The Hunt is Over


You are on a crowded subway platform when you see a familiar face.

 “I don’t know, this is not something I can just march right into his office and say to his face. I mean, I would like to, but you know, I sort of need a paycheck, so ….”

Beka chuckled as she carefully descended the stairs, along with about 300 other people, into the underbelly of the city. Her crossover bag softly bumped into her left hip, her right hand holding onto the railing; a fleeting thought of how many germs she was scooping up with her hand briefly penetrated her thoughts. Her mobile was pressed tightly to her ear.

“No body better steal my mobile,” she grunted out. “Remember what happened to Lizzie last week”

Lizzie was walking down the street talking to her boyfriend when some jerk literally yanked her mobile from her hand and went running.

This city sucked.

“That can’t be a ‘thing’,” her friend said. “Surely people aren’t that desperate nowadays.”

“I don’t put anything past people nowadays. If people can’t afford something, they just take it from people who can,” said Beka.

She followed the masses into the dim darkness of the subway and the crowd slowly swelled toward the train. Once you got caught in the mass, you simply had to go along with the crowd or be trampled in the process.

“I may lose you,” Beka said into her phone, “I’m waiting on the train now.” She stood on her tiptoes and peeked down the pitch black tunnel. “I don’t know why I just don’t work another 30 minutes and avoid this insane crowd,” she grumbled.

She heard a soft laugh from her friend. “I would agree we are surrounded by crazy people but it’s not exactly something I would shout out right now.” She tensed as she sensed an African-American give her a disapproving glance.

A squeak of wheels and a rush of air drew everyone’s attention to the tunnel. Expectation permeated the air as the train slowly became visible through the dark.

“Crap. It’s not my train,” Beka moaned into the phone, her voice raising a few octaves to be heard over the sudden rustling of the passengers around her. She had found, by trial and error, if she just stood her ground, people would move around her, like a stream slipping past a rock. She had first tried to maneuver out of the way when she first moved to the city, but after nearly getting knocked down by overzealous people, she now just stood her ground.

People began moving past her, a few jostled her elbow, or knocked her hard enough she had to step forward or lose her balance, as the train screamed to a stop. About 3/4 of the crowd slowly moved as one onto the train.

“I hope this doesn’t mean my train is behind schedule,” Beka yelled into the phone. “My train is usually the first to arrive, this is not a good sign.”

The noise on the platform began to dissipate as more and more passengers settled into their seats, or grabbed on to bars for support. Beka’s eyes casually ran over the faces. It never ceased to amaze her how she never saw a single person she knew. Ever. And she knew a lot of people since her job was such a high-profile position.

Her eyes glided past a group of Emo kids but then promptly boomeranged back as something caught her eye. “Helllo…” she mumbled into the phone.

“Hello to you, goof,” Beka’s friend responded back with a laugh.

Beka’s eyes widened and then narrowed as she tried to focus all of her attention on one girl in the midst of the Emo crowd. Her hair was darker and it was hard to tell what color eyes she had, especially since she was a ways away, but there was something eerily familiar about the girl.

Without knowing what she was doing, she found herself scurrying to get on the train. She just managed to slip past the closing doors. The swoosh, and soft snap, of the doors broke her trance.

“You’re not going to believe this,” Beka said, her voice shaking with nerves, “but I just got on the wrong train.”

“Are you mad?” her friend asked.

“I’m beginning to wonder,” she responded. She began excusing herself through the crowd and inched closer to the group of people she saw on the platform.

“There’s this girl,” she began, her speech slow, uncertain. “I feel like I’ve seen her before.”

“If I had a dime every time I’ve heard you say that,” her friend responded. “I swear, you pretty much know everyone in this city.’

“Not quite everyone,” Beka’s gaze remained zeroed in on the girl. After a few moments, she was close enough to hear them laughing. The girl was the center of attention and all of the people surrounding her hung on her every word.

“Hello? Hello? Beka are you …”

She lost the connection. She stuffed her mobile into her bag and continued  to study the girl in between bodies.

The back of the girl’s head is facing Beka. She began inching around people in order to see the girl’s face.

