I think just about everyone active in the dating community has had the occasional experience with ‘crazy eyes’. No, this isn’t some cryptid who preys on the innocent single, looking to mingle or anything of the like; more of a condition than something paranormal or otherworldly, I suppose.
Male, female, gay, straight, somewhere in between, or as yet, undecided; there are crazy eyes in every community. They may seem so normal (if that’s even a thing) when you first meet. Average conversation, maybe even some of those little mannerisms that drive you nuts; the biting of the lower lip, stroking the hair gently over an ear, wrinkling the nose with a smile. Those little things that invest your interest right off the bat.
Sometimes, it’s not until it’s a little too late before those eyes sell the actual truth of things.
More often than not, you can escape these encounters unscathed; maybe a few weeks of awkward text messages, or the occasional parked car on the other side of the road outside your house, but it generally doesn’t last. Valentine’s day of last year, though; that one that left me questioning if I will ever even attempt dating again.
My buddy, James, and I had come up with precautions for such things: a simple alert, locked and loaded before meeting a new prospective mate. We called it ‘the abort code’. Silly and childish, yes, but we had both experienced more than our fair share of evenings out on the town that required some help to escape.
We would have the message, “How’s your mom and them?” typed out before the evening’s events would begin, ready to just hit send if things should go sideways. It was a natural enough conversation starter that shouldn’t expose what was actually going on, should this be one of the more radically crazy types, who whip the phone from your hand, to make sure you weren’t texting another girl or something.
Yes, that has happened before. On that occasion, I was technically messaging another woman; that being my mom, but even after explaining that to my date, Julia, or Jen, or something, she had to double-check. The night went downhill from there. This was before the abort code was a thing, so I just had to grin and bear it.
After that incredibly long night, James and I came up with this. We had been best friends since childhood, so we had a vested interest in one another’s potential significant others. We never arranged dates on the same day, so we would be ready to assist the other, should anything go wrong. If we received the notification, it was time to spring into action.
The first step was a phone call, requiring a bit of acting on the part of the one in need of a bailout. There would be shock and maybe even tears, depending on how severe the crazy was, ending up with having to ditch the date to get to the hospital asap.
Most times, this was enough to get the job done. The insane person in question would sometimes offer to come along, to help soothe the weary and pain-stricken heart, wounded by whoever ‘had been in a terrible accident’, but not always. At the end of the day, even crazy people feel uncomfortable around someone suffering, especially if they’ve only recently met.
Should this not be enough to get the job done, step two would be set in motion if no ‘all clear’ was given within fifteen minutes. This would require acting on both sides, as we would have to show up in person; to attest to the validity of how grim the situation was.
This part would make just about everyone at the restaurant feel uncomfortable, as we would make a full scene from our dramatic performance. By the time our improvised play would reach its end, we would both be practically running for the door, leaving teary apologies in our wake.
The only downside to having to take things this far, is whatever restaurant or bar this would take place in, was now burned for at least a year. We couldn’t risk inadvertently letting the regulars in on the act; not if we didn’t want to blow our cover.
We only had to resort to this one time. Her name was Lucy or Lenore…definitely an L name, I think. She looked pretty embarrassed by the ridiculous performance we put on, as did just about everyone else around us, but it did the trick. She didn’t even text the next day to check in, so I considered that a job well done.
Step three; the final step, would be an act of pure desperation. While we had been fortunate enough to never have to use this, we would carry some laxatives to every date. Whether we took it ourselves or had to essentially roofy our crazy dates would be dependent on the scenario; it hadn’t yet been fully flushed out (sorry, couldn’t resist). Either way, the results would be sure to stick a fork in things, or so we hoped. It was still just a working theory, after all.
Yes, this may be taking things a bit too far, but it’s like they say: all’s fair in love and war, right? That was good enough for me, anyway.
So, it was about a week before Valentine’s Day, last year, when a work friend set me up with one of his sister’s friends. Well, he was more of an associate, I guess. He had only worked there for a month or two, but he seemed a friendly sort.
