**This story deals with sexual assault and stalking. If those things are triggering for you, I recommend not reading this.**
By the time I retrieved the small cardboard box I had spent the day searching for, I was out of breath and sweating. The victory, however minute, was a victory nonetheless and after I brought the box back to my apartment on the second floor from the storage units on the fourth, I celebrated with a glass of spiked eggnog. My small home had just enough space for me. This was my third year living here and no matter how many times I re-arranged the furniture, I managed to keep my Christmas decorations the same every year.
The box I had just sought out contained the lights I used to hang around my large window amongst some other things that got me in the festive mood. I put on my favorite Christmas radio station as I unpacked the small box of memories.
I finished my eggnog and, in a much better mood, arranged the lights gently over the thumb tacks that had been tapped into the drywall two years prior. The glass was cold against my skin as I sat on the window sill to adjust my decorations. As I did this, I happened to look out into the parking lot of my building. It was later in the evening, and a light snow was falling. Across the way, in another building of the complex, I saw a man hanging his own lights around his window. He, among others, had his interior lights on and his silhouette could be seen on the second floor.
The soft white lights he was hanging illuminated his short brown hair and olive toned skin. It was difficult to tell much more than this due to the distance between our buildings, but I could tell he was looking in this direction. I was on the second floor and there was an entire building of windows around me, so I couldn’t be sure I was the one he was looking at. I raised my hand and waved to test my theory and, to my surprise, he did the same. I caught myself smiling though I wasn’t sure why. Distracted by a small shiver, I recoiled from the cold glass and resumed my decorating.
I saw him a few other times during the week after that. It even got to the point where we knew a rough version of each other’s schedules and would wave once we knew each other would be home. I was obviously weary of some strange man waving at me from across the complex. It sometimes gave me terrible nightmares to think about what his intentions might be if I’m being completely honest. But then I reassured myself that it was innocent and I was safe since there were multiple levels of security doors to my building. He was in a totally different building after all and likely didn’t have a key to get in.
About a week and a half after our first interaction, I was up late studying for finals. It was nearing the end of the semester and I really wanted to impress my professors before I graduated. I was so engrossed in my studies, I didn’t realize it had gotten dark. My eyes had grown tired and bleary after reading and re-reading chemistry notes. I stood from my desk chair in front of the window, and stretched for the first time in hours cracking several vertebrae. I realized my blinds were still open and grabbed the long strings to close them, when suddenly I saw the man again.
This time he was sitting on a shorter surface in front of his window. I speculated it might be a couch. Most of his apartment was dark, but occasionally a blue flash would appear around him indicating he was watching TV. I stared for a bit, all I could see was the silhouette of his head and shoulders, so I couldn’t be sure which direction he was facing. That is, until he waved. I immediately shut the blinds and scurried off to bed, an uneasy feeling in my stomach.
My last final was for a night class so when I returned home from my last day of senior year, It was about 8 P.M. I threw my backpack into my coat closet where it would most likely remain until next semester. I was in a good mood so I did a few shots of the cheap vodka in my freezer, turned on my stereo and started dancing around my studio apartment. My small party was soon interrupted, however, by a knock on my door. I almost didn’t hear it at first, but it became progressively louder. I sighed heavily and opened the door a few inches to see an average build man with sandy brown hair, green eyes, and olive-toned skin.
“Hi,” he said, almost as if he was greeting someone he knew.
“Hi?” I replied, confused as to who he was and why he was knocking on my door so late at night.
“I saw you were having a party and thought now might be a good time to finally meet you.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I responded, closing the door slightly.
“Listen, we’ve had this thing going back and forth for a while and it’s something I’d like to pursue. I just want to be straight up with you,” he said, with a consistent customer-service type smile. It suddenly occurred to me that this was the man from the other building
“How-how did you get here?” I asked, my heart in my throat.
“Oh that was easy. I just counted the rows in your apartment, asked around to see whether or not you were in a one room or studio apartment, and waited outside for someone to let me in.” He said this all so matter-of-fact that I felt strange thinking he had ill intentions. “Can I come in?” He asked after a moment of silence.
I wasn’t sure why I hesitated, but I did. With a sneer I said “no” and quickly closed the door. Before it could latch, he stopped it. His fingers curled over the wood and pushed it open with force. His expression remained calm as he walked into my apartment without a word and closed the door behind him. I was frozen with fear, I couldn’t believe what was happening. My brain began to think of ways I could escape, but jumping out the window from the second floor was a death sentence, especially in the freezing night weather.
He slowly moved towards me, forcing me to walk backwards. He outstretched his arms and placed them on either side of me as my back hit a wall. I was pinned and he was still staring at me. I looked everywhere but into his eyes, yet I could feel them on me. Just out of arms reach, there was a small table with a lamp, a picture frame, and a vase of flowers on it. I knew if I could just reach one of those, I would have a weapon to use against him.
He was so close now that I could smell the combination of his hair gel and cologne. A leathery, musky smell that must work well for him to attract other victims. For a moment, he just stared at me.
“You’re beautiful” he said, and went to kiss my neck. As he leaned his head to the side, I ducked under his left arm and lunged for the table. My hand reached out, but I was stopped short as he moved his arms around my waist to hold me back. I could feel the muscles contracting in his arms as I struggled to reach just one of the items. He squeezed me so tightly I could barely breathe. I screamed and cried and with tears running down my face, I kicked my legs and flailed my arms in hopes that one would hit something hard enough for him to let me go, even for a moment.
My plan worked and my elbow came down hard into his eye socket. He grunted, loosening his grip long enough for me wriggle loose, stand up, and grab the picture frame. He was lying on the floor moaning about his eye when I took the metal frame and dug one of the corners into his skull. He cried and screamed in pain, but I didn’t stop hitting him until he was silent.
I sat on the edge of my bed, staring at the body and pooling blood for about an hour before I called the police. When I shook myself out of my stupor, I made the call and explained everything that had happened when they arrived. They took the body and my statement, then left and set up a court date. The manager in the apartment office was nice enough to replace my carpeting for free and let me end my lease before it was due. I got out of there within a week and never looked back.
Last Week’s Story: Novel Excerpt 2
Next Week’s Story: The Woman on The Yellow Bicycle
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