During the drive home, an eerie and unexplainable feeling overtakes me. It creeps along my spine and I suddenly shudder in fear. It’s as if my sixth sense kicks in. Goosebumps prickle my skin and I realize that I’m being followed.
I turn right and watch the black Audi behind me do the same. I turn left at the next stop sign. Once again, the black Audi copies my movement.
I can’t even see who it is; the windows are tinted.
I put my foot all the way down on the accelerator and surge forward in speed. Lacking control, I cross a red light, just missing another car. The passing driver honks their horn in anger.
I don’t have time to feel guilty over it. My heart jumps in my chest when I check my rear-view mirror. The Audi has crossed over too.
I hit my hand against the steering wheel in frustration and resort to blind panic. Uncontrollable tears begin to run down my cheeks. The paranoia has finally set in, and I’m suffering under the weight of Bryan’s supposed sins.
Hyperventilating, I take another turn, deciding to head toward the closest police station. However, when I check again, the Audi has vanished completely from view, almost as if it were never there, to begin with.
I can’t take much more of this.
I change course and head home, bewildered, my hands still trembling.
I release a shaky breath as I pull into my driveway.
Why were the windows tinted?
I lay my forehead against the steering wheel, trying to quieten my racing mind.
The house is miserable and quiet without Bryan raiding the fridge and talking on the top of his voice while doing so.
I take a seat on the beige couch in my lounge and reflect on the vile things being said about me and Bryan. I try to catch my breath but the air just won’t come. I’m breathing rapidly but I’m not getting in any oxygen. The horrifying experience is not unfamiliar to me.
A wave of heat courses through my body. My hands begin to shake again. I can’t seem to think straight anymore. The room begins to spin and a sense of disequilibrium washes over me.
I need Jane.
My phone is lying beside me on the coffee table. I reach over for it but the onset tunnel vision is obscuring my view. The tightness in my chest only adds to my discomfort.
My skin begins to burn. I feel like I’m dying. And with the feeling, only comes more thoughts on how Liz must have felt in her final moments. The very thought of her suffering haunts me.
It’s just a panic attack. I’m okay.
I attempt to regain control over my breathing but before I can, I begin to dry heave. More images of Bryan and Liz flash before my mind. I can’t take it anymore. I hurl everywhere. I fall to my knees and begin to sob into the hammering silence.
All of my energy has been drained from me within mere seconds. I’ve broken out into a hot sweat and it feels like I’ve just run a mile. I curl my hands into fists and anxiously push my nails into my skin until I draw blood. My knuckles turn white under the pain.
I keep reassuring myself until my breathing begins to slow and my chest muscles begin to relax again. Refusing to waste another second, I grab my phone and call Jane.
“I know you’re going to be angry but I’m going to go and see Bryan,” I start talking as soon as she answers.
“Don’t be stupid,” she chastises me.
“I’m not okay, Jane,” I confess aloud, admitting it to her and to myself. “I won’t be until I see him.”
“Did you have another one of your episodes?” she asks after a moment of silence from her end.
“Yes,” I reply in all honesty. “I’m not coping.” I squeeze my eyes shut before bravely going out on a limb. “Can you please come over?” It’s not often that I ask for help.
Jane hesitates. “I got my hands full right now. Can it wait two hours?”
I internally cry. “Okay.”
“Don’t go see him until I’ve seen you. Okay?” she tells me and waits for a reply from me. “Mary, promise me.”
“I don’t have peace because I don’t have answers,” I say quietly.
“You will,” she assures me. “But wait for me first.”
“I’ll try,” I tell her.
“Mary…” she emphasizes my name, “promise me.”
It takes me a moment to think about her request. “Okay. I promise,” I finally say much to her relief.
I hang up and decide to listen to her. Feeling helpless and weak, I put off visiting Bryan and clean up the vomit instead. Once done, I dig around in my medicine cabinet for pills. I have an intense headache.
I sit down and put on the TV. I switch channels when Bryan’s investigation comes on. However, dodging the updates on the murder is futile; it seems as if almost every channel is focusing on the death of Liz Montgomery. I’ve been trying to avoid thinking about it but I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s impossible.
