You said it with such a bright face, excitement written all over you. Not a trace of fear. I was afraid. But you, like you so often did, gave me courage.
(more) "Let's go!"
To the edge of the world. Beyond anything we knew. Where there was only adventure and glory. Or so we thought. The realities of adventure were not as romantic as we thought they'd be. But we were happy. Thrilled to see each new town, each new country. The whole world seemed brand new.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You loved that phrase. You repeated it every time you were convincing me to do something foolhardy. And it worked, almost every time. Maybe I should have been more cautious, tempered your recklessness.
How could you go without me? Leave me alone with regrets and guilt. I know that's not what you'd want. You accepted the risks. Maybe I never did. But oh, how I want to hear you say those words again. (less)
"Pinky promise," the boy insisted, holding out his pinky finger.
Rose held out her own, curiosity overcoming her. "Pinky promise."
"And may your pinky break if you tell anyone," Jack said solemnly.
"Yeah, yeah, so what do y(more)ou want to show me?" Rose insisted.
"It's in the woods. Follow me." Jack turned and ran into the dark of the woods near their development. Rose followed him. They had spent many days after school exploring the woods. She didn't think there could be anything they hadn't already discovered. And there was nothing that could freak her out. She wasn't some silly girl.
They walked along in silence, nothing but the rustle of woods around them. They were experienced enough in exploring the woods to know that stealth would be rewarded, often by seeing an animal.
It was starting to get dark. Rose wasn't afraid, but she knew her mother would scold her if she wasn't home before sunset.
"Is it much further?"
"Nah, just up ahead." Jack walked up to big tree, three trunk emerging from one base. He disappeared behind the tree. Rose followed him with only the slightest hesitation.
"Oh, wow," she whispered. The dead deer was on its side, already partially decomposed. It must have been there awhile. The skin was mostly gone and she could see the dear's insides. Bugs crawled over and in the carcass.
"Cool, huh?" Jack asked. "I find it yesterday."
"How long's it been here?"
"Dunno, a week maybe? I don't know how long it takes for it to get like that."
Rose crouched down to examine it. She picked up a stick and prodded the deer gently. "How do you think it died?"
Jack shrugged. "There's nothing to kill a deer around here." (less)
The herbal tea was hot and steaming. It warmed her hands delightfully. She took tiny sips so she wouldn't burn her tongue. The ginger tea ran down her throat, soothing the swollen ache that she had felt all day.
Rita sank back into her couch. She was (more)a bit dizzy, her sickness not limited to her throat. Thankfully she had gotten to leave work early. So she had nothing to do for the rest of the day except relax and try to feel better.
She looked around her tiny apartment. It was a bit of a mess, for sure. She had gotten so caught up in her work lately, she hadn't put much effort into her home life. Rita sighed. She didn't have much of a life, truth be told. It had been a long time since she had a night on the town.
Her relaxing night in seemed a little less exciting now. She sipped her tea again. She would have to make a little more effort to go out when she felt better.
She would read a book, she decided. She hadn't lost herself in a book for some time. At best, she would read a couple pages before falling asleep at bedtime.
Rita picked up her book, a bestseller a coworker had recommended, and started reading. But try as she might, she couldn't focus. Something was bothering her. She looked up and tried to pinpoint the noise. The refrigerator was humming. It always did that, but the noise was overwhelming in her silent apartment.
Her apartment was empty. Even though she was there, she might as well be a ghost. The white walls felt suffocating. It felt like it was her own silent tomb. How could she be alive but feel so dead sometimes? (less)
Her eyes scanned the screen. Departures. Seoul 08:00. On-time.
Well that was good. Waiting around an airport was never fun. She grasped her suitcase handle nervously. The butterflies that had been in her stomach for days were acting up again. She was actually here. She was actually leaving.(more)
Her boyfriend walked next to her. She hadn't gone through security yet, where they would have to part. He was silent. It was easier for her- she was the one going off to have an adventure. He was the one being left behind.
It was only for a year, they had reassured each other. If they were really meant to be together, really meant for a long time relationship, they could get through a year of being long-distance. But they both knew it would be difficult. She wondered if she would see him again.
But she needed to go. She had spent too much time in New York, spinning her wheels. She had fallen in a rut that only a faraway adventure could help.
