A few days has passed since I was in the hospital, and I’m in recovery mode. Aaron paid for the hospital bills: both mine and Frankie’s because he felt like it. I’m very pleased, but at the same time curious as to why. He owes us nothing, and he even helped us get out from the car after the accident. The car is damaged, too damaged for us to keep it, but the insurance has stated that the car can be refunded, and we can now buy a new car. I’m sitting in the living room watching the television, and Frankie is out in the city. As usual, there is nothing on the television. I look over my shoulder, behind the sofa, as to where the bloodstain was. It is gone now, and Mr. Quentin is still in the hospital; something with his bone structure in his shoulder has to heal, and that the muscle tissue has been somewhat damaged, which also has to heal.
I walk out on the balcony and look out over Chicago. Frankie and I live downtown, which means that our flat was very expensive, though it was incredibly small in size. We could just get a flat with two rooms and a bathroom. The living room and kitchen are both small, but we can afford it, and we live well here. We managed to furnace the flat so that it has art deco furniture, and still appears spacious.
The city is nicely lit, and the last centimetre of the sun can be seen in the horizon. In the city it is impossible to see the stars due to all the lights. However this one night, there’s a few visible, appearing at the very top of the night sky. In the far distance I can hear a siren, and music from one of the night clubs in the city.
I stand outside on the balcony gazing out for a while, breathing in the cooling late summer air. The phone rings and I walk inside to pick up.
- Elisa, I just wanted to tell you that I’m not coming home tonight, Frankie says and afterwards start giggling.
- Okay, about when are you home tomorrow then?
- I’m not sure, but I’ll send you a text okay?
- Sure thing. Take care!
I hang up, and sit down on my bed. I decide to go to bed, so I leave the room and go out in the bathroom and brush my teeth. As I take the toothbrush and start brushing I look in the mirror, staring at the image. I still have a few bruises from the accident. I see the big one on my right arm, and then there’s one by my jaw- and hairline. My eyes are red as I suffer from chronic insomnia.
I wash my mouth and turn off the lights in the flat and go to bed. As I lay down I try to close my eyes and empty my mind to start sleeping. I just can’t. I keep lying like that for a moment, and all of a sudden a huge wave of thoughts appear in my mind. I start thinking about Aaron, and how weird it was of him to stay in my room for the whole time while I was unconscious, which appeared to be 3 and a half days. I turn on my bedside lamp again, and take forward my computer. I start checking my emails. There’s a lot of newsletters; some from H&M, Forever 21, Asos, etc. However, there’s one from the accounts manager I work for, his name is Jared Harris. I open it:
I hope you’re doing well, and recovering just fine. I hope you’ll be back on job as soon as possible – your substitute is unsatisfying, but all we can afford.
Greetings from us all
Accounts manager, Yorkton Corporation
I archive the email under the folder ‘work’, and just as I am about to close Outlook a new email is in my inbox. I click on it and open it. Seemingly there’s no identified sender, which awakes my suspicion.
Meet me in the local Starbucks tomorrow at 12:00 AM, I give.
I sit there for a while, staring at the screen, wondering how he got my email address, and especially why he wants to see me. I turn off the computer and take my iPod and headphones and go into the living room. As an insomniac I have discovered that exercising and taking a bath just before bed can help me fall asleep. I move the coffee table around so that there is enough space for me to exercise on between the sofas and the television. I switch on my iPod, and click on the music app. I find my Exercise (flexing smiley) playlist and press shuffle. Put in the headphones and put up the volume, and Kid Runner – Move blasts into my ears. I start doing a few push-ups and sit-ups, then finish off with some squats and some lunges. As the song ends I have finished my strength routine. I walk out on the balcony, past the table and chairs and jump up on the treadmill. I turn up the speed, and as I start running Pigeon John – The Bomb plays. I start running, and do so for about forty minutes.
I step under the warm water and let it pour over me, calm down my muscles after the workout. I start washing myself with my cardamom body shampoo and the scent catches my nose and calms my nerves. I start thinking about the invitation for coffee I have awaiting tomorrow. He surely is a great looking guy, but he seems all too serious about everything. At the same time, he seems to be extremely protective, even towards me whom he has never had a real conversation with. Also, the fact that he stayed by my bed for 3 and a half days without even knowing me, and afterwards paying the hospital fees. Either he was raised to give his belongings away, or he feels guilty about the accident. But it wasn’t even his fault? I was just unaware of what was happening in front of me.
