I lived my life blissfully ignorant to what had occurred just three days ago, locking myself into my penthouse and ever grateful for having listened to my instincts on permanently purchasing the penthouse. With my future magic shows indefinitely suspended, I looked to my not-so-small fortune to supply myself with the necessities, leaving my personal assistant to retrieve any items required beyond the safety of my penthouse.
I swung to face the door as Erica stepped through, my hands raised in fists as I prepared for the worst. A moment later, the door was shut and she looked at me with a concerned expression as she lowered the bags of supplies she carried. She swept her fringe from her eyes, her hair dark, swept back into a neat bun as opposed to my unruly, tangled locks. Her dark skin made mine look sickly pale.
“You need to get out of here. It’s unhealthy to keep being cooped up like this,” she told me as she worked to unpack the groceries. “Promise me that you’ll get out of the house soon.” I glanced at her and saw her expression, so serious and unmoving. Her dark brown eyes pinned me in place and I had to work to pull myself from her gaze.
“I can’t make any promises,” I told her. “I just don’t feel safe in public.” I shrugged my shoulders and went about helping her pack the groceries away. I grabbed a bunch of toiletries and carried them to the bathroom in an attempt to avoid her, but she followed me nonetheless.
She stepped in front of me, leaning against the bench top as I piled a year’s worth of soaps into the cabinet. I tried to avoid her but she stopped me in place. She forced me to look at her, to meet her eyes. I swallowed nervously.
“I’m warning you MacLaine. If you do not leave this place and into the public vicinity by tomorrow night, I will quit my job and you will be forced to leave. Do you really want that?” I looked at her, trying to see if she was tricking me but her gaze was level. I knew she was serious. She would really leave.
“I don’t want that,” I admitted. “But I won’t be leaving this place until I’m ready. And I don’t feel that I’ll be ready tomorrow, or the day after, or ten months from now. So please just bear with me.” She shook her head and tsked her finger at me. I groaned.
“You, Katherine Skye MacLaine, are going to leave this place by tomorrow afternoon or I will resign. You know I can finance myself long enough to find another job and you know I’ll do it. So how about you just be a good girl and leave, even for half an hour?” She smiled sweetly at me, almost leading me to the false belief that I would be safe in public. But I wouldn’t, I knew, and so the sweetness wore off quickly.
“I won’t.” I shook my head sharply.
“Well then I will resign,” she shot back. “Then what will you do?”
“I’ll sue you,” I said, glaring at her. To my surprise, she didn’t seem fazed. Instead, she merely laughed and rolled her eyes.
“On what grounds?” she replied. “Negligence? Ha, please.” Her eyes and tone softened as she placed a hand on my shoulder. “Look, I won’t resign but only if you promise me that you’ll at least try and get out of here.” I swallowed, my eyes focused on the ground as my heart raced and she stepped back. I glanced up at her unwillingly, seeing the kindness in her worried gaze. She lifted her handbag from the floor and hitched it over her shoulder.
She shifted her weight on her feet, smiling slightly. “I have to go,” she told me, her tone apologetic. “Just… try at the very least.” She patted me on the shoulder and let herself out, leaving me in silence and completely alone. I shuddered, the lack of heating in the room forcing me to shiver uncontrollably. I cranked up the heater and switched on the television, stunned as the image of the black van filled the screen.
Instantly, my hands began to shake and I had to force myself to focus on the news presenter’s voice. She stood before the wreckage, the bodies long gone. It was drizzling outside, tapping on the large black umbrella that was draped over her.
“Three days ago, this van was witnessed by New York residents to be a mysterious sighting. There are no reported witnesses of the crash or the men involved. It is evident, however, that they were murdered but no evidence points to any suspects. Police and FBI agents suspect internal conflict due to allegiances being crossed. The men reported to be deceased, have no further clues to their mysterious deaths and officials have released a statement in reference to the men that they were indeed homicide suspects in reference to the recent deaths of three New York females.
“Officials will be scouring for further evidence and road closures are expected. Those who live within the area have been given temporary alternate accommodation and delays are expected. Anyone with information in relation to the deaths or the accident is encouraged to contact their local law enforcement immediately; back to you.”
The news program switched back to the original news presenters and I switched off the program, leaving the penthouse in complete, tense silence. My heart pulsed in my veins, sweat pouring off my skin to the point I was surprised I didn’t have an indoor swimming pool. Tugging at my nails between my teeth, I hurried into the bathroom with my phone in hand, ringing my best friend on speed dial.
