My name is Veronica Sloper, my friend’s call me Roni for short. I spent my entire life being an outcast, so to speak. I was never completely forgotten or left behind. That would have made my life easier. If my life would have been a movie, I would be the extra and they would forget to add my name to the credits.
I am part of a large family, there are 5 of us kids and probably around 40 first cousins or so. You would think that would have helped me feel happy and loved but it just caused an emptiness. My large family that once was so loving towards me in my childhood years, faded into the background during my teens. By the time I was 20 it was rare for any of my family members to reach out to me. I appeared for one or two events a year. Whenever someone was getting married, having a baby shower, having a BBQ, I was left off the list.
By age 16, I accepted my fate and desperately wanted to find a new family in friends. I never had any plans which made me the perfect fallback friend. If someone got grounded or bailed, I would get the phone call. I didn’t care at the time, part of me in still glad I was called at all. But I remember them not even hiding it. I would get the call from Alice, “Tori got caught making out with her boyfriend when her parents weren’t home, do you want to go to the party with me?” The funny thing was I never knew there was a party going on before-hand. Like all the students got together to keep it from me.
Desperation isn’t exactly a great trait to have, I wish I had been more confident in myself. I swear it must be a curse to be too attentive to things around you. I knew how socially awkward I was to everyone. I could sense their emotions, mostly the extreme annoyance towards me. The fact that I knew when people were being fake with me and continued to fall for it just showed how low I had fallen.
I felt like an angel who had lost her wings. By the time I finished high school and gained my reputation of being easy (I was), I wanted a new start. I moved across the country to California and started over. I kept my emotions in check, made sure to not be awkward as much as possible. I tried changing my style, my hair, the music in my car. I tried being someone else who people would like.
I continued to date usually very brief but a few months at the longest. I never felt like that void was filled, some of the men I dated were nice, handsome, plenty of money I would never have to work, but I wanted a fairy tale. I wanted to go to a hockey game and meet some amazing man who had been looking for me, or anywhere really.
I finally convinced myself that I was the problem. I just needed to lower my expectations. My head was in the clouds and if I wasn’t careful, I would end up needing to do some weird type of arranged marriage. I decided to move to Florida. I was introduced to my husband by a co-worker at the newspaper. He was an electrician that did work on her house. Very easy on the eyes and funny, he was so attentive at the beginning.
After we dated for about a year, we were married shortly after. The sparks I had imagined when we first met slowly died down. I could tell he thought I was beautiful and loved a part of me, at times I could still sense he was looking down on me. I also knew he was older and didn’t enjoy dating. He settled for me, thinking nothing better would come along. He never said that of course, deep down I could feel it.
After a year we were engaged before having 2 beautiful children. Our life was always happy from the outside looking in. We both worked hard and were good parents; we just didn’t have much of a relationship.
Fifteen years later, I had given up hope that one day he would change. I had debated divorce over the years, knowing that I should be grateful for a man to love me and be faithful to me, I decided against it. There was always a feeling of emptiness, but I pushed it down deep for as long as I could. When I would feel it coming back, I would just distract myself by overloading my schedule for a few weeks.
In high school, I would dream about bumping into a good-looking student from another school and it would turn out to be a vampire god or my soul mate. I even let myself believe the fairy tale after when I had moved to California. You know your outside walking your dog at night, enjoying the moon above and the stillness, suddenly, a super sexy werewolf appears to sweep you off your feet! I know, I was crazy to every entertain the idea that it would happen, I just always felt like there was a reason to all the myths and legends.
The last few years have been passing quickly, I am currently working at the local college. I work on the research team for the occult studies department. My days consist of mundane activities, dropping my kids at school, heading to the university, home to cook dinner and nightly runs with the dog. I began running six months ago when I felt a wave of depression creeping to the surface.
The last 3 weeks I have been changing up my run route. I didn’t have a specific amount of time or distance that I wanted to cover, it just depended on my mood. I always took the same way to start, lately when I would round the first corner, I felt a chill pass down my spine. I would always shake it off to the change in temperature as the sun set, something inside me knew it was different.
I arrived home from work extra stressed today. Our anniversary was 3 days ago. It really bothered me that my husband, Travis, forgot it completely. I know I shouldn’t have expectations because that is when you can be disappointed. I was just looking forward to the one day of the year he tries to pay attention to me. I woke up early to make his coffee, getting ready and doing my make up before he even woke up, he didn’t notice a thing.
Work was usually the place that I was able to escape my life troubles. Today we received the news that the new department head was going to be coming from a different university. I was worried, being awkward, some people would rather fire me than get to know me. I was so anxious for a run I changed my clothes before leaving work. I used the gym occasionally on lunch to blow off some steam, I was always prepared.
I pulled in the driveway stepping out quickly stretching. Usually I made sure to cover everything, I had to many pulled muscles at the beginning not to learn from them. I put my ear buds in and started down the road. I didn’t grab my dog like usual, I couldn’t risk being stopped. I kept my head down the whole run, I was gone for almost 2 hours. I stopped by my car on my way inside and grabbed my gym bag from the backseat before walking to the front door and picking up my backpack that carried my laptop.
When I first picked up the bag the top flipped open. I looked around confused. I remembered closing it before leaving the office. I never went back into the bag before leaving for the run. I shrugged it off as I slung it over my shoulder to take it inside. My typical evening went on, I cleaned up the kitchen after dinner before placing my bag on the chair at the bar to get my computer out. There wasn’t much going on so I wanted to try to focus on work, if I could prove my worth maybe it could save my job.
As I opened my laptop, I noticed there was a paper on the keys. My eyes went around the room when I noticed it. I felt like I was being pranked, it wouldn’t be the first time. I inspected my bag and all the pockets making sure there was nothing else in there. After debating in my head for too long, I gently picked up the folded paper and read.
I’ve been watching them watch you.