Authors: Mercy Amare
He replies to the email within ten minutes letting me know which answers I got wrong and right. Out of twenty questions, I only answered two wrong. Once he pointed out what I did wrong, I immediately realized my mistake.
I feel confident that when I re-take the test, I’ll pass.
Once I am through studying, I’m too wired to sleep. I had to drink three cups of coffee just to stay awake, so I won’t be going to sleep anytime soon. I’m about to get on my computer and check my Staying Connected when there is a knock on my bedroom door.
When I open the door, Gabe is standing on the other side holding my phone.
“It’s a new phone,” he tells me. “And there is absolutely no way for anybody to bug this one.”
“Thank you,” I say as he hands me my phone.
“You’re welcome,” he says.
I lean against the doorframe. “Is Amber mad that you ditched her?”
“She didn’t seem mad, but I’m sure she was. Girls always try to hide their crazy when you first start dating them,” Gabe says.
“Dating?” I ask, shocked to hear that word come from his mouth.
“She’s not you,” he says.
I choose to ignore that comment, because I don’t know how to respond to it.
“Did I hide my crazy in the beginning?” I ask.
Gabe laughs. “You’re not crazy.”
“Maybe I am a little.”
“Maybe,” he says. “I think we’re all a little crazy.”
“I think our idea of crazy has changed since everything happened earlier this year,” I say.
“Was it really earlier this year?” he asks. “It seems like it happened years ago, and not just months. But then, sometimes it feels like it happened yesterday.”
“That’s because it did happen yesterday,” I say. “It’s happening every day, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. I don’t have a choice. I can deal with it myself and stay in college. I can tell my dad, have him pull me out of college, and still be dealing with it at home. Or I can run away and go into hiding, but I have a feeling that Brian would still find me.”
“Don’t run away,” Gabe says.
“And you’re not alone. You’ve got Ty,” he says. “And, for what it’s worth, you’ve got me.”
“Just because we broke up doesn’t mean you’re not important to me,” I say. “The fact that you’re here means the world to me. We’ve been friends for over a year now. That means a lot. Whether you believe me or not, I love you.”
“But not enough.”
“It’s not a matter of if I love you enough. It’s that I’m not
love with you.”
“Right,” he says. “Well, let me know if you need anything else.”
He backs away and walks towards his room.
I want to stop him, but what would I say if I did? There is nothing left to say. We’ve discussed it all, and I’m tired of fighting with him. I just wish I knew how to be Gabe’s friend.
Tuesday, November 9
After my last class on Tuesday, I go to the gym. Ever since I ran into Brian Asher at the school gym, I’ve been scared to go there. So, I got a membership at a gym a block away from my apartment. The equipment here is better, so I like it.
I slip on my headphones and put on my favorite playlist.
In a perfect world, I could eat anything I want and never be fat. But since life doesn’t work that way, I come here. Truthfully, I enjoy it now that I’ve been working out for a few months. I have a lot more energy, and I can already tell a difference in how my clothes fit.
The gym that I’m working out at is a pretty big gym, so there are a lot of people. I don’t mind though. The more people there are, the safer I feel. Knowing that Brian could show up at any moment scares the crap out of me.
After about an hour in the gym, I head out to my car to drive home. I was going to walk here, but ever since that time I walked to the coffee shop, I’ve been scared to walk anywhere alone.
I am sick of being scared.
I open the door to my car and jump when I see that Brian Asher is sitting in the passenger seat of my car.
My car was locked. There was no way he could’ve gotten in. Yet, here he is.
“What are you doing?” I ask, about ready to start running. I should run, but I’m tired of this. I just want answers. I want to know how I can get rid of him for good and finally start living a normal life.
“Get in,” he says.
“Why would I do that? You’d probably just kidnap me.”
“How can I kidnap you?” Brian asks. “You’d be in the driver’s seat and you have the keys.”
“Fine,” I say. “But if you try anything, I will kill you.”
Brian doesn’t say anything to that, so I get inside.
“I think it’s time that I told you the truth,” he says.
“You’re going to tell me why you’re stalking me?”
“I’m not stalking you.”
