Jasmine grabbed her handbag off the floor, shut her computer screen off, turned off her desk lamp, and pushed to her feet. On her way out, she passed by her coworkers’ cubicles, some that were still occupied.
“Done for the night, I see,” Karen, one of her most-liked coworkers, called after her as she passed her cubicle.
Jasmine stopped not too far from her cubicle. “And you’re working late.” She raised a brow. “That’s not like you.”
Karen turned down the music playing on her computer before she looked up at Jasmine. “Jeremy wouldn’t shut the hell up about the Hamilton account, so I decided to stay over and just finish the damn thing,” she said with a roll of her eyes.
“I’m sure he won’t appreciate it.” Jasmine chuckled.
“I swear, one day, I’m going to shove a broom so far up his ass that he will have no other choice but to loosen up.”
“Let me know how that goes, okay?”
She nodded. “You will be the first I call.”
“Alright. Good night, Karen.”
“Good night, Jasmine. See you tomorrow.”
Karen watched her until she disappeared through the set of double doors before turning her music back on. The soft sound of a piano wrapped around her like a silk blanket.
Outside, the cool fall night air felt amazing on Jasmine’s skin. Fall was her favorite season. It wasn’t too hot or too cold. It was perfect. It reminded her of when she visited Chicago with her husband. He’d proposed to her right outside the Art Museum of Chicago after they’d taken a long overdue tour. The air had been cooler than usual, even with the sun shining down on them, and he had started to shake. Jasmine thought the shaking was due to the chilly winds, but she soon found out that it was due to nerves. He’d been nervous about proposing to her and worried that she’d say no—again. After their little moment, after she said yes, she punched him in the arm. She knew he had every reason to be nervous, especially after hearing no so many times before, but she still thought he deserved to get punched.
With a sigh, Jasmine walked across the street to the company parking lot and straight to the black 1967 Chevy Impala her grandmother gave to her before she passed several years ago.
She smiled and ran her hand along the hood of the car before she opened the door and slid into the driver’s seat, fixed the review mirror, and turned the key.
Click! Click! Click!
“Shit! No, don’t do this to me. Not now.” She pushed on the gas and tried to start it again.
Click! Click! Click!
“Come on!” she hissed and dropped her head on top of the steering wheel.
What was she going to do now? She didn’t want to bother Jason at work. He had a job to do and she didn’t want to worry him about the damn car not starting and pull him from work. But she knew if she didn’t tell him and he found out about it later, he’d be pissed. He was already a bundle of nerves because of the stalker, who had yet to be caught, and because of the pregnancy. She didn’t want to worry him, but she didn’t want to upset him.
Just walk home and tell him you got a ride from Karen. A voice in her head instructed.
Jasmine shook her head, took the keys out of the ignition, grabbed her bag, locked up the car and started down the street. It was nice and cool out and a good night to walk home. She knew her way and with how fast she walked, she’d make it home in less than thirty minutes.
Suddenly, her phone rang. A smile graced her lips when she saw the caller ID. “Hey, I was wondering when you were going to call.”
“Really?” he asked.
“Yeah. I just walked out the door. So, you’re either psychic, or you were thinking about me so much that you just had to call.”
“How’d you know?” Jason joked. “And I’m always thinking about you.”
“Aww. Aren’t you just a big ol’ teddy bear?” She chuckled then sighed softly. “I’m so glad to hear your voice.”
“Is everything alright? Are you okay?” he asked, his words rushed and filled with worry.
“Everything’s fine, Jason,” she spoke calmly. “Calm down. I’m alright.”
“Are you sure? I can leave right now to come and get you. We can pick your car up in the morning.”
Jasmine knew he was worried about her being out at night all alone, and her being three, maybe four, months pregnant really did not help things at all. She really didn’t want him to drive himself crazy with worry, but she also didn’t want him leaving work every time she got off late. He had a business to run, and she wanted him to focus on that, at least until the baby arrived.
