It was a slow day in the corporate building. Jess and Christine were on their way to the employee lunchroom that offered free prepackaged meals. As Jess and Christine walked down the cold and brightly lit hallway, they noticed a group of men dressed immaculately in top quality suits. They were walking in their direction and as they crossed paths, Jess looked up to find herself lost in the eyes of a beautiful stranger. He looked to be in his late twenties, or so she thought.
Stunned by the man’s good looks, Jess was completely speechless. Not one word came out as the man said hello in passing. His bright smile quickly changed to a slightly confused expression as she said nothing and quickly stared at her feet. It wasn’t until Jess and her co-worker had passed the group that she realized she was holding her breath. Finally, she exhaled while reaching to touch her red hot cheeks, she couldn’t help but wonder if this was what people meant when they felt a spark at first sight. Christine turned to Jess with a quizzical expression, obviously wondering why she was acting so strange.
“What in the hell is wrong with you? A cute guy walks by, says hello and you say nothing? Since when are you so shy?” Jess wasn’t sure of the answer herself but all she could think of was that smile.
“I wanted to say hi and I swear I said the words in my head but they just didn’t make it out. I’ve never seen him around before, have you?” Christine flicked her short blond curls and looked at Jess with a matter of fact expression.
“Well, I don’t know Jess, it may be because about fourteen-hundred people work in this building.” Jess nodded in agreement. Judging by how expensive their suits looked, they were probably lawyers. All the paralegals she noticed didn’t make enough to put themselves together so well. As Jess was beating herself up in her thoughts, she decided to steal another glance at her mystery man. He was sure to be exiting the hallway by now. As she looked back, of course the universe would send the mystery guy a signal because at that very moment he turned to find her staring; she felt like she had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar and immediately felt the embarrassment rush to her cheeks. Doing her best to turn and walk away coolly, she looped her arm into Christine’s and rushed her to turn the corner of the hallway.
“Jess! What in the world is the matter with you? You’re acting like a silly little school girl.” Jess knew Christine was right. She needed to get it together. How could one man have such an effect on her? She thought of his amazing smile and his mocha colored skin, and his height that had to be no less than six feet. She toyed with the idea of being wrapped in his arms and feeling safe in them. It had been months since her last relationship and she thought she was ready to get back in the game. Maybe there was still hope for her in the love department. It was made obvious to Jess that she could attract a handsome successful man. It would be nice to date someone who wasn’t a loser like her ex. She thought how nice it would be to know what it really felt like to be loved the right way. To be treated like a lady and not like a sex object would be something new to her. Convincing herself that Prince Charming only existed in fairy tales, she walked into the cafeteria with Christine to find what looked like moist dog food. The chunks sort of resembled three-day-old chicken but Jess didn’t want to play guessing games with the meat. Christine and Jess shared a look of disgust and headed straight for the salad bar.
After a long day of filing and answering calls for the three lawyers on her floor, she was off to her one room apartment about twenty-five minutes away. She stepped out of her stilettos and reached for her oversized coach bag, pulling out her flats. As she slid her feet into her shoes she realized how lucky she was to have found a job with a bus stop right down the block. If she left right after work she would make the next bus. She was a twenty-two year old woman without a license and she made peace with the fact that she was a terrible driver. She figured the world was better off without another shitty driver on the road. Maybe one day she’d take driving lessons but for now, she was on her way to walk in the ninety-degree heat in sunny south Florida.
As Jess exited the building she felt the rush of humid air hug her body, beads of sweat began forming on her forehead. She started digging in her purse to find a hair-tie, occupied with her face nearly inside her large bag, she was interrupted by a male voice.
“Hey, Jess.” Already knowing who it was, she put on her best look of hatred.
“What do you want, Chris? And what the hell are you doing here?” Her drug addicted ex-boyfriend decided to pop up for a visit and she cringed at the sight of him. He looked terrible and wasted away. She wondered what she ever saw in him in the first place. He wasn’t much taller than her, about five foot-six with a short buzz cut and a pretty fit build, considering he’s been on a cocaine binge ever since the break up four months ago. Jess couldn’t help but stare at him with disgust as he stood there doe eyed, wearing baggy jeans and a dirty tank top. She looked around to be sure none of her co-workers were in sight as she began to speed walk down the block right past Chris.
“Hey! Jess, wait up!”
“Damn it! Look Chris, I don’t even want to know what made you think it was okay for you to just show up at my job but you need to get lost.” She kept her eyes straight towards her destination, sweating profusely as she tried to pick up the pace, Chris moved quickly as he caught up to her in no time.