I was resistant at first, being generally not a fan of hookups, but after he showed me the girl’s picture, I was invested. Yes, call me shallow if you like, but she was gorgeous. Dark hair, dark skin, bright, green eyes, and a smile that could melt a glacier.
Perhaps, if I had allowed the idea that there had to be a reason that someone this breathtaking was still single, maybe I could have made better decisions that night. Unfortunately, my mind wasn’t in charge at that time. Yeah, I’m a pig. I know. For what it’s worth, I most definitely learned my lesson; the error of my ways, and all that.
James was never a fan of Valentine’s, for reasons that are not mine to share, but I still checked in with him to make sure it was available, just in case. As expected, he had nothing planned for the day, so I went ahead and set it up. Rainey, the stunning girl in question, and I texted back and forth over that week leading up to our official meeting, and my anticipation was building with every message.
We discussed everything from taste in movies and music, to where we went to school, and even preferred sexual positions (hey, she brought it up…no innuendo intended). Over those days of messaging back and forth, I didn’t pick up even the slightest of red flags that some crazy could be lingering behind her bright eyes.
Okay, so, after what happened, I went back through the thread to find there were a few, but as I said, I wasn’t exactly guided by the top floor at the time. Still, I should’ve picked up on it when she asked about my ex-girlfriends and the like.
“Those bitches just didn’t appreciate you,” one message read. “You just had to wait for the right girl,” and such.
They seemed innocent enough at the time, but I would normally feel a bit uneasy when these things came up before we even met.
Regardless of my excitement, I still arranged to meet at the restaurant. She came off a little offended when I recommended this over picking her up, but I wouldn’t budge on this one. I’ve endured a few awkward rides over the years as I returned a ‘crazy eyes’ or two to their home, so this was a far better option than facing the temptation of leaving someone stranded.
It may seem like a childish way to think, but even in the face of a nut job, I hate to leave someone without a way to get back home. Okay, I have had to leave a girl money for a taxi before, but that couldn’t be avoided. It was that or worry she would jerk the wheel halfway back to her place.
Rainey was already at the restaurant when I arrived; something that caught me a little off guard at first, as I pulled up a good fifteen minutes early, to grab us a table before she got there. As soon as I walked in, prepared to ask the hostess to jot my name down, I heard that very information yelled out from somewhere in the dining area.
When I noticed the head of my date, peeking out from a booth near the back, I felt stunned for a moment, giving an awkward smile and a wave, while just about every other face in the crowd turned to look at me. I attempted to ignore the chuckles and mumbles from the tables I weaved around, keeping my head hunched while my face flushed.
While I can’t deny I was somewhat flattered by how Rainey was carrying on; enthusiastically waving and grinning as I made my uncomfortable approach, I was growing a little unsettled about what the night may have in store.
She looked absolutely stunning in that red, slinky dress, her raven hair hanging to her bare shoulders.
My attempt to apologize for being ‘late’ was interrupted by my dining companion throwing her arms around me, damn near squeezing the breath from my lungs in the process.
Though we had been texting back and forth a good bit, I wasn’t prepared for such an enthusiastic greeting. Given the fact that she was even more stunning in person than in the pictures I had seen, my logical mind took a back seat to that far more task-oriented, lesser brain that many of us possess; that one that habitually gets us into a lot of trouble, from time to time. I know; I’m not exactly proud of it, but what can I say?
“It’s so nice to finally meet in person!” she said, finally releasing her surprisingly strong, bear hug.
“Um, yeah,” I said with an awkward laugh, “you look beautiful!”
“Well, that’s an odd thing to begin with,” she said, the wide smile fading from her face as she took her seat, “I’m more than a pretty face, you know?”
“Oh, I didn’t mean to insinuate…I just…”
“Oh my God!” she said, laughing almost maniacally, “you’re such an easy mark! I was just messing with you, dude.”
“Ah…you got me,” I said, suddenly feeling tense and a bit exhausted, “good one.”
Every word she spoke felt like an announcement, as though she were calling out to everyone in the room. It almost seemed like a performance designed to make everyone in the room uncomfortable, me included.
