Insider [Flash Fiction]

In the spaces between my shallow breaths, I heard someone moving around the house. I knew, rationally, that my heartbeats weren’t audible to any ears besides my own, but I worried that my increasing panic would lead to hyperventilation and the kind of wheezing, huffing, gasping for air that would wrack my entire body with convulsive shudders, making me knock against the precariously stacked shelves of the storeroom I was hiding in; not only would the air passing through my constricting throat move my vocal cords, but, most likely, a whole slew of boxes, bottles and dusty bits of machinery would fall down on me, giving away my location.

I counted to myself, looking at the seconds moving on my digital watch, for once blessing my age-old habit of going to bed with it, a habit that my husband hated. I breathed in for two seconds, let the air out for three – the goal was to reach four seconds in and eight out, achieving maximum calm and minimal panic, but I was only human, after all, and someone was prowling around out there, looking for me.

Graham wasn’t home; he was on a rare business trip. He hated them and tried, whenever possible, to send our son, Graham Junior, in his stead. Junior actually liked the travel, the plane rides, the novelty of staying in hotels alone and getting to be the big boss among the small fry. Graham never really liked that stuff, and he still teases me sometimes that Junior isn’t really his son, because where did he get his outgoing streak? Maybe he got it from my side of the family, I tell him. Hiding in the closet, I was thinking about how convenient it was that Junior was spending the night with his new girlfriend and not at home. Junior isn’t nearly as outgoing as his father likes to think he is.

A tinkling sound, following by a soft rip made me lose track of my measured breaths and I felt the pins and needles begin to crawl up my fingers and toes as I started to hyperventilate. I opened my eyes wide and forced myself to track the seconds on my watch again – 00:03:26 – 00:03:27 – breathe in – 28, 29, 30 – breathe out. The intruder, whoever he was, was being careful. He was looking for something. The sounds I’d heard – I tried to figure them out. The first was probably my perfume bottles – my one concession to vanity; working in a hospital, I’ve come to appreciate being surrounded by a scent of something that isn’t death, pus, ooze, urine, feces or antibacterial hand wash. The second sound, the rip… That was harder to figure out and it made me very nervous.

A creak. A groan. That was the floor near my hiding place and a voice, the voice of someone who wasn’t aware of the loose floorboard and twisted an ankle in it. Even very rich people get lazy about house repairs, I thought sardonically, noticing with pride that my breathing was slowing and that I could afford to make it a smidgen shallower and thus quieter. The door I was behind was locked, of course, with the key inside it on my end. I had not even the tiniest bit of curiosity as to what the intruder looked like. I simply wanted him to think that the house was empty and to leave.

Graham and I have gotten death threats before. We both do work that’s controversial, in its own way, and there are many people who don’t like the wealthy in this day and age. I can’t blame them for it, though their discontent doesn’t excuse their bad behavior, nor does it allow them to ignore the fact that we are human beings with rights as well. We pay our taxes and perform our social and public duties and shouldn’t be attacked. But high powered couples are always seen as somewhat problematic and Graham and I have always been aware of it and have fought our battles together or alone, as need and our lawyers deemed fit. We are not sentimental about such things. But I know that this break-in is about me, because this is the first time that I have had a secret. My family knows nothing of it, nor does anyone else.

Except someone does, apparently, know. Someone, walking around my house that night, knew. He knew, and he was going to do something about it. I stood in my closet and counted breaths, quietly, determined not to be heard.

Lucy’s Diary, May 25th

To be able to understand much of what is in here, you might want to, or need to, read the installment that precedes it in Alex’s blog. Here is the link: http://crystalgeek.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/journal-part-v/

May 25th, sometime after midnight, Pratt and Smith, under the covers in my room

Dearest Diary,

If my handwriting seems shaky, it’s because you’re currently nestled on my knees, which are also trying to hold the flashlight steady under the covers as I write. The girls yelled at me for having the light on when I came in here, hours after curfew of course [but the school understands and accepts this because of my needing to stay at the hospital every day]. As the library is closed, I have no choice but to huddle under my blankets and write in this most uncomfortable of situations. Forgive me for the discomfort I’m causing you, dear friend.

I’m oddly calm. I shouldn’t be calm, but I am. I suppose you’d like to know why I shouldn’t be calm, and I will indeed confide in you, but I don’t know how much I should, or can, or am allowed to write about this subjects that have recently been exposed to me.

Firstly, Micheal’s name isn’t Micheal. I’m not sure what his real name is, but he has told me to refer to him as R. and so I shall call him from now on. So R. is on the mend – he’s feeling much better, his bruises are slowly fading, and he should be released from the hospital in a day or two, a circumstance which will be difficult for me, because I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to see of him after he’s released. Miss Flynn believes that he really is a relative of mine, so I suppose she’ll let him visit me after study hours, and perhaps on our mornings off on Sundays I’ll be able to visit him wherever he’s staying right now.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m sure you want to know why I’m so certain that I have to keep seeing him. Well, let me share a bit of the secret then. I suppose, though, that I should start much farther back than what R. has told me tonight. I haven’t told him what I’m about to confide in you, Diary, and I’m not sure I should confide this in him, but I’ll think about it and see.

