II | Whirlwind of Fur

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Kaia was staring out the window. She hadn't realized it herself, but she'd been doing that a lot lately. Ever since that night, when--she was almost sure now--she'd imagined someone out there in the woods watching her...

Part of her was at war with the other. Please, be real, one part of her kept begging like a broken record. More than anything, she wanted the imaginary man who saw her as something special to be less imaginary. The other part was somewhat more reasonable and wanted just the opposite. If he was real, that meant that someone had been staring into her window as she bathed. That was a bit creepy. It was disconcerting. 

But it didn't matter. He wasn't real, Kaia reminded herself. And even if he was, it wasn't like she'd be able to see inside his head, feel what he was feeling. That was stupid, and Kaia had imagined that, too. Besides the occasional weird nightmare, which Kaia had convinced herself was perfectly ordinary, she had never had telepathic powers, (at least, not last she checked). It was childish to think that something that belonged in a book could happen to her. 

"You've finished already," her dad remarked. He sat down beside her and slid his glasses on. His chestnut hair was still ruffled from his sleep last night, curls looping around each other wildly. His eyes scanned Kaia's paper, checking her answers. He'd been a teacher at the local high school before he'd quit so that he could keep track of Kaia and Cole after their mom had died. He told Kaia when she asked about where the money came from now that he'd arranged something so that he could work from home. Sometimes he would disappear into his study and emerge hours later, eyes bleary, and ask for food.

She'd always found it a little weird but didn't want to pry further. Her dad had enough on his plate. She felt pity sometimes when she looked at him. Kaia sighed and stood up. "Where's Cole?"

Her dad hesitated and then looked up at her, setting down her paper. "Your answers are all good, my little math genius."

Kaia mustered a weak smile, accepting that her dad didn't want to answer her question. Cole sometimes disappeared just like her dad, and neither of them would ever say anything about it. They kept whatever he was doing an obvious secret from her. She figured it had something to do with Cole's mental health, something her dad had decided wasn't her business; Kaia was a little bothered by it, but she also understood. "I'm going out in a bit."

Her dad stiffened, his face screwing up with worry. "What? Where are you going? This early?"

"The Neighborhood, Papa. Where else would I go?" she asked, staring at him as she pulled a glass out from the cupboard.

His shoulders slumped a bit as he relaxed. It was like he'd thought Kaia had been about to say 'Africa, why?', but the answer he'd gotten instead had been much better. She wasn't going far, and that was usually enough for him. But today... "You shouldn't leave. It's not safe today."

Kaia felt a hint of frustration as she squeaked the faucet on, clear water streaming into her glass. She hated it when her dad got overprotective beyond what could ever be considered healthy. "Papa, it's never safe according to you. But I'm a human being, and I need fresh air."

"Then just use the yard," he answered, turning away from her. "It's big."

Kaia stared blankly at him, wondering if he was serious. But he was. "Fine," Kaia breathed, setting her glass down. She wasn't thirsty any longer. She was suddenly furious at the glass of water because she didn't want to be mad at her dad. 

She went to the door and pulled on a light jacket, stepping outside and breathing in the fresh air. She walked out into the yard. A patch of snow crunched under her shoes. Then she just sat down and stared at the woods. Yep, this was stimulating.

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