- I -
- Finally! - Melody said with exasperated sigh when the last of the boxes was unpacked and it's contents put away neatly.
She wiped her hands on her expensive dark blue Nike sweat pants and looked around the room critically. It looked immaculate and she smiled with great deal of satisfaction. The front door swung open and Melody turned around, her blue eyes narrowing in disapproval.
- Nicely! - she snapped at her seventeen year old daughter who walked into the house with a very sullen expression on her face. - Do not slam the door!.. And take your shoes off, - she commanded a second later.
- Whatever, - the girl muttered and kicked her sneakers off.
- Nicely! - Melody snapped at her again.
The girl murmured something under her breath and Melody pressed her lips tight.
- Honestly Sarah, - she said. - You are the most ungrateful daughter in the history of the world!
- Whatever, - Sarah muttered again heading for the stairs.
- Now just a minute, - Melody set her arms on her sides.
Sarah stopped and looked at her with a defiant face.
- What? - she asked.
- I have several people coming over here soon, - Melody said. - And I want you to behave!
- Who is coming? - Sarah asked with a shadow of interest in her voice.
- A couple of neighbors whom I invited over, - Melody said and Sarah's interest immediately evaporated. - They are extremely nice ladies and I wanted to get to know them better since we are new to the Emerald Heights.
- Okay, - Sarah shrugged indifferently.
- Now listen to me Sarah, - Melody's voice had a dangerous note in it. - If you pull something off in your usual manner when these people are here, if you do anything to embarrass me… - her eyes became two blue slits - … You will be grounded for the rest of the school year, do you understand me?
- Whatever, - Sarah shrugged again. - I am going to my room, - and she shuffled upstairs.
- Did I make myself clear? - Melody called after her.
- Crystal, - Sarah said without turning.
… Sarah was laying on the bed with her head phones on, softly singing along with Marilyn Manson's version of "Personal Jesus" when she heard the doorbell ring. She pulled her head phones off and swiftly got off the bed. She walked to her bedroom door and quietly opened it, carefully listening to the voices downstairs.
- Good afternoon Melanie!.. - she heard her mother's voice and she grimaced at the cheerfulness of it.
- Melody, it's so nice seeing you again, - she heard nasal voice of one of the neighbors and made a silent gagging face. She recognized that voice. It belonged to the woman who lived just a couple of houses down the street from them. Sarah remembered the woman's rigid straight back and her long pink fingernails. She also remembered seeing seven or so garden gnomes in front of her house. Sarah thought that those gnomes were ridiculously ugly.
- This is Elaine…. - Melanie's nasal voice droned on - … and this is Betsy… Marcy, Angela…
- It's such a pleasure! - Melody sounded almost ecstatic and Sarah grimaced and shut her door.
She laid down on her bed and put her head phones back on. She cracked up the volume shutting the noises from downstairs out.
Two hours and almost four Manson's albums later Sarah pulled the head phones off and moaned when she heard voices downstairs.
- Honestly, - she muttered. - Are they gonna sit here forever?
She cracked her door open and listened carefully.
- … And his wife was simply gone, - she heard Melanie's voice. - Nobody knows what happened to her. There were rumors that she was kidnapped but I always thought that she just ran off… - Sarah's interest raised slightly and she opened the door a little more.
- You don't think she had anything to do with those grisly murders, do you? - Melody asked in horrified awe.
- Murders?… - Sarah muttered, her curiosity growing like a soap bubble. She tiptoed out of her bedroom and sat on the top of the stairs, listening intently.
- I don't think so, - Melanie said with authority. There was a slight pause and then Melanie continued:
- She became somewhat unstable right before this whole thing happened but I don't believe that she would do something like that… I mean killing her own son?…
Sarah bit her lower lip, her eyes wide.
- What happened to that poor man? - Melody asked with sympathy.
- He was heartbroken, of course, - Melanie said ,- he started drinking a lot after that and then he put the house on sale and simply left. I don't know where he moved to.
Sarah's eyes became even wider. She realized that Melanie was talking about the previous owners of their new house.
- What did you mean when you said that his wife became unstable before the murders happened? - Melody asked with great interest.
- Oh, she was a sweet person, - Melanie answered. - But she was young and very easily influenced. She became friends with this girl… - Sarah could actually hear her lips snapping into a tight pink line. - … She came here about a year ago. She lives across the street from you. She is… - Melanie paused. - Quite frankly, I think that she is a menace to this neighborhood!
- And her horrendous dog, - this voice wasn't familiar to Sarah. - It should be illegal to have dogs of that size!
- Exactly, - Melanie agreed with the unfamiliar voice. - She is very unfriendly, extremely badly mannered, and she has no moral standards!
- Would you like some more tea, Elaine? - Melody asked.
- That would be lovely, dear, - said the same voice.
- She is not married, - Melanie was saying meanwhile. - But she has this… man who always rides that dreadfully loud motorcycle…
Sarah definitely wanted to meet this unfriendly, badly mannered menace of the neighborhood. She had a feeling that she would actually get along with that particular neighbor.
- … And she smokes, - Melanie finished.
- Oh my! - Melody nearly gasped. - How was she able to get into such a lovely neighborhood? I thought that there was some sort of screening process for people who wish to live here.