My parents died four years ago. Gruesomely, you may say. It was a car crash, and the media made out that Dad had been drunk and went off road, but it’s not true. The police told me right at first – before changing their story – that there had been a big truck coming towards them very fast [they could tell by the skid marks apparently] and that it seemed as if Dad had swerved so as to avoid the truck. There was a huge pool of oil right there, and the car slid and Mom and Dad went flying over the railing with the car into the field below where the car crashed upside down. You may wonder at my writing all this down this way. I haven’t repeated or talked of how they died for four years – at first, I tried convincing everyone that this was the true story, and I had to repeat it over and over and over again to get people to believe that Dad wasn’t drunk, but it was no use. The papers said it was a drunk-driving accident, and I gave up trying to tell people it wasn’t true. Since then, I’ve never talked about it.

Mom’s cousin, Clarisse, took me in. She’s the witch, the monster, the utter abomination of the human soul who is my legal guardian and it is she who sent me here, to Pratt and Smith. It is she to whom I now owe many thanks, though she’ll never hear me utter them.

If Clarisse hadn’t sent me here, I never would have met R. If I’d never have met R, I never would have found out that someone else besides my parents knew about the Parazelli, or suspected the existence of this group anyway. And now that I have met R, now that I know someone who has suffered a loss like mine at the hands of this foul group – because I know that Dad never drank when he drove, and I know that he and Mom had been dragging me around from college town to college town all of my childhood because they were trying to research and prove the existence of this most evil of cults, the Parazelli, who believe in bloodshed and evil as others believe in angels and beauty – now that I’ve met R and know he believes in them too, I finally have a way to avenge my parents. I finally have a way to continue their research, continue their work, and make them proud of me, their only, rather unruly, daughter.

Forgive me for getting your pages wet, my dearest confidante, my Diary, but I can’t help it. I don’t know whether it’s fear or relief I’m feeling right now, but I do know that I cannot part with R now – I mustn’t let him get too far away, and I have to get him to let me help, in whatever way I can.

Diary, my eyes are itching with the combination of my tears and tiredness. I shall leave you to your thoughts now, and hope you will not disapprove of my risking everything for this silly thing we humans call revenge.

I must speak with R. tomorrow. I simply must.

Good night, Diary, I hope your pages rest easily even with the heavy burden of knowledge I have put down in them tonight.

Yours, as ever,

Lucy

Lucy’s Diary, Later on May 16th

May 16th, Night-time, Library

Dear Diary,

Oh. My. Gosh. I know I wrote in you only this morning, dearest, but I hope you will forgive my indulging in scratching my pen over your pages once more today, and I sincerely hope you’re not weary of me yet!

I have been waiting patiently all day for a moment of solitude in which to tell you of the exciting events that followed directly after my last writing in you. Oh, I’m not speaking about my joining Sophie and Maria on their way back to Pratt and Smith this morning – I did join them, and we had a nice walk back to the school, as the day was all May sunshine and breezes, though it is now rather cold.

No, no, Diary, I am speaking of what passed in the few short minutes between my concluding my writing engagement with you this morning and the meeting with the girls. I can barely breathe at the strangeness of it all, but you must judge for yourself the events which I shall now relate.

I got up to leave the diner this morning right after the guy I’d seen on the plane had left. He had finished his phone call in what seemed like a huff, and fairly stormed out of the place. On my way out, I paid the waitress at the cash register at the counter, and I idly asked her where or what Gaitec’s Reach is. She had no idea, so I simply smiled and turned to walk out.

Who should I bump into as I was leaving? Why, who else, but Mr. Mysterious Airplane Man! He knocked you right out of my hands, and we both bent down to pick you up at the same time. Our eyes met for a brief moment, and I cannot describe the lure his gaze, intelligent as it is, had on me. But, Diary, I worried about you first and foremost and I picked you up immediately and left the diner with as much dignity as I could muster.

He ran after me, though! I have never been more surprised in my life. He told me his name was Michael – which was odd, because I’m sure I heard him addressing the man he was talking to on the phone as Michael. He asked me, in a hurried, abrupt manner, what my name was. I don’t know why I did it, but I said it was Annie. I didn’t – couldn’t, wouldn’t – tell him my real name! I don’t know him, after all! He asked me why I had asked the waitress about Gaitec’s Reach. I had to reply that I just liked the sound of the name, because what else could I say? That I was intrigued why he would be searching for some obscure place by that name? That wouldn’t have made any sense.

For some reason that I cannot fathom, he asked me for my cell number. I have one, you know, for emergencies, though my cousin will give me hell if she sees me making outgoing calls on it… Still, I gave him the number, which is even more unfathomable to me – because, as I pointed out before, I don’t know him!

Ah, Diary, what foolishness, what folly – I know you would reprimand me if you could. But this man, this Michael, he seems, for lack of a better phrasing, in NEED of something. I have an odd instinct that I could help him somehow. Then again, perhaps I’m entertaining a mere school-girl crush?

Oh dear, it’s very late, Diary. I have stayed up and out way past our curfew, and now must hasten to my room and my bed or I will surely be found here and I don’t feel like spending time in detention if I can help it at all.

You may call me silly, and I’ll admit to being so, but I will leave my phone on tonight, on my bedside table… Who knows, right?

Much love to you, my dearest confidante,

Lucy