The Perfect Victim
Today was the day!
Dawn hopped out of bed, her eyes shining brightly with glee. Normally, she wasn't a morning person at all; she much preferred the night. But this morning, nothing could sour her mood. Nothing at all. Why? Because today was the day the new book by her favorite horror author was to be released.
She planned on getting to the bookstore early so she could get her hands on a copy before anyone else. Then she was going to spend the day curled up on the sofa, reading to her heart's content. That sounded like the most perfect day ever to Dawn.
Glancing at her alarm clock, she saw she still had another hour before the bookstore opened. Good. That gave her time to eat some breakfast, shower, and get herself ready to go out.
Ambling into the kitchen, Dawn filled her kettle with water and set it on the stove to boil. She always needed a cup of tea in the morning to get herself motivated. While the water heated, she rummaged through her cupboards, trying to decide if she wanted cereal, or if she wanted to put in the effort to make French toast instead.
Cereal sounded better. It was easier and, quite frankly, she wasn't feeling French toast-y today. Taking out the box of Lucky Charms, she set it on the counter and found herself a bowl and spoon. She poured herself some and carried the bowl over to the fridge. She pulled out the milk and poured some over her cereal. After the milk was replaced, she went and sat at the table, staring down into the bowl.
"Do I really want to eat this?" she muttered to herself as her stomach rumbled. Dawn did have a tendency to skip breakfast, even though she knew it was the most important meal or whatever the saying was. It wasn't like she cared.
Just then, the kettle began to whistle. She got up and shut the stove off, moving the kettle to the back burner. She got herself a mug and fixed herself a cup of tea. The aroma washed over her, making her close her eyes and sigh softly. She loved the smell of tea.
Once Dawn finished her breakfast, she set her dirty dishes in the sink, planning on doing them later. She made her way back to her bedroom and found herself some clothes to wear. Humming to herself as she wandered into the bathroom, she thought about the new book she was looking forward to buying. She wondered what it would be about. Would there be lots of blood? A monster? Maybe she'd even shed some tears. That thought made her laugh.
She showered, dried off, got dressed, and fussed with her hair, pulling it back into a messy bun. She stared at herself in the mirror for a few minutes, mumbling about how plain and boring she looked. But she supposed she'd rather look the way she did rather than look like some airbrushed model. At least she didn't have to constantly impress people. That would be way too stressful for her.
Glancing at the alarm clock again, she saw that the bookstore would be open in twenty minutes. It would take her about fifteen to get there. Unless she walked. It looked like rain, though.
"A little rain never hurt anyone," Dawn said to herself with a smile. She liked the rain. "Just got to grab my umbrella and I am all set."
She walked into the living room and grabbed her keys, her umbrella, and her money, which she stuffed into her pocket. She never carried a purse or wallet. Her logic was, if someone wanted to steal from her, they'd have to put their hands on her, and if that happened, she'd kick their ass. No one touched her without her permission.
Finally ready to go, Dawn opened her front door and stepped outside. Locking the door behind her, she started off down the path that led to the sidewalk. As she walked, she let her mind wander. Losing herself in her thoughts, she didn't even realize it had started to rain. When she did, she was already soaked through. Shrugging, she opened her umbrella and raised it above her head, not really caring that it was pointless to do so. She was only about five minutes away now. Why bother shielding herself from the rain?
When she arrived at the bookstore, she saw that they were just opening the doors. Grinning, she hurried over and closed her umbrella, leaning it against the wall before stepping inside.
It was warm in the store. And it smelled like heaven. A beautiful place where she could feel at home. She wished she could live here. It really was perfect in her eyes.
Feeling silly for standing there just inside the door, Dawn shook her head, sending raindrops flying. She strode through the store, her eyes alight with determination and excitement. She knew exactly where she wanted to go, and once she got to the stand with the sign proclaiming the release of the new horror novel, she bit the inside of her cheek to stifle the happy shriek that wanted to escape her lips.
Reaching out almost tentatively, she picked up a copy of the book and inhaled, reveling in the scent of a brand new paperback. She knew she probably looked strange to anyone who wasn't as big of a book nerd as she, but she honestly didn't care right now. She had what she wanted and she wasn't going to let anyone ruin her elated mood.
Taking her sacred treasure up to the register, she set it down in front of the tired looking cashier, the grin still on her face.
"Will that be all for you today?" the cashier asked, not even trying to hide her yawn.
"Yes, that will be all," Dawn said, practically bouncing on her heels.
The girl behind the counter rang the book up and told Dawn the total. Handing over the money, Dawn eagerly awaited her change and her brand new purchase. Once she had both, she did a little dance and made her way back outside.
She bent down to pick up her umbrella, which had fallen to the ground. As she stood back up, she came face to face with someone standing before her. She let out a startled yelp and dropped her bag and her umbrella.
"Oh, I'm sorry," the voice of the stranger said, his tone apologetic. "Here, let me help you with that."
Dawn blinked, not believing her eyes. The man in front of her, who was now holding out her things to her, was none other than the author of the book she had just bought. She thought her heart might have stopped as she stood there, unable to take back her things. She knew she probably looked foolish, so she forced herself to breathe as she reached for her umbrella and her bag.
