I am not lost…

January 13, 2017

FICTION FRIDAY: Next Door Neighbor

So I’m still in flashback mode for now, but since it’s Friday the 13th, I had to share this particular piece with you. I’m not one to write a lot of horror, though I’d love to try some day, and this is likely the closest I’ve gotten. But I still like this, and I wish I could do something more with the concept. I just don’t know where I’d take it. But I remember my grad school workshop class just staring at me once I was done reading, and that’s pretty much all I can hope for, really.

The prompt was “write about a character who watches another person.”

(And of course, I go creepy.)

You come to the bus stop every morning, and I see you get off every night. Every day, at the same times. Clockwork. I could set my watch by you.

You never look exactly the same, from day to day. No more than five-foot-four, your limbs slender like a dancer, curves just barely hinted at from your androgynous clothing. Today, you dress in a salmon button-up, and an ebony vest that glints in the setting sun from its silver fastenings. Black pinstriped pants fit to your hips, legs flaring just enough at the ankle to match the boots you wear – black, again, but heeled like a man’s shoe, thick and low at the back. Your short auburn hair is tucked under a fake leather newsboy, your green eyes hidden quickly behind sunglasses.

Your eyes are sensitive to light. I’ve never seen you without your sunglasses.

You walk quickly from the bus, waving to the driver. So friendly. So sure. Your house is only a few roofs down, on the other side of the street. The bus waits for you to cross, like the school buses did.

I wonder if this is where the school bus waited for you as well. I wasn’t watching then. I mourn the loss of those years. You must have been a beautiful child.

The house is dark, but the porch light already blazes, waiting for you to return like an old friend. I saw you turn it on before you left this morning. The light is odd at noontime. I wonder if you know. I doubt you care. It’s not for us – not for me, left here at home. It’s for you, now.

Lights turn on, one by one, as you make your way through the house. Your curtains are rarely pulled once you return home, and I can see you hanging up your coat, traveling back to the kitchen, peering in the refrigerator. Your shoulders slump. There isn’t much there. I haven’t seen you shop in at least a week.

You pick up the phone. I wonder if tonight it will be pizza or Chinese. You only order from two places. You’ll have enough for leftovers – the delivery minimum is far too much for only one person, and you never have guests.

Good.

I wouldn’t like it if you had guests.

One day I will come out to the bus stop. Come out from my house, like Boo Radley and leave you a memento of my time. But perhaps you will not appreciate my watching. You will not like how well I know you now…how long I have watched you. I have lived here for four years, in the house next to the bus stop. I saw you for the first time my third day here.

My mother, disdainful on her end of the phone, calls me a stalker. That I’m going to scare the young lady, and won’t that teach me to creep on people from my front window.

I don’t listen to my mother. I am not a stalker. I’m not creepy.

I believe that this is a kind of love. I am in love with you.

Before half an hour is passed, a dark blue sedan arrives at your door. Pizza. I should have guessed. Last time it had been Chinese. You rarely order the same meal twice. You pay the delivery man, smiling at him. He recognizes you – and you have a short conversation.

You are smiling at him.

Don’t. Don’t smile at him. Send him away; he’s not worth you. You are better than some childish delivery boy that does nothing better with his life than drive pizzas around a city – get away from her, I told you, you arrogant ass – get away from her!

My words are silent, screaming only in my head. You don’t hear me. He doesn’t hear me. But a moment later, he leaves, and you have your pizza. I sigh. Again, you are safe. This is not my time to save you.

But your eyes travel across the street, to the little brick house that I call my home. Can you see me? Oh god, can you see me? You’re peering, as if something has caught your attention. Oh god, you can see me. I pull my fingers away from the blinds, stumbling backward over my coffee table as I flee from the couch I am kneeling on to see out my window.

You cannot see me. You cannot know I am watching. You cannot, you cannot. You cannot.

I wait a moment – two moments – another for my heart to stop racing. By the time I return to the window, you are shaking your head and returning inside. I see you place the pizza box on the table, but you have lost interest.

He reminded you of your ex, nasty horrible filth that he was, didn’t he? I’ll kill the delivery boy. I’ll remember the car. He’ll never hurt you again. He’ll never have the chance. We got rid of the horrible ex, didn’t we? He’s gone now. He’ll never hurt you again. And we’ll get rid of this one, too.

Eventually, you pick up a piece of pizza and you leave my view. Probably to sit at your TV. From this window, I can’t see it, but I’ve seen it when I walked by – at nights, when you’ve fallen asleep on your couch and I’ve made my way down the street, barely casting a shadow in the streetlight’s glare.

I don’t like coming outside. You might see. You might wake up. But I see your television. I know that upstairs, you have a small office and your bedroom. There may be more rooms, but I can’t see them from my attic window. There isn’t as much room to see. I have to be quick.

I sit back on my heels. Tonight you will eat, and watch Criminal Minds, and lock your door, afraid of the psycho killers that attack beautiful young people like you. Afraid that someone will hold a gun to your head, helpless as they abduct you.

You don’t know. You can’t know.

I will not let them come.

My phone rings. That will be my mother, making sure I eat dinner.

I ignore it. I’m not hungry.

And I don’t have the means for the pizza I crave.

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