REQUEST: Would this be better as a story or a movie?
At the time, there was nothing else to talk about. Word of the threat to kidnap Nicolette van Keuren was blown out of proportion by the media and the newspapers. Gossip magazines claimed old scorned lovers of the multi-million dollar heiress were responsible for the secret love letters left on the front steps of every safe house the FBI had reserved for Nicolette.
The more respectable sources explained that the potential unsub or two had created a series of puzzles to reveal their knowledge of Nicolette and to prove she wasn't safe anywhere she went. "It's only a matter of time," they printed, "or else this is the grandest hoax in the history of the United States." And because of this, all eyes were glued to the 22-year-old with an intensity that would scare off even the most determined of paparazzi.
All eyes except for Galatea Marena, or Gala, as she preferred to be called. It mattered little to her that Nicolette van Keuren was the daughter of millionaire overseas trader Alexander van Keuren. It made no difference whether the woman was in the papers for being the damsel in distress or being a drunken idiot with enough bad publicity to make people forget about the Britney Spears/K-Fed incidents.
"Stupid people," Gala complained. "Stupid people doing stupid things and getting commended for it. Ridiculous."
She would have taken the side of the argument (because there was always a side to be taken) that Nicolette's Public Relations cronies had scammed the country to pull all the focus on the desperate, terrified damsel in distress act and away from her history of public offenses and irresponsible actions hogging the front pages of every gossip magazine in the States. She really would have, but she wanted to avoid the entire ordeal like a bad cold.
"It'll blow over soon," her boyfriend David assured her.
Neither knew how true that statement was.
She shrugged, pulling his hand up with hers as they strolled down the busy sidewalks of the Lilysburg Market, a hustling bustling section of the suburbs that bordered the equally as busy city known as Odin, New York.
They were each decked out in matching purple and green Peeps Hearts Wasabi band tees they had purchased a few months before at The Underlying, a hot spot for all the independent bands in the city to battle and rock out. He sporadically reached down to tug his baggy black shorts into place, or to run his fingers through his messy auburn hair.
Gala would nudge his hip with hers every time he touched his hair. It was one of his bad habits. She had opted to wear a white belt to keep up her handmade grey skinny jeans and had tied back her chest length wavy chocolate hair with a white ribbon and a few hairpins to keep it in place.
"I'm so excited for this concert," Gala said, trying to change the subject. "If we get there early enough we can get right in front of the stage."
The street light turned green in front of them, forcing them to stop at the corner while the cars sped into action.
"I remember being in the back made it easier to get to the merchandise table after the show," David reminded her, reaching up to touch his hair.
Gala bumped into him and scowled, and he sheepishly grinned before returning his hand to his side.
"We're wearing the shirts, the album is back at the apartment, the pins are on my bag, and the autographed poster is on our wall. I think we're set."
The light turned red and the couple jogged across the street with a crowd of other young adults, all trying to avoid any drivers who might attempt to speed through the signal. As they reached the next corner, one of the pins on Gala's cross-body bag fell off and clattered to the ground. She released David's hand and knelt to retrieve it.
"That must be a sign that we need to buy another pin at the concert," David joked, and Gala laughed as she rose.
"Save it for another band, please," she replied with a lopsided smile, rolling her eyes.
The smile faltered and fell into a confused frown. David looked up where she had her gaze set.
"Is that an envelope taped to the back of the street sign?" Gala asked with uncertainty in her voice.
David nodded in agreement and took a step closer to Gala who took a step closer to the metal pole. Her intent was clear and David's hand shot out to wrap around her wrist.
"Hey, don't touch it! We don't know why it's there, so let's leave it alone."
Gala ignored his reasoning and reached up for it with her other hand. She wasn't tall enough.
"I think it's a sign—no pun intended—and I think we should at least look at it. Who knows? It could be full of someone's unappreciated love letters or a suicide note from someone who thought they were completely invisible."
She stretched further, standing on the tips of her toes to come in contact with the blue envelope.
"I totally doubt that's the case, Gala."
"That person could be somewhere nearby, watching to see if someone reads the letter. They could have told themselves, 'If a person notices my letter, I won't kill myself.' How would you feel if that was the case and we just let someone off themselves because you're afraid to see what's inside this envelope?"
David was quiet for several moments, watching as his girlfriend struggled to pull down the letter. Seemingly struggling with himself, he finally reached down to give Gala a lift. Just as he pressed a hand to her side, she jumped into the air, her fingers latching onto the envelope's edge. It peeled off the worn metal street sign and she fell into David's arms on the way back down, clutching onto the blue paper like a prize. She had the goofiest smile of satisfaction on her face and David couldn't be upset with her.
"Victory is mine!" she laughed, and proceeded to tear the flap off the envelope to reveal a thick page folded into thirds within.
David helped her stand normally and quickly glanced around the area to see if anyone had noticed. Noting nothing out of the ordinary, he turned his attention to silently observe over her shoulder. Gala tugged out the page and flipped up the first fold to expose letters cut from magazines, pasted onto the paper beneath a thick layer of clear packing tape. The smile on her face fell to a soft line of interest as she read the first sentence.
"Money is not what we seek, but we do so wish to stop the sneaking."
"What does that mean?" David finally voiced.
"Someone doesn't want money, which is obvious—"
"It sounds like there are more than one," David interrupted, and then nervously added, "Keep reading."
Gala laughed uneasily and replied, "I thought you said this was a bad idea…" but it sounded like she was beginning to agree with him.
"Maybe we should put it back?"
"I don't know," she said, pulling down the bottom flap of the letter. "I'm interested in seeing where this will go."
"Well it's definitely not a suicide note. That much is obvious, so your whole theory is shot."
Gala nodded in agreement and read the next few lines, her face growing more serious as she went.
"We had our fun, but now it is time to step up to the next level. Who
really cares about a brat? No one will have any of that. Who really
cares about a simple girl? If we have it our way, the whole wide world."
"This is some twisted joke," David grunted, tearing the page and envelope from Gala's hands. "I told you this was a bad idea."
"Hey! I'm not done reading it!" Gala protested, twisting to retrieve the papers David held high above her reaching fingers.
"There's no need to! I'm putting it back!"
He stuffed the paper into the envelope and slammed it onto the back of the street sign, hoping the adhesive would hold. Before she could reach for it, David roughly pulled her away and promptly cursed when the envelope fell to the ground. The page fell out, blown completely open and face up by a gust of wind.
At that exact moment, a man slammed into Gala, sending her sprawling on the ground with a sharp pain in her side.
"Hey! Watch where you're going!" David shouted, catching the attention of several people crossing the street.
He bent to help Gala back on her feet and the man just smiled at her.
"My apologies, Miss," he said, and the next thing she knew, he had disappeared into the crowd.
"What a jerk," David said, carefully pulling Gala into his arms in a standing position. "Didn't even apologize…"
Gala pressed a hand to her side, rubbing the tender skin and staring at the space the man once occupied. She couldn't even remember what he looked like, but his voice remained in her head. Smooth and light, and completely discomforting.
"You okay?" David asked, laying a hand over each of her own. "Do you want to sit down at the café over there?" He pointed behind them to a small café in the direction the man had come from.
Gala tried to speak but found her words wouldn't come out properly. She slurred out a slow, "Something isn't right," before she collapsed to the ground.
Thanks for reading! Please let me know what you thought! =)