I looked at the garbage scattered across the ground. The bin had a dent in
it, as though someone had kicked it over. I swallowed. “Raul did this?”
“Yes, he had to, and he found it.” Tears ran over her cheeks. “Why am I
so stupid? I shouldn’t have thrown it out. I shouldn’t—”
“Tell me what’s happening. Tell me what he found.”
She grabbed my shoulder hard enough to bruise. Raw terror contorted her
face. “I’m pregnant , Jo. I took a test. It came back positive. I threw it out,
but now he’s found it. He knows. He’ll want the baby—”“He’s not going to get it.” I pulled her into a tight hug. She cried on my
shoulder, her tears soaking through my shirt and making me shiver. “We’ll
make sure he doesn’t. But… I think you’ll need to leave Marwick House. It’s
too dangerous. Not just because of Raul, but…”
“I know.” Her words were so badly muffled I almost couldn’t understand
them. “I know. I don’t want to, but—but—I know .”
“All right.” I glanced about the street, afraid the neighbours were
watching us cry over spilt garbage. No one was. All curtains facing Marwick
House had been drawn. “Here’s what we’ll do. We’ll go back to my house
for tonight. We’ll be safer there. And tomorrow, we’ll start making plans.
We’ll find you a new place for you to stay.”
She leaned on my shoulder. I kept close to her for both comfort and
warmth; I was wearing thin pyjamas, and the asphalt was icy against my bare
feet. We turned into my garden. Neither of us cared that Marwick House’s
front door had been left open. We knew no one would try to go in.
My front door was ajar. I mustn’t have shut it properly. I pushed the door
open and turned on the hallway light and took a relieved breath to be back
inside an insulated house. I nodded for Ruby to head into the lounge room.
“I’ll get you something to drink. What do you want?”
As I turned into the kitchen, prickles of uneasiness grew over my arms
and shoulders. Something wasn’t right. I frowned as I pulled the saucepan out
of the drawer and set it on the stovetop. Nothing looked any different.
The doll was missing off the windowsill. I reached for the space it had sat
in as the uneasiness grew into visceral fear. My heart thundered. Adrenaline
spread through my limbs. My mind raced to catch up to my body, to
comprehend the cause of the panic.
A boot squeaked on the tiled floor, and suddenly, I understood. I couldn’t
have left my front door ajar because I’d leapt over the fence to reach Ruby’s
house. Ruby and I weren’t alone.
I tightened my grip on the saucepan’s handle then swung around, arcing
the pan like a bat. At the same time, I screamed, “Ruby, run!”
The pan hit Raul’s unshaven jaw. The impact was satisfying, but it sent
harsh reverberations up my arm. The heavyset man grunted and staggeredback, slamming into the fridge. The doll fell from his hand and clattered over
the tiles. I didn’t wait for him to stabilise. I leapt around the kitchen bench
and launched myself into the hallway. “He’s here! Get out, get to your house.
Lock the door!”
Raul grabbed my arm as I passed him. I fell, slamming into the floor,
dropping the saucepan and jarring my whole body. I groaned. He tightened
his grip and dragged me back towards him. A line of blood ran from his nose,
which was now crooked, and cold fury flashed in his dark eyes.
Then he snarled and keeled back. I looked up; Ruby stood behind him,
her face sheet white, her mouth in a cold, unforgiving line. Red blood painted
her hand from where she’d slashed one of my kitchen knives into Raul’s
shoulder. He turned towards her, grabbing for her wrist, but she darted out of
his reach. I scrambled to my feet. Ruby grabbed my hand, and together, we
raced down the hallway and burst into the night.
“Get back here,” Raul bellowed. His pounding feet beat at my floor. I
slammed the front door behind myself, praying it would delay him for at least
a few seconds.
The street was almost unnaturally quiet. No lights had come on following
our screams. No doors opened. No curtains moved. I suspected we could beat
on a door for an hour and not get any response. The rest of the world might as
well not have existed.