The town may have changed, but it still felt like home. Glittering new construction shadowed the old streets and pedestrians strode instead of ambling, yet she felt the past in every shadow. Ryan slammed the door of her father’s old truck and stepped out in front of her house. Sixteen years since she’d spent longer than a week in the cavernous rooms. Eight years the house had stood empty, and now she was back. Dawn was an hour or two away. Two yellow streetlights struggled to hold off the dark. Ryan grabbed her duffle and pack out of the truck bed and headed up to the house. She fumbled the key ring and it took her three tries to get the key in the lock.
A peal of wild laughter rang out down the street and her hand reached for the gun she no longer wore. She set the duffle and backpack to the side of the door, out of sight. Something crashed. More laughter. Coming around the corner. She ghosted back down the landing to the tree at the drive. Two – no three sets of steps tramped toward her. She pressed her back against a bark and peered around the trunk.
Three young men, probably mid twenties walked toward her position. One carried a baseball bat. He’d used it to smash the mailbox two doors down. All were probably drunk, judging by their walk and apparent disregard for property. She could check, make sure, but she wasn’t that person anymore. Thought she didn’t want to be.
The sandy haired boy said something and his companions cracked up. Idiots, Ryan thought. Damn idiot children. She dubbed them Drunk, Ass, and Bat. If they left her house alone, she’d head on back up.
“Seriously – he thought he’d get a blade.” Ass snorted, showing what he thought of that idea.
“A loser like him? Psssh.” Bat thought tonight was fine and thwacked the aluminum into his palm.
Drunk guffawed. Then his eyes stumbled across the truck in the drive. “Hey, there’s a truck at the Montgomery place.”
The three turned to contemplate that miraculous occurrence. Ryan cursed internally, she should have gone inside.
Bat started to walk up the drive. She gave him the benefit of the doubt.
“Hey Reo, they say that place is haunted.” Maybe Ass had a brain, Ryan thought. Or at least his drunk superstitions would keep them out of her house.
“Yeah, haunted by whoevers in the truck.”
Unfortunately, Bat was not made of the same material. This had gone on long enough. “I don’t like visitors.” She stepped out into the light, quite near Ass and Drunk. They jumped like teens in a horror film.
“Bridges! Lady. What the Hell?” All three boys immediately checked to see if she wielded, but no leather straps marred her t-shirt.
“I said I don’t like visitors.” Ryan strode past Bat and turned to face them. “I suggest you get lost.”
Ass and Drunk were more than happy to hang back, but Bat… she hoped it was the liquor, dumb and mean was worse.
“And if I don’t?” He said with a sneer. Sure the bitch was in shape, but that didn’t mean anything. He could take her. He swung the bat idly. “What-”
She kicked him in the solar plexus and he went down like a felled tree. “That.”
The other boys stared. She hadn’t barely moved it was like, like…
Ryan grimaced internally, but kept her face calm and slightly bored. “You two get him and get out of here. I’ve got things to do.” She kicked the bat toward them as they edged forward, wary and much more sober.
She watched them retreat and only sighed once they were out of sight. She pressed the heel of her palms against her eyes. She ached. She went back up to the door, gathered her bags, turned the key and went inside. Locked the door, went up the stairs, tossed her bags into her closet, and walked to the window. Yeah, it was still home, but she didn’t know it at all anymore.