Eye Contact

Tapping her feet, she stared at the screen hanging down from the ceiling. Sweltering, she tried to fan herself; however, the exertion of energy coupled with the lack of air made her even hotter. It felt like the train had been claiming to be one minute away for a lot longer than one minute. No matter how quickly she walked, she always arrived just as the tube was leaving.

Forced to stand on the boiling platform, she positioned herself perfectly so that, when the tube arrived, she could climb straight on.

Spotting a seat, she kept her eyes focused on it until she had safely secured it as her own. The worst part of the tube journey: when you look up and catch yourself being stared at, and probably judged, by those sitting opposite you.

She looked every single person in the eye until they realised that they had been caught staring. Smiling to herself, she laughed as they all looked sheepishly at their laps.

That was until she reached the final person in the row: that person sustained the eye contact. It took a few moments for it to click exactly who she was staring at.

Once she had made the connection, she was the one to break this sustained eye contact. This couldn’t be happening.

Awkward, she pulled at the hem of her dress. She prayed that the woman wouldn’t start talking to her but she could still feel her gaze on her cheek.

The journey felt even slower. She wished that the train would go straight through to wherever she wanted to go or that she would get off.

The awkwardness continued for six more stops before, to her horror, they both climbed off at the same station.

“Are you following me?” she interrogated the woman that had been staring at her.

The woman scoffed. “Don’t worry, babe. I don’t want to speak to you either.”

Scuttering off in her kitten heels, she was left dumbfounded in the middle of the station.

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Gossip

There have been many theories about how Evelyn had been murdered. The police didn’t want to release any details, so the people of the town were lead to conduct their own investigation. Their evidence? Gossip.

But, how many of them really knew her? I’m betting that most of them never spoke to her, but would happily discuss what a tragedy her death was.

I stand outside the school waiting for her kids as well as my own. As her kids make their way towards me, I see the other mums stop what they’re doing to watch them. The gossip begins.

They all have their opinions on whether or not the kids should be back at school. They all have their opinions on how I’m bringing up another woman’s children. Some say that they’re back far too early; others say that they had too much time off. They say that the time at home lead them to think too much of their mother’s untimely death and mysterious murder.

The woman at the forefront of the gossip is still recognisable as the bully from her school. It shows because it’s her children that are giving Evelyn’s children a hard time. She was a bully and now her children are carrying on the family legacy.

It must be so difficult for the children to hear the gossip about their mother when they barely know the truth themselves. How do you tell an eleven and an eight-year-old that their mother is dead at the fault of someone else?

And, how do you tell them that the someone else is their father?

They’re Coming for You (Part 3)

Read part 1 here

Read part 2 here


It had been three years since he last heard from her; she hadn’t heard from him since they had decided it would be safest if they completely dropped contact. They both thought that this was the answer to their problems: she was scared and he wanted to keep her safe. That was all he wanted.

Ultimately, it hadn’t worked.

He’d never forget the day that they knocked on his door. He thought that he was clear of that business; but, it had all come back to him.

After she’d left, he’d put the effort in to turn his life around. He desired to see her again, but it had to be safe first. He got himself a legit job, wanting to be the best that he could be. It was his main aim for it to be safe for him to see her again.

The day they came for him, he was lounging on the sofa, laptop in hand, doing pieces of work for the following day. They’d pounded the door forcefully, threatening to break the door if he didn’t open it immediately. He thought that it would be his neighbours complaining about his loud music again. It wasn’t.

Silent, they grabbed him by the arm and dragged him to the back of a van. Locking him inside, he banged on the sides of the walls, screaming and begging to know where they were taking him. He thought that he’d got past all of this; he thought that they were safe. He hoped that she was still safe, wherever she was. That was all he cared about.

There was a short drive before he was snatched and taken into a decrepit warehouse. He was devastated by the sight that he was met with. He never thought that he would see her again; he thought that this would make her safe. But they’d found her; they’d found both of them.

He hadn’t been able to protect her.

They had tied her wrists and ankles to a chair in the centre of the room using white cable tidies. People surrounded her watching her every move. He was forced to sit and watch as they tortured her, telling him everything that he had done wrong in the situation for the past couple of years, relaying all his mistakes.

“You know your plan never would have worked,” one said. “You just made it worse for yourselves.”

“You have me now,” he said, his voice cracking, desperate to protect her. “Let her go. She has nothing to do with this.”