My head starts pounding by the thought.
I turn off the water and wipe my body with the towel. I am a short woman, but I have very long legs compared to my torso. I am somewhat lucky with my figure. I have a great metabolism, so I stay thin easily. I am slightly toned. I don’t like women to be buff, I’ll leave that to be a men’s case.
I lie down in my bed and take half a sleeping pill to make it help me become calm enough to sleep – to kill my thoughts. I plug in my headphones again and put on my classical music playlist, and close my eyes. I dose off to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14.
I wake up as my alarm goes off. It is the standard iPhone ringtone, and it wakes me with a boom. The sound was turned up fully and the phone is right by my ear. I yawn and stretch in the bed, realising that it is too comfy under my duvet to get out of bed. So I choose to stay for a while. I sit up and look though my Facebook feed. There’s nothing interesting: it’s just the common annoying updates from some people I used to talk to who tells about how many calories they’ve burnt in the fitness centre.
I look at the time. It says 9:34 AM, so I still got a lot of time until I have to meet up with Aaron.
I sit down by the table in the kitchen eating my cereal and a cut-out apple. I read the newspaper, which doesn’t contain any useful information as Frankie enters the flat.
- I’m in the kitchen!
She dumps her bag on the floor and comes out in the kitchen and drops down on the chair in front of me. She looks exhausted, and the makeup she wore from yesterday is now smudged under her eyes. Her lipstick has smudged a little out on her cheek and her hair is put in a messy bun.
- Rough night? I ask her, looking at her over the newspaper, which I immediately regret because I feel like the common dad sitting and interrogating his son about why there’s less petrol in the car than it was the night before they went to bed.
- Uhm, she starts, shifting in her chair.
- Well, not too rough. Just went partying and got a little, very drunk and slept over somewhere, and woke up next to this really cute guy. Now I can’t remember more…
She giggles and kicks back. I look at her. She is surely younger than me by two years and a month, but I feel so old. I’ve never been drunk, as I consider it being reckless. But then again, it would be an experience worth trying I suppose. I mean, she doesn’t seem too bad after a whole night out…
- Grab some breakfast and go to bed, I’m sure you need that. I tell her, and nod towards the cabinet where we keep the cereal. She does as I say, and soon she’s off to bed.
I stand and put my empty bowl in the dishwasher and go into the living room to slack off a bit before I go shower and get ready for the meeting.
I sit in the cab and look at my phone, checking my emails. I choose to write an answer to Jared Harris in response to the email he had sent the previous day.
Dear Jared Harris
Thank you for showing your concern. As an answer to your previous email about my substitute I can tell you that I will be available for work already by tomorrow morning. My recovery has happened faster than expected.
Accounts Manager Assistant, Yorkton Corporation
I press ‘Send’ and sit back in the seat, looking out the window as the buildings pass by. They’re all very tall, and the sun doesn’t reach down between these until past midday. I look at the people mainly, determining their purpose on the street depending on their behaviour and appearance. A woman is wearing a black pencilskirt along with a white blazer and a black shirt with white seams. She has her hair tied in a tight knot, and black glasses with thick rims on her nose. She is talking on the phone.
I look down at my own clothing. I’m no big ‘fashionista’, I just wear whatever lies first in my closet; except for today. I’m wearing a pair of tight jeans and my deep purple converse. On the torso I have a denim jacket with its sleeves folded up so that my watch and bracelet is visible. My hair is down, and goes down to my chest. It’s waving slightly due to my natural curls. I’m no big fan of makeup, but for the occasion I am wearing a bit of mascara and a nude lipstick.
I exit the cab after having paid the driver $8 for the drive, and I go toward the Starbucks shop on the other side of the road. As I enter I look around for Aaron, but he is nowhere to be seen. I sit down by the window and look out – looking for his red Audi.
