A Second Chance

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Chapter 23

The expression ‘red eye’ had never made more sense to Allison. She could feel her eyes burning every time she blinked them, her body was so tired it felt like it was made out of lead and her mind was sluggish and muddled. She was too tired to be awake and functioning, but she couldn’t – wouldn’t – rest until she laid eyes on Nicole.

There was a car waiting for her by the end of the unstable stairs that lead out of the plane. She got in and let her body sink on the cushioned seat like quick sand. Allison could already feel sleep trying to overcome her conscience, but there was one thing she needed to do before she could close her eyes.

The effort to keep the phone glued to her ear was too much at that point and Allison put it on speaker as soon as she dialed Nicole’s number. The ring echoed inside the car, putting a frown on the woman’s face. It wasn’t like Nicole to just ignore her phone. Allison also didn’t think she was screening the call, ignoring it because it was the singer calling. She thought they had left things in a good place after their conversation earlier that day.

When the call went to voice-mail, Allison decided to go straight home and wait for Nicole there. The bar she had gone with her friends was probably loud and she wasn’t able to hear her phone ringing from inside her purse. Or maybe she was already home, taking a shower. The image put a smile on her face and Allison closed her eyes and leaned back, dreaming of Nicole until she got home.

Allison was startled awake when the driver told her they had arrived. Leaving the concert and going straight home probably hadn’t been the best idea she had ever had, she could feel the exhaustion taking over her body, but she would do anything just to be with Nicole a few extra hours. She grabbed her purse and got out of the car, the driver trailed behind her with her bags.

Had she been more awake, the fact that the alarm system hadn’t been activated would raise enough red flags in Allison’s mind to make her movements more cautious. She knew Nicole was extremely careful with their safety and would check the alarm and the locks at least a couple of times a night, before going to bed. But Allison was exhausted and Nicole had been out drinking and she was just human and it was possible that she could forget about it all for one night.

The door closed with a thud behind her and Allison let her purse slide down her arm and fall to the ground. She was too tired to keep that heavy thing perched on her shoulder. Besides, she had heard the upstairs shower running and her mind could already picture Nicole’s naked body under the stream of water. There was a tingle in her stomach and Allison had to shake her head to make her body move again. Because of the fight that wasn’t really a fight, it had been too long since they had last been intimate and she could already feel the effects.

A small smirk bloomed on her face when she thought that maybe that would be the perfect moment to make up. And all the exhaustion oozed from her body.

Allison went up two steps at a time, following the sounds of the shower and the small sliver of light that painted the hallway. The door didn’t make any noise as she pushed it open and she crossed the bedroom with soft steps, the carpet absorbing any sound her sneakers made.

The door to the en suite bathroom was open and Allison stood in the threshold for a moment, watching the feminine silhouette she could spy through the frosted glass. The material was too opaque to allow her to see any details, but what Allison couldn’t see, her mind could easily fill in. She had Nicole’s body memorized; every curve, every edge, every spot and every blemish. It was all inside her mind.

But Allison had had enough of waiting. As much as she could picture her fiancée’s body in her mind, she wanted to touch her, to feel her.

A cloud of thick fog invaded the bathroom when she opened the shower door. It smelled like Nicole’s shampoo and Allison closed her eyes, inhaling deeply.

“Hi, baby. What took you so long?”

Allison’s eyes sprung open as if she had been shocked. That voice, she knew that voice. She didn’t think she would ever hear it again, but there it was, inside her own house. The fog dissipated and finally the voice had a face and a body to go with.

“What are you doing here, Jess?” Allison forced her voice not to waver. “How did you get into my apartment?”

“Our apartment, you mean.”

“No, Jess. This is my apartment. How did you get in here?”

As the words left Allison’s mouth, she took small steps backwards. Something about Jess’s eyes scared her enough that she didn’t want to be in the same room with her. It wasn’t just the fact that she had broken into Allison’s home or that she hadn’t seen her fiancée yet. There was a wild look to her eyes that put Allison’s heart into overdrive.

“The security guard was a dear, punching in the security code since your little friend was…” Jess pursed her lips and squinted her eyes, before finishing. “Let’s just say, incapacitated.”

Blood froze in her veins. Allison wanted to ask what she meant by incapacitated, but she wasn’t really sure if she was ready to know the answer. The Jess that stood before her was not the girl she once knew and she wouldn’t put anything past her.

“I want you out of here immediately.” Allison was trying her hardest not to show the fear that grew inside of her, but she was having a hard time keeping her voice from trembling.

Her slow backwards walk took Allison back to her bedroom. She wanted to run around the house, screaming and opening every door until she found Nicole, but she couldn’t let Jess out of her sight. She was the only one who knew exactly where Nicole was and one wrong turn in Allison’s search could be too much.

