Excerpt: 'Cathy's Ring'

I ran to the bathroom and yanked open the makeup drawer, pawing through it in the dark: combs, my mother's hairbrush, hair ties, compact, lipsticks, and eyebrow pencils rattling around—crap I never wore anymore. Finally my hand found the little pair of scissors my mom used to use to trim my dad's eyebrows. I shut the bathroom door, locked it, and crept into the bathtub, quietly, quietly. I pulled the shower curtain closed, steel rings whispering and clinking along the rail as I crouched with my back under the shower head. I imagined a killer forcing the door—I would have to stab down with the scissors as hard as I could because I would only get one chance. I stood there in the bathtub, my whole body shaking with fear, the little scissors like a toy in my hand. Waiting behind the locked door like Anne Frank in her attic, wondering if I was going to die.

Another thump, hard against the side of the house. A short bubbling shriek. Silence.

Silence.

What the hell was going on out there?

Waiting.

Waiting.

Waiting, barely breathing, no sound, no sound except my heart banging in my chest.

* I stayed in the shower for what felt like forever, listening and listening, but after that last shriek there was nothing to hear. Finally, still clutching my scissors, I got out of the shower. I crept into the kitchen and let myself out the back door. Outside it was not yet dawn, but the night sky had begun to fade, the blackness thinning from oil paint to watercolor. The air had finally started to cool, but it still tasted like ashes in my mouth. I could hear the thin endless snarl of traffic from the freeway a couple of blocks away. With a stuttering hiss the Johnson's sprinklers came on next door. 5:00 am. No sounds of struggle anymore. No sound of anyone trying to get into my room.

I edged to the corner of the house and peeked around. The huddled shapes of three bodies lay on the ground outside my window. They were quite still, limbs stiff and awkwardly placed, like dolls suddenly dropped by kids called home for dinner. They were all dead—obviously dead. In a couple of places I could see pale blurs of exposed bone. I turned away and threw up.

Somewhere in the darkness a mockingbird started to sing. Dawn was coming.

Reset Okay, I know: gruesome. Sorry about that. All I can say is, imagine how I felt.

For those of you—like me—whose attention tends to wander in class, I better stop for a quick refresher on how a perfectly ordinary girl whose worst problems were usually somewhere between Troubled Hair and Sarcastic Co- Workers came to be finding dead bodies underneath her bedroom window.

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