Hawken settled into her chair, letting herself sink into the oversized sofa. Her head pounded and she switched on the television. Like every other day this week, the new was filled with news of deaths, teenagers taken from their homes in the middle of the night and killed by a cold-blooded murderer. Hawken shuddered, flipping to the next channel. A noise made her jump, but still her eyes didn’t move from the screen.
“Hey, Muffin,” she said, not needing to look up. Muffin snapped his fingers, frustrated with his noisy attempt to sneak up on his friend. He slid into his place on the couch near her, his eyes level with hers.
“Hawken,” he said, his voice shaking. When Hawken turned to him, he continued. “Trish isn’t talking to me.”
“I’m sure it’s fine,” Hawken reassured him. “I doubt she’s going to break up with you, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“Not this time,” Muffin replied, nodding towards the T.V.
Hawken’s eyes flickered back towards the screen, studying the words flashing below her show. Yet another girl disappeared and the police immediately believed the killer was behind it all. She looked into her lap, shaking her head. She thought back to kindergarten the first time any of them talked to each other, when Trish ran into the woods behind their school. She had gotten lost and it took hours for them to find her.
“Maybe it’s like that,” Hawken said, not explaining her train of thought.
“Like what?” Muffin asked, moving over, closer to her.
“In kindergarten, when she ran off before.”
Muffin seemed to be pondering the idea and Hawken stood up to join him on the couch. The familiar feel of her head on his shoulder comforted Muffin, making him feel like she may just be right. Maybe Trish wasn’t the last person who went missing. Maybe he was just over thinking it.
The sound of knuckles beating on the old front door of Hawken’s house made both of the teenagers jump. Manheim, another of their good friends, strolled in, helping himself to a lemonade as he strolled into the kitchen. Hawken glanced up, her cheeks flushing at the sight of the other boy.
“Hey, Hawk,” Manheim said, taking the seat Hawken had previously been sitting in. “Muff.” The greeting wasn’t cold, just laid-back and familiar. Hawken wondered if he had seen Trish around, maybe Manheim would be able to talk Muffin out of his depressive state.
“Hey,” came Muffin’s greeting. His delayed reaction perturbed Hawken, making her realize she had yet to win. He was still a mess over Trish’s disappearance, when it really wasn’t anything serious.
“Dude, have you seen Trish today?” Hawken asked Manheim, fishing for the reassurance that Muffin needed.
“Sorry, no,” he replied. “But I bumped into her yesterday on my way home from school.” His words were broken apart as he took sips of lemonade. Hawken felt as Muffin moved deeper in the couch, as if it was going to swallow him whole.
“Did she say anything?” Muffin’s voice was broken, too, but it was sorrowful and sad.
“She broke her phone,” Manheim said. He had picked up the remote and scanned through the channels. “She said she’d call you when she got her new one and said to let you know that she misses and loves you.”
Those words were apparently all that Muffin needed to calm down. Feeling Muffin’s body ease up, Hawken was able to calm down herself. Without the worry of Trish being the next victim of the state’s mysterious killer, Hawken could finally breathe.
The more Hawken thought about it, the more she realized how many memories she had made with her friends in her house. In the twelve years she had known and been friends with Manheim and Muffin, she could name and describe a special day in every year. A picture of the three, on the very first day the boys came over, hung to the left of Hawken’s T.V. She laughed when she thought about how Muffin got his nickname that day, eating almost every muffin her mother placed in front of him.
“What’s on your mind?” Manheim asked, pulling her out of her subconscious.
“Oh,” she said, blushing more as he talked to her. “Nothing, really.”
“Lies,” he said calmly, turning back towards the television.
Sitting there, in the living room of the Adams’ home, was where the trio spent most of their summer vacation. Over Christmas vacation, they had done almost the same thing, except that they were able to get Muffin’s PlayStation hooked up. Now that it was almost February, the impending doom of life after graduation was beginning to creep over them, especially for Hawken.
The voices of the people on the screen went back and forth, attacking each other with static through the speakers. None of them were really watching what was happening, just reading as the news trailed across the bottom of the screen. They were looking for names, trying to figure out just how many people they knew.
New Hampshire isn’t the smallest of all the states, they knew that part, but they also knew it wasn’t the largest either. For them, it just meant that there was more of a possibility of them knowing any of the teens who were kidnapped.
“Damn it!” Another female voice entered the room, but this one didn’t come through the sound systems. Hawken looked up to see her mother coming to the doorway between the kitchen and the living room, shaking her hand violently.
“Mom,” Hawken said, startled. She lifted her head up, sitting up straight. “I didn’t hear you open the door.”
“Oh,” her mom laughed. “I love how you sit up like that, thinking you’re going to be in trouble.” Kristi-Ann Adams was one of those women who demanded a presence whenever she walked into a room, her crisp suit making her appear a hundred times bigger than she really was. Her blonde hair, like always, was pulled back in a neat bun. Even her make-up was consistently flawless.