- There is, - Melanie agreed bitterly. - You have no idea how many letters I wrote and to how many instances! It seems there is nothing anyone can do about her… Apparently she paid for the house in full and now it is officially hers.
- Oh my, - Melody sighed again.
- Be very careful with that person, - Elaine's voice chimed in. - As I understand, you have a teenage daughter?
- Yes, - Melody said with exasperated sigh and Sarah winced. - She is seventeen, - Melody continued. - And she is a handful!
- Pfft, - Sarah said very softly. - You wouldn't know the handful if it bit you on the ass, - she whispered sourly.
- Make sure that your girl doesn't get anywhere near that Morgan , - Elaine said with concern in her voice. - It would be disastrous!
- I'll make sure it never happens, - Melody said with gratitude.
- And what is going on with her hair? - Elaine exclaimed.
- Oh yes, - Melanie agreed immediately. - That color is simply obscene!
There was a slight pause.
- Oh Melody, - Elaine said with excitement. - Have you seen the advertisements for the new spa that opens in a week?
- Oh yes! It looks fantastic!… I am very curious to…
Sarah got up and quietly went back to her bedroom. The rest of the conversation promised to be nauseatingly boring. She opened her bedroom window and stared at the house across the street. It seemed deserted. The driveway was empty. Sarah was dying to see the black bike that Melanie was talking about. She sighed and glanced at the clock. It read 4:50. Sarah bit her lower lip rather impatiently. She's been stuck in her bedroom for almost four hours now. She didn't want risking going downstairs, positive that her mother will have a stroke if she sees Sarah trying to mingle with her new friends. And after the stroke she will ground her for the rest of the year. Melody always fulfilled her grounding threats. Sarah thought about being stuck in this house for the next six months and shuddered.
- Well maybe they'll get out when dad gets here… - she muttered thinking that her father won't be home for at least forty five more minutes.
She sighed again, deeper this time and leaned on the window sill with her elbows. Suddenly she gasped and leaned so far out of the window that she almost lost her balance and tumbled head first into one of her mother's perfect flowerbeds under her window. "That would get me grounded for life", she thought gloomily. "Or maybe I would've just broken my neck…", was her second thought. She threw all that out of her mind and stared at the house across the street. It's front door just opened and a young woman came out. Sarah gasped when she saw the color of her hair - impossibly red, almost crimson.
- Wow, - she said softly.
The woman made her way to the mailbox, opened it and pulled out several envelopes. She stood there quickly looking through the mail, her head down. Sarah eyed her clothes. She was wearing tight blue jeans that Sarah immediately loved, and a tight white top that hugged her forms in a very revealing fashion. Sarah was more than positive that the young woman was infamous menace of the neighborhood. The woman suddenly lifted her head and looked straight at Sarah as if Sarah's eyes were burning a hole in her white top. Sarah smiled somewhat embarrassingly and waved. The woman frowned slightly, made a vague gesture with her hand, turned around and quickly went back inside the house.
- Huh, - Sarah said. - I guess the unfriendly part was true…
She pulled away from the window feeling disappointed. Suddenly she realized that she couldn't hear any voices from downstairs.
- Do I dare… - she muttered feeling very hopeful.
She opened her bedroom door and peeked out in the hall. The guests were indeed leaving as she heard from their good byes by the front door. Sarah almost squealed with delight - her prison time was over.
She went downstairs when she heard Melody closing the door and grabbed her car keys. Melody immediately frowned.
- Where are you going? - she demanded.
- Out, - Sarah said with a shrug. - I am hungry.
- There is food in the refrigerator, - Melody said.
Sarah thought of the tofu that's been sitting in the fridge since last night and made a face.
- I want some real food, - she said.
- You are going to get one of those disgusting greasy hamburgers again, aren't you?
Sarah shrugged indifferently.
- Yeah, - she said.
- Yes, - she said sharply. - It's Yes, Sarah, not Yeah…. For the love of God, speak properly! We are not paying for that expensive school of yours so you can say Yeah.
- You are not paying, - Sarah muttered. - Dad is…
- Excuse me?! - Melody's voice flew up an octave. - What did you just say?
Sarah slipped her sneakers on.
- Later, Mom, - she said ignoring Melody's outburst and left the house.
She unlocked the door of her red Mustang that her dad got for her seventeenth birthday. Sarah loved her car. Her father was pleased at her delight. Melody couldn't stand it. It was hate from first sight. "What were you thinking?", Sarah heard her hiss later that night. "A Mustang?! Why didn't you also buy her a flame thrower? Why couldn't you get her something… I don't know… Normal?!" In Melody's book normal was something that wouldn't go over 75 miles per hour and definitely not red. "Honey", Sarah's dad answered patiently. "She is seventeen and she is very responsible. I am sure that…" "Responsible!" Melody nearly shrieked. "You call all those computer snooping that she's been doing lately responsible?!" Sarah who still couldn't figure out the connection between her hacking habits and driving just shrugged and put the whole conversation out of her head.
She slid into the leather seat and turned the key in the ignition. Her CD player immediately came to life booming loudly. Sarah saw Melody's shocked face in the kitchen window, grinned and turned up the volume letting Rammstein flood the street with their Mutter.