I’ve never been a fan of being in the spotlight, even on that occasion James and I had to resort to step two. Of course, part of the point of that particular act of desperation was to make things as awkward as humanly possible. Plus, I was always a little braver in the presence of my best friend, a good bit more arrogant too, for that matter.
As soon as I took my seat, I tried to subtly sneak my phone from my pocket, preparing to send James the abort code as soon as the opportunity presented itself. With Rainey glaring wide-eyed, and unblinking, looking like she may burst out in a mad fit of laughter any second, I thought it best to keep my actions limited for the time being.
Needless to say (but I will anyway), I was well aware that I was in the presence of a ‘crazy eyes’; perhaps the most aggressive case I had personally witnessed.
As things progressed; my date kept her gaze fixed on me, and even when the waiter arrived to take our drink order, I was growing almost desperate to escape. When I asked for a glass of water, making a lame excuse that I had to be at work early in the morning, Rainey practically barked at the waiter, demanding that he bring me a Jack and coke instead.
While that may have been partially my own fault, as I had mentioned this to be my favorite drink over the previous days of texting, I still tried to give the waiter, who looked almost dumbfounded, an apologetic shrug. With the expression he returned, I had a feeling he knew where my head was at the time.
“Water?” she said, looking almost disappointed, “really?”
“I just don’t wanna be hung over for work. You know…”
“Just call in sick, or something. You’re gonna have a late night tonight, if you play your cards right, of course.”
I almost jumped out of my seat when I felt her toes caressing my inner thigh, her lips peeling back into a mischievous smile. The waiter, who was still standing there, looking as uncomfortable as I felt, finally backed away from the table.
“I’ll be right back with those drinks,” he said, shaking his head.
I just glanced at him, wearing my best ‘help me’ expression, before turning back to the wide-eyed woman whose foot was slowly creeping further up my leg.
“I have to go to the restroom,” I said, jumping from my seat before my date’s actions could leave me in no fit state to stand up in a public place.
I caught a brief glimpse of her agitated expression before I sped off in search of the facilities, but as soon as I was clear, I sent the hail Mary text to James. Once I made it to my chosen panic room, I took a seat in the farthest stall, eagerly awaiting a reply.
Though I knew my friend would wait a good ten minutes before calling with the prearranged, panic-inducing tale, I couldn’t bring myself to head back to the table just yet. I even sent a few follow-up messages, just to state the urgency of the situation.
After a few minutes, and no word back from my partner in crime, I was growing more anxious about potentially being stuck there. Sure, I could’ve just made something up and run off, if it came down to it, but given Rainey’s behavior up to this point, I was certain she wouldn’t make that easy.
I even considered sneaking out while she wasn’t looking, as childish as that may seem, but something about this woman assured me that there would be some retaliation for that. No, my only safe bet; the only ‘clean’ way to break free of this, was the abort code.
James had never let me down before. I had to believe he would come through this time.
Finally, with the ten-minute mark nearing, I reluctantly made my way back to the table. I could practically see the steam billowing from Rainey’s nostrils as I drew closer, causing me to feel that tension returning to my extremities.
“I’m so sorry about that,” I said, sitting back down, avoiding eye contact.
“Did I get you so excited that you had to go rub one out?” she said, wearing the expression of a disappointed mother, more than an overly eager date.
“What? No! I…”
“There’s no shame in it,” she said, sipping from her daiquiri, “everyone does it.”
“But, I didn’t…I had to…”
“Whatever, dude. You just better have enough left in the tank tonight.”
I felt almost stunned in the headlights of her rigid gaze, as she laid her glass back down.
“I ordered our food. You were gone so long, I didn’t wanna have to wait any longer.”
“Oh,” I said, choosing not to ask what God-awful dish she had spitefully requested for me, “thanks. I really am sorry. Can’t avoid the call of nature.”
I attempted to chuckle; something that was not remotely genuine at the time, but she continued to stare knives at me.
“Well, now I must answer a similar call,” she said, sliding from her seat, “don’t run off while I’m gone. It would be quite rude.”