“Jess, I miss you. I need you back in my life. I’m doing a lot better now. I got a job at the deli on 71st by the bridge.” Jess couldn’t believe how stupid he sounded and stifled a chuckle before she replied with sarcasm.
“Oh, well that’s just great. My knight and shining sandwich artist has come to whisk me away. As grand as that sounds, I’m really not interested in getting back together. That ship has sailed and I am not looking to get back on it.” She was a few feet away from the bus stop when he grabbed her arm, jolting her back so that she was now in front of him. “Chris, let me go. You’re hurting me.” Staring into his eyes, she wasn’t sure what shown more, hatred or pain.
“You think you’re so much better than me don’t you? You think because you stopped partying that your body doesn’t crave the high anymore? I bet if you came home with me right now we’d have ourselves a good time just like we used to.” His breath was hotter than the humid air and she wished she had a mint to offer and instinctively backed away from the stench. Chris tightened his grip and was so close to her that no one would ever know she wanted to run as far as her flats would take her. Not to mention, she spotted the bus passing by which meant she would have to wait thirty minutes for the next one.
“Look, I’m just not into that anymore, ok. I don’t want to party and I’ve done enough to last me a lifetime. Now let me go or I swear I’ll scream.” He let her go and she stood there for a second rubbing her arm. His expression softened with what looked like concern.
“Shit, Jess I’m sorry but you know I could have any girl I want and I’m here fighting for you. You keep rejecting me, how else do you expect me to react?” The only thing that ran through Jess’s mind at that moment was how ridiculous he was and how she almost felt sorry for him.
“Well, maybe you should go find one of those other girls you say you can have so easily. Don’t call me or come looking for me again. I’m not the same girl I was when we were together. And with that, Jess walked off leaving him where he stood. She was walking so fast she was nearly jogging down the next three blocks to find the next bus stop. As she waited in the dreadful heat, she cursed herself for ever being involved with a guy like that. She let her mind go back to the night they first met four years ago. She was at a high school party with some friends when she was ditched to find another way home. She went to the only empty room in the house where she could call her mother to pick her up. Fiddling with her phone and contemplating if it were a good idea, a boy walked in and shut the door behind him. Jess remembered how cute he was in his oversized white tee and baggy jeans. Smiling at her, he apologized for interrupting her.
“Oh, you weren’t interrupting me. I was just going to call my ride.” She stared at her phone with a shy smile. She liked the way he looked at her. It was as if she were a woman instead of a girl like the rest of the high school boys looked at her.
“Well, we just found each other. Why leave now?” Jess found herself lost with words and answered with a giggle instead.
“My name is Chris. Why don’t you tell me your name? Or should I just call you beautiful?” Jess liked how forward he was and it made her heart jump. She stopped herself from giggling like a little girl again before she could answer.
“I’m Jessica but my friends call me Jess.”
“Does this mean we’re friends?” He looked at her with a smile laced with danger and she loved it.
“I guess we could be. My girlfriends ditched me so it looks like I’m in need of a new friend right now.” Jess pictured her friends jumping in a random car and never thinking twice of where she might be. Although, she was secretly grateful that her friends left her behind because she would have missed this moment with Chris.
“Well, today’s your lucky day. I was just about to roll a joint and it’s the best stuff yet.” Chris dug in his pockets and pulled out papers and weed as he made his way to the computer desk next to the bed. Jess never smoked and she wasn’t sure how she felt about it and much less smoking with a boy she just met. She didn’t want him to think that she didn’t know how to have fun so she stayed.
“Um, I…I’ve never smoked before. Can you show me how to do it?” She immediately felt stupid for being so honest but she figured if she was going to try this then she’d might as well do it right. Chris chuckled and brought the joint to his lips and lit it. He inhaled deeply and spoke without exhaling.
“Inhale and hold it for as long as you can and let it out.” Chris exhaled, letting out a cloud of smoke. It smelled strange to her but she was intrigued. Taking the joint from Chris, Jess did as he explained. As soon as the smoke filled her lungs she let out a burning cough that must have been funny to Chris because he couldn’t stop laughing. Jess felt so embarrassed and wondered if she had done it wrong. Still coughing, she passed the joint back to Chris and lay back on the full bed hoping the burning in her chest and throat would die down. Chris handed her a red plastic cup which she refused. She didn’t want to add alcohol to the mix.
