FIESTA, CALIFORNIA | 1889
After playing countless rounds of Reversi, the two girls tired of trying to flip each other’s discs from white to black and back again and took to watching the dust motes lazily drifting through the light cast by the gas lamp in Philomena’s room as her mother banged around the house in an apparent frenzy. The last thing Lucette remembered thinking before dozing off was why don’t we have gas lamps?
The girls awoke to the sound of two people arguing.
“Darn it, we probably missed the snakes,” Lucette protested as she rubbed her eyes.
“Shhh,” Philomena hushed her groggy, yet still eager friend. “Something’s going on.” The two girls each held their breath waiting for another round of shouting. Instead, the sound of a door slamming shut like a pistol shot, echoed down the empty street.
“What was that?” Lucette mouthed, her eyes as round as the full moon rising up over the house.
“What do you think that was?” Philomena hissed. “That was the front door.” Her entire being was poised to either fight or flight regardless. She got up and started toward the door as if moving through one of the jars of molasses in her father’s store.
“No, Philomena, I think it was a shot!” Lucette’s panicked tone stopped her in her tracks. “We have to get out of here.”
Philomena hesitated for a second. Every fiber in her body was on full alert as she considered confronting whoever might have had the nerve to fire off a gun in her family’s house, but the sight of her best friend making toward the window snapped her out of her reactionary panic.
“Maybe you’re right,” she whispered. “As soon as you hit the ground, start running. We’ll go to the revival and get my dad.”
“Your dad?” Lucette wheezed as the sash pushed into her abdomen while she lowered herself backward out of the window. “We need to get the police.”
“Just go,” Philomena resisted the impulse to push her friend the rest of the way out of the window. “Where else do you think we are going to find the police tonight?”
As soon as the two girls hit the dusty street, they both took off running.
Don’t look back, don’t look back. Philomena ran and repeated the directive in her head until it crowded out all other thoughts. The cold night air seared her lungs although she took no notice of it. She did not look back.