Time Has A Way (preview)

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CHAPTER 1   

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?

Memory refused answer.

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 important?

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.

Julie Spencer 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 his face.

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 working here?”

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 rugged hunk.

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 bull.”

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 room.

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 door.

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 his business.

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, “Let’s go.”

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.

 


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