Desired: Chapter 9

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Mark woke up with a splitting headache. His arms were pulled up over his head and something tight was digging into his wrists. There was something soft, but big in his mouth preventing him from shouting. A sock maybe? He couldn’t spit it out because there was something else tied around his head holding it in place.

He was sitting on something cold and hard and guessed it must be cement, but it was too dark to tell. The air was cold against his bare skin. The last thing he remembered was sliding into Charlie’s bath. He’d been hoping to seduce her. Make her see that he belonged with her in this house. Couldn’t she see it’s kismet that she moved into his childhood home? He could see the pieces of his broken life slowly being put back together here with her, or at least he could before this happened.

“I told you, you have to stop doing stuff like this,” a male voice said from another room. A door squeaked open and a light flooded the staircase in front of Mark. He could now see he was in a basement.

“He was in my house, Kevin. In my bathtub. What was I supposed to do? Make him tea?” Charlie asked. Mark could recognize that melodic voice anywhere.

“No, but you didn’t have to lock him up in the basement either!” the man argued.

“He decimated my front yard,” Charlie exploded. “Do you know how much work I put into that?”

Mark had been jealous when he did that. He’d seen her flirting with that guy in the grocery store. He wanted to take her attention off the other guy.

“What happened to the last guy?” Kevin asked. “You’re lucky he didn’t report you when you let him out.”

There was a long pause. Mark strained to hear. What guy?

“You did let him out, didn’t you?” Kevin asked.

“In a manner of speaking.”

“Charlie!”

There was loud creak as someone stepped down onto the first step.

“Don’t go down there,” Charlie said. “It’s none of your business.”

“I have to make sure he’s okay.”

“He’s fine. Look, I won’t do it again, but seriously, this guy is nuts. He put his picture on my wall.”

Mark resented that comment. He wasn’t nuts. He’d just wanted to show her how perfectly he fit into her life. Into her home. What better way to do that than with a picture?

“Seriously Charlie, you have to control your temper. One of these days it’s not going to end well for you.”

“I know, I know.”

The light slowly started to fade as the door clicked shut plunging Mark back into darkness. Their muffled voices became softer and more distant until all he can hear was the soft thrumming beat of his heart.

The end.

Desired: Chapter 8

bathtub.jpg

Charlie got home around 8:30 pm and it was still light out. The warm July sun highlighted just how much her yard had died. The only plant not wilting yet was a Paper Birch tree she had fallen in love with when the realtor had first brought her to see the house. She prayed it wouldn’t succumb to whatever poison had been spewed on her yard.

Inside, she set her purse and keys down on the table and locked the door behind her. Her plan for the evening was to soak in a hot bubble bath with a book.

As she ran the water for her bath she suddenly remembered that she had left her book in the kitchen. She paused halfway down the stairs as she caught a whiff of a familiar woodsy smell. Where had she smelt that before?

The smell stuck in her nostrils and she racked her brain as she walked into the kitchen trying to figure out what it was. An unpleasant memory was associated with the smell, but she couldn’t seem catch it. It floated just out of reach. Every time she got close the memory dissolved into nothing.

She picked up her novel from the kitchen counter when noticed that the deadbolt on the kitchen door was unlocked. She was sure she had locked it before she went upstairs. She froze and listened wondering who had unlocked it and if they were in the house

She slowly tiptoed into the living room, turning on lights as she went, scanning behind and under furniture as she moved. The woodsy-earthy smell was getting stronger and turning more artificial the stronger it got. It burned her nostrils as she breathed. That’s when it hit her who was in her house. When she was sure he wasn’t in the living room she began going up the stairs past the pictures she had on the wall.

One of the pictures had been replaced and there was his creepy smiling face. Mark. The son of one of the previous owners of the house. She gripped the handrail and continued walking upstairs.

She found him sitting naked in her drawn bath.

Her brother was right. She was angry.

Desired: Chapter 7

Jenga

“Hey! She’s back from the dead!” Ethan opened the door and grabbed her into a bear hug. She felt her internal organs crush together beneath her rib cage which felt like it was in danger of cracking.

“Air!” she gasped. He released her, laughing.

“I’m serious. It’s good to see you,” he said, grinning. “The kids are off-the-wall excited that you’re coming for a visit.”

“You make it sound like I’ve been gone for months,” she said, feeling a little annoyed.

“Well, you kinda have been.”

“It hasn’t been that long.”

“Charlie, we haven’t seen you in two months.”

“No—”

“Katie’s birthday was the last time we got together. That was two months ago.”

Charlie followed behind him as he led her into the kitchen. Guilt flooded through her. It hadn’t been entirely her fault. Work just took up a lot of her time.

“Guess who’s here?” Ethan called out.

Suddenly a cacophony erupted from the basement and feet galloped upstairs as voices shouted in excitement.

“Auntie Charlie!” Arms squeezed her waist.

