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。NINE 。

⟨ Corey Kentwell ⟩


Cruel reality and sad acceptance. I had blinding clarity as I woke up in bed that morning and it was entirely unpleasant. Zoe had been right of course, but I'd been more than hopeful when it came to my first boyfriend Sebastian. I'd been full-blown delusional. I'd only seen dating and relationships from the outside, my entire high school life. Sure my friends had fought and broken up, but the positives, and my weaknesses and the flaws other people could be hiding, ways of being that I'd never even considered – it's a harsh learning.

I was more than just depressed, I was scared. Bad enough Sebastian isolated me from everyone else at school, but somehow I felt isolated everywhere. It was psychological. I couldn't even tell Nan and Pop without coming out to them. And I was paranoid. They said they loved me, but would they kick me out anyway, if it went against their religion?

There was no one to talk to. And I couldn't leave, couldn't get away. Sebastian had power over me, our toxic relationship had become co-dependent. He insisted on making decisions for us both and my anxious brain hazed over, surrendering even more of my autonomy, my decision-making capabilities. Learning not to think for myself. I was miserable, obtained. A pet in a cage for as long as he wanted me.

I stayed in bed well past noon. When Nan stopped shouting out and finally came upstairs, still in silk green pyjamas herself. I turned my head on the pillow, cold against my cheek, and told her I was sick. I looked so stripped of vitality that she didn't demand to know the symptoms. She believed me.

"Do you want me to get you anything sweetheart?"

"No…"

"No soup? Lemon tea? Wet cloth? Hot water bottle?"

"No, thanks…"

"I'll be downstairs if you need anything, hun."

I thought morosely about my situation once she left. Even crying didn't faze Sebastian, what kind of a monster is he? I'd always paid attention to how my significant other was feeling. I didn't care if his emotions were irrational or quick like changing breezes, I'd just not wanted him to be unhappy and made sure he'd know he was cared for. Sadly, the more you give the less worth you seem to have in the eyes of others, an ironic twist.

I remember moments of being sweet to him in the early days. His dark eyes registering but then quick to accept and move away, stare at something else. He wasn't capable of understanding, of grasping what I do. For all my honest intentions I'd not been appreciated. And now I was trapped, cornered like prey.

My body was reacting to my anxiety levels. Cold patches hardened up within my torso and belly, chilly enough to ache, then spread and settle in. Soaking into me. I didn't expect such a low emotional state to affect me so physically, but I wasn't able to give that much thought. I was sure that Sebastian would start blowing up my phone with messages. I'd been waiting for it. But surprisingly… nothing.

In the afternoon I got up for the toilet and to nibble a sour green apple, and still nothing. As evening came I finally checked my mobile, still nothing. I felt a little better, a rare moment of my space reclaimed. But still confused. When night came I went to sleep early, but it was fitful, I had nightmares. I was terrified of getting yelled at. It was the weekend, and still no messages from Sebastian. When I was eating cornflakes at the round breakfast table, in our homely 50s kitchen in the middle of the day, I finally messaged him.

SAT 1:34 PM

Hεγ?

It was unlike him to go so long without talking to me. But his silence continued.

SAT 3:05 PM

Bαbε?

SAT 6:11 PM

Ivε bεεn sιck. Dιd I do somετhιng wrong?

And no response to those messages or any others made by me that weekend. I was fearing the ramifications would be worse if I kept our non-contact going. My temporary peace was replaced with stress. Almost enough stress to make me sick all over again. Nobody should have this much power over me, to do this with just silence alone. Nothing, not playing music would calm me down. I just had to push through this overwhelming stress.

What would it take to get this dangerous person away from me? He was my perfect kind of devil. Perfectly harmful for me. I could think of nothing short of the police, but maybe my wish would come true and the real reason Sebastian was so quiet was because he was already locked behind bars. Safely away from me, before he could cause further damage, already in my head to such an extent as he was. I could hear his admonishments in my mind like they were my own – saying every little thing I did was somehow wrong or inadequate. I couldn't make him go quiet.


Sunday was when we finally heard the news. It was all over Tuttle. I saw a few news station vans driving the streets. Billy Murphy had been axed to death outside his house yesterday morning. His little sister – my classmate – had been the one to find him after her step-mother told her to bring her brother inside for breakfast. She'd thought he'd been mauled by an animal at first.

I couldn't believe it'd happened. Literally. I couldn't believe someone I'd day-dreamed about, invented fantasies in my head with, masturbated to the thought of for so long… Dead. They didn't know who did it or what the motive was. This was the grizzliest thing to ever happen in our small town. A homicide. Tuttle would never be quite the same after this.


Monday I'd forgotten all about Sebastian's weird silence. I met him at school and he seemed out of it, in a sense. I'd approached braced for fury – about ready to crumble even in public under so much as a glare – but relaxed when I saw him exempt of it. Sebastian was softly distant and surprisingly not mad at all. He didn't say much to me and I didn't say much back. I asked him if he was okay a few times – fancy that, me still obedient and caring after everything, just how much power did he have over me anyway? It was like a Stockholm Syndrome.

