I sit in the car, driving. Frankie sits shotgun, controlling the radio which is blasting the Swedish singer Robyn’s song Every Heartbeat loud in the small car. I drive a Volkswagen Polo Vivo, not too old, but I got it for an affordable price, and it doesn’t break down often, which is great as I’m no good at dealing with cars – other than filling it with petrol. I work as an assistant to an accounts manager in a small company, and my wage is not too high. I met Frankie, the short haired woman at age 20, who I ran into on a running routine one morning. She apologised, and so did I, and we decided to take a cup of coffee. It was quite early on a Saturday morning, and it ended up that we became great friends, and are now ‘roomies’.
- Oh, I really love this song! Frankie said, forcing the volume louder than my ears can stand. I noticed people on the streets turning around, glaring at us. She sings along to the song, rolling down the window, screaming the lyrics out loud on the street. I try to slide a bit further down the seat, trying to hide my 5 feet small body behind the steering wheel.
We pull up in front of the Antique Café, and I cut the engine. Frankie’s wild eyes, glooming with excitement and eagerness look at me, pleading.
- Do you think he’s there?
I try hard to keep a smile hid, and my mouth forms a straight, tight line.
- I don’t know, but let’s go in and see.
As we enter the café, the shop is dimly lit. It’s just now that I notice that the weather outside is dull and the sky is nowhere near blue, but has a white, slightly grey shade. The café is lit by candles on the tables, and a dim electrical lamp behind the bar. A waitress come walking towards us – Frankie is, too obviously, looking behind her, seeking for his face.
- A table for two? The waitress says and smiles that forced smile written as a part of the requirements in her job description. Frankie nods and we are shown to a table by the big window facing the street. As we sit down the waitress waits to take our order on drinks. I order a gin and tonic, whilst Frankie goes all in on a cosmopolitan. It doesn’t surprise me however, she’s a great fan of that drink. The waitress brings us the card, and we study it.
- So, have you seen him yet? I ask Frankie. I’m not all too interested in her love affairs, but she’s always so eager to tell. Usually I just listen with half an ear, and pay attention to my surroundings. She starts talking about how he must have gotten a shift as the dishwasher, or some other option I didn’t hear. I keep looking out the window at the people walking past.
On the other side of the street, a man, wearing a black suit and a nice blue tie, who has neat black hair which is set in a relaxed manner, is climbing out his car. The only reason I noticed, I suppose, is because of the expensive, red Audi he drives. I look fascinated at him. He is talking on his phone. He turns his head and gains eye contact with me for a brief second, but that was all enough. It feels as though an electric chock goes through me, making my fingers tingle and my heart skip several heartbeats, and my breathing becomes heavier. His eyes are dark blue, and his face sharp and focused on his conversation on the phone.
- Are you even listening? Frankie asks, annoyed with the lack of interest I’m showing towards what she says.
- Oh, sorry. I think my mind drifted, I apologise to her. She follows my eyes, and see just the back of the man I was looking at just a moment ago.
- What were you looking at?
- Nothing. As I said, my mind just drifted.
I’m saved by the waitress who arrives with our food, and as both of us expected, the food is really good. We sit there for about an hour, talking about everything. Frankie is studying law at university, and she is incredibly good at remembering everything from the classes. Whenever I ask her a small question involving legal matter, she can’t stop blabbering until she has finished – which can take about an hour if she gets really hooked on the topic.
I’m always surprised with how Frankie can study law, and how she was even allowed into the program. When she was younger she was often caught red-handed by the police when it came to drugs and bubble gum theft, which should be enough for her to not be accepted into any law school. However, she was, and she has not touched criminal affairs ever since.
Frankie, the nickname she first introduced herself with, simply because she hates her real name, was born in poor environments. Her mum was an obvious victim of abuse, physically and alcoholic, during her pregnancy with Frankie. As Frankie was born however, complications came, and Frankie’s biological mum died from internal bleedings during the birth. Frankie was then adopted by her foster parents, whom she considers her real parents, though not bonded through blood.
- So have you met anyone? You’re always so quiet about your love-life! It’s like you do not even want to have one! Frankie interrupts my stream of thoughts.
I shake my head.
- No, I haven’t. I just… I haven’t met the guy I want to spend the rest of my life with I suppose. I want it to be real, not just a one-night stand.
Frankie inhales deeply.
- Elisa, can you please just try and look at the market? You can’t be single forever! I want to be a godmother at early age! Not just sit around here forever and wait until you choose to adopt a child from Korea when you are age 83!
Elisa. My name is Elisabeth, but she calls me that, like I call her Frankie. We just believe in the art of being simple and short of words; at least when it comes to names. If one person is good with being using big words, it’s Frankie.
- Fine. But no online-dating!