“So, when we do this, we need to be smart about it. No throwing things. No shouting obscenities … Troy, I’m looking at you.” The girl spoke softly, but with authority. Her comment prompted soft laughs around her. “We join hands. This will show solidarity in our protest. We will calmly educate anyone who will listen. Again, no aggressive confrontations.”

Beka watched from a distance. She watched her body language, her facial expressions. She listened to the tone of her voice. She was sitting down, but Beka could tell she was small, probably not more than 5’5 – her height. Her hair was pitch black and she most likely used a whole eyeliner pencil on her eyes, and yet, she reminded Beka of herself, the morning after a long night. Her hairstyle was choppy and haphazardly pulled up at the sides, most likely in an attempt to keep her neck cool.

Beka moved closer. Did she have the tell-tale mole just under her left ear? She had to know. If this was who she thought it was, all the months of planning, and looking, were finally over.

She tuned out what the others were talking about, her sole focus was on this girl. She moved closer still. The train went through a tunnel and the lights temporarily dimmed. When they came back up, she was not only by the girl, she had crouched down in order to put her face at eye level.

“I figure we have about 30 minutes to really make an impact before the police show up,” the girl continued. “Dolly, do you have the …” she paused as she sensed Beka’s presence. She lifted an eyebrow and looked at her.

Beka saw the mole and suddenly couldn’t breathe.

“Um, hello?” the girl said. Her voice was more curious than annoyed. She leaned back as Beka leaned further in to verify what she suspected. “Hey. What is your problem?” she asked.

Beka visibly swallowed and shifted her eyes from the girl’s neck to meet her eyes. They were greenish brown with flecks of gold, the same as hers.

“Hi,” Beka croaked out.

The crowd around the girl suddenly grew quiet as they acknowledged Beka’s intrusion.

Beka continued, “I think you’re my sister.”

Fiction Fix: Gotta Run


You are walking home from work when something hits you from behind.

Tonya waved goodbye to her fellow co-workers and walked down the steps of the courthouse. She shifted her briefcase to her right hand and caught her purse from slipping off her shoulder at the last minute. She casually smiled at Tony, the janitor, as he made his way toward the building to begin his evening shift.

She drew in a long breathe of fresh air and slowly released it. It had been a long week but she felt like she had made a dent in her mountain of research. Her boss had an important case coming up and she wanted to make sure he had everything he needed in order to present his argument.

Transferring her briefcase into her left hand, she dipped her right hand into her front skirt pocket to make sure the keycard was still there.

It was.

She allowed herself a secret smile before tossing her long reddish, brown hair out of her eyes. The wind was brisk but smelled like honeysuckle. She loved the fresh air but her feet were beginning to hurt in her three inch heels and she wished, for the thousandth time, she would just bite the bullet and buy a car.

It was only 20 minutes to her condo, but today, it felt like she had been walking for three hours. “I should have packed my sneakers,” she mumbled absently to herself.

She listened to her heels clacking on the sidewalk and thought back to her day. She usually dressed a little more casually, slacks and flats, but Connor, her boss, was scheduled to work out of his office today and she wanted to make a good impression. There was just something about him … his dark blue eyes and dirty blonde hair were simply window dressing, she sensed there was so much more behind the curtain. He had vacationed at the beach last week and he was sporting a very attractive tan. But his appeal went much deeper than his looks, there was something dangerous about him. She was usually pretty good at reading people but she couldn’t quite put her finger on Connor.

She thought he liked her. She caught him watching her at times. And though they didn’t come right out and flirt with each other, there was an underlying current of sexual tension between them. At least, she hoped she wasn’t imaging the tension between them.

She tiptoed through a muddy patch, not wanting to dirty the heels of her shoes as she continued walking. What would it be like to date someone like Connor? she thought to herself. He was active, she knew that. He routinely went wake boarding with his buddies and his physique was evidence he liked to play sports. He was nice enough but always managed to maintain arm’s distance with women, like he was being careful how much of himself he allowed people to see.

Maybe he was gay?

She lightly shook her and chuckled at the thought. No way. She had caught him, more than once, checking out various females at work. Especially Sydney. Sydney liked to wear low cut tops and then conveniently drop things in front of men – she knew they would not be able to resist sneaking a peek at her generous boobs.

No, he wasn’t gay. Then what was it about him?