“Auntie Charlie’s here!” another pair of arms encircled her legs. The force pushed her legs backward slightly so that she felt herself starting to tip over.

“I know she’s here!” Katie said, her arms still around Charlie’s waist.

“Ah guys?” Charlie said, starting to panic. She couldn’t move her feet to regain her balance because she was afraid she was going to kick Tommy who still had both arms wrapped around her legs. “You have to let me go.”

Unfortunately, the wall was too far away to grab and she felt herself going down. “I’m going fall,” she yelled.

Ethan caught her just as she started to topple, grabbing her arms and helping her back up.

“Thanks,” she said, laughing.

The kids giggled as they let her go and gave her some room. The rest of the day was spent playing games at the kitchen table and eating popcorn. As usual, she took a myriad of photos.

Throughout the day, Charlie deliberately didn’t mention her dying front yard to Ethan. She knew what he was going to say and sure enough, as she was leaving, he was the one to bring it up.

“Just be careful, Charlie,” he said, his hand resting protectively on her shoulder.

She rolled her eyes. “Whoever it is, is poisoning my lawn, not me.”

“That’s not what I meant, Charlie and you know it.”

She hated when he used his big brother voice. Ever since their father died 5 years ago, he seemed think that was his role now. She rolled her shoulder to shake his hand off.

“I live in a perfectly safe neighbourhood. The doors all have locks. I’m not scared,” she said.

“It’s not your safety I’m worried about,” he said, quietly. She pretended not to hear him as she walked back to her car.

Desired: Chapter 6

tea-cup-and-saucer.jpgCharlie had spent the better part of yesterday researching the various plants in her front yard that were dying, but nothing seemed to make sense. When she woke up this morning the yellowing grass had spread to cover half her lawn and the flowers lining her driveway had all completely wilted. To make matters worse, the flowers around her tree as well as the ones lining the front of her house were starting to show signs of death.

“I just don’t understand,” Gladys said, sipping from her cup of tea. Slurrrp. She held it in one hand and the saucer in the other. She was dressed in her ratty pink bathrobe and was standing on the sidewalk in her fuzzy pink slipper.

They stood on the sidewalk staring at her yard. In desperation Charlie had walked over shortly after she woke up to see if Gladys might have some bright ideas, but she seemed as stumped as Charlie. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” Slurrrrp.

They wandered through the yard examining the plants and the soil. Once they’d look at everything, Gladys looked at Charlie, holding her now empty tea cup and said, “If I didn’t know any better, I say that someone is poisoning your yard. But who would do such a thing?”

Charlie shrugged her shoulders. She was kneeling beside her row of petunias. Their drooping corpses lay strew along the flower beds in yellowed, blackening heaps. She was angry. She’d worked so hard and lovingly on her yard, and now someone had stolen it from her.

“Thanks for your help.” Charlie stood back up. “Oh, before I forget.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out the spare key and held it out to Gladys.

“You found it!” Gladys’ face lit up. She held her cup and saucer in one hand and reached for the key with the other. “Hopefully, you won’t lock yourself out of the house again, but if you do I’ve got you covered.”

Charlie smiled. She could tell Gladys enjoyed feeling needed. She patted Gladys’ arm. “Thank you. I should go. I need to call my brother.”

Inside, Charlie pulled her phone out and called her brother Ethan.

“Hey, can I come over for dinner tonight.”

“Sure. Everything okay?”

She told him about her dying garden.

“I pity your poisoner,” he said, when she finished telling her story.

“What? What about me?” she asked.

“It is about you. You can be scary when you’re angry.”

She laughed. “I’m not that bad.”

“Au contraire,” he said, his voice no longer joking.

Desired: Chapter 5

dying flower

The next day, Charlie went out for coffee with her long-time Steph then went to the grocery store the grab the rest of the groceries she’d missed getting last time.

It was so nice to have free time to get together with her friends again. She loved her job, but it took up a lot of extra time, between coaching the grade 5/6 basketball team, prepping lessons, and grading her students’ homework, there wasn’t a lot of extra time. But in summers, she was able to reconnect with her friends and family.

As she pulled into her driveway she noticed that the grass in the corner was starting to turn yellow. She hadn’t noticed when she left. She parked in the driveway and walked over to examine it. That’s when she noticed that many of the flowers lining her driveway were starting to wilt as well.

She couldn’t understand it. She had just planted them a couple of weeks ago. Had she watered them too much? No enough? The weather had been sunny, but they were supposed to be in direct sunlight. She’d used potting soil that was supposed to have a lot of nutrients. Maybe she’d messed up there?

She grabbed her groceries from her car and carried them inside. Her plans quickly changing from spending time in her garden to browsing the internet to figure out what she’d done wrong.

She had just dropped her groceries onto the kitchen table when something caught her eye. She walked to the back door and stared at her key hooks. There, on the fourth hook, was her missing spare key.