“Now, is that any way to talk to me, Ally?” Jess shut the water down, stepped out of the shower and wrapped a white towel around her body as if she owned the place. “You used to be more romantic.”

“When I had reasons to. Where’s Nicole?”

“Who cares about that stupid girl? What matters is that we are together again, my love.”

With every step Allison took backward, Jess took one forward. The singer was managing to maintain their distance, but she wasn’t sure how much longer she would be able to keep that up. Something about Jess’s voice changed when she talked about Nicole. It got filled with contempt and disdain and Allison was sure she wouldn’t be able to diffuse the situation by herself. She needed help, but as she looked around the shadowy bedroom, she remembered that she had left her purse downstairs. Her purse, with her cell phone inside.

“I care, Jess.” Allison spoke when she noticed Jess had gained some distance on her. “She’s my fiancée and I’m marrying her.”

“Why can’t you see it, Ally? You belong with me. I’m the one you really love.”

“Jess, I love Nicole. And there’s nothing you can do to change that.”

The last sentence was like adding fuel to a fire. Hot anger burned behind Jess’s eyes and, for the first time since that whole thing had started, Allison was afraid. There was something eerily evil lurking inside Jess, something Allison had never seen, and she feared someone would end the night badly hurt.

“It’s a shame you think like that, baby.” Sweetness dripped from her words, but fire still burned in her eyes. “Because, if you won’t be with me, then you won’t be with anyone else.”

“Oh, yeah? And what are gonna do about it?” Allison was trying to get Jess to focus on her words and not on her movements. “Tie me to a chair and lock me in here?”

“I thought about something a little simpler, actually.”

Allison remained motionless as a wicked half-smile bloomed on the face she once loved. The demons she could see behind Jess’s eyes grew and put Allison’s body back in motion. She managed to take a few more steps to the door, but she tripped on her own feet and fell with her left side to the ground. There was pain everywhere and she gasped, trying to fill her lungs with air.

Everything was silent for a second, until Allison heard a kind of giggle. She looked up and Jess was walking toward her, still smiling, with a kitchen knife in one of her hands. The silver blade reflected the moonlight and adrenaline kicked in, making Allison drag her body on the ground. She couldn’t even feel the carpet burning her hand and back. All of her senses were tuned to the knife Jess kept carelessly to her side.

Before Allison could reach the door, Jess took a couple of longer steps and caught up with the fallen singer. She placed her feet on each side of Allison’s body and looked down on her, like an animal would stare at its prey, all blown eyes and flared nostrils. There was something absolutely inhuman about her at that moment.

Jess fell on her knees, still bracketing the body beneath her, and used the tip of her knife to caress Allison’s skin. It was almost as if she could feel what the blade was touching. Her eyes followed the weapon’s movement down Allison’s cheek, across her neck and in between her breasts. Allison could feel herself starting to hyperventilate, but she tried to get a grip on her body. The only chance she had of getting help for her and Nicole was if she could keep herself alert and ready.

“You know, Ally, I think you’re even more beautiful now than when I met you.” Jess’s voice was airy and Allison barely heard her words. All of her focus was trained on Jess’s face and in finding the perfect time to get away from her.

The moment to strike came when Jess made the knife dance on Allison’s stomach. She made it swipe from side to side as it went lower. The blade snagged on the fabric and Allison used Jess’s momentary distraction to push her off herself. The other woman fell in a heap on the floor and Allison didn’t wait to see the stunned look on her face. She got up and ran out of the bedroom.

Allison got to the first step and stopped. Her phone was on the first floor, but she had no idea where Nicole was or if she had been hurt. Her first instinct was to try and find her, but rationally, she knew getting to her phone and calling for help was their better chance. The sound of Jess running out of the bedroom put Allison back in motion.

She got to the first pavement and darted to the front door, where she remembered leaving her bag. When she had the item in her hands, Allison looked back and found Jess on the top step, watching her. Despite the fact that she was still being chased inside her own house, it felt like a victory. If Jess was going after her, than Nicole was safe for a moment.

Their staring match lasted for only a second, although it felt like an eternity to Allison. Soon, Jess was bolting down the stairs and the singer was sprinting to the closer room with a door that locked from the inside. Jess was already on the first floor when Allison managed to lock the door to the bathroom.

Allison’s whole body trembled as she opened the bag and dumped its contents on the ground. She picked up the phone and had to try four times before she was able to unlock the screen. She could barely punch in the three numbers that could mean safety and hold the phone to her ear. Allison didn’t want to use the speaker and have Jess listening to what she was doing.

Outside, Jess spoke Allison’s name, her voice lilting as if they had been playing a macabre version of hide and seek. With every time she repeated it, Jess sounded closer to the door that separated them and Allison could feel her body seizing.

“911. What’s your emergency?”

