Authors: Shane Morgan
“Sure.” I turned and continued inside to
the large pantry. Tons of empty boxes lined the metal shelves, and plenty of
food to fill them.
Kathy came inside and stood with her
hands on her hips. She blew out a long and exasperated breath. Sweat dotted her
forehead and loose strands dangled from the band holding up the rest of her
“Don’t think we’ll finish packing
tonight,” she said.
I gave her a light tap at the arm. “I’ll
stay late so you can leave. You were here all day.”
She tilted her head to one side, giving
me a grateful smile. “That’s nice of you, dear, but I couldn’t leave you with
so much work.”
Kathy was in her late forties and had
been volunteering at the center for several years. I liked how she helped
people in need just because she cared, wanting nothing in return.
“Right!” She clapped her hands,
appearing energized again. “Let’s get to it.”
Her enthusiasm inspired me. Kathy never
complained. She’d made a choice, one she was happy with, it seemed.
We coordinated and sorted out quite a
few orders. It surprised me how many boxes we’d packed by the time the center
Kathy walked with me to the gates.
“Thanks for helping out, dear,” she said, patting my back.
“No problem. Glad to help.”
“Well, see you next week.” She turned and
headed across the street toward her car. I hopped into mine and drove home.
After parking in my reserved spot
outside the apartment building, I sidetracked and went for an evening stroll
along the bay. The sun was setting. I sat in the park and watched with an
unwavering gaze as vibrant colors of red-orange and yellow blazed over the
Soft, flirty laughs drew my attention to
a young couple on the bench next to mine. They were clinging together like
Velcro, watching the sunset.
I envied them; Tyler and I never did
such a thing. He wasn’t the romantic type. Still, I liked being with him. Our
relationship had great moments, like when he’d cook for me or we’d go for long
drives on Sundays. But when it was bad, it was really bad. I’d known that something
was wrong, that we were growing apart. Perhaps that’s why he’d cheated.
Darkness began to take over the sky,
erasing any remains of color. I started back to my apartment. My phone rang as
I entered the parking lot. I looked at the screen: unknown caller. Again.
Telemarketers were relentless.
I ignored the call and continued toward
the building. As I reached the cut-glass doors, my landlord opened it, pushing
his wife in her wheelchair. I hardly ever saw her. Mr. Farris said she’d been
in an accident a few years ago.
Standing aside, I held the door and
waited for them to come out. Mrs. Farris reached for my hand. Her palm felt
worn and fragile, and her tiny body shivered in the cool spring breeze. She
tilted her head back and squinted up at me.
“I know you.” Her voice sounded tired
Mr. Farris held his wife’s hand. “It’s
Bristol, love. You remember Bristol?”
She wobbled her head and clasped her
hands back on her lap. “I’ve seen her…” she mumbled to herself, looking at the
He fixed her sweater and squeezed her
shoulder. “I’m taking her for a drive to the place where we first met,” Mr.
Farris said. “She’s more relaxed there.”
Glancing at his wife, he smiled, so
genuine and full of love. “Well, we’ll be on our way.” He started pushing the
wheelchair again, but then stopped and peered back sideways. “You okay, dear?
You look bothered.”
I shook my head. “I’m fine. Enjoy your
He nodded and continued on his way. I
went into the vintage-style entry and ascended the stairs, the old pine wood
creaking with every step.
Once inside my apartment, I stood for a
moment and gazed around the place, looking at the coral-colored walls I’d
painted a week after I’d moved here. At my cream upholstery sofa, and modern
contemporary furniture I had picked out.
The space wasn’t huge, but it was
peaceful. Homey. A haven. My comfort zone.
The days passed by in a blur.
On Friday evening after work, I made plans to have dinner with my dad.
He waved from a table out on the deck
the instant I entered The Pier, our favorite restaurant in downtown Newport.
The food there was great. I loved the oceanic theme—the blue-painted walls and
seashell décor—and how opened it was to the water. The service was also
wonderful. Customers were treated like friends.
