STRANGER BESIDE ME
ABOUT THIS NOVEL: Written through the year of 1999, I wanted to take an old story and redo it. Based on I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTERSPACE I found the only way to tell it from the point-of-view of the character was to write it as first-person. I learned a lot about perspective with this book. The novel is available through Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon.com. Link provided at the bottom of this page.


Created by Khevron


Itwas close to three weeks later when the phone rang at two o’clock on a Friday morning. It woke me from a dream. I got out of bed and stumbled to the kitchen in the dark. I answered the phone just as the answering machine came on.
       “Hi, I’m not here ri-”
       “Hello?” I said hoarsely as I thumbed off the answering machine.
       There was a long pause and static then, “Patrick?” the woman’s voice whispered.
       “Yes?” I waited a moment, listening for a reply that didn’t come. I reflected on the tinny voice I had heard. I tried to piece together whom it sounded like. “Sable?”
       “Yeah.” I heard her snuff. “It’s me.”
       “Are you all right?”
       “Yeah-yeah, I’m fine,” she said quickly. Then she sighed hard and started crying. “No I’m not.”
       “Jesus, Sable, what’s wrong?” I remembered the frightened look she had on her face when I found her in the woods so long ago. I knew I was talking to that scared, confused girl again. I flipped the on the light switch on the wall. The ceiling light cast the kitchen in a harsh white light. “Where are you?”
       She cried harder into the phone. “I don’t know,” she confessed. Her voice sounded muffled.
       “Okay, sweetie, just calm down and tell me what happened.”
       She didn’t say anything. I waited because I could still hear her breathing on the other end. Then she said, “Oh Patrick, I’m so scared.”
       “Are you in trouble? Is there someone with you?” My mind was playing terrible scenarios behind my eyes. I tried keeping my eyes open without blinking.
       “I’m alone,” she told me. I think she understood what I was feeling.
       “Where are you?” I asked again.
       Sable took some deep breaths. She exhaled heavily into the receiver. “I’m not sure where I am.” Her voiced dimmed as if she pulled away from the phone.
       “Are you hurt? Did you get into an accident?” I was trembling. Goosebumps covered my arms and face. Fear chewed on my spine.
       “I’m not hurt.” She told me. “I’m on Interstate 90 somewhere.”
       “At a rest stop?”
       “Yes.”
       “Okay, can you find the map? It will tell you what exit you’re near.”
       She didn’t say anything.
       “Sable?”
       “Yeah, I’m here.” Her crying had put sand in her voice.
       “Okay, listen to me, baby. I need to know where you are. I’ll come get you. Okay?”
       “Yes.”
       “Okay, see if you can find the map for me. Don’t hang up the phone, I’ll wait right here. Tell me what exit you’re near.”
       “Okay.”
       Forced to wait, I heard her put the receiver down. I was naked and shivering in my kitchen. I had the receiver pressed so tight to my ear it made it ache.
       There was noise on the line. Then a recorded operator’s voice came on the line.
       “Please deposit ten cents. Ten cents please, for the next five minutes.”
       “Shit,” I hissed. I thought they would terminate the connection before Sable returned. She was in a fragile state of mind. I didn’t know if she would have the energy to call back.
       There was more clicking on the line and the operator’s dull, monotone voice came on again.
       “Please deposit ten¾.” There was a sound similar to a coin dropping into the payphone. “Thank you,” the artificial voice said. We had to wait for the recorded voice to give a speech praising Sable for extended time due to the twenty-five cents she fed the payphone.
       “I’m here,” she said. She sounded stronger.
       “Okay,” I said with a sigh of relief. “Where are you?”
       “I’m near exit 29.”
       I thought for a moment. I had been on the Interstate hundreds of times. I had gotten an EZ pass for the year to save money because the business required so much travel along the route. I memorized the exits and their towns that emptied into the Interstate. I suspected she was near Phelps. It was at least a forty-five minute drive. I could get there in thirty minutes if the State Troopers weren’t near the area I had to travel.
       “Okay, listen to me. Can you still drive?”
       “Yes.”
       “Good. Now you have to go to the exit and wait there for me. I can be there in a half hour. Can you do that?”
       Sable was quiet for a moment. Then she said she could.
       “I’m sorry, Patrick. I don’t know who else to talk to.”
       “No, it’s okay. I’m glad to be here for you. Give me a half hour. I’ll come get you. Okay?”
       “Okay.”
