That was the night I'll never forget .
I'm sure everyone knows that weird feeling of being followed. This stupid sense that someone stalks you every day and every night and when you turn around to catch the culprit, he disappears into thin air. If, indeed, there is someone following you. Because most of the times, it's only the fishy neighbor who's jealous of your new shoes or a kitty hidden behind trash bins. Isn't it? And what if I told you, you were verily stalked? That someone did follow you and he wasn't that fast to hide behind a tree? That your eyes, simply, weren't made to see him
? Would you believe me then
? Because you know
you should wear glasses.
Friday was my favorite day. It was the last day of the week that I had college classes and most my weekends were free of work. I worked in a local candy shop around four blocks away from my house; a cute little house with a storehouse and a big yard. Well, actually, I had the whole forest as my yard because my house was the only one in the village so close to it. Big fir and almond trees were invading my space as it was theirs. I had to collect branches and leaves all the time but at least I had stock for the fireplace. The winter was heavy and cold there. The nights were coming fast and everything would go in dark in a minute. That winter wasn't an exception.
It was almost seven o'clock when I finished my shift and left Mrs. Patty's shop. As always she forced on me a package of chocolate muffins, not that I didn't want them, but she was always so nice giving all these sweets to me that I was starting to feel bad
. and fat. I thanked her for her kindness and walked out in the cold night. It was only seven and it felt like midnight. I tied my scarf around my neck and squeezed the coat closer to my body. It was a cold night. My breath made clouds in the air. When I was a kid, I used to play like this with my sister all the time. Who would make the bigger ones. Now, I was too tired to care anymore. Back then, things were different
Yes, they were. I shook these memories off my head and started walking back home. I couldn't wait to get in the house's warmth. I wouldn't resist a mug of hot coffee.
The streets were strangely empty that day. I expected to see for sure Mr. Towson taking out Betsy, his three year old dog, for a walk and Mrs. Marshall coming back from hairdresser's but none of them crossed by the usual alley. I watched my clock. It was a quarter past seven. It felt strange but I shook the feeling. It's a cold night, maybe not today. , that was what I thought and kept moving.
But that feeling, a hunch that something was off, didn't leave me. As I kept walking, the hunch stopped being just an idea but it became certainty; a certainty that tonight wasn't a normal night, a certainty that someone was following me. I turned around. No one was there. I scanned the area quickly with my eyes. The only thing moving was a candy wrapper by the blow of wind. I turned back and started walking again at the same pace. I was all ears to catch the slightest movement. On the ball, alert for anything out of ordinary.
A breaking sound made me flinch. I turned around again prepared to see the culprit. Instead, I saw a twig broken in two. I stepped closed and looked first up to the high tree and then down to the wood. It didn't look like it had broken from the fall. I bent down to it and stretched my arm to touch it. Just before my fingers grabbed it, the lamppost above me flickered. My body stretched up like an arrow. That wasn't a coincidence, it hadn't to be. Cold fingers ran down my spine, caressing it and a sweet breath blew to my ear. I squeaked and ran away. I ran without looking back. If someone was indeed there, I didn't know. I just ran until my legs became weak and started to break and my lungs screamed for oxygen.
When I stopped and hid behind a wall, I realized that I hadn't walked away much. If I wanted, I could pop my head out and still watch that spot; which was disappointing because I was out of breath. If my stalker was still there, he had me easily. Which then made me think that I was out of shape and had to work out. In my frenzy and without noticing it, my body moved on its own to the edge of the wall and my head tilted to the right out of it. I shocked realized that no one was there and that the lamppost was off. In the end, the bulb just burned. I moved back and rested against the wall. I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths.
A couple of minutes later and after I settled with myself that I was paranoid, I walked to my house again. Nothing happened this time. Two blocks later, I saw people gathered to a new restaurant having its opening that night. Everything made sense that moment. I passed by and said hello to some friends. They dragged me in for quite some time ending being too late.
It must have passed at least two hours when I finally got inside the house. I took off the coat and the scarf and opened the TV. There was a movie I wanted to see and wasn't sure if I had caught it up in the end. I walked to the kitchen to put the muffins on a plate and some coffee in the machine. I checked my watch. What I saw made me frown. I hit the clock with a finger a couple of times and placed it closer to my ear. It was ticking. Then why it was still pointing at quarter past seven? When my brain made the connection, my blood froze.