A car backfired and she jumped and immediately tensed. She stopped walking to gauge her surroundings. When she didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, she began walking again.

Her cell buzzed in her purse but she ignored it. It was probably her mother checking up on her. She was always worried about her, she thought she took risks, lived a dangerous lifestyle.

Tonya allowed another small smile at that thought. Her life wasn’t dangerous, it was … unpredictable.

She adjusted her purse on her shoulder then transferred her briefcase to her right hand again. She was almost home. Just another five minutes.

Without meaning to, her thoughts returned to Connor. Was he seeing anyone? She had never noticed any pictures of women in his office. He was always on his cell though but she was never able to get close enough to eavesdrop on his conversations to guess who he was speaking to. How could she get …?

She was suddenly knocked forward and she tripped a few steps, a small cry of surprise leaving her lips.

“Oh wow, I’m sorry,” a male voice rumbled into her right ear. “I totally wasn’t paying attention.”

Tonya righted herself and turned to look at the man. Her eyes widened in surprise and she could feel her cheeks flaming. Connor.

“Wha … what are you doing here?” she stammered.

“I thought I would go for a quick run, burn off some energy after work,” he replied and she noticed, for the first time, he was wearing a t-shirt, running shorts and Asics sneakers. Her eyes lingered on his muscled legs before lifting to meet his face. Her cheeks burned hotter.

“Oh well, I’m sorry,” she said.

He laughed while continuing to jog in place. “Why are you sorry? I’m the one who ran into you.”

She let slip a sheepish laugh, “because I was in your way.”

“You could never be in my way, Tonya,” he said, his voice silky smooth. He jogged ahead a little, turned around to face her and continued to jog backwards. “You live around here?”

“I do,” she replied then nodded toward a brown house with tan trim. “Right over there, in fact.”

He followed her nod and turned back to smile at her. “That’s good to know,” he said. “I’ve got to run,” he winked at his little joke. “See you at the office.”

She acknowledged his joke with a bright smile. “Yeah, see you.”

He gave her a small salute, turned around and jogged away, placing his earbuds back into his ears.

She watched his butt for quite some time before snapping out of her thoughts. She again handed off her briefcase to her other hand and absently padded her skirt pocket. She would need to turn the card over this evening.

She suddenly stopped and dropped her briefcase. She stuffed her hand into her pocket and searched around.

No keycard.

Her expression hardened and she narrowed her eyes at Connor’s disappearing figure on the horizon.

“You son of a bitch,” she hissed.

She suddenly scooped up her briefcase, reached for her house keys and ran up her driveway.

Letting herself into her house, she sprinted up to her bedroom, quickly pulled off her office attire and put on a dark t-shirt, jogging pants and sneakers. She pulled her hair back into a sloppy ponytail. She dropped to the floor, pulled out a small, dark case and popped it open. She lifted her 9 mm Glock pistol out and screwed on the silencer. She strapped the gun around her waist, jerked her t-shirt down to hide the gun and ran downstairs. She grabbed her cell phone and hit 5 for the speed dial number.

“Go,” the low voice answered.

“The keycard has been taken, I’m going after the guy,” Tonya crisply barked out. “Locate me and send backup.” She punched the number to disconnect, slipped the phone into her pocket and sprinted out the door after Connor.

Hey, if you guys want to play along, feel free. You can grab that graphic up there and leave a link to your story in the comments below. I would love to see what you do with the prompt. I plan on doing a prompt every Friday to give me a chance to exercise my creativity.

Happy writing!

Friday Fix: You Will Never Forget Me

Prompt: You are sitting on a park bench when someone shouts your name.

Wait, what?

Cassidy looked up from her drawing pad. The wind whistled softly across her face and blew a few strands of washed out green-dyed hair into her mouth.

“Cassie! Over here!”

She absently reached up and removed the hair from her mouth. It tasted like cream cheese. Why would her hair taste like cream cheese? She shrugged, lifted some strands in front of her eyes and studied it like she had never seen her own hair before. A tuft of hair was indeed moist. She shrugged and placed the hair back into her mouth.

“Bet you can’t catch me, Cassie!”

She straightened her back, sat bolt upright on the bench and looked around. “Don’t call me that!” She yelled into the wind.