Taking her things, she stared down at the ground, her cheeks pink as she mumbled a thank you to him. She heard him laugh, which only made her feel absurd. Why was she acting like such a star struck nutter?
"Are you all right, miss?" he asked, a worried look crossing his face when she finally met his eyes. "I didn't hurt you or anything, did I?"
Dawn shook her head. "Oh, no, I'm fine. It's just... well, you're the Benjamin Freeman. I'm a huge fan. I've read all of your books! I love them so much."
Benjamin chuckled, which only served to redden her cheeks more. She knew she was babbling like an idiot, but she couldn't help herself. It wasn't every day she got to talk to one of her idols.
"It makes me happy to hear that. Always a pleasure to meet a fan." He motioned to the bag in her hands. "Is that my new book? Would you like me to sign it for you?"
Dawn let out a sound like a whimper as she nodded and took the book from out of the bag. She handed it to him shakily, her heart racing. She watched as he dug a pen out of his messenger bag, which she hadn't noticed before, and quickly scrawled his signature on the front page of the book.
When he handed it back to her, their fingers touched, which sent a thrill through her. She blushed again, her face burning with shame. She felt like such a pervert for feeling this way. Why couldn't she control herself? She doubted he noticed, but it still bothered her.
"I hope you enjoy the book," Benjamin said, a smile on his face. "I'm quite proud of that one, if I'm being honest. I think it's my best work yet."
Dawn managed to return the smile, just barely, and thanked him again. "I'm sure I will love it. It was nice to meet you, Benjamin. I'm just... I'll be on my way now."
She turned away from him and mentally kicked herself for being so pathetic. But at least she hadn't managed to make a complete fool of herself. Plus, she'd gotten her book signed, which was way more than she ever could have hoped for.
She had taken two steps when his voice rang out behind her. "Miss? I never did get your name."
She wanted to turn back around. She wanted to run up to him and wrap her arms around him in a hug. But she didn't do either of those things, knowing they would only make things more awkward. Instead, she called over her shoulder, "It's Dawn. My name is Dawn."
She started walking again, but stopped when she heard his footsteps coming up behind her. He laid a hand on her shoulder, which caused her to shiver. She slowly turned to face him, unsure of what he wanted now.
"Are you walking?" he asked. "In this downpour?"
"Well, I can't let my biggest fan do that. Come on, I'll give you a ride home."
Dawn stared at him in shock. Had she heard right? Benjamin Freeman wanted to give her a ride home. In his car. Well, duh, how else would he give you a ride home?
"Oh, I couldn't ask you to do that," she told him. "I wouldn't want to keep you from doing...whatever it is that you're here to do. I can walk. It's not far."
"I insist," Benjamin stated in a firm tone. "It's really no trouble at all."
Dawn only nodded and followed him to his car. She got in when he opened the door for her and buckled herself in, feeling nervous and delighted. She couldn't believe her luck. Here she was, a plain old nobody, getting a ride home from her favorite author. Could this day get any better?
Benjamin settled himself in on the driver's side and buckled his seatbelt before starting the car. He glanced over at Dawn and smiled as he pulled out of the parking lot.
"I just live a few blocks down. Over on Grove street. Do you know where that is?"
He nodded. "Of course. I know this town like the back of my hand."
Dawn felt relieved. She couldn't give directions to save her life. Even though she knew how to get back to her house from the bookstore, she knew if she had to explain it to him, she'd screw it up somehow and make a fool out of herself.
She tried not to let herself daydream as they drove. She wanted to remain in the here and now, just in case she needed to answer a question or something. But Benjamin seemed quiet the entire way. She wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
When he turned onto Grove street, she rattled off her house number and waited for him to stop in front of it. Gazing out the window, she wondered what Benjamin thought of her sad little one bedroom house. It really didn't look like much from the outside, but she'd done her best to make the inside look cheerful and cozy. She wasn't even sure why she cared what he thought. It wasn't like it mattered.
Dawn reached for the door handle and started to get out, but a strong hand on her shoulder stopped her. "Aren't you going to invite me inside?"
She felt a nagging sense of worry at the back of her mind, but quickly suppressed it, realizing she was being stupid. Even though she found it strange that he wanted to accompany her into the house, she didn't say no. "Yeah, sure. I can make you some tea if you'd like. It's the only thing I drink."
Benjamin shut the car off and got out, striding over to the passenger side and helping her out, as well. "Tea would be nice, thank you."
They ran through the rain, getting soaked as Dawn fumbled with her keys. She finally got the door open and stepped inside, Benjamin following behind her. He shut the door and locked it, his eyes locked on Dawn as she shrugged out of her jacket and hung it up.
"You can sit at the kitchen table," she told him, motioning with her hand. "I'll get some water on for the tea. Shouldn't take too long."
Benjamin walked into the little kitchen and sat down, watching her as she moved about with graceful ease, filling her green kettle with water and setting it on the stove to boil. She got two mugs from the cupboard and set those on the counter, sticking a tea bag in each one before finally joining him at the table.
