Chapter 4

"Haven't you ever wondered how much longer your car could go after you let the little gas tank symbol go on?"

"No."

"I really think it should have given me more warning."

Alison was giggling about having run out of gas and it seemingly being the fault of the car, rather than the driver. It was difficult for Samantha to get angry with her. However, now they were both stuck and this was just irresponsible on Alison's part.

"We could either walk to the gas station or I can call someone to bring it to us. I've had to ask Bryan a couple of times already."

What?

Samantha gave her an exasperated look.

"Yeah, one day he is going to get aggravated with me… Why don't we call Anna?" Alison adds with fake enthusiasm.

It was still barely dusk. Getting to the gas station could actually be a pleasant walk as long as they could get back to the car before it got too dark.

"She's afraid to open our front door remember… ? Lets just leave that alone for tonight." Samantha shot down the idea.

After what had happened the other night, they were not sure what to think. After Anna's obnoxious reaction to their visitors, Samantha had gone to her bedroom window to see if the two kids had walked away. She never did get a look at them. Samantha did not see anyone leaving the front porch by the time she got to her window. She hoped they were alright. Who slams the door on children asking for help? Anna's overreaction confused the other two girls in the house. Anna reacted like she had reason to be terrified but also seemed to anticipate the visit.

The fall air had arrived, at least in the evening. It even smelled like fall , although only a few leaves had started to change. Classes were to start the next day and Samantha and Alison had been on a last minute shopping trip for supplies, which were scarce at this point, and clothes. Samantha hated shopping, whereas Alison could be out all day running from one place to the next with boundless energy. Samantha was a little tired but it had been fun shopping with her favorite housemate, so it had been worth it. Now, the mission was to get gas and get back to the house. Not home. The house.

Aaron was working at the gas station when the girls arrived after a short walk.

Aaron was really just an acquaintance to Samantha, although they had gone to the same high school. They would always make small talk when they ran into each other occasionally over the past couple of years at the university. Having only had a couple of classes together, the were not exactly friends but Samantha felt like she saw him everywhere, always with a smile on his face. This was one of Aaron's many jobs he managed to juggle along with school.

Samantha felt revived from the walk and found herself more chatty than she usually was when she ran into him. She went on to explain their predicament as if she talked to him everyday and knew him well. Alison gave her a puzzled look. For whatever reason, Samantha felt like she wanted Alison to know that she knew this guy. She was going to try get them out of this mess.

Aaron seemed to enjoy the attention.

"I would take you back to your car ladies, but I'm the only one here," he explained with sympathy after hearing their plight. Instead he let them sneak some hot drinks, free of charge, from the mini-mart before they left.

Up close, as he spoke, Samantha subconsciously picked up on a few details she had neglected to notice before, like his clothing. Open button down burgundy shirt, graphic t-shirt underneath. Black rope necklace with a cross and a Fitbit on his wrist. Had he lightened his already blonde hair? She had never really paid much attention to him at home but he had really matured since starting college. Samantha could almost feel a shift in her heart. The seed of a thought had been planted as she considered she might have to accidentally on purpose find him around campus when school started.

"I'm never driving with you again. Next time I either take us or I personally fill your car with enough gas," Samantha complained as they left the store.

"But we got free hot chocolate!" Alison said holding up her cup with a smile.

As they kept walking, the main street was still abuzz with activity. They continued onto the side road where the car was waiting. Alison was chattering on about everything and nothing, always so pleasant and content, even lugging the gas can along with her. Samantha eventually offered to take it for her, knowing it must be heavy.

"Is someone trying to steal my car?" Alison said wryly, her voice dropping to a whisper.

There were two kids looking into the windows of her car. It was now only about 10 feet up ahead of them. They looked too young to drive after all.

Samantha's first thought was to slow down and wait until the strange kids went on their way. She was glad the piles of supplies and clothes they had each charged on their credit cards were in the trunk and not out in plain view in the backseat.

As the two noisy individuals walked around the car, Samantha wondered what two kids who looked young enough to be early middle school age were doing wandering around Alison's car. But Alison kept walking, picking up her pace and said to Samantha,

"I think those are the kids from the other

night," her tone dropped more so as they got closer.

Who could tell? They were both wearing sweatshirts with hoods even though the weather was not cold enough for it. Plus, as dusk approached, it was hard to see their features.

"Hey, what are you guys doing?" Alison yelled to them.

Neither child looked up but stopped and glanced in the girls' general direction.

"We need a ride home," the older looking one said in a surprisingly deep, monotone voice.

"Didn't I see you guys the other night at the house trying to get in?" Alison kept up her interrogation, "Who or what is it that you are looking for?"

Same sentence, "We need a ride home." Still not looking up.

Alison was bolder than Samantha, but stopped abruptly as the girls approached the car. Samantha trailed a couple of feet behind.

Alison sounded uncharacteristically exasperated and huffed,

"Where do you live?"

No answer.

She repeated, "Where do you live?"

"3468 Emily Ave."

This was the same address as the house where the girls were staying. Mrs. Goodwin's house.

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