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The oven door creaks open, revealing the grimy, sweat-tracked face of a girl just past her seventh birthday. Opening an oven from the inside is difficult for a child, but Drea Kane has had practice. She crawls into the unfamiliar house and dusts off her black knit dress. Her grease-caked tights are living up to their name, squeezing her calves. She rubs the underside of her nose with a wrist; the streak of wetness finds its way onto her dress at the hip. The black hides the stain.
“Hello? Is anyone home?” she calls. Her voice is soft, the question more perfunctory than inquisitive. She already knows the answer.
The clock over the stovetop reads 12:34. On the other side of the oven, the time was shortly after five. She announces her presence again, bolder this time, and makes a slow turn. Drea is too young to be impressed by the kinds of details that excite home-buyers: crown moulding, hardwood floors, wide bay windows overlooking a valley bearded with evergreens. But the immensity of the house is not lost on her. The kitchen is larger than her parents’ whole apartment.
She searches the house, but finds no sign of the laundry room, or of Taka. Four minutes have passed and the tights are now cutting into her feet and waist. It’s happening faster this time.
It takes both hands to wrestle the tights off her legs. By the time they are clear of her calves, her shoes no longer fit. The dress is stretchy; she knows it will suffice for another few minutes, but she must find something else quickly.