Lucy crept through the darkened side of the house, tiptoeing cautiously around the familiar outlines of armchairs and couches. She bit back a giggle as she found the perfect hiding spot behind a tattered rocking chair and knelt down, waiting.
She and her brothers had just arrived home from a very long Sunday. They’d started at church with their parents in the morning, and then spent the afternoon visiting Grandma and helping her with various winter chores, mostly shoveling snow and stacking wood. Their parents sent them home early in Jack’s beat up Volkswagen after their day of hard work, while they stayed behind to make sure Gram was situated for the rest of the week.
The drive back was spent bickering over what they’d watch on TV when they got home until they finally agreed to rent a movie from the RedBox en route. Now, Jack and Oliver had arrived in the living room, movie ready to go, and Lucy was nowhere to be found.
“Where’s Luce?” came Jack’s muffled voice from the other side of the wall.
Lucy bit her tongue and stayed very still, determined not to give herself away. She was on the other side of their duplex house, the side no one had lived in for years. They used it to store furniture and extra kitchen appliances, and her parents kept swearing they were going to knock down the walls and make it one big place, but Lucy was 11 and they’d been saying that since they moved in when she was 5.
Everything was fully functional on this side, and Lucy often escaped over here for the privacy of her own bathroom. She knew that was where they’d look first, and sure enough, Oliver came banging through the connecting door intending to hurry her along.
“What the…she’s not in the bathroom over here,” he shouted back to Jack. Lucy bit her tongue tighter and ducked down a little lower. The lights they had on wouldn’t reach back here, but she wanted to be extra careful.
She listened as Oliver stormed back over to whine to their big brother about Lucy playing stupid games and where on earth she could be hiding. Lucy smothered her grin behind her hand. They’d never find her. They knew Lucy was no fan of being in the dark–it would never occur to them to check back here. Well done, Luce, she thought to herself. Surely, when she eventually reappeared, they’d both congratulate her on her excellent hiding job, her bravery in the dark. After they threw things at her, of course, and ranted about her childishness.
A car passed by on the street outside and for a moment, Lucy’s hiding spot was lit up from the windows. She crouched down lower, breathless at the silly excitement of it all. She could hear the boys banging around upstairs now, calling her name and opening closet doors, telling her they were going to start the movie without her if she didn’t show up soon.
With her back to the window as a second car passed, Lucy didn’t see what else the headlights were illuminating. Close enough to her own hiding spot to reach out and touch was the silhouette of a man, standing very still and holding his own breath as his dark-adjusted eyes watched the crouching form of the girl right in front of him.