“Oh, she has everything to do with this.”

He could see the fear in her eyes. It was the same fear that he had seen when he told her that they were coming for her all those years ago. Neither of them were expecting this; they both thought that they’d got away with it.

“It was always our plan to get you both. It was cute that you split to try and protect her, but it was never going to work. You were outnumbered. We decided to lull you into a false sense of security first. It’s more fun when you’re not expecting it.”

That’s when he realised that they had made the wrong decision. They should have stuck together. Even if they’d spent their whole lives on the run, at least they would have been together. They would have been able to protect each other.

Maybe if he’d allowed himself to be close to her, trusted himself to protect her, he wouldn’t have had to watch it that day. When the bullet left the gun, he could almost see it travelling through the air towards her. His first instinct was to jump forwards. he thought that he could make it in time, his last act of protection. But he didn’t. He fell at her feet as the bullet penetrated her skin.

He hadn’t been able to save or protect her.

The Baby

I observed her carefully, a lion observing its prey, whilst she fiddled with her fingers. Over time, her hair had grown limp but it was not quite grey, rather an off-brown colour. She wasn’t old – mid-thirties, merely a few years younger than myself. However, her frail frame made her seem so much older than I was: she hunched over, clutching her stomach at all times, shuffling her feeble feet along behind her.

Her head snapped up and she appeared to notice that I was there for the first time. Uncomfortable, I shuffled in my seat, adjusting my belted-jeans around my waist.

“Tea?” she smiled.

Despite the fact that I had not yet answered, she reached forward, humming softly, for the pot to pour me a cup.

“That would be great. Thank you,” I replied politely.

“You said you take three sugars,” she stated, rather than asked.

I hadn’t said anything of the sort, but, instead, I nodded politely. I wasn’t planning on drinking the beverage anyway.

“You really ought to see the baby,” she insisted.

I shuffled around in the chair, trying to find a position that could swallow my discomfort and allow me to engage in normal conversation. I hadn’t seen her in years; my own sister, lonely and isolated from everybody she once knew.

“That would be great,” I mumbled, repeating myself.

Then, as if she hadn’t moved, her head bowed and she continued humming. Her voice caused shivers to tingle across every millimetre of my being. That dark, low, chilling tone full of regret and guilt.

Rarely blinking, her eyes stayed focused on her fingers which were fiddling with the hem of her white dress.

“You really ought to see the baby,” she repeated.

I hated seeing her like this; even when we were children I would hide if she ever had a bug. But then, it wasn’t that I hated seeing her ill, rather I didn’t want to catch the illness.

Except I couldn’t catch this one; fortunately for me, it was unlikely that I would ever experience what she was going through. She had suffered a loss that nobody should ever had to endure the pain of.

“There is no baby,” I muttered.

My words hung like death, lingering with an unspeakable enmity.

Head snapping up, there was a glint of sadness in her eye, as though she knew that I was right but didn’t want to admit it to herself.

Then, she bowed her head and began to fiddle with her fingers again.

“She’s very beauty,” she informed me. “You really ought to see her.”

The humming continued.

Reunion

After five years, she just happened to be walking down her street? They hadn’t spoken since halfway through their first year of college, when there was an altercation with a boy that neither of them could remember the name of. Before this, they were good friends, the best of. But, this type of betrayal at such an important age cut through their friendship, rendering them hopelessly without each other. Piper really missed Cara still; whenever something happened she wanted to discuss it with Cara. It had been Cara that had run off with Piper’s boyfriend, but Piper didn’t care about that anymore. She just wanted her friend back; she had done for years. But, there wasn’t any way that she could get back into contact with her. She had tried last year, but the message was left without a response.

Piper was sat at her dressing table in her flat on the top floor of an apartment building in Maida Vale. Putting on a light layer of makeup, she checked the time regularly to ensure that she was ready at Warwick Avenue underground station in time for her daily commute to work. This morning, she had extra time because Dominic had to be up slightly earlier to get to a meeting in Norwich. She’d risen at the same time as him for a morning which allowed her to take her time, rather than the chaotic rush that it always was.

Gazing out of the window, she noticed a girl with long, ginger hair strolling along the other side of the street. She recognised her instantly, her hair striking. She’d only ever known one person to have hair like that before. Cara.

After all this time, what are the chances that Cara would be walking down her street at half past seven in the morning?

