“So he was just standing there? Staring at you?” Kim is at my stove, wooden spoon in hand as she gently stirs the pasta sauce that smells like heaven on earth. Since I’m about as useful in the kitchen as a wet fart I relegate myself to the barstool, wineglass in hand and staying out of the way.
“It was really creepy.” I saw the man yesterday and ever since then I’ve been traveling down Paranoia Avenue, peeking through the windows every ten minutes, making sure all the doors are locked and keeping Bennett close at my side. As it is, he’s sprawled across my couch, snoring softly, his floppy ears twitching every-so-often. What he’s dreaming of is anyones guess. I like to think his dreams are a lot less stressful then mine.
“You know this neighborhood better then I do,” I point out, “Can you think of any creepy people living around here?”
Kim considers this for a moment. “No. No, I can’t. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. You never really know people, ya know? Did you call the police?”
“No...what would I tell them?” I sigh.
“Um, how about that a creeper is lurking around your house? That you feel unsafe?”
I roll my eyes, “I’ll call them if he shows up again, okay?”
She nods like it’s decided.
“And I still can’t believe a puppy just showed up at your door.” Kim was instantly taken with Bennett, even if she was a little perplexed as to how he came out of nowhere.
“I was thinking of getting one anyways. This just saves me time and money.” I’m not even bothering with the question of how Bennett found me. Between the man, the dreams and my new house, my bruised brain can’t handle much else.
“He’s going to be huge, Fu. Did you know Newfoundland dogs, males in particular, can be up to 150 pounds?”
I didn’t know that. Shit. That’s really big.
“Well it’s a good thing I have a king size bed,” I smile as she rolls her eyes at me.
“Sauce is almost done,” Kim says as she checks the noodles and pulls the garlic bread out of the oven. Watching her dominate my kitchen is oddly satisfying, especially since the most action my kitchen has seen since I moved in is a few baked chicken breasts and instant macaroni. A chef, I am not.
I hop off my perch and pull down a few plates and some silverware. We load up with pasta, bread and salad and go to sit at my dining table. Bennett ambles over to sit by my side, using the full power of his blue face to coax some food out of me.
“How are your headaches, by the way?” I think Kim hates them more then I do.
“Not bad actually. After I had the dream of that woman running in terror I had a small one, but it went away after I got back from the vet,” I say around a mouthful of food.
“Does it seem like they’re going away now that you’ve moved to the coast?”
I nod and take a sip of wine, “It does. I attribute it to the fresh air and this house.” I toss Bennett a morsel of food.
Kim looks around. “There is something about this place…” her voice trails off as she continues her assessment. “It’s like it has it’s own little force field surrounding it. The second I step inside I feel safe.”
I hide the fact that she uses the exact words the woman in my dreams did to describe my house.
The weather is lovely today. There’s a slight breeze that cools the sweat dripping down my temples. I’m making an attempt at cleaning up my front yard. I’ve mowed the lawn, cleaned out the flower beds and am now in the process of planting some rose bushes. I’ve pricked my fingers more times then I can count and a string of curse words have been flowing consistently since I started this project two hours ago. Bennett is laying on the porch with his head on his paws, watching me with what I can only assume is amusement.
“Bastard roses,” I grumble as I wrestle with the bush, “Why can’t you just get in the hole already?”
“That’s what she said,” a deep voice grumbles from behind me.
I start and turn around, coming face to face with one of the most attractive men I’ve ever seen in my life. Light brown eyes stare at me from a face that looks like it was duplicated from a Roman God. Full lips, spiky brown hair and a strong jaw…yep, God he is. His body is just as gorgeous as his face, with wide shoulders, a narrow waist and legs that seem to travel for days.
Usually I’m the one to make men swallow their tongues but I’ve been thoroughly put in my place with this one. I can’t even get out a syllable.
He seems equally as shocked as I am. He stares at my face like he’s looking at the “Mona Lisa.” Bennett has come to stand at my side, eyeing my handsome stranger with suspicion.
The man finds his voice before I do and says, “Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” His voice is deep and manly. I try very hard not to swoon.
I give myself a mental shake and answer with, “No. No, it’s fine. I was just…uh…doing some gardening.” Clever, Captain Obvious.
He gives me a full-on smile and I swear little hearts start to halo around my head. “You just moved in, right?” He takes a tentative step onto my lawn. I must look like a deer in the headlights for how cautious he seems.
