Thursday, 16 August 2012

Read Between the Lines - Part 3

Hi. No exclamation point today becuase I'm feeling pretty rubbish. Why?

School goes back tomorrow.

And my depression isn't what you think. I'm actually kinda looking forward to going back to school. I love learning new things and I get to see the friends that I haven't seen over the holidays.  I can go back to laughing and chatting and getting menacing glares from teachers because I finished first and they have nothing else to give me....again. I've missed all the hilarity. What's getting me down is the end of the summer, and realising how little I've down.

Sure, I've down a reasonable amount - edited half my novel, written at least 15,000 words of a new novella I'm working on, learned some ancient Greek, gone swimming, saw my friends etc etc - but it isn't half of what I wanted to do. I don't feel as if I've accomplished anything. I feel as though I've wasted 6 weeks that could have been spent doing things. And for someone who tries to make the most out of every day, that thought makes me quite sad.

Does anyone else feel as though their summer hasn't been as good as it should have been? I know that the weather in Scotland was probably a contributing factor (we got about 4 days of sun), so maybe it's just me.

Rant over.

Read Between the Lines - Part 3

Nikki looked up, her eyes glazed. Ok. Ok. She couldn’t panic; she couldn’t move, other than the steady rising and falling of her chest. Her head was an ocean of serene calm, of acceptance.  She had a stalker. Of that, she was certain. It was someone whom she had known most of her childhood, someone she didn’t pay much attention to, but who had a crush on her none the less. Her mind moved slowly through the fog that had clouded her memory. She couldn’t think of anyone. She had been an adventurous girl, but she wouldn’t say she was mean. She didn’t go out of her way to spite people.  That just wasn’t in her nature. So who could the author be? Maybe she didn’t even know him. Maybe he was just some guy, watching her from a distance. Maybe he had hidden in those bushes she remembered from her house, or blended in with the throngs of people at the beach. Nikki’s heart started fluttering. Maybe it was someone her mum knew. Or maybe it was one of her dad’s friends.

Artie.

The name jumped into her head, a bolt of lightning on a cloudy night. He had been a geeky boy with long brown hair and freckles in school.  He had been sweaty and overweight, with breath that smelled like old dishwater. The girls used to call him weird as they walked past him in the playground, giggling under their breath at his lopsided grin and his heavy shuffle. He had had a thing for her - she knew that much. He had tried to ask her out once, stuttering and perspiring as he did so. She turned him down, and that was motive enough, wasn’t it? It could be him. But really? Artie?

Nikki swallowed a globule of bile and wrapped her hands round the edge of the bed. The calm was fading, and panic was rising in her, sweeping her backwards with the force of its rhythmic waves. She had to call the police. She had to. What if he came round to her house...oh god, Noah! What could she say to Noah if he suddenly arrived and demanded to see her? What could she tell him? What if he hurt him? If she had learned one thing from CSI, it was that stalkers were irrational, violent and strange. Maybe he wanted to get to her, so he could get to Noah. A shiver rippled down her spine and she could feel a scream pressing on her lips. Her heart was thumping, faster and faster in her chest, her knuckles turning whiter with every erratic beat. She needed to call the police. Now.

The phone was on the other side of the room, and it was a few minutes before Nikki could move again. Her fingers had frozen to the edge of the bed and the manuscript lying on her stomach had held her down like some sort of mystic weight. By the time she had gotten up, the light had eased from behind the curtains, and the only light in the room was the still glowing lamp. Lifting the manuscript from her stomach, she had pulled the duvet back and placed her feet on the floor. She began to walk forward, sweat beading on her forehead. Every step seemed to take an age, and she had the vague thought that she was overreacting, that she should stop, get back into bed and sleep. But her feet kept moving, and then she was by the phone, her hand curved round the receiver and her fingers pressing the buttons that would save her.

999.

She held the phone to her ear and waited. There were four beeps and a woman’s voice came on.

“Emergency, what service do you require?”

“Police.” Her voice was nothing more than a squeak, a tiny voice echoing down the endless connections that took it to the operator. Her mind reeled slightly at the thought.

There was another beep, and then a man’s voice shot into her ear. “What is your emergency?”

Nikki swallowed. She had to get this right. She had to be precise. She breathed in, and breathed out.
Calm. “I have a stalker.” There, that was better. Her voice was stronger, firmer this time. She felt the panic subside a little, and her face flushed back to its normal colour. “I have a stalker,” she repeated, feeling a bit more confident.

