The S Word

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Chasing

Soon as it were acceptable hours Alexander and I hurried to Jackson’s office. I never gave the girl enough attention, and as I recall the first day I met her, I wonder why I didn’t notice. She was weird; it was obvious she wasn’t fit for that job. The girl couldn’t handle the amount of paperwork we gave her, she struggled with booking appointments, and I remember the way she would mix patients.

But maybe she would do that just to me.

Maybe she would pretend to be bad at the job with only me. Because I caught the way her eyes glared when I walked by now and then, and as I remember it, she would only do it when I was alone. Whenever Alexander came into the office, and we walked outside, she would disappear.

Except for two times, the day he picked me up for the sex party and the day I was fired. I recall the way she stared at us as we walked out of the building both times. I noticed her, but he never did.

We almost run inside the office to find Tamara, the other reception girl staring at me with wide eyes. My expression must give away the importance of the issue because she stands up and picks up the phone right away.

“I need to speak to Jackson- I mean, Dr. Bolton.”

She nods, dialing his number and mumbling that I am at the front desk into the phone. When I glance around, I find Tamara working alone, and then it hits me. She couldn’t know we were coming.

“Where is the other girl? Savanah- San-”

“Santana?” Tamara’s voice interrupts me as she quirks up a brow. “She hasn’t shown up in a week. Dr. Bolton resigned her contract yesterday.”

It was all a plan, a scheme. This was her way to stay around me without seeming unnoticed. Because she would have access to my files, to part of my life, she would even see Alexander whenever he came by, and he wouldn’t also see her because, being my boyfriend, he didn’t need to go to the front desk.

He didn’t need to pay attention to her.

“Nicole?”

Jackson’s voice makes us turn, and I pace towards him. Nodding, he rushes us inside his office, closing the door behind us. With a worried gaze, Jackson doesn’t even go to his desk and instead motions Alexander and me to sit on the sofa as he takes the seat on the other side of the coffee table.

“What’s wrong? Do you have new leads on the case?”

“I do,” I say, gulping and taking the cup of water Jackson hands me. “The girl that worked here, Santana?”

He frowns at my question, not understanding what’s going on. Who can blame him? I probably sound half-mad, half worried. Dressed more casually than I usually do, I didn’t even notice what I threw on my body walking out of the house.

“She disappeared. I sent her resignation yesterday.”

“She’s the stalker,” Alexander interrupts. “My stalker. The one who recorded us.”

“Wait, wha-”

“The video, Jackson,” I speak, and he nods. “Alexander has a crazy girl who is obsessed with him, and she started to come after me. Mild things,” I explain, trying to sum everything as fast as I can. “But she broke into my apartment last week, and when Alexander showed me her photo, I recognized her. It’s Santana, or Sarah, I don’t know anymore.

The last couple of weeks are a mess. Emotions all over the place, pain, anger, love. I can’t function correctly at this point. Only when Alexander’s hand grips mine and I turn my face catching his eyes already on me, I take a deep breath.

Jackson stands up and hurries to the cabinet behind his desk, searching for the files. He takes a brown folder, opening it, and handing it to us. It’s her, the photo, the address, all of her information is here.

“Jackson, you can get in trouble for giving me this.”

“I don’t care,” he lets out with a shrug. “If she is after you, if she lied on her application, I have the right to share it. With you or the police.”

His eyes are dark while he stretches the file, and I take it sure of what to do. I will hand it to the police, but not before making copies, so I have all the information to myself. I’m not stupid, and if I can use anything against her, I will, although I’m pretty sure the address she used isn’t real.

But it’s worth the try.

Alexander is already standing as I mouth another thank you to Jackson before my arms are around him, pulling the man into a hug. He nods, walking us out of the office and into the street.

The sun is already high in the sky as the end of the morning approaches. In a hurry, I almost run to the car until Jackson stops me.

“Nicole, just be careful, please.”

His words of worry warm my heart, and I glance at Alexander. Jackson and I know from studying what people like Sarah can do. How far their craziness can take them. Alexander knows from experience, and unfortunately, I know as well now.

“I will.”

Alexander takes my hand as we walk to the car. My eyes on the folder, taking every bit of information as I can. She studied abroad, Canada. I read her resumé, and my boyfriend tells me which parts are identical to what he knows about her.

All we need is to figure out what’s true and what’s a lie.