“Jason, I’m fine. Really.”
The sound of him taking a deep breath floated to her ear. “Alright, fine. Will you just promise to call me as soon as you walk in the door?” he pleaded. “Fuck it. Call me as soon as you step foot on the grass.”
She chuckled. “Alright. I promise to call you as soon as I step foot onto the grass.”
He sighed. “Thank you.”
She started walking. “So, Mr. Big Shot, how is everything going with Jasmine’s?”
He’d opened another club this year and had decided to name it after her, and to say that she was surprised would be the biggest understatement of the year. She’d told him that it was too much, but he insisted. He’d told her he wanted everyone to know where he’d gotten his inspiration, along with who was the center of his world.
“Everything’s going as planned. I’m just finishing up the books,” Jason said. “I know we still have a lot to talk about, but I’m hoping to make it home to my beautiful, pregnant wife before she goes to sleep.”
“Yeah, I know we still need to talk, but I was kind of hoping the same thing.” She laughed. “You sound tired, though.”
“It’s been a long and exhausting day.”
“Then hurry up with those books so you can come home and take a load off. Besides, I miss you like crazy,” she replied.
“I miss you too, baby. Would I be asking for too much if I said I want to hold you in my arms?” he asked.
Jasmine smiled. “No, you wouldn’t. I miss being in your arms just as much as you miss me being in them.”
“Well, when you put it like that, I could say fuck the books tonight and just swing by to pick you up now,” he suggested.
“I’m already walking home,” she said as she crossed the street.
“Walking? Jasmine, why the fuck are you walking home?”
Jasmine swallowed. “The car wouldn’t start, but, Jason, I’m fine. The house isn’t that far.”
“Isn’t that far? Jasmine, it’s two miles from—why the fuck didn’t you call me to come and pick you up?” He was pissed.
“I didn’t want you to worry, and I didn’t want you to have to leave work just to pick me up,” she said softly. “Besides, I’ll be home in less than thirty minutes.”
“I don’t give a fuck if you could make it home in less than five, I don’t want you walking home, alone, at night. Especially with that fucker on the loose.” He hissed. “Where are you now?” “I just passed Midnight Diner.”
“I’m coming to get you,” he said, and she could hear him opening and shutting what sounded like his desk drawers.
“Jason, no. I am alright, okay? Do not leave work.”
“Jason, no. If you don’t sit your ass back down right now, I will go back to the hotel tonight,” she threatened.
He sighed heavily into the phone. “I don’t know why you won’t just let me buy you a new car. We have the money; we can afford it.”
“No, you have the money, and you can afford it.” She breathed. “Besides, I like my car. It’s been with me through a lot.”
He groaned. “Don’t start this shit again, Jasmine. I’ve told you once before, and I will tell you again. What’s mine is yours.” He hated when she talked like that. He didn’t want her saying things like that or even thinking them. Whatever he had, she had. Simple. “And that car of yours is older than you. It’s time to put that thing out of its misery.”
Jasmine sucked in a breath. “That’s not going to happen.”
“It was a gift from my grandmother before she passed. I’ll never get rid of that car.”
He sighed. “Then at least let me have it repaired.’
Jasmine sighed. “I’ll think about it.”
Jasmine looked up and realized that beyond the next street, the path was dark. Completely dark. She hadn’t walked that path at night in such a long time that she’d forgotten how dark it had always been. The streetlights had been broken, most likely by badass kids. She passed by a broken-down car then quickly crossed the next street.
“What’s wrong, Jasmine? You got quiet on me,” Jason broke her from her thoughts.
“Nothing. I just haven’t walked this path at night in such a long time. I forgot how dark it was,” she said. “I’ll be fine.”
Startled by a sudden sound behind her, Jasmine turned around and scanned the area around her. Not far from where she stood, a dark figure stood on the corner, on the other side of the street, with his entire face shrouded in darkness, staring at her. They just stood there like a hulking silhouette.
