The early morning air is crisp and despite everything going on around me, I’m feeling refreshed. I adjust my ponytail and continue jogging around the neighborhood. However, I stop short when my phone lights up with a new message.
‘Hey. Just checking in again. U ok?’
A gust of wind whips my hair across my face as I read my sister’s message. Not in the mood, I decide to answer in short:
Jane replies instantly:
‘I’m surprised ur up. Ur not usually an early bird. What r u up 2? Maybe we can hang today?’
Can she just stop...
‘A little l8ter? Kinda Busy. Just jogging…’
‘I thought u hate running?’
All these messages are bringing on an intense headache.
I just want to be alone.
I feel frustrated with my sister’s constant messaging. I know she’s only looking out for me but I feel as if she’s invading my personal time. I don’t want to think about what Bryan did, and Jane is nothing but a constant reminder of all his apparent wrongdoings.
The icy wind suddenly blows again, nipping at the back of my neck, sending a shiver down my spine. Paranoid, I take a quick look around to see if I’m being followed. There’s an eerie chill in the air but when I don’t see anything to cause alarm, I shove the feeling aside and decide to concentrate on my morning workout instead.
‘U r really annoying me, Jane. Talk l8ter!’
Jane has unintentionally just put a damper on the ambiance of my run. My mood sours and takes a somber turn. No matter how far I run, it’s not far enough from this prison – from Bryan’s prison. No matter how fast I run, there’s no escaping the death of Liz Montgomery.
My mind begins to run too and I zone out for a second before thinking back on the last time I saw Liz:
His voice woke me up from my daydreaming.
“Mary?” Bryan called my name. “Mad—” he caught himself and stopped. “Mary! Are you even listening to me right now?”
I snapped out of it and put my drink down, refocusing on my friend. I smirked at him and immediately stopped swaying to the booming music. “Deprived of my attention already, Bry?” I asked him.
He rolled his eyes at me and took my drink away. “No more for you.”
I pouted and opened my mouth to argue when a blonde-haired woman stepped up and touched Bryan’s arm. I recognized her soft voice when she addressed Bryan but I was too ‘out of it’ to remember who she was.
“You still keen, Bryan?” she asked him.
Bryan nodded at her before he fixed his gaze back on me. “Don’t get too drunk, Mary. Don’t overindulge. It never ends well for you.”
I chose to ignore him. Instead, I squinted through the dim lights before placing the blonde’s face. I smiled in realization. “Nice to see you again, Liz.”
Liz brushed her long, blonde hair over her shoulder before she returned my smile with warmth. “Always great to see you too, Mary. Tell Jane I say hi.”
“Will do,” I answered her.
“Catch you later, Mary,” Bryan said. “Liz and I are gonna check the party scene out back by the pool.”
I barely managed to concentrate on what Bryan was saying. I was well on my way to ‘wasted’.
“Um…hi. W-want to dance?” a stranger asked me.
I turned to face the person speaking to me. He was tall. I had to tilt my head back to see him properly. His brown eyes twinkled in hope. I felt like I’d seen him before.
Yeah…” I drawled, “no thanks.”
I rudely pushed past him, uninterested, and headed to a secluded bathroom to freshen up and enjoy a moment’s peace. I entered and closed the door after me. I fumbled for the light switch in the dark. Once I found it, a bright and startling light flooded the bathroom. It took a second for my eyes to readjust.
Flushed, I opened the tap and submerged my face in cool water. I needed to disconnect from the party and everything else for a bit. The light that was above me flickered once and then twice before it switched off entirely.
Frustrated, I leaned against the cool bathroom door and stared out of the window at a soft breeze rustling the leaves.
My eyes widened at the peculiar sight. I wasn’t quite sure if my mind was making up things or if the contortion of the creature was real. A shape slowly started to emerge from the darkness, taking on the form of a human. The mysterious person lurked just outside the window, creeping along with the bushes as if in search of something.
It loomed just outside the window. I wasn’t close enough to pick up on any facial details but it didn’t matter because I knew that this was no ordinary person from the party. My heart began to race double time when it dawned on me that something else was at work here.
Paralyzed by terror, I held my breath, hoping to go unnoticed. However, as fate would have it, the tap began to drip. I was aware that any sudden movement would give my position away and so I forced myself to resist the urge to move forward and close the tap.
A noise pulled me from my thoughts. I looked to the window and internally screamed when I saw the person staring straight at me with a hand pressed up against the pane of the glass.
Acting on pure instinct alone, I slipped out the door and bolted. As soon as I saw other people, I skidded to a halt, careful not to arouse suspicion. For all I knew, I was going mad.
“You good?” someone asked me.
I spun around and saw that it was the same guy who has asked me to dance earlier. Taken aback by his presence, I frowned. “Are you following me?”
Something undetectable passed through his eyes before he shook his head, embarrassed. “No! Never! I would never.”
I felt like he and everybody else was staring at me. I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable under all the stares. It almost made me feel trapped. Claustrophobia settled in. I ignored the stranger speaking to me and moved past him. I headed over to the front door, feeling uneasy, and decided to call it a night.
...end of flashback...
I come to and shake off the fraught memory.
That was a creepy and unexplainable night.
Choosing not to dwell on it, I continue my run.