And after that? The plan was she'd come back and they would go on a fantastic road trip. They'd figure out where in the country they would settle together. Hopefully by then she'd know what she was doing with her life. And he'd finally be out of school. It would be the next stage for both of them.
She wondered if it would actually happen.
They kissed deeply in front of the security clearance line, both teary eyed. He promised he would visit, she promised she would write and skype. It genuinely hurt to let him go and walk away. She knew that whenever you left something, there was a chance you would never come back. Maybe he wouldn't wait for her. She had to take the chance. (less)
It had startled her the first time it happened. She had been sitting on her couch in the living room. She knew she was alone, had double locked the front door of her apartment. So when she suddenly heard footsteps in her kitchen she jumped with alarm.
(more) Tina was not a girl to panic in an emergency. She picked up the knife she had been using for her dinner, grabbed her phone with the other hand, and walked across the living room. She burst into the kitchen, only to laugh when it was completely empty. She scolded herself for being overly paranoid. But it was odd; she would've sworn that someone was in the kitchen.
It happened several times after that. Tina assumed that her upstairs neighbors were the ones making the sound. It must just drift down oddly. Old building and all that.
Oddly enough she never heard it when she was in the kitchen. It was only as she left the room that the sounds would appear.
There was one evening when it was going on even more loudly than normal. It continued late into the night. Damn neighbors, Tina thought. She resolved to talk to them in the morning about moving about more quietly.
She went up there before work and knocked politely. No answer. She knocked again. A neighbor on her way to work walked by. "There's nobody there," she said. "Those tenants moved out last spring. They haven't filled it yet."
She told her friend about it. The strange noises with no cause. "It's all in your head," her friend said confidently. "Living alone for so long? You're bound to hear things"
Tina didn't think living alone was driving her crazy. Lots of people lived alone. But what else could it be? (less)
"Dear Father," was what he wrote down. It was a start. Not much of one though. He stared at the words. Were they too formal? Too clinical? If it was this hard to start the letter how would he be able to finish it?
"Dear Father," he said(more) it out loud. It didn't sound right, but he continued anyway. Maybe it was better that it sounded so clinical. So distant. It had been ten years since he'd seen his father. All he had left of him was a vague image in his mind.
What could he say to the man who'd kicked him out of his home. The man who had turned his back on his only son?
Maybe he shouldn't bother with the letter. Some wounds couldn't be mended. He had resigned himself long before to never reconciling with his father. He had built a wonderful life without him in fact.
But then his mother had called. "Your father has cancer," she had said. "It's late stage. Just thought you should know."
He had thought about going to see his father. But the thought of facing him was too much. Too much history, too much resentment. But a letter - surely he could write his father and say his last words to him. But how do you write to someone you cut out of your heart?
I know we had our misunderstandings. I hated you for a long time. Mom told me that you're dying. I'm sorry about that. I just wanted to let you know that I forgive you. And I wish you well.
It was awful and awkward. But it was the best he could do. He put it in the mailbox with a conflicted heart. He wouldn't get a reply. (less)
Her smile was as big as it could be, but it still didn't meet her eyes. In fact, if you looked closely, you could see the slightest twitch of her left eye.
"Oh I hope it's no big deal," the woman sitting at the booth said. "You know(more) how kids are." Her husband nodded across from her. And their little hell spawn sat next to his mother, surrounded by spilled salt and ketchup marks. His kid burger was somewhere on the floor. He had used his fries as projectiles, which lay littered all across the booth.
"Oh no problem at all, ma'am." Kelly said in her most proper waitress voice. Her friends would have easily seen it for the sham it was.
They left minutes later, without even an attempt to clean up their kid's mess. And on top of that they had only left ten percent tip. She cleaned the booth and swept the floor while trying to fight back tears of fury.
'Rude motherfuckers. I hope your fat fucking kid gets hit by a bus. Dirty, rotten cheap bastards.' Her thoughts continued in this poisonous vein for some time. When she finally got back to the kitchen she cursed aloud, tell her coworkers in no uncertain terms what she thought of her last table.
"People are shit," the cook agreed.
"I hate this mother fucking job and restaurant and I hate those fucking people out there." Kelly sighed and looked at the clock. Still four hours of her shift left. Fuck.
