I am alive.
It is a strange realisation — I wonder if everyone has this thought or if it is just me. That first step towards the world outside brings forth a familiar numbness I have missed terribly. The breeze tickles my arm seductively and the sun beckons me forward with its rush of heat embracing me like an old friend.
Five more steps.
Deep breath in, deep breath out. I am alive.
Without even a second glance, I stroll away from what was once my home sweet home, knowing that very soon there would be a chance of my return. A slim one, but a chance nonetheless.
My senses are utterly inundated. The grass is too green; the sky is too blue. The laughter of children in the park nearby is creating a dull ache in my skull. But my mind is focused on one thing. That one thing has been stewing and formulating in my mind until finally, it has become my reality. It is so delectable; I can almost taste it. I salivate at the thought of holding the warm softness in my hand as the drip, drip, drip of thick liquid drains torturously slow.
I must stop. The car is waiting patiently with the keys in the ignition, precisely as I knew it would be. Oh, to be a filthy rich psychiatrist.
The leather glides across my skin as I slip into the cool interior. I breathe in that new car smell. Ah, better enjoy it while I can. The tires squeal across the road as I speed off, my internal GPS already working around the clock to take me where I need to be. The office is a little far from this place, eighteen minutes and thirty-nine, thirty-eight, thirty-seven seconds, but I have some time up my sleeve. The nurses had left earlier than anticipated.
The clock seems to whiz by as my speed increases tenfold to what I should be doing, but that is okay. I have memorised the roads, the twists and the turns. My mind is calm now. The plan is in action. I must get to her by 5pm. That is when she leaves her bright and bubbly office with the pretty pink flowers that bloom outside her window every spring. She will leave the office to go to her quaint and cosy apartment where no one will greet her.
No one will ever know.
Three minutes and six, five, four seconds away now.
It is 4:52pm.
I have slowed down now, despite the urge to press my foot against the gas again. No need to draw attention to myself now is there?
I am almost there, so close to my destination. A smile curves the corners of my face. She is within my grasp. That bitch of a woman with her stiletto heels and perky breasts and hideously bright red lipstick spewing bullshit and lies, treacherous little whor-
Before I have a chance to realise, I slam down the accelerator, anger contorting my mind into a pit of fire. My eyelid twitches uncontrollably. My blanched hands clench the steering wheel as if it were her neck. I imagine the snap of the vertebrae one by one as her eyes dissipate into nothingness.
Deep breath in, deep breath out. I am alive.
I am here.
Horns are blaring as I slip past the weary drivers all anxious to be home already. I have angered them with my show of speed. Oh well. It does not matter anymore because
My car slides easily between the two vehicles parked on either side. The silver Jeep with the leather interior and the extra-large box of condoms in the glovebox is her boss’s car. He is egotistical and unenlightened, but she sleeps with him anyway because he is sometimes kind enough to let her stay on the nights she feels lonely. I know this will not happen tonight because it is a Wednesday. Not just any Wednesday but the Wednesday. She will want to be alone, except of course for the company of five shot glasses overflowing with tequila.
The red Volvo is hers.
It smells like fresh linen and spilt coffee and it smells like her. I know this scent from memory.
Also, because I am currently sitting inside the car, inhaling it in deeply. My lungs are filled with her, overwhelmed by her. I am in heaven.
She will not think to look in her back seat because she never does. She will check the trunk, and she will check underneath, and she will climb in breathing a deep sigh of relief.
But she will not check the back seat.
Two minutes now.
I can hear the laughter sprinkling their conversation as they make their way across the foyer. I can hear the clicking of those damn stilettos. I hope she is wearing the slutty red ones. They will only spur me on. I have dreamt of her in them for years and if I am lucky, I will be blessed to see it in reality.
I peer through the windows and catch a glimpse of her through the glass doors. He is there too, unabashedly appraising her luscious figure as she bends to collect a fallen pen. She has done this deliberately because this is what he expects of her. She hates herself for it, but she craves the attention, despite her fear of his ever-changing moods. I can see him growing excited, dreaming of their night tomorrow, while she cringes shamefully away from the hand that has slithered to her lower back.
What he does not know is that he will not see her tomorrow.
She flicks her body upright again and… yes, those slutty red heels. They are at the doors now, flicking off the lights one by one. She turns away from him and he slaps her behind. I watch her face crease up in disgust, but she does not say a word.
I slip down low in the seat, slowing my breathing down like I have practised and await her arrival. I hear the sloppy kiss he gives her and wonder how on Earth she puts up with it. I hear the lock click over for the second time in the space of mere minutes, but this time it is a satisfying sound because I know she is here.
She enters the vehicle and I am encompassed by her fragrance, no longer stale and discrete. I wish to breathe deeper, to hold her down and savour every inch of her, but I maintain my restraint. This will happen soon enough. She is waiting for him to leave. I watch her shudder as he drives off before clambering shakily out. Ten years on and she is still so afraid. It is an exhilarating and erotic thought.
I listen to her timidly opening the trunk before slamming it back down. In the silence I can hear her heart thudding wildly. For a second, I wish that it is in my hand instead, the blood oozing between my slender fingers; the arteries pulsating their last seconds on my palm. I can feel the desire burning a hole through me as I take a breath to ensure I do not lose my grip on my sanity.
Ten minutes and I will be able to live in my dreams.
She grips the edge of the door, takes a very long, very unsteady lungful of air, before barking out a sharp laugh.
“He’s locked in the ward,” she mutters to herself after she has scrambled back in and locked the door. “Stop being absurd. He’s not here anymore, Alyssa.”
The sound of her name, exhaled upon her warm, sweet breath is inviting and I almost ruin the plan entirely. She puts the car into gear and drives off. Her bottom lip trembles as she desperately clings to any semblance of control. I peer over the centre console and watch her fingers twitch on the wheel. I know that all she wants to do is rake her hands over her body to rid herself of the memories.
I know this because it is what she did in the courtroom.
I feel the vibrations of the car running through my body like an electric wave. I close my eyes and let my mind take over, agonising over the final pieces of my elaborate puzzle. It is easy, elegant, excruciating. Every turn, every traffic light is ingrained in my brain, so I know when we are getting close.
I know when it is time to prepare.
The ignition is turned off.
She exits the car.
She checks under the car one more time.
She sighs, turns away, walks toward her front door.
Three more minutes.
I imagine her walking inside, throwing her bag on the floor as the tears engulf her.
Tears of rage.
This relief will not last long.
I slink out the back door, chest pressing to the ground as I await the lonely car driving by. The door clicks shut, locks itself and I am here. No neighbour is out, no person is walking the pathway.
I am free.
I pace hastily to the door, my pulse throbbing in anticipation.
This is it.
As always, the key is under the plant on the patio. I know that she is in the shower because it is 5:13pm and she needs to wash off his dirty looks and scrub the skin that forever crawls with revulsion, especially on this day. I take my shoes off, wander inside and marvel once again at how disgustingly perfect her home is.
The layout is simple.
Three steps forward.
Four steps forward.
Door on the left.
‘Has it really been ten years, my love?’
Deep breath in, deep breath out.
Jade Shorter is a Brisbane-based writer with a passion for her craft. She loves to teach others and help them hone their creativity. Crime writing and thrillers are her speciality but she does dabble in romance and fiction writing too. She is also a dancer, trained in all styles, but with a particular interest in contemporary and musical theatre.