The noise of a doorknob turning awakes me. I flinch against the couch until I remember that Josh is supposed to come over.
We both live barely outside of downtown Toronto, the capital city of Ontario, Canada. It's pretty dangerous here. Josh is a 15 minute walk from my small apartment, but time usually flies by when you can talk to someone. It's also safer to have someone with you - not many people are willing to attack a guy and a girl in the middle of the street in daytime. Night time, though? That's a different story.
I know Josh from my weekly art classes, and he can even be considered a childhood friend. We talked for a few years before highschool, and then we stopped out of the blue. That was before I thought I recognized him two rows in front of me with his canvas and shaggy hair in my first art course.
"Helloooooooooo!" Josh exclaims as he closes the door. I groan and lay back down on the couch, as if I'm going back to sleep.
"Nuh-uh, none of that sleepy stuff. I know you, and I know you got a good sleep last night. Now wake up," He tells me, being his usual bossy self. I lean up a little bit and poke him, but he grabs my hand before I can retract it.
"Hey!" I squeal as Josh drags me into a sitting position.
"Whatcha watching, Aub?" He pulls off his sunglasses and drops them onto the coffee table before walking into the kitchen.
It's difficult to exactly see where the kitchen starts and ends; the rooms are connected with only a small wall between them. The flooring doesn't change, either; a nice warm oak coats the floors. The ceiling is quite tall, but not exactly a "ceiling". You can see up to the beams and pipes, but that doesn't bother me like it would some people.
That's the thing about this apartment - it's just a small shack that most people would be unhappy with. But I love it. It's the perfect size for me - 3 small bedrooms, a bathroom, a laundry room, a living room and a kitchen. All one floor, too.
"I was watching Spongebob before I fell asleep. I have no clue what's on now." I hear the fridge open and look over to see what he's doing. "So, you come here, just to raid my kitchen?" I point out as he shoves his face in my fridge.
"Where do you keep your pickles?" Josh calls out. "Do you even have pickles? Why don't you have pickles?"
I walk over to the kitchen and take a jar of pickles from out of the pantry, placing them on the table. The white oak contrasts the green jar. Josh walks over with two pops, and pulls out one of the chairs before handing me a Diet Pepsi. While the chairs match the white of the table, the cushions are a bright sky blue. I sit down across from Josh and open the jar of pickles.
"Ha, when was the last time we sat down and ate a jar of pickles?" Josh asks with his mouth full. I shake my head in disapproval but still smile. "You know, actually, I think 5 years ago. I stole a jar of pickles from my mom's cabinet and I went down to the tree fort. Don't you remember?" I giggle as I watch Josh shove another pickle into his mouth. I nod and pull out a pickle of my own.
"You know, I think I do briefly remember. You walked into my tree house, thinking it was yours. I found it first! And you had the guts to call dibs," I exclaim, smiling.
"Hey, I didn't even know you then. If I hadn't thought it was my fort, we would've never had that fight and ended up sharing a jar of pickles like we are now. I wouldn't know you!" We both laugh and take a sip of our pops. Our thing is pickles, and it always will be.
"Ever tried deepfried pickles?" I ask him. I'm practically drooling over the thought of having another one; they were so good.
"They have deepfried pickles?!!"
"Have you been living under a rock?" I ask, sounding genuine, but he knows that I'm joking.
"Well, let's go!" Josh jumps out of his chair and hops over to the couch. He puts on his sunglasses before noticing that I haven't moved a bit. I simply pull another pickle out of the jar.
I raise an eyebrow at him when we make eye contact.
"Do you really think you're going to mention DEEP FRIED PICKLES and get away with not letting me have one?" Josh babbles quickly before hopping back over to the kitchen. He pulls my arm until I close the jar of pickles and get up out of the chair.
"Shouldn't you refrigerate those after you've opened it?" Josh asks me. I know he's just trying to cause trouble, so I leave him with a death stare. He silently picks up the jar and puts it in the fridge.
I walk over to the living room and grab my cell off the coffee table.
"Oh hey, I found your I.D.! Weren't you looking for that last week?" Josh yells. He tosses me a small green card which has a picture of a light ivory-skinned lady on it. Myself, around a year ago. I had soft brown hair that fell down my back in soft curls. My eyes were a soft brown, my nose a little big when I smiled, and I had an almost invisible dimple in my right cheek. My cheekbones didn't exist as my cheeks were the puffiest thing to exist on Earth.
Josh skips to the front door and turns the doorknob. He steps out into the hallway and motions for me to come with him.