After a minute or two he crosses the road. He is wearing a pair of black jeans, pilot sunglasses, a grey shirt with its first buttons opened revealing just a bit of his seemingly well-trained chest. He is wearing Rolex on his wrist. I almost drop my jaw by the looks of him. He looks like taken out of a Giorgio Armani advertisement for some new perfume.
He enters the shop and searches the crowd for my face. We make eye-contact and he smiles. He slides in on the seat in front of me and takes off his sunglasses.
- Elisabeth, he greets.
- Coffee? A piece of cake?
- Just a cappuccino please.
He laughs slightly and leaves the seat and goes toward the counter. I sit back and investigate the scene. Aaron orders coffee for us both, and pays the girl behind the counter. She seems completely out of herself by being near him. I understand that – he looks like a God dressed the way he is.
He sits down in front of me again and hands me my coffee, and looks at me intensely.
- So, Elisabeth, tell me a bit about yourself.
- What do you want to know?
He smiles and sits back.
- Well, start off with your background. I hear a slight British accent?
- Yes, I was born and raised until age 9 in London. We moved here because my parents discovered the farm they are still living on. I’ve lived here ever since. I never got rid of the accent though, I guess some things never disappears.
- What about yourself? Anything interesting to tell?
- I have a degree in economics and international business, but currently I work at Yorkton Corporation as the assistant to the accounts manager. I live in a small flat here in Chicago with Frankie, and I suffer from insomnia.
- I see.
- What about yourself?
- Well, I don’t have a degree from university, but I worked in the military for a few years. I was recruited at early age. They saw a potential I guess you could say. Now I do however work… Independently.
- With what exactly?
- Let’s just keep it with me providing a service to people who can afford it.
I nod slowly. He has surely awoken my interest. What kind of service could it be? The first thing that pops into my mind is that he is a prostitute, which would explain why he doesn’t want to be specific about it. On the other hand though it seems unlikely.
- What do you do in your free time?
He smiles a big smile, his eyes glooming with joy by the thought. He has a lovely smile, where he flashes his bright and shining white teeth, which are almost perfect, except for a slightly crooked canine tooth.
- I like motorsports, I usually go to France every summer during the Le Mans race to watch it.
- Do you drive yourself?
- Of course I do.
I take a sip of my coffee. He certainly must be wealthy since he can afford such. I am not too much of a citizen in the world of motorsports, but I do however know that is no cheap hobby to have.
- I also practice hunting and shooting weapons.
- I suppose that is a good skill to possess here in the United States? I mean, most people own a gun, so it would make sense.
- Are you showing prejudice towards the Americans?
- No no, I didn’t mean to…
He breaks into laughter.
- I’m teasing you. Yes, I suppose it is. Also, from being in the military it has made me happy to fire guns. It gives a sense of relief.
- I see.
We sit there for a while and talk over the coffee. I enjoy his company, he is great to talk to. There is just one thing which bugs me: I have this gut-feeling telling me that there is some dark secret behind his deep blue eyes. I just can’t tell what it is.
We walk out of the shop and walk side by side, having decided to take a stroll down the street. He looks down on me and stops.
- You see, Elisabeth, I’m no good person. I’ve done terrible things – unforgiveable things.
His eyes are cold as ice when he says this. This is what I’m worried about. I know he’s talking about a dark secret, but I can’t help it.
- I don’t care.
- But I do, and I tell you now that I don’t belong in the world that you live in. I’ve got some troubles which are likely to come down upon you and affect you if we keep seeing each other.
My stomach twists and turns. What is he trying to tell me? He lift my chin up so that he can look me in the eyes.
- But there is this thing about you, which caught me at the first sight when I saw you in the café the other day.
The gloom has returned into his eyes.
- I know I should stay away from you, and you have every right to turn away from me, but I think I can’t stay away from you.
My heart pounds fast and is about to explode in my chest. I’ve only known him for about a week, how can he be like this to me?
- Say something, he pleads.
He lets go off my chin and the sparks are gone now. Even though I am flattered and utterly confused about his previous words, I feel the confusion and slight feeling of freight in my stomach. He seems to believe that his secret is so unbearably terrible. What could it be?
- I just don’t know what to say. I barely know you, and…
He smiles and drags his hand through his hair.
- I know, I know. Come, I have something I want to show you.
