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IF YOU'D'VE ASKED me where I was going that night, I would've guessed the now empty scorched lot. I imagine that's where Gina'd gone to look for me, if she'd gone after me at all, but I didn't go to the ghost of the house on Cornwall Drive. At least, I didn't go there at first.

My mind was in a fog, so I just drove. I drove endlessly, burning gallons of gasoline as I cruised down random streets throughout town. I drove past the Burger King and the dentist. I drove past the hardware store. I drove past the school. I drove around the edge of town, and to the center of Main Street. I drove, and I drove, and I drove, and finally when I parked the car, I wasn't in front of the lot on Cornwall Drive.

I was at the house where I grew up.

I stared up at it from the col-de-sac at the end of Pennsylvania Avenue. The moonlight cast the house in a haunting hue. It still had the same baby blue shingled sides and hideous yellow roof, but that night it was menacing. I feared the windows might suddenly light up like eyes, and the entire house might rise on feet like the roots of trees and come after me, chasing me off into the darkness of the night.

One car was parked in the driveway—a green Volkswagen hatchback. The wind rushed through the yard, shaking the leafless limbs on the maple tree and tearing at the dry and dead grass in the lawn.

I looked up at the dark window on the second floor—at the room that had been mine. It was directly above the living room. There was a small vent in the corner by the closet, covered by an ornate brushed brass grate. As a kid, I'd laid on the oiled wood floor and traced the tiny intricate metal patterns with my finger—leaves and branches and spiraling vines. Like clouds they were nothing specific, so as a kid they became anything.

I could hear every conversation that went on in the living room through that vent. I'd always liked to listen in, just to hear what my parents were talking about when they thought I was far away in my room.

When I was about fourteen or fifteen, I'd covered the vent with a box of old books. I'd started listening to a lot of loud music, and I didn't want the noise passing through. I'd also started smoking pot in my room occasionally—mostly when it was raining and I didn't want to sit outside. I was concerned about the smell, although I'm sure my parents knew regardless.

The last conversation I'd overheard through that vent took place about a month before my parents sold the house and moved away. I'd been rearranging my room, trying to tidy up a bit, and finally decided to move the box that had been collecting dust in the corner for the past seven or so years. I'd completely forgotten about the vent, and when I shoved the box out of the way, voices drifted up from below. Out of curiosity, I got down on my hands and knees, pressed my ear to the floor and listened.

"But what about Harper?" my mother's voice asked. I imagined her sitting on the worn tan leather couch in the living room.

"What about him?" My father was probably standing in the center of the room, between my mom and the TV, with his arms crossed in front of his chest.

"We can't just leave him here."

"He can't keep living with us forever," my father said sternly. "He's going to be twenty two in a couple of weeks for crying out loud."

"Well what do you want him to do then? What's he supposed to do if he doesn't come with us?"

"Anything," my father raised his voice. "Anything. I wanted him to do anything years ago, but he never did."

"He has a job."

"At the gas station? So he's just going to work there forever? Live with his parents, smoke pot in his room and hold a minimum wage job for the rest of his life? That's a grand fucking plan, isn't it?"

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