“Just as there are two sides to every story, there are two sides to every person. One that we reveal to the world…and another we keep hidden inside.”
Squeak, click, squeak, click – that was the sound my wedges made as I followed the brick path down towards the outdoor patio of Lewellyn’s. I could practically feel the blisters forming on my toes, a rude reminder of why I never wore heels. My fingertips danced along the edges of my mint green dress, a new purchase of mine; straight from the sales rack of Target.
I didn’t want to come off as trying too hard, I mean my usual attire would be jean shorts, flip-flops, and a t-shirt. Whatever, maybe that’s why I’m still single.
It had been awhile since I had been on a date, but I knew I couldn’t sit through one more bridal shower without tearing my hair out if I didn’t at least try and get out there. The comfort zone, as they call it, (for good reason) is something I was safely tucked away in. After a little bit of alcohol, and a lot of convincing, my friends successfully set me up with a tinder account.
So, now here I am, walking down this path, getting ready to meet the attractive man on the other side of the screen. He seemed nice enough through the few texts we exchanged. He had dark brown hair, blue eyes, and a killer jawline. I wondered why some girl hadn’t already snagged him.
I ran my hands through my hair and pulled the bottom of my dress down as I rounded the corner. My eyes roamed the room, then stopped at the sight of golden brown hair tucked away at a table in the corner. His legs were crossed as he sat calm, cool, and collected; like he had done this a hundred times before.
A quick nervous wheeze escaped my lips; too late, he had noticed me standing awkwardly in his gaze. His eyes pierced my flesh as if he could see my naked body straight through my freshly ironed dress. I quickly reached my hand out to his and gave a quirky smile.
“Hi, nice to meet you finally.”
With a deadpanned look on his face, he stood up to take my hand in his. I felt like everyone on the terrace had their eyes on us, how awkward.
“Likewise, you look so beautiful.”
I could feel my cheeks burning, I hoped I wore enough foundation to hide the shade of crimson developing above my dimples. I mustered up a smile to try and cover my embarrassment.
“Oh, thank you.”
His hand disappeared beneath the table before I could get a second word in. What was he doing? I already felt incredibly awkward on this date, I hadn’t realized how good looking he was. Why was this guy willing to go on a date with…well, me?
“Oh, I got you these by the way. I hope you like them.”
A bundle of lavender, green, and white flowers bounced from his grip. Wow, good-looking, and a gentleman? This was seeming to be too good to be true. I was already having flashes of white dresses dance through my mind. Perhaps this whole online dating thing wasn’t too bad after all.
I laced my fingers around the green stems and lifted the colorful petals to my nose. They carried the perfect aroma of wildflowers. A smile split from my straight-lined lips as my heart started to sing.
“They are beautiful! Thank you.”
Just as I was about to float away, the waiter pulled me back down to reality.
“What would you like to drink?”
Rosé sounded delicious on this sweet spring day, I could already feel the glass rim against my lips, the taste of sweet strawberries hitting my tongue, chased with a bite.
“Um, two gin and tonics. Please.”
I felt my heart come down from the high. Did he just order a drink for me, without even asking what I wanted? I shifted in my seat at the slight turn off but kept my composure with a tight smile. His eyes met mine as he twisted his body to face mine.
“So, tell me a little bit about yourself.”
“I work at the 5 acres animal shelter. I like to find good homes for pets.”
He put his arm on top the table and leaned in closer, keeping his eyes locked with mine.
“Aw, the work of an angel.”
That familiar crimson color filled my cheeks once more.
A huge grin twisted up on his face as his eyes stayed locked with mine. He looked like he had a secret he was hiding. A question he was daring to ask, but fighting to hold back.
“So, tell me. Do you have tender skin?”
Did I have tender skin? Was he really asking me that? The question caught me off guard. What the hell did that even mean? In an instant, my nervous jitters turned into nervous worries. This time I stared down at my lap, trying to hide the crimson.
“Um. I mean…I wear lotion. I have never really been asked that.”
