too
Kate stuffed her phone into her pocket and opened the car door. The woods around her house were eerily silent, and she couldn't see more than ten yards.
She slammed the door to her house and walked to her room, where she sat on her bed, reaching for her phone again.
It wasn't in her pocket. She cursed under her breath.
"Watcha doing, Kate?" Jeremy asked from his room next to hers.
"Leave me alone, loser." She opened the door again and a cool breeze hit her face. Hesitantly she stepped off the porch and headed towards the car.
Kate didn't like the dark. She hated having to go out there, but she figured it was better than going a night without her phone.
The sliver of moon reflected off her iPhone screen, which was face-up on the driveway. Kate bent down to get it, and suddenly she gripped with fear.
She felt the panic of the unknown suffocating her, and she couldn't breathe. She imagined what could be lurking in the darkness. She imagined what could be right behind her.
Kate whipped around, but realized her back might still be exposed and pressed against the minivan. She didn't breathe at all, and she scanned the woods rapidly.
Kate finally took a trembling breath and laughed, standing up. Gripping her phone, she walked through the dark, quivering slightly. She knew there was nothing to be afraid of. She swung the door wide open and walked through without looking back.
When she got back inside Kate mumbled a happy birthday to her brother and got in bed, scrolling through her phone.
I am safe, she thought, meekly laughing at her small panic attack. Yet she glanced frequently at her window, expecting to see a face staring at her from the darkness.