       “All right.” As much as I didn’t want to hang up the phone, I knew I had to. I had to leave Sable to her own devices and hope she could make it to our rendezvous unscathed.
       “I have to hang up now. Are you going to be all right?”
       “Yes.”
       “Are you going to wait for me at exit 29?”
       “Yes.”
       “Okay, sweetie, I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
       “Okay.” Sable hung up before I did.
       I didn’t even take the time to put on underwear when I dressed. I wore the clothes I had on the day before because they were available, lying on the floor by the bed.
       I ran a few red lights leaving town. That time of the morning, most of the police patrolled the troubled neighborhoods. I lived in a selective residential apartment complex. The upper class townhouses catered to a more employed cliental.
       I drove into the unknown. A beauty beckoned me from my past that I had never been able to forget. I never tried to forget.
       Suddenly she needed me. I was the only person she could ask for help. Whatever the problem was, no matter how deep, I would lift my muse higher than the clouds to protect her from these earthy matters.
       I pondered on her trouble. I didn’t entertain the thoughts for very long. The whole situation panicked me. I wouldn’t let my mind make up horrible images to taunt me with, making my foot press harder on the accelerator.
       The one idea that wouldn’t leave was that her boyfriend had physically assaulted her. I knew when I found her bruised I would need to confront her assailant. It wouldn’t do her any good if she felt she couldn’t trust me to stay away from him and deal with it in her own fashion. I knew her spirit would be broken and she could turn bitter with age because battery could heal but the wounds never went away.
       I was on the Interstate in record time. I pushed the speedometer to eighty in my Saturn Coupe.
       Forty minutes later, I pulled off exit 29. I pulled into the car pool parking lot and scanned the sparsely lines cars for Sable. I didn’t know what she was driving. In my haste, I forgot to ask. I was relying on her seeing me. I saw a car with a lone occupant.
       I pulled into the space next to a Toyota Celica. I got out of the car and went around to see her.
       I could see in the foggy haze under the amber lights that she had fallen asleep. Her head was against the seat and turned so it rested on her shoulder. Her face was serene, unbruised. I hated to wake her, especially tapping on the window. She had locked the doors.
       “Sable,” I said lightly. Then I rapped on the glass with my fingertips.
       She woke immediately with a start. Then she sighed when she saw it was me.
       Sable didn’t wear any bruises, except maybe behind her eyes. She looked worn out. Her face was flush and her eyes were red and puffy. She looked as if she had done a considerable amount of crying since we spoke. It could have been the last thing she did before sleep found her in the dim parking lot of the exit. I waited for her to unlock the door then opened it. Sable got out of the car on unsteady bare feet.
       “Where are your shoes?” I asked her lightly. I held her by the elbow.
       Sable looked to her feet and an expression came over her face that was a remnant of surprise.
       “I’m not sure,” she said.
       I didn’t push it. Slowly I wrapped my hand around her shoulder, testing the tension. Her brown eyes looked into mine. They were soft and hurt. She was looking for close friendship, nothing more. I would have given her the world if I could have. Now I could only offer myself any way she wanted me. Possibly, give a little more.
       “Want to get some coffee?” I offered.
       She nodded.
       “We’ll go find a Denny’s.”
       “Let me get something on my feet.”
       Sable took her key from the ignition, retrieved her purse, locked the door and slammed it shut. I waited by the side of the car while she got into the trunk. She grabbed a brown leather vachetta tote. She had a pair of black sandals in her hand before closing the trunk. Commenting about her preparation for emergencies was a consideration of mine but I let it pass.
       Sable looked as if she had already slept in her clothes one night. The white cotton stretch shirt hung wrinkled and untucked. The buttons were undone down to her chest. The fact that she wore no bra was plainly noticeable. The baggy jeans had worn thin at the knees.
       She steadied herself with a hand on the car while she slipped on the sandals. Her hair fell across her face. I hadn’t seen her wear her hair down in a long time. She just let it have its way. When she stood up straight, she pushed it out of her face with one hand.
       “I’m ready,” she said quietly.
       There was no discussion about who was driving or where we went. She was quiet when she got into my car. I drove slowly out of the parking lot. I didn’t want to get back on the expressway because the exits were far between and I didn’t know how much time she had with me. I was thinking there should have been a restaurant nearby.