“Yeah. Yeah I did. A few weeks ago.”
“Sorry I haven’t been by sooner to introduce myself. You know how work can keep you chained down.”
Actually I don’t. I haven’t worked since the accident but I’m not about to share that with a complete stranger. So I only nod and give a watery smile.
He extends his hand and says, “My name is Keith. I live just a few blocks down.” His hands are huge and I try not to let my brain go to certain places regarding large hands. It doesn’t work very well.
“I’m Fu.” Yes, dip shit Fu you are. “I mean Cindy. My name is Cindy…but everyone calls me Fu.”
He gives a hardy laugh that makes my insides turn to jello. “How did you come about Fu?”
I shrug, “Been with me since before I can remember.” I’m pleased my voice sounds stronger.
“I like it,” is all he says. He’s still holding my hand. I’m not comfortable with how comfortable it feels so I gently tug it back. He lets go somewhat reluctantly.
We stand in awkward silence. I’m very aware of how much I stink and how dirty my clothes are. My hair is a rats nest piled on top of my head and I’m pretty sure I have a mud stain on the seat of my pants. I really hope he doesn’t think I shit myself.
“Well, I better get back to my garden here. It was nice to meet you.” I’m usually a lot more suave when it comes to the opposite sex, but this Keith character is jumbling me up and I don’t like it. I take refuge is scratching Bennett behind the ears.
Keith gets the message though and gives me one more mega-watt smile, “Yes, of course. It was a pleasure to meet you, Fu. Don’t be a stranger.” He walks away gracefully, his long legs eating up the sidewalk with ease. He glances back and me and waves. I wave back, feeling like the biggest dingleberry to ever wander the free world.
I look down at Bennett, “Since when did I become such a dingus?”
He “woofs” up at me.
I turn back to my roses and get back into it, all the while picturing Keith’s handsome face in places it shouldn’t be.
Gardening is hard. I’m in good shape thanks to years of ballet but, dear God, does my body hurt. I never realized how fracking physical it was to wrestle with rose bushes. So I took it upon myself to draw up a nice hot bath, complete with bubbles and bath salts that are dissolving up my ass…oddly pleasant. I’m soaking happily, sipping a glass of wine. Bennett is sitting on my bathmat, snoozing.
Even though it sucked, I’m happy with how the front yard looks. The flowers look terrific and the lawn looks like something from a catalog cover. I’m anxious to start in on the backyard. It will be a bigger project with a lot more headache but I imagine that the satisfaction will be twice as great.
My head has a dull thump knocking on my temples. It started up just as I was finishing with the last rose bush. Bennett came over to me and started nuzzling under my arm, as if telling me I needed to slow down. Normally I would have just pushed through and continued with my chores, but I took his advice. I’m glad I did because I know this headache would be a hell of a lot worse if I hadn’t quit for the day.
Instead of medicating, I poured a glass of wine and now here I sit, basking in my success and thinking about a certain tall, kinda dark and handsome man. Holy blue balls but he was good looking.
It just now occurs to me that I haven’t had sex in over a year, much less gone on a date. Jesus, how did I let that happen? Although, I guess it’s not much of a surprise since I was in rehab for months trying to retrain my body to cooperate with my head.
I think Keith should reintroduce me to the dating world. A wicked smile creeps up on my face as I imagine the possibilities. He could be a nice distraction to all the weird shit happening around me. When I was cleaning up my gardening tools I could have sworn I saw something move amongst the thicket of trees across the street, the same place where I saw that person. I was too distracted by the growing headache to really think about it, but now that I’m finally relaxing I realize it did look suspiciously like a man wearing a coat.
Unease and paranoia try to crowd in around me but I boldly push them away. I will not be intimidated. I will think about Keith and my new house and my new dog.
She’s standing in the doorway. She’s paralyzed with shock. Her hand trembles as she looks down at the note she can’t stop clutching. He’s here. And he’s coming for her. She knew this day would come and even still it makes her blood run cold. She will fight back. She has to.
Now she’s running. And she’s terrified. If he catches her it’s all over. She knows this so she makes her legs run faster. Get home. Get home. Get home.
She sees her house a block away and tries to run even faster.
She knows he’s right behind her. She can hear him panting. She can’t let him catch her.
She screams when she feels his hand clamp down on her shoulder.
It’s all over.
I’m sitting at the head of my bed, sweating profusely and trying desperately to get that woman out of my head. She won’t leave, though, and it scares me and pisses me off in equal measures. My heart won’t stop pounding. All I hear is that scream when she realizes she’s totally screwed.
