Chapter One: Reunion
_____ lay across the couch in her living room, flipping through the channels on the TV. There was nothing on, but it didn’t bother her much; she wasn’t really paying attention, anyway. It was three in the afternoon in early June, and her parents were still at work. _____ had nowhere to go and no one to talk to for the whole day. But she didn’t mind. She kind of liked being alone. It gave her time to think. She also considered her solitude to be a form of punishment for her behavior two months prior.
The doorbell rang, making _____ jump. She slowly crawled off the couch and made her way to the door. She knew better than to simply open the door for just anybody, so she peeked through the window by the door. She was able to see the person on the other side without even moving the blinds. She ran her hand across her hip, reassuring herself that her pocket knife was still there. Very slowly, she opened the door.
Standing on her front porch was a man about _____’s age with dirty-blond hair and cerulean eyes covered by thin-rimmed glasses. A stubborn cowlick stuck straight up in the air on the right side of his head. He blinked at _____ when she opened the door, then a small smile crept up onto his face.
_____ furrowed her brows. “Can I help you?”
“_____ _____?” he said.
_____’s face paled as she looked up at the man. “H-How do you know my name. . . ?”
The man’s smile got wider, and he suddenly wrapped his arms around _____’s waist and twirled her in the air on her porch. _____ screamed. “What the hell are you doing?! Get off me!”
The man put _____ back down at the doorway, laughing happily as he did so. “_____! My gosh, you’ve gotten big!”
“What the hell are you talking about? Who are you?”
His laughter stopped, and the smile almost disappeared from his face. “Don’t you remember me, _____? It’s Alfred. We used to play together way back when. We were next door neighbors, remember?”
_____ blinked. It took her several minutes to sort through her old memories. She had many memories to file through––some she would rather forget––and she eventually remembered the summer ten years prior when a family had moved in for only a few months. Her parents, after seeing that they could trust them, asked the new neighbors to babysit their two children. They agreed, thinking that two more children to look after wouldn’t be much more of a deal, since they had three boys already. The youngest son was only a few months old, so _____ couldn’t play with him. The oldest son befriended her older brother, so he wasn’t an option either. The only choice really available to her as a playmate was the middle son. She liked him, even as a small child. He was cheerful during every circumstance, and he would smile with an incomparable brightness and warmth. It always made _____ happy when he did. Then later that summer the family had to leave, and _____ and the boy grew sad when they found out. The boy had promised her that he would come back some day, sealing it off with a pinky-promise and a small kiss on her cheek.
_____ stared at the man, her eyes wide in awe and recognition. “Alfie. . . ?”
Alfred’s smile widened again. “Hey, _____.”