Chapter no 28

The Locked Door

26 Years Earlier

“Hunter and Prey?” Marjorie gives me a skeptical look. “I never heard of it. What kind of game is that?”

I sigh. “God, Marjorie, don’t you know anything?” She frowns. “I guess I never heard of it…”

I glance down the dim wooded path and back at Marjorie. “So here’s how you play. One kid is the hunter, and the other kid is the prey. Since you’ve never played before, you’re going to be the prey, and I’m going to hunt you. Basically, you have to keep me from catching you.”


“It’s really fun,” I assure her.

Marjorie doesn’t look like she thinks it’s going to be fun. And to be fair, she’s probably right. It won’t be fun. For her.

“Also,” I add, “you need to take off your shoes.”

She looks down at her beat-up sneakers and her eyes widen. “Take off my shoes?”

I let out another sigh. “Do you think that wild animals in the forest have sneakers on? Obviously, you have to take your shoes off. We’ll just leave them right here.”

I watch Marjorie’s face, wondering if she’s going to go for it. Her lower lip trembles. “Nora, can we play something else?”

“What? Like with Barbie dolls?” I roll my eyes. “Marjorie, I’m not going to play a game for babies. This is what all the kids play together.” I look her straight in the eyes. “But if you don’t want to play, that’s fine. I’ll just go home myself.”

Moment of truth. How much does Marjorie want a friend? “Fine,” she says. “I guess we can try it once.”

I smile at her. “Great. You won’t be sorry.”

I watch as Marjorie gets down on the ground and removes her sneakers. Her socks smell terrible, and there’s a hole in the toe of the left

one. “Socks off too,” I say.

For a moment, she looks like she’s going to protest. But she doesn’t. Finally, her socks and shoes are off. She stands up in front of me,

slightly wobbly. She doesn’t look happy. She looks like she wishes she could call it all off, but it’s too late for that.

“I’ll give you a sixty-second head start,” I say. “Then I’m going to hunt you.”


I ignore her protests and look down at my watch. “Your sixty seconds start… now! Go!”

There’s something about my voice, because Marjorie’s eyes get big like saucers. And she starts running.

But it’s pathetic. Like Tiffany said, she waddles. And without her shoes or socks on, she’s having trouble finding her footing on the ground. The ground is all twigs and rocks, and it’s got to be digging into the soft, doughy soles of her feet. I’m giving her a sixty-second head start, but it will take me all of fifteen seconds to catch up with her at this rate.

Geez, it’s not even a challenge. Maybe I’ll give her another sixty seconds. That will make it more fun.

While I’m waiting for the time to be up, I sift around inside my backpack. I push away all the pens and pencils until my fingers touch their destination.

The penknife that my father gave me.

I pull it out, examining the blade. I touch the tip to my index finger, and a drop of blood leaks out—it’s razor-sharp. I put my backpack back on, but I keep the knife in my hand.

After all, if I’m hunting, I have to have a weapon.

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