What happened next sent shivers down my spine, a million ants crawling beneath my skin, a twist of sweat dripped down the nape of my neck. I couldn’t help but feel grossed out as the tip of his tongue slid out of his mouth, slowly rimming his lips as he kept constant eye contact with me.
I tried to shake it off, maybe he was just licking his lips. I attempted to quickly change the subject which proved to just put my worries even more on edge.
“So, do you drink often?”
He leaned in even closer, keeping perfect eye contact with me.
“Only when I need to clean my conscience.”
A nervous laugh slipped through my lips. Was he serious? I nervously looked around for the waiter. This date was over before it had begun, I wanted out of here; now.
“Haha. I’m only kidding.”
I gave him a courteous smile back as a forced laugh left his lips as he repeated himself again. This time, he spoke as if I was in trouble as if he didn’t think I believed him the first time.
“Seriously. I’m only kidding.”
I played along with his game, secretly eyeing for the waiter to make my escape. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something off about this guy. Was he getting the hint? I wasn’t sure, he acted as if every girl fell to their knees at the sight of him.
“So, what do you say we get out of here and go back to my place?”
Wow! This guy had some serious balls to ask me back to his place. Was he crazy? Clearly, he was, our date was obviously not getting off on a good foot. Did he always talk to girls like this? I guess with a mug like that, he wasn’t used to hearing the word no. I cupped my hands nervously as I tried to stay strong.
“I have to work early tomorrow morning. I think I’m done for the night.”
“Well, that’s ok my lady. At least allow me to walk you to your car.”
There was that chivalry I had loved about him five minutes ago. Honestly, I didn’t want him to walk me to my car, I just wanted to get out of there. But, I figured since he didn’t push the issue of me leaving so early, maybe he got the hint, maybe he was just trying to be nice. I gave another tight smile and complied, I couldn’t bear the thought of hurting him…so I agreed.
“Sure. That would be great.”
As we neared my car, I couldn’t help but have mixed feelings. Here I was, dangling from this handsome man’s arm, yet I had this terrible gut feeling that something was off with him. Was I making a mistake?
“Well, this is my car.”
I nervously brushed the hair out of my eyes and neatly tucked it behind my ear. God, this was awkward. Was he going to just say bye and leave? Was he going to try and kiss me? I wanted to just snap my fingers and be done with him. I couldn’t bear the thought of turning him down; like I said, I didn’t want to hurt him.
He kept that creepy gaze on me, then reached for my hand and brought it up to his mouth. His lips touched the palm of my hand; a deep, long, French kiss ensued. I felt extremely grossed out but was sure to keep a kind smile on my face. The last thing I wanted to do was come off as rude, or worst – piss this guy off.
I slowly tugged my hand away from him and dove into my car. The thought of me lingering around any longer sent my body on high alert. This guy was flat out creepy, I was sure of it. Something wasn’t right with him.
My foot met the petal as I was getting ready to peel away, but something blocked my view. I shook as I saw him standing behind my car, just staring at me through my rearview mirror from the street. I gave the car some gas and slowly started to back up. What would I do if he refused to move? I guess I could have just honked till he got out of the way, we were in a public place, after all.
Just as my mind started to dance with “what-if’s”, he started to walk away.
At last, it was just me and the long stretch of highway. I checked my phone and had a missed text from Molly. She had been dying to know how my date went. I was sure she was sitting on the edge of her seat, waiting for my text. She would be shocked to hear this one, that’s for sure.
I held my phone to my mouth to use the Siri activation: “Call Molly.” It nearly made it to the second ring before she picked up.
“Hey girl, I just got done with my date.”
“So, tell me everything!”
“Well, he was really cute at first, and um, then he started to make all these sexual innuendos at me which was just too soon for the first date.”
“Wow, what an ass! Did you tell him what’s up?”
“No. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings or embarrass him.”
“Yeah, I get that. He was so cute in his pictures though. What a bummer.”
“Yeah, um, hang on a second. My phone is blowing up on the other line…Oh my gosh. I have 21 missed text messages from his guy already…”
“You gave him your number?!”
“NO. I’m talking about through the dating app. Ugh, I should have just told him I wasn’t interested back at the bar. Look, I got to go. I’m pulling in to my driveway.”