Part of her wanted to run out into the street right then and there to try to reconnect with her old friend. But, the other part of her remembered when her latest message to Cara went unanswered. This other part of her remembered that Cara did not want to know her. But, why would she be walking down Piper’s street at half past seven in the morning? Piper had never noticed her do it before. Would she ever do it again?

Piper knew that if she left right then that she might see her at the station, but there was only a three-minute window in which she’d have to arrive and it would be very hit and miss whether she’d bump into her. It all depended on the tube times and whether or not Cara was even catching the tube. She might work around here or she might use a different platform, going northbound rather than southbound like Piper.

Naturally, Cara was not at the station when Piper arrived. Therefore, she had no other option than to continue her normal journey to work.

The next day, Piper woke up slightly earlier so that she could be looking out of the window at the same time. Cara did it again; she walked past Piper’s house.

Piper watched Cara walk past from her window every weekday for almost two weeks. She had to be sure that it was her. Then, she had to make sure that she remembered her.

She had to know Cara again.

Piper got up extra early on the final morning that she saw her. She completed her usual morning routine, grabbed her briefcase and laptop and then left her house. It was perfectly timed. She could see her walking quickly in the direction that she walked in every morning. She would love to know where she went and what she did every day. She wondered whether she was going to work or whether she was going to visit someone. She just had to know her again; she wanted her to know that she walked past her house every day. Maybe it was a sign that they were supposed to know each other again.

Piper crossed the street so that she was walking directly in front of Cara, left it a few minutes and then turned around and looked her dead in the eye. It felt so strange to be looking in those eyes for the first time in so long; it made Piper realise how much she’d missed her.

“Cara?” she grinned.

“Piper?” Cara’s jaw dropped open. “Imagine seeing you here.”

As much as Piper wanted to believe that Cara was happy to see her, it didn’t seem that that was the case. She didn’t believe that Cara wanted to have a conversation with her.

Cara was so stunned by the appearance of an old friend that she didn’t know what to say. The last time they’d spoken to each other was the time when Cara told her that she was dating Piper’s newly ex-boyfriend.

“What are you doing here?” Piper asked Cara the question that had been playing on her mind for the past few weeks.

Cara didn’t stop to talk to Piper; rather, she continued her journey to the train station. Luckily, it was imperative that Cara also continued this journey in the same direction.

“I live just around the corner. I’m on my way to work.”

“I live just there. I’m on my way to work, too,” Piper smiled and pointed in the general direction of her flat, despite the fact that Cara had not asked.

The whole situation wasn’t what Piper expected it to be, but it was what she should have expected it to be. Two old friends that hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in years that didn’t end their friendship on good terms. Friends that didn’t grow apart, rather fell apart. Friends that would never be friends again; friends with an irreparable relationship.

Her

He looked at his phone, turned pale, then quickly left the room. She watched him, smiling, and put her phone back into her handbag. Sprinting to the bathroom, he splashed water on his face and re-read the message. How had he managed to get himself into such a mess like this? Why couldn’t he have ignored her advances and kept himself to himself? Why did he have to love her attention? Staring at himself hard in the mirror, he ran through the last few weeks in his head. He had done everything that she’d told him to do. What could he have done wrong?

He knew that he shouldn’t have gotten himself involved. And, now, she was coming after him…

They’re Coming for You (part 2)

Read Part 1 here


Wiping the vomit from around her mouth, the consequence of this news, he rested his hand on her shoulder. She shook it off immediately, unable to look at him as she asked the next question: “So, what do we do now?” Her voice came as barely a whisper; she was expecting them to already be able to hear her.

His hands reached for his own face, clutching at his own cheeks as he tried to maintain his normal breathing. He couldn’t show her that he was panicking; he had to remain calm and offer a collected solution. There was a long pause as he tried to think of said solution. He didn’t think that there was one.

“I think we just have to lay low for a while,” he offered.

Throwing her arms in the air, she sighed, exasperated. “Excellent!” she shouted. “Is that all you’ve got?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know what else you expect me to suggest.” He paused. “Maybe we should have some time apart and try to lay low. We’ll be easier to track down together.”

She agreed.

And he would regret that decision for the rest of his life. Because he wasn’t there to protect her. If he had been, maybe things would have ended differently for them.