“Hey, Daddy,” I greeted.
His pale greens that mirrored mine
sparkled as he pulled me in for a hug. “How are you doing, sweetheart? I
haven’t seen you in two weeks.”
I sat while answering, “I’m all right.
Been busy at work. How’s the project?”
Dad was part of a crew contracted to
work on a Portuguese restaurant in Fall River. It was the first job he’d had
since his arrest and going to anger management a year ago.
“It’s coming along. We had a few
setbacks with some changes to the plan, but hopefully we’ll meet the deadline.”
A young brunette with a bubbly
personality strolled over to our table. Her enthusiasm heightened once she
remembered me and Dad.
When she moseyed off to put in our
orders, Dad stuck his hand inside his khaki jacket and pulled out an envelope.
“I almost forgot. This came by the condo for you.”
Puzzled, I wrinkled my forehead while
taking it from him.
“I heard you broke up with Tyler,” he
said before I opened the envelope. I could hear relief in his voice.
“Mom told you.” It wasn’t a question.
She’d probably called him to rant.
“She called and screamed at me,” he
Yep. I knew it.
“Your mother said it was my fault that
you dumped him. She thinks I influenced you to do it because I never warmed up
to the guy.”
“Dad, I left Tyler because he cheated on
His head swiveled. He narrowed his eyes,
making his age lines more visible. “That bastard! Of course she didn’t mention
that part. No surprise there. Your mother loved him like a son. The little
prick,” he grunted. “Wait ’til I get my hands on him.”
I reached across the table and squeezed
his hand, calming him. “Dad, it’s okay. I’m letting it go, so please don’t
His features softened again when he
noticed my concern. “Sweetheart, you know I wouldn’t intentionally go looking
to hurt him, right?”
I managed a smile. “I know, you’re only
being my protective dad.” Even so, the horrific memory of him beating that man
at his last job almost lifeless was still stuck at the back of my head.
It always scared me whenever he said
he’d teach Tyler a lesson if he broke my heart. I’d often wondered how literal
Dad’s words were, and whether his anger management sessions had really helped
to ease his temper—something I hadn’t even known he had.
“Bristol?” Dad jolted me out of my
“Yeah? Did you say something?” I drank
He chuckled. “You’re always lost in
thought. Your grandmother was the same.”
Our waitress came back with our orders.
Curious, I decided to open the envelope before I started eating, only to wince
when I saw the folded blue note inside.
Oh no. He knew where my dad lived too.
That was way past scary. It was almost…stalkerish.
“What is it?” Dad asked. I looked up at
him, shuddering. He gestured to the envelope in my hand. “Who’s it from?”
“Uh…” I fumbled. “I have a secret
Dad almost choked on his shrimp. He set
his fork down and wiped his mouth with the napkin.
“Secret admirer?” he repeated. “Sure
it’s not that little snake trying to get you back?”
I slid the note out of the envelope and
unfolded it. My cheeks flamed when I saw what was written.
I left you a gift inside your mailbox.
Black. Silky. Lace.
I can’t wait to see you in it.
Anxious, I shifted in my seat. His
fascination with me was on a sexual level.
“Are you okay?” Dad asked, worry lacing
his voice. “What’s the note say?”
“Nothing!” I blurted and reached for my
glass of water. I finished it in one gulp. My face was probably flushed with
He regarded me. “You look pale all of a
I shook my head and tried to smile, but
my lips failed to make the trip. “Dad, it’s nothing.” I crumpled the note and
dropped it inside my purse on the floor. It was so disgusting to have read that
sitting across from my father.
I quickly changed the topic. “Anyway,
there’s going to be a fundraiser held by Vanderson Publishing and a company
called Wilcox & Co. You’re welcome to attend. Maybe you could use it as an
opportunity to find new clients.”
He relaxed his body. “Always looking out
for your old man. Sure, I’ll go, but not to pimp myself. What’s it for?”
“It’s for an animal shelter here in
“Sounds good.” He continued eating while
telling me about his job and where he might work after finishing.