Allison had heard that line many times in movies and on TV shows; she just never thought she would ever be on the other side of the line. “There’s someone in my apartment. You have to send someone. Now!” The fear in her voice was clear as she rattled her address and tried to describe the situation as best as she could. The man on the other side of the line said the police had been notified and asked her to stay on the line and to not exit the bathroom she was hiding in.

That was her intention.

“Come on, Ally. If you don’t come out to play, I’m gonna have to go and find your darling fiancée.” Jess sounded like she was in the middle of the living room. “She was a lot more fun.”

Jess’s threat was enough to make Allison disregard the operator’s advice and open the door. “I have to go out there,” she whispered into the phone and put it on the floor, just outside the bathroom, so the man on the other side would be able to hear what was happening.

A kind of electrical current went up her spine when her eyes met Jess’s again. If Allison thought the other woman looked disturbed before, now she was completely deranged. She drew lines on the palm of her hand with the tip of the knife and smiled at Allison like they were meeting for tea. The singer stopped a safe distance away from her, where she had a clear path to Jess, and took a deep breath before she spoke.

“I’m here, Jess. You don’t have to do anything against Nic.”

“Oh, isn’t that cute, you defending that idiot?” Her voice went from sweet to angry in seconds and Allison could feel every hair on her body standing on edge. “But you don’t have to worry about her anymore, baby. I’m here, now. I came back so we could be together.”

There were so many emotions playing just beneath the surface of Jess’s face that Allison wasn’t able to pinpoint just one and that made her even more worried for the outcome of the night.

“Jess, please, you have to understand.” She tried maintaining her voice as calm as possible, but it was hard to keep it steady with the amount of adrenalin running through her veins. “I’m with Nicole, now. Please.”

“But I’m the love of your life, Ally. You know that. And now we can live our lives together.”

“Jess--” Allison tried reasoning with her, but it was like Jess had delved into her own world.

“Maybe we could rent a house by a lake, during the summer. Have I told you about the summer I spent on the lake with my parents? Oh, what am I asking? Of course I did.” Jess looked around with glassy eyes, as if she could see the things she was talking about playing out in front of her. “And when we have our children, we can move to another house. One with a backyard, where they can run around. My mom has already said she will come and stay with us on the first few months, to help us. Isn’t it amazing? How many do you want? I was thinking two, maybe three. What do you think?”

Jess looked up expectantly. Allison kept her eyes trained on the woman, but her focus was on the sounds that came from outside the apartment, even though she was high enough that most sounds couldn’t reach her. She hoped the police would get there soon, she wasn’t sure for how long more she would be able to contain her ex-girlfriend. Allison also feared Jess’s reaction if she, somehow, heard sirens approaching the house.

“You’re probably right, we don’t have to decide that, right now.” Jess continued as if Allison had answered her. “But, first, I have to deal with a little something.” She spat the words like venom. “I’ll be right back.”

“Jess, wait.” Allison called out before Jess could reach the stairs.

“What is it, Ally?”

“Tell me more about this lake house.” It was the only thing Allison could think that might keep Jess with her and away from Nicole.

“We’ll have a lot of time to talk about that. But first, I really have something I need to do.”

The moment Jess turned around, all of Allison’s rational thoughts flew out the window. She couldn’t think about her own safety when the madwoman in front of her had just blatantly threatened to kill the love of her life. Before she acknowledged what she was doing, her legs were already carrying her across the living room. Allison got to Jess as she started climbing up the stairs and threw her body on her.

They stumbled together to the floor in a mass of limbs and hands and attempts to grab a hold of the other. Allison hit her head on the way down the steps and her mind was a little fuzzy when she felt something heavy atop her body. She opened her eyes and found that Jess had gotten the best out of their scuffle and landed on top of her.

“It’s a shame, Ally.” The same contempt was back to her voice and she stared down at Allison not like a prey anymore. She stared at her like the tinniest insect she could crush with her fingertips. “We could’ve been so happy together.”

The blade dove down and Allison closed her eyes.

The sound of the door hitting the wall and of feet invading the house startled both women and Jess missed her blow. A burning sensation to her left upper arm made Allison open her eyes in time to see a police officer disarm Jess and pull her away from the singer, that remained on the floor, staring at the blood that soaked through her white t-shirt. The red, deep and dark, spread like oil.

“Miss Strong?”

Another officer had approached her and his voice brought Allison back. She looked up and found a man standing above her with an outstretched hand. It was hard to get up without the use of one of her arms, but Allison managed. She looked around her own house as if she had never been inside of it. When her eyes landed on the stairs, a cold feeling washed over her body. She remembered where Jess was going before she attacked her.

Shrugging the officer’s hand, Allison took off up the stairs for a second time that night. And again, there was only one thought, one word echoing inside her mind.

“Nicole!”

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