He stood in the hall staring at his bedroom door.
James was used to living alone. He preferred it. He cleaned up after himself better than most but he loathed having to pick up after someone else. Every relationship seemed like an endless chore so he made up his mind a long time ago. He would live a longer, happier life alone.
There was a familiar car in his driveway when he had arrived home and it made his heart quicken in fear. She had a love for BMW’s and always kept them in pristine condition. Beautiful spotless works of art. Her current car was a magnificent silver.
A woman never affected his emotions the way Ashley did and right now he was worried. Of all the people in his life she was the most important.
Fate had thrown them together far beyond the reaches of their memory, and to simply say they grew up together would be an understatement… they survived together. In high-school they crushed on each other just long enough to be awkward prom dates. Since then, he plays the field and she does the whole family thing.
She’s always had a key to his place but it has only been used once about 3 years ago. She had made up an imaginary emergency, left her job to drive to his home over an hour away, and collected a piece of equipment he needed delivered discretely to him at work. When she arrived at his office she texted him.
MEET IN MEN’S BATHROOM DOWNSTAIRS MAKE SURE YOU ARE NOT FOLLOWED
She was wearing one of his trench coats and a hat that sat low enough to cover her face. In response to his confused expression she said with a silly smirk, “It’s a very cloak and dagger operation that needs a very cloak and dagger outfit.” She had a way of making the most mundane things fantastically dramatic. Truly though, if she hadn’t helped him, he would have received a pink slip the next day. He owed her so much… but then again they owed each other.
So why is her car out front?
After entering the normality of his quiet house he came to his bedroom door which usually hung open but was shut. He stood there with a sense of déjà vu threatening to make him sick.
He reached for and slowly turned the door knob and there standing in the center of his room she stood. Naked. She was dripping wet with a puddle of water gathering around her feet.
The strong smell of cigarettes hung in the air, which was strange because she doesn’t smoke. The cigarette smoke. He had experienced this before. His mind reeled trying capture the reason for the familiarity.
What has he forgotten?
She stood facing the open windows. Sunlight reflecting off the drops of water that clung to her skin. She was holding her hands in front of her.
Seeing her now, standing silent and still, zoned out to the world, he knew something was horribly wrong. For some reason that was eluding him he was afraid to say her name or touch her. He feared she would crumble into pieces like an ancient statue.
Standing there he looked at her. He realized how beautiful she looked. She was strong and fit. No longer the fragile little girl he played with when they were younger. Yet he knew the truth, she was still fragile.
He stood there trying to tease the nagging memory from its crevice when she turned slowly to face him. He wanted to close his eyes out of respect for her. But mostly because he was afraid of what her eyes might hold.
Her face was expressionless and her eyes were vacant, but only for a moment.
As if a switch had been flipped her face came to life and out of her mouth came the most disturbingly agonized scream. And then he noticed her hands. As if beckoned from an old deep tomb the memories came flooding back.