"Give me a second. I need my scarf and glasses," I yell towards him as I run into my bedroom, dodging everything in my way. My blue scarf on my bedside table easily catches my eyes. I grab it and slip on my dark sunglasses.
As soon as I'm out of my section of the building, I turn around and lock the door. I throw my keys into my purse and turn towards the elevator. We step in and I press the ground floor button.
My apartment didn't have direct access to the streets, but instead, it has two alleyways. One is very long, and usually quite dangerous. The usual one we take is the second, as it isn't far at all from the busy street.
"Hey Josh, would you mind tying this up for me? I can't do it with one hand." I motion to the baby blue scarf, and he walks up to me. His blonde hair falls into my face as he wraps the bandana around from under my hair. Josh ties it up at the top easily, remembering how I did it so many times.
"I've seen you do this so many times that I can do it myself," he sighs. "Figures."
"What's wrong with that?" I ask him, giving a pouty look.
He sighs again and shakes the hair out of his eyes. "I just don't understand why you have to hide your beautiful face every time you go outside."
I blush and turn my head. Our relationship isn't romantic - it was more like siblings. At least, it's that way to me. I had friendzoned Josh at every turn, and I'm pretty sure he knew that, too. But he never stopped complimenting me whenever he could.
The door lets out a loud ding as it opens before us.
"We've talked about this before. It's too dangerous, Josh. You know this. Now, let's go before the door closes." I try to be as kind as possible, but it seemed that Josh never really understood the danger I was in on a daily basis.
We both walk out of the elevator, one looking the same, one now hidden. I push my sunglasses onto my face as I walk into the small lobby. Josh reaches the exit before I do and holds the door for me.
"Thank you," I say politely before stepping into the sun.
I walk around to the side of the apartment and pick up my longboard from beside the garbage bin. I place it beneath me and notice that Josh is on the other side of me, already stepping on his. Putting one foot down, I start pushing along the pavement.
"Don't you love the feeling of the wind blowing your hair back?" He asks, jokingly. He smiles from cheek to cheek as his foot comes down to the pavement again.
I sigh and shake my head at his bandana joke. "Nice try. Do you want to try a deepfried pickle or not?" I move faster at the same time as Josh, spotting a yellow cab at the end of the street.
After half an hour of searching the streets, we finally found a small french fry stand that also sold deep fried pickles. I bought 4 at first, just to let Josh try them. But, of course, that wasn't enough for him.
"Mm, we need more of those." He licks the garlic ranch off his fingers before grabbing his wallet and heading back up to the stand. This time, he comes back with a whole take-out box full. The smell is intoxicating, but I'm not that hungry.
"Want some?" Josh asks me as he takes a bite of another one. I shake my head and look up at the tall buildings hovering above me.
After almost 2 years of living here, I am still in awe of how gorgeous the city was. I love all the flashy signs, how there's always a constant flow of people, and how you can always hear a car honking. It's a lot like New York, but I'm still at home, in Canada. That's the best part. I never had to leave my native country to live out my dreams.
I look down to see that Josh has already gone through most of the platter he just bought. Man, that boy had a stomach that devoured everything in site. Of course, today it had to be pickles.
Just as I'm about to speak to him, a quick flash in the corner of my eye catches my attention. It was light reflecting off a silver necklace, of which belonged to a man who seemed to be in his mid to late 30's. I can't be sure exactly what he looks like though, because his head's covered. The black hat, sunglasses, and a black bandana covering the lower part of his face makes me anxious; he doesn't look safe. But, I'm with Josh, who could protect me. And it's broad daylight. Silly me.
No. Of course he can hurt me. If his boss wanted something from me, he would get it. And with my luck, it wouldn't end well.
I force myself to watch Josh eat. We haven't talked for a bit, but the silence was comfortable. After a few minutes, I find my eyes drifting back to the same spot where I saw the man previously.
He isn't there.
I spend a small fraction of time searching the area with my eyes before realizing that he is a lot closer to me than before.
I need to leave, now.
"Yo, Josh, can we leave?" I fidget with the bracelet around my left wrist and my leg bobs up and down. Josh looks up at me curiously, but as soon as he sees my nervous state, he drops whatever he was going to say.
"Sure. Do you want to go back to your place or do you want to do some window shopping?"
The man slips out of my vision again. I'm probably just being overly cautious. The wind blows in my direction at the same time as I decide to get my mind off things by shopping.
"Yea, uh, sounds good. Where to?" I ask, pulling my sunglasses down to cover my eyes. Josh and I get up from the table and walk down the busy sidewalks.