"Kelly! You got a table." Her manager called through the kitchen.
"Goddamn it!" She straightened her apron and fixed her hair. She walked out of the kitchen and took out her notepad.
"Hi guys! Welcome to Friendly's. Can I start you with something to drink?" She smiled. (less)
"I just don't know," Jasmine sighed. "I have fucking clue what I'm doing."
"Language missy," her father scolded. "And there has to be something that you want to do. What ever happened to personal training?"
"The gym was into super high pressure sales. And I hate getting(more) up that early."
Jasmine laughed. "I haven't taken a yoga class in almost a year. I'd be the most out of shape instructor ever."
"You wanted to teach English abroad, didn't you?"
"I did, but none of the programs accepted me. I just," her voice wavered. "I'm just a mess. I hate my job. I hate my life. But I don't know what else to do?"
Her father nodded sympathetically. She sipped her red wine morosely. They were at their Italian restaurant. Or at least it felt like theirs. In all the times they had gone there, there had never been any other patrons. How the place stayed in business was a puzzle they often pondered.
"I'm a failed actress, teacher, writer, athlete. It's seems like no matter what I try and do, I just fail." Jasmine fought back tears. She wasn't one to cry normally. But the heap of disappointments had broken down her normal fortitude. "Maybe I should stop trying to pursue my dreams. Maybe I'm just better off settling in an office somewhere."
"There's no shame in a normal job. I hate seeing you in shitty jobs when I know you're capable of so much more." He fiddled with his wine glass. "Get a good job, meet a nice guy. Nothing wrong with that."
Jasmine smiled, but didn't try to explain. The sense of dread that filled her when she thought about a normal 9-5 job. She didn't know many things, but she knew she didn't want that. (less)
"What did those mashed potatoes do to you?" her mother asked with a raised eyebrow. Lynn looked down at the bowl. She had gotten so wrapped in her thoughts she had even noticed that she was pulverizing the potatoes.
(more) Lynn laughed it off. "Sorry just got distracted." She put the potatoes off to the side and started cutting carrots for the salad.
Her mother was quiet. "Were you thinking about Danny," she finally asked softly. Lynn winced at the name and hated the tears that threatened to appear.
"No," she lied. Her mother looked disbelieving. Of course Lynn had been thinking about him. All she had thought about in the past week was Danny, ever since she came home from work early to find another woman in her bed. She knew infidelity happened to couples. But she never thought it'd be Danny. Not her sweet, loyal Danny.
She had called off the wedding. And how humiliating that had been. To tell all her friends and family that the wedding wouldn't go on. She had only told her best friend and mom what had really happened, but somehow word seemed to have gone around. They all looked at her with such pity.
And Danny... He had tried to call. Had even had the nerve to come to her parents' house. Oh, her dad had some choice words for him. But she couldn't face him. She didn't know if she could forgive him. But she wasn't sure if she could leave him either. Damn him. All their memories and love thrown away because he just had to fuck some other girl.
Lynn continued to cut the vegetables, even with tears running down her face. She would get through this. She barely noticed when her mom embraced her tightly. God damn him.
She remember how the hot air balloons would rise over the horizon, their bright colors striking against the blue, summer sky. Her grandma said they came from the golf course down the road. When they came over her grandparents' field the balloons were still low. They seemed massive, like(more) something of out a fantasy novel.
She would sit in her favorite tree and watch them float by so peacefully. They were close enough that she could hear the fuel burning and sending the balloon up, up, up. She was never able to see the pilot though. It made her wonder if the balloons weren't flying on their own.
The back field was one of her favorite places in the world. There was a path from the back of the paddock that lead to it. Otherwise it was surrounded by woods she would occasionally explore with her cousins.
The horses would come and graze in the field. Sometimes even deer would come join them. Last spring she had seen a mama and two fawns grazing a stone's throw away. She had been behind one of the horses, so the deer hadn't been alerted to her presence. She had watched in awe for a quarter of an hour before they went back to the woods.