 

 

They’re Coming for You

When he lifted his head, she hardly recognised him for the bruises. He smiled sorrowfully, perceiving that whatever he had done was his fault, realising that she would be disappointed.

“What have you done?” she groaned, laying her hands on his shoulders affectionately.

Shaking his head, he didn’t possess the ability to tell her anything that had happened due to the trauma it had caused. The sobbing started and she drew him into her arms violently, haphazardly stroking the back of his head.

“I’ve made a terrible mistake,” he wept into the crook of her neck.

“What have you done?” she repeated, begging for an answer.

Gazing forwards, unable to look her in the eye, his skin was tinged green and grey. “They’re coming for you.”

Frozen, she gawped at him, expecting him to tell her that he was joking, wishing for him to laugh and tell her that he’d taken care of it. He looked deadly serious. She was already dead.

One Month Later

Thomas was going back to a place which he hoped he’d never see again. The bar where he’d met her, the bar where he’d met Emily. It was one of the nicest bars, albeit one of the only, in their village. It was where him and his friends went to pre-drink before a big night out when they were home from university, especially when there were too many people to do it at someone’s house, because they could get quite a few taxis into the nearest town, and it was cheap enough whilst remaining quite classy.

It didn’t smell like the inside of a toilet like some of the bars that they’d tried nearer to the clubs. It wasn’t dimly lit, with fairy lights all around the perimeters and beams, giving it a cosy feeling. It was perfect for a date; it was perfect for a nice meal earlier in the evening. It was a multifunctional venue, slightly rowdier at the weekends and on Friday nights, which gave it more of a party vibe – the students would leave their houses and have a few drinks at the bar with the intention of getting drunk. But, on a week night, like this evening, it was almost empty. Very chilled. Exactly what he needed after how the past few months had been.

He had managed to avoid this place since he and Emily had ended things little under a month ago. It was such a central place to everyone that he knew, and he knew that she came here with her friends fairly regularly from the five years that they were together. Although he had decided that he was going to move on, he wasn’t quite ready to bump into her; he wasn’t sure how he should act around her.

Peter, his best friend from school, was late – as usual. It was inherent in his personality. From a young age, Peter had been late for everything. Everyone had learned to tell him they were meeting half an hour before they were, but he became wise to this and started assuming that they were meeting half an hour after whatever was suggested, meaning that on average he was about forty-five minutes late every time.

Thomas set himself up to face directly towards the door so that he could see exactly who was walking in. It would be a disaster for Peter to have to walk around and find you because, if you weren’t immediately obvious, he would walk straight past you and claim that you weren’t there.

Thomas was not prepared for all who came through the door. Everyone who he used to go to school with strolled in and he found himself regretting his choice of seat. Some of them pretended not to recognise him; like him, they didn’t want to fake happiness to see someone they barely knew. They didn’t want the awkwardness of a conversation motivated by small talk and politeness. They didn’t want to have to pretend to know someone that they hadn’t seen or spoken to for five years, someone that they barely knew to begin with and knew even less so now.

However, a few of them, to Thomas’s horror, decided that they were going to be nice and start a conversation with him. The first was the school’s best athlete, possibly in years, whom competed in all the district athletic competitions and most for the county; she dislocated her knee before she made it to national level. Her name completely escaped him after five years of no contact. Awkwardly, she asked the standard questions like what he was doing now and whether or not he was still with Emily. He couldn’t get used to the fact that he’d had to start saying no to the latter. He never thought he’d have to do that and despised the reaction he got: “Oh, that’s such a shame; you were so good together.” He wanted to tell them all that they didn’t know what they were talking about because they didn’t know what his and Emily’s relationship was like by the end.

The next person to enter and not pretend he didn’t know Thomas was Charlie, who Thomas spent many years with at both secondary school and primary school; they played football together. Thomas was much more excited to see and speak to him than he was to speak to the girl that did athletics. But, Thomas quickly got distracted from the usual questions of how he is, what he’s doing and whether he and Emily are still together when Emily herself strolled into the bar. She was beaming, glowing even, for the first time in months. She had dyed her hair dark, chocolate-brown, replacing the medium, ash-blonde which it was when he’d last seen her a month prior. She looked so different; she was happy.

