Take me with you, p.1

Take Me With You, page 1

 

Take Me With You
 



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Take Me With You


  Copyright © 2016 Nina G. Jones

  Cover design by Nina G. Jones

  Formatting by That Formatting Lady

  The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the internet or via other means without the permission of the author is illegal and punishable by law.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, establishment, organizations, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictiously to give a sense of authenticity. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  All rights reserved.

  A Note from Nina

  Trigger Warning

  PART ONE

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  PART TWO

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  PART THREE

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Epilogue

  Social Media Contact

  Other Works by Nina G. Jones

  Here’s a music playlist to help set the mood:

  Every Breath You Take – The Police

  How Deep is Your Love – Bee Gees

  Night Fever – Bee Gees

  You Should Be Dancing – Bee Gees

  It’s Too Late – Carole King

  You’re So Vain – Carly Simon

  Killing Me Softly With His Song – Roberta Flack

  I’m Not In Love – 10cc

  So Far Away – Carole King

  Can’t Stand Losing You – The Police

  She’s Not There – The Zombies

  Click here to listen to this playlist on Spotify.

  All of them.

  Seriously. This is not a romance. This is not for the faint of heart. Where you are about to go, there is no light.

  There are no heroes in this world, only villains and victims.

  1978

  I own the night. It's the only time I can walk freely without my mask. No, not the balaclava with which I shroud my face. It's the mask I wear during daylight hours, when I pretend I'm one of them. Those beautiful people with their perfect smiles and their echoing laughter. They mock me. They taunt me. But at night, when the streets are still, that's when I laugh. When I smile. It's when I take all the things from them that I never could have. When I crawl into their homes and into their skin. I wear their lives like a borrowed piece of clothing. Only by the time I give it back, it's tattered and damaged, and I must move on to the next home, one that hasn't been destroyed by my parasitic need.

  But for those few hours when I am one of them, they have a taste of that pain. It's my turn to feel a concentrated dose of the joy they take for granted. The rush is fierce, like a dam breaking, the sensation of belonging overwhelming me. But the waters calm just as quickly, and then I am standing there, the shallow stream flowing at my feet, as the sun rises. And I wait, patiently, until darkness returns, so I can steal that rush again.

  I am on the hunt. Vesper's at school. Her brother is at therapy, and her parents are on another trip. Vesper. Evening prayer. It's ironic, the name. If all the world is a stage, and if irony makes for the best stories, then she was born for this role.

  She's not the first. Not even close. But there is something about her that fascinates me more than the others. And there have been many.

  I am obsession.

  Every home I enter becomes the object of my fixation. So the fact that she has become all I think about -- despite all the other homes I prowl -- makes me impatient.

  Patience. It's the most important tool in my arsenal. I plan every hunt from start to finish. I watch their lives through windows. I learn their routines. I enter their homes and go through their keepsakes and take small tokens here or there. Something they won't notice or will assume they have misplaced. I may move a picture. Eat something. Just enough so that somewhere in their subconscious they feel my presence long before I am standing in front of them. That used to be enough. Just being there, surrounded by their things, the vestiges of their daily lives. It used to be enough to look at the tokens I kept and remember the rush I felt being inside the walls I had watched from afar. But that rush faded a long time ago, vanishing in a spectacular eruption the day the one person who understood me died. Without her, the loneliness became unbearable and the rage swelled. It filled me until I could feel it creeping out of my skin, until I was so full of rage and pain that I had to put it on someone else to make it disappear. Watching wasn't enough. I had to hear their voices. See their faces. Steal their lives. So instead of just taking, I began to leave things behind: tape, rope, gloves, lube. Tools I would use later when I was ready for them. And if the police ever stop me, well, they won't find a kit on me.

  I’m careful to make my targets seem random. I don't want to establish a clear pattern. My work as a contractor takes me all over Central California, where I grew up. I know the neighborhoods well. I know every shortcut and how all the streets connect. I know where all the freeway exits and ramps are for a quick getaway. Real estate agents call me to fix up houses. I'll look up their listings and pick a home they haven't had me work on. If I like the neighbors, I'll use those empty homes as a base to watch the area. Vacant houses at night are perfect places to hide. Other times, I just spot someone and the craving hits. So I watch them and see if they are a good fit. On paper it all looks random. But nothing is random.

  I comb through Vesper's jewelry boxes on a chest of drawers. She still lives with her parents, but we aren't too far apart in age. Even though she is in her early 20s, the trinkets are a mix of adult pieces and tokens of her childhood, as are many things in the room. On a chair in the corner is a silk robe, the kind that would rest beautifully against the curves of her tits and ass, and on that same chair is a little teddy bear, weathered from years of being hugged. The chair looks old. The white, painted woodwork is chipped and grayed, the pale floral cushion is worn in the spot where she has sat countless times. I run my fingers along the faded flowers that have touched her skin. Then along the satiny robe. I pick up the teddy bear and examine it before placing it back in its spot, tilting it 45 degrees from its original position.