“What do you call this?” I ask, pointing out the fact that he was just waiting for me in my car.
“This is the only way I can talk to you,” he says.
“And what about the notes?” I ask. “And the snakes?”
“That wasn’t me.”
“Then who was it?” I ask, crossing my arms over my chest. I don’t believe him. He’s never been honest with me, and I don’t expect him to start now. Though, maybe I can figure out why he’s doing this. Maybe I can even convince him to turn himself in to the police. That would solve all my problems.
“You know the video Gabe found of me sneaking into your room and standing at the foot of your bed?” Brian asks.
“Yeah,” I answer, shivering. I still have nightmares about that.
“Watch it again,” he says. “Only this time, pay closer attention to you instead of me. I made that video the night before your birthday. It’s fake.”
“That doesn’t even make sense. That video was before Christmas break last year. It didn’t happen the day before my birthday.”
“That’s what I’m saying,” Brian says. “I wasn’t the one stalking you. I never would’ve done anything to hurt you.”
“Just watch the video,” he says, then reaches for the door handle. “I’m sorry I let you think it was me for so long. I never planned on coming back into your life after everything went down in April, but I have to keep you safe.”
“Safe? You’re making my life anything but safe,” I say.
He doesn’t respond. He just gets out of my car and walks away. For half a second, I contemplate running over him, but then I realize that Ty is right. I can’t kill Brian Asher.
Feels like a nightmare.
I am trying to forget what Brian said to me, but our conversation is playing over again in my head.
I shouldn’t re-watch that video. I haven’t seen it in seven months, but I can still remember the look on Brian’s face as he looked at me. It was so creepy.
Or was it?
Now, I want to watch the video.
I get off my bed and walk towards Gabe’s room before I lose my nerve. I need to watch it. Only this time, I am not going to watch Brian. I am going to watch me, like he said. I want to know why he asked me to do that.
I knock on Gabe’s door, and he opens it after a few seconds.
“I need to watch the video,” I tell him.
“What video?” he asks.
“The one of Brian watching me...” my voice trails off. I can’t even finish the sentence. “Do you still have it?”
“Yeah, I still have it,” he answers. “Are you sure you want to? When you watched it before it freaked you out pretty bad.”
“Okay,” he says, and opens his door wider so I can walk in. I shut it behind me.
I don’t want Ty to hear what I’m doing. He wouldn’t understand why I need to see the video again. I don’t even understand why, I just know I have to.
“I don’t know if I should show you this again,” Gabe says.
“Please,” I say. “I need to see it.”
“Why?” he asks. “Shouldn’t you just leave the past in the past?”
“I saw Brian today—”
He cuts me off. “Did you call the cops?”
“No,” I say. “I don’t want to call them. If I called them every time I saw Brian, I’d be calling them every other freaking day. I’m sure they have better things to do then come take a statement from me.”
“Brian is a stalker... a
. You’re supposed to call them,” he says, running a hand through his hair.
“Gabe, please just let me see the video.”
“Fine,” he says, walking towards his bed. His laptop is open on the bed. He takes a seat on the edge, so I sit by him.
It’s really awkward to sit on his bed. We haven’t been in a bed together since Bora Bora, right before we broke up. Gabe doesn’t seem affected at all, though. He is just looking at his computer.
“How are things with you and Ty?” Gabe asks me, but keeps his eyes on the screen.
“Good, I guess,” I answer. “Ty and I are just friends.”
“You forget that I dated you for a long time. I know you well enough to know you have feelings for him. And I know he has feelings for you.”
I don’t say anything because I don’t want to hurt Gabe’s feelings. I know Gabe still loves me, or thinks that he does. The last thing he needs to hear is that I have intense feelings for his best friend.
“Here it is,” Gabe says, pointing at the computer.
I look at the paused video. I’m comfortably asleep in my bed and I had no idea that somebody was about to break into my house to leave a threatening message and watch me sleep.
“Brian said to watch me during the video,” I tell Gabe.
“I think this is pointless,” he says, but hits play anyway.
The video starts playing and I focus my attention on me this time, like Brian said.