Jackson did a Rorschach test on her, but she passed. She is good enough to feign the results on this. Sarah is smart; she knew where she needed to act normal and where she could let her personality show. The only thing he took note of was that she enjoyed dark, closed spaces. She majored in computer science, and my stomach twitches with that thought. That’s why she is so good why they can’t find her online anymore. Or prove that the one stalking us online is her. There isn’t a lot of personal information here.

Alexander has been at it for over a year, going back and forth with the police on this case. He only got to prove them because the cameras of his former building spotted her. That with the messages and calls helped to get her a restriction order.

But I have zero proof it’s the same person.

Inserting the address on the car’s GPS, Alexander drives us a bit faster than I want him to. I glimpse how his hands grip the steering wheel, how his eyes are dark, and he accelerates between traffic.

My hand rests on his leg, and he glances at me, letting go of a long breath.

He has been avoiding her, afraid of the outcome of another interaction. Of the consequences of her seeing him again. She almost turned violent on him the last time, and she stepped over every boundary with me.

“Maybe we should call the police first,” Alexander suggests.

“Let’s just see if she is there,” I reply, and he nods in agreement. “Then, we can call the cops and give them the address.”

The way Sarah keeps clinging onto him, it’s what drives me off. Because Alexander made sure she knows he isn’t hers, and yet she turned her fury of being neglected to me. She blames me for it despite them not having a relationship.

That’s what worries me; she is becoming more violent every time, and breaking into my house was a big step.

The address takes us to the part of the city I have never come to. The part controlled by people who don’t obey the law, not the ones in books anyway. Alexander drives slowly, trying not to get anyone’s attention, but seeing his car is new in the area, people still stare.

We finally reach the house, the one with light blue wood boards, he parks in the front, and the place seems to be inhabited. The curtains are pulled back, displaying a small view inside the house, which appears to be quite nice. Old furniture, but everything is clean and organized.

“When I- when we met,” Alexander lets out, staring at the house, “she took me to a hotel. I never knew where she lived.”

I follow his gaze before stepping out of the car, and his hand reaches for me across the seat.

“What are you doing?” He asks, eyes big with concern.

“I’m going to talk to her.”

I break free from his hold and close the door listening to his footsteps before he reaches me across the lawn. His hands hold my arms, stopping me from going any further, and his eyes are the darkest I have ever seen them.

“No, Nicole, we should call the police.”

I reach to his face, cupping it between my hands before tiptoeing and kiss his lips softly. My eyes lock on his for a few seconds, and he sighs, knowing I won’t change my mind. He knows how stubborn I can be, how determinate I can get, and that my mind won’t change easily.

My words last time were that I would stop hiding, and I meant it, I won’t wait for the police to come here. Especially since I’m positive this isn’t her place.

“Please,” he pleads, eyes glistening. “Nicole if-”

“Alex, she doesn’t live here,” I reply taking his hand. “It doesn’t agree with her personality. It doesn’t go with anything I know about her.”

The man I love frowns at me and takes a deep breath. He picks up his phone, nevertheless, ready to dial the police’s number just in case.

Cautiously we reach the door, my finger presses the doorbell, and it doesn’t take long for an older woman to appear.

Her hair is silver, cascading around the sides of her face; there are small wrinkles under her eyes that stare at the both of us. They are like her, appearing to have suffered from the years that went by. She looks like the girl from the photo, and I give her a small smile before speaking. I know who she is.

“Good morning. Is Sarah around?”

The woman narrows her eyes, and her gaze goes from me to Alexander. She glances outside, seeing his car parked but doesn’t step out or inside so we can enter. The mention of her daughter’s name didn’t suit her.

“Sarah doesn’t live here,” she admits bluntly. “I don’t know where she is.”

Her eyes don’t move from us as I glance at my boyfriend, who now has the same expression I do. We hit another wall. It doesn’t matter if I say I’m a friend from school; she replies that her daughter never had friends. Apologizing, we go back to the car; her mom was suspicious of us, so I didn’t want to push any more buttons. Who knows what went wrong between them.

“I have a suggestion,” I confess, taking out my phone. “But I’m not sure if you will like it.

Alexander eyes me as I scroll between my contacts finding the name I want. The one I need to face once again, and I listen as he sighs next to me.

“Fine, call him.”

Holding his hand, I press dial on the screen and listen as it doesn’t take too long before the man picks up his phone.

“Hi, Justin.”

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