That weekend I didn't go out of the house. I was walking from the one room to the other with only a sock on my feet and a blanket around my shoulders. I was too self-conscious to risk it. Someone was around my house and I was too scared to walk out alone. I called my best friend and told her that if I died these past few days, I'll leave to her all my lingerie. Of course, she cursed me and hung up the phone.
As much as I tried to calm myself, I didn't nail it. The quantity of coffee I drank didn't help much either. Once again, I ended up with a cup of coffee wandering inside the house. I walked to the window and sat on the sill. I moved the curtain away and stared outside. I used to make that move too often those two days. Like it would help protecting my space. Nothing was there ten minutes ago so why would it be now?, I said to myself and rolled my eyes. But out of the blue, something glittered in the dark night for an instant and then disappeared behind a bush. That wasn't in my head. The bush was still moving.
I left the cup on the table and grabbed my coat. With the slippers on I ran out in the cold night towards to the same spot. The chill air burned my bare feet but I kept moving. When arrived, no one was there. I looked around frustrated. The forest was quiet and empty. I breathed out. A light breeze blew moving something along it. I saw a candy wrapper flying before my eyes. I moved my hand and grabbed it. It was the same wrapper as that Friday night. A light green paper with red dots on it. It looked familiar. I put it close to my nose and smelled it. Sweet. And then everything made sense. It was him. I clenched the wrapper and walked inside the forest.
I didn't know if I was heading right or I was just making circles. The only thing I knew was that my heart was leading me. And I was going deep down. When I noticed that everything looked darker, I realized that I was getting deeper to the forest. And that was good unless a wolf showed up and attacked me. But that night, no wolf appeared. At some point, the trees started looking sparse. Just a few of them here and there. I leaned to rest on a trunk.
"Hey, Sophy.", a voice said.
I raised my head to his voice. He was sitting on the roots of a willow tree. Its long, thin branches were covering him like curtains but I still could see the familiar faint glow around his body. His long, golden hair was lying on his shoulders. He had his mask on, a deep blue on with glittering stones on it, as usual. He unwrapped the candy and ate it.
"Do you remember these, Sophy?", he asked me.
"Yes.", I replied. "How couldn't I
"You remember me?", he said and stared me with intense eyes.
"Why are you crying, boy?", I asked him. "You want a candy? It'll make you feel better."
He was a boy around my age; we would probably go to the same middle school as me. I was on my way to school when I saw him sitting on a willow tree a few meters off the road. The boy raised his head and stared me with wide, green eyes. He rubbed them, they were red and leaned down from the branch.
"You can see me?", he asked like it was impossible.
", I said kinda confused.
"Really, really?", he asked again with excitement.
"Are you stupid? Of course I can.", I had started to get irritated. "Anyway, why are you crying?"
Only then he realized that his face was exposed. He wore a deep blue mask, like these ones we wore in the carnivals and came down.
"Oh, it's nothing.", he said with a smile. "You really can see me?"
"Okay, I'm leaving."
"No, no wait."
"I'm late for school."
"Come on!", he begged.
I stopped. "Why are you asking me this thing all the time? I'm not blind, you know!"
. Emmm...", he looked embarrassed.
"Okay.", I started walking again.
"Wait!", he said and held my hand. "Okay, I'll tell you but you won't say it to anyone. You promise?"
He didn't seem convinced.
"Okay, I promise."
Cause, I'm a spirit
He wasn't a kid anymore but he looked exactly the same. Like it was yesterday.
"I do.", I nodded.
", he said in a low voice.
"After all we've been through, you woke up one day and abandoned me
without a word, without a goodbye
"LEON!", I screamed.
He raised his face and looked me in the eyes. His eyes widened because of my crying ones. He flew to my side and landed in front of me. His white kimono fluttered. He moved his hands to hold my face.
"I hadn't a choice.", I stuttered. "M-my parents took me away. I hadn't time to tell you. I-I-I'm sorry
", I burst into tears.
His hands moved to my face and held me closer to his body. He was cold now. Not like I remembered him. As harder I was crying, as stronger he was pressing me on his body.
"It's okay now.", he told me. "I found you as you found me back then."
I moved back from his embrace and looked him in the eyes.
"Can you see me?", I asked him.
He smiled to me. "Yeah
I smiled to him back.
"You want a candy? It'll make you feel better?", he used my line.
"Yeah, okay.", I laughed.
He searched his pockets and then tilted his head with empty hands.
. It looks like I ran out of them."
"Nah, it's okay."
"Is it?", he said with a cunning face and leaned to my side.