Chapter 20

Chapter 20: Maddie

Maddie sits with her back against the wall, trying to tug the cuffs of her sweater over her clenched hands. It’s cold up here. The cold is like a living thing, crowding her, and she shrinks herself as small as she can to avoid its touch.

At least it’s not dark. Above Maddie’s head there’s a window. The light arches over her, cloudy with spots of dust that swim past her like fish. That’s all she can do right now. Watch the specks of dust. And the dead mouse.

It’s hard not to look at the mouse. The trap that caught it has flipped over so she can’t see its head. Maddie is grateful for that. But there’s still the soft white stretch of belly and a tiny whip of tail. On the other side of the mouse is a pile of camping gear. Maddie can see the dark blue plaid of a sleeping bag near the bottom. She wants the sleeping bag. She can imagine sliding it over her legs and sinking in up to her chin. But that means standing, unfolding herself to the cold, crossing the floor with telltale footsteps, and reaching right over the mouse to pull the sleeping bag out. Four things that Maddie cannot face. She’s trapped just as much as the mouse.