Memory Turns Nightmare

(From the Writer’s Digest creative writing prompt I Spy with My Little Eye and a continuation of a previous story-from-prompt Haunting Memory)

I take a deep breath, a smile on my lips as I type away at my computer. Nearly two months have passed since I saw my ex at the subway. Following that I experienced a sense of peace and happiness that I hadn’t felt in years. I pick up my coffee cup, just to frown as I find it empty. With a couple quick taps on the mouse, I save my work and lock my computer before getting up and strolling down the hall to the break room.

The windows along one wall let in plenty of light but also offer a fantastic view of the city. I pour the strong Colombian brew in my cup, add a splash of hazelnut cream. I’m just bringing it to my lips when I look outside and immediately feel as though the floor has been ripped from under my feet.

There he stands, leaning casually against a light pole, smoking a cigarette.

I set my coffee mug down on the counter, but not before I slosh some of the hot liquid on my unsteady hands. I bite back a curse and reach for the paper towels. My cup tumbles to the floor, shattering on the tile as my elbow bumps it, and this time I do swear. Loudly. I glance out the window again. He hasn’t moved, hadn’t even changed position, except for his eyes—and they’re staring right at me.

I pull several feet of the brown, nonabsorbent paper towels and crouch down to begin cleaning my spilled coffee. In my pocket, my phone buzzes; two short pulses—a text message. I recognize the number even though I erased it long ago, before I changed numbers. How in the hell did he get my number?

I told u ur always mine. That will never change, even if u try to run.

The words on the screen make my blood cold, bring chills to my skin. When we were still “together” he had threatened to kill me, saying my life is over if he hears that I’m cheating. I never did, but he never believed that. He would rather listen to rumors and speculation, condemn me for nothing more than a smile or laughing at a joke. Even as I hold the phone, another text comes in.

U remember what I told u, ur an intelligent woman.

I clench my jaw and put my phone back in my pocket. No. I won’t let him do this to me again. I force myself to focus on the coffee and broken glass. The words from years past run through my memory without fully manifesting as anything more than the feelings they left behind in me. I was always irritated that he would boast he had a genius IQ, but then turn around and text like a teenager with stupid abbreviations, not to mention how he would react when I would use words slightly outside the mundane when they fit the situation—as if I was trying to be condescending toward him. He was constantly talking down at me, his last text being a perfect example of that.

I drop the broken pieces of my cup into the trash can, my righteous anger catching up to my fear. I pour another cup of coffee in one of the disposable cups by the coffee pot. I turn toward to the door to go back to my desk, but I can’t stop myself from taking a fleeting look out the window before I do. I stop in my tracks, rush over to the window as I search the street below.

He’s gone, his light post now standing alone. I see the butt of his cigarette on the pavement, but no sign of where he may have gone, and that scares me more than seeing him did. My phone vibrates again, and I look at it with growing dread as I can count on one hand the number of times he actually called me by name.

U can’t hide from me, Karen.


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