A barely occupied bus travelled its normal route across town. All of its two passengers sat in silence, the bus driver focusing on the road ahead of him, and a young woman sitting a couple seats behind him on the opposite side of the bus: Kayla Pride. A smile was on her face, though she didn’t have much to do on the bus to pass time. Just looking around at the empty seats and the bus driver, slouched, wasn’t making time fly any faster. She took out her phone, checking for new messages, or any she might’ve missed. Nothing new. Hasn’t received any new messages from her friend Melanie Reed since two days ago. They both agreed to meet today, sometime around one in the afternoon, though Kayla was on her way early. Since she lived on the other side of town Kayla left her house early. Both of them lived in the same fairly quiet town nearly their whole lives. It wasn’t a midwestern town that was the picture of perfection, but it wasn’t a bad place to live at all. Nothing much ever really happened there, but most were okay with that. Outside of the bus windows, the usual scenery Kayla was familiar with—from the small shops on almost every block, the small trees sharing space, to the white houses and apartment buildings around the suburban areas, and all the neighborly residents walking about and enjoying a day like this, pass by in a blur.
Her smile reflected on her thoughts of visiting her best friend. After the stress of finals week, there would be nothing better than spending some downtime with Melanie—A chance to just relax and enjoy life, have some good laughs. Kayla had a plan or two in mind for this visit: A fun night at the movies, with a recent flick playing that night she knows she’d be interested in seeing. And if she wasn’t in the mood to go out? She had a bag of fast food in her lap for them to eat at her place: Two burgers and a small order of fries. She kept the top of the bag curled and closed up tight, making sure to keep the food inside warm until she got to the house. However, Kayla’s smile faded when she remembered Melanie’s behavior lately. She seemed to become a little more distant, her conversations with Kayla becoming terse and less frequent. Little things started setting her off, too, though that didn’t surprise her much since Melanie lost her job recently. Hopefully this visit would help mend that. She wanted to see her friend smiling and laughing again.
As the minutes passed by, Kayla’s mind drifted to her and Melanie’s first meeting. They both met each other while still in high school, one day meeting at their school’s GSA (Gay-straight alliance). When Kayla introduced herself, Melanie joked “Pride, huh? If you’re here shouldn’t that be Kayla Gay Pride?” Kayla didn’t find it that clever but it still got a laugh out of her. That was something they both gave each other: laughter. Melanie was usually the more laid back of the two. She still smiled and chuckled at some of the same things Kayla does, though she was a ball of energy and sunshine compared to Melanie. So excited about things and full of life. What made Kayla happy was good enough for her. For years they were almost inseparable, spending time together wherever and whenever they could, going to each other’s houses to get together. She thought of how she usually saw Melanie. Her slightly unkept, near shoulder length dull brown hair and bangs—the smile she usually had whenever Kayla saw her.
Since Kayla had taken classes this term she’d been busy, and her hangouts with Melanie became less frequent. They still had their text and phone conversations, but it wasn’t the same, and even those were less regular than before.
She remembered one of the last things Melanie said to her when they last hung out. “One of these days, Kayla, we gotta get out of here.” For some reason this stood out in her mind.
After reaching her stop and getting off the bus, she walked the rest of the distance to Melanie’s house, or rather her family’s house. She still lived with her mother, Bethany. Kayla didn’t have much of an opinion on her. She seemed like a typical forty something mom, if a little old fashioned and nosy.
A few minutes later she’s arrived at the Reed residence. Reaching the front door she gave it four knocks, then waited. Ten seconds, no answer. She knocked a second time. Fifteen seconds, still no answer. A third time she knocked. Waited again. Still no answer, again. Her brow furrowed and she pouted her lips as she tapped her foot. She didn’t want to wait too much longer before the food got cold. There was usually someone at home to answer the door. She looked into the the two windows that sandwiched the door in the middle. Didn’t see anyone inside. Still, everything looked normal from the windows’ view.
She looked under the doormat and found the spare key to the house Meanie let her know about after the incident when she got sick, fell on the bathroom floor and couldn’t get up to answer the door when Kayla stopped by (her mother was out at the time).
Opening the door, she peeked her head inside, then opened the rest of the way, walking in and closing it behind her. “Hello?” She called out. “Melanie?” Her voice echoed through the house, but not a response from anyone. Kayla raised an eyebrow in confusion. She walked through the house to see if anyone was home. Maybe Melanie was just listening to really loud music while her mom was out. That wouldn’t be too unusual, but wasn’t she expecting her? After putting the bag of fast food down on a counter, she looked into all the rooms on the first floor: the kitchen, the living room, all the usual ones. Nothing seemed out of place, other than no one being in them. It wasn’t that big of a house, why wasn’t she seeing or hearing a single person there? She even looked in the garage. No luck there, either. The car belonging to Melanie’s mother was still in there. Maybe she went for a walk?
After searching through all the downstair rooms, it was time to look upstairs. There had to be someone there. Walking up the stairs, someone would have had to hear her. If they didn’t, the TV in Melanie’s mother’s room would have to be on, yet Kayla didn’t hear that—or anything other than her own footsteps.
She walked down the short hallway leading to Melanie’s room. The door was closed, supporting Kayla’s theory. When she got to the door she knocked a few times. Just like before, she waited for a response, but was met with silence. She turned the knob to see that it was unlocked, then opened the door.