I didn’t know Liz that well but she seemed nice. Bryan and she were friends. At least, I thought they were.
I can still remember the last time I saw Liz. It was at a party. I can’t remember much; I was probably super drunk. After that night, I never saw her again. Between then and now, something tragic happened.
I don’t know if I want to put all the pieces of this puzzle together. It’s going to be an ugly picture.
I walk over to our kitchen and put the kettle on. I take out a mug and then notice it’s the Star Wars one that Bryan bought for my birthday not too long. A pang of heartache floats through me. I already miss him.
I make black coffee and use a teaspoon to mix the drink. I watch the dark liquid swirl and swirl until it slowly begins to turn red. Perturbed, I drop the mug in hysteria and watch it shatter to pieces before me.
What if I’m wrong about Bryan?
The hairs on the back of my neck stand up and my stomach churns in apprehension. A sinking feeling sets in and for a split second, I feel entirely disconnected from the world.
I snap out of my thoughts when my phone begins to vibrate.
I answer but I don’t say anything.
“Where are you, Mary?” Jane asks me. “I’m here but you’re not answering the door.”
I look around and glance up at the massive building before me. I don’t remember how I got here but I’m glad I’m here. This is where I’ve been wanting to go. Fate made the decision for me.
My legs move on their own accord until I’m standing just outside the entrance.
There’s a slight chill in the air as Jane’s voice comes booming through my phone speakers. “Please tell me you didn’t, Mary!”
I hastily switch off my phone and enter the building without so much as a second thought.
I approach the front desk, seeking help. I explain my intention of seeing Bryan. The officer glances at me before nodding.
“Name?” the officer asks me.
“Mary Sanders,” I answer.
“Oh yes, you did call and make an appointment,” he tells me while glancing through some papers.
I furrow my brows and slowly nod. “That’s…correct.”
“Firstly, the case number,” he says to himself while skimming through some more documents.
I wait patiently while he finds it.
“You’re a friend of Mr. Parr?” he questions.
I could lie…
“We grew up together,” I decide on telling the truth.
The officer stares at me in thought, his friendly demeanor fleeting. “You’re aware of why he’s being detained until his trial?”
I nod. I don’t want to think about that any more than I have to.
“He allegedly stabbed Liz Montgomery to death,” he clarifies, almost as if to spite me.
“Allegedly. Yes,” I reply calmly.
The officer stares at me for a second too long, trying to intimidate me. I hold my ground. He takes down my personal information before asking for my ID number and then finally gives me a name tag.
“You’ll have 30 minutes with him. You’ll be continuously monitored,” he explains the procedure to me. “And no contact,” he adds.
I nod in understanding.
“If you feel unsafe at any time, you can alert one of us and leave,” he says as an afterthought.
I internally frown at the subtle attack on Bryan’s character but maintain my composure.
The officer leaves to inform Bryan of the visit. I’m nervous to see him. My heart is beating in unease and my hands are clammy.
A second officer, a female, approaches me. “Good afternoon. I’ve received instruction to do a body check.”
“Okay,” I agree to it.
“No valuables or any belongings will be allowed in the visiting area. Any misconduct will result in the visitation being terminated immediately,” she tells me.
“Okay,” I reply and nod.
“The only reason that you’re being allowed to see him is because he’s on remand and has not yet been convicted of a criminal offense,” she reminds me.
She pats me down and checks my bag while informing me of more rules. Meanwhile, the first officer returns with Bryan’s reply.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Sanders; Byan is refusing to see you,” he tells me.
I frown in confusion. Never did I think that Bryan would not want to see me, especially during a moment like this.
“Are you sure?” I stupidly ask. “Did you tell him that it’s Mary Sanders?”
The officer merely nods at me.
“Is he allowing others to see him?” I press for answers.
“I’m not even sure if I’m at liberty to say but yes, he’s seen his family,” he replies.
If he’s innocent, then why would he not want to see me?