- Because you never know what creep is jerking off to the profile picture! If you look nice, formal, it is only going to be lonely men living in a small flat with their lone hamster who is going to contact me, or at rare occasions boring suit-and-tie men. If I show my chest a bit more, then it’s only going to be jerks and perverts who’s going to contact me. I prefer neither of the options, so no online-dating, I am just into the ‘love-at-first-sight’ concept. Not ‘love-at-first-click’…
Frankie stares at me. I know I hurt her, because she met her amazing ex-boyfriend online. His name was Will, and he was the perfect guy for her. He was studying molecular engineering, but certainly did not look like a typical lab rat. He was nice, charming and utterly handsome. He was however involved in a car accident which put him into a coma. He never woke up again, his brain was too damaged.
- I’m sorry Frankie.
She shakes her head and nods.
- Now, dessert or what?
I smile at her.
As we leave the café and go for the car, the downfall has taken on more power, and thunder is to be heard in the distance. We enter the car and we sit there in silence for a moment, just enjoying the rain hammer to the roof of the car. Frankie looks in the little candy-box we have shoved under the passenger seat. She finds a small bag of Skittles: Confused and open it. We eat them quietly and just listen to the rain.
Frankie puts in a CD by The Ramones and first song to be played is I Wanna Be Sedated. I turn on the engine, and roll onto the road. She turns up the volume, and we start singing along, and she starts swinging her brown and pink striped hair to the rhythm of the song.
As we pull up in front of the flat we live in, we see some of our neighbours standing outside, and an ambulance parking up front, along with several police cars. A few policemen are blocking the entrance. I kill the engine and hurry up to our neighbour Mrs. Ferguson to ask what is going on. She’s a handsome older woman. Her hair is almost white from her aging, and she has few wrinkles in her face. She is slim, and a little muscular. She is not too old. She’s probably in her mid-50s and she has 3 children. All are boys.
- Oh, it’s terrible. A man tried to break into Your flat. He didn’t steal anything, but as mr. Quentin (The landlord) came up to stop him, he was shot in the shoulder, but he will live, thank God for that!
I shudder. Into my (and Frankie’s) flat. The thought makes me chill. The fact that the man was armed doesn’t make the thought any better. A policeman approaches Frankie who’s standing next to me.
- Ms. Williams? He asks. He is in his late 30s and of slightly athletic build.
- Can I ask you some questions?
- Of course you can, but I’m not too sure if I can help, but I’ll do my best.
- Where is ms. McTavish?
- That’s me. I answer before Frankie can respond with anything other than looking at me.
- Can you please come with me too?
- Of course officer.
Both Frankie and I follow him into the flat, and we climb the stairs altogether.
As we enter our flat it seems untouched. There are no signs of an intruder, not even the door has any damages. To me, it doesn’t even seem like a crime has taken place. Forensic scientists are walking around the rooms, searching for fingerprints etc.
- You see, we have not been able to find any signs of identification on the perpetrator, so we only have to rely on the information Mr. Quentin can give us on the appearance of the intruder.
Frankie and I exchange looks, and I’m sure we look equally worried.
- We suspect that the intruder has been pick locking his way in. We’ve found no fingerprints or chemicals whatsoever, which means that he must have been wearing gloves, and not just washed away his fingerprints. It also seems that he has taken the shell from the bullet fired with him so that we cannot trace it back to him. So far, we have nothing to build a case upon from the intrusion, other than the fact that Mr. Quentin was shot here in your flat.
He walks into the living room and points to a pool of blood, which supposedly is Mr. Quentin’s.
- Sir, with all due respect… Frankie begins. I stop listening, and go across the living room and walk out on the balcony and look out on the city. I stand there for what feels like hours, but it’s only for as long as Frankie talks to the officer. She comes out to me on the balcony.
- They figured that there’s a surveillance tape from the entrance hall. It might be useful as the man has made his way in by calling several neighbours until they let him in, making them believe he was a pizza delivery guy, delivering to our address, but that no one had answered the phone.
I nod. I’m not uninterested, I just don’t like the thought of having had someone unknown inside my home. It feels as if my privacy has been strongly invaded, and I feel incredibly intimidated by the thought.
- Let’s get out of here, I am sick of being here. I murmur to Frankie who hugs me and walks first inside again.
We decide to drive to my parents’ house because we can’t stay in our own flat until they finish searching for evidence to build the case upon. They live just outside of the city, in a small house with an attached barn where they mainly store their vehicles, which is a Land Rover and one of the new Volkswagen Beetles. My dad’s a hunter, and every fall he goes hunting, usually not for real though. He doesn’t like the thought of killing the animals, so all he does is to observe their behaviour, and making sure that they’re doing fine.
My mum however, is a real housewife. She likes being in the kitchen and always bake cake and bread for whenever I come by. I had a lovely childhood, living here with my older brother and my younger sister. We used to have cattle in the barn, but my parents became too old for that, and my dad started making a better living from being an accountant. My siblings and I used to play in the hay stacks all day, and we would build cosy little hiding spots in the hay.