Bennett is panting nervously, laying across my lap, his already substantial weight weighing my legs down like a lead ball. He occasionally licks my hand that absently stokes his soft fur. The motion is soothing so I try and use it to calm down my Clydesdale heart.
What note? What is this note that she was looking at? I try to remember what the words were but I actually think I didn’t get a look at them, which is extremely annoying. While my headache has gone away I feel like my brain is too big for my skull. It’s not throbbing, per se, but it’s making it’s presence known. I would cry if I wasn’t so annoyed.
I glance at the clock. It’s 3:47 in the morning and I know I won’t get a wink of sleep after the shit-storm my damaged brain delivered me.
I give Bennett a kiss on his nose and gently nudge him off my legs. I think it’s time for some painting.
I’m setting up my canvas and deciding on what paints I want to use. I’m leaning towards black and grey…something to go with my crappy mood. I’m about to lay brush to canvas when I glance out the window and see that dude standing under the cluster of trees.
My heart stops. My blood stops. And my already foul mood explodes through the ceiling.
“Hell no!” I throw my brush down and stomp towards my front door, Bennett at my heels. I hear a low growl emanating from his throat.
I throw the front door open and I holler into the night, “YOU WILL NOT DO THIS TO ME!” I stumble down my porch steps. I hear Bennett “woofing” and scratching at the door that I slammed shut but I’m too pissed to do anything about it. I start marching across the street. “What did you do?!” My blood is boiling. “What did you do to that woman, you bastard! Come out and face me like a fucking man, you pussy!” Why I think this man is connected to the woman in my dreams is anyones guess, but as I say the words I know they are true.
I see him turn tail and charge into the woods. I don’t even think as I leap after him. I won’t let him get away. I won’t let him do this. This is my goddamn house. He can fuck a duck if he thinks he can scare me out of here.
“I see you, you sick bastard!” I don’t really see him, since he can apparently run faster then any human I know. But I figure I may as well use what I’ve got. Obviously this man is too yellow to face me.
A part of my brain whispers it’s not such a wise idea to charge into the woods after a creeper in the dead of night with nothing but my nighty for protection but I’m too pissed off to really listen to the voice of reason. Twigs and rocks cut into my feet but I hardly notice. I run blindly, trying to listen for his feet making any commotion. I don’t hear anything which only fuels my fire.
I burst through the trees onto a residential street. It’s quiet as a graveyard. No lights are on in any of the houses, no creepers streaking down the street. I’m completely alone.
“I’ll find you, you twisted fuck. And when I do I’m putting your balls in a sling.” I say it loudly enough for him to possibly hear me if he’s hiding nearby but not so loud as to wake the neighborhood.
I jog back to my house, only now realizing I’m running around in a slip nighty and it’s fracking cold out. My feet are numb and hurting and I somehow have a gash across my thigh. Awesome.
I break through the woods. I hear poor Bennett howling so I break into a sprint and charge through the front door. He’s in my arms before I even close the door, crying like the little sweetie he is.
“I’m so sorry, baby,” I coo into his ear. He’s wiggling his big furry body up against me, trying to get as close as he possibly can. Seeing his panic makes me realize how incredibly stupid I actually am. Who just runs out into the dark to chase down someone who clearly has an interest in them, malevolent or otherwise? I’m a total dip-shit. Bennett keeps up his whining, however softer, and I keep cooing at him, “I promise I won’t do that again, Bennett. I promise, I promise, I promise. That was so stupid of me.”
My soft words eventually calm him down enough for me to get off the floor. I hold him in my arms, realizing that eventually he will be too big for me to carry so I may as well take all I can get now.
I grab my phone from my nightstand and sit on the bed with Bennett in my arms as I call the police. It may not do anything, but at least I can give them a heads up that someone is creeping around my property. I feel like an idiot because they don’t even send a squad car to my house...they just tell me they will have someone “patrol” the neighborhood more often, and by that I’m guessing it’ll just be some fat guy sitting in his car eating donuts and ticketing people for rolling a stop sign. I hang up feeling like a dip-shit.
Bennett and I head back towards the studio. I’m not really in the mood to paint but I have everything out and ready and I figure it would be a better use of my time then stewing over what just happened.
I place Bennett on the daybed and get to work, all the while knowing in every cell of my body that this isn’t over.