I turn to Laura and hesitate before asking, “Do you think your mom will let me stay the night tonight?”
“Maybe, but I would rather stay here with you. I like your house much better than mine, anyway,” she says quietly and then stops swinging.
When she appeared in my yard this afternoon, the first thing I noticed were her eyes. They are gray, and they look dull and shrunken, like a fish’s eyes when it has been out of the water too long.
I know this because my dad used to take me fishing and make me carry the fish up to the house afterward. They always smelled disgusting, but the worst part was those eyes.
There is something else too. Her clothes are old and torn, but I don’t want to say anything because I just met her. After all, the last thing I want to do is make her mad at me.
Instead, I stop swinging and glance up at the house when my stomach starts to ache.
Wishing that my mom would call me in for supper, I glance back at Laura. The moment I do, I catch her staring at me with those creepy eyes again and then I feel a shiver run up my spine.
Goose bumps appear on my arms almost instantaneously. As I begin to stand up, she is already right next to me and smiling with her crooked teeth.
“Will your mom let me stay for supper?” she asks with a grin that slowly spreads across her lips.
I don’t feel comfortable with her standing so close to me, especially when she puts her hand on my arm and leans against me.
Then she whispers in my ear, “Will you be my best friend?”
Feeling her breath on my skin, I notice that it isn’t warm like it should be. Instead, it’s ice cold, and for some reason the closer she gets to me, the more I feel afraid of her.
I don’t quite know why I fear her but I do, and the minute my mom opens the door to the house, I feel a sense of relief.
“Sophia, it’s suppertime. Come in and get cleaned up,” she yells out the door and waits for me to come in with a hurried look on her face.
I turn to Laura, who by now is as close as someone can get to me without being in my skin, while saying quickly, “Stay here for a minute,” as I gesture for her to stay put.
As I walk toward the door, I get this strange feeling and stop.
I turn around and notice that she is right behind me. I swallow hard and then state, “I’ll go ask my mom if it’s okay for you to come to supper too. All right?”
I wait for her to say something, then I feel her hand on me again. Looking down, I see it tightly wrapped around my wrist and it starts to freak me out so much that the hair on my arms stands straight up.
I feel her arms surround me quickly to hug me, and I instantly want to run.
Holding me tightly, she says with suspicion in her voice, “All right, but don’t take too long. My stomach is growling, and I’m hungry.” When she says it, she breathes on me, and it instantly turns my stomach.
My mom will probably say no. When she does, she will send me to my room and Laura won’t be able to stay the night, let alone come over for supper.
I just hope that Laura still wants to stay my friend. Even if she is strange, at least she is a girl my age.
“Great. I will be right back out. Let me ask her quickly and then I will let you know,” I say before she finally releases me.
When I get to the porch, I glance back at her and discover that she is no longer where she was standing. Instead, she is just a few steps behind me and smiling while waiting for my mother’s answer.
Opening the door to the kitchen, I glance around the room and instantly the scent of lavender fills my nose; then I smell the chili. It’s such a weird combination that it makes me feel even sicker to my stomach than I felt before.
“Mom, I love your chili, but that lavender smelly spray, ugh. The two together is making me sick to my stomach,” I say before running into the bathroom.
Feeling a wave of nausea rush over me, I almost lose my lunch. As I kneel over the toilet, holding it in, I remember that Laura is standing outside and waiting for my answer.
“Mom. My friend Laura is outside. She wants to know if she can come in for supper and then maybe stay the night?” I yell to her in the next room.
Before I walk to the sink and splash cold water all over my face, I hear my mom yell from the kitchen, “Fine. Can you go tell her, though? I don’t want the chili to burn.”
I wash my face and then wipe it with the white hand towel before walking back to the kitchen. As I appear at the door, a strange pain begins to pound in my temples.
Taking a moment to close my eyes, I relax and then when I open them again, the pain is gone. I open the door to the front porch, and I look outside for Laura and don’t see her immediately, so I yell, “Laura!”
When she appears from around the side of the house, something seems off.
After she stops and looks up at me with a grin on her dirty face, she steps up onto the porch and asks, “What took you so long? I didn’t think you were coming back out.”
She pauses with a frown on her lips and then continues. “So, what did she say? Can I come in or what?” she asks insistently before I can say anything.
When I look at her this time, her face is as pale as a ghost, and she looks skinnier than before. Her eyes are sunken into her head and her voice sounds far off.
I open my mouth to tell her, but no words come out. Instead, she takes my hand and leads me to the door. Feeling her skin against mine, I begin to pull away because she is so cold.
But because she has a death grip on me now, I struggle for a moment.
“Sophia, I thought you said your friend was outside. Where is she?” my mother asks in an annoyed tone while looking all around me.
She acts like she doesn’t see Laura standing right next to me. Is she joking around? I don’t think it’s funny and Laura is going to get mad. As a matter of fact, she won’t think it’s funny either.
“Mom, are you messing with me?” I ask with a frown on my lips and my hands on my hips.
“No. Are you? Because I don’t see anyone.” Hearing the irritation in her voice, I decide that enough is enough and turn to Laura, who is staring at me with guilty eyes.
I yell, “Mom, stop!”
Laura has a strange look on her face.
Deciding that Laura must be in on my mother’s prank, I run to my bedroom and slam the door shut.
“If they think it’s funny to play jokes on me like this, then they can just disappear off the face of the earth,” I scream to an empty room as my voice echoes, giving me an eerie feeling.