His name was Lucien.
The man introduced himself to the girls after the visitors had left. Alison was at a loss for words but it was Samantha he seemed to connect with. It took him awhile to warm up. But after listening to their story of what had already happened that night, his interest was peaked.
Samantha was surprised at how easily her story came when talking to him. At first, he seemed standoffish, and certainly intimidating by the way he spoke to the intruders.
The evening had rapidly gotten dark and his clear eyes softened in expression and sympathy as she spoke. She was babbling on to someone she had just met and who was probably trying to mind his own business and just walk his dog in peace.
Samantha felt a wave of relief just by meeting this stranger this evening. Something washed over her nerves and she just felt safe. She had always considered herself an empath, and could pick up and feel the emotions of others. Lucien was harmless and kind despite seeming distant at first.
Meanwhile, Allison was filling the tank, appearing restless and clearly wanted to go home.
Samantha had already forgotten all about Aaron.
They asked Lucien where he lived,
"I'm over at the University Apartments."
There was that displaced accent again, as he motioned towards campus.
"But my friend lives a block down this road he motioned in the opposite direction from the campus. I am walking her dog for her, it's sort of a nightly ritual.
Her? Samantha wondered why he was walking her dog. What was she doing? Why wasn't she walking her own dog? Who was she? But all of these questions remained in Samantha's head where they belonged, for now...
Lucien went on to explain that he was a graduate and a University TA working for a professor.
The conversation was cathartic but short lived as it was late and they offered to drive him home but he refused and said that this was his ritual with Gracie was each night weather permitting. And his car was back at the friend's house anyway. Samantha was hoping to run into him again and as they went their separate ways, she thought she saw the smallest suggestion of a smile play on his lips.
The girls got in the car and only then realized how exhausted they were until they started back to the house. Allison was even too tired to make fun of Samantha for flirting with Lucien for so long.
They said good night on the first landing where Alison room was. Samantha's legs felt like lead as she climbed the narrow staircase with her bags. And poor Allison was yawning and rubbing her eyes.
They heard a make voice coming from Anna's room. The girls looked at each other. Then a giggle. A guy's voice?
"She's got a boyfriend? Now way!" Alison whispered.
"I doubt that!" Samantha was uncharacteristically harsh.
That was all it took.
After the tension of the journey back they both needed a good long chuckle over nothing. It was really a release from the fatigue and fear from the events of the night…
But both girls fell into a giggling fit. The kind where you feel like you can't breathe or stand up straight.
Tears were streaming from their eyes.
"What shhh…" Allison made a motion to listen and pointed
to the door.
It was mean. They were making fun of Anna. But the polarities in the house had been established the moment Anna showed signs of allegiance with Mrs. Goodwin and the secret of the creepy visitors.
Alison and Samantha had bonded over being the tenants not 'in the loop'. And Anna kept to herself and seemed to know more about the house than she let on. But she had been kind to both of them, although reclusive.
The laughing must have alerted her because her door opened and out came Anna and….Aaron.?
"I don't know you girls lived here! "
Aaron exclaimed, "I could have helped you if it hadn't been in the middle of my shift."
"I feel like we just spoke with you Aaron," Samantha wondered aloud in confusion.
"No, that was hours ago, Samantha."
Samantha looked at her phone, stunned. How had nearly 3 hours gone by since there visit to the gas station… what had happened to the time?
Anna stood next to him with a complacent smile on her face. Not shocked or jealous, but rather pleased that her boyfriend was already acquainted with her housemates. Hopefully, she hadn't heard what all the giggling was about.
After she made to her top floor room, her jovial mood faded.
She was exhausted climbing the stairs to her room with her things. She was alone upstairs again. There was a negativity about these "stalkers" that clung to her as she was an empathetic person. It was the same heavy sadness she felt coming from Mrs. Goodwin.
To make matters worse, when she got to the top of the stairs, the padlock was open on her bedroom door.
A dull throb began in her head. She was going to get out of this house and soon. She wondered if she should call Alison upstairs being that she was a little nervous about someone getting into her room. And that someone could still possibly be inside. Then, Samantha's mood shifted again.
Anger boiled up in her and with it, courage she did not know she had.
Dropping her bags on the floor she threw open her bedroom so hard it slammed against the wall and flicked on the light.
"Who is in my room?!"
Looking around, nothing appeared to be missing or out of place. Samantha was meticulous about her things, everything always in its place. Her heart was pounding, whether from fear or anger, she wasn't sure. And then out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the light on in the walk in closet.
Still in fight or flight, she opened the closet door. The only things moved out of place were some clothes on the rack that were pushed to the side to make room for small step ladder leading up to the attic. So apparently that hole in the ceiling of her closet had indeed been a hole because now, the opening was covered over by a board.
There was a small step ladder beneath it and small pile of shoe box sized containers shoved in the corner. Like someone had left in haste after rummaging through the attic for something.
Samantha felt fear and rage simmer in her veins but was still overcome by fatigue. Mrs. Goodwin had been snooping, or one of her daughters had been snooping. It was their attic but her room.
Samantha considered grabbing her stuff and asking to go sleep in Alison's room. She was spooked all over again. But just too tired and collapsed on the bed, suddenly more fatigued than frightened.
Before she knew it, the alarm was going off. That sound. Why did it intrude her sleep?
Her sleep had been light and she awoke frequently from dreams. Not all bad. Lucien had made such an impression on her in their brief meeting, he had actually been incorporated into her dreams. In the absurdity of her dream, she saw him outside the house with the dog walking by occasionally throughout the night like he was keeping watch over them. Then she saw him talking to Aaron on the front porch and she heard snippets of conversation between them indicating that they knew about the visitors. Something about, it was happening again…... It all seemed that they were trying to protect the girls in the house. Lucien had come along at just the right moment to rescue her and Alison and she was grateful ...and smitten. Slowly, the dream started to come back. She jumped and turned on the light remembering the rest.
Those boys had gotten into the house. And she, in her sleep, had dreamed she heard a voice in her room.
A little boys voice. Was he at the end of her bed?
"What, " she asked him to repeat himself.
But then the voice came from just outside her bedroom door saying,
"I can't see you in the dark…"
She had crept out into the hall,
"Who are you?"
A scratching sound on the glass pane of the firedoor. A boy was trying to scratch his way in with a blade.
Then, as she was peering over the banister to see this, in her ear,
"I can't see you in the dark," the voice repeated.
Turning towards the voice, she saw the older of the stalkers, suddenly.
She had awoken with such a start she sat up in bed and ran into the hall to see no one. But she did however, notice the fire door open. She closed it. There was not much sleep for her after that. Until of course right before the sun rose and the alarm went off.
That was it. She was moving.