Desired: Chapter 4

 

streetlampAfter a gorgeous, relaxing day reading in the sun and making plans to go to the lake with Kevin, she surrendered herself to the task at hand. She ordered in pizza for supper, then set to work cleaning up the mess she’d made that morning while searching for her key.

It was 12:20 am when she finally finished. She sat down at her kitchen table with a sigh. She had just convinced herself to go upstairs and had one step on the bottom stair when her sensor light went off catching her eye. It wasn’t that unusual. They had so many deer, raccoons, and rabbits in the area that it was always going off.

Taking her foot back off the bottom stair she walked through the darkened living room and peered out the window. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness she saw a cat creeping along the edge of her driveway. Of course it was a cat. As much as she loved her neighbour Gladys, her cat had was obnoxious and loved to use her flowerbeds as her own personal kitty litter.

Realizing that must have been what set off the sensor, she started to turn away when she saw him: a figure standing on the sidewalk just on the edge of the ring of light from the streetlight overhead. She couldn’t see the person’s face. All she saw was the silhouette of someone in a long coat clearly facing her house. What were they staring at?

She shrank back to the side of the window so that she was mostly obscured by the curtain. As she looked closer, she saw that the person was holding something. It wasn’t until the person turned to the side to walk away that she saw they were holding a watering can.

Who goes for a walk with a watering can?

Desired: Chapter 3

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The next morning, Charlie groggily made coffee. She had just poured the boiling water into her French press when she heard a knock at the door. She shuffled through the hall and opened the front door. Immediately, her eyes slammed shut against the searing pain penetrating her eyes. Despite it only being 8 am, the sun was bright and in full force already.

“Morning dear,” Gladys, her neighbour from next door, said.

“Good morning,” Charlie said, rubbing her eyes. It was the first time she’d used her voice today and it sound gruff and scratchy.

“Your front yard is looking spectacular! I see you took my advice on those rose bushes.” Gladys sounded pleased.

“I sure did. Your advice with the garden hasn’t lead me astray yet!” Gladys had been helping her for the past year as she’s tried to bring life back into her yard. “What can I do for you?”

“I just got back from my walk when I remembered you mentioning that you were going to drop off a key for me. I thought I’d save you the trip and just pick it up myself.”

Last week, Charlie had locked herself out of her house and had been forced to borrow a ladder from Gladys so she could climb through her second story window. It had cost her a busted screen, a bunch of scraps and bruises, and her wounded pride as she had lost her balance while trying to remove the screen. Thankfully, she had fallen forward through the window and over the desk instead of toppling off the back of the ladder.

To save herself a repeat incident if she locked herself out a gain, she’d asked Gladys if she would mind hanging on to a spare key in case for her. Gladys, who found the whole thing hilarious, was happy to agree.

“That was nice of you, thanks!” Charlie said. “Come on in. It’s just hanging by my back door. Let me grab it for you.”

She had four key hooks by her back door where she allows hung up her keys. She had gone to get a spare key cut a few days ago and she could have sworn she’d hung it there until she had a chance to give it to Gladys, but it wasn’t there.

She had the ring of keys with her house, car, school, and mail key. On the next hook was her spare car key and on the third hook was the key to her bike lock. The fourth hook was empty.

Maybe she didn’t take it out of her purse like she thought she did. She grabbed her purse from the counter and started riffling through it. When that came up with nothing, she began emptying the contents onto the table.

“Everything okay?” Gladys called from where she was waiting by the front door.

“Yes, I’ll be there in just a minute,” Charlie called back. After she’d emptied every pocket and compartment in her purse, she turned to the junk drawer. Maybe she’d thrown it in there without thinking. It seemed to have become a holding drawer for things that didn’t really have a place. She pawed through pencils, rulers, scissors, scraps of paper, crumbs, a lighter, matches, a couple wonky, half-burned candles, a broken watch, but no key.

“Charlie?” Gladys called from the door.

“Be right there.” In a rush, she pulled the drawer out and dumped in on the kitchen floor. Then she spread the contents out so she could see everything better. A couple minutes later Gladys called again.

Resigned, she made her way back to the front door. “I’m sorry Gladys, I know I had one cut the other day, but I seemed to have misplaced it. I’ll drop by later when I find it. Sorry about that.”

“Not a worry,” Gladys said, smiling. “I should get back to Dotty. She’ll be hanging from the drapes if I’m gone too long.” Dotty was her cat who hissed at everyone except Gladys.

After Gladys left, Charlie began to tear her house apart. A couple of hours later her house was a complete disaster. Drawers were yanked out and emptied. Bins and boxes unpacked. It was ridiculous. She knew she’d bought another key and was positive that it had made it in the house. Finally admitting defeat, she decided to go outside. Ignoring the mess that was waiting for her, she grabbed a book, and went to take solace in her garden.