There was silence on the other end for a few moments. “What is your name and address?”

“Nikki Debine. 86 Hawthorne Street, Glasgow.”

“Ok. Thank you ma’m. Two officers are on their way to you. Just keep calm. Everything will be alright.”

“Ok. Thank you. Goodbye.”

Nikki’s fingers skimmed the buttons and she killed the phone call. There was a final beep, and then, silence. She sat the phone back down in its holder and ambled towards the bed. Her face was still lined with sweat and her heart still thudding and thumping in her chest, but she wasn’t as scared any more. The police would take care of things. They always took care of things. Bad things. Like her father.

Nikki pushed the sour thought out of her mind and suddenly realised that she was in her nightie. The police couldn’t see her in her nightie! With a burst of energy, Nikki jumped upwards and ran towards her chest of drawers. She pulled out a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and then walked to the bathroom to get changed. The police would take care of everything. She would be fine. The manuscript could be burned. Her mind would be at peace. Relief flooded her body and Nikki slumped as she closed the bathroom door. She would be safe. Noah would be safe. And she could go back to doing what she loved.

And Artie would be dealt with.
*

The next few days passed in a blur. The police came, took details and went; she had returned to her job the next day with minimal stares and references to what had happened from Joan. There had been a few forced smiles, a couple ‘Are you ok?’s and one hug, and that was that. Everyone went back to reading and writing and jotting. The office went silent once more.

Nikki herself just went through the days in a strange daze, going through the motions of each action with a painful grin on her face and the odious manuscript at the back of her mind. It nagged her, begging for attention like a stray dog or an annoying sibling. It was always there, hovering, staring, smirking. It was worse just before she went to bed. She had burned the manuscript after the police had decided it was useless, but when she closed her eyes, the white paper was burned into her skull. Every second that passed the anxiety got worse, and her fear grew and swelled like a tumour. She had ignored the last two phone calls from her dad. She couldn’t deal with him just now. There was too much going on.

On the third day after she had read the manuscript, Nikki sat down on the couch and swilled her glass of wine. Her back hurt from slouching all day, and her eyes felt as though slivers of glass had been pressed into them. Noah had gone to bed about fifteen minutes ago, but it wouldn’t be long until he started shouting again, complaining about something or another. Nikki sighed and took a gulp of her wine. Cheap. Barely palatable. Oh well. She couldn’t be fussy all the time. She took another swig and relaxed further into the chair. This was the life. The wine had cast a warm fog over her thoughts, and she was pleased to find that the manuscript and Artie had vanished from the background for the first time since it happened. A smile flitted across her face and Nikki closed her eyes. The couch sank away, leaving her on a beach in Hawaii, sipping pineapple juice from a coconut and reading the latest book she had published, safe in the knowledge that she had done her job well. Her father wouldn’t be able to reach her, and Noah, his little blonde hair tousled around his face, would be playing in the sand, laughing as crabs nibbled at his toes.  His dad would suddenly arrive and wrap his arms around her - just a hug nothing more - and everything would be perfect.  Noah would look up and run towards him, his eyes wide and his cheeks rosy. His fists would curve round his father’s knees and he would-

Ring. Ring. Ring.
Nikki’s eyes snapped open and she glowered. The phone was ringing. Just her luck. Noah would be awake in a couple of seconds and her fantasy would be gone forever, lost in the rolling ocean that was her worry. Sighing, she sat her wine down on the table and pushed herself up from the couch.

“Hello?”

“Miss Debine? It’s Inspector Hopkins. We have some news about your case.”

Nikki leaned forward, her spare hand resting on the coffee table. Her vocal chords shrunk and a snake started writhing in her stomach. “Yes? Have you got him? Artie?”

There was silence for a moment and Nikki could just make out the sound of someone coughing in the background. “Miss, I’m afraid your suspicions were unfounded. Arthur Lauder has been dead for two years.”


2 comments:

Cat said...

I feel the exact same way, as I have literally slept my summer away :(

Rose said...

I don't, but then i don't do much anyway so it's not really relevant to me. I feel like i've achieved something, actually: i've written quite a lot this summer, which is good. One mistake i encountered in this:

"The clam was fading"

(Which, actually, i laughed at because it's such a delightful typo!) This is brilliant - i love how the story is hotting up. Next installment, please! :D