She spoke so coldly before gingerly strolling off to the restroom, I found myself stunned once more. Had my mind not been all over the place, I may have been better prepared for what came next. My being frozen in place, staring blankly at the back of the restaurant until she started on her return trip from the restroom, I only had seconds to send another text to James, hoping to God he would hold up to our failsafe.
‘HOW’S YOUR MOM AND THEM!?!?’ I swiftly texted, hoping the screaming capital letters would alert him to how seriously I needed his assistance.
I quickly tucked my phone back into my pocket as soon as I hit send, right as my crazy-eyed date slipped back onto her seat across from me. Giving her what I hoped to be an effective enough ‘I wasn’t doing anything’ smile, I was momentarily distracted by the vibrating noise coming from her purse.
As she pulled her bag onto her lap, dipping her hand inside and removing contents hidden to me by the table, she glanced up to meet my gaze with far more fury behind her eyes than before. She looked back down to her purse intently, the sound of her fingers tapping across the screen of what I assumed to be her own phone, before setting the bag back on the table.
“I don’t know about you, but I could use another drink,” she said, a gentle smile returning to her face.
“Yeah,” I said, “me too.”
As a more friendly conversation began; one that provided me with far less discomfort than anything this night had presented me with so far, I hoped that the tension had finally eased completely. When my best friend’s notification tone jingled from my pocket, however; I would find that my circumstances may be far bleaker than I realized.
Given that my date no longer looked as batshit as she had only moments before, I hoped it would be safe to at least glance at the message I had received.
“I’m sorry,” I said with a more genuine laugh as I swiped the screen.
‘THEY ARE FINE!!! HOW ARE YOURS!?!?’ the reply from James read.
Puzzled and a little dumbstruck by this, I sent back a questioning ‘wtf, man?’ before looking back to the woman on the other side of the table.
The strangely satisfied and slightly arrogant smirk she wore didn’t fully register with me at first. When that vibrating sound buzzed from her lap, though, I finally began to put things together.
Again, she looked down as her fingers tapped across a screen, looking back up a second or two later.
When she lifted the phone from her lap, dropping it back in her purse, and laying it down beside her on the bench, ‘Just focus on the gorgeous woman across from you, man. We’ll talk tomorrow,’ appeared in response to the text I sent.
A flood of questions attacked my mind all at once: how did she get his phone? What did she do to get it? Where the hell is James!? They were crowding my thoughts so quickly; my mouth couldn’t hope to catch up. Just as I began to convince my voice to work again, our friendly waiter arrived, welding a tray of delicious-smelling food.
“What the hell is going on here?” I asked, the waiter cutting his eyes from me to Rainey as he hesitantly laid down the plates.
“It’s our food, honey,” she replied with a giggle, “that’s kinda what happens in restaurants.”
“Um, would you guys like anything else?” the uncomfortable-looking server said, still glancing between the two of us.
“You know what I mean!”
“That’ll be all,” my psychotic date said, smiling at the man who began to back away the second she granted permission to do so.
“How…the hell…did you get…that phone?” I asked, losing my patience with this ordeal.
“I…don’t know…what you’re talking about,” she said, mockingly, “can we just eat already? I’m starv…”
“Don’t change the subject! How did you get it? Did you steal it? Did you hurt him? What the fuck is going on, you fucking psycho!?”
“Dude!” she said, reaching into her bag, and pulling out her phone, “this is mine, okay?” she slid it across the table, “I don’t know this James guy.”
I whipped the device from the table, swiping the screen to inspect the messages. As expected, there was nothing sent or received for the last few hours.”
“Then who were you texting, huh? Who was texting you?”
“Um, okay, A: this is our first date, and my personal life is none of your damn business; not unless I decide otherwise. B: I wasn’t messaging anyone; I was shutting off my Facebook notifications.”
“Look,” she said with a heavy sigh, “I’m hungry. Can we just eat? Whatever is going on with you; we can figure that out later, but I haven’t eaten today, and I’m getting a headache.”
