by Tracey Farmer-Luster
He stood with his back pressed to the door, an impish grin on is lips.
She asked him again. "Leave Darryl!" She straightened her stance, jutting her chin in the air. "I mean it. I don't need you to stay."
He rolled his eyes to the ceiling, releasing a deep sigh. "Of course you don't need me to. You want me too."
Insufferable shit. "No Darryl. I don't want you to. It's my apartment now. Mine alone."
He glared at her from beneath hooded eyes. "Ok, ok. But don't call me in the middle of the night if you get the willies." His eyes darted to her hips. "Of course, if you must call, please do so before 1:00 a.m."
She hated the thought of calling him and vowed not to do it. It had been a week since she moved into her new place and she would prove to him--- and to herself--- that this time, it was for good. She backed away, squaring her shoulders. "Don't worry. I won't be calling at 1:00, or any other hour."
His eyes trailed along her lips searching for the tiniest beckoning. She averted his gaze.
"Go now." she sighed, "Please. I have to be at work in the morning."
He looked at her with both disdain and impatience. She hated the look. It was the same look he had given her when she caught him with buxom Maxine, his hand planted firmly on her butt. He denied, even then, his misgivings, as if his impropriety was somehow her fault. She wanted to slap him.
"Call me," he said. He slid an arm behind him and pulled open the door. "But before 1:00." He winked, and in one motion turned and stepped out. She pushed the door closed behind him.
A tear slipped down her cheek as she leaned against the door and surveyed her sparsely furnished apartment. Finally alone in her new place. The last two nights a cousin or girlfriend stayed over, but tonight she was alone, left to revel in her newfound independence. Many of her things were still at the other apartment, though she did manage to smuggle out the loveseat and some odds and ends. The wide screen television set was not as cooperative, but the remote managed to slip into her purse unnoticed. She could afford a new set, but the thought of him watching the massive screen with Maxine goaded her. A smile curved her lips as she pictured Darryl searching for the remote in the large cluttered apartment. "Serves him right," she thought.
She wiped the tear from her cheek and went into the kitchen to fix a ham sandwich. She swathed a generous helping of mayo on two slices of bread and squashed the ham between them. "No need to watch my weight anymore." She took a mouthful and scanned the apartment again with renewed satisfaction. Her sandwich in hand, she double bolted the door, flicked off the light, and went to bed.
Once in her bedroom, she bounced atop the frameless mattress, flicked on the borrowed 17-inch set, and leaned in on her elbows to watch. The phone rang. The caller id read 'Trista Harper'.
"Mom! How are you?" She listened as the phone shuffled from one ear to the other.
"How am I? How are you in that awful building?" Her mother didn't want her to leave Darryl. She felt his connections and family ties would be a great asset, even if his personality did match that of a toad.
"The building is not awful mom. It's really nice."
"Really nice my foot! The girl who was murdered there can attest to that! Mary told me just the other day about another woman who went mad and..."
"Mother! I really don't want to hear that!"
"What's the matter? Isn't Alicia there with you?"
"No mother she isn't. I don't need..."
"You mean your there alone! Tara that's ridiculous. Call Darryl right now and tell him to come over."
"No mother! I won't!"
Silence blared through the phone.
"No need to yell," Trista said with an icy calm, "I just thought you might be frightened is all."
"I don't believe the rumors mom, and if you had any sense you wouldn't either." Tara's throat tightened. The one thing she didn't need was an argument with her mother.
"I was simply trying to help, but I see you don't need it."
"Oh mother, I didn't mean to..."
The phone went dead.
She didn't mean to upset her, but sometimes her mother could be insufferable. Why couldn't she be supportive, especially when it came to Darryl? If it were not for her mother's insistence, she would have left him long ago. Tears welled again in her eyes. She looked down to her hand and smirked. The ham sandwich suddenly tasted bland.
She sat the sandwich aside and got up to disrobe. Perhaps a warm shower would ease her tensions. She pulled on her favorite fluffy housecoat, the one Darryl despised, and went into the bathroom. Soon her problems, and obvious misgivings, melted away beneath the warm spray of water.
Her bathing done, she turned off the water and stepped from the shower feeling quite relieved. She moved to the door and halted. A sound, like that of fast running feet, thudded passed the bathroom door. Her heart beat loudly. Had she left the front door unlocked? She distinctly remembered locking the bolt before going to bed. Who could be in the apartment? Darryl? Not likely. The footsteps sounded like that of a woman or a child. She rubbed the water from her face, tightened the towel around her, and eased open the door.
She peered down the hall to the bedroom. The light from the bedside lamp spilled into the empty hallway. She swallowed hard and turned to peer into the darkened living room. Her heart leaped into her throat. Someone---someone tall--- peered back at her! His head nearly reached the ceiling! Tara's entire body trembled. Someone was in her apartment!
