Naomi, Emily, and Candace made their way towards the park, talking and laughing and enjoying the pleasant evening. The climate and company were beginning to take their effect on Naomi. The worries and stresses of the day eased into the back of her mind, thinned, dissipated, and finally evaporated in the sunshine. Without really noticing it, she began to put a bit of bounce into her steps.
“I wish every day could be like this one,” mused Candace. “It sucks to think that we won’t be able to do this forever. Our days as this terrific trio are probably numbered!”
“What do you mean?” asked Naomi.
“Well, life tends to carry people to different places… How many other people from our high school do you guys keep in touch with?”
“Pretty much none,” Naomi admitted.
“Me neither. And we’ll be done at university in a year or two… Who knows where we all might end up after that?”
“Let’s not think that way right now,” said Emily. “We’ve had lots of fun times together, and there are still plenty of opportunities ahead of us for more! Like… Oh man, do you guys remember what we used to do back in high school?” said Emily. “We’d sit around somewhere, and every time someone came by Candace would…” She tapped the side of her nose with an impish smirk.
“Oh yeah!” Candace laughed. “We did that all the time, didn’t we? They’d all be turning their heads, wondering where the barbecue was, or what was on fire, or why the roses smelled like strawberries.”
Naomi thought back to the silly little pranks they’d played, and how much fun they’d had tricking people with their abilities. Candace, who could generate just about any scent imaginable out of her fingertips, would confuse the heck out of people with her seemingly sourceless smells. Emily would mess with people’s emotions: anyone unlucky enough to look her in the eyes would suddenly find tears welling up for no reason, or experience a fleeting moment of pure joy, followed by a swift—and usually quite jarring—drop back into normalcy. Naomi herself would occasionally wait for a passerby to turn their head and then skip, disappearing while they weren’t looking. But her trick meant she was never around to see the people’s double-takes as they second-guessed what they thought they’d seen, so she’d usually preferred to let the other two play around with their abilities, instead.
The memories of those hijinks brought a smile to Naomi’s face, an actual, genuine smile. It was a good feeling. “Let’s do it!” she said. “Unless you two think you’re too grown up for that kind of thing now…”
“Too grown up?” crowed Emily. “Never!” She picked up the pace. “Let’s go prank some park-goers!”
Naomi’s stomach chose that moment to let go with a particularly loud growl. “Ooh. Uh, would you guys mind if we took a quick detour?”
“Sounds like you really need it!” said Candace. “We can hit the Beacon Hill Drive-in. I could go for some ice cream.”
“It’s a plan,” agreed Emily.
The girls adjusted their course accordingly, waiting for a white panel van to go past before they crossed the street towards the locally famous fast food restaurant.
They emerged from the Drive-In victorious, laden with cheap, unwholesome, delicious treasures. Naomi’s burger oozed juices into its tinfoil wrapper as she held it up like a trophy. “I have been waiting all day for you,” she told it.
Emily laughed and took a lick of her ice cream. “You should see yourself right now! You look like a wolf that’s just cornered a rabbit.”
With an exaggerated lick of her lips, Naomi pretended to devour the entire burger, wrapper and all, in a single gulp. Her friends giggled.
The girls crossed the parking lot, stepping around a big white van that was getting ready to pull out of its parking space. “Well?” said Candace. “What are you waiting for? Get that thing in your stomach, woman!”
“Let’s get across the street into the park and find a bench first,” said Naomi. “I have a feeling this thing is going to drip grease all over me. I don’t want to make a huge mess while we’re…” She trailed off. Perched on a power line across the street were three crows, preening their feathers. One of them lifted its head and stared straight into her eyes. A chill went down Naomi’s spine.
Candace didn’t seem to notice that Naomi hadn’t finished her sentence. “Up to you,” she said. “If that was my burger, I’d be all over—”
She was interrupted by a shrill scream that startled the crows on the power line, sending them fluttering into the air. The girls turned, looking for the source of the commotion. The first thing Naomi saw was a plump older woman diving into her car and slamming the door shut behind her. The second thing she noticed was the white panel van, backed into the middle of the parking lot with its rear doors flung open. Three men wearing balaclavas were jumping out of it, and it only took the space of a heartbeat to judge their intentions.
Naomi dropped her burger and shrieked, “RUN!“