While the burger she had ordered for me did look and smell intoxicating, I wasn’t buying what she was selling for a moment. I knew she had my friend’s phone, likely still tucked away in her bag, but as I felt that familiar sensation of having every eye in the crowd glaring at me, I knew I had to settle things down.
Whatever was going on here, I would have to play along to get to the bottom of it. I had to get her to let her guard down.
I let out a shaky sigh, reaching for my burger and taking a bite, while my mind attempted to figure out the best course of action.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “it was a long day at work, and I didn’t mean to take that out on you.”
Her face reverted to that carefree smile as she reached for her matching dish.
“No, I’m sorry,” she said, “I’m just nervous…I…I’ve never felt this way about anyone before.”
“Oh…um, yeah…me too,” I lied, attempting to keep things civil until I could figure out a way to get to her purse.
“Do you believe in love at first sight?”
Those wide and unblinking eyes glared into mine again, a smile stretching across her lips. There was something behind her gaze and her words that caused a cold sweat to form on my back and brow.
When the waiter brought another round of drinks, not so much as uttering a single word as he laid the glasses in place, my date still just stared at me with that eerie grin. A strange sort of panic manifested within me, begging me to run now before it was too late.
I came close to doing that very thing. That was before the sudden onset of dizziness.
“Oh my God, are you okay?” Rainey asked as my head lifelessly drooped from one side to the other, my eyes attempting to roll back.
“I…I feel weird…loopy…I…”
My heart was practically beating through my chest as the realization of what was happening struck me, but my body and mind were on separate playing fields at the time.
“Ricky,” my date said to the waiter whose name I hadn’t caught until now, “gonna need some help here!”
“Took you long enough,” he said, “you sure about this guy?”
“Oh yeah,” she said; I could almost hear the smile in her voice, as my head fell limp to the table, “I just know he’s the one!”
“What…what did…” was all I managed to get out before everything went dark.
When I woke back up from whatever I assumed Rainey had dosed me with, my head felt like it was sandwiched between twin two-by-fours. I blinked my eyes rapidly, attempting to build up some moisture behind their lids and focus on where I was. It wasn’t until I attempted to stand up that I understood how serious my situation had become.
The second I felt my wrists, ankles, and chest trying to pull free from the chair I was bound to, my wavering consciousness practically collided with the reality of my dire circumstances.
While the room was mostly dark, I could see slivers of light shining from somewhere behind me. As I fought to pull my extremities free, tearing my flesh against the course, leather straps in the process, I felt my chest tighten all the more when I noticed I wasn’t alone.
“James!?” I said, far louder than intended, as I was still unsure if my captors were nearby.
Seeing his bruised, swollen and bloody face hanging limp where he sat, bound in the same manner as I, I feared the worst.
“Goddamnit, James, wake up!”
I was still trying to keep my voice low, but with the panic fueling my thundering heartbeat, that was no simple task. When my best friend began to stir, slowly shifting his body, I felt my lungs deflate from the grateful sigh.
“Denny? What’s…what’s going on?” he said, lifting his head, his bones crackling as he straightened his posture, “what!? What the hell, man!? What’s…”
“Shhh! Keep your voice down. Just cool it, man. We gotta figure a way outta here.”
“What is this?” he asked, darting his head around, wincing at the likely pulsing pain of his half-shut, swollen eye, and bruised jaw.”
“Do you remember anything? How you got here? Who kicked your ass?”
“Shit…I dunno, man. I was at home…no. No, someone was inside. I went to the kitchen, and something hit me. Knocked me out cold, I think. That’s all I remember before…oh God!”
When dim lights flickered to life above our heads, I started fighting harder to break free, but the straps were so tight, I couldn’t even hope to get loose. I could tell that James was of the same mindset as me when a door creaked from behind, the glow from the other room casting elongated shadows across the floor.
“Calm down, honey,” Rainey said as she strolled around the chairs we were bound to, the waiter from the restaurant coming around the other side, “you’re gonna hurt yourself.”
“Let us go, you crazy bitch!”
“Watch your damn mouth!” the tall man said, slugging me across the jaw.