Before she could get a good look, the head jerked back into the living room. Not wanting to take her eyes off the hall, she reached a hand behind her and pulled the shower brush from the door. "As good a weapon as any." She wrapped the towel tightly about her and stepped from the bathroom. Water from her hair dripped in light thumps to the floor as she tipped down the hall gripping the bath brush with both hands. Her eyes trained on the walls edge, she reached the end of the hall and flicked on the light.
The living room spread before her, empty as she had left it. She tipped around the loveseat and peered into the kitchen, which was little more than a ledge and a bar stool. It too lay empty. She double checked the bolt lock on the door and let out a ragged sigh. Maybe someone upstairs made the sound, but what did I see? Light from a passing car outside the window sent a shadow over her head and into the hall. Feeling silly, and still a little shaken, she scanned the room again, flicked off the light, and went back down the hall to the bedroom.
Once in bed she decided to leave the television on, berating herself for leaving the big screen with Darryl. After an hour or so, she began to doze.
Well into the night, something awoke her. She turned over in bed to adjust her pillow when she heard the sound of breathing. She held her breath. The low brushing sound filled her ears, telling of the proximity of its host. She bolted up in bed. There at the foot stood a shadow, the eyes shining brightly from its dark peek. She crawled back against the headboard, her heart pounding in her ear.
"What--- who are you? What do you want?"
The smoky specter only stared, its breath coming in raspy moans.
"What do you want!" She reached to the edge of the mattress, feeling for the shower brush that lay on the bedside table.
"Maggie," it gurgled out, "I am Maggie."
Tara's breath caught in her throat. Maggie? She searched her memory. Soon a flood of stories entered her mind. Maggie was the name of the murdered girl rumored to have died in the building a year ago. After an argument with her boyfriend they later found her body, face down in the bathtub. Yes, that was her! Maggie Wilson!
Tara peered through the darkness. "You're Maggie Wilson!"
The dark specter did not reply.
"What do you want?" She gripped the bath brush until her knuckles ached, her eyes darting to the door.
"To warn." It groaned out.
Suddenly a low rumble filled the room. The air went frigid. Lightening flashed through the window, illuminating the pale walls, and the figure at the end of the bed. A tall woman, her wet clothes pasted to her body and her hair slicked like seaweed to her face, stood freshly drowned at the foot of the bed. Her skin, a pale diaphanous blue, peeled from her arms. Her eyes, milky white and lifeless, stared silently. Tara choked back a scream as the smell of rotting flesh stung her nose.
The woman increased in size, taller and wider, until she nearly eclipsed the wall behind her. She moved toward the bed in staggered steps, her lifeless eyes staring blankly into Tara's.
"Don't come any closer!" Tara raised the shower brush in the air, holding it like a bat. "I mean it! I don't know if I can hurt you, but I will try!"
Maggie didn't listen. She moved toward Tara, coming atop the bed, crawling and pulling at the covers. The stench encompassed the room as the frigid air escaped in wisps from Tara's lips.
"Stay back! Stay back!" Without thinking, Tara flailed the shower brush wildly in the air. The first blow met its mark on the head, breaking the brush in two. Fear gripping her chest, she grabbed both ends of the broken brush and began to stab at the figure encroaching upon her. The brush handle soon became useless. She reached for the clock and in one swoop pounded it over the crawling woman's head. Her breath coming in rapid spurts, she reached again for the table lamp, but stopped short as she held it above her attacker. The woman, now her original size, stopped moving; her soaked and lifeless body lay dead still.
Tara threw the lamp aside and bounded from the bed. She ran to the front door, unbolted the lock, and swung it open. Before she knew it, she plowed headlong into someone, scratching and clawing at their chest.
"Ma'am! Ma'am!" The man grabbed her by the shoulders to steady her. "We got a report of a disturbance, have you been attacked?"
She sucked in a breath as she eyed the dark blue uniform of the police officer. "Yes! Yes! They attacked me in my bed!"
"Ok ma'am, just stay right here." The police officer placed her with a neighbor and went inside the apartment. People began to mill out into the hall, coming to stand about her. Another policeman came through the crowd and went into the apartment. Tara could feel every bone in her body quiver.
After hearing a slight scuffle, the two officers emerged. Between them, locked in handcuffs was Darryl, his head bloodied and limp.
"We have him ma'am," The officer nodded to someone standing behind her, "Officer Doherty will take the report"
The officer stepped forward and escorted her back into the apartment. Bewildered, she sat down on the love seat recounting the events in her head.
"But that couldn't have been Darryl. I would never have fought him like that"
"It's good you did ma'am." The officer lifted a large cutting knife from the coffee table. "As it stands, if you had not fought him, I'm afraid you would have been killed"
"But, what about Maggie?"
"Maggie, ma'am? Who is Maggie?"
"She was in my room! She was there!"
"We found no one else ma'am." The officer replaced the knife, flipped out his note pad and began to write. "This Maggie ma'am, does she live here?"
Tara looked up at the officer, her eyes brimming with tears. "Not any more," she said, "But she came back. She came back to warn me."