Gate 20

Once in a while you find a reason to go on in your journey through life, and other times you find a reason to end it all. This particular time I found a reason to do both. His name was Richard Stuart and his eyes were the truest shade of blue I had ever seen. When you picture blue in your mind; that was the color of his eyes. He had just finished his studies abroad and I was about to start a long journey of self-discovery. In other words I was jobless and had just come upon a big amount of money, which was burning a hole in my pockets. The airport was packed with summer tourists and businessmen coming and going; running mothers were dragging their Disney clad kids, while everywhere you could see people clicking away on their phones and laptops. It was very busy to say the least. I had to find gate 20, and from what I could gather I was pretty sure of two things, I was close and I was late.

"Shit, if I don't make it I am going to hang my self."

"Would you shoot me first?" came a raspy voice from behind me.

I turned to encounter a very tall, lean man, smiling down at me. His wide chest was the first thing I noticed because it was right in my line of view. When I looked up at his face, it was all smile and eyes. This guy was handsome, I thought to myself, and a little too close.

"Excuse me, do I know you?" I asked implying he was kind of invading my personal space.

"Oh sorry, I am trying to lose this girl that has been following me since I got out of my plane. I thought maybe if she saw me next to a girl she would think …you know."

"Oh, I see." I looked around to see if I saw the girl he was talking about, and I did see a girl looking around. Once she spotted him she began making her way trough the people, heading our way. "Is she a blond with a very tight Hooters t-shirt?"

"Oh no, did she see me? Please hide me, kill me, take mercy on me."

I thought about it. I was late and had to find my gate still. This guy was interesting and very handsome in a sweet, dorky kind of way. I had no clue what to do. Then my mom's voice came into my head in a frenetic voice, "Serial killers prey on lonely girls, you be very careful out there."

"I'm late for my flight, I'm sorry, but good luck." I pretty much ran away in search of my gate. I made it just in time, as the people were already boarding. Once in my seat I took a breather, and my mind went back to the tall, cute stranger. "I hope he was able to get away," I thought.

People kept coming in and a very old lady sat right next to me on the side of the window. She looked around and I smiled at her. She looked worried somehow, so I asked her if she was okay.

"Oh dear would you mind terribly changing seats with me? I hate sitting next to the window."

"Sure, I don't mind at all." When we switched seats I noticed the tall guy was coming into the plane. I looked down, trying to hide, and hoping the lady would move a little quicker. For some reason I was freaking out. I felt like I left the poor guy to die or something. I looked up and he pointed at me with a face that said, you evil woman left me there to die.

My cheeks got hot from the embarrassment as I tried to help the old lady move faster. As soon as I sat down I opened the window and looked outside. Please God don't let him come here, that was my silent prayer throughout the flight to New York, my first self-discovery destination.

He did not come, and I was relieved he was seated close to the entrance of the plane. That way he would be long gone by the time I made my way there. Just as I thought the guy had vanished. I looked around the airport, but there was no sign of him. There was a weird mix of emotions in me. I was happy but also sad that he wasn't out there waiting for me. Oh well, he was just a cute guy, but I am in New York now; I'm sure there are plenty of gorgeous guys here.

My first mission was to find a cab, and I tried the whole hand thing I saw on TV, but people were ruthless out there. Someone always got in the cab before me. I was getting anxious and pissed off to say the least. After about 25 minutes I just sat in a bench defeated. My first stop and I was already defeated? How pathetic was I? I looked as people flag down cab after cab with what seemed such ease. That is it, I can't be wimpy I have to empower myself. I began chanting a Cher song and I ran to the first cab that stopped, pushed pass a guy with a cell phone and sat in the back closing the door quickly. I stole the cab! I did it! I was so elated, victory felt exhilarating.

"Where to lady?" said the driver in a thick accent.

"Central Park please."

I was meeting there with my old high school friend, Elisa. She had moved to NYC years ago and she was very excited to spend some time with me. Elisa was the same as always, full of laughter, and bright as the sun. She ended up showing me all around the park, and we even took a carriage ride. It was awesome. What impressed me the most was how easily she could get a cab, I mean amazing!

