Untitled - Chapter One

I heard the heavy footfall coming towards the laundry room and began to busy myself with folding the towels. Ally poked her head into the room, looking around suspiciously. Her red hair fell to her shoulders and her pointed nose was literally sniffing out guilt. I stopped folding and raised my eyebrows.

"I'm going out for a little while, listen for the phones." She said, then left.

With that her booted feet carried her out of the laundry room. I heard the front door open then swing shut and I knew I was safe. I lifted up one of the folded towels to reveal my book that I had hidden, then opened it to the book marked page.

I had been working at the health spa for two months and it was my job to clean up and do laundry. Whenever Ally left the front desk I was also asked to take the phone calls, write down messages and welcome guests. It wasn't hard work, though it was a little gross. The towels would be drenched in water or sweat and some even had that mud they used to clean out pores caked on. But all in all it was a pretty good job. The only problem was Ally.

If I had to pick an animal that best described her I'd have to say a hawk. Her eyes were always looking for someone to mess up. They often were staring at me. She caught me once reading while I was waiting for a load to come out of the dryer, and ever since she had been waiting to catch me again and possibly have me fired. I had no idea why she was like that. She was never friendly to me or Michelle, the girl who took my spot at 3:00.

I walked to the front desk with my book in hand and sat down. The desk was situated in a small alcove a few yards from the front doors, which were all made of glass. Outside the sky was bright blue and people were walking around in their shorts and shirts, while I was stuck inside. I read while listening to the hum of the computer, welcoming or saying goodbye to customers as they came and went. I was deeply engrossed in a section of the book when I felt a strange feeling come over me. It was as if an invisible hand was forcing my head to look up, and I did.

Standing in front of the doors was a man wearing brown pants and a black leather jacket. My first thought was that he must be hot outside and then I noticed he was staring right at me. I could feel my cheeks go red and I tried to hide behind the computer monitor. After a few seconds I peeked and saw that the man was walking away.

The phone rang, startling me. I answered it and while making and canceling appointments I forgot all about the guy.

Ally returned and I went back to cleaning out the rooms and washing the towels and sheets. And right when the clock struck three I grabbed my things from my locker and quickly walked out of there, meeting Michelle on my way out.

"Hey," She said passing me, "Got any big plans for tonight?"

"Not really, you?"

"Nah, just hanging out with Jason."

"Alright, see you later." I waved goodbye and walked out the door.

Finally, I was free! I could smell fresh air and feel the warm sun on my skin. It was like being released from prison! I unlocked my car and headed for the mall.

I lived with my Grandmother and my Aunt. My Mother died when I was sixteen and instead of staying with my Father I moved in with my Grandma. My Dad and Mom divorced a long time ago so Dad took up photography again and began traveling the world, doing odd jobs for magazines and newspapers. Although traveling the world sounded intriguing, I was more interested in finishing High School. And now here I am, graduated with a full time job, getting ready for college. This was supposed to be the time in my life when everything began falling into place…but somehow I felt just the opposite.

I never did have a normal childhood, and now I wasn't having a normal adulthood. My Father was a very daring man and took a lot of risks. Before he met my Mom he'd water raft some of the dangerous rivers while taking photos for things ranging from National Geographic to tourists pamphlets. He was also known to rock climb and scuba dive for the same reasons. My Mother was a very beautiful woman, but she was also smart. She was a writer, an intellectual. I once heard my Father say that my Mom had beauty and brains, a very dangerous combination. She had published a lot of essays that are still being printed in journals across the country and she had gained a huge following. The week she died we received hundreds of condolence cards and flowers from those who worshiped her.

During High School I never really fit in to any particular group. I realize now it was because I didn't know who I was. I still don't. I made passing grades, but I never thought it was good enough for my Mother, then for my Grandmother and Aunt. And even after all that I had managed to make a best friend.

I think that if it wasn't for Nicole I would have drowned in the immense sea of my life. I could tell all my problems to her and she'd make me laugh and forget about them. My Grandmother didn't like Nicole, which made me like her even more. She wasn't rich, like Grandmother was, she didn't have a fine ancestry, like Grandmother. She stuck her nose up even higher when I would invite Nicole over. And later, while in my room, Nicole would imitate my Grandmother,

"Nicole, dear, please don't step on the carpet, it was just washed."

"I'm so sorry," I would always say, but Nicole would shrug it off.