A little girl’s laughter rang out on the cool morning breeze.

“I’m right here, Cassie! Can’t you see me?”

Cassidy shoved the drawing pad under her arm and stood up. “I said, STOP. CALLING. ME. THAT!”’ she barked out. She began to walk toward the gray and white building.

“Okay fine, Cass-i-dy,” the voice rang out, drawing her name out in sarcastic syllables. “Go inside and act like a baby. I don’t want to play with you anyway.”

Cassidy’s purposeful stride toward the house faltered. Why did that voice sound so familiar? She titled her head to one side and puckered her mouth – it was her thinking pose. She thought it made her look smart. Wait. She WAS smart. The doctors said so.

“You’re too stupid to find me anyway,” the voice taunted.

Cassidy froze. A small trickle of anger began dripping into her drug-induced awareness. “I am not stupid,” she whispered, her words being whisked away by the strong, salty breeze.

‘You ARE stupid, Cassie, even mom thought so,” the voice matured. The sound triggered a deep sadness. She could also feel a long-forgotten rage tickling her nerve endings.

Cassidy spun around. Seeing nothing, she spun around again. Her eyes turned wild and she began to hyperventilate. “Laura,” she hissed, her eyes narrowing to slits as she sought out the source of the voice.

“You think you can get rid of me?”

“I DID get rid of you,” Cassidy responded. “I buried you in Old Man Winter’s woods.”

“Are you sure about that?” the voice whispered followed by a sly chuckle.

Cassidy cocked her head again and listened more closely. She thought the sound might be coming from behind the rock wall surrounding the bird bath. She cautiously stepped forward. Doubt tickled her spine and she shivered in reaction.

“This is not real,” Cassidy whimpered, her once purposeful stride now little more than a shuffle, her confidence shattering into a million ice shards.

“Of course this is real. I will never abandon you, little sister,” the voice turned hard as granite. “I exist to torment your black soul. I will never allow you forgot what you did to me.”

Tears began to roll down Cassidy’s face, though she was unaware of her wet cheeks. “You are so mean to me, Laura. Why do you hate me so much?”

“No one can love an ugly, stupid piece of shit, like you, Cassie. No one will ever love you. Mom and dad couldn’t stand to look at you, you were such an embarrassment to them. And Josh …”

Cassidy’s body turned to stone at the mention of Josh’s name. “Shut up,” she whispered, her voice raw with anguish.

“Josh only pretended to love you so he could get closer to me. If you hadn’t walked in on us, we’d be married now, with our own brats to torment…” the voice sizzled, like acid on skin.

“Shut up … shut up … SHUT UP!” Cassidy screamed. She dropped her drawing pad and began pulling her hair. Her mind cracked then splintered apart as wave after wave of memories came crashing into the black hole of her mind she had always sheltered. She dropped to the ground and began pounding her head against the concrete.

Men in white coats came running toward her.

Laura’s laughter dissipated into Cassidy’s screams.

Each man took hold of Cassidy’s arms and dragged her up. A streak of crimson stained the ground and Cassidy’s forehead had an angry red gash slashed across it. The men half carried, half dragged her back to the gray and white building. Her screams echoed back toward the courtyard.

After several long moments, a prim and proper girl stepped from behind a tree. She pulled a small spiral notepad and pencil from her pocket and gleefully checked off a name.

“That was too easy,” she mumbled to herself. “I really thought she would be harder to break.” She happily sighed and looked around the courtyard. Even though Cassidy’s dramatic exit was loud and disruptive, the other residents continued to wander aimlessly around the area, their zombie-like steps monotonous in their slowness.

The girl frowned. Every single breath from their crazy, stupid mouths annoyed and angered her.

She tapped her lips thoughtfully, her nearly black-colored eyes scanning each individual in turn.

A slow, malicious smile spread across her thin face. “Ah Eric … there you are.” She casually strolled toward her next victim.

Write: Girl Unclaimed

I threw the stick and watched Daisy run after it, her tongue lolling to one side, her stubby little legs pumping unrestrained excitement.

I glanced out over the water and became momentarily mesmerized by the light flirting with the small ripples from fish nibbling algae on the surface of the lake.