I started to go through all the missed messages on my phone. What could be so important for him to have to send me 21 texts within the time it took for me to drive home? My stomach dropped to the floor as I realized what he had been messaging me; pictures of me. Pictures of me in various tasks. Some were of me brushing my teeth, some were of me cooking, and some were of me watering the plants in the front yard. The last text that was sent from him confirmed what my gut was trying to tell me all along.
“Thought you looked beautiful in these.”
I felt the vomit crop up my throat. I was disgusted. How long had he been spying on me for? How did he even know where I lived? Everything about this creeped me out, but the one thing that frightened me the most, was that I hadn’t even noticed this person had been stalking me.
I quickly texted my friend back to let her know something was terribly wrong, that we needed to call the police. Typo upon typo littered the message box, but I didn’t have time to correct it. I was a nervous wreck.
Before I could hit send, my phone started ringing – it was him. Do I answer, or do I ignore? The thought of pissing him off scared me, what was he capable of? Before I could think twice, I clicked the green button to answer the call.
“Hey, baby. I miss you already. I was thinking maybe I could come over and we could hang out again.”
“Look. I should have told you back at the restaurant, I’m just not interested, ok?”
I hung up the phone in a tizzy and ran towards my bedroom. I wanted to lock myself in there and throw the covers over my head like I did when I was a child, but I knew that wouldn’t help me. I just wanted to feel some sort of safety net around me.
My feet sprang up the stairs, I promised myself I would call the police as soon as I was in my room. I just needed to be in a place of comfort before I had an anxiety attack. As I headed up the staircase, I thought back to the moment I agreed to sign up for Tinder, then started laughing hysterically. I couldn’t believe that the first date I had agreed to go on had ended so terribly. This is exactly why your parents tell you not to talk to strangers. Laughter filled my lungs, the stress of the situation was starting to get to my head.
I was halfway up the staircase rounding the corner to ascend the second half of stairs when I saw a silhouette above me which nearly sent me into a heart attack.
There he was, at the top of the staircase waiting for me, an evil grin spread across his face. How could he have possibly beat me home? How did he get into my house without me knowing?
I could feel my heart flutter as adrenaline started to surge through my body, like a tsunami filling a kiddie pool.
In an instant, I flung my body in the opposite direction to run away, but he was too fast for me – and I still had these damn wedges on. I could hear his feet thudding down the staircase, the sound of a thousand elephants running. My feet couldn’t carry me fast enough, I tried to grab the keys from my purse, but before I could run out the door, a hand was around my face.
Biceps of steel restricted my rib cage, I tried to yell and fight for my life. Everything happened so fast, before I could muster any more strength to fight, a washcloth covered my face and my feet left the floor. First, I felt a wave of calmness overcome me like I was flying in the ski with the birds, falling through big puffs of clouds. Then all at once, a deep tiredness overtook my body. Each muscle from my legs to my arms went into retirement, with blackness chasing close behind.
I woke to find myself sitting on a chair in the corner of my basement. The rug burns of rope burned my skin; my hands and feet were bound together. An echo of screams radiated up my windpipes, but caught a dead end as my mouth was masked shut with duct tape. As I started to come to, my eyes met the man who I had once been so willing to sit with. His once golden-brown hair had turned dark and sweaty. My eyes followed his muscular arms to see what he was fiddling with; the head of a glass bottle twirled between his fingertips as he watched me, an eager smile spread across his face that screamed evil.
As he stood up, the glass bottle fell to the floor with a few swigs of brown liquid washing around the corners; whiskey. Had he been drinking? How long was I out for? I watched as he stumbled towards me, the smell of alcohol burned my nose hairs. Fear was beating at my chest with each step closer he came until he was just a foot away from me. Another scream left my lips, which was of no use since the duct tape stopped any sound that would have come out.
His eyes stared into my soul as he stood calm, cool, and collected; like he had done this a hundred times before. With broad shoulders, and an air of confidence, his alcohol ridden lips opened as the last sentence I heard fell from his mouth.
“This is going to hurt.”