I was hoping that Jenique would answer, praying that she would pick up the phone for once. Ring, ring, ring... I was about to give up when the phone suddenly connected and I picked at the edges of my nails nervously. I probably should have admitted myself to a mental asylum. I would make the majority of them look half normal if I didn’t stop being a nervous wreck soon.
“Jenique Glasscow here,” she answered, reminding me that she didn’t have caller I.D.
“Hey Jen,” I said quietly, curling into a ball on the floor. “It’s Kat.”
“KAT!” she yelled into the phone. “I can’t believe it’s you! It’s been what? A year now? I’ve been meaning to come to one of your shows but you called them off. What’s been happening?” I smiled slightly, returning to a half-sane state. There’s nothing better than the effect of Jen’s voice when I’m half-hysterical.
“Yeah, it’s been too long,” I said, skimming over the catch-up talk. “Can you come and visit me?” I tried to keep my voice normal, and to my utter surprise it did. I could practically hear Jen on the opposite end, smiling.
“Of course!” she yelled, to the point I had to hold the phone away from my ear in fear of being deafened. I managed to keep a small smile on my face as she continued. “Be ready when I get there. I’m taking you out to Starbucks. No ifs or buts!”
“La la la! I can’t hear you!” I pressed my teeth together in frustration and shut my eyes tightly. I placed my hand on the floor, using its coolness to keep me from getting angry. “I’ll be there in twenty. Bye!” She hung up, her singsong voice echoing through my head like too-sweet candy on a sore tooth. I pressed my back against the wall, staring at the ceiling for a moment as I collected myself together.
It was only Starbucks, right? A friendly coffee chain just a couple of minutes’ walk down the street? Filled with a sense of self-determination, I pushed myself from the floor and decided to head for a shower. I kept the water on cool, a refreshing reprieve from the heat and sweat on my back. All too soon, it ended, and I stepped out of the shower to the sound of knocking on my door. Draped in a fluffy white dressing gown, I paced over to the peephole and saw Jen standing on the other side, her own eye peering back at me. I shrieked and jumped back, startled by her close proximity while she cackled on the other side.
The moment I released the lock, she burst inside and collapsed on the lounge, laughing to the point of tears. She gulped in great mouthfuls of air, attempting to compensate for the air she was breathing out in wracking laughter. I crossed my arms once the door was securely shut, tapping my foot impatiently against the polished wooden floorboards. It took a couple of minutes before Jen realised but when she did, she took her time in sitting up.
Still laughing and with tears running down her cheeks, she pushed aside her long, thin strands of brunette hair and tied them back in a tight, neat bun.
“Sorry Kat,” she apologised. “That was just priceless!” With that she burst into another fit of giggles and literally rolled on the floor laughing. I couldn’t help but laugh along with her, dropping my arms to my sides as my seriousness faded. She sat up, launching herself onto her feet and she strolled across to my open bedroom. A moment later, outfits were being tossed haphazardly around the room and I narrowly missed a wayward skirt that soared above my head.
“What are you doing?” I asked, frowning slightly. Jen tucked her head out of the closet and gave me a sheepish smile.
“Sorry Kat but you’re definitely not going out in a dressing gown,” she said, tsking at me. “I’m finding you something that shows off those juicy curves of yours without being… suggestive. Something that says, ‘I’m available but only to a tasteful suitor.’” I laughed ungracefully and rolled my eyes, barely catching hold of the black skinny jeans she threw me and a pretty white floral skirt with hand-sewn sleeves. She threw me a matching black jacket and a pair of pretty black flats to complete the look.
“I’m sorry to tell you, but I’m not going out,” I said, placing them on the bed. She looked up at me, torn but then resolve took its place.
“Katherine Sky MacLaine: you are going out to Starbucks with me for coffee and I don’t care what you say! I will drag you out of here kicking and screaming if you so wish!” She stood out of the closet and placed her hands on my shoulders, looking into my eyes evenly. It wasn’t difficult considering we were both 5’6” tall. “Not only that, but I will find you a suitor. And then you will get married and live happily ever after.”
I couldn’t help myself. I smiled and looked down, then back at her as she smiled happily.
“Fine,” I breathed, allowing my shoulders to droop in submission. She was a great friend but when it came to the final say, she was the alpha. “I’ll go to Starbucks. But you will pay for anything I order.” She grinned widely and jumped up and down on the spot, giggling and clapping her hands before pulling me into a tight hug.
“Yay!” she cheered, pushing me towards the bathroom with my outfit in hand. “Now go and get yourself dolled up. We have some coffee house bachelors to charm!” I laughed, swallowing my anxiety back as I allowed myself to give in to her demands. It was just a day out with a close friend and a coffee, right?
Then why did I feel so uncomfortable?