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Royal Curse-Fiction by Donald D. Shore
Order Up. One Alibi to Go-Fiction by M. A. De Neve
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Stegmann's Basement_Flash Fiction by Peter DiChellis
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Converse Canvas Tennis Shoe Lying on the Road-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
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boo!-Poem by Meg Baird
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The Name-Poem by Melissa Dobson
Direction-Poem by Jonathan Butcher
The Escape-Poem by Jonathan Butcher
Rolly Pollies-Poem by Alex Salinas
Smoke Dream-Poem by Alex Salinas
Son of a Gun-Poem by Christopher Kenneth Hanson
Stand-Up-Poem by Christopher Kenneth Hanson
The Artificial Lighting-Poem by John D. Robinson
Free Doses-Poem by John D. Robinson
Here We Are, You & I-Poem by John D. Robinson
Wanderer-Poem by David Spicer
Raconteur-Poem by David Spicer
Desperado-Poem by David Spicer
Strange Days at Cafe Bizarro-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
Night Revelations in Bizarro Country-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
The Room with a No-Exit Sign-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
The Nameless-Poem by John Grey
The Time of the Spider-Poem by John Grey
Good Luck to Whoever Finds My Body-Poem by John Grey
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

ym_76_oct19_thewatcher.jpg
Art by Henry Stanton 2019

THE WATCHER

 

BY JACQUELINE M. MORAN

 

My boots crush the virgin snow as I labor through the storm. I jostle past a patch of close-knit trees. Hidden branches catch my gloved hands, which are splayed in front of my face, protecting my eyes from injury. The noise coming from the snapping twigs worries me, as does the risk of falling into a white camouflaged ditch. No moon or stars guide my path, as the snowfall obscures all light, but carrying a flashlight will draw unwanted attention. Trespassing through rural properties requires stealth.

A comforting scent of burning wood fills the air. The house stands close by. A dim yellow glow filters through the pine trees and reflects off the snow in the clearing up ahead. The light gets brighter with each step. Rescued out of near blindness, I soon find myself staring at the back of Melody’s home.

The old pink Victorian house appears immaculate and small. The windows cast the familiar brilliance of a household at night. Smoke billows from the chimney and I imagine the warmth, friends would find inside, but I remain unwelcome.

The structure resembles a sturdy dollhouse. The interior is decorated with miniature modern furniture, tiny lamps, and petite original art. All this simple splendor exists for the living dolls moving about on the shiny wood floors. A life I watch others live without me.

Melody is washing dishes in her kitchen sink. Her beauty faded this year. A pale puffy face with dead eyes stares out the window as I stare inside. Dirty drab hair with dark roots replaces her once long blonde straight hair. Wrinkles crease her brow and deep smoker's lines stream down the corners of her mouth. No longer slim, her jaw line is gone and replaced with a fold of fat.

A light brightens an upstairs room and I glance up and to the top right window. The oldest daughter sits on a bed staring at something in her lap, perhaps a phone or a book. Oh, great. The girl has on headphones and won't be able to hear me later.

Peering back into the downstairs kitchen window, I don’t see Melody. Hoping my black ski outfit will cloak me in invisibility, I step sideways, and hunker down, behind a nearby bush. The view of the inside of the house improves from here. The young twin girls sit on the floor of the family room in front of the fireplace, playing a board game. Their mother speaks to them with her lined mouth and flails her arms as she explains something. I like imagining her as a puppet being manipulated by strings from someone up above.

The twins get up and race through the hallway to the front door. Melody turns on the foyer light and opens the thick oak door. The husband, Matt, smiles as he enters the home. The couple kisses before Matt bends down and picks up the girls with his broad frame and strong arms. The five-year-olds wipe the snow off his handsome head.

They sit at the table and eat. The older daughter remains in her room. They look like a happy family.

The four of them stop what they were doing at the exact time and set down their forks. For a second, I think they hear me outside, but as they look up at the ceiling, I realize who must be making noise. Matt smiles and makes a hand gesture to his family, which suggests they should continue eating. The daddy of four girls walks up the back staircase from the kitchen that leads to the baby’s room. A moment later, the nursery light goes on. Matt picks up the prize. There she is; their future anguish, all pretty in pink. He kisses their darling chubby four-month-old giggling girl several times on her cheeks and neck. His smile, an expression of pure joy.

Matt exits the nursery. In a few minutes, I see him enter the oldest child's room, beautiful baby in hand. They startle the pre-teen who rips off her headphones to yell at her dad and puts them back on. He shrugs his shoulders and kisses her petulant head before leaving the room. Such spoiled kids.

I am watching them all play with the baby. She is the complete focus of their attention.

I met Melody a year ago through Sara, a mutual friend. Sara had gotten a divorce and decided to move to London. The three of us had a pleasant dinner together before her move.  Sara and I became friends in college, but we didn't see each other often over the years because she moved quite a lot. She was childless, like me. Melody and Sara met through work.  Advertising, I surmised.

