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'Yes, 11 spaces, moved right past you Dave, no bankruptcy for me.' My mom bounced around in her seat, a two year old playing peek-a-boo once more. This was the fourth day we've had to continue our game of Monopoly and let me tell you, this should be part of the Special Olympics because it gets intense! I scanned the room: Lee and Jeanette dropped across the couch Champagne glasses tilted precariously downward with glazed eyes mindlessly watching the New Year's Eve countdown; Hardy barricading the front door under a cloud of snores and his adorable Guide Dog In Training Vest; and then the Monopoly crew hard at work with their ink & paper realties. Mom- acting a little too hyped up; Simon- burnt out, not yet accommodated to the Talley's electrifying competitive edge; Dave- standing tall with a wad of pink bills, he clearly brought his business tactics to the table; Miranda- ever content observing our two mismatch families; and of course there's me- forever balancing carefully on the line between bankruptcy and success but turning out on top every time.

'Emily would you go already? Those little white cubes on the table are not going to get me all your money on their own!' The table burst out in collective laughter turned up the energy another notch and yanking me out of my trance.

'Hmm, yeah, sorry 'bout that, I would never want to delay your losing the game; now move aside boys and girls 'cause I'm feeling luck-ay!' I waggled my eyebrows and swallowed the die in my fist, spitting them back onto the hardwood with a sharp jerk. And the verdict is? Doubles, just what I needed. Free parking opened its arms to my little pewter thimble. I winked at the sore losers drooling over my collection of neon paper slips. Dave wretched the die off the table, on a mission to stay in the lead. The atmosphere changed and I slipped away unnoticed.


Freeze. That's when it happened. Right there.
It was 27 steps to the bathroom, one flush, one sputtering faucet, and a reach for the door knob. Next it was blood curdling shrieks oozed under the door eating away the thrill of the evening; followed by the crunch of bones and a final deep throated howl from Hardy splintered short. I stopped breathing, unaware of basic functions, gripped by the throat at the glass images shattering in my mind. 27 steps away, the creak of a single floorboard slammed me face first into reality. I hit the pavement, mentality roaring into overdrive. Fingertips betrayed me reaching for the light switch inches away, begging me to hurry up. Silence was the only sensible thing keeping me alive so I rushed to quench the voices in my head- big mistake. The lights cut out abruptly drawing the swish of feet. I counted: 27 steps, who ever they were, they were right outside the door. We stood there for a full minute, separated only by a standard ply-wood door. Adrenaline injected itself suffocating my system in short bursts. If they didn't kill me, adrenaline would. Pulse, pump, pulse, pump. 15 more seconds. Pulse, pump, pump, pulse. Seven more seconds. Pulse, pump, pump, pump, pump. I was drowning in fear, intoxicated by the perfume of blood-lust and mind games. Pump, pump, pump-ump; Pulse. This was it, I couldn't take anymore, I dived over the edge. Fingertips shaking to blur, muscles tensed, inch at a time I crept toward the brass knob.

'Don't you want to finish Monopoly?' The whisper sent hell gnawing through my arteries. Sweat crept down my neck, shallow breathing quit out. The clock above the sink was suddenly deafening, screaming at me that my time was up. Tick. Tick. Tick. Pump. Pump. Pulse. I pressed my exposed cheek to the ply-wood, forced my dry lips to crumble open in hopes of releasing a whisper just one last time.

'Don't you know...I always win?'





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