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With a start Julie Spencer awoke
from a fitful night of sleep reigned by images of brutality.
Swollen, cracked lips mutilated her confusion, “Where am I?”
Horror-struck eyes shot to the bedroom door where beyond came
muffled sounds of activity. She couldn’t breathe. Who’s out
there? How’d I end up here?
Shoving honey-blond strands off her
face, Julie winced as broken fingernails raked across a clotted
gash. She glared at her fingers. “Blood!” her insides screamed. As
the day before blasted into her brain, ice raced throughout her
being. Trying to deny it all, she squeezed her eyes shut. Heartbeats
hammered. Burrowing into the pillow failed to put down the
sensations of Jim Martin mounted on her back, flogging the daylights
out of her. Her eyes shot open. She clutched the blankets. Knuckles
drained of color. Slowly, she lifted her head, her eyes scouring
every inch of the unfamiliar room. Where is that monster? He’s
here…Julie just knew it. He’s lurking in the shadows, ready to
pounce on her for refusing him…for leaving him. Wait…that old lady…
Julie squinted at the door. Her grip on the blankets loosened.
“Who’s that old lady?” A name echoed cryptically across her brain.
“What is it?” She just couldn’t bring it forth. “Humph,” came a
frustrated breath. “Mmm?” What’s that? Julie raised her nose.
That smell. She breathed in the aroma flooding her
surroundings. Fresh-brewed coffee. Sweet cinnamon...toast…and…and
bacon! Her stomach growled. When was the last time she had
eaten? Her eyes bore into the door. But who’s out there…beyond
that door? How safe is it to go out there? Is food all that
She turned her
head towards the window where November sunlight sifted through
sheer, snowy Priscillas and speckles of dust cavorted, seeming to
mock her circumstance. Her eyes turned away and tracked the white
chair rail bisecting the walls horizontally. Delicate blue
cornflowers danced across the top half then weaved in and out of
golden-hued vertical bands that lined the lower half. How nice.
The post of the four-poster bed she was lying in interrupted her
gaze. It was made of cherry wood and though it was of an old
vintage, it was incredibly beautiful. The end table and bureau with
roses etched into its mirror matched the bed. Spotting her
pocketbook lying on the bureau, she wondered why she had even
bothered to take it. The only things of any value in it were her
driver’s license and a picture of herself and her mother. Julie
didn’t have a car and Jim Martin barred all broads (as he
indignantly labeled the opposite sex) from ever driving his precious
automobile. And Mom—Mom’s out there—somewhere. Tears pooled in
Julie’s eyes. If only Mom was here to talk to.
Julie picked up a
corner of the comforter and caressed her cheek with the soft, blue
flannel backing. Her fingers drifted across the top, which was
richly endowed with the same blue cornflowers that cheered the
walls. She had never owned such things and figured that at this
point it was doubtful that she ever would. Visions of her bedroom in
that shabby first floor flat that she rented in Brighton
Massachusetts came to mind. The nondescript metal bed frame and
mattress were covered with a washed-out plaid bedspread that she had
brought from home when she moved. Working in a restaurant didn’t
leave much extra for comforts after the rent was paid. Oh well, at
least she was able to get a free meal out of it.
Julie reached for the extra pillow
next to her and stuffed it behind her shoulders. As she propped
herself up against the carved headboard, her teeth gnashed, partly
from the pain, but mostly from the looming image of Jim pursuing
her, his hand clutching her hair and yanking her head backwards, his
rabid voice howling, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere!”
She had broken away and tried to
run. Still, at this very moment, she could feel his fingers digging
into her ankle, dragging her back and his hands around her neck,
strangling her. Her chest heaved. His breath reeking of hot stale
beer continued to taunt her senses. In the shadowy darkness his hair
whipped across his bestial eyes as he invaded her body, her mind,
her life. “No,” Julie shrieked, but her horror was lost within the
thickness of the bedroom. Her cocoa eyes took on the appearance of
those of a cornered animal, darting about, scrutinizing every
indistinct crevice. Surely Jim Martin was still out to get her. Oh
God, what should she do? Move back with Mom? “No,” Julie gasped. “He
knows where Mom lives.” What would that monster do to her mother?
Julie bit her bottom lip. Swollen tissues railed. She winced. Her
tongue soothed them. Perhaps, it might be best to leave
Massachusetts entirely. She fingered a strand of hair. Maybe
even chop off this mop, get it permed, dye it black. “Oh, God.”
How hard it had been to move away from Mom and into that flat.
