172 - vandal
ineteen, thirty-six, seven. Kira's combination lock popped open, and she pulled the rusty locker door outward. Being able to open her lock on the first attempt was something of an accomplishment for her. All of this was still new.
Having a locker was one of the benefits of middle school. Kira thought about what books she needed to bring home with her today. She already finished this week's math homework, but tomorrow they would have a quiz. Better review. She grabbed the big red textbook, and slid it into her heavy bag.
"Kira! Glad I caught you!" a chipper voice exclaimed from the other side of the locker door. Kira closed the door, carefully latching the lock. The voice belonged to one of her new friends, Alice. Making new friends was another perk of this school. She had never been too popular at her old school, but so far she was getting along pretty well here.
"Oh, hey, Alice. What do you mean, 'catch me?'" Kira asked.
"I knew you must have forgotten when you didn't mention it all during lunch," Alice said. "You told me that I could come over today so we could work on our sociology project."
Forgotten? She hoped Alice had forgotten. Kira smiled. "Oh, yeah. Today?"
Alice looked slightly disappointed. "Yeah, today. What, you don't want me to come over?" she asked, rife with insecurity.
"No, no! I totally want you to come over," Kira said honestly. "I really just forgot that today was Wednesday already. Well, are you ready, then?"
During the bus ride to Kira's home, the two girls chatted incessantly. Kira was glad to have a distraction, but she couldn't completely get the dread out of her mind. She tried to keep hope alive that he wouldn't be home. But as they stepped off the bus, she saw his car in their driveway.
She wanted to disappear.
"You alright?" Alice asked, looking concerned.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Why?" Kira responded.
"I dunno, you look a little pale. Plus, you're just kind of standing here. I guess you should, you know, lead the way? It is your house, after all," Alice said.
Kira unlocked the front door and let her friend in. The house was quiet, which was a very good thing. Alice looked around the living room.
"Hey, this is a pretty nice place," she said. It was the proper and polite thing to say, but in this case Alice really meant it. "Is anyone home?" she asked.
"Um, my dad," Kira mumbled.
"Cool. He doesn't work?" Alice asked. She didn't consider it a rude question, since the house indicated that Kira's family was pretty well-off.
"He's an editor at a news office. He works the night shift," Kira lied. Under no circumstances would she willing divulge her father's real profession. As a teenager at a new school, keeping friends would be tough enough.
Happily, their conversation turned to other things as Kira led Alice to her room. She shut the door behind them, and Kira felt relieved that they hadn't bumped into him. The two girls sat on the carpeted floor and began to unpack their bags.
Kira thought she was out of the woods. Then, she heard it. The first time, only she noticed. But the second instance was loud enough that Alice stopped in her tracks to listen.
Across the hall, Kira's dad was grunting repeatedly in his room. Each grunt grew louder and more powerful.
She tried to bring Alice's attention back to their sociology project and away from her father's practicing. Her efforts proved futile, and her face grew red as her friend listened on, mesmerized.