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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Emotional · #1350258
A story about a late night encounter. 1st place in Twisted Tales contest November 2007
The face appeared suddenly, leering in at me from the other side of the window as I lay in bed. I recognised the plump cheeks, the long unkempt hair, the large glasses that intensified the stare from the eyes behind them.
         Such cold eyes.
         I bit my lip to suppress a scream but before I could react further the face vanished.
         The window imploded, shards of glass biting into my flesh with a thousand sharp teeth.
         Through the haze of my pain I could hear the broken window frame creaking in the night wind.

I awoke, clammy with sweat, immediately certain it was the creaking bottom stair which had reached into my nightmare and pulled me out. I couldn’t hear it now but I could hear heavy footsteps higher up the staircase, ascending slowly.
         I glanced at the window. It was closed. Both the frame and the glass within it were intact. I had forgotten to draw the curtains.
         Rolling over, I reached out for Marcia.
         She wasn’t there. Her side of the bed felt cold, barren and unslept in.
         In a moment I remembered the reason for her absence. The image of her loading her car with our two beautiful young children and as many boxes and suitcases as she could squeeze in is one I can never forget for very long - one that’s going to keep breaking my heart forever.
         ‘I can’t live like this anymore, John,’ she’d said, brushing her long blonde hair away from her face, her cheeks as damp from tears as my own had been. ‘I can’t deal with the baggage.’
         She hadn’t been talking about boxes and suitcases. She’d been talking about the source of the footsteps now crossing the landing towards me.
         The bedroom door opened and the light came on with no word of warning.
         Squinting at the sudden brightness, I turned to my alarm clock; deliberately averting my gaze from the intruder.
         It was 1.30am.
         I’d been asleep less than an hour.
         ‘Hello, Claire. Bit late to come visiting isn’t it?’
         ‘Hi, John,’ she replied as I finally turned towards her, towards the face of nightmare and the obese body that seemed to fill the entire doorway. ‘Excuse the late hour but loneliness is always worse in the middle of the night. Perhaps you can relate to that better now Marcia and the kids aren’t here.’
         She adjusted her glasses, and grinned at me.
         ‘What? You thought I didn’t know about Marcia walking out? You’d be surprised what I know, John. Sometimes I fancy I know more about you than you know yourself. So you missed me?’
         ‘What do you think?’
         ‘I think you should get up, get dressed and meet me downstairs. I’ve made you a coffee.’

