Driving along the solitary road outside their small town was something that Lenore and her family did frequently; wasn’t much else to do out there anyhow. Her younger brother would sit and watch the clouds from the rear passenger side, while her mother would fiddle with the radio for the umpteenth time, knowing that nothing but static would sound through the busted speakers. The rusted truck would rattle up long-settled dirt as her father drove.
Lenore leaned forward so that she could be heard over the static, “Mom, can you just turn it off, it’s not going to work anyway.”
“Now Len, I know there is at least one tower that reaches out here,” her mother turned it off and faced Lenore. Her father scoffed and turned to her mother, “It needs a new antenna, ain’t gon’ work without one. Why ‘on’t you just sing us a somethin’, Sarah?”
Sarah smacked her husband on the shoulder, chuckling, “I will do no such thing! You know I don’t–”
Lenore was startled from her thoughts by the screech of a chair being pulled out from the desk in front of her. A group of people had just walked in, deciding the perfect place to be loud and disruptive is right in front of her. They chatted among themselves for a while, Lenore not really paying attention until one of them said something at a level she assumed was supposed to be a whisper.
“What’s her deal?” the taller girl asked.
“I heard from David that she was kicked out of her old school.” The taller girl nodded her head in understanding. ‘As if that’s what happened,’ Lenore thought as she rolled her eyes. The girls continued with their ridiculous gossip.
“Did you hear what Sarena did yesterday?” the shorter friend asked while flipping her hair. If Lenore had been a foot closer, she would have been wacked with it.
A giggle erupted between the two of them “Oh My God, I did! Can you believe it! Dave is totally going to flip when he finds out!”.
Lenore glanced out the window, hoping to drown out the fools with her own thoughts. The boys on the other side of the room thought this the perfect time to start roughhousing. ‘Jesus, for an evening class, they sure didn’t skimp out on the energy.’ Lenore had chosen this class in hopes that it would have fewer people in it. A simple, easy A to fill up her credits. It seemed she wasn’t the only one to have that idea. more people filed in followed by the professor taking his place at the front, by the blackboard. He was a stout man with glasses and a haircut that is probably supposed to hide a receding hairline.
He spoke in a monotone voice as he explained, “Historic Economics was not going to be “easy class”, and regardless of the time of day, each class will fill the whole three hours.” A chorus of groans was heard from the class at that. Half of them would probably not return for Wednesday’s class.
Professor Monaghan continued to the first lecture of the semester. Lenore continued her contemplation in the direction of the fallen leaves blowing past the windows, ignoring the words being spoken in the most boring tone she had ever heard.
Three hours and forty minutes later, Lenore saw herself walking home. The sun had set while Monaghan droned on. Lenore kept to the edge of the sidewalk as she walked through the park. Her apartment was a small shabby one-bedroom on the second floor of a building that should have been condemned ages ago, that sat just three blocks from the school’s main campus.
As she unlocked the front door and stepped inside, the telltale brushing against her boots alerted her to the presence of her best and only friend; a small gray and white cat who was probably older than most indoor cats would live to be.
“Good evening, Samson. Were ya' good while I was gone?” she crouched to pet the cat on the head as he pushed even further into her hand. “Are you hungry?” glancing over to the clock on the wall, she saw it read 9:15 PM.
Lenore stood and walked to the kitchen, setting her bag and keys down on the table. She opened the fridge to a carton of eggs and some mustard, the least used items in her house. Closing it, she turned to the pantry. The cabinet doors opened with a slight creak to show bare shelves save for a few crumbs and a can of tomato sauce.
“Yeah, I am too.” She closed the doors and walked past Samson to grab her bag and keys once more. “I’ll be back, we’re on empty in there.”
There was a small bodega around the corner from her building. They were open twenty-four hours and knew her very well. She frequented said store at least three times a week to buy cans and other food whenever she had the money to.
About thirty feet from the entrance to the store is an alleyway that connects to the street on the other side of the block. As Lenore walked past the mouth of the alleyway, she heard a very distinct “PSST,” followed by the clatter of something metal.
‘It’s probably just rats,’ she reassured herself. Brushing off the jolt of uneasiness that followed her the rest of the way inside.
She made a bee-line to the canned cat food. Looking over the selections, Lenore was reminded that she only had a few dollars to last her the rest of the week. She’d have to make a smart decision. Her hand landed on a stack of three cans. Checking around to make sure no one was looking. As she slipped the cans into her bag, she thought, ‘They won’t miss a few cans…’ She moved to the next aisle to find something for herself to eat.
She had grabbed a few instant noodle cups when she felt that uneasy feeling from before; like someone was watching her, eyes glued to the back of her neck. It felt like if she didn’t leave now, the stare would burn her head clean off her shoulders.
She looked around once more, this time making eye contact with the person watching from the other side of the shelf! She turned and briskly walked out of the bodega, not wanting to get caught stealing the goods.
Just as Lenore was passing the alleyway on her return home from the shop, she heard that whisper and clatter trying to get her attention. She froze.
“Who–Who’s there?” she called.
Just then a man emerged from the shadows. He had long dark hair and what looked like the dirtiest shoes known to man. If Lenore didn’t know any better, she would have pegged him for a high schooler.
“Hey, it's just me!” the man raised his hands in innocent surrender as if she was supposed to know who he is. “Silas? We’re in Econ together?”
Lenore stared, obviously not recognizing him.
“Seriously Lenore? You got to be kidding me!” He dropped his hands in defeat.
“Look, I don’t know you, so like, if you don’t mind…” She turned and began to walk away. Silas kept pace with her, ignoring the uncomfortable silence that hung between them.
“I saw you take that stuff in there.” He said, making Lenore pause in her tracks.
With a turn of her head, Lenore replied, “You what?”
“Things that bad, eh?” He said with a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders. “You know, I could help you with your little problem.” He glanced over at her, a smug look on his face.
“What ‘problem?’” Anger was starting to boil under her skin. She hated nothing more than when people assumed things about her, no matter how true they were. Ever since she moved here, everyone just assumed the worst about her.
Silas put his hands in his pockets, letting a carefree air swarm about him, “You know. The anger, the despair, the hunger. I could help you get rid of it.”
Lenore moved to stand right in front of him. She jammed a finger towards him as she said, “You don’t know me, I don’t have any ‘problems!’ Just leave me alone!” She turned on her heel and began to stomp away.
Okay so maybe she had a bit of a temper. That doesn’t change the fact that this ‘Silas’ guy knows nothing about me. He can’t just make my problems go away… can he? She brushes this thought away as began her drumbeat of steps away from the man.
As she stormed off, Lenore could hear him saying something like, “All right, but if you change your mind…” She stopped trying to listen the further she got away from him.
Samson is waiting at home I don’t have time for this, She told herself and rounded the corner to her apartment building.