I jerk sharply awake and scramble into a sitting position. I'm breathing slightly harder than normal, as though I'd just awoken from a nightmare. But there hadn't been a dream. There hadn't been anything at all. The room is dark – Jan must have turned off the lights sometime after I had drifted off. I quickly grope around for my phone and check for missed calls or messages. There's nothing from Don.
Jan stirs and opens her eyes groggily. “Chlo? What's it?”
“Donnie should have gotten home by now,” I reply anxiously. “Something has happened ? I know something has happened!”
Jan let’s out something between a sigh and a groan and raises herself from the bed with her elbows. “He hasn't called?” She asks. Her words are slightly slurred.
“No, and he always calls!”
“Have you tried calling yet? Maybe his batteries are flat and he hasn't gotten around to recharging them yet.” She yawns loudly.
I don't respond ? I'm already speed dialling. After two beats of silence, it begins to ring. I hold my breath, but it rings on and on. He doesn’t pick up. I try again and the same thing happens. I try again.
“He might still be on the road,” Jan suggests. “You know he likes to activate ‘Do not disturb' while he's walking.”
I give her an incredulous look she doesn’t see. “Still walking? Jan, he left here 15 to midnight. It's almost 1am now ? that's over an hour! Even if he was crawling…”
“Relax,” Jan cuts in, yawning again. “Anything could have happened. He could have just fallen asleep and forgotten to call. It can happen… he's only human. Don’t get too worked up.”
I take a deep breath, but I can’t calm down. Jan wasn't taking this seriously. But why should she? It wasn't her boyfriend on the line. She’s probably thinking I'm being too ‘extra’.
Why on earth didn’t I insist he spends the night? He could’ve left to prepare for work early in the morning. He would have had plenty of time!
“Chloe, relax,” Jan says again, settling back down and turning the other way. “And it isn't that late ? can't you hear the guys outside?”
Until she said it, I'd actually not noticed the voices of our neighbours still conversing loudly outside. I was surprised. It wasn’t a weekend ? what were they doing out so late? Was the full moon messing with everyone’s sense of time? I sigh, flash a glance at the window and turn away.
Then, with a gasp, I sit up straight and turn back, straining my eyes against the shadows of the curtains.
Jan turns back too. “What happened?” She asks. Her voice is sharper ? Something in my gasp had really woken her up.
“There was someone at our window,” I whisper urgently. “Standing and looking in.”
“What?” Her eyes swivel to the window, but the only shadows there now are those of the curtains. “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” I reply. “I only saw his shadow, but he had a hat on and a long jacket or coat.” As I say it, I realise the word I want is ‘cloak'. But that was just ridiculous. I must have only thought it because everything seemed so ominous.
I swing my feet off the bed and creep hurriedly towards the door. I hear Jan imitate my movement behind me, but she goes to the window instead. I pause with my hand on the door handle as she peeps through.
“There’s no one here,” she whispers.
I swing the door open and go to the spot I had seen the man standing. Jan follows me. We look around swiftly. Now that we're outside, the voices of our neighbours are much louder. We can see them at the far end of the building, but there's no one close to our apartment. I look around again -- I'm sure of what I saw.
“Chlo, there's no one here,” Jan says again.
“I know what I saw,” I snap.
“So you believe a stranger came by our window and then ran away, but Jim and the guys didn’t see him?”
I glance at our chatting neighbours. A couple had seen us and were gazing curiously in our direction. I can make out Jim among them. I wave and stomp back into the room. Jan is right – they would have seen someone at our window. Worrying about Donnie must have gotten me more paranoid than I'd thought. If only he would call…!
I fall on the bed and snatch up my phone. Jan sighs, but says nothing. She knows I'm in no mood to be reasonable. I unlock the phone and speed dial Donnie again. I will keep trying until he picks up or I drift off to sleep… whichever comes first.
Watch here for Chapter 5—Awake
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