       “I’m not sure where to go around here,” I finally confessed.
       “Take me back to your house.” She said it without looking at me. Her face turned to the passenger window, she stared out at the night.
       “You sure?” I asked.
       Sable finally turned to me. She had a misty look in her eyes.
       “Unless you have company,” she stated.
       I smiled at her the best I could. “No,” I told her. “No company.”
       I turned the Saturn around and got back on the Interstate. I eased down the accelerator and got into the momentum of traffic, heading back to Syracuse.
       I made a stop at a Mc Donald’s drive-thru for a couple sausage and egg biscuits, hash browns and juice. Then drove on to my apartment.
       I considered about what Sable had suggested. I hadn’t been expecting company. Marcie usually gave my ample warning with a phone call before dropping over. It was usually just enough time to do the dishes, get the research papers, and newspapers picked up around the living room. I didn’t have time to clean before Sable’s arrival.
       Sable made no notice of the clutter. She made her way right for the couch, dropping her bag and kicking off her sandals along the way. I went into the kitchen while she stretched out on the couch.
       I made a pot of coffee then took the greasy bags of our breakfast into the living room. While the coffee maker gurgled in the kitchen, we ate quietly.
       It was close to six in the morning. I was supposed to spend the day at the office with Jon. We were to go over a new client list and select our seminar tactics. We had done the same routine too many times to count before. It wasn’t so much a waste of time than an excuse to make it a half-day at the office. It was one reason why we saved it for Fridays, it made our weekends longer.
       I decided to try to convince Sable to stay until late afternoon. I would call Jon after seven in the morning to let him know I was taking the day off. He’d grumble, I knew, but it would be more play than serious. I had proven to him that I was responsible. I had worked just as hard as he did to get to where we were. He knew I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize the team.
       Sable picked over her food as if it was something foreign to her. I made no comments to her. I thought it would be better to wait until she decided to talk. I watched the clock. I felt a lot of tension and I wasn’t sure if she was getting the same sense. After a while, I turned on the television for lack of a better idea.
       When the coffee was ready, I found Sable and I liked it the same way: light and sweet.
       After one cup, she laid down on the sofa again. It took maybe ten minutes for her to fall asleep with the drone of the Discovery channel to lull her.
       When the time came, I made the phone call to Jon. I was quiet and Jon was disappointed but understanding. He knew how hard it was to concentrate when you were feeling under the weather. Of course, my excuse was more believable than the truth: there was a very attractive and mixed up woman sleeping on my couch because she called for my help in the middle of the night.
       I hung up the phone and watched Sable for a while. Then I went and got her a spare comforter. I covered her body with it. I wanted to brush the strands of hair away from her forehead and kiss it. I decided it would be inappropriate.
       I went back to the overstuffed chair, drank another cup of coffee and channel surfed.
       I woke with a stiff neck. Sable was squatting in front of me with her hand on my knee. The bright light of the sun cut through the kitchen window. Dust particles drifted through the sunbeams.
       I stretched, forcing out a yawn. Then I rubbed my neck. I noticed it was quarter to eleven in the morning. It always felt good to sleep in a little later on a day you should have been at work. It made the whole day worth taking off. I wondered if Sable had anyone to call to make her skipped day as special as mine.
       “I thought you looked uncomfortable sleeping like that,” she told me. She stood and went back to sit on the couch.
       “A little.”
       “I’m sorry about all this,” she confessed. She looked down at her hands as they rubbed together.
       “I want you to know that I am always going to be here for you.” I thought it was a commendable thing to say, even if it sounded a little cliché coming out of my mouth. But I really believed it; I just hope she did also.
       “Thank you so much, Patrick.”
       “I just want to know you are all right.”
       She nodded, still looking at her hands.
       After that, awkward silence drifted into the room on the backs of the dust particles.
      

      

Soul Takers available at Amazon.com
Stranger Beside Me available at Amazon.com

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