And then I saw it – a yellow spot among the tall, green grass gently swaying in the sweet twilight breeze. I narrowed my eyes to try and pick out the object without having to actually move closer to it. My peripheral vision blurred as I concentrated on the object that did not belong in this secluded spot. A slow feeling of dread started in my sternum and gently crept up to give my heart a warning squeeze.

Daisy dropped the stick on my sandal and I jumped – I had momentarily forgotten all about her. I bent to pick up the stick, my eyes never leaving that spot of yellow. From my lowered vantage point, my eyes focused on something new. Was that … an arm?

I quickly stood up, my breath caught behind the sudden fear in my throat.

I gripped the stick tighter in my hand and cautiously moved toward the object in the grass.

Daisy happily skipped alongside me. Her gait faltered as we got closer, her nose lifted and she suddenly growled low in her throat.

“I know, Daisy. Chillax,” I crooned in an attempt to keep her calm and not start a barrage of barking. The less noise we made the better.

I held the stick out in front of me – I guess I thought I could use it as a weapon. Though not long or sharp, it was thick enough that it might do temporary damage to a skull, or two.

My eyes never left the object, but I was keenly aware of where I was stepping. I had enough combat experience to slip back into that persona with very little effort. I had thought I had lost my edge but moving toward the target brought back a barrage of memories and I involuntarily winced as horrific images began to flicker and flit through my consciousness. Memories I had spent countless hours in therapy trying to eradicate.

My eyes narrowed as I got closer. It was definitely a body, a woman, no, a girl. She couldn’t have been more than twenty-years old. I paused to assess my surroundings. I looked out over the lake and studied the parameter. No movement. The birds continued to sing, a raccoon edged toward the far end of the lake and carelessly swiped at the water gently lapping the shore.

A soft breeze swept over the body. I crinkled my nose. Decomp – she had probably been dead for at least 24 hours.

“Damn it.” I sighed and slowly stepped back from the body. I couldn’t afford to leave any trace of myself on the body. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my cell phone. I pressed 9-1 and then stopped.

Even if I called in anonymously, they would still track my cell phone down. I couldn’t afford to be found. Not yet anyway. Not after I had spent the last three years making sure every trace of my existence had been erased.

I studied the girl’s face and slowly put my phone back into my pocket.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered regretfully. My apology dissipated on the summer breeze.

Fiction: Eve’s Empathy

It takes great courage to faithfully follow what we know to be true. – Sara Anderson

“Hey Eve,” a man in a tight turtleneck sweater said while rushing past. “Piper can’t make it in tonight, can you cover?” He continued his fast pace and didn’t wait for her to answer. “Thanks! I owe you!”

Eve sighed and watched the head of Human Resources make his way back to his wonderfully posh, and sweet smelling, office. She’d love to hole up in his office sometime, just to get away from all of the musty hospital smells she was forced to endure on a daily basis. She wouldn’t do much, just sleep. Was that too much to ask?

“Think he’ll ever pay up?” Vicki, Eve’s best friend, said practically in her ear.

The emergency room was hopping for a Thursday night and between the crying, the groans and the general loud talking over the equally loud television, it was sometimes necessary to get right up on someone’s ear in order to be heard.

She turned to her friend and gave her a weary smile. “It’s doubtful.”

“Why do you think Piper’s not coming in?”

Eve shrugged while replacing one chart and taking another. She gave it a quick once-over before answering her friend. “There’s no telling. Maybe she has a hangover. Or a hangnail. You never know with Piper. She’s such a wuss.”

“You can say that again,” Vicki nodded in agreement. “Oops, there goes my pager. Gotta go. Coffee later?”

“If not sooner!” Eve called after her friend as she scurried down the hall, the soft soles of her shoes squeaking slightly on the hard tile floor.

“Make way!” a man’s voice called and Eve looked toward the emergency room entrance. Her eyes widened in surprise when she recognized the man.

“Troy? Troy Wilson?” she asked while moving around the front desk.

Troy had his arm around a woman who was bent over with pain and obviously very pregnant.

“Eve Michaels?” he asked in surprise. “Wow. I didn’t know you went to med school.”

“Nursing school, actually,” she said and moved to grab a wheel chair. “Who’s your friend?” she asked while smiling at the woman and helping her into the chair.