“Jess, you should drink something. It’ll help with the burning.” Jess took the cup and quickly sipped the red drink. It was cranberry and vodka and it made her mouth water. She wasn’t a fan of vodka but the cranberry juice was so good she couldn’t stop herself from chugging the drink down. Jess dropped the empty cup on the floor and tossed herself back on the bed. She felt so mellow and relaxed and she wasn’t sure why but it brought a smile to her face.
“You know Jess, you’re pretty badass for a rookie.” Chris finished the joint and lay next to her, propping his upper body so he slightly hovered over hers. Jess looked up at him and threw her hand over her mouth as she went into a roaring laugh.
“You think I’m a badass! That’s hilarious! No one’s ever−” Chris cut her words with a kiss. He placed his right hand under her neck and deepened the kiss as he parted her lips with his tongue. Jess had never been kissed like that and it sent her stomach in flips. Her heart beat faster with every second. As Chris pulled away, she instantly felt dazed. She wasn’t sure if it was from the high or the kiss but she liked it.
They dated off and on over the next four years. Their relationship was filled with drugs, sex, and alcohol. Jess finally broke it off after their last fight. All Chris wanted to do was get high and have sex; Jess grew tired of it. She had to believe she was worth more than what Chris offered. She begged Chris to change but he chose the life he was living over her. She accepted that no one could make him change. Jess told him she had enough and never looked back.
The sound of the bus approaching snapped her back to the present. As she settled in a seat up front, she was glad to finally be on her way home and forget about her encounter with Chris.
Thirty minutes later, she hopped off the bus and walked quickly to her apartment. She cursed Chris for making her miss the bus, causing her to get home after dark. Fishing for her keys, she made it to her door and jammed the key in the hole. With one foot in the door, she felt a crash on the back of her head and collapsed into her apartment.
Jess slowly opened her eyes and moaned from her throbbing head. She tried to lift her hand to soothe the pain, only to find herself tied down to a plastic chair she kept by the couch. Confused, she looked around her six hundred square foot efficiency to find her attacker but everything was untouched and seemed normal. She heard something coming from the bathroom and noticed the light shining under the door. Her gut feeling told her who it may be and she quickly tried to get herself free. Both her wrists and ankles were tied with hard plastic restraints. The more she wriggled her wrists, the more the plastic dug into her skin. The throbbing in her head began to take its toll and the exhaustion overcame her. As she tried to think how she could talk her way out of this mess, the bathroom door opened and Chris stepped out with a sly smile.
“What the fuck, Chris! This isn’t funny! Let me go right now!” The louder she screamed at him, the more her head pounded. Chris just stood there staring at her as if he were thinking hard about something. He dug in his back pocket, pulling out a pocketknife. He swung it open, bringing it close to Jess’s neck. Tears began to stream her face as she tried to reason with him.
“Chris, please. Look, I’m sorry if I hurt you. Let’s talk. Please, just don’t hurt me.” Jess looked down at her knees as she blinked hard to see passed her tears. Her breath quickening as he slid the knife passed her collarbone onto the neckline of her white silk blouse.
“Don’t worry baby, I don’t want to hurt you. I just want to play.” Chris began to slice down the front of her blouse, letting it fall open at the sides, revealing a black lace bra. He slowly ran his fingers across her cleavage, making his way down her stomach.
“You always had the perfect body Jess. There’s no one else like you and you know you’re better off with me. You just need a little reminder babe.” Jess did her best to calm her breathing, as she feared his next move. Spreading her legs as far as her blue pencil skirt would allow, he brought the knife to the middle and began to slice through the fabric all the way up to the waistline. Judging by the look in his eyes, she could tell he reveled in the sight of her matching panties and gave her thigh a tight squeeze.
“Chris, please…. You’re scaring me.” Crying hard now, she feared her worst nightmares might come true. “You’re…. You aren’t going to rape me are you?” Chris looked at her and let out a hard laugh.
“Rape you? Baby, by the time I’m done with you, you’ll be throwing yourself at me.” She was so nervous, she began to sweat; looking up at her rusty ceiling fan, she wished it were on, if she was going to die today, she wouldn’t die with sweat dripping down her back. What a stupid thing to think of at a time like this, she thought.