I felt my lower jaw submit to the force of gravity as I walked into the kitchen.
         There was water all over the floor, and my socks were inadequate protection against wet feet.
         ‘Claire? What the hell do you think you’re doing?’
         With a swish of her black dress, she turned from the overflowing sink to face me.
         ‘I’ve done your washing-up for you. Aren’t you pleased?’
         ‘Pleased? Shit! Look at this mess!’
         There were some clean cups and plates in the drying rack, nestled among others with food still caked on. Most of the crockery, however, lay in pieces on the floor.
         ‘Get out my way,’ I ordered, approaching the sink.
         She obliged but gave me an evil look as I turned off the taps. Her face was potentially attractive, despite her obesity, but her eyes betrayed her, reflecting the twisted malevolence within.
         The sink plug was in place and the overflow pipe had been effectively blocked with mushy food which couldn’t have got there by accident.
         My stomach rumbled, letting me know I was hungry. However, the mess around me inspired feelings of nausea strong enough to override any desire to eat.
         Claire had never vandalised my property before. She’d moved things and hidden things away, even made a mess sometimes, but never anything like this. Her current behaviour seemed to signify an escalation, an intensification; the beginning of a new phase in her stalking of me.
         Looking up, I could see more food smeared across the wall.
         ‘Your coffee’s on the counter,’ Claire informed me.
         Turning to face her, I could feel the onset of a headache like thunderclouds forming.
         She took a step back, slipped on a plate, flailed her arms, and then went crashing to the floor.
         Had she backed away because she thought I was going to hit her like her father had so many times? The idea that Claire may have compared me to such a man or judged me by his standards - even for a moment - disgusted and offended me.
         I reached for my coffee, took a mouthful, grimaced and spat it back into the cup.
         It was cold.
         I returned my attention to Claire.
         She was sitting on the saturated linoleum, sucking on a nasty looking gash between the thumb and forefinger of her left hand. Part of a broken mug lay close by, a splash of red along one edge declaring its guilt.
         ‘If you like the taste of blood perhaps you should consider becoming a vampire,’ I told her. ‘At least then you couldn’t enter my house uninvited.’
         She took her hand from her mouth and licked her lips.
         ‘Oh but you do invite me, John. You just don’t realise it.’
         I shrugged my shoulders, not prepared to risk an argument.
         ‘Why are you here?’ I asked.
         ‘You’re the therapist. You tell me.’
         ‘Yeah, sure, I’m a therapist; though, as you know, I’m on a sabbatical right now. I’m not a mind reader.’
         ‘Ok, stupid; I want revenge. Same as always.’
         I sighed deeply, feeling a mixture of despair and exhaustion.
         ‘But you’ve already had your revenge, Claire. Can’t you see that? You’ve stopped me being able to work, destroyed my peace of mind, and now you’ve driven my family away. You’ve taken everything that gave my life meaning. Vandalise my kitchen all you like but it’s nothing compared to what you’ve already done so what’s the point?’
         She glared at me for what seemed a long time, and I felt I could fall apart under the accusation in her eyes.
         ‘You should have helped me,’ she said finally. Then she stood up and walked out of the kitchen.

I found her in my bedroom. She’d opened the window and was in the process of climbing out of it.
         ‘You don’t want to be doing that…’
         Before I’d even finished speaking, she’d squeezed her hips through the wide opening. Gravity did the rest.
         I reached the window just as her feet slid over the sill.
         She landed head first, and I swear she bounced before finally coming to rest, face down on the ground.
         Stupid bitch, I thought as I changed into a dry pair of socks, and searched for my shoes. As if getting angry could really help sort this mess out.
         Stupid, stupid, stupid bitch!

‘Well that was a dumb thing to do,’ I said as I stood over the prone figure in my back garden. ‘Wouldn’t it have been easier to use the door?’
         She rolled over and looked up at me.
         ‘You should have helped me. Why didn’t you help me?’
         A tear trickled down her cheek and I turned away; unable, for the moment, to look at her.
         ‘I tried Claire. Honestly, I tried. But you can only help people who meet you halfway, who are willing to help themselves. You were never willing to do that.’
         ‘I’m willing now.’
         ‘Yeah? Well now it’s too late.’
         ‘You know why, Claire. Don’t make me go over it again.’
         She frowned.
         ‘I don’t know what you mean.’ Confusion and anger were equally tangible in her voice.
         ‘Okay.’ I was rapidly losing patience. ‘Get up and I’ll show you.’
         She used her hands as leverage as she attempted to get into a sitting position.
         After a few seconds she gave up, lay back down and closed her eyes.
         ‘My head hurts,’ she said.
         ‘And whose fault is that?’
         ‘But it really, really hurts!’
         ‘Yeah? My head hurts too. I think I might be getting a migraine. Do you hear me complaining?’
         ‘Exactly. Now stop being such an attention seeker, and get up.’
         ‘I can’t.’
         ‘Sure you can.’
         ‘You don’t know how bad I feel.’
         ‘To be brutally honest I’m past caring. I’m through playing games with you, Claire. You say you’re finally willing to help yourself. I’m inclined to think that’s bullshit. Refusing to get up does you no favours if you want to prove me wrong.’
         ‘Okay, okay, okay. I’m getting up.’
         She located her glasses, put them on and slowly got to her feet, swaying unsteadily.
         I made no effort to assist her.