Everyone was talking about what'd happened, after all Billy's death had occurred only twenty odd yards from the school. There was another assembly and a blue-uniformed police officer stood up to speak, gun holstered to his belt. He tried to calm everyone down, encourage anyone who knew anything to visit the admin block and let them know. Then the principle reminded us of our school's free counselling service. I was sitting next to Sebastian this time, and in the beige plastic chair beside me he spent the whole assembly looking incredibly bored. But it wasn't until Mr Caust said that Billy Murphy's death was a tragic loss… that I heard my boyfriend scoff.

A few people turned in their seats to stare. I moved my head slowly to look at that passive face. It was only now that I recalled almost two weeks ago, the fight we'd had over my old crush on Billy Murphy, that little paper with his name written over and over to make the heart one fuzzy-filled evening of my old light-headed levity. I stared into Sebastian's flat black eyes from beside me. A cold sweat took over, like a dip in ice water. I profiled my boyfriend, who I seemed to know quite well. But the idea didn't form a thought and it was pushed out near immediately. I turned my head slowly back to the podium ahead, my mind was empty but I couldn't hear the rest of the assembly.

For the rest of the day I walked hand-in-hand with Sebastian, let him lean against me as we sat cross-legged beside the path and away from everyone else, let him kiss me forcefully and emotionlessly when he wanted. And another idea that didn't form into words. Had this hand… did this arm… do these lips belong to a…

"I'm going to go home and do some studying. I need to be alone to focus." I told Sebastian as we stood outside the school gates when the day was done. Blurs of teenagers passed us. We were metres away from the spot we'd been when Billy called out at us mockingly the last time I'd seen him – another memory reappearing. We'd never said so little to each other in a day before, and Sebastian's vagueness hadn't faded.

"Okay."

"Okay? That's okay with you?"

"Text me as soon as you get home." But it didn't have the same forcefulness as before. He still sounded detached.

"Sure."

"We'll hang out tomorrow." He spoke in his decided way.

"Okay." I replied and there was a hollow, ritualistic kiss goodbye before he turned and walked away. I did the same.

Thoughts raced in a blur, I bumped into someone's shoulder and got a nasty look after mumbling an apology. My old blonde crush, he'd called out at us the last time we saw him. I started to remember more, like how furious Sebastian had been the whole walk afterwards. I remembered how last year someone in my old friend group had joked that Sebastian looked like the type of guy who'd be a school shooter, or keep young girls in his basement. I remembered what Sebastian had said as we passed that fire hydrant.

I want to kill him.

I spun around and watched the back of his adidas jacket. Sebastian's uniform retreat down the walkway, like a wind-up doll. When he got to the road I turned and sprinted back to the school gate, back into the school, toward the administration block with hysterical tears running down my face. I knew, I just knew.


I wasn't fully taken seriously at first, but the police spoke to Sebastian. At the same time there'd been a fussy neighbour who apparently had been making reports to the local council about Sebastian's atrocious property on their street since she'd moved there. A representative had finally stepped up those craggy steps, knocked on that flimsy door. Errol, Sebastian's Uncle who'd been 'out of town' for so long now, wasn't home. And he'd not renewed his pharmacy scripts for insulin. And none of his rates or other bills had been paid in months.

The house was empty, just as squalid, with the bare mattress in the living room as if the whole thing were someone's cubby house. Or a squatter's hangout for heroin junkies. Sebastian's only other living relative, Margaret Fiddock, also couldn't be found and her usually meticulously tidy house was covered in a layer of dust. Acquaintances stated that she'd not turned up to her social clubs or groups, and they couldn't get a hold of her by ringing, but it hadn't been reported because nobody actually liked her all that much.

Sebastian had appeared rigid and abrasive when the police went to question him. Once he figured out he was a suspect, he shot up and bolted out of the room. He was restrained and captured, but it took four police officers to do so, he was so feral and wild. And then eventually… it was revealed that Sebastian had murdered Billy, as well as his own family. Errol Fiddock's body was yellow and blue, a bent husk inside an old shed full of bugs in jars. Margaret Fiddock was floating in a locked ute at the bottom of Lake Laguna.

I feared I'd been dating a murderer. Three murders made him a serial killer.

It could've been me.

If I hadn't been so compliant with him always, he could've killed me too. Before we'd even met, when we were only exchanging cute love letters, he'd already been a killer then. And as our relationship went on he'd kept killing. I remembered his rough embraces and kisses. The sex that I never liked all that much. It'd felt like being owned, but perhaps also, wanted. And I'd liked that.


The whole school was disturbed by the news. More TV crews. Everyone asked me if I'd known, if I'd been the one to hand him into the police. I felt sick and panicked. My social anxiety was enough on its own to make me nauseous. And now I was leaving to be literally sick outside classrooms. Not that I was eating much, I weighed several kilograms less now and was skinnier than I'd ever been.

I started seeing a councillor. I agreed to take medication. Even at eighteen, Sebastian was going to be in a facility given his obvious mental health problems. Considering the state of the house he'd been raised in. I had my own mental health issues to address now. And even without considering everything, I think I wanted to stay single for a while.

END


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AN: Pls review. I have children to feed