  There's a picture board on one of her walls. The kind where you can pin stuff up or tuck the picture behind cross sections of ribbon. Many of the pictures are of her and her boyfriend. Mr. Soon-To-Be-Doctor. Mr. Perfect Smile and Charmed Existence. The board is stuffed with photos so they overlap many times over. Every one of them is of people smiling. All they fucking do is smile and it makes me sick.

  You're not like other people.

  These people don't know pain. They don't know loneliness. They might know fleeting discomfort, but they don't know the persistent agony of being an outsider. People like them have made me who I am.

  I remember when I first spotted Vesper Rivers. It's an odd n
ame, I know. Her mom is—was—a hippie. I wasn't hunting for anyone when it happened, though I always keep my options open. I was at the grocery store after a long day of work. Covered in sweat and muck, my clothes stained with paint and tar, I just wanted to grab something fast, and I was too tired from a week of prowling nights and working days to think about much else. That's when I saw her, walking through the cereal aisle. She had on a tiny top: a rust-colored halter with strings that wrapped around her neck. It was short, the waist of her shorts going just above her belly button so that when she moved, I'd see hints of her tight stomach. Her cutoff shorts barely covered her ass and made way for long, shapely legs. Her brown hair with hints of gold was long and feathered—a lot like that Farrah poster everyone has pinned up these days. But this girl, she was far more beautiful. Like an undiscovered gem just sitting in a pile of rocks and dirt. A long, elegant arm sloped down to a small hand. A boy. He must have been around eight. He couldn't be her son. She's too young.

  “You like that one, Johnny?” she asked, bent at the waist to be at his level. Her voice, it was extra sweet for the little boy.

  He nodded. His arm was crooked, one of his legs bent in awkwardly, and his mouth was contorted. He was different. Handicapped. And she was so kind to him. Maybe she wasn't like the others. Maybe she was something in between people like them and people like me.

  That's when she felt me staring. I'm usually discreet. I've mastered watching people, hiding in plain sight, but she stunned me. She looked over, catching my eyes for a millionth of a second before I turned away. I couldn't let her see my face, and I was grateful it was covered in dirt and tar, hiding its subtleties.

  I hastily went to the register with whatever was in my hands so I could get to my car before she got to hers. I waited for another fifteen minutes until she emerged from the store, a bag in one hand and the little boy dragging his feet holding the other. He was smiling. I don't understand how he could have been happy. I know how cruel this world can be to those of us who wear our imperfections on the outside.

  She got into a white Grand Prix, looked like a '73. I later learned my hunch was off by a year. I took note of the plates. I watched her leave. Then I followed far enough behind for her not to notice me.

  And here I am in her house a couple of weeks later. It's not my first time, either.

  I snatch a picture I don't think she'll miss much as it was mostly tucked behind another. In it, she's sitting on a log, a lake as a backdrop. She's laughing, of course, her head thrown back to show her white grin. A necklace glints at her throat.

  They'll smile at you then laugh behind your back.

  I glance at the clock on her nightstand. It's embedded in this porcelain unicorn statue, and I hope for her sake that it's another remnant from her younger days. I need to get out of here. I don't want to cut it close and blow this one. Besides, I have a date I need to prepare for tonight.

  I open up a small jewelry box, covered in multicolored rhinestones. There's a few pieces intertwined inside, but I notice the gold crescent moon attached to a necklace. It's the same one as the picture. It's mine now.

  Like my last visit to her home, I have something for her. I pull out a roll of twine and place it under the seat cushion of the chair that holds her teddy bear. Patience.

  “I'm doing some last minute shopping for the trip. Keep an eye on your brother. He's inside watching TV,” my mother says as she walks to her car parked on the sidewalk. It's a hot, sunny day, so I've decided to wash my car in our driveway. My stepdad is paying for my school, but daily living comes out of my pocket, and I save money in every way I can, including car washes.

  “Sure, mom,” I reply unenthusiastically. Not because I don't love watching Johnny, no, he's my world. It's because he doesn't seem to be hers. I know all about that. I've pretty much raised myself, but Johnny has handicaps. He was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and, as a result, has cerebral palsy and a few other issues. He needs her. But she just came back from the Caribbean two weeks ago, and now it's off to Egypt with my stepdad for another two weeks.

  She's oblivious to my tone, or she just doesn't care because she's already driving away. I drop my sponge and go inside to see how Johnny's doing. He's sitting crossed-legged in front of The Electric Company, bouncing up and down, and moving his good hand to the rhythm Easy Reader's signing. Johnny moves his lips, but nothing comes out. He's almost entirely mute. Sometimes when he's angry or elated, incoherent sounds escape his throat, but for the most part, he's silent.

  “Johnny. I'm washing the car outside. Do you want to help?”

