She was rooted to the spot, her knuckles white from clutching the kitchen counter-top. She inhaled sharply as she replayed that gruff, familiar voice she had vainly hoped could be stopped by distance, bars, change, time.
"Hello, Miranda. I'm finally out. Do you remember me? I certainly haven't forgotten you—or what you did to me. I just phoned to say I'm coming for you, Miranda. I'm coming for you."
The recorded monotonous female voice that
followed was a thousand miles from Miranda's brutal imagination of
the implications the message had left. I
haven't forgotten… I'm coming for you…
"Thursday, December thirteenth..." There was a beep. "End of messages." The voice was calm, impartial and ignorant of what was happening in spite of the fact it was the machine that had relayed the dread news.
Miranda vomited; her stomach was flipping about as if it were full of writhing snakes.
"This can't be happening," she moaned, stepping over her sick and began making her way to the bathroom. It had been over a year and within that time she had changed how she looked, where she lived, how she thought, her habits--everything.
An unnatural winter draft dance about her, originating from the direction of the door and windows, that pronounced the numbness she could already feel building inside. It also tightened the knot that was dominating her abdomen. It was lucky that the bathroom was on the ground floor, else she might have had to climb stairs--she felt sure she would have fallen flat on her face if that had happened. At the image, she gave a hollow laugh.
But the gravelly bass voice still reverberated around in her skull, creating a thundering cinematic experience that she couldn't escape, of which forced her to relive moments of her life she had tried to leave within the mists of her mind. And it was all brought back by a phone-call that never should have come. How he had found her again, she had no idea—all that mattered was that he had. You're mine, he had said.
Touching the doorknob lightly, she was soon looking into the mirror, a pale, haunted face peering back at her with flecks of green decorating the area around her mouth. She turned on the tap, splashing cold water onto her face. The image in the mirror mimicked her every move.
The refreshing water had little effect.
She stared back into the eyes of her reflection, which was now running a hand through its dark hair in contemplation. The green eyes faltered, afraid of both past and future. She shook her head, trying to clear it of thoughts. They raced around anyhow, completely disregarding her.
He's actually coming back, she realized, stunned. He had already murdered her brother, set off the heart-attack that had taken her mother out of the picture, lied to her, gotten her fired, twisted her own mind until it had resembled his and forced her to go to him for lack of other options... And now the call. Now he said that he was coming back. She briefly saw her brother and then her mother in the mirror—but it was just her imagination. It was just what little of them that was in her reflecting back out. I suppose specters never die, in spite of how much time passes…
The specters loomed at the edge of her vision and she flinched, seeing stiff posture and cold, dead eyes. Judging her. Her therapist had tried to convince her that she was not to blame, that he had been a predator and she had had no control over that. But, no matter what her therapist said, she hadn't forgiven herself. Because who else could really be blamed? Everyone made choices in their lives, and hers had killed her family. He influenced her decisions, sure, but she still thought about it. You could have saved them—but you didn't, the voice in her head whispered. She couldn't look at her own reflection because that voice was right.
And with the phone-call, Mark was probably next, being the one thing she'd allowed get close to her. She had to think straight, make good choices, or else all the control she'd had in her life would slip away. She felt trapped in her body, so fragile and limited. It was nothing compared to what he was. Her breaths came quicker, shallower. How could she possibly face all of this again?
No. The panic wasn't her anymore. I've changed, she thought defiantly. She met her own green eyes in the mirror. I have to be rational about this, she thought in forced calm. Miranda had been given an upper hand here: he had warned her. Her reflection rubbed its temples as she did so.
How long was I gone? she wondered. It couldn't have been more than an hour. But then she had stopped for groceries—her monthly pick-up. That had taken some time... And she had stopped by Mark's place—that hadn't exactly been a short visit. He'd been gone the weekend previous and she had precious little time to see him during the week, so their increasingly intimate relationship had required... catching up. She made to look at her watch, but that wouldn't help: she hadn't looked at the time since her alarm that morning at five.
Her throat constricted, a disturbing question rising. How much time do I have left? She knew that it was inevitable, that he would find her. How close had he been when he had called? Had he even called that day—what day was it, again? I don't want him to get me—not again, she thought as panic began to overwhelm her. But she was already in a tumbling ball that was set into motion. She felt like she was actually in that ball. She could feel herself spinning. She felt a loss of control. She could feel the sides of the ball pressing in around her. Her pulse quickened further; she was in a ball, rolling, rolling, rolling.
"Get a grip! Okay, Miranda: you have enough time to head back out and start up the car. Then you'll drive over to Mark's, and we can both work things out from there," she reasoned with herself. The reflection had taken on a hardened look, determined; it wasn't going to succumb to fate. She had to gulp down her fear—a hard swallow. But she could deal with it. She had to. She was not going to fall back into the inescapable web of absolute vulnerability.
Forcing herself to remain calm by repeating a mantra in her head—Out the door, in the car, over to Mark's; out the door, in the car, over to Mark's—she turned to leave the bathroom.
Only, the doorway was already barricaded by a tall, unkempt man with intent in his eyes, a pleased smirk on his face and a dagger easy in his hand.