“My wife,” Troy replied and Eve gave him a sharp look.

“Your wife?”

“Yeah, you got a problem with that?” the woman in the wheelchair growled between clenched teeth. Her growl quickly turned into a groan as a contraction ripped through her.

Eve laughed. “Not at all. Troy and I knew each other back in college. God, eons ago, right Troy?”

“Another lifetime ago,” Troy responded while making sure his wife was comfortable, or as comfortable as she could be, given the circumstances.

Eve helped them check in before taking hold of the wheelchair. “Let’s get you set up in your room, shall we?”

The woman opened her mouth to reply, but promptly closed it as every muscle in her body tightened with pain.

“How close are the contractions?” Eve asked.

“I’m clocking them about three minutes apart,” Troy said.

Eve nodded, suddenly all business. “Then we need to hustle.”

Together she and Troy moved his wife to the room and she left to give them privacy while his wife changed into a gown. After exactly five minutes, she re-entered the room and began taking the woman’s vitals while filling out her chart.

“You’ve called your doctor?” Eve asked, her eyes trained on the chart, her left hand busy making notes.

“Yeah. But he’s out of town, of course,” Troy grumbled. “I think they said that Dr. Lowe would be helping us?”

Eve smiled while she replaced the chart. “You’re in luck. She’s awesome.”

“Oh? The doctor is female?” the woman asked and sucked in a breath as another contraction hit. “Of course she is,” she ground out and grimaced with pain. “Troy will have her eating out of his hand in no time.”

Eve grinned at Troy. He hadn’t changed much, apparently. “The anesthesiologist should be along shortly,” she said while patting the woman’s hand, “hang in there.”

The woman snatched her hand away and gave Eve a dirty look. “Were you and Troy a couple in college?”

Troy sputtered an awkward chuckle while color flooded his cheeks. “Hardly. We were just friends.”

“I find that hard to believe,” the woman snapped and turned her back on the two of them as she tried to find a more comfortable position.

“Eve, I’m sorry about …” Troy helplessly gestured to his wife.

She held up a hand to silence him before he said something he might regret. “No need to apologize. She’s in pain and well … given your track record with women, I can understand her assumption.”

The woman laughed and turned her head to give Eve a good look. “I like you already. Thanks for your help.”

Eve patted the woman’s leg and nodded. “Any time. Good luck with the birth. I’ll check back in on you two later.”

Troy nodded, but only had eyes for his wife.

Eve re-read what she wrote on the woman’s chart and frowned. That wasn’t right, was it? She squinted down at what she wrote and then noticed her mistake. Correction, make that more than one mistake. Clenching her teeth in frustration, she erased her earlier notes and re-wrote fresh instructions before replacing the chart in the slot in the door.

She snuck a glance at Troy and his wife, but they were pre-occupied with getting through several contractions.

Eve unconsciously exhaled her relief. That was a close one.

She rubbed her eyes as she exited the room. It always got worse when she was tired, which was most of the time, quite frankly. She really should go see someone about her problem, but she was afraid that it would jeopardize her job. But at the same time, if she didn’t see someone about her problem, it could cost a patient his or her life.

Her heart jumped at the thought of being responsible for someone’s death all because she was too stubborn, and embarrassed, to do something about her Dyslexia.

“Did you get Mrs. Wilson settled in?” the head nurse asked Eve when she returned to the nurse’s station.

“Yep. She’s ready for her epidural. I hope they get there soon, her contractions are three minutes apart and she’s got that “look,” you know?”

“That look?” the head nurse repeated while raising her brows. “That’s a pretty technical diagnosis, Eve. I’ll have to remember that the next time I can’t be bothered with coming up with the correct technical term.”

Eve blushed and offered a small, apologetic smile. She knew the head nurse wasn’t exactly impressed with her. Especially since she had already discovered a few charts she had screwed up. She had been pretty diligent in making sure she double and triple checked her notations, but the head nurse had noticed them before she had.

That had been awkward to say the least. She was fast running out of excuses for her poor performance. Her stomach tightened at the stress of having to deal with her problem. She had worked so hard for this job and she loved it, she couldn’t imagine having to give it up because of her learning disability. But then again, how could she live with herself if it led to a misdiagnosis or worse, death?