"Can I ask you something? What...what are you doing here? I mean, I don't understand why you wanted to bring me home and why you wanted to come inside."
He smirked, but it didn't reach his eyes. "Well, my dear, I can't tell you that. It's kind of a secret."
Dawn frowned. "A secret? What's that supposed to mean? I'm just a nobody. A silly fan. Why would you single me out?"
Benjamin sighed. "Because you're perfect. That's all I can tell you right now."
She started to ask him for a better explanation, thinking she might just tell him to leave if he was going to play games with her, but before the words could come out of her mouth, the kettle began to whistle, startling her. She jumped up and shut the burner off, then poured the scalding hot water into the mugs. She brought them both to the table and set one in front of him. "Sugar's in the bowl right here."
"Oh, I don't need sugar," he said, his expression neutral. "You're the sweetest thing in the room right now."
Dawn blushed and rolled her eyes. "Really? Is that the best you can do?"
Benjamin scoffed and got up, walking over to where she was standing. She looked at him, a confused expression on her face. Her lips parted, but the question she had died as he leaned in and pressed his own lips to hers.
This can't be happening! her mind shrieked. You need to stop this. What is wrong with you?
Dawn ignored her thoughts, still in shock over the fact that she was standing in her kitchen with her favorite author, and he was kissing her. His lips were soft and warm. He tasted like peppermint. She wanted more. Was she dreaming? Had she let her fantasies bleed over into reality again? God, she hoped not. How embarrassing would that be?
She opened her eyes when he pulled away, her breath catching in her throat. "Wow."
Benjamin chuckled and trailed a finger down her cheek. "I take it that was good for you?"
She nodded, unable to form a coherent sentence. Her face was flushed and she felt like she was swooning. She closed her eyes, trying to calm herself down. But his next words only made her heart race faster.
"Can I kiss you again?"
Dawn squeaked, her eyes flying open. She didn't even have a chance to respond. His mouth were on hers again, and this time, she could feel his tongue against her lower lip. She parted her lips, letting him in. At the first touch of his tongue against hers, she felt herself go weak in the knees. Wrapping her arms around him, she steadied herself and kissed him back with fervor.
She was so lost in the kiss that she didn't even realize he'd picked up her mug of tea until she felt a burning sensation lighting a fire from her neck to her lower back. She pushed herself away from him, a cry of pain coming from her lips. She whirled around, reaching behind her in a frenzy to try and stop whatever was causing the pain.
Benjamin came up behind her and brought the mug down on top of her head, shattering it. Dawn groaned and fell to her knees. Blood began to trickle down her face, her scalp having been cut open by a shard of glass. She felt the air rush from her lungs as he kicked her, sending her sprawling to the floor.
She could see the blackness seeping in from the corners of her eyes. The pull of unconsciousness was getting stronger. But she knew she couldn't let it take her. She had to fight it. Had to stay awake and fend off her attacker. Why was she being attacked, anyway? Hadn't she just been kissing someone?
Her thoughts felt jumbled as she struggled to push herself up off the floor. She didn't even make it to a sitting position before another wave of scalding hot pain came crashing down onto her aching body. Benjamin stood over her, the tea kettle in hand. He had poured the remaining water onto her, splashing every part of her, clothed or not. Everything hurt. Why was this happening?
Dawn could feel tears leaking from her eyes, mingling with the blood that still ran down her cheeks. She managed to lift her head enough to meet his gaze and croaked out, "Why?" before she blacked out.
When she came to, she blinked and tried to move, but her body wouldn't cooperate. A second later, she realized she was tied to her kitchen table; her wrists and ankles were bound to the table legs and she wasn't going anywhere. She let out a weak cry for help, but knew no one was coming to rescue her. She was now trapped inside her own real-life horror novel.
Her entire body felt like it was on fire. She was bleeding, sore, and hurt all over. Why had Benjamin turned on her? What had she ever done to him? And where was he? She wasn't sure she wanted to know.
Dawn's eyes grew wide when she saw him step into the kitchen, holding a roll of duct tape in one hand and a knife in the other. She started to beg, to plead with him not to hurt her anymore, but her cries fell on deaf ears. Benjamin pulled a piece of tape from the roll and slapped it over her mouth, muffling the sounds of her annoying voice. Then he raised the knife and waved it in front of her face.
"I told you you would be perfect," he said with a smug smile. "The perfect victim."
Dawn struggled against her bonds, knowing what was coming next. He was going to kill her. Why hadn't she listened to that little voice in the back of her head? Why had she let him bring her home? Why had she invited him inside? It was too late to do anything about it now. She was going to die at the hands of someone who wrote sick, twisted things for a living. How ironic.
"Don't squirm. You'll only hurt yourself. Just stay still and...try to enjoy this."
Benjamin laughed and trailed the knife across her abdomen, eliciting a muffled shriek from her. Her fists clenched and her breathing picked up as she struggled not to black out again. Unfortunately for her, her body was too weak to resist the darkness this time.
The last thing she heard before she succumbed to her fate was Benjamin's voice saying, "This is going to make the perfect short story."