She didn’t know a soul there. Only a few miles away from where she
had lived all her life, but it felt like the other side of the
world. And these days, making friends was just about impossible.
People don’t even utter a fleeting hello any more much less get
involved in more serious matters like... Her body twitched trying to
shake off the perversion intent on zapping her back in time.
was nineteen, petite and slender, her skin fair and her eyes an
expressive cocoa with tawny lashes that picked up golden hues of a
sunny day. Her engaging smile deliberately outlined cheekbones
blessed with the blush of ripe peaches.
On several occasions she had walked
past the bulldozed building lot where a full-color poster announced
to the world the coming of a high-rise complex. It was five blocks
from where Julie waitressed and three from her flat. One particular
day, a surveying crew was staked out there, taking a break as she
returned home from an early morning shift. Jim Martin, crew leader,
stood tall and solidly built. His face was flawless and baby smooth.
Propping one leg up on a construction horse, he took a long drag on
a cigarette as his striking blue eyes cast fleeting sideways glances
at the female passerby. Three other surveyors whistled and howled.
Self-conscious and wanting to get
out of there real quick, Julie hurried on her way. By the next day,
her mind had blanked out the episode so she unwittingly took the
same route home. She kicked herself when once again the hecklers
accosted her. “Hey, how’s it going lil’ lady?” taunted one pulpy
surveyor who sported a grown-out buzz cut and a grimy, faded khaki
uniform. Needing a shave real bad, he gnawed on some unknown
substance and looked like mangy buffalo.
The other barrel-chested
guerrilla-type was wearing the same type of attire plus a navy watch
cap that was pulled down over his ears. As his face contorted, his
eyebrows twitched. “Why don’cha stop an’ chitchat for a while? We
ain’t gonna bite.”
Noticing Jim, so quiet and polite,
standing off in the distance, Julie laughed and pointed, “I’ll only
talk to him.”
“Oooh, Jimbo’s got hisself a
admirer,” snickered buzz-cut.
Fingers with nails outlined with
filth beckoned as guerilla snorted, “Hey man, get yer butt ovah
he-ah an’ talk ta dis he-ah lil’ gal.”
Jim crushed his spent cigarette into
the dirt as his left eye cast the female passerby a sideways
once-over. He fished a cigarette pack out of his breast pocket.
Tapping it on the back of his hand until one white spike jutted
forth, he gripped it between his teeth. He dragged a wooden match
across the construction horse and cupping his hands over the flame,
lit up. His eyes slit as gray fumes rolled out and up into his face.
He shook out the match and took a deep drag. His face betrayed no
emotion nor did a single word part his lips. Jim Martin made no
moves on Julie Spencer.
Julie bit her bottom lip. Maybe
those ignoramuses were embarrassing him or something. Wait a minute.
Did his head gesture ever so slightly just then? Was he sending her
some kind of signal? What should she do? As Julie pondered her
options, one hand twisted the fingers of the other. She was not
going out with anyone at the moment. And shoot, that flat of hers
felt like a vacuous cave when she was all by herself—and she was
always all by herself. Sometimes it was more than she could bear.
From the kitchen table she could look into the living room,
bathroom, and bedroom, which was just big enough for a double bed
and nothing else. She had been incredibly lonely since moving out of
Mom’s. This was a golden opportunity to finally get to know another
human being. Her tongue dampened her bottom lip. What the heck. She
had nothing to lose. Taking a deep breath, Julie trekked over to the
blue-eyed hunk and said, “Hi. I’m Julie Spencer.”
His lips twitched into an impotent
smile. “Jim Martin,” he uttered with a hitch of his chin then
squinted off into the distance. Cigarette smoke billowed back into
Awkward silence caught Julie groping
for words. Gees, this guy certainly isn’t very assertive. She
cleared her throat and asked, “How long are you guys going to be
Jim sucked on the
cigarette. Gray smudge erupted with every word. “A week or so.”
Silence…again. Julie scraped her
foot across a tuft of crabgrass. What’s the matter with this guy?
What a pillar of stone. Am I boring him or what? The feeling ate
at her that there was something very strange about Jim Martin.
Unraveled, Julie turned and hurriedly withdrew. “Well, see ya.”
All the way home Julie ruminated on
the enigma. Jim Martin was extremely neat and clean, considering his
job. His blond hair was stylishly cut, though as she thought it
over, it was a bit Elvis-like. How strange that his eyes never
seemed to focus on anything, least of all her. Julie scratched her
head. His expressionless demeanor did lend an air of mystery to the
That night Julie tossed and turned.
