Handcuffs and bear spray
Knots didn’t twist in my stomach as the plane landed. I wasn’t as excited as I had thought I would have been. There was a level of freedom, mixed in with my emotions, that was taking over everything else and giving me a feeling of blissful peace.
The guy behind me pressed against me in the lineup to deplane. I moved forward into the lady in front of me, trying to escape the mouth breather. The plane, that had been far too cool in the air, was now a sweaty pit of anxious people ready to leave the confines of the narrow walkway.
I lugged my carry-on to the baggage pickup when we finally started walking. The people surrounding me looked either tired or excited. Only a few seemed like they were unsure of what to feel, like me.
I dragged my white-blonde hair back into a ponytail. The mouth breather was watching me from across the baggage-claim area. I reached into my carry-on and rubbed my hands against the mace in my shorts pocket. I brought it with me everywhere.
I would mace mouth breather’s ass in a heartbeat.
Danny, my brother, had bought me a special blend of bear spray that was supposed to be lethal. I watched the mouth breather with hatred filling my eyes. I wanted him to think again about watching me. I stared him down until he slunk back into the shadows. I wasn’t becoming a skin suit. I saw Silence of the Lambs. I knew about the lotion on the back.
Bags started to go round the conveyor belt, when I finally tore my eyes from his hiding place. I reached and heaved mine off, when I recognized the pink bow my mom had tied on it.
My shoulder burned within seconds of carrying it to the exits, behind the herd of people leaving.
“I can get that for you. Give you a ride to wherever you’re going?”
I sighed and prepared myself to grab the mace as I turned, surprised to see a young guy with a red beard.
I grinned, “Thanks, but I have a ride.”
He nodded at the middle-aged mouth breather with the sweat stains and the greasy, fat face hiding behind a pillar. “Stay away from that guy over there; he was staring at you and muttering some creepy shit when we were on the plane.”
I looked at the disturbing fat guy and weighed my options. If he was on the bus with me, he could follow me and find my house. If I caught a cab he could follow it with another cab. My guts said the redhead was the better option. I handed him my bag, “Okay. Let’s go.”
I could take this guy, maybe. He was thinner and more coffeehouse mellow than mouth-breather, skin-suit-wearing stalker. Either way, there was panic and instability flying through my brain. I had to take deep breaths.
My mind whispered traitorous lies, like I had made a mistake or I wasn’t as brave as I was pretending to be. I knew it wasn’t true. I was brave. I had proved that already once. Maybe more than once.
I followed the redhead to the short-term parking lot. He turned back, “Name’s Mick.”
I smiled, “Nice to meet you, Mick. I’m Erin.” I glanced at my watch, I wanted to be at the apartment by four in the afternoon. It was 3:54; that gave me six minutes. I scowled as he looked at me. “Student?”
I nodded, starting to worry. What if he wasn’t the nice, red-bearded young man he seemed to be?
He beamed, “Me too. I’m in the marine bio master’s. You?” Never mind, he was a student. I felt a bit better until I thought about the fact he had a beard. Divers rarely had beards—right? “Law.”
“At Northeastern?” I nodded and he nodded back, “Cool, me too.” He walked to a black truck, “This is me.”
I slung my bags in the back, “I really appreciate this, Mick.”
He shook his head, “I got a sister, dude. If she ever got ogled by some fat f**k like that, I’d choke his ass.”
I chuckled and climbed into the truck.
“You know Boston?”
He nodded, “Yeah, I did my undergrad here. I’m from Colorado originally.” He started the truck and laughed, “I can tell by the paranoid wild eyes on you, that this is your first trip, huh?”
I did up my seat belt and shook my head, “I came with my family in the summer for orientation.” I didn’t want him to think I was completely at his mercy. I had come for orientation and for my father’s marathon years before. Of course, both times all I had done was read and wander the city looking at old buildings. I hadn’t actually paid attention to anything.
He backed out and drove off, a bit too fast for my liking.
I studied him for a second, “You allowed beards in marine bio, what with the diving?”
He shook his head and stroked the long, scraggly bush, “Nope. Gotta shave in a couple weeks when school starts.” He scratched and ran his hands over it all, “Had a bitch of a time in Bali this summer ‘cause of it. My passport picture has no beard.”
I started to relax. He seemed like a stoner. “What’s your sister’s name?”
