-Excerpt from the novel She is Free-
Summer Stephens was sitting across from her friend and though she listened to every word that was said, she couldn’t help but feel somewhat distracted by the flowers on the table between them. It was the color. Something crisp and pure that seemed to take her back to a distant place, perhaps in a dream, or perhaps in a memory.
Next to the table was an abnormally wide window. It looked out to an alley as well as two adjacent apartment buildings, and this window happened to be the topic of their conversation. Summer’s friend, Jewel, had a fire in her eyes and an angry yet distressed tone to her voice as she vented to her dear friend.
“I’m telling you, at first I thought it was the best part, but this window ruins the house. It shows me things I never wanted to see and brings that nasty shit into this apartment. He’s a pig. He’s a pervert. I think he might be dangerous. And not to mention that other one. I’ve caught him hiding in the bushes at least twice. So what!? Should I cover it up? Find thicker curtains to hang over it and pretend it’s just a wall for the rest of the year?! No. I like the light in here. I like the wide view. I wont let those freaks ruin this house. It’s his window that needs to close, not mine… Hey, didn’t you say that you knew him?”
Hesitant to answer, Summer looked at the flowers a little longer, dahlias of red and yellow, dancing in the light of the wide window.
“Well, Yes, I know Dorian, the younger one, in the window. I work with him. Never would have guessed that it was him all along, your little exhibitionist across the alleyway. But he’s not such a bad guy if you actually know him. You could just ask him to stop.”
“Oh, and that’s not weird, saying, ‘ hey, um, I’m Jewel, I live across the way, could you uhhh… stop doing so much creepy shit in your room, or at least close the blinds?”
“Yes you could literally say that to him and he would stop, and feel quite embarrassed too I’m sure. He means no harm.”
“And what about the other one? Say about the same thing to him except add in something about that mangy little dog of his?”
“Now you’re just being mean.”
“Mean? I’ve seen him, Summer, that creep, off in the distance when I walk home, crouching in the bushes, thinking he’s invisible, scurrying around like a raccoon. If he wasn’t so fat and pathetic I might actually feel threatened.”
“I still think you should tell the cops about that.”
“I will, I just want to make sure they can actually do something about him.”
“I’ll talk to Dorian for you, it wont even be weird. And if you don’t tell the cops about the neighborhood-stalker within the week, I’ll do that for you too. That’s what friends are for and I’m sick of your bitching.”
In an attempt to end the topic of their little chat, Summer stood up and walked over to a granite counter to grab a bottle of wine. There were a variety of candles on the table and Summer happened to choose the most expensive and aged bottle in Jewel’s selection. She filled two crystal glasses, took a small sip from one, and placed the other in front of Jewel.
“So how’s class?”
“Fine. But I have too much to read.”
“Give it a chance. It might be good for you.”
“Don’t treat me like I’m stupid, Summer. I like to meet real people. You can keep all of your fictional friends.”
“I could name a few that are a lot more real than yours.”
Sensing the weight and seriousness of Jewel’s temper, Summer put on her warm smile and took a gulp of the blood red burgundy. Her teeth, so sharp and straight, were flushed with the wine, and as she smiled again, Hell itself seemed to shine through them.
The two friends let wine do what it does best. They smiled and laughed and let the hours fall away without a single glance back. The dahlias of red and yellow darkened, as the window between them seemed to shrink in the night. They couldn’t help but see across the way, into another window, bright and central. Like a distant screen in a dark theater.
“See this is the shit I’m talking about, but watch all you like. I need to go to bed.”
Jewel walked towards her room, to brush her teeth and soon fall asleep. Across the gap, Summer couldn’t help but see her coworker, Dorian, in what was clearly his bedroom. She ran over to turn the light out so he couldn’t see back, hoping he didn’t already. He gathered things frantically, wearing only black. She watched with interest as he tore the room apart. Summer could see everything he put in his backpack. A book that was practically falling apart, some candles, a bottle of booze, a twisted carnival mask, spray-paint, another book, and like a centerpiece, he pulled out a strange knife, curved like a crescent moon and rusted by time or perhaps blood. The room light went dark and soon she watched him walk out the front door of his house. His face was still showing, the mask hung around his throat. His backpack was on and the girl couldn’t help but notice the gleam of the blade as it passed into the shadows, held close and guided by his hand. She waited a few moments and without a word. But soon Summer grabbed the flowers from the vase and walked out the front door. She stayed quiet and kept low, watching the figure in the distance, and while he held his blade firm in his hand, she clutched her flowers just as tight.