He offers his hand, and I hesitate for just a second. I put my and on top of his and he walks me to his car. He opens the passenger side door for me and I slide in.
We drive out of Chicago along the highway. The Audi drives like a dream. The engine hums slightly when keeping the speed, but roars like an angry tiger when you step on it.
- Do you want to have your hair ruined?
I look at him with big eyes. What does he mean? He laughs at my expression and presses a button and the roof goes down. I start laughing too.
- Where are we going?
- Just wait and see.
He presses the radio, and Frank Sinatra’s soft jazz voice comes out of the speakers. I don’t recognise the song at first, but at the chorus I realise it is I’ve Got the World on a String. I sit back and close my eyes, enjoying the cooling breeze in my hair. It is in the middle of the afternoon where the sun is at the highest, so the temperature is quite high. I sense that Aaron looks at me and I just smile.
We pull up in front of a shooting range, and I look questioningly at him. He smiles and steps out of the car and comes over to open the door for me. I get out and he looks down at me.
- Have you ever tried shooting a gun before?
I shake my head. I’ve actually never been near any weapon. He smiles at me.
- Well, there’s always a first!
I look at him, with what must be a hint of freight appearing in my face. He takes my hand and we walk inside the little building attached to the shooting range. An older man is standing behind the counter, where several kinds of weapons are hanging on the wall.
- Mr. Sanders, welcome. Who have you brought, may I ask?
The man has a deep voice, with a slight shaking which approves that he is old. His face is slightly wrinkled, and his brown eyes are under a pair of slightly bushy, grey eyebrows. His smile is kind, and when he does, he gets wrinkles at the corners of his eyes.
- Ms. Elisabeth McTavish, a friend of mine.
- The shooting range is available for you to use.
- Thank you Arthur.
He starts walking out towards the back, and I follow him; my arms crossed. I had never imagined that I would go out with a guy to go on a shooting range. He opens a door and lets me in first. It is pretty dark in there, but as he turns on a light I see what’s lying around. Several types of weapons: pistols, rifles, and some other kinds I’m unsure of.
- What do you want to try out? He says, his eyes glooming with joy and excitement. I shake.
- I’m not sure if I want to try… I’ve never fired a gun before.
- I will teach you then. I guess we’ll start with a simple pistol at first then.
He walks forward towards the table and picks up a heavy looking gun. He checks the clip and fills it with bullets. I count twelve in total.
- This is a Glock, it is commonly used by the police. Here, feel it.
- Come on, it’s secured.
I extend my hand and grab it. Even though he is still holding on to it, it feels heavy in my hand. He releases and I feel the weight of it in my hand. I shift its weight, examining it. Aaron studies my reaction closely I can feel.
- Come, let’s go try it out.
I look up at him, and he turns and walks out another door, which leads us to a field with targets at different ranges.
- Here, let me show you how at first, then I’ll help you.
He takes on a pair of safety glasses and earmuffs, and I follow same procedure. Aaron extends his arms, slightly bent by the elbow. He takes aim, and I take a step further back and slightly behind him. He looks over his shoulder, looks at me and smiles. Then he looks back and fires the gun. As the gun is fired I see his muscles tense. He has amazing arm muscles. His biceps are beautiful under the shirt he’s wearing, and his lower arms are tense from the recoil from the gun. He fires once again, having his right leg extended further back than the left. I guess it is to keep his balance. He looks so professional doing it, but then I remember that he must have done this before; he was in the military after all.
He goes into a normal position again and secures the gun. He hands it to me. I take it and look towards the shooting range.
I try to take aim, doing it the same way he did. He stands behind me, drags my right leg a bit further back. He twists my torso slightly. I straighten out my arms and try to take aim. He brings his arms up to mine, and takes them slightly backwards, so that they bend – like his did. I lock in my elbows. He holds his arms to mine, keeping them steady. Then he nods, and I try to pull the trigger. It is tight, but in the end I get it. The recoil from the gun makes it hurt in my hands, and it gives a chock through my arms. I’m glad Aaron holds my arms steady, else I fear I might have hurt myself. I can feel his muscular body to mine, and my heart starts pounding faster. My lips start tickling, and I bite my lip to try and stop the feeling. He nods again and I fire the gun.