Years later her grandparents moved to Florida and sold their beautiful old house. The back field and woods were probably being sold to developers. She had never gone back to see. It would have broken her heart to see her woods and field destroyed for stupid houses. What was the point of a big house if there were no fields around for exploring? No trees, no tiny stream to jump over? Just endless houses and roads. And only the memory of glorious balloons flying overhead. (less)
They stared at each other. He smiled slowly as blood dripped from his hands. It was smeared across his body, his face. The dead girl lying at his feet had put up a fight. It hadn't been enough.
Gwen reached for her gun instinctively, before remembering it wasn'(more)t there. His grin broadened.
"Well, I do believe you've caught me Detective," Owen said congenially, "Caught me red-handed as it were." He laughed a little at his joke.
She tried to calm down, but her emotions were raging through her. Betrayal, disbelief, sadness. But surpassing them all was her growing fear. The look in his eyes as he watched her wasn't the look of a man. There was something monstrous lurking in them.
"The lieutenant knows I'm here," she bluffed. "Back up is coming soon."
"Bullshit, Detective. You're too headstrong and rash. And that will be your downfall. No one's coming." He took a step towards her.
"Stay back!" She didn't want to step back but she couldn't let him come any closer. He was a lion, looking for any sign of weakness in his prey. He held the knife in his hand casually as if it was toy. As if it hadn't killed seven women.
"Why'd you do it?" she asked, stalling for time. The photo had been left on her desk. If someone saw it, if someone else pieced it together, they would come. Hopefully not alone as she had. But she had been trying to prevent this. Hoped she could save at least one of them. She was too late.
"Why?" He asked, tasting the word. "Why? If you really must know... well, I was bored."
"Bored? You took seven lives just for fucking fun?"
"Yes," he said with true pleasure, "And it was oh so much fun."
"I just never thought my parents liked me. I mean I know they love me, but you can love someone and not really like them at the same time." His voice was soft. The late hour and the wine had taken the energy out of him. His girlfriend lay(more) in his arms.
"Don't be silly. You're a great guy." She paused, then said bravely, "That's why I love you."
He didn't react for a second, then bolted upright. "What did you say?"
She blushed but said it again, "I love you."
He kissed her fiercely. "I love you too," he confided. "I've known for awhile. But I was saving it as a trump card for when I did something to piss you off."
She laughed. "Really? You were going to use a romantic declaration as your 'get out of jail free' card? You're so sweet."
He kissed her again; it tasted like shiraz and chocolate. He pulled her back to horizontal on the couch. Her roommates were gone for the weekend. The privacy was wonderful and they had taken full advantage of having a romantic evening together. A candle was flickering on the table where remnants of their dinner remained.
"But what if you never pissed me off? Then you never would have told me you loved me?" So far their relationship had been smooth sailing.
"Oh don't worry. I'm sure I'll do something wrong soon. I'm very good at messing things up." He smiled brightly. His previous melancholy had disappeared and he was basking in the feeling of being loved.
They started kissing again. Slowly and softly at first, but with a building passion. Suddenly, he got up from the couch and, without warning, picked her up. She laughed, surprised and delighted, as he carried her to the bedroom. (less)
"Amy! You still haven't finished that report? If you can't get it to me in an hour I'll find someone who can!" Amy's boss had a voice like a whip. She jumped into action.
"Yes sir, right away sir," Amy mumbled, not daring to look up. She typed(more) frantically at the keyboard, relaxing only a bit when she heard his footsteps walking away. She hated this job, hated it with a passion, but what else could she do? She needed the money and hadn't had any luck finding other work.
She blinked away tears. She felt so powerless. Amy had been a dreamer as a child, always imagining a big, bright future. One by one her dreams had failed, leaving nothing but a loser with a shitty job.
Amy turned her focus back to her task. Wallowing in self pity wouldn't help anything. And she wouldn't want her boss to see her cry. It would probably please him, the arrogant bastard.
Maybe she had too many dreams. When she was younger, she wanted to be an actress, a writer, a great explorer. Her friends and classmates had the same dreams, but they had eventually grown up. Amy never let go of her dreams.
Well, she had gone to the big city to be an actress. A couple student films was the extent of her success. She was trying to write again, but her writing never amounted to a story. She just couldn't get her ideas on a paper right.
And adventuring? Her job barely paid her bills, let alone give her money for travel. She was stuck to her stupid desk, oh how she hated it.
But what could she do? She asked herself that every day. What could she do to break free? She just didn't know. (less)