“Cool it, Ricky,” the psychotic woman said, laying a hand on his shoulder as he reared back for a second swing, “don’t mess up that pretty face too much.”
He just growled as he backed up, taking his place by her side. Though I hadn’t paid much attention to his appearance at the restaurant, I could now make out a certain similarity between my two captors. The same dark complexion, black hair, and large, emerald eyes.
He was a good half a foot taller than her, even with the heels she was wearing, but twice as wide. Though he was still dressed in that white shirt, tie, and black vest, I could see the muscles bulging beneath the fabric. Of course, given how hard he hit, it was no surprise that he now seemed a veritable beast of a guy, rather than the friendly and almost awkward waiter he was playing the part of.
“You sure this is the guy?” he said, his words lined with hatred, “he looks weak; feeble, even.”
“Oh yeah. He’s the one, for sure,” the pretty brunette said, her unblinking eyes cutting right through mine.
“What the hell is this, Rainey!? What are…”
“What did she see in this asshole?” the big guy said, completely ignoring my words.
“He is kinda cute,” Rainey said, “she was always a sucker for the cute ones.”
“Who’re they talking about, man?” James asked, still battling against his own straps.
“How the hell should I know? They’re batshit; these two. How the…”
Another swat from that wide fist stuck a fork in my attempts to rationalize the actions of the crazy people of the world; something that left my already thumping head spinning. This hit felt twice as hard as the last, my eyes crossing from the impact.
“Son of a bitch!” James spat, “let me loose and I’ll show you a real ass-kicking!”
The laughter that erupted from the duet of lunatics revealed more of their shared madness. The anguished and hate-filled expressions transformed into something I can only describe as maniacal; their wide eyes and gaping mouths drooling as they cackled, slapping their knees while gagging from the howling chuckles.
“That was good…you’re funny,” the large man said, wiping tears from his eyes.
James glanced over at me, his expression matching the bewildered look on my face. It wasn’t until this point that I just knew we were going to die here. These two were not remotely of sound mind; something that assured me they would not be simply letting us loose after a few well-aimed sucker punches.
No, they were on a mission. There would be no abort code freeing us from this, even if my partner in crime wasn’t trussed up next to me.
“Just let us go,” I begged, my eyes welling up with the reality setting in.
“Yeah, we didn’t do anything!” James added, his voice croaking, “we won’t tell anyone about this. Just let…”
I was as shocked as my friend as Rainey’s laughter suddenly stopped cold, her hand moving so quickly as she struck his face, neither of us saw it coming.
“YOU DIDN’T DO ANYTHING!?” she screamed, the veins visibly pulsing at her temples as her eyes widened so much, I thought they might spring free of their sockets any second, “YOU THINK YOU’RE INNOCENT!? DO YOU REALLY HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA WHAT YOU TOOK FROM ME!?”
I was stunned; frozen in place, even if I had the ability to move anything but my head. The rage-filled expressions confronting us were paralyzing to look at. We all just stared at each other in intense silence for what felt like minutes, though the passage of time was not exactly something my erratic thoughts could comprehend at that moment.
Rainey was breathing so heavily while her dead stare was locked with that of my closest friend, while I cut my eyes between the three whose company I was forced to share. The bulky man wore a cold expression as he blinked from me to James, back and forth like a pensive pendulum. Strangely, his calmer demeanor was just as terrifying as his companions’ more hunched and almost feral posture.
When she moved in, slapping my friend again, following with another strike, and yet another, back-to-back, over and over, I almost tipped my chair to the floor in my attempt to reach him.
“STOP!” I yelled, her hands still swatting.
Blood spurted from the mouth and nostrils of my closest friend, spraying across me and to the floor. Left, right, left, right, the hate-fueled palms attacked his face, his lips attempting to utter words in between, only succeeding in muffled yelps at best.
“Please, just stop,” I whined, praying that my more sympathetic tone would warrant some manner of compassion.
“That’s enough, Rain,” the man said, lightly gripping her left wrist as she reared back for the umpteenth time.