For the first time in a while, I had spent more than 3 hours shopping. And, oddly enough, it was with a male. The last time I went shopping for an extended period of time was when I found my apartment and I was excited to get everything picked out and organized. I swear, I had like 4 carts full of things by the end of the day.
Josh and I decided that it was best to get going when the sun started to set. We both knew our way around the city so it wasn't unusual for us to split up and head home from wherever we were.
Over 4 hours of going through multiple stores, the thought of the man in black completely slipped my mind. I was entirely enticed in picking out random items that would look good in the smallest places of my apartment. I even persuaded Josh into helping me smell an entire shop of candles to find the right scent to live with.
After walking a few blocks on my own, it started getting visibly darker. But, once again, I spot the man with the hat and bandana in the corner of my eye. It couldn't be a coincidence. Could it?
Eventually, it becomes evident that the man is following me. I use the reflection off my sunglasses to see him without being obvious. He follows me, corner after corner, myself somehow unable to lose him in the crowd.
My breathing becomes erratic as I wind my way through the groups of people on the sidewalk. I slide past a woman in a yellow trench coat holding hands with a young child. I start to shake in fear, not sure of what to do.
There are two ways to get home; one which would take me an unreasonable amount of time to get to, even though it was safe. And then there is the other. It's right at my fingertips, and the danger is so thick that I can taste it on my tongue.
Of all nights, I decide to take the dark alleyway to get home.
I become so nervous that I actually lose track of where I'm going. I take turns I don't even recognize, just to see if I can lose him. But he is always behind me.
I turn left, thinking I might recognize something. A sign, maybe? Or possibly just the style of building?
Of course not. There are no signs here, and all buildings connected to the dark alleys and roads look relatively similar.
And he's on my trail.
When I finally realize I'm lost, I stop for a moment to see if I can identify anything around me.
Nope. Not a single thing rang a bell in my head.
"Hey butterfly!" he hollars. "You forgot something..." The man sings out from a distance. I can barely hear him but I know I didn't forget anything.
"Better run, cause you can't hide!"
Tears begin to brim my eyes as flashbacks of the past come into mind.
"Aubrey, darling, where'd you go?" My mom called out as I curled up in a ball in the corner of my closet, beneath a pile of clothes.
"Daddy's friend is here. We're going away for the weekend and if you don't come say bye now, you won't see us until we come back!"
My body began to sweat as I tried my best to keep myself hidden. I knew that they'd eventually check here. My mom would never leave without saying goodbye; the last time she did that, I nearly got killed in a car crash.
I heard footsteps trail into my room and I ducked my head further into the pile of clothes. It became silent for a minute, and without warning, the closet door slid open with a loud BANG.
I sobbed into my sweater as the man let out an evil cackle, coming closer to me.
"I'm coming to get you! Better run, cause you can't hide!" He said, doing his best to scare me. And it was unfortunately working.
All of a sudden, I felt all the clothes fall off of me and my feet left the ground. The man's sweat-drenched arms were around me before I realized.
As soon as it registered in my mind, all I could hear was a piercing wailing ring throughout the house. The noise was coming from my mouth, of course. I kicked and screamed, throwing my arms in the air. I yelled for my parents. But no matter what I did, I couldn't get this scary man to put me down.
"I told you that you couldn't hide, my little butterfly."
I nearly scream when the man following me calls me butterfly. I know that he's back, this time for good. I won't be able to get away from him.
I turn yet another dark corner when I hear someone coughing nearby. This is when I realize that that person is my only chance to get away from my stalker.
The coughing comes again, and I follow the shallow echo to a small, old deck. It branches off a large brick building that looks to be deserted from behind.
Of course, I look behind me to check if the man has caught up to me. He isn't in my field of view. That can mean two things. A, I lost him. B, he caught up to me and is taking his sweet time just to scare me. The most likely option is B, which gives me a very very bad outlook. The man is not visible, and I'm stuck in a small squared off area.
I have one thing to do if I want to escape. And doing this causes me to risk being arrested for trespassing. But there isn't much I could do; I can get sent to jail, or I can live my life constantly under his evil influence.
Without thinking, I run up to the wooden fence and throw my shopping bags over it. I jump over with all my strength. The bottom of my leggings get caught, with my luck, causing me to face plant into the dirt beneath me.
Lifting myself off the ground, I pull a piece of hair out of my eyes.
That's when I find myself staring straight into a pair of deep emerald eyes.