He gave me a sideways glance, “Lisa. She’s a total bitch. She’s sixteen and completely running the whole house. I went home for a week and I was ready to murder her.” He chuckled, “Sorry. I’m not… like a serial killer. Ha, wrong thing to say to a random chick.”
I giggled nervously and looked at my watch; I was only going to be a couple minutes later than I expected. My Google map on my iPhone showed us nearly there.
“What’s the address?”
I started to panic, “Oh… it’s in my phone.” I zoomed in on the apartment and picked a close by restaurant, “You know where Cappy’s Pizzas and Subs is, by Hemenway?”
He nodded, “Yeah, for sure.”
“Right near there.”
It wasn’t exactly near there, but it was better than ending up a skin suit.
He chatted and I looked out at the river basin. It was amazing. So much more amazing than Grande Forks, North Dakota.
The ride was over in exactly fourteen minutes. It was faster than the map gave us during regular afternoon traffic.
He pulled up in front of Cappy’s. The red brick buildings everywhere were awesome. The street was old and cool, but with modern touches, somehow blending in. I felt tiny, and yet, somehow powerful amongst it. I would be, an official law student in a couple weeks. That was powerful.
He dragged my bags out and passed them to me, “If you don’t recognize me at school, it’s the missing beard,” he chuckled and slapped me on the arm, “See ya, Erin.”
I grinned, “Thanks again, Mick.”
He shook his head, “Stay away from creepy dudes.” He waved and climbed into the truck and merged.
It was late afternoon, but the traffic wasn’t too bad. I pulled the handle out on the bags and started the short trek to the apartment on Hemenway. The building was white brick and clean. I sighed, seeing it. It looked like the picture on the internet. If the inside was what I had seen in the pictures, I would be in heaven. I fished the key from the bag and hauled everything into the brown, old-fashioned, wooden doorway. The door had to be older than anything I had ever really touched.
I fingered the carved wood and tried to settle the leaping excitement inside of me.
I was sweating and ready to just leave the bags at the bottom of the stairs, when I saw the old staircase.
I grimaced and started the huge walk up the stairs. It was worth the climb. It was my first house, my first stand as an adult. Everything was fitting into the plan too perfectly. Minus the elevator. That made me nervous. Things never went perfectly.
When I got to the fifth floor—the top floor, I took a minute to catch my breath. The bags were too heavy.
I crossed my fingers as I wheeled everything to apartment 521. My hands trembled when I put the key in the hole. Everything was too perfect so far. I prepared for the worst.
I turned the lock, opened the door, and just stared. I expected it to be a disaster, Murphy’s Law said it should have been, but it too, was perfect. White, crisp walls with a light-beige sofa and a white love seat. There were armchairs and beautiful sofa tables. The clean lines and simple colors carried into the kitchen, where white cupboards with glass inlays and a pale, marble counter awaited me. Everything was modern and clean. The only thing I hadn’t noticed was the dishwasher was stainless steel, where the rest of the appliances were white. It was an odd thing to see, it sticking out against all the white. I would have noticed it. It had to be new. New was good.
The floors were dark hardwood and brand new. Everything was glass and white and clean and crisp, except the dishwasher. It was exactly the apartment, I wanted it to be. It was almost completely the picture from the Internet.
When did that ever happen to people?
I took it as a good omen. Like I was on the right track. I was finally getting my dream.
I set my stuff inside and closed the door, locking all three of the locks, and leaned against the door. The sigh that left my parted and completely peaceful lips, was cut short by a noise. A girl moaning maybe?
My head lifted when I heard it again.
My hand slipped into my pocket, clutching the mace. I walked farther into the apartment, looking around for the source of the noise.
Were the walls thin? Was it coming from another apartment?
I tiptoed down the hall to the first bedroom. My heart was pounding as I rested my hand on the cold, metal knob and waited for the courage to open the door. I turned slowly, not making any noise.
The room was a bit stale but it was empty. I sighed and closed the door.
I did the same in the bathroom, but again, it was empty. The new glass tiles and beautiful four-piece bathroom made me happy. But the sound of people moaning and a girl giggling didn’t.
I left the bathroom and walked to the end of the hall, where the last bedroom was. I gripped the mace as I heard the sound again. I clutched it and the door knob. I turned the knob slowly, cracking the door open only a bit.
Feet moved, squirming on the end of the bed, pushing beautiful beige covers to the floor.
Two people mauled each other, sliding against one another. A strong male body with tattoos and lean muscles was grinding against a slim, overly-tanned female with bleached hair.