“Well, you did come inside yelling. I figured it had to be because of me.”
“No,” Kristi said. Her voice wasn’t as cheerful as it had been before. “I shut the door on myself, and it’s freezing out there.”
Hawken shook her head, leaning back into the couch. Muffin shifted next to her and Manheim came over to join them, Kristi coming in and sitting with the kids. She reclined on the chair, a beer in her hand that Hawken hadn’t seen her grab. The woman looked over at the boys, hiccupping as she took a sip from her bottle.
“Hi, Josh. Hi, Zane.” Her greeting was late, but, like her daughter, she was used to the extra two people in her house.
“Mom,” Hawken said, her voice sharp. “Manheim and Muffin. Have I called them anything differently since… I don’t know, kindergarten?”
“No, but those are their names.”
Hawken just rolled her eyes, glancing over at Manheim. Muff! Switch places with me, please! She thought. Like usual, her silent wish was granted when Muffin stood up and Manheim moved over. While Muffin crossed the room to the kitchen, Manheim draped his arm over Hawken’s shoulder. She placed her cheek on his shoulder, leaning easily against him as she watched her mom flip through channels.
Kristi looked over at her daughter, giving her a wink when she looked at the way Hawken and Manheim were sitting. Kristi was balancing her beer on her knee, the pant leg of her suit growing darker in color as the condensation spread across the fabric. Hawken looked up at the clock. It’s only two o’clock… She thought, it’s going to be a long night.
Hawken knew that if her mom was beginning to drink now, the Boy was coming over. “The Boy” was her and her friends name for Cobra, Kristi’s boyfriend of the month. While, on the outside, Kristi seemed so put together, she was a wreck. Since Hawken’s dad died a few months before she turned six, she was barely able to remember her parents together. Most of what Hawken knew came from her mom, and even then she didn’t know exactly what was real and what was the alcohol talking.
Some newscaster’s voice brought Hawken’s thoughts back to reality as he announced the newly-confirmed death count. Muffin came back to join them, listening just as intently when the man in the suit began to speak.
“Fifteen,” said the man. “Fifteen dead, and another missing. Of the fifteen, nine are female.” The man took a breath, letting the woman next to him continue with the broadcast.
“New Hampshire police still aren’t sure who this killer is or what, exactly he has in mind,” she said. “While the search continues, authorities have released the name of the young woman who was recently kidnapped, along with the contents of a note found on the floor of her bedroom.
Trish Mason, an eighteen year old from Manchester, New Hampshire, was reported missing this morning by her mother. This young woman, shown here, has dark brown hair similarly colored eyes. She is a little over five feet tall and will most likely be in pajamas,” the woman continued. “The note found in her room had the words ‘You’re next. M.’ written on it, warning her that he would be coming for her. Any leads-”
Kristi clicked off the television, leaving the screen black against the pale mint walls. The walls and Muffin’s complexion seemed to match as the teen placed his head between his legs, rocking back and forth. In his mind, all he could see was the picture of Trish that the station had used to identify her. He remembered the day in the photo. It was their first time going to the zoo together and he saw his arm in the picture, even if the rest of him was cut out. Hawken looked over at him, Manheim’s arm still around her.
“Muffin,” Hawken said, her voice breathless as she tried to find the words to say. She looked at Manheim, whose eyes were also focused on their friend.
“Don’t, Hawken,” Muffin warned, his eyes on the floor. “There’s absolutely nothing that you can say right now.”
Without warning, he stood up and swayed a little, making the others dizzy just because they were watching him. He stormed out of the house, leaving Hawken stuck between the enticing idea that she had Manheim all to herself and the pure horror of Trish’s kidnapping.
“I’m going to go make sure he’s okay,” Manheim said, scooting away from Hawken before he stood up. “You know, a little bro-time.”
Hawken just nodded and let him go. He placed a kiss on her cheek and then waved to her mom, walking out of the room. Kristi’s half-finished beer was still resting on her leg while she stared at the black screen.
“Hawken,” Kristi said. She pronounced the syllables said at the same time as the opening and closing of the door when Manheim left. “You’re not leaving this house, got it?”
Again, Hawken just nodded silently, thinking about all the possibilities of what could happen to Trish. Her silent prayer for her friend’s safety was cut off by a deep, male’s voice and the slamming of the front door.
“Kristi, Hawken!” The man said. He stood over six feet tall, his face creased with age and his mouth set, probably permanently, into a stern line. “I’m so sorry about your friend, Hawk.”
“Me too,” she replied, standing up and heading in the direction of her bedroom. She could hear her mother’s bottle being set down behind her. Just as she was about to walk into her bedroom, she could hear the footrest of the chair being snapped shut. “And the making-out commences.”
She shut her door and bounced onto her bed, pulling a book off the nightstand next to her. She let herself sink into the thick comforter, deeply engaged in the words on every page, happy that she had something to get her mind off the activities her mother was probably participating in.