Her apartment was very small but very cute. She shared the space with her cat Queen Margaret, a white Persian that had an attitude befitting of her name.

"You can sleep in the couch, or in the bed with me and Queenie."

"The couch will be fine. Your apartment is so cute. I love the whole art deco thing you got going."

"You know me and bright colors and shapes."

The next day we went to the museum, and that night we went to see a Broadway show, well kind of. Elise worked for the Broadway ticket sales department, and she was able to score some tickets to see a musical. The seats were almost behind the stage so we couldn't see a whole lot, but we could still hear it, and it was still great. I spent a week with Elise before she had to go back to work. She took me to the airport, and even though we promised not to cry it was pretty hard not to.

"Thank you so much Elise, I had the time of my life."

"You can come back any time you want, now go have fun at the beach for me."

"I will."

This time I made sure I had plenty of time to check my one suitcase in and find my gate. I found it relatively easy and sat down to wait for the boarding call. Looking around I felt my eyelids getting heavy and the sound of the people around me getting fainter and fainter. I woke up to the sound of a familiar voice in my ear.

"Hey sleepy head, they are letting people in the plane now."

I got up like a robot and grabbed my purse. I turned to say thank you and there he was, the same guy from before.

He smiled."We have to stop meeting like this don't you think?"

"Yeah," I managed to reply both shocked and embarrassed.

He walked in front of me and boarded the plane. I looked at my pass again to make sure I was at the right gate and it seemed I was.

What are the odds, freaky, I thought.

I looked for my seat and it was right in front of his seat. I wanted the earth to swallow me whole. The cute guy saw me passed out, maybe I was snoring, drooling, farting? God forbid! I put the headphones on and tried in vain to take my mind elsewhere.

I felt the woman next to me move and I looked to see the cute guy taking the place of the woman. He motioned for me to take my headphones off.

"You don't mind if I sit here do you? I just figure it was too much of a coincidence, and I am a firm believer in destiny, so I have to at least know your name."

"My name is Sabrina, but my friends call be Brie."

"Like the Cheese?"

"I guess, but without the stench I hope."

He leaned in closer and I felt my heart thumping faster and my stomach knotting up right away.

"You smell quite good actually," he said with a sexy smile.

I laughed like a moron, but my nerves did not allow any other response. He went back to his sitting position and I felt my stomach letting go of its knot a bit.

"My name is Richard, Richard Stuart." He held out his hand to me.

I shook his hand and smiled. "Nice to meet you Richard, you have huge hands." I had to comment given the fact my hand was so much smaller than his.

"I'm 6' 4", it would be kind of weird if I had little hands like you, don't you think?"

"Yeah for sure."

During the flight we talked about everything under the sky and I found out this Richard guy was pretty funny and intelligent. He was an engineer and had just flown to NY to take a test and visit some family. He was single, hell yeah, and was on his way home to California. He offered to take me around the city and show me some really cool architecture because I love buildings. My first week in California I stayed at a beautiful hotel, but by the third week I was pretty much living in Richard's apartment. I know what you're thinking; I am a slut blah, blah, blah. Well, I fell hard for the cute, tall, dorky and handsome guy; what can I say. Even though California was only my second stop on my journey to self-discovery, I was feeling like I had found what I was looking for in Richard; like he was the destination I was aiming for. I discovered myself in him or at least that is what I thought. Weeks turned into months and soon our first anniversary came. We went for a walk on the pier, and there as the sun set for the day, he proposed.

"Brie, you are my only reason to breathe, I could not even imagine one day without you, and I want you to have my babies, lots and lots of them like a rabbit," he said, making his adorable bunny face.

I began to sob and laugh at the same time, which by the way sounds horrible. He held me close to his chest. "So, will you marry me?"

"Yes," I managed to say between sobs.

He put a little pink diamond ring on my finger and kissed my nose. He promised to love me forever.