The note left me on edge and without an
appetite. I was thankful when we finally finished and took off from the
I was beyond nervous about what I’d find
in my mailbox, but I didn’t want to leave it there for my delivery guy to see
it—if he hadn’t already.
made me feel mortified, since he was around my dad’s age.
When I arrived home, I parked and slowly
paced up to my mailbox. Heart pounding, I opened it and looked inside. My
stomach twisted at the sight. I reached in with shaky fingers and retrieved the
lingerie. Like he’d said in the note, it was black, silky, and had lace
embroidery around the hem.
I quickly tucked it inside my purse and
glanced around the parking lot to make sure no one had seen.
“Well, he certainly has good taste,” I scoffed,
and then continued inside the building. The moment I entered my apartment, I
locked the door, clasped the chain, and threw the lingerie into the trash.
Calming my nerves, I turned on the
coffee brewer and went into my bedroom. I dropped my purse on the floor, peeled
off my clothes, and took a shower. The warm water was soothing, and it helped
me to relax my mind and not worry about my admirer. Perhaps he’d get bored soon
and move on to someone else.
Afterward, I put on my robe and toweled
my hair dry as I ambled back to the living room. When I walked into the kitchen
to pour a cup of coffee, I noticed the lid on the trash bin wasn’t closed all
I could have sworn I’d closed it
Thinking nothing of it, I fixed the lid
and finished pouring crème into my coffee. Then I went over to the couch to sit
and watch TV.
Terror gripped me. I almost dropped the
mug on my lap when I glimpsed the blue note on the coffee table. Confused, I
set the mug down next to it. My instincts told me to look over my shoulder.
Fear punctured me all over. Knots
twisted in my gut. Swallowing hard, I turned and stared at the front door. My
The chain was down.
I sprang to my feet, heart galloping
like rapid-fire bullets. Someone was inside my apartment. He’d probably been
here when I came home and snuck out while I was in the shower.
Petrified, I hurried over to the door to
fasten the chain. I stayed there, wondering if I should call the cops, but then
I looked at the note on the coffee table. With hurried breaths, I ambled back
to it. I inhaled and exhaled deeply before reading what it said.
Please stop throwing my gifts away.
It hurts me, and you don’t want to hurt my feelings,
I’ll be forced to act.
By the way, I enjoyed watching you in the shower.
You are breathtaking.
I wanted to join you so bad.
My heart almost stopped. I gasped for
air, like he was choking me. The note fell from my trembling hands. I began
searching for my cellphone, then remembered it was still inside my purse.
Running into my bedroom, I rifled
through my purse on the floor next to my bed. Thankfully, he hadn’t taken it,
but I noticed that the crumpled note that I’d received from Dad was gone.
I was about to call 911, but hesitated
again. What should I tell them? That some weirdo snuck inside my apartment and
got off while watching me shower but I didn’t know who? That he was leaving me
roses and notes? I’d watched enough thrillers. The police would need more than
that to do anything. So what could they do right now?
My phone vibrated in my hand,
frightening me. My racing heart settled a tad when I saw who was calling:
“Hey,” she chirped. “You want to go to
the waterfire in Prov—”
I cut her off, “Jules, he was inside my
“Who?” she asked, worried.
“That damn secret admirer. He left
lingerie in my mailbox. He knows where my dad lives. He sent a note to his
condo. Jules, this is
sexy. This shit is freaking me out!”
“Okay, calm down. How do you know he was
inside your apartment?”
Frustrated, I combed my hand through my
hair aggressively. “Because the chain was down when I came out of the shower,
and he said so in the stupid note he left. He was here, Jules. He was watching
Scared shitless, I tiptoed to the
doorway and peeked into the hallway, looking left then right. “I don’t know
what to do… I feel like calling the cops but…I don’t know if they can do
“What do you mean?” she shrieked.
“Bristol, some creep was inside your apartment! You have to call the cops. I’m
coming over. I don’t want you to be alone.”