- Vol. 02
- Chapter 12
It has been too long. We stare at the chair in the middle of the room as if you are coming back.
"She’s not coming back."
"She’s coming back," I say, and Laney leaves it at that.
I think about the dripping candle in your hands as you leave and the look of surprise on your face as we let you. It’ll be okay, we said, and you said it right back to us, nodding. It’ll be okay.
Judging by the light in the window it has been at least a day since you’ve gone. One of us had to leave, I’d said, and that one of us had to be you. The rest of the girls were too young, but you had steely hands – mum’s hands – and you could run, you could hide. The Men would not be able to catch up with you; your legs tough like oak, grown from years of riding our bikes up and down the road – me alongside you, sometimes letting you follow, sometimes following you.
It has been two weeks since the Women disappeared. We suspect the Men but we don’t really know anything at all. The seasons have changed. Days are cold or hot or nothing at all. On the first day we woke to TVs and radios and mobiles in black and white: Men talking about Men, our parents gone. We found each other on the same road – young girls hiding from something, we just didn’t know what.
The chair is the colour of unripe pears. I think of you sitting there, toying with a pack of candles we had swiped from a looted shop days ago. I think of autumn and try to remember the nip in the air and the small sun fighting for space on our skin. I think of leaving, running after you, but I look at the rest of the girls and know I can't.
"What if she comes back… with them?"
Laney is very young, six or seven, hair like a blood moon. She was our neighbour. I have nothing to say to her so I say something about it only having been a couple of hours and turn to face the windows. I run my fingers through the knots in my hair and it sounds like thunder.
I picture you coming back with cakes in your hands: chocolate and lemon and litres of Cola. I picture us eating together and falling asleep full, like a normal sleepover.
The stairs creak. I stand; the girls follow. Our only weapons are shards of broken glass and I carry one in my fist now – tight, so that I can’t turn back. I wonder what I will do if I see a Man again, how the girls will react, what he will do. What I will do.
We surround the attic door with glass in our hands, ready.