Continue reading Fiction: Eve’s Empathy

Fiction: The Trouble with Troy

If the dream is big enough, the facts don’t count.

My dad always had big dreams. He wanted to invent something that would not only be useful to others, but help mankind and of course, reap big rewards.

As in millions of dollars in rewards.

He was an inventor, of sorts. I remember he would spend entire weekends, for months on end, making plans, finding materials and then experimenting with various contraptions. All of them failed, but he never gave up.

I never understood that drive, that passion. To me, it seemed like so much work. Why not take the easy road and leave time for more fun things?

Like dating, or hanging with friends, or baseball.

I pretty much live for baseball.

I was never a good student. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Holly Lawson, I wouldn’t even have graduated from high school

I used her. I’ll admit it. I’m not proud of this fact, but there you have it. I knew she had a crush on me and I shamefully used that fact to manipulate her into doing what I wanted her to do.

That’s my gift, manipulating people. I’m quite good at it. I have a knack for honing in on people’s weaknesses and twisting them into something that I can use to benefit me.

At first, this bothered me. I wasn’t particularly proud of using people but it came so easy and people never had a problem trusting everything that I told them that I just sort of fell into the pattern – it was harder not to.

For the most part, I got over the guilt of using people. I mean, people come and go in our lives, in our relationships, they’re just blips on our life’s radar – meaningless really. Why waste time on them when there was so much fun to be had.

I’m not quite sure why I’m like this, maybe it has something to do with my mom, who worked two jobs to give my dad the freedom to do his experiments (that never paid off, by the way, I mentioned that part, right?) and worked herself to death.


Her heart simply gave out when she reached 48.

I was a Sophomore in high school when my mom passed away and it was from that point on that I knew what I wanted, which was to be nothing like my mom. I didn’t want to work my entire life away; life was simply too short.

And yet, I wasn’t willing to do what my dad did either. I can’t tell you the number of times I witnessed his disappointment, his dejection, his rejection all because he had the balls to stick his neck out there and try something different.

No. I was all about taking the easy road.

And of course, taking the easy route can not only be hard, but dangerous, too.

After I graduated from high school, I wasn’t sure what to do with my life. I mean, I could work, but I kept picturing my mother, worn down and bone tired from her two jobs and I didn’t want that for my life. So I decided to put my life on hold for a bit and go to college.

College wasn’t really work, it was more of a structured party with virtually no rules.

Save for the rules I made up along the way.

I quickly discovered that I simply wasn’t smart enough to be a college student. I had relied on Holly’s help, and I use that term loosely, throughout high school so much that in essence, I didn’t learn a freaking thing.

I had cheated my way through high school, so it seemed only natural that I’d cheat my way through college.

The challenge was finding the person who would make that happen.

It started out innocently enough. About halfway through my first semester I knew I needed help. I had failed nearly everything I had tried at that point and that wasn’t much, quite frankly. I was taking a full load, about 15 hours, and every single class was kicking my butt.

But I didn’t give up. I didn’t get discouraged. I got busy working out a four-year plan on how I was going to survive my college years with the least amount of effort on my part as possible.

I knew it could be done, I just wasn’t sure how it would shake out. I needed someone vulnerable, someone who craved attention and perhaps didn’t get it very often, who was sort of a social outcast. I needed someone smart and generous. I needed someone I could string along and manipulate into doing what I needed them to do without questioning my motives or seeing through my deception.

And that person came in the form of my college advisor, Lauren McCormick.

I knew, as soon as I walked into her office, she was the person I was looking for. She had the phone tucked under her chin and was scribbling on the top page of the first stack of papers littering her desk.

She was also chewing on a piece of licorice. The end stuck out from one corner of her mouth and I remember noticing how she was smearing deep red lipstick on the candy with each unconscious bite.

I stirred. I admit, it was sort of a turn on to watch her nibble on that piece of candy. I began fantasizing about what those soft lips felt like … and well, you get the drift, I’m sure.

She wasn’t really attractive, per se, but she exuded loads of intelligent confidence and I’ll be honest, that’s a turn on for me.

“Uh, Ms. McCormick?” I had rapped a few knocks on her office door, her receptionist said to go on in, and she had absently waved me to one of her chairs while she finished her conversation.