Forever, I learned, is not very long at all.

The first sign came when his laundry went missing for a whole week. He didn't stink so he was obviously changing his clothes, but the laundry basket only had my clothes. I didn't think much of it at first, but looking back at it is a whole other thing. He started to get distant and I thought he was for sure having second thoughts about our wedding. Every time I brought it up he just laughed and said I was crazy to think that. Then things got strange, and Richard started to disappear for no reason. Out of the blue he would get all moody and stuff. When I asked about it, he said it was his new job and the whole stress of it. He started to come home late, and then he would go straight to the shower and to bed. He would lock the bathroom door so I couldn't join him in the shower like I used to. Every time I asked he would say, "All is fine baby, it's just work."

Then the late meetings started, it seemed every Friday there was a late meeting at work. My thoughts were driving me crazy, so I decided to go to his work and take him some food. I got on my car and as I pulled in the parking lot it was blatantly obvious the place was closed, and there was nobody there. The parking lot was empty.

I got so mad I drove back and began to pack my stuff. I didn't know where I would go, but I was going. Carrying all my stuff out of the room I tripped on something and fell knees first onto the wooden floor. The wood plank beneath my knee budge and I could see there was something underneath it.

I took the plank out and found a stack of photos and a folded paper. There were pictures of naked girls, young, teenage girls bound, beaten and obviously dead. This were not pictures from a magazine, these were Polaroids. My hands began to tremble as I open the paper. I read it two times before it was clear to me. It was a life policy with my name on it; a two million dollar policy. Could it be?

My eyes filled with tears as I felt my soul breaking. It couldn't be, not him, not my Richard.

And so I heard my mother's voice once more, "Serial killers prey on lonely girls, you be very careful out there."

I replaced the letter and the pictures as fast as my trembling hands allowed me. I put the wood plank back. It was time to leave, time to run away. I placed the ring on the table with a note that just said goodbye. I ran to the airport and bought a ticket to the first destination I read on the flight schedule. I didn't care where I went; my life seemed over anyway. I was scared, sad and confused.

For weeks I stayed locked in a hotel room expecting him at any moment. I could see the pictures in my head every night that kept me awake. I knew I had to call the police, but then he would know it was me, he would find me. Could I keep on living with the knowledge that maybe he was killing some innocent girls? Were those girls really dead or were they maybe like fetish photos, just pretending to be dead? I decided to go online, and I began looking at the missing people in the area where we used to live. I couldn't recall all the girls but one missing girl on the screen jumped out at me. It was her, the young blond from the airport, the girl that was chasing him the day I first met him. That was the last day anybody had seen her alive. My heart beat so fast that I thought I was having a heart attack. I had to call somebody but could I? After weeks of feeling sick to my stomach I went to the police and told them what had happened and what I found. They wanted me to go back to California to try to find some kind of solid clues or evidence, but I am not that crazy. I refused to go back and I told them all I knew. The detective said he would call the California police and share the information. That same day I got on a plane once more. I ended up here in Spain, in a small town on the outskirts of Sevilla. Changed my name, my hair and thanks to the exquisite cuisine even my figure. It was years before I could feel safe again, and even more time to gather the strength to look online for his name. I was at the library the day I finally got the courage to do it. I typed his name on the search engine and as I pressed the enter key I made a silent wish that the search would come out empty. My wish did not come true. There were thousands of entries. I just click on the first one, and there he was in an orange suit, in handcuffs, my Richard. My cute, dorky, handsome Richard was really a monster. I cried a lot that day, mostly for myself and for all those girls I could have saved if only I had talked before. Could I have saved a life if I went back there when the detective asked? Richard was behind bars and he was going to be there for the rest of his life. I was in my own cell for many years after that, dead inside, consumed by guilt and self-pity, thinking maybe I should be dead too. I was never able to trust anyone else and I stayed here in Spain, hidden away in the country; hiding my shame and my guilt. Here I am now, looking back at how my life turned out, and how in one person I found both life and death.