Tamara Mason pricked her ears, listening hard. She thought that she had heard footsteps. Was that some sort of unfriendly intruder? Tamara knew that she was fifteen years old, but everyone was scared of burglars.
That was why Tamara hated being at home alone.
She sat up in her bed and balled up her fist. As she rubbed the wet mist on the window, she wondered who the visitor was. Her mother was at the psychiatrist’s.
Her sister, Nia, was babysitting for the Thompkins’.
But the moment Tamara set her eyes against the still-damp windows; she recognized Nia's long auburn hair which framed her thin, pale face. Tamara opened the window deftly and stared at her sister. Nia was wearing a tiny skimpy strapless top, which showed of her tummy quite a lot.
Tamara was shocked. Nia was only seventeen, and still in high school! She leapt from the bed and raced to the door and flung the door open.
'Nia!' She exclaimed.
Nia grinned and wiped her sweaty brow with her pink cardigan.
'Mom let you go out like this?' Tamara could believe that, considering her mother’s current mental state.
'No!' Nia cried, rolling her eyes. 'I wore my cardigan over this.'
'Why are you so dressed up to babysit a five-year-old?' Tamara demanded.
'Yuck.' Nia made a face. 'I hate babysitting, Tam. I was at Kevin's.'
'Kevin's?' Kevin was Nia's constant boyfriend for three years. He was also a secret boyfriend. Nia lit a cigarette and breathed in deeply, as though she was taking in a healthy aroma rather than the dangerous tobacco smell.
'None of your business, Tami.' she stared down her pointy nose at her sister. Though Nia was only a couple of years older than Tamara, she was a lot more mature. She was also about half a foot taller.
Tamara glared right back at her sister. 'I'll tell.' She snarled.
'If you do, you'll never live to my age.' Nia threatened. Tamara knew only too well that Nia could punch her face in. So she didn't say anything.
Nia took another inhale at the cigar, threw it down, and stamped it. Tamara stared down at it.
'Fine.' she told her feet.
Tamara stumbled down the cold road, clutching her hood over her head. She paused outside the park. She could see a tall figure walking a dog in the distance.
'Dan!' she screamed, recognizing the figure. 'DAN!'
Dan was Tamara’s neighbor. He was the same age as her and her classmate as well.
Dan spun around. His pug, Penny, started barking in delight. Tamara laughed and ran towards Dan. ‘Hey.’ She said. She sank to her knees and started patting Penny who was starting to calm down.
‘Hey.’ Dan replied, grinning. ‘How are you? How’re things at home? Your mother stopped crying about your father?’
Tamara hated talking about her mother’s recent divorce. ‘She’s not home now,’ she mumbled. ‘Still crying. Dad is such a jerk.’
‘Agreed.’ Dan replied savagely. Dan’s father was dead, and his mother was dating Mr. Mason.
Tamara stood up. ‘Guess what?’
‘Tara, if it’s something about your dad, I don’t want to hear.’
Tamara grinned. She loved being called Tara, especially by Dan. ‘It’s not,’ she informed him. ‘I hacked Mr. Greene’s email id again. I read the name lists. The two of us are in the same class division again.’
‘Cool!’ Dan smiled. ‘You’ll get reported someday, though, if you keep hacking into the principle’s id.’
‘Never.’ Tamara smiled. ‘Come here, I’ll hold Penny for you.’
Dan handed the leash to Tamara. She let Penny drag her to a couple of nearby bushes.
‘It still sucks that summer is pretty much over.’
‘Yeah.’ Dan rolled his eyes. ‘Hello….tests, detention and teachers.’
‘I’d rather bid them good-bye.’
Dan was amused. ‘Okay. Enough. Let’s take Penny back home. She did her job, anyway.’
The two of them pulled up their hoods again and walked down the ice-lain streets to Dan’s apartment. He lived on the ground floor, so they didn’t have to wait for the elevator, or anything.
Tamara loved Dan’s room. She flopped down on his bed, which smelt a lot like him. Of a bit of sweat, clean soap, and a tiny bit of Axe.
She rolled over to make room for Dan. Dan lay next to her, and Tamara felt herself flush, like she always did when she lay close to Dan.
‘It’s so boring.’ Dan told her. ‘I want to do something really special, you know, since tomorrow is back-to-school day. But Nada.’ He picked up a paper and scanned the headlines. Load of political rubbish, Tamara thought.
He flipped over and surfed through the pages. Tamara half peered at some of the pictures. Finally, Dan stopped turning the pages. He laid the newspaper open, pointing to an article.
He started reading it. Tamara could see why Dan wanted to read that particular article. A picture the size of A5 paper portrayed a bloody carcass. It was reporting a murder in Brooklyn.
Dan and Tamara loved reading about murder articles. The two of them wanted to be detectives when they were older. Tamara once confided to Dan that she wished that she was involved in a murder. They spent a happy half hour discussing detective tactics.
Later, the two of them went online and Dan shared some of his yahoo hacking tips to Tamara. Tamara was really enjoying herself, when the door to Dan’s room opened. Tamara looked over her shoulder. It was Dan’s mother.
She didn’t look happy. She scowled at Tamara, and turned to Dan.
‘What is that filthy daughter of a sucker,’ she snarled. Only she didn’t say sucker. She said the other word that rhymed with it. ‘Doing here?’
Dan leapt up. ‘Why are you angry?’
‘He is a total…’ she repeated her expletive. ‘Dates a million women a year.’ She used another expletive.
Tamara’s heart started thudding uncomfortably.
‘You broke up with him?’ Dan guessed.
‘His loss!’ Mrs. Landry yelled. ‘Get out of here, you…’
Tamara leapt to her feet and ran past Mrs. Landry. She stumbled across the drawing room and hearing Mrs. Landry scream: ‘Murder her bloody father!’ she raced outside the door. She drew on her hood and swore colorfully as she made her way home.