She watched Chris make his way to the kitchenette. He pulled a small black bag out of the side pocket of his baggy jeans. He stood at an angle so she couldn’t make out what he was doing but he opened her utensil drawer and pulled something out. She was sweating on every inch of her body, her wrists sliding against the plastic chair. She continued to wriggle her wrists hoping she’d at least get one hand free. The restraints started cutting deeper into her skin; her sweat making the scrape of her skin burn like a thousand needles. She tried wriggling her feet; luck was on her side as her right foot was able to get free. Too preoccupied with what she was doing, she hadn’t realized Chris was right beside her. Chuckling, he raised his right hand, bringing the back to her cheek with such force it threw her to the ground. He walked over to her still body; she could feel he was inches away from her and thrust her foot at his chest as hard as she could and tried desperately to free the other ankle. Chris recovered quickly and grabbed Jess’s leg, leaned over her and struck her in the ribs. Jess immediately felt as if a bat had hit her. Every ounce of strength was knocked out of her as she gasped for air. She was too scared to look at him now and knew there was no getting herself out of this mess.
“You’re only going to make this harder if you don’t shut the fuck up and sit still. Now stop the bullshit before you make me do something I’ll really regret.” He sat her up right on the chair and smoothed her long black hair away from her face. Letting herself look up at him from under her lashes, she saw hurt in his eyes as he wiped the blood from her cheek. He looked at her for what seemed like forever and brought his lips to her wound. She hated the way his lips felt against her skin but willed herself not to flinch for fear of getting him upset again. Chris let out a sigh and walked back to the kitchenette where Jess saw him pick up a large silver spoon. He turned slightly, allowing her to watch him put the flame under the spoon. Watching the liquid bubble from the heat, she knew what it was. Heroin.
“You’re gonna love this shit baby. It’s better than any high we’ve ever had together.” Jess tried to calm her nerves as each breath felt like another punch. She licked her lips to moisten the cracks that were now forming from her dry mouth. Jess spoke in what seemed more like a whisper.
“Chris. Please don’t do this. Haven’t you caused me enough pain? If you care about me at all you wouldn’t do this to me. I don’t want to be a junkie. Please, just… let me go.” Her last words were spoken on a breath and she knew they didn’t reach him. With a smile, Chris grabbed a rubber tube she hadn’t noticed sitting on the coffee table in the middle of the room. He tied it around her left arm and with two fingers, tapped her arm to awaken her veins. Still weak from the thrashing, she could do nothing but watch intently as her veins rose to greet the needle; she felt the rush of the cool liquid entering her blood stream. Instantly, she felt a rush like nothing before as her eyes rolled to the back of her head. Chris stood over her and placed his hand behind her neck as her head lulled back. He walked back to the kitchenette and prepared his own fix. As Jess’s body fell heavier into the chair, Chris cut her restraints and carried her to the couch. He laid her head on a pillow, her eyes fluttered open and she saw so much longing in his expression. Jess could feel him studying her half naked body even after she closed her eyes. She willed her eyes open again only to confirm her thoughts. Watching his eyes dance across her body brought a smile to her face. Everything felt so beautiful to her now and it scared the shit out of her. Her thoughts didn’t feel like her own anymore. She felt as if someone else was taking over her body and she was far too tired to fight it. Jess didn’t want to give up the pleasure the drug made her feel but a part of her knew this was all wrong. Something inside her, a voice, her innocence perhaps, told her that she needed to keep her wits about her. Wanting to listen to that voice, she tried to fight the bliss her body felt. She couldn’t help but wonder how she lived her life without ever feeling this good. Looking into Chris’s blue eyes, she wanted to hate him. She wanted to throw her hands up and fight her way out of this web, but her body told her something else. She shut the door on that pesky little voice, completely giving in to euphoria. How could she be unhappy when the world seemed so much better now? Jess opened her mouth to speak and was surprised to hear an unfamiliar sultriness in her tone.
“Come here.” Chris stood and undressed himself. He lay on top of her and brought his lips to her ear.
“I knew you’d want me babe. I just needed to make you see. I hope you can forgive me.” Jess moaned at the feel of his breath on her ear and cupped his face.
“I know baby. It’s alright now. Let’s enjoy this while it lasts. I don’t care about anything else. All that matters is you and I. Here in this moment.” Wrapping her legs around his waist, she let herself be taken by him in a way her wildest dreams could never imagine. Every touch felt like the very first time. Her skin felt electric against his and she wished it could always be like this. She let out an unfamiliar giggle as she thought how happy she was in this moment, wrapped in Chris’s love. This feeling is what she deserved, she desired it, and somehow, she always knew it. Who needed a mystery guy when she could have this?
© Stephanie Cardozo, 2015. Stephanie Cardozo, All rights reserved.