Catching Thomas’s eye, he witnessed her body freeze. Quickly shaking it off, she reached for the hand of the guy walking next to her. Thomas felt his heart drop; Charlie spun around to see Emily and this guy walking away from them, still hand in hand. They sat at a dinner table nearby which displayed a ‘Reserved’ sign, a candle and rose decorating it. Thomas yearned for that to be him, taking a pretty brunette in a red dress out for an amorous meal at her favourite restaurant.

Charlie rapidly excused himself, unknowing of what to say in this situation. It wasn’t long before Peter arrived but Thomas couldn’t stop looking at Emily and this guy. She was reaching across the table, her fingers entwined with his. They gazed at each other affectionately, hardly noticing when the waitress came over to take their order. She looked happy.

Despite the hurt he caused her, he did love her and he didn’t want to see her with another man. Although, paradoxically, he did want to see her happy, like she was now, and he did want to see her with someone who could do a lot better than he ever could. He took her for granted and, now, he was the one paying the price.

He knew from the moment they ended their relationship that she was going to find someone else. She was a beautiful girl with a bright future ahead of her. He just didn’t see it coming so quickly. He had prepared himself for the fact that he might see her in here with her friends this evening, but he hadn’t suspected that he might see her in here with another man, less than one month after their relationship ended.

Silence

The house wasn’t the same to her anymore. In every corner, in every crevice, there were memories and recollections of what her life used to be like. They weren’t welcome reminders; it was so much better then. She could wander into her kitchen and see their standard, typical, space-grey oven sticking out a little further than the cupboards did. It was something that had always really annoyed her; why couldn’t they have just measured everything properly so it all fitted correctly? It reminded her of a time when they would lazily get up late on a Sunday morning and cook their breakfast together; he would always stub his toe and curse the fact that it wasn’t fitted accurately. The grey sofa reminded her of those Sunday afternoons when they used to sit around, ignoring the responsibilities that Monday morning would bring. The wine stains on said sofa recalled a time on Saturdays when they’d turn down going out to a bar with their friends, opening a bottle of wine at home together to make the most of each other’s company.

Hauling bags of food in from the car, she placed them on the kitchen counters and waited a few minutes to see if he would heave himself from bed and help her to put the shopping away – he hadn’t bothered coming with her to help, the least he could do was help place it back neatly in the cupboards. Of course, he barely even noticed that she was back.

Silently fuming, she passive-aggressively slammed the cupboard doors as she set jars of pasta sauces on the emptying shelves. There was a time when they used to home-make these together, but it wasn’t fun when she had to do it on her own and it wasn’t appreciated when she did. He lost interest in helping around the house after a while, leaving her to do these mundane tasks whilst he lounged around, doing nothing – something which they used to do together after sharing the housework.

Not even this slamming rose him; he remained in his usual position, the football on the television in front of him. He just didn’t care.

She knew that the honeymoon period was never going to last, but with them it had lasted a lot longer than most couples. Therefore, she was lead to believe that this was going to be their relationship. That their relationship would be that relationship – the one that didn’t succumb to the cliché of the honeymoon period. But of course, when it did fall, it fell quickly and all at once.

He fell out of love with her.

The day passed her by silently. They barely said two words to each other, something which happened more often than not in the recent times. She climbed into the side of her bed, the cold and uninviting bed. The place that used to seem so warm and welcoming. The place where she could wind down with him, watching their favourite films and TV shows, after a stressful day at work. Now, she felt like they were miles apart. They were sleeping next to each other, but whenever she tried to touch him, he moved away or rolled over. He used to seek her out, making contact. Now, he avoided it.

He was still in bed, watching Match of the Day, despite having watched the football all day and probably knowing everything that they were about to say.

“You going to sleep?” he questioned.

Nodding, she was surprised that he’d said anything to her at all.

“Goodnight,” he smiled, not looking at her as he continued staring at the screen.

Sighing, she laid down. Closed eyes, she pretended that she was asleep until he finally turned the television off and occupied the space on the opposite edge of the bed. There was so much distance between them, but so much more than just physical distance.

Once the heavy breathing started, she turned and faced him. She watched him as he laid on his back, mouth wide open, and snoring gently. She observed the way his chest moved in his deep slumber.

Hand reaching out, it gently touched his. To her surprise, his eyes fluttered open and his arms reached out, pulling her into him. He kissed her, albeit blandly, for the first time in months.

Being this close to him didn’t feel the same as it used to. Now, it just felt awkward. She felt as though she were sharing a bed with a stranger. With sadness, she realised that they needed time apart.