  He either ignores me or is too enraptured by the show to hear me. “Hey,” I say, walking in front of him to block his view. “Did you hear me, sweetie?”

  He leans to the side to look past my legs. Clearly I am an annoying distraction. “Okay. Well, if you need anything, I'll be right outside. Okay?”

  He nods without making eye contact, still rocking to the song. I ruffle his hair up, open the curtain so I can see into the living room from outside, and head back out.

  It's blazing, and the cool, soapy water is a refuge for my hot arms as I dip my sponge into the bucket. I turn on my little radio and catch a Donna Summer song that's already halfway through.

  That's when I feel it. I'm being watched.

  The feeling is instant and it's certain. I stand up and turn to the street. It's a typical Friday afternoon. Kids are playing down the street, a few people are mowing the lawn, but it's the dark car that catches my attention. It drives by slowly, the driver's side facing me. The window is tinted and open just enough so that I can only see his eyes. And while he's far away, they are vivid. In fact, they are some of the clearest turquoise eyes I have ever seen. This is not the first time I have had this feeling. And this deja vu tells me maybe it's not the first time I have seen those eyes. I don't look away. Instead, I meet his gaze, trying to focus on those eyes. My stomach rolls with a mixture of nervousness and excitement. Eyes like that can only be part of something beautiful. And yet, that should be irrelevant. I should scoff at anyone showing interest in me, particularly in this manner. I'm already taken. And I am above random gawkers.

  There's something else though, something familiar, but he's too far away for me to be sure. A few days ago, I was at the library studying for a test, and the same feeling struck me as I looked through the quiet basement level for nursing books. I had pulled out a book from a shelf and gasped when I saw a pair of eyes on the other side. They were just as clear as these staring back at me, with a distinct marker: in his left eye, there was a fleck of golden brown. In eyes that clear— like when the water at the beach is so pristine I can see my feet—golden-brown flashed like gold leaf. Just as fast as I caught sight of those eyes peering through endless rows of books, they were gone. A chill came over me and I quietly walked over to peek on his side of the shelves, but there was no one. I didn't even hear his footsteps. He was so quiet, I even wondered if I had imagined him due to the sleepless nights of studying that preceded the encounter.

  Are those the same eyes? They can't be. Before I can assess any further, the window is rolled closed and the dark car turns in the distance.

  I stare at the vehicle as it rolls away, wrestling with this new sense of paranoia. I'm stressed. I've got nursing school, work, a busy boyfriend, and taking care of Johnny. This is simply stress manifesting itself in other ways. I think about telling my mother or my boyfriend, Carter, but what can I say? I made contact with a mesmerizing pair of eyes at the library? That some guy drove by and gawked at me washing my car in a bikini and cut-off shorts? Sounds like the life of any remotely attractive female.

  But there was something more to the paranoia. Something I wouldn't even fully acknowledge myself, yet alone tell Carter or my mother. This feeling of worry intermingled with something deeper—an intense feeling of being coveted. Not the disgusted feeling I get from a guy catcalling or trying to sweet talk me, but a quiet longing. I have been with Carter
so long, I have forgotten what it is like to play the game. To enjoy those stares from men that lasted a little longer than they should have. I have made myself impervious to them, turned off my sexuality for anyone but my long-faithful boyfriend.

  Except this time. This time, I couldn't turn off the curiosity. Wondering if the man I had seen or thought I saw at the library had come around to my side of the bookcase, would the rest of him been just as stunning as those eyes? Without a word, would he have pushed me against the books so hard they would have rained off the shelves around me? Would he have pinned me, and fucked me fiercely until I came, pulling me out of the routine and obligations I had found myself bound to? I fantasized a couple of times about those eyes when I slept with Carter, just to help get me over the edge. I liked dirty thoughts, forbidden thoughts. The more forbidden, the more aroused I became, but I could never tell Carter that. I didn't want him to feel inadequate. Besides, fantasies are private. They live in your head, not to be made real.

  There's a tug on my shorts. Johnny can't call my name, so I'm used to his touch. “Mmmhmm,” I answer, my mind still off in the far-away thoughts. I decide Johnny is more important than a couple of meaningless encounters, and give him my full attention. “You hungry?” I ask.

  He nods.

  “Grilled cheese?”

  He shakes his head.

  “Cereal?”

  He nods.

  “Okay. I'll finish this up later. Let's get you inside.” I lead Johnny to the door, but before entering, I cast one last look behind me to the now empty street. Just like at the library, I am left again with a hollow suspicion.

  I'm itching for the feeling again. It's been a week since the last house and already I need more. It's gotten worse this past month, ever since I first spotted Vesper. But I'm not ready for her yet. There's still more planning to be done. The last home I hit, on the same day I snatched Vesper’s necklace, quelled the urge, but it's back faster and fiercer than ever. I've never wanted anyone so badly.

 
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