“Getting cold?” Phil looks down at my thin sweater and leans against the doorway. I can tell he’s trying to see what’s left in my wheelbarrow.
I fold my arms. “You know I have the granola rations in here, that’s all.”
“Where’s Sally?” he asks. He runs his hands through his brown hair and I can tell he just washed it. Not following the ration. I can also see his empty holster and bulging pocket.
I ignore him and pull out the list. “Just check here that I gave you your granola. Mr. Fluser said not to be out at dusk because of the mosquitos and stuff.”
“C’mon Bethany,” he walks out on the stoop and closes the door behind him, “we used to be like friends.”
I’m disappointed he didn’t ask me to come in, I mean, I would’ve said no, but at least it wouldn’t be so weird. And out here where everyone could see us from the windows.
“Do you have any bug spray?” I ask him and pretend to spray an imaginary can.
His eyes light up for a second and he opens the door. “Yeah, come inside.”
When we get in the vestibule he kicks off his shoes. “You can leave yours on if you wanna, but it’s pretty clean in here.”
I take off my hiking boots and stare down at my greying socks.
“How’d you get it so clean in here?” I ask.
“What else am I supposed to do?” He walks down the hallway and we end up in the kitchen. I sit at the table and he starts going through a junk drawer. I notice the kid paintings tacked on the walls and how quiet it is on the inside.
“Do you want to come get a task from Mr. Fluser? He said we’d all feel better if we sign up and then see what happens…” I say and try to think of a good joke.
He stops rifling through the drawer and stares at me. “You really believe that?”
“I dunno,” I reach for a book on the table, “maybe.”
“Hey, don’t touch that,” he says and walks over, holding out his hand.
“Is this your diary?”
“No, it’s like a notebook, for notes and stuff.”
“Oh. Okay.” I start to open the journal and he snatches it from my hands.
“What do you take notes on?”
He squints and looks deep into my eyes. “Just what happens around here and stuff, not much.” He plops the book back on the table. “Now, you. What about you? You got a boyfriend?”
“When would I have time to have a boyfriend?”
“We have all the time in the world.”
I blush, looking down at the sparkling linoleum and then jump when I feel his thumb and forefinger on my chin. His eyes are so serious, not mean like before. What was happening?
“You wanna hold my gun?” he asks and touches a strand of my hair, pulling it gently until he reaches the end and releases the tip.
“Umm… I… let me think about it.”
“What’s there to think about?”
I feel the back of my neck flush when he gets up and then think about the wheelbarrow outside and it was getting dark and the neighbors.
“It’s getting dark.”
“You can stay here.”
All of a sudden there’s banging on the front door. I jumped in my seat but Phil ignores it.
“Do you hear that?”
“It’s probably just Sammy,” he says and reaches above a cabinet. I look at his stomach muscles when his shirt pulls out from his waistband and then I stand up from the table.
“They’re still knocking. It could be an emergency.” I start walking toward the hallway and Phil reaches for my waist. He grabs me and kisses me all of a sudden on the neck. His lips are soft like the rain and I stop in my tracks.
“Stay right here,” he says.
I snap out of it and push his hand away. “I’m coming too.”
The door is shaking with the pounds now and I know it can’t be good. I stand to the left of it and pull out my pocketknife. Suddenly I can see Phil’s gun in his hand, I didn’t even notice it there before. He kneels on the carpet and peeks through the vestibule window.
“Who’s there?” he calls and handles his gun.
“It’s Mr. Fluser!”
I see the door handle rattle and hold my breath.
“I, uh, there’s been an emergency. Open up!”
I reach for the handle and Phil stops my hand.
“Who died?” he calls out as he walks away from the window.
“Uh, nobody died. It’s just an emergency.”
I can hear my own heartbeat in my sweater. Phil grabs my hand. He puts it on his heart and looks at me. He mouths the words “Hide now” and points toward the stairs.
“That doesn’t make sense,” I whisper back.
He just shakes his head and points toward the stairs.
By the time I get under the bed I hear the front door swing open and bang against the wall.
“Don’t move.” I hear Fluser say and then there’s a thud.
Everything goes quiet.