3 Chapter 3

I think it was the voice that woke me up, though it may have been the purr of a motorcycle engine. I was dreaming about my sister riding off on the back of a motorcycle, leaving Shenandoah forever, and in my dream, I was on the sidewalk outside of our house, screaming for her to come back. So maybe it was the bike that woke me, though it had been incorporated into my dream so that when my eyes flew open, I thought that part wasn't real.

Then I heard a man talking to my sister. I'd never heard his voice before; I was certain of that. So, it wasn't Jack or Jon or Kash. He sounded like he was in a rush, like something was wrong, but somehow there was a calmness about each measured word. His voice was a sort of a song, and for once, I actually got out of my bed and pressed my ear to the wall, trying to figure out who this person was and why he was there.

Cadence was upset about something. There was no question about that. She was slamming drawers and doors. Most of the time when she was sneaking around, she'd try to be quiet so as not to wake me, but more than one slam let me know that she wasn't thinking clearly. While I still couldn't understand more than a few words, I did hear her call him a "creep" which was alarming, but the next thing I knew she was crying. It wasn't the sort of cry you might hear when someone is in trouble. It was a lamentable cry, like when the whole world has been upended and you're just on the cusp of understanding what has happened. I would come to know this cry on a personal level in the days and weeks to come.

Another engine sound caught my attention, and I crept to the window. Below me, pulled up to the curb in front of our unassuming house in the middle of small town USA, was a black sports car I imagined would do just fine in a Grand Prix race. I had no idea what it was, but it was impressive. I heard the motorcycle again and realized it wasn't a dream after all. In fact, as it pulled off into the distance, I thought I might've heard more than one of them. That's when I heard footsteps on the roof and jumped back away from the window. I had no idea what was happening, but panic began to grow inside of me.

Carefully, I snuck to the door and locked it, something I don't think I'd ever done before. I also picked up my phone thinking I might have to call 9-1-1. I had no idea what was happening, but I noticed Cadence had stopped crying, and a few minutes later, I heard her bedroom window open and close very quickly. I rushed back to my window, careful not to make too much noise, but I had no idea how anyone could come and go through her window since we were on the second floor.

Below me, I only saw a blur that looked something like a disturbance in the air, sort of like how a superhero might move in a movie. It disappeared out of the yard and down the street, and I held my breath for a long moment. The car was still there, the engine much quieter now as it idled, and then I heard another motorcycle sound. It was almost like whatever had jumped out of my sister's bedroom window had flashed to a spot down the block to the bike.

It wasn't Cadence, though. I heard her in her room, heard the creek of her door and the flick of her light switch, heard her boots on the carpet outside of my room, heard the creak of the stairs.

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I felt like she was in trouble, like something bad had happened, and I desperately wanted to run out to her, to help her. But my feet were melded into the carpet by the window, and I couldn't move. I'd never been as confused or as terrified as I was at that moment. I heard another noise on the roof, though this one was softer than the bumps I'd heard before. I hoped that meant whoeveror whateverwas up there was leaving.

Looking down at the car, I saw another flash and then there was a woman standing next to it. I had no idea how she'd gotten there. I hadn't seen the driver's side door open or watched her walk around the car, unless that was what the flicker of movement had been. As my sister approached the car, an overnight bag in her hand, I noticed this other woman, who was dressed entirely in black with short, curly, purplish hair, was much shorter than Cadence. They talked for a few moments, and then my sister climbed into the car and rode away with her.

I continued to stand by the window for a long moment, trying to figure out if I was dreaming or if something else was going on. How could everything I'd just witnessed be real? I was about to walk away from the window when movement on the top of the house across the street caught my attention. My anxiety rose, and I thought perhaps we were being invaded by aliens. Panic turning to sheer terror, I did what a five-year-old girl might do and took off toward my bedroom door as fast as I could.

Forgetting that I'd locked it, I ran into the thin wood face first. I had expected to pull it open as I was going out, but instead, I'd come face-to-face with the barrier. Rubbing my smarting nose, I fumbled with the lock as another noise sounded on the roof. I made it out into the hallway, thankful for the nightlight my dad had positioned there eons ago, and ran down the stairs as quickly as I could, watching over my shoulders as I went.

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