I plopped my backpack down on the floor next to me and I assumed a comfortable, and yes, a somewhat cocky pose. I couldn’t allow her to see how nervous I was, right? If I’ve learned anything from chicks, they don’t care for the wimpy, indecisive types.

I hid my smile when I noticed that she did indeed notice me. And it went beyond the advisor notices her student sort of awareness, she saw me as a man.

It was going to be like taking candy from a freaking baby.

She cut her conversation short. Again, a good sign. When she replaced the receiver she made a show out of organizing some papers, I’m assuming papers about me, but I knew she was really checking me out.

If there’s one thing I excel in, it’s women.

“Hi. Troy Wilson, right?” she asked and I watched her nervously lick her lips.

“That would be me,” I said and gave her my most charming smile. It never failed to melt a woman’s heart and it didn’t fail me this time, either.

“So, what can I do for you?” she asked.

I leaned forward, putting my arms on my legs and giving her my full, undivided attention. “I’m having a little trouble adjusting,” I said and nodded toward the paperwork. “I’m sure you can see, I haven’t exactly gotten off to the best start.”

“Well, sometimes it takes a few weeks for students to settle into a routine,” she began.
I interrupted. “True. But I’m afraid that’s not my problem,” I said with a feigned frown. “You see, my mom passed away recently and I’m having trouble concentrating. I just can’t seem to get my shit together.”

Her eyes had widened and I quickly made a mental note – doesn’t appreciate cursing. “I apologize for my crassness, Ms. McCormick, but I’m feeling desperate. This is a big opportunity for me and … well, it was my mother’s dream that I graduate from college.”

Which was true, she had wanted me to graduate from college, just probably not exactly this way.

“I see,” Lauren had said. “Well, I can probably set you up with some tutors …”

I sort of tuned out the rest of what she said as a soft rumbling caught my attention.

Lauren paused in the middle of her speech and clutched her stomach.

I smiled. The gods were certainly smiling down on me that day.

“You’re hungry.” I stated. “Which is understandable, considering it’s lunch time. Tell you what,” I offered, as if the thought had just occurred to me, “let’s talk about this over lunch.”

Her eyes had widened and she immediately began to shake her head no. But I could see it in her eyes, her head might have been saying no, but her heart? Very much wanted to say yes.

It took me a while to charm her, but after fifteen minutes, she caved in and we walked to the student center and had lunch. We talked about my scholastic troubles, but mainly, we talked and got to know one another.

Our relationship progressed very quickly from that point on. By the end of my first semester, we were friends.

By the end of my second semester, we were lovers.

She proved very useful over the course of my college years. Our relationship had to remain a secret of course, she would lose her job if anyone ever found out, which worked out perfectly for me because that allowed me to date other women and there really wasn’t much she could say about it. Lauren was putty in my hand. Whenever I wanted something from her, all I had to do was pour on the charm and smother her with attention.

Lauren intercepted quite a few professors for me and somehow convinced them to pass me. I also used other girls to help me get through classes, but mostly, I just cheated. I got to be quite good at cheating and my methods were legendary. In fact, I taught most of the guys in my fraternity the fine art of “passing” classes.

Did I feel guilty for treating people this way? I’d be lying if I said no. There were times, especially with women who I genuinely liked, that I felt like scum. But I always kept my eye on the ultimate prize – graduation.

My father was insanely proud of me. He often bragged to anyone who would listen about his “prodigal” son. That probably hurt the most, the fact that I was failing to live up to his basic expectations of me.

My life was going as planned. I was on top of the world. I was popular. I knew nearly everyone on campus and was friends with at least half of them. All the girls wanted me, all the guys wanted to be me, and Lauren was obsessed with me. So much so that at times, I felt suffocated, but what could I do? I needed her, at least for a few more semesters.

Everything was golden. I had gotten so used to burying my guilty conscience at the point that I rarely even saw it most days. I had become someone that I didn’t even recognize and my lies and deception soon consumed me.

I didn’t even recognize the person in the mirror anymore. I had become a stranger to myself.

Though I despised myself, I continued to live my charmed life. Everything was going according to plan, until the night of November 2, 2008.

Continue reading Fiction: The Trouble with Troy