Stacia waved goodbye to her friend Kelly and Kelly’s mom as they drove away. She hugged herself and rubbed her upper arms, wondering why it felt so cold suddenly. With the onset of spring temperatures had been steadily rising, and at school she had been quite comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt. But back here at home it felt oddly chilly.
As she unlocked the front door, she wrinkled her nose. Something smelled funny, but she couldn’t say what it was. Just as she moved into the house she glanced next door at the Millers’ place, stopped in the entryway, and stepped back to look again. She had been sure she had seen something at the door, some kind of small black thing moving. A cat? A dog? It wasn’t there any more.
She shook her head and went back inside, closing the door. That was it, her afternoon was officially shot. She would now be obsessing over Thomas.
Stacia knew he went by Tom nowadays at school, but she still thought of him as Thomas, as he had always wanted to be called when they were kids. None of her friends understood why she still liked him, since they really hadn’t hung out since sixth grade, and according to Kelly he really wasn’t that cute. Stacia disagreed, but really, it wasn’t about how cute he was anyway. Well, not really. Not entirely. He was also a really nice guy. And a good baseball player.
Humming to herself and thinking about Thomas, she went to the kitchen to get some ice cream. It may be chilly outside, but every day is warm enough for ice cream. Reaching the kitchen, she stopped. What had her dad bought now?
Sitting on the kitchen counter was a funny looking jar. She thought it looked like something you’d keep something medical or a science experiment in. It had a wide metal base, a glass cylinder about a foot long, and a lid that was halfway off. The lid had what looked like a little light on the top, which was off.
“Dad? Are you home?”
She picked up the canister. It looked empty. It smelled funny inside, so she put it back down.
“Dad, is this yours? You know mom is going to kill you for leaving this here!”
Sighing, she went to the refrigerator to get out her ice cream. She was just opening the freezer door when the phone rang.
“Sta—? –is is T–! -an yo- -ea- -e?!”
“Tom? Is that you? You’re breaking up.”
“I– — -he –sem–t! The– a-e t—gs i- — hou–! -injas!”
Stacia frowned. “Did you say ninjas? Are you and Stevie playing some kind of weird game?”
“— –rious! I –ed he–! –lp! Ca- -ou –ar m-?”
And then the line went dead.