The night my room was broken into, I was wearing a light grey shirt. Suddenly, the shot moves over about three inches and I am wearing a white t-shirt.
I hear Gabe’s sharp intake of breath.
“It wasn’t even the same night,” he says. “Not even the same camera or angle.”
“How did we not notice this before?” I ask. “And the detectives...”
“We were so focused on Brian that we didn’t notice,” he says. “Does this mean he never stalked you?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “It doesn’t make any sense. Why would he want me to think it was him stalking me?”
“I don’t know,” Gabe says. “But I am going to figure it out.”
“How?” I ask.
“I’m not sure yet,” he says. “But I do plan on figuring out what happened to the real footage.”
“This feels like a nightmare,” I say. “Why? How? It’s crazy to think that maybe Brian never was a threat.”
Maybe our relationship wasn’t fake. I mean, it was never fake to me. My feelings for him were real. Maybe it was real to him too.
“Kihanna,” Gabe says. “Don’t get your hopes up about him. We don’t know anything yet. No matter what, he did go through a lot of trouble to make this video. Whatever his reasoning is, it can’t be good.”
Still, I want Brian’s intention to be pure, because that would mean that what I felt for him was love. And if I loved Brian, maybe I love Ty.
I wish I knew what love really was.
“I need to talk to Brian,” I tell Gabe. “Maybe I can find him—”
“Absolutely not,” Gabe says. “Just because he wasn’t the one who broke in that night doesn’t mean he’s not your stalker. He’s involved somehow. And he admitted to killing all those people. He’s not safe, and there is no way I’m letting you put yourself in danger.”
“Fine,” I say.
“Promise me you won’t try to find him.”
“I promise,” I say. But that doesn’t mean I won’t let him come to me. Sooner or later, he will, and when he does, I will be ready to listen. Not because he deserves it, but because I need to know.
Nobody has died. Yet.
Gabe gets to work on trying to find the missing piece of the video, and I head back to my room. Just as I walk inside, I get a text from Carter. It’s a group text with him and Andrea.
Julie dumped me. We need to hang out because I want to not think about her.
:( I’m sorry. Let’s go get food. Food always helps me feel better after I get dumped.
I’m sorry too, Carter. I agree with Andrea. Food makes everything better.
Twenty minutes later, Carter, Andrea, and I are sitting in the back booth at our favorite diner and Carter is crying into his ice cream. Seeing him cry makes me want to cry.
Carter and Julie had been together for five years. He thought he was going to marry her. That’s got to be tough. They were a cute couple, but obviously they had issues with the distance.
Andrea puts her hand on Carter’s back and pats him awkwardly.
“Maybe you’ll get back together,” she says.
This causes Carter to sob harder. “She’s... seeing... somebody... else.”
“Oh,” she says.
“She’s probably already slept with him,” he says. “We were supposed to be each other’s first and last. He will never be her first.”
“I bet the dude is ugly,” Andrea says, trying to comfort Carter.
“He’s a model. An underwear model,” he says, unlocking his phone. “I Googled him.”
He holds out the phone so we can see the guy that Julie is now dating.
The guy is hot.
“You’re way better looking,” I lie. I
lie. I’m not going to tell Carter that this model is hotter than he is. Besides, looks don’t matter. Carter is an awesome guy. I doubt this new guy would hang out with me just playing video games, or listen to me complain about Ty and Gabe. If I was attracted to Carter, I would totally date him. But I’m not.
Andrea snorts. “On what planet? This guy is a hunk.”
I kick her leg hard under the table.
“Ouch,” Carter says.
“Sorry. That kick was for Andrea,” I say, giving her a look.
“Kihanna, you don’t have to sugarcoat it for me,” he says. “I know that this guy is better looking. He has that whole six pack thing going on. And, you know, biceps.”
“Who needs a six pack and biceps?” I ask.
“I do,” Andrea says. “Or, you know, I need a man with them.”
I give her another sharp look. “Andrea, you’re not helping.”
She shrugs. “I’m just keeping it real. If you want to win her back, you need to get hot. The school has a gym that is free for students to use. Why don’t you hit it up? Then you can look like him.”