Chapter ThreeWhen I wake up, he’s not there. Which isn’t a big deal. He usually leaves before I’m up. He walks to the river about a mile in the woods. Rachael and I saw him there once. Until he started yelling at me for taking Rachael out of the house and going into the woods.
But he doesn’t come back.
I make a sandwich for Rachael and one for me. Peanut-butter and jelly. Madison just calls friends and they pick her up. Rhonda makes Maria what she wants.
I hand Rachael the sandwich and sit in the chair next to her.
“Where’s Sam?” she asks. She cares about him almost as she does me.
“I don’t know,” I say, trying to act like I don’t care. “After you eat, do you want to go to the fort?” I ask her the same question everyday, and I always hear the same answer.
“Yes,” she says with a mouthful of sandwich. She shoves the rest in her mouth and stands up. I walk her to our room and grab her a jacket and her pair of mint-green rubber boots. I grab myself a rain jacket, slip on sneakers, and leave.
It’s raining again. The wind is a little colder. Our feet make sloshing sounds as we walk hand-in-hand toward the woods behind the house. Rachael reaches back and puts her hood up with her free hand.
We walk for about five minutes until we reach our destination; the tallest tree in the forest. Here, we have set up a little fort, with branches to keep the rain out. I remember it was sunny out as Rachael and I dug around, looking for the perfect spot to call our own.
Today, though, we barely talk. The rain outside of our hide-out is too loud. I reach in my pocket and pull out an unopened pack of M&M’s, the peanut butter kind is both of our favorite. I bought it at the store down the road that I can walk to in ten minutes. I rip the package open and pour a few in Rachael’s waiting hands. Then, I eat a few myself and put it back in my pocket.
The rain is stopping, and the air feels dead and humid. At least the wind stopped, although I’d take the cold over the heat any day.
“What were they fighting over last night?” I ask her.
“Same thing. Sam got mad and took it out on everyone else. Also, Maria was mad that Madison had more mac-and-cheese than her.” She smirks a little. She thinks they’re ridiculous, too.
I’m about to say something when we hear leaves crack outside. We can’t see out unless we move the wall we made of sticks.
We both freeze, our eyes becoming a little wider. Sticks break closer to us now. I motion for Rachael to be quiet and not to move. I reach in my pocket and pull out my knife that I stole it from my old foster brother who threatened to use it if I didn’t leave.
I slowly slide out of the fort and look around.
A man with a mustache and a serious expression walking parallel to me stops and turns his head. I stay still on the ground, hoping he doesn’t see me. But he does. He starts walking towards me. I stand up, making it look like I was just sitting on the ground. My knife is at my side.
He’s trespassing on our property. My knife is at my side, hidden from his sight.
“Hello,” I say, a touch expression on my face. The toughest one I could form. “Do you realize that you’re trespassing on our property?” I notice he’s wearing a gold badge.
“Ma’am, may I please ask you a quick question?” He ignores my question completely. His voice is raspy.
“Umm, I guess,” I say, uncertain.
“Have you seen or know any of these people?” He’s still walking towards me, and I feel uncomfortable with a stranger this close to Rachael. I start walking towards him. He’s holding a piece of crumpled-up lined paper. Up close, I see that his badge is more of a patch on his shirt. It has a picture of a strange snake-like symbol on it. The man’s face is normal-looking, but something is about looks off, though I don’t know what. I reach for the paper with the hand my knife’s in. He doesn’t even look at it. He has a tiny scar over his right eyebrow.
I examine the patch on his shirt. It is a snake. The tail of the snake is pointed down and resembles a knife by the looks of it.
I realize what’s wrong with his face. His eyes are grey, and his head is down, causing him to look at me from the top of his eyes. Kind of the way Sam looks.
I look down at the paper, but I’m still paying attention to his every move. It’s just a list of twenty-three names, numbered and written in a messy handwriting.
I freeze. My heart starts pumping. I look up at the familiar man slowly, my eyes wide and my mouth half open.
He notices my expression.
“Miss, are you Dakota Riley?”
I barely hear him over my heart, because I remember who he is. Number Two is Sam, and Number Twenty-three is me.