As Frankie and I drive down the quiet road just outside of town, a car appears behind us. It’s an Audi. A red one. It does unmistakeably look like the one I saw earlier. A shame I don’t remember its license plate so I can tell. It races towards us, and all of a sudden it’s incredibly close. I keep my eyes in the rear mirror to keep an eye on the car so that it does not crash into us, but it lowers its speed behind us. Just as I return my eyes to the road I hear Frankie yell my name. The last thing I see is the behind of a truck. Everything goes black around me.
I gain consciousness and feel two arms under me: one to support my back, and the other under my knees. I am being carried I can feel as the regular pace from walking makes me bounce slightly in the arms of the person. I try to look up, but all I see is a dark haired silhouette, and judging from the body carrying me it is not a woman.
- How is she?
The voice is unknown, belonging to a woman. Out the corner of my eye I see a bright blue light blinking, possibly from an ambulance. The man carrying me lifts me higher up, and lowers me again. I feel the cold hard surface beneath me, and as my head dumps down on the stretcher, I pass out.
I wake up, and look around. I’m in a hospital, it’s clear to see. It’s dark outside the window, and I’m high up the hospital building. I do know, as everything around me is that sterile white, and I hear the beeping noise which follows my heartbeat. I try to sit up, but my head starts pounding as I try to do so. I lay back again and look to my left side. A man is sitting in the chair, sleeping. He is dressed in a white shirt, grey suit trousers, and a blue tie. As I continue to study him I notice that he looks like the man I saw outside at the café. My heart rate increases, and he wakes from the sound. Just as he is about to call the nurse, he notices that I’m awake.
- Hi, my name is Aaron Sanders. He says, and extents his hand, but realises that I can’t take it. He hurries to draw it back and into his hair.
- Hi, my name’s…
- I know what it is Elisabeth.
I look at him, surprised by his interruption. I look at my wrist and notice the hospital bracelet with my name and personal identification number. Of course he knows what my name is.
- What are you doing here? I ask him, careful not to seem rude, but I don’t know the man.
- I am here because I was there at the accident. You and your friend were picked up by an ambulance, and were driven here. You’ve been out for two and a half days.
I try to remember the accident, but as I try to, my head starts pounding again. I take my hand up to the side of my head, and makes a face.
- Should I call the nurse to give you some painkillers?
I shake my head, to my greater regret. I look at him again.
- Where is Frankie?
He looks at me for a second, and fear explodes within me.
- She’s fine, she was let out of hospital yesterday. She got away with a broken ankle and a mild concussion.
I lay back in the bed and sighs with relief.
- I have some calls to make. You should get some sleep. You are allowed to, you have no concussion.
He smiles a hesitant smile, and walks out the room. I lay back and close my eyes.
It is still dark in my room when I wake up, but I am not alone. Frankie, Aaron and my mum are there. They’re all talking together, and I lie with my eyes closed and listen to what they’re saying.
- You can’t pay the hospital bill, it is simply too much, especially when the accident was not your fault. I hear my mum say.
- It’s no problem Mrs. McTavish, I can afford it, Aaron answers. I can’t believe my own ears.
- Are you sure? You owe us nothing!
- I’m sure. Now, if you’ll excuse me.
I hear Aaron’s footsteps go further away, the door opens and closes, and the footsteps fade. My mum approaches the bed and strokes my face. I open my eyes.
- Hey sweetie, she says.
- Hi mum, Frankie.
I sit up, my head doesn’t hurt too much anymore. It is just a dull ache.
- How do you feel? Frankie asks. She is sitting in the chair in which Aaron sat.
- I feel okay, and you?
She smiles, and her eyes glow.
- I’m great, with the exception that my ankle hurts a lot. Now, what is it with that guy, Aaron was it? He has been sitting in here with you all the time when you were unconscious…
I shake my head.
- I don’t know, but what is it with him paying the hospital bill?
We continue talking for a while, until the nurse comes to show them out, as visiting hours are over. She checks my stats, and they’re all fine she says. She mentions that I can go home the following morning. I turn on the television in the hospital room, and try to watch CNN. There are the usual information about news from all over the world, about the crisis in Ukraine with all the rebels. It is a year ago that the Russian rebels shot down the Malaysian aircraft which was flying from Holland to Malaysia. Most of the news doesn’t catch my interest, but one story.
- One of the US Senators were shot in his Chicago residence. There is no eyewitnesses, and nobody heard a gun being fired, indicating that the perpetrator must have been using a silenced weapon. The police is now investigating the case, but our reporter has talked to a valid source of information within the police force, who states that there is no evidence to collect other than the blood of the victim. The victim is now being autopsied.
For some reason I get goose bumps from the story. I know that people are killed every day, but every time they talk about it in the news, and it gets this close to me, it becomes scary. I live in Chicago, but I was raised in England. My family and I lived there until I was aged 9, but we moved due to the dream my parents always had of living the farm life. So my family and I lived a bit out of Chicago, making a living from the farming life.