She flinched when she saw the BMW in the garage, a low moan coming from behind clenched teeth.
         ‘Remember now?’ I asked as I leaned against the bonnet of the car, watching her reaction.
         ‘You… you hurt me, you bastard!’
         ‘Well a bit more than hurt I think. I killed you, remember? Or, to be completely truthful, you used me as an unwilling accomplice in your suicide. See now why I wasn’t concerned about your headache? See now why jumping out of windows isn’t going to achieve anything? You’re already dead.’
         She whimpered then, and her distress gave me a certain amount of pleasure.
         ‘You’d been stalking me for weeks,’ I continued. ‘I’d tried to be patient and understanding and work through all the issues with you. In the end though I had to admit failure.’
         ‘You told me I couldn’t see you anymore.’
         ‘That’s right. I ended my sessions with you. I offered to refer you to a psychiatrist who would have been better qualified to help you but you refused.’
         ‘I don’t need some fucking stranger’s help. I need yours.’
         I nodded. ‘That’s exactly what you said at the time. I told you if you kept harassing me, I would have no choice but to take legal action to keep you away. The same day we had that conversation you waited for me on my route home, crouched between two parked cars.’
         ‘You were late,’ she said, her face screwed up in apparent concentration. ‘I got cramp.’
         ‘Yeah, I had paperwork to do. Nonetheless, you waited until you saw my car.’ I patted the cool silver metal for emphasis. ‘Then, at the last possible moment, you threw yourself in front of it, knowing I could do nothing to avoid hitting you.’
         The memory chilled me, and it was a few moments before I felt able to continue.
         ‘That was one hell of a guilt trip to lay on me, Claire. I still have nightmares. Sometimes it’s only the sound of my screaming that wakes me up. I’ve never known you to have any capacity for forgiveness, just a self-pitying rage against the world, and an insatiable desire for retribution. You couldn’t even die without making it an act of revenge. Then… you keep coming back.’
         ‘Just like a bad penny,’ she grinned. ‘That’s what my mum used to say. And you can’t get a restraining order against a ghost or have it sectioned can you, John? That must really bum you out. And to think if you’d only done your job properly I’d still be alive and have no reason to harass you. When you lost hope in me I lost hope in myself. I was twenty-two years old. I could have had a good life ahead of me. I could have found happiness. I could have found peace.’
         ‘Surely you still can. Surely there’s somewhere better you can move on to.’
         Claire sniggered at that.
         ‘You’d like that wouldn’t you? If I got to Heaven that would appease your guilt some wouldn’t it? But what if there is no Heaven? You may think I make your life a misery but at least you have a life to be made a misery of. I don’t anymore.’
         ‘That was your choice.’
         ‘Without you I had no one. Call that a choice? You turned me away and deserve to suffer. Live with your guilt, John. It feeds me. Live with the knowledge that you’re alive and I’m dead and maybe, just maybe, there is nowhere else for me to go. Maybe you’re all that’s keeping me in existence now, just like you were all that kept me going in the last months of my life until you gave up. That was your choice. You were my last chance and you let me down. It was all your fault…’
         Her image flickered and became transparent. She was fading and so were her words:
         ‘…all your fault… all your fault…’ like a distant echo. And then she was gone.
         My head was really throbbing now. To have any hope of avoiding a full-blown migraine I’d have to take some painkillers, and lie down.
         Claire’s words continued to plague my thoughts as I returned to the house.
         …you do invite me…
         …your guilt… feeds me…
         …you’re all that’s keeping me in existence now…
         I took a double take as I entered the kitchen, and once more felt my mouth open involuntarily.
         The floor was dry and free of crockery. The sink and the area around it appeared no less tidy than usual. The walls were clean.
         I took a glass from the drying rack.
         As I turned on the tap I noticed the broken mug in the sink. It was then I realised my head wasn’t the only part of me that was throbbing.
         My breath quickened as I looked down and saw the blood flowing between the thumb and forefinger of my left hand.
                                                                                         (2300 words)
© Copyright 2007 Mark C ~ 9 years on WDC! (markone at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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