For the briefest moment, her rabid gaze met his stern eyes, to which he tilted his head in a questioning way. Her rage faltered. Her expression softened. She wrapped her fingers around his, taking a step back from the bloody mess she had made.
Though she did no more slap James, the sheer volume and strength behind her attacks left both of his eyes swollen shut, his nose bent to one side, spewing blood, and his lips puffy and split. He was still trying to form words, but only gargles and muffled coughs were breaching his mouth.
“James?” I said, tears streaming down my face, “please be okay, man. We’re gonna get outta there, I promise! Somehow, we’ll…”
“No,” Rainey said, tidying her hair, “you won’t.”
“You really don’t know, do you?” the man said, “you really don’t know what you did…what you took from us?”
“I…I don’t! I don’t know either of you! I’ve never seen you before…I…”
“No,” the mad woman said, “but can you really say we don’t look even a little familiar?”
“Huh? How can…”
I felt my words catch in my throat when the big guy pulled his wallet from his back pocket, fishing a picture from within. I instantly recognized the girl in the image, who most certainly reassembled what I now assumed to be her siblings.
“Do you even remember her name?” Rainey asked, visibly trembling from head to toe.
I just nodded, praying to God that this would be enough.
“Um…Lu…Lucy,” I said, my confidence faltering.
“Try again,” she said, reaching behind her back, pulling a long, thin, serrated blade.
“I…I don’t…please don’t do this…”
“SAY IT!” she screamed, pointing the dragger at my friend.
“Oh, God! Please don’t! I’m begging…”
“FUCKING SAY IT!”
“Christ! Le…oh God…Lenore?”
James and I screamed in unison as she drove the tip of the knife into his upper thigh, spilling crimson down his leg in an instant.
“STOP THIS! FOR GOD’S SAKE!”
“I DON’T REMEMBER! OKAY!?”
As she pressed the edge of the blade against my still whimpering friend’s midsection, his leg gushing blood to the concrete floor, I knew she wouldn’t listen to reason, but I had to try. I could feel the thundering in my chest practically bouncing the fabric of my shirt like a kid on a trampoline, my guts churning from the thought of what may happen next if I couldn’t come up with something to make this stop.
“Look, this is on me, not him, okay? Please don’t hurt him anymore! Whatever you need to do, do it to me! Just, please…just let him go, I’m begging you!”
The light reflecting from the silvery blade flickered on the soft illumination from above and beyond, panning across me as her arm dropped back to her side.
“I don’t remember her name, and I’m so sorry for that. I’m an asshole; a piece of shit womanizer. I get that, but that’s on me, not him. I know…I know I humiliated her, and I would be more than happy to make it up to her in any way she sees fit, but…”
“She’s dead,” the man said, his voice quivering, “can you make that up to her?”
I swear I felt my heart stop at those words. My thoughts were all over the place. Yes, I made a fool out of myself and her, just to get away, that night, but it was one date! How can I be held responsible for this after spending, what, a few hours in her company?
As much as I attempted to convince my lips to utter these very words, I was stunned by this revelation, as well as everything else this night had shown me. Finally, after regaining my ability to speak, I asked the question that still haunts me.
“How…how did she die?”
“She killed herself,” Rainey said, holding up the blade still dripping my friend’s blood, “with this.”
“Oh, my God! Why? Why would she do that? Why did…”
The knuckles of the waiter put a quick end to my words, leaving my head spinning once again.
“Because of you…because of what you did to her,” he said, wiping my blood on his shirt.
“Me? We just met for the first time that night! I mean, we’d been texting for a while, but we were just having fun! How can I..?”
“She was a fragile girl,” Rainey said, her eyes glistening, “she always had been. You weren’t the first to leave her high and dry, but you were the last. She was so humiliated when she got home, I couldn’t even hope to calm her down…”
She rubbed her eyes, trying to sniff back the tears. Her brother put his arm around her, attempting to console her, but his tears only fueled hers.