Why was Jim Martin so distant? So remote? Then it came to her,
“He’s just shy, that’s all. By morning she had come up with the
excuse that shyness was not necessarily a bad thing and decided that
if there was ever going to be anything between this hunk and her,
she would have to be the one to take the initiative. Yup, I’m
taking the first step…today. The gullible young woman should
have known better than to even consider wandering down such a murky
path, yet on her way home from work, she ignored the warnings
rumbling in her gut and the hecklers and strutted right up to Jim
Martin. “How about coffee…at my place…tonight?”
“Sure,” he breezed. Lumbering away,
he failed to ask where she lived.
Julie rushed after him, spouting her
address. She was positive that he had heard her, though he totally
ignored her. Confused, she stuttered, “At seven?”
“Shur,” he grunted.
The other guys whooped and hollered.
Julie was at a loss as to why they shot thumb’s-up signals to the
seemingly disinterested Jim Martin.
Seven o’clock came and went. No Jim.
Seven-thirty, and still no Jim. Heaviness crept over Julie. “Shoot.
That guy stood me up. God,” she agonized as she shut off the
coffeemaker. “Oh. I could just die.” Slouching against the kitchen
counter, she crossed her arms tight across her chest. “Now what am I
supposed to do?” Her eyes wandered the ceiling. She heaved a sigh.
“Well. That’s it then, I’m not gonna walk by there any more. Imagine
how those jerks will razz me after this.” She bit her bottom lip.
Suddenly her arms uncrossed. “Jim’s just like the rest of them” Her
hands jammed into her hips. “Shy. Yeah, right. What a bunch of
Time passed. Julie brooded on the
couch in front of a dark television screen. Ten minutes till nine, a
single thump rattled the door. Julie squinted at it. Why didn’t
whoever it was ring the doorbell? She got to her feet and listened.
Nothing. She crossed the room and cracked open the door. Jim
Martin…gazing off into the universe as if absolutely nothing was
wrong. Should she let him in or what? She chewed the inside of her
cheek while studying him. He was freshly showered and his hair was
combed just so. His tan pants bore freshly ironed creases and his
blue golf shirt brought out the blue of his indolent eyes.
Excitement mixed with displeasure. Julie slid the chain off the door
and stepped back.
Jim strolled in, his eyes scanning
the apartment. There wasn’t much to see. Julie didn’t have much.
Without so much as asking he plopped down upon the green couch that
she had picked up at the Goodwill Store for ten bucks. She wrung her
hands, bewildered by his brazen demeanor. “Coffee?” she asked.
“Shur,” he spat without so much as a
glance her way.
Julie took off for the kitchen where
she reheated the pot of coffee. Anticipation caused her to drop a
spoon. Picking it up, she rinsed it under the tap then swiped it
across a hand towel. Placing it on a tray along with another spoon,
she noticed a droplet of water cradled in its bowl. She picked up
the spoon and buffed it against the belly of her blouse all the
while wondering what the heck was up with this Jim Martin guy. She
placed it on the tray again then arranged napkins, packets of sugar,
and single serving size creamers that patrons had left behind on the
table at the restaurant. Geez, he didn’t even look at her. Maybe she
wasn’t pretty enough. Julie ducked into the bathroom. Squinting at
the medicine cabinet mirror, she scanned the right side of her face
and then the left. Gee, she didn’t look all that bad. She
straightened her blouse and slacks, flounced up her hair, and
puckered her lips to make sure her lipstick was still okay. She
smoothed out the color with her pinkie finger and feigned a quick
smile before scurrying back to the kitchen. Checking to make sure
everything was perfect with the tray, Julie returned to the living
Jim had turned on the TV and was
watching a sitcom that she didn’t recognize. TV did not interest her
much. Most times, the programs were mindless and bored her to no
end. Why she had even bought a TV in the first place was beyond her.
She preferred reading—romance novels. “I made a fresh pot,” she
fibbed. “It’ll be ready in a minute.”
Jim gave a scant nod while crossing
one leg over the other on top of the coffee table. Moments passed.
Her presence didn’t faze him in the least and although his eyes
remained glued to the screen, Julie found it odd that he remained
impassive to all the humor. She fidgeted, feeling insignificant,
minuscule. She slipped off to the kitchen. While one hand poured two
cups of coffee, the fingers of the other hand toyed with her bottom
lip. Staring into the steam wafting off the coffee, she was lost in
an uncertain fog. She took a deep breath. “Oh, well.” Picking up the
tray, she headed back to the living room. As she set it down on the
coffee table, Julie said good-naturedly, “Here we are.”
