You want to know what I was doing when I was fourteen? This is what I was doing when I was fourteen.
The rain was pelting against the windows, as it had been for several hours. The fire crackled, putting off the chill of the winter storm. Outside the sturdy house, a wild scream ricocheted through the air. Sitting in a chair by the fire, Lorraine Winters shivered, drawing her shawl closer about her shoulders.
Ever since childhood she had feared the scream.
It was not a terrified woman, as it often sounded on cold, miserable nights such as this one, but a wild cat, a panther. Often the wolves howled to accompany the piteous shrieks, a grim choir of throaty, low wails. Lorraine hunched forward, feeling safer as the heat of the fire caressed her face. She closed her eyes.
She jerked back, her eyes flying open. “Abigail!” she gasped in a scolding tone. “Don’t sneak up on me like that!”
Abigail grinned. “Sorry, Lorry, but you looked so meditative just sitting there!” Abigail brushed her auburn hair back from her face. “Isn’t it so exciting to be in this creaky old house, just the two of us, alone against the ghosts?”
Lorraine frowned. “I don’t see how it’s so funny, Abby. Us alone, no menfolk around to protect us. . .” Lorraine shivered again and scowled into the fireplace. Abby rolled her eyes.
“Say,” she said slyly, “what if I dared you to go outside? Ten paces to the end of the path?”
Lorraine flinched, her eyes wide with horror. “No, Abby, no! Didn’t you hear the panther?”
“Well, sure,” Abby said, shrugging. “But it was far away.” She nudged Lorraine’s shoulder again enticingly. “Come on. . .”
“Heavens no!” Lorraine said sharply. “I will not have you endangering yourself while our fathers and your brothers are away! Go get your knitting and come sit with me like a sensible girl!”
Abby stared at her for a moment, then shook her head. “All right, fine, if you won’t go, then dare me! Come on! Dare me to go out to the end of the path!”
Lorraine stared at her, stunned. “I will do no such thing, Abigail Laurence! You stay right where you are!”
Abby grinned. “Dare accepted! I’ll go get my wrap!”
Lorraine almost shrieked as Abby rushed from the room. Rising from her chair, Lorraine followed, pausing in the doorway to yell down the hall, “Abby Laurence! Get back here!”
The front door opened and Abby’s voice called, “I’ll get there and back in ten seconds flat, you see if I don’t! A pace a second, that’s what I’ll do!”
“Abby!” Lorraine cried, rushing to the front door. “Abby!”
No answer. Peeking through the peephole, Lorraine saw nothing but mist and darkness. Abby was probably out at the end of the path by now, turning around to return to the house.
But she didn’t return.
Lorraine waited almost eagerly, her nervousness growing with every second. Abby was probably waiting out there, adventurous, sly, teasing Abby, waiting a few more seconds, knowing that Lorraine would have a fit if she didn’t come back soon. . .
Then the scream came, so high it shook the window panes, so loud it hurt Lorraine’s ears. It was only that loud because it was that close.
The first scream was like a mad woman, long and loud and screeching. The second, which followed a few moments after, was filled with raw terror.
Lorraine was still and pale in the silence that followed. Then realization washed over her and she pressed her face against the window, screaming herself now. “Abby!” she cried. “Abigail! Abby!”
But there was no answer.
I was writing stories about women getting eaten by wild animals. What were you doing during your innocent teenage years?