Eyes closed, Patty prayed that she was not discovered. The closet door was shut and she did her best not to make any noise as she claimed the hiding space as her own. She was surrounded by coats and jackets that were far too warm that time of year. They would remain there, tucked away until the weather turned cold. Patty was prepared to hide in that small closet until then. She couldn’t be found. Wouldn’t be found.
“One,” the voice called from overhead. The voice was still coming from her bedroom—or at least she hoped. A small chill ran through her as the anticipation and fear tickled her stomach. Never before had she needed to use the bathroom so much. She had to hold it though. She needed to.
“Two,” the voice called once more. The gruff, grating sound felt like sandpaper on her ears. It was closer, perhaps in the kitchen this time. A slight whimper escaped her lips. Instinctively she slapped her small hands across her mouth, feeling the tears as they fell from her eyes like rain from the storm that raged outside. She had to be strong, had to keep quiet. Patty knew morning was hours away; she learned to tell time only a week ago. Once morning came, she would be safe.
Inside the tiny closet, tucked away with the old skates and shoes, Patty heard a single word.
The breath tickling her ear, it whispered, “Three.”