I stumble off at my stop in a daze and begin walking the long stretch of pavement home just as two more buses pull up. My road is long and I live in the middle, but the walk is pleasant enough. I tread slowly, enjoying the gentle breeze in my hair and blowing up my coat.
About a quarter of the way down, however, I hear footsteps behind me. I don’t dare look back, instead picking up pace and unzipping the pocket of my bag where I keep my keys. The winter afternoon’s darkness suddenly seems dangerous and the icy air stabbing. The footsteps increase in frequency. Someone’s following me. Panicked, I break into a dash, a racing ball of fire against the wind, and my stalker’s footfalls become heavier. I tear down the street, praying that I am faster. I focus on a lamppost just outside my house, still about 50 metres away. Forcing my legs to work harder, I run so rapidly that my shoes barely scrape the ground. I am within 10 metres of the post now; tilting my body forward, I swing round the corner, smashing the gate open, into my front garden. I’m gonna make it, I’m gonna make it, I’m gonna make it is my final motivating phrase before a firm hand spins me round to face its owner.
The first detail I notice is that he is almost two whole heads shorter than me. Therefore, when he turns me around, I find myself looking out into the road. Then my eyes drop several centimetres. I knew it. I recognise immediately the pitch dark illuminated by the streetlight-sapphire, contrasting with the paleness of a full moon. Large, round spectacles sit on a long nose, drawing sketchy parallels with J.K. Rowling’s famous protagonist. I think I glimpse a smirk lurking behind the seriousness of his face.
“Hello.” He greets in an inexplicably cheery voice.
I just blink at him, perplexed, but he is unfazed.
“I’m Luca.” The boy informs me. “I only wanted to say that I happened to notice this strange energy radiating off of you while you were at the bus stop. A kind of reddish colour. It’s still there, actually, though it’s more of a black now.”
I feel as if I’ve suddenly entered a parallel universe, where it’s totally acceptable for random boys to tell random girls about their fantastical imaginings. Although, if this is a joke, he certainly isn’t about to give himself away. He is extremely well-rehearsed. This guy’s crazy, I think, backing away purposefully.
“You’re scared of me.” He states. “You think I’m mad. No one ever believes me!”
“You mean you’ve followed someone home like this before?” I blurt, horror-struck.
“Well yes.” He admits. “And they all ignore me or run away the second I begin speaking.”
I can see why.
“I was wondering if you’d let me do some tests on you – to try and find out what the aura is – yours seems to be stronger and wider than others’ too.”
I open my mouth to refuse, then remember the vase and the flower. Maybe this is connected to it, a distant voice intones.
“They’re perfectly safe.” He adds hopefully. “Just heart-rate and body temperature and stuff like that.”
“Maybe…” I say, not wanting to commit myself too soon. After all, what can a kid his size do to someone like me?
He seems pretty content with that, telling me to meet him at his house as soon as I finish school the following day. A.K.A tomorrow.
No waiting around then. “But -” I wonder suddenly, “wont your parents be home?” A family gathering is not what I want to be walking into.
“Nope. My mum’s in hospital, and I don’t have a dad.” He responds matter–of–factly.
“Oh, Ok.” I say, nodding slowly. My slight pity supports the conclusion that he is not out to hurt me.
He grins somewhat devilishly, then turns the corner out of my front garden, shouting “See you on Friday!”
Tomorrow, I have to remind myself.
And then he’s gone.