Lorna Reaves paced the floor of her small, cozy apartment. The phone rested like a brick in her hand. Her heart squeezed tight, and her stomach twisted with knots. She had known he wouldn’t answer. Why would he? He didn’t owe her his time. She wiped the warm damp from her cool cheek.
Maybe she’d been too hasty. It had only been a dream, after all. A dream full of shadows and gnashing teeth, and the overwhelming feeling of James being hurt if she didn’t leave. She shook her head. “No.” Goosebumps covered her body, and she shivered as the chill danced up her spine. “It was the right thing. I did the right thing, damn it, walking away to save him.” She was a hero, or so she told herself when the pain became unbearable. “I shouldn’t have called him.” Deflated, she slumped onto her maroon-speckled, comfy, second-hand couch.
The despair swept over her. It spewed from her soul, and her body shuddered. She wrapped her arms around herself and held tight as she rocked back and forth. Her fingers squeezed, biting into the flesh on her freckled arm. “Oh, what a mess.” Her head dropped to her chest. “What an awful mess I have gotten myself into.” To settle herself, she took in a shaky, deep breath. As the air moved through her, tensed muscles relaxed. Her hands dropped to her sides, and the phone hit the floor with a thud.
She walked to the window facing the playground shared by the apartment complex. The sun warmed her flushed, cool, freckled face, chasing away the last of the emotional storm. Sighing, she watched as a young mother pushed her baby on the swing. The baby squealed with each new push. The momma smiled. Love radiated from the tiredness in her eyes. Someday she could allow herself to consider the idea of starting a family, but not today.
Needing air, she lifted the window. A slight breeze danced around her, lifting her wavy reddish-brown hair from her face. She looked up at the sky and watched as a bird chased another through newly budding trees.
Lorna thought of the night, three months ago, when she’d met Chad. She’d been lonely, tired of dwelling on a man she could no longer have and needed a night out before the walls moved in and suffocated her. She wanted to dance, drink, and have some fun.
The bar, covered in empty glasses and spilled liquor, had been a welcome sight. The local club, packed for a weekday, left few options for seating. By a pure miracle, she’d found an empty one among the bodies bustling around the bar. She ordered her usual Long Island Iced Tea, preferring her liquor strong and sweet.
Chad, with swagger, and charm, had walked toward the bar as if he was the only man in the room worthy of the women in it. She’d taken one look and looked away, grimacing. An arrogant man. That’s what she needed in her life, she thought, rolling her eyes. Then he’d tripped. Balance lost, his face skidded on the bar floor. He’d looked up at her, red-faced, and a sheepish grin spread across his face. She’d laughed, almost falling off her stool.
He was only supposed to be a distraction. But they’d been enjoying each other’s company for a few months. Lately, he’d been pushing her to commit, causing a lot of fights. Lorna wasn’t ready. She still hadn’t told him about James, she just couldn’t. Ugh, she was so confused. Dating so soon after the break-up had been less than ideal. She snorted. Who was she kidding? It had been an awful idea. She needed a drink.
The Riesling rested on the top shelf of the five-foot-three refrigerator. She pulled out the half-empty bottle, poured it into a dollar store wine glass, and sipped. A slight tingle tickled her tongue. It made its way to warm her center, and the breath she’d been holding released. Calm again, she grabbed the journal from the coffee table and went over the vision she’d written the night before.
It had been bedtime, and she’d finished putting on face cream when the vision slammed into her. Her face still hurt from where the wall caught her. The face cream had slipped from her hand and shattered. She found the knot on her head. Yep, still there, along with a headache.
As she read, the vision came back to her.
Light flashed, and then everything went dark.
As her eyes adjusted, she focused on the dim light shining from a window. Chad’s window. She stood in the corner of his room and looked toward his bed as he slept. From the corner of her eye, she watched as something moved along the wall, swaying and bouncing, inching closer to the bed. Then, to her horror, it stepped out of the wall. Red eyes searched the room, landing on her corner. A sharp, toothy grin spread across a shadowy face, and then it winked. The hairs on the back of her arms stood on end. Could it see her? Lorna knew she was in a vision. How did it know?
The creature twirled and danced its way to Chad’s bed, looked at her once more, then jumped onto the bed. Trembling, she had to remind herself she was in a vision. It wasn’t real, yet. She watched, paralyzed. The shadow monster stood over Chad, straddling him. Unfazed, Chad slept.
The thing fluttered its clawed hands over Chad’s chest, and a red light flashed. This happened twice and then, without warning, its claws dug into his chest. She waited for the blood, but there was none. Only the screams. The terrible screams from Chad, and a bright flashing light pouring from his body into the creature. It was seconds, or hours before the creature stopped, and then silence. She dared not breathe. The shadow creature jumped off the bed, faded back into the wall, and vanished.
She remembered the fallout.
The vision had faded. God, where was she? And the headache — oh, the bathroom floor. She felt it now, the coolness of the tile. Chad was shaking her, and she registered panic. “Lorna, oh god, Lorna, wake up.” He shook her again.
“Hey —” her voice cracked, she swallowed, and tried again. “Chad, hey, I’m okay.” She reached out and touched his hand.
He looked up, deep into her eyes. Panic raged. “Are you? What happened here?” He stood up and paced. “You were gone. Breathing, but gone. I tried everything, even slapping you.”
“I —” she reached her hand to her cheek, and felt the sting. “You slapped me?”
“Well, I panicked!” he was pacing again. “I didn’t know what to do. You mentioned sometimes, you space out. You said it was no big deal, not to worry about it.” He pointed at her. His finger trembled. “This was more than that, Lorna. What the hell happened?”
She shrugged, her head dropped to her chest, and she stared at her toes. “I can’t answer you, Chad, it’s complicated. I can’t tell —”
“You can’t tell me?” The muscles bulged under his shirt, his hands fisted. “You can’t tell me what goes on with you, when you, ‘go away,’” he lifted his hand in quotes. “I can’t do this anymore, Lorna.” He walked out of the bathroom, then paused. “You won’t let me inside. I can’t keep wasting time here.”
She tried to lift herself, then sat again as her vision blurred and her stomach rolled. Lorna’s hand shook as she tried to reach out, “James — err… damn it. Chad.” She shook her head.
He froze, his muscles rippled.
“Wait, please. Let me get my bearings.” It felt like an eternity. She held her breath.
“I see.” He shook his head. “I don’t need the headache,” he said and walked out the door.
The scene played in her head again. She could have done something different, should have tried to explain, no matter how crazy it sounded. She sipped her wine, re-wetting lips gone dry. Instead, she’d sat on the cool tile floor in shock.
She closed the journal, set it next to her on the side table, and rested her head in her hands. She’d picked up the phone a hundred times to call him. She cared for him, but didn’t love him… couldn’t love him. The lump gathered in her throat as she tried to swallow the tears as they threatened to fall. It wasn’t fair to Chad, dragging this on while she longed for James. She wished it could be different, but it wasn’t. Heavy with sadness and wine, she laid her head on the peach swirl throw pillow. She may not love him but cared for him enough to help keep him alive. To keep them both alive.
Eyes heavy, she drifted in and out of sleep. She thought of James and saw his scruffy, serious face grin at her. Now to figure out how to get him to help me, she thought as she fell into a deep sleep.
Photograph by Thom Holmes via Unsplash. Altered by Jennifer Brewer via Canva
***Disclaimer*** This is a work in progress and as such is likely to change before reaching the finished product. Thank you for your understanding.
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Originally published on Vocal.