Authors: Lanie Jacobs
Khalida didn’t say much on the ride home, she just sat there, staring at the sky through the car window. Dark grey clouds rolled above them, swaying with the wind. Khalida thought they were waiting, hovering, preparing to unleash a pouring of rain, and she hoped it would rain. Khalida’s favorite thing was listening to the rain and thunder. Storms scared other people, but for Khalida, these brewing storms had a way of calming her and putting her at ease.
Luke recounted the recent tale of how Khalida tried to climb over his back to take a shot at Lacey. Razi was impressed with boldness that Khalida had radiated during the confrontation. Vega, on the other hand, being so in tune with Khalida needed no help to understand that her friend had a lot on her mind and just wanted to think a little. When they pulled up at Luke’s, he folded his seat forward to let the two girls out. When it was Khalida’s turn, Luke playfully rested his hand on the roof of the car to block her in front of him.
“Please don’t pull anything while I am gone?” he asked more than told.
Why do you always think I’m up to something?
“Don’t make me answer that. It would take all day,” he said smiling, “ so just stay here until I get back,” the latter sounding more serious. Apparently, Khalida’s silence on the trip home didn’t go unnoticed.
“Fine. No problem. Go to your meeting. Have fun, and please, Luke, stop worrying about me. It’s really not healthy for that handsome face of yours. You might end up with premature wrinkles,” Khalida said smugly with a feigned look of disgust on her face.
Avoiding eye contact, Luke leaned down and kissed Khalida on the forehead. “I’ll be back as soon as I can,” he said, moving out of the way to let Khalida pass by before he slid into the driver’s seat and shut the door.
As Luke and Razi backed out of the driveway, Luke kept his eyes on Khalida. She could feel his stare boring deep into her, shaking her to her core. She pulled away from Vega, taking a few steps forward as her eyes followed the green Camaro while she and Vega stood in the driveway.
“I seriously need to get out of here without babysitter detail. Think we can do some shopping? You know our graduation dance is tomorrow, and I have nothing to wear,” Khalida begged.
“You know that being out there by yourself is out of the question. Luke would thr
ow a fit if
mentioned it. That is why he is worried; he could sense that you were up to something,” Vega said as they slowly walked up the drive.
“Come on Vega, please. It’s in the middle of the afternoon. Luke won’t know. He is busy with the meeting. I won’t take long, I promise, and since you were smart enough to get your dress weeks ago, it will take even less time. Seriously, what could go wrong?” she pleaded, “Just half an hour?” Khalida pouted, sticking her bottom lip out to try to persuade her friend with a classic puppy dog face.
“I really don’t think that it’s a good idea, Khal,” but as Vega spoke, Khalida could feel her will shattering. Vega was shopaholic; it was her only addiction.
“Who are you, and what did you do with my best friend? My bestie isn’t the kind of girl that has ever followed the rules, especially when it comes to shopping!” Khalida pushed further, trying to throw in some reverse psychology on her best friend.
Vega sighed in defeat, and that was all Khalida needed to hear to know that victory was hers.
“Yes! Let me get my wallet, and we can roll,” Khalida yelled excitedly, running the rest of the way to the house.
“Wait for me! I don’t care how long it takes! You know I’m going to get something, too!” Vega yelled as they ran inside to collect their things, squealing and laughing like two normal high school girls. Khalida had been watched almost for two weeks, twenty four hours a day. Two weeks and nothing bad had happened. Luke would be mad, but he’d just have to get over it, wouldn’t he?
Downtown Austin was exciting, fun, and the freedom felt great. There were little boutiques everywhere but the girls already knew where they were going to
. This boutique was the girl’s favorite place to shop; they always carried a variety of clothes that were the latest fashion. As soon as they stepped in the building, Khalida immediately found the dress that she wanted. It had a black corset top with a white ruffled skirt hanging tightly on a mannequin displayed by the counter.
“That’s the one I want, right there,” said Khalida, her voice cracking as she talked from the excitement spilling out of her voice. The salesgirl couldn’t get the dress off the mannequin fast enough.
“Good, now go try it on so we can get back before they know we are gone,” Vega scorned at her excited friend while she quickly skimmed the jewelry case. Khalida noticed a few people who looked at them like they were just a couple of more of the Austin weirdoes. Khalida wasn’t bothered by them, though. She was too busy having fun. The girls made eye contact and laughter flew from both of them. They knew if anyone found out had they left, both of them would be in deep trouble, and that made the shopping trip more exciting.
“Luke and Razi are busy with the meeting. Besides, I overheard them talking about getting some training in, so they won’t be back for hours,” Khalida shouted from behind the fitting room curtain.
“Whatever. Just try it on so we can get out of here. I found a super cute necklace to go with my dress,” Vega said impatiently, but not without a little giddy to her voice.
As Khalida stepped out of the dressing room, she danced around in a circle to show off the dress she had on when Vega’s cell phone started ringing. The two girls looked at each other when Khalida’s began ringing, too.
“Where the hell are you?” Luke snapped angrily as soon as Khalida put the phone up to her ear.
“Shopping!” she snapped back just as fast, “and in case you haven’t noticed, you’re talking to me on a phone, so quit yelling or I’ll just hang up,” Khalida spoke as if she was the one in control.
“This isn’t a game, Khalida. Where are you?” Luke bitterly demanded.
“Look. I’m trying on something real quick, and then I’ll be on my way.”
“No! Leave now!” he yelled, again.
Khalida ended the call and slammed her phone down on a nearby counter.
Ignoring the conversation her best friend was having with who Khalida could only assume was Razi, she stepped back into the dressing room. Khalida stood back, turning to look at herself in the mirror. The dress was a perfect fit. She pulled aside the dressing room’s curtain to tell Vega that this was definitely the one,
and that’s when it happened.