Then the figure rushed toward her.
Jasmine shrieked and took off down the dark street. “Jasmine? What was that? Why does it sound like you’re running?” Jason asked in a panic.
“Jason! He’s coming!” she screamed into the phone.
“Fuck! Baby, I’m coming! Jason yelled, and she could hear him rustling around in his office. “Where are you?”
Jasmine turned down the next street. “I just turned down Gale Street.”
Her pursuer’s heavy footsteps rang loudly in her ears behind her. As tears stung her eyes, she threw a quick glance over her shoulder and screamed. Like a lion after its morning meal, the dark figure was gaining on her. She couldn’t make out his face in the darkness but when she casted a fleeting look over her shoulder, once again, she saw that the person wore a V for Vendetta Mask.
“What the fuck!” she screamed.
“I’m in the car now. I’m on my way!” Jason screamed into the phone. “Baby, talk to me, please!” he cried in utter panic.
“Jason, I love you. I love you so fucking much.” she cried. “These last six years have been the best years of my life. I’m so sorry for everything that’s happened. I should never have let your past get in the way of our future.”
“No! Jasmine, don’t you dare fucking say goodbye to me! Baby, I’m coming! Just stay on the phone with me!” He yelled. “Let me hear that beautiful voice of yours.”
Tears blurred her vision at the sound of his choked sob. Jason rarely cried. It was something she’d gotten used to over the years, so whenever she did hear him or see him cry, it tore at something deep inside her. “Jason, I’m so scar—”
Long fingers seized her coat, the collar digging into her neck as she was yanked back. “No! Let me go!” she screamed.
“Jasmine!” Jason screamed on the other end.
Jasmine flung her handbag at her attacker, hitting him in the head. He let out an unruly groan as he fell back onto the pavement and pulled her down with him. She fought back as hard as she could with all the strength she had in her. She raised her leg and drove her foot into her attacker’s masked face. A loud growl of pain escaped from beneath the mask, and he let go of her coat.
She scrambled to her feet and took off down the street.
“Jason? Jason?” She lifted the phone to her ear.
“Jasmine! Baby, where are you?”
“I don’t know! I can’t see! It’s too dark!” she screamed.
“Baby, I need you to try. Please.”
Jasmine looked up and searched for any street sign she could find in the darkness. She found one. “I’m on Kenilworth stre—”
Fingers wrapped around the back of her neck and threw her to the ground. She kept a tight grip on the phone but wrapped her arms protectively around her small baby bump as her attacker tangled their fingers in her hair and yanked her up. She groaned and reached for their hand, but her attacker’s fingers only tightened as they yanked her head back. A muscular arm wrapped around her waist and dragged her toward a dark alley. She tried to fight her attacker, kicking at his legs, arms thrashing, but her attacker showed no signs of letting her go.
Fear turned into terror. “Please, no!” she cried.
She reached for the sides of one of the buildings that led into the alleyway and grabbed it, trying to slow their progress, but her attacker only yanked harder. Still, she fought. She needed to give Jason enough time to find her and their baby.
“Let me go, you son of a bitch!” she screamed.
Once they were far enough away from the street, Jasmine was thrown to the ground, face up, with her attacker above her.
“Get away from me!” she shouted and kicked at his knees.
“Bitch!” the assailant howled.
It was the first time he’d uttered a word since he started chasing her. Jasmine frowned at the masked man. His voice sounded familiar. She’d heard that voice before. So when he dropped his full weight down on top of her, she started clawing at his face, trying to remove his ski mask.
After she kneed him between the legs, she grabbed the creepy mask and tore it off and was given the shock of her life. She couldn’t believe who was under the mask, who’d been chasing her, and stalking her.
Her eyes widened. “No. You?”
Her attacker took her head in his hands and slammed it into the cold, hard ground. “Jason…” she wept.
“I’m so sorry.”
Again, he slammed her head into the cold ground, and everything went black.