It was them! Emma saw them through the front window from the second floor of the abandoned house and shut up right then. She hadn’t done much singing today, but she’d gone to the abandoned house to sing every day since her brother moved back in, and maybe was overdoing it a little. She got up close to the window to see better and held her breath. The last thing she wanted was for them to find her here.
Not that she didn’t like her own friends, but the abandoned house was her sanctuary. She didn’t want to have to share it with anyone.
Emma rushed downstairs, through the house to the back, and out the kitchen window as quietly as she could. Not that anyone could hear from outside, but each footstep echoed with such resounding hollowness that she couldn’t help imagining the whole place acting like a drum.
She tried to be like cat woman – fast and silent. She dashed through the neighbor’s back yard and came out on the sidewalk that was going to cross with the one her friends were on when they got to the end of the block. And there they were, crossing the street. She ran up behind them real quick, and then walked like she’d been with them all along, not even saying “hey” or anything.
“Isn’t that what you allege?” Tracy was waving her hands around while she talked. Apparently she was on some kind of rampage.
“A ledge? Where?” Justin said to Kate, who shrugged.
“Not where. What. Kate alleges that something wrong is going on in Emma’s family.”
“Oh. Alleges. Is that even a word?” Kate asked Justin
“Why do you guys just assume I got it wrong?” Tracy looked at one, then the other, then glanced behind them. “Emma! What are you doing hiding back there?”
“I.. I’m not trying to conceal anything,” Emma said too quickly, although she was panicking on the inside about them knowing something about her family. “There’s nothing wrong with my family.”
“Hey, guys.” Tracy touched Gene on the shoulder. As he turned around, so did Justin, Ben, Lisa, and Bruce.
“Oh. Emma! We were just coming to see you,” Lisa said.
“Because we were supposed to get together for a band meeting today, and you didn’t show up.” Tracy looked at her accusingly. “And then Kate said there was probably a problem with your family. So we were going to rescue you.”
“Kate!” Emma gasped at her supposedly best friend, the traitor.
“I just said sometimes your brother isn’t so nice. Remember that time I was over and he slammed you into the wall so hard your shoulder dented it?”
“I-it was a thin wall. It didn’t hurt that much. And so what?” Emma got angrier and angrier. “What business is it to you? I mean, I’m sorry about the band meeting. I forgot. But my family is MY family. Right?” She looked from one face to another, looking for anyone who might understand.
“But you’re our friend. We can’t just let you get hurt like that.” Tracy said all hurt.
“And do what?” Emma’s voice squeaked in frustration and panic. “Take me away from my parents? I love my parents. Maybe they don’t love me all that much back, but I don’t want to be put in foster care or something.”
“No, no,” Tracy said, shaking her head and holding her hands out like she wanted to assure her that wouldn’t happen. Like Emma hadn’t already thought all this threw a million times and wouldn’t know.
“So what do you propose,” Bruce asked with a mean little smile and narrowed eyes aimed at Tracy. “We kill her brother? That is the problem, right? Her brother. Hey, Emma, I’ll kill yours if you’ll kill mine.”
“That isn’t funny, Bruce.” Tracy glared at him.
Emma bit her lip because a part of her wanted to laugh. If she’d been wearing a mask, she’d have said, “Deal!”
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