“She ran off to her room, but I tried to follow. She yelled at me to leave her alone, so I hoped she just needed a little time…time to let it roll off her shoulders. It wasn’t the first time some heartless bastard had left her in tears, so I thought…I thought she would be alright after a while. When I went to check on her a little while later…it…”
The floodgates opened, transforming the confident and rage-filled woman into a sobbing, wailing child before me. I felt my chest burn from what she told me, as well as the sight of my captors spilling tears upon one another.
Yes, her sister was a bit of an odd one; way more unsettlingly enthusiastic than she had seemed over text, but I would never wish this on anyone. When James responded to the first stage of our abort plan, she pretty much guilted me into sticking around.
Everything inside me begged me to get going, but she seemed so broken when I told her I had to go; that there was an emergency and I had to get to the hospital. I thought she was just being dramatic, practically bursting into tears when I said I had to go. When I caved and decided to stick it out, she was even more clingy than before.
It was maybe thirty or forty minutes later when James showed up at the bar, as I had not sent the all-clear text. We acted out our ridiculous scene, turning every eye to us, but I didn’t fully pay attention to my date, only played my part to run away like an insecure teenager.
I can see it now; that image I had not registered at the time. The sight of that poor girl looking so crushed by what we were doing. When I turned to give one last look before I darted out of there, I could tell that she could see through our pathetic performance; that she understood I went to such lengths just to get away from her.
Can you imagine what that would do to someone, even one who wasn’t already a little disturbed?
“I’m so sorry,” I said, my eyes refusing to meet theirs as I spoke genuinely for the first time since I met the beautiful girl with the raven hair, “I swear I never meant to hurt her…to hurt Lacey.”
I can’t say when it was that I remembered her name, but it caught the attention of the crying siblings before me.
“I’ll accept whatever you need to do; whatever you see as fit punishment. I’ve spent so long thinking about only myself, I never took the…”
The gunshot that echoed through the room, almost deafening me, took a second to fully register. Again, I felt frozen, mentally checking myself for wounds, when I looked up to see which direction the revolver was trained.
I felt my eyes trace the waiter’s shoulder to his wrist, to the hammer of the pistol, to its smoking barrel. When my gaze followed that course over to the gaping hole in the forehead of my closest friend in this world, the shock would not so much as allow me to scream out.
“Now you can feel what we felt…” the man said.
“What it feels like to lose someone you love,” his sister finished.
No more words were spoken after that. No further punishment was given. No more hateful looks staring down at me. When the needle pierced my arm, I continued to just glare at the leaking corpse of my dearest friend, his vacant gaze being the last thing I saw as my consciousness drifted into darkness.
When I awoke in my bed, it took me some time to put together everything that had occurred, along with how much time had passed since I left my home. Discovering that three days had gone by since I left out for that ill-fated date, I wasted little time in reaching out to the police.
They would find no proof of the existence of Rainey Barnes, nor her siblings, for that matter. The restaurant doesn’t even have any records of someone fitting the description of the waiter who served us that night. Witnesses recall overhearing some awkward conversation, a waiter helping an apparently drunk guest and his humiliated girlfriend out to their car, but nothing that would hold up in court.
There wasn’t even any luck tracking down the guy who hooked us up in the first place. Apparently, he had been working under an assumed identity, having quit his job the day of the fourteenth. Whether he may have been another sibling or someone else entirely, I’ll likely never know.
Upon inspecting the house, I spent just as much time at as my own, they would find it empty; its owner having seemingly vacated over the past few days. James didn’t have much in the way of family; neither did I, for that matter. Perhaps that’s why we grew so close over the years. There was nobody to reach out to, nobody who may know where he may have gone. Nothing.
The facts being as they were, all the police could do was file a missing person’s report. Whether anyone believes me or not, I know what happened on Valentine’s Day last year. While I’ve considered looking for the duo who ripped my life in two, I feel there’s no sense in it.
What’s done is done. I told them I would accept their punishment for my actions, and perhaps they simply called my bluff on that. At the end of the day, it’s like they say: all’s fair in love and war. I suppose it’s only right that I finally end up on the losing side of that argument. That was probably long overdue, all things considered.
Credit: William Rayne
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