Ambrose held his breath as he tip-toed down the hall.
The house was dark.
Silence hung like drapes in the air. Ambrose had the strange thought that if he stretched his hands forward, he would touch the silence and it would feel like old brocade.
He walked down the stairs.
Light. Light. Think light. Avoid that step. Don’t let anyone hear you. Light. Light. Light footsteps.
He reached the bottom stair without a single step’s betrayal. He ran across the marble floor to the front door.
He clenched his teeth as he jerked and pulled on the door handle.
All to no avail.
The door was locked and the housekeeper held the only key.
Ambrose huffed out an irritated sigh and slumped against the door. He slid down into a sit and bunched his knees up against his chest.
I could go to the back door, but she locks them all every night.
He sighed again.
He startled up to his feet as his mother approached him. Her long auburn hair lay free and loose from the day’s elegant imprisonments.
“I thought I heard you sneaking down the stairs. What are you doing over here?”
She smiled and kissed his forehead. “Tell me.”
“Doesn’t matter anyway. Door’s locked.”
“Why are you trying to go outside this time of night?”
He sulked for a few moments before replying, “I wanna see the sunrise.”
“You can see that from your window.”
“No! That’s not the same thing. Anna told me that if I stay outside all night and wait for the sunrise, I’ll find my one true love when I grow up.”
His mother laughed. “Ambrose, you’re only seven years old. You’re far too young to worry about one true loves. Besides that, you should know better than to believe Anna. She enjoys getting you into all manner of bad situations. Come on. Let’s return to your room.”
“But I wanna watch the sunrise.”
She considered it. “All right.” She pulled out her copy of the front door’s key. “Just this once.”
His mouth stretched into an ecstatic grin. ‘Yay!”
She unlocked the door. “Come on.”
They went outside and sat on the front porch swing. He curled up next to her.
They watched the midnight sky turn to blue and pink and orange. And she sang sweet, simple Gaelic songs to him.
By the time the sun appeared, Ambrose had fallen fast asleep.
Ambrose woke from his dream.
She died long before my change. What would she have done if she had known, if she had seen what I’d become?
He pulled his knees up to his chest. Would I have killed her too?
His eyes widened as he finally took note of his surroundings.
Thick metal bars.
All around him.
The van dipped into a pothole, knocking him onto his side.
He shivered. I don’t want to go back. I don’tI don’tIdon’tI don’t.
His mind flashed through a montage of people standing and staring and jeering and taunting and ever out of his reach.
He remembered the hunger.
The complete lack of relief.
And I’m going back to that. Only this time it will be worse. I know it will be worse.
The pain and fear overpowered him.