In response to popular demand – that is, a couple of people wanted to know what came next… I wrote some more of this story. There’s more to come, too…
Elimere hesitated a moment, then sighed and followed him. She didn’t try to catch up to him; she walked slowly, keeping his shaggy black head just within sight. Although he never looked back, he seemed somehow to know when she was on the verge of losing him; he would slow down or pause as though window shopping, until she drew closer.
In a bizarre game of cat and mouse, she trailed the boy past shops and houses, along main streets and alleyways, through twists and turns. Despite knowing the area well, Elimere was soon quite lost. She knew time was getting on, although she wouldn’t be missed at home just yet; her dad would still be at work. She was just beginning to contemplate turning back when the boy abruptly stopped. She stopped too, still fifty metres away from him. They were in a narrow, grubby street, and he stood in front of a nondescript door no different from a dozen others Elimere could see.
‘What now?’ she called to him.
He beckoned again, and vanished through the door.
‘I’m not going in there,’ Elimere yelled. ‘You could be anybody. This could be some sort of trap.’ Curiosity was all very well, but this was bordering on madness.
There was no response.
She waited a moment more, then turned on her heel and strode back the way they had come. She fancied she felt waves of disappointment emanating from the street behind her. How ridiculous, she scolded herself, quickening her pace.
She looked for familiar landmarks as she walked, wishing she’d paid more attention on the way to wherever she was instead of remaining intent on the boy. But it soon became apparent that she’d missed a turning somewhere. She was in a quiet residential street, but it was not a reassuring area: paint flaked from the houses and lawns were left unmown. There was an air of neglect and disregard that reminded Elimere starkly that she was from the proverbial, and literal, other side of the tracks.
Somewhere nearby, a dog began a spine-chilling howl that made Elimere jump. It set off a chorus of barks, whines, and growls all around. Elimere broke into a run, uncaring now in which direction, so long as she ran away from this dingy street and the menacing dogs.
‘Help!’ she cried as she ran. ‘Somebody, help me, I’m lost!’ The only reply was the echo of her own voice. Once she thought she saw somebody silhouetted in a doorway, but if there was somebody they ignored her plight and vanished inside.
All of a sudden she cannoned violently into a person. She hadn’t seen anybody in front of her, had heard nobody nearby. ‘I’m so sorry!’ she gasped, breathless, from where she’d fallen. ‘I didn’t see you.’ She glanced up then, and gaped. It was the boy, staring down at her coolly. ‘How did you…?’
‘Lost?’ he asked sardonically.
‘This is your fault,’ she accused him angrily as she caught her breath.
‘If you’d come inside…’ he replied, finishing his sentence with a tilt of his head and a shrug, which Elimere took to mean, you got yourself lost.