The Grim Room (chapter 11)
My thriller novel, chapter 11
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Alison woke with a start, propping herself up on the bed with elbows, cold sweat slithering down her cheeks, tufts of hair sticking to her temple, her eyes wide open and scanning the room. Where the hell was she? Oh, right. She was in Rebecca’s bed—that was why she felt uncomfortable. She shucked the covers off, swinging her legs out.
Then she felt it again, that uneasy lingering something, the faintest seed of a memory. It contained loose images—vague—of blood, running, pills, screaming, passing traffic: Jesus. She remembered. It all, horrifically, came shooting back: Silver. Smuggler’s Cove. The chase. Oh, God. That sick fuck. Terror drummed through Alison’s body and she felt the desire to throw up. Only she wouldn’t give Silver the pleasure, that freak. Thank God she could stay with her best friend. She’d be safe. For now.
Rebecca was passed out on the love seat. A bottle of Cabernet was half full, corkless, on the miniature coffee table. Also, two items: Rebecca’s journal, wide open, and a yellow envelope.
Alison, careful not to wake sleeping beauty, lifted the journal. She kept eyeing the journal, her friend, the journal, her friend, nervous of being caught.
Jake asked me to marry him today, I can’t believe it! I’m thrilled, of course. Not as much as my mom will be though, lol. He’s perfect, right? He’s what every girl wants. The perfect mate, the perfect boyfriend, the perfect…husband. God, saying that is weird. I’ll be a wife. Crazy. I’ve always wanted this. But there’s something else. It’s been a few entries since I’ve mentioned him. God, it’s painful. Long story. I almost thought I’d find him today but the house ended up being bullshit…
The journal entry ended there. Rebecca must have stopped and fallen asleep. She didn’t have to guess what the reference to “house being bullshit” meant. Silver lied his criminal ass off. But more importantly: Jake finally proposed! Happiness and jealousy simultaneously ballooned inside of her. Becca would be married. How strange. How lucky. How right. How exciting. Good job, Jake. Five gold stars.
Alison picked up the yellow envelope. She glanced at Becca: her head was leaning on the cushion. Alison got the letter out. She read it.
Since she’d never met the infamous Chris, the only details she knew about him were through her best friend. Though Rebecca said positive things about him, and glowingly spoke of their “dizzying love affair,” as Rebecca dramatically called it, there were other things she had talked about; darker things. Also, there was often a tone. She was sensitive to Rebecca’s tone, especially relating to Chris, the man who affected her so deeply.
The only thing I need is you. I love you more than all the things in my life that came before you. When I get out, I’ll find you. We’ll start a new life. A real life.
When I get out I’ll find you, Alison said out loud, very quietly, her squinting eyes soft, lacking focus. A taste of something hidden was in those words; something weird. Becca’s mother put him in prison. He might want payback. This notion forced the tiniest of chills to rise from the base of her heart and to envelope the beating organ, forming a coldness inside that remained long after she had read his words from two years ago.
Alison placed the envelope back on the table. She threw her black trench coat on, snatched Rebecca’s car keys, and stuffed them into the coat. Bending down, she brushed her friend’s bangs from her face, and kissed Rebecca on the forehead. You’re quite a woman, Becca, she whispered. You’re going to get married. She penciled a quick note.
Firing up the Tacoma, Alison headed toward the TL. She’d left a few important things at the apartment: a pair of good heels; her vibrator; her makeup compact; and, she supposed most importantly: her Joe’s Crab Shack apron. She detested that apron almost more than she detested their obnoxious, check-out-your-ass boss, but that was the deal; she couldn’t go to work without it, and their boss would be pissed if he had to order her another one.
Tenderloin Apartments. Back in her shithole. That same Silver sensation was poking at her brain, the fear raw and real and moving inside of her, screaming at her to turn the engine back on and high-tail it back to Becca’s. Him chasing her across Van Ness Avenue assaulted her consciousness, and her heart began beating faster, goose bumps forming on her arms. Perhaps she was being none too smart by coming back here so soon. Then again, it’s not as if Silver would be waiting for her; c’mon, that was just her irrational imagination at work.
Then she recalled walking by Chris the other day. Well, she was pretty sure it was him. She had The Feeling.
Alison and Becca always wondered if Alison had ESP, or some variation of it. Whenever she felt some kind of intuitive pull, it had often, like 95 percent of the time, been spot on. And she had that pull when she walked by the hot Irish guy with the green eyes and leather jacket. He looked like an ex con, she supposed now, like he’d been a jailbird; wasn’t that what you called them? She wasn’t sure why, exactly, maybe something in the eyes. Then she realized it was his walk. There had been a sort of protected yet confident, tough walk.
Nervousness swept over her like that very same Chris déjà vu. It’s true, it had been as if she and Chris—if it were in fact him—met before, in another life. It must have been all the pictures Rebecca had shown her of the man from her past, and all the rich, vivid stories.
And all at once—as if dropping the memory of Chris into a deep well in her mind—she thought: I am back here. Silver: his sadistic, stealthy energy. His filthy, bloody mask of a face. That look like he wanted to kill her. His wobbling, pregnant belly, crossing Van Ness with cars swishing back and forth, blood caking his forehead, yelling, yelling, yelling…
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