Without the slightest
acknowledgment, Jim tore off creamer lids, one after another,
dumping the contents of each container into one of the cups, filling
it to the brim. He tossed the empties onto the table as he went,
then ripped open half a dozen sugar packets at one time and tipped
the contents into the coffee. When he flipped the empty packets at
the table, they ricocheted off the empty creamer containers and
landed on the floor. Unruffled, Jim picked up a spoon and stirred,
sloshing the mixture all over the coffee table. He bent over and
delicately slurped up enough so that it would not overflow when he
lifted it. He dried the bottom of the cup with a napkin and was
careful not to drip any on his pants as he leaned back. His eyes
never left the TV as he downed the coffee.
Julie gawked at the coffee table.
What a mess. She blotted up the moisture with a napkin then glanced
at Jim. She wanted to ask, well, do you like my coffee or not, but
wondering why he wouldn’t open up kept her from doing so. She picked
at a fingernail. Gee, sure would be nice to get to know this guy.
Finally she ventured, “Do you like to dance?”
Without taking his eyes off the TV,
Jim gave a slight nod.
Julie twisted her hands together.
“There’s a great band playing at the Blue Moon Lounge in Saugus
tomorrow night. Wanna go?”
His voice was barely audible when he
said, “Shur.” He put down his empty coffee cup and got to his feet.
“Be ready at seven.” And just like that, Jim Martin was out the
Julie stood there, stunned, staring
at the door that remained ajar. Moments passed. Finally she got up
off the sofa and plodded across the room. After closing the door and
securing both locks, she turned and leaned against it. Dull eyes
fell upon the mess that Jim had left behind. Without letting her
mind quibble about it, Julie cleaned it up. After all, she had to
count herself lucky to have any company at all.
The next day, Julie Spencer was
still unsure of what to make of Jim Martin. That inner voice told
her once again not to stop by the construction site on her way home
from work. But like before, she cast it aside just as easily as the
wave of her hand that dismissed the hecklers as she stepped up to
Jim and muttered, “Hi.”
“Hey,” Jim snorted while going about
Julie felt as if she was standing
naked in the middle of an unforgiving desert. The other guys
taunted, circling like hyenas around their next meal. “What’s the
matter? Jimbo’s kinda on his quiet side today, missy?”
Disgusted by their rudeness and
Jim’s ambivalence, Julie blasted, “Remember, Blue Moon Lounge
tonight. Seven. That’s what you said.” She spun around and started
for home. Laughter reverberated in her head long after she got out
of range. What the heck was wrong with that Jim Martin anyway? That
moron had made absolutely no effort to put off those jackals.
It was after eight-thirty when Jim
finally showed up at her flat. Again, he offered no excuses for his
tardiness nor did his face show any sign of emotion when he mumbled,
Anger or relief? Julie weighed her
emotions. She wasn’t at all sure that she wanted to go any more. But
when Jim disappeared out the door, she grabbed her coat and rushed
after him. On the way to the Blue Moon Lounge, she sat sideways in
the front seat of his car and jabbered on and on. Hey, if he didn’t
want to talk, she would. As they walked through the parking lot, she
grabbed his hand. A look of disdain sheeted his face that was
unmistakable even beneath the dim streetlight. He shook her off,
saying, “I hate public displays of affection.”
Jim Martin sure could dance, slow
songs, fast songs, didn’t matter. Hey, that was great, Julie
thought. Most guys didn’t dance half that much, that is, if they
danced at all. But Jim never looked at her while they were dancing
and that bothered Julie. He didn’t have much to say either. His eyes
were always off in the distance, unfocused, as if he was grooving
along to the music without a partner.
Several hours later, Julie and Jim
were sitting in his car outside her flat. She gazed at him. The
streetlight shrouded his dark, silent profile. His hands gripped the
steering wheel. She wanted to be kissed, but he made no moves, so
she placed a hand on top of his. He glanced at her as if not at all
surprised. She curled up next to him and looked up, begging to be
kissed. He got the message loud and clear. His lips fell upon hers,
cold, passionless, hard. An overwhelming sense of fear and
exhilaration shot through her. “Wanna come in?” she whispered.
Though the lighting wasn’t all that
good, it seemed as if a slight smirk accompanied his nod. Well,
Julie soughed it off. She’s usually wrong about stuff like that. Out
of the corner of her eye, she noticed him reaching under the seat
for a brown paper bag. She disregarded that, too. Nothing mattered.
Nothing at all. No, he was following her into the apartment. That’s
all Julie cared about.