Eighteen Months Ago

The initial faint sounds seem to get louder as I frantically try to get to the surface of the lake. It’s not unlike the gurgling sounds produced by one who has swallowed a chockful of water and is trying not to drown. I had been gripped by some sort of panic a few minutes earlier as I swam almost to the bottom of the lake at my friend’s backyard. Suddenly, I felt I was being sucked under, right through some dark, bottomless pit, where there was no hope of escape, ever. The feeling was just too petrifying. As I finally come up for—thankfully—a full gulp of fresh air, I realize that I am alone, and the sounds I had heard earlier were probably coming from me. I snap my head quickly to a plop sound on my far right, panic gripping me again. My heart begins to race, and I feel so self-conscious and vulnerable out in the lake. Sandra (my friend, whom I’m spending my two-week vacation with) had earlier left for work. She’s a librarian. Could she be back already? I wonder as my gaze sweeps the surrounding red maple and magnolia trees. I continue my swim close to the shore, as a soft breeze seems to have picked up, in seconds. I feel the hairs rise on the back of my neck as a second plop sounds right close to me. I choke back a small scream coming up from my throat as I look up quickly just then to get a glimpse of a shadowy figure moving swiftly between the trees.

“Geoff!” I think aloud, almost going faint with fear. “Is he here, at Arlington?” I had recurring nightmares about him over the past year that would end with me waking up shivering, followed by a pounding headache. Climbing out of the lake clumsily, still with the same feeling of being sucked underwater, I make as a quick a run as I could for the house. I notice that my Honda is the only car on the driveway. This rules out the possibility that Sandra may be around, and the realization only intensifies my fear. Feeling uncomfortably cold in my swimsuit—I had left my towel and slippers by the lake—I stretch out my hand to turn the doorknob on the kitchen door, but on second thought, decide to circle the house warily for any signs of intrusion. Finding none, I begin to smile foolishly at my overreaction minutes earlier. I could imagine Sandra’s reaction if she learned that I have been terrified by my own overactive imagination. I stopped taking Tryptophan—some supplement recommended by my physician—last month, as my anxiety attacks became less frequent and stopped altogether. Now they seemed to be kicking in again. All because of him. Was that Geoff I saw back at the lake? I ask myself silently as I decidedly move to the front door. But this thought seems far-fetched. He’s many miles away in New Mexico. I feel a sudden tightening in my throat as the front door slowly swings open inward. And there he stands, the man I thought was still behind bars; not the bars of a prison, but for the mentally ill. I faintly realize that he’s handing some articles to me: the towel and slippers I had left at the shore of the lake. Cringing inwardly, I refuse to collect them from his outstretched hand. My initial thought was to run, but I felt glued to the spot, such was the intensity of my fear. My hand nervously creeps towards my throat, clutching the gold necklace I wore. This move must have unleashed some provocation in him, for, with a snarl, he tore it from my throat and cruelly ground out as he threw it away, “Nothing would please me more than to wring your neck, slut.” Flinching visibly, I take an unsteady step backwards from this monster, my ex-fiancé. “My payback is coming, Lucille,” he continues with an evil smile. “It’s coming, and you can’t escape it, whether you’re here in Arlington or somewhere in Tijuana. And I will be having the final laugh. Make no mistake about it. I will make your life such a misery, you would be ready to end it all.” Saying this, he violently flings my slippers and towel away from him in disgust and, like a wisp of unwelcome black smoke, moves swiftly away.

I begin to shake violently, my reaction to this unwholesome encounter rather than the cold breeze setting in. Sobbing in fear and despair, I move into the living room, but not before seeing the faint glint from the broken gold chain, right by a pot of hydrangea beside the front door.


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