After High School I started at the community college, which greatly irritated Grandmother.

"You must go to Harvard." She would say. "Your Mother went there. It's expected of you."

"I did not go to Harvard, Mother." Aunt Chelsea would say.

"No one's speaking to you, Chelsea."

"Yes, Mother."

I rolled my eyes while they weren't looking. "I want to start small."

I could see my Grandmother look shocked. Women in our family didn't "start small." They went on to achieve success and climb the highest heights. I felt so small compared to all the women Grandmother compared me too, especially Mother. But I didn't even like starting small. I just didn't feel like this was the next phase in my life. That it was waiting out there…waiting for me to grab it.

I saw the mall come in to view and smiled. A day shopping with Nicole would surely take my mind off of my life at the present. I parked the car and walked towards the entrance where Nicole was waiting.

"Hey!" She exclaimed, rushing over to give me a hug.

"What's up?" I asked.

"Not much," We began walking around the mall, looking at the display windows. "How's the home life?"

"Oh, the usual," I replied. "Grandmother wants me to apply to Harvard. You know, I think that she thinks if I do the same things Mom did, then I'd end up being her reincarnation."

"That woman makes me mad sometimes."

"Yeah, well, no matter what I do, I know I'm not going to stay there forever. I can't believe Aunt Chelsea can put up with her. I'd kill myself after waiting on her for a week."

"I think any sane person would."

The mall was crowded and it was a little difficult to make our way through the small stores. We didn't like shopping in the department stores, but preferred to seek out the smaller stores and search for the right pair of pants and shirt and accessories. It felt like a scavenger hunt, and we liked it. We had just gotten pretzels to tide us over until dinner when Nicole's eyes opened wide and she smiled.

"Wow, look at that guy over there. He is so hot." I followed Nicole's gaze across the walking area where there were some vending machines. "Oh my gosh, he's looking this way!"

My heart stopped. It was that guy from earlier, the one that I saw outside of my work.

"Oh no!" I grabbed Nicole by the arm and dragged her into the nearest store.

"What did you do that for?" She asked once we were in the back, hiding behind a rack of clothing.

"I've seen that guy before!"

"Hey, that doesn't mean you get first dibs."

"Nicole! I think he's stalking me!" I guess the genuine fear in my eyes sobered her.

"Are you serious?" There was no playful tone in her voice now.

"Yes I'm serious. He was staring at me at work today. I was in the front listening for the phones and I looked up and he was just staring at me from behind the doors. I hid behind the computer monitor and when I looked again he was gone."

"Well, maybe it's a coincidence."

"I some how doubt it." I paused. "Will you go look and see if he's still there?"

Nicole nodded her head, then handed me her bags and pretzel. I waited for a few seconds and she returned.

"He's still there."

"Oh no, oh no…what am I going to do?"

"I got it!" Nicole screamed. "Ok, we'll change into some of the clothes we bought today, we can get some sunglasses in here, and look, they have hats! Perfect! We'll put on disguises then walk out without him being the wiser."

I looked up at her, seriously considering this plan. We walked up to the sales clerk and asked if we could change into some of our new clothes we had just bought. She eyed us suspiciously, then said no.

"Come on!" Nicole begged, "Look, we messed up the clothes we have on now."

"I don't see anything wrong with them." She eyed our clothes.

Nicole took the pretzels we had half eaten and rubbed them up and down the fronts of our t-shirts and our pants. "Now can we?"

The sales clerk huffed, then showed us to the dressing rooms. I quickly changed and walked out just as Nicole was. We bought some sunglasses and hats, ripped the tags off then put them on. I felt ridiculous. I hadn't worn a hat since I was twelve and I thought I looked goofy. I didn't even recognize myself!

"I hope this works." I said, watching Nicole place the hat on her head.

I had the feeling that this was some sort of game to Nicole and that she was having fun playing it. I however thought it was a nightmare that I wished to wake up from. As we neared the entrance to the store Nicole warned me not to look at the man and told me to go first. She'd catch up after making sure the man hadn't followed. I took a deep breath then walked out, trying to force me head to look strait ahead and not behind me. I began to sweat from walking so fast and it was hard to see from behind the dark sunglasses. I gripped the handles to my bag tighter, wishing that I could get as far away from the man as possible. I was just passing a toy store when I felt a firm hand clamp down on my shoulder.