“Oh, my, God! Luke, you scared the hell out of me! How did you know where we were?” Khalida screeched, her voice cracking as she attempted to catch her breath.
Luke stood there against the wall with his hat pulled down, covering his eyes. He took one step towards Khalida, and with a flash he was in her face. He was mad, fuming mad. Okay mad didn’t even come close. He was furious and he was glaring straight at her.
“You hung up on me, Cupcake.”
“Because you weren’t listening to me,” she replied.
“Get your clothes on, and go with Razi and Vega,” he said through clenched teeth.
“Okay, but I have to pay for my dress, first.”
“Take the damn dress off and go. NOW!” he shouted, losing his temper. “Are you out of your mind? Do you realize you just put yourself and your best friend in danger? I know you’re not stupid so that only leaves crazy. Get dressed and go with them now!”
Khalida turned to close the curtain, ignoring the hot tears she felt rolling down her face. She changed back into her clothes and left the dress lying on the floor, not caring that she should have hung it up. She shoved past Luke on her way out, not missing the eyes of a shop full of people staring as she strolled out of the boutique. Khalida couldn’t control the tears as they poured out. She was humiliated. Khalida tried to swallow the knot that was bobbing in her throat but it wouldn’t go down. She was sure she looked just as crazy as Luke thought her to be as she yelled at the staring audience.
“Screw you all!” she cried out as she walked out of the store and into yet another storm.
It had gotten much colder in the few moments that she had been trying on the dress. The grey clouds from earlier were now a menacing black, almost as if they were promising a violent disturbance. The wind was strong, pushing her forward and whipping her hair around into a mess of tangles. The rain hadn’t started yet, but thunder boomed loudly in the distance, and lightning lit up the sky like shattered glass around the downtown skyline. Vega and Razi were right on her heels. Khalida could hear them arguing but paid no attention to the issue nor did she actually care. Vega could hold her own, but apparently Khalida needed to get a dose of valor like her friend.
a caged animal.
She needed t
o get out. You can’t believe I would let anything happen to her,” Khalida could hear Vega telling Razi off.
Sighing, Khalida decided she couldn’t just stand there and listen to them yell. Noticing that Luke’s car was parked in the middle of the parking lot a few spots down from Vega’s car, Khalida stepped off the sidewalk and decided she would head there. Once she had reached the car, Khalida leaned up against it to wait for her friends who were still arguing as they walked slowly coming closer. Standing by the car, she wished she had thought to bring a jacket. The chill of the wind stiffened her limps, the coldness penetrating her body. A sudden shiver in her spine told her something about this felt off.
The whole scene just felt like it belonged in a movie. Instantly on guard, Khalida looked around the parking lot. Razi, who must have sensed something wasn’t right, too, was also aware of the change in the air. Vega stopped arguing with him and took her stance next to Razi as the feeling spread to her.
“Get in the car, Khalida,” she said firmly, not giving any room for argument.
Not wanting to question what they so obviously sensed, Khalida turned to open the door. As she looked over the roof of Luke’s car, she stood frozen with fear. Her eyes fell upon a creature hidden in the shadows of the corner on the other side of the street with two red eyes staring hungrily at Khalida.
Fear rippled through Khalida’s body, planting her feet to the ground like ceme
making it impossible for her to
ove. Images from her dream flooded her mind immediately, like someone broke the dam that was holding the horrible nightmare back.
He is the creature from my dreams.
“Get in the car, Khalida,” Razi yelled as his eyes followed Khalida’s stare to where the creature stood.
“I-I can’t, it’s locked. You have the keys,” Khalida whispered, but it was more to herself than to her friend. She couldn’t even find her voice. The stare she was locked into held her in a vice grip. She could feel her body shutting down, succumbing to something out of her control.
Vega was behind her in a second, grabbing her arm and pulling Khalida down beside the car, both of them crouching down in wait for the car to be unlocked. Khalida couldn’t tear her eyes away from the monster that was firmly holding her mind. It seemed impossible, but a small piece of her didn’t want to look away. As Vega struggled with the door, Khalida felt her feet come unhinged from the ground as she began to move, answering the silent call coming from the creature standing just ten feet away. Khalida was in a trance.
I have to get closer, I need to be closer. He wouldn’t hurt me
You’re right, Khalida. I won’t hurt you. Come to me
This monster could speak to her mind just like Luke could, just like in her dreams. Khalida could hear Razi getting frustrated in the distance as he checked his pockets for the keys but came up empty handed.
Just five more feet now, walk faster, Khalida
Just then Khalida felt a tight grip sending an intense pain up her arm, instantly releasing her from the trance. Shakily, Khalida looked up and into to Luke’s eyes.
“Get in the car,” he let her go, turning his attention to the creature still staring at Khalida behind the shadows.
“Get her out of here, Vega. Razi, you stay with me.”
Luke placed his hands on Khalida’s shoulders, trying to shake her out of her trance, “Get in the car, baby. You have to get out of here,” he said, shaking Khalida again.
When Khalida came back to reality, she saw Vega as she turned to run to the other side of the car. Khalida barely had the door shut by the time Vega had slammed the gear shift into drive, flying out of the parking lot, leaving Luke and Razi behind.
“What the hell, Vega? What was that? What was I doing?” Khalida began to sob uncontrollably.
“Just stay down!” she snapped.
Khalida threw her head between her knees, shaking fer
sick with fear of the creature and from the adrenaline that was coursing through her veins. She cried, shocked by what she was doing before Luke showed up. That thing had total control over her mind, enticing her to move towards the creature’s reach.