After such an exciting escape, the quiet ride through night seemed overly calm. As usual, the driver was too tired from his workday to start any conversations. That, and Wil knew he found talking to her and her step-brother exhausting.
Wil tended to talk too much, about things the adults in her life called “nonsense.” Jakob, her step-brother, tended to talk too little. Wil looked at his shadow in the front seat, briefly illuminated pale by passing headlights. She mused, as she usually did, that he looked like a vampire trying to hide from daylight in his bulky winter coat.
When Jakob or her father talked, they both had time for necessary communications only. That, and comments about her deficiencies. Jakob didn’t even spend as much time teasing as he’d done most of her childhood. Now he just sneered and called her by variants of her name he thought she wouldn’t like. She caught his stare in the rear view mirror, and quickly pretended to be watching out the windows.
Much to her disappointment, they reached home without incident. The car swung under the community carport of their apartment complex and Wil’s father turned the engine off.
He took the beer from Jakob and grunted, “Thanks.” Jakob shrugged.
They’re moving into not talking at all, Wil thought.
They left the car, locked their doors before closing them, and headed toward Building 4. Jakob and Wil’s father trudged through the light snowfall, slumped against the cold.
Wil tried some “evasive maneuvers” (a term she’d heard in a war movie recently); avoiding detection from potential grocery store kidnappers, and derisive step-brothers alike. She tried especially to step on her toes so her boot wouldn’t squeak. The grocery sack made swishing sounds, and its contents gave muted clunks; as she shuffled, dipped, and paused to look around.
Before she could be certain they were safe, however, the men had reached their apartment door and turned back to wait for her. It was no good avoiding detection with them staring right at her, impatiently.
As Wil caught up to them at the porch, her father bent somewhat to unlock the door. She heard Jakob comment, “Yeah, she was talking to the cans of soup when I went back to find her.”
Pretending she didn’t care, despite her usual blush when anyone pointed out her actions, Wil followed them in.
The apartment was dark, save for the furniture and walls dancing in the flashing glow from the television. Wil walked quietly past the living room to the adjoining kitchen to put her groceries away. Her father followed, carefully setting the beer on the counter.
Then he went over to the couch, to the woman resting there, and whispered her name. “Cynthia. We’re home.”