Out of a job, unmarried, and without children, I moved back in with my parents at the age of forty-two. Meeting Melody felt like a gift. Three months pregnant at the time, she glowed with health and happiness. Although she didn't work, I pretended to be impressed with her food pantry drives, girl scout troop, and PTA presidency. By the end of the evening, we exchanged telephone numbers.

When we first became friends. We spoke on the phone and I visited her, about four weeks later, at her house. Five months into the relationship I still remained unemployed and my parents were annoyed. Melody had four weeks until her due date.

By month seven I called twice a day. I still had no job. I liked calling Melody as her voice comforted me and I felt less lonely. I also liked to hear about her pregnancy. It was going well. By this point, I believed she thought of me as her best friend. Her sister visited constantly.

The sister's jealousy came between us. This was made clear. I never received an invitation to her house again.

“Hello, Andrea. You didn’t have any luck? I am sorry….” Sara said, answering my phone call. The fourth of the day.

In the background, I heard her sister speak in a hushed but loud tone. I think she wanted me to hear her.

"Is it her again? You are way too accommodating. Hang up! She is scary crazy. I know you pity her, but she isn't your responsibility. Mama always said, 'Melody always tries to save the strays.' Sometimes strays scratch. Stop it!”

 Melody kept on speaking unaware I heard everything her sister said. What a bitch!

This is when She enacted communication limits on me.

"Hello, Andrea. I’m due and day now and almost ready to burst. It's hectic getting the kids up, cooking breakfast and making sure we can get to school on time. I can't talk on the phone. I’m sure you get it."

She sent me a text! A Healthy baby arrived! I wanted to visit.

"Hi, Andrea. I know you didn't mean to, but the phone woke my baby girl. It took a long time to get her to sleep. Don't call around nap time. Sorry!"

“Sorry I am not up for visitors.”

"Can't talk. The kids are walking off the bus."

Eight months into the friendship she started responding a lot less and sending back shorter and colder texts.

Dinner time. I am feeling a little blue today. Might be postpartum crap. I am not sure.

Bath time. I wish I could grow eight hands when needed.

Matt's home.

The whole family is here.

Super busy. 

Sick.

Hectic.

Swamped!

I blamed her sister. Our relationship changed after I overheard what that jealous psycho said as I spoke to Melody on the phone that day. That woman almost ruined everything by shining a light of mistrust on me. Melody stopped texting back. I couldn't leave phone messages at all because her voice mail was full. I guess she never listened to any of them.

Soon, she stopped interacting with me altogether. She ghosted me!  In fact, I realized she never called me. Ever. Not once. She now used the new baby as an excuse.

I will not come last!

With great difficulty, I didn’t call Melody for thirty days. I worried about her and the baby. I disguised myself and took trips, using my parent’s boring car to pass by her house, trying to get a glimpse of them.

I called after the four weeks passed and she answered.

"Hi.  My sister passed away nineteen days ago. She died in an accident. It’s not easy for me to get out of bed, let alone care for the baby. I stopped nursing her. The police believe she hit a patch of black ice as she drove to work early in the morning. She skidded off the road and the car flipped going down a steep embankment. When she didn't show up for surgery, the hospital called, and we called everyone we knew.  The police found her dead."

Melody sobbed for an hour and I listened. I was in heaven. She needed me.

What Melody didn’t know is that I followed her sister for a week to memorize her schedule. She drove to work before dawn on Wednesdays. There is one short curvy stretch on Elk Mountain that did not have a guardrail, but it did have a steep drop. If I was lucky and hit her bumper at the right time, it would be possible to send her car flying off that road.  There would be no paint or residue from my car. I brought my unlicensed gun, that I bought from some thug in Florida, with me. I would use it if necessary.

I followed the bitch from her house. I knew where she was going so there was no need to trail closely. I sped up as I drove up the mountain then I got very close behind her honking my horn, trying to scare and distract her. I got to the spot where there was no median to protect her from the sheer drop off the mountain. I rammed into the back of her car going 30 miles an hour. She swerved and lost control of her car. As I watched her car fall over the edge of the 100-foot drop I crossed my fingers and prayed she would die. I had to do it. I had no choice. She was ruining everything.

Before long I started calling Melody every day again and sometimes, she answered, and I listened to her cry. I thought an invitation would be imminent. Maybe after she got over her sister's death, but none came.

She stopped picking up my telephone calls and she didn’t answer any of my hundreds of text messages. Enough was enough! Ten days ago, I showed up at her front door with a cake and flowers. No one answered, although I saw movement in the house and her car in the driveway. Rude! Mean! It took me hours in bumper to bumper traffic to get there. I fumed as I drove back to my house. I threw the flowers out the window on the highway and ate the cake with my bare hands, shoving fistfuls of it into my mouth. Too busy? Or too busy for me?

Oh, please! The woman didn't work and spent her time preparing peanut butter sandwiches. Why would anyone prefer to help other people's dreams come true instead of their own? I don’t understand. She must be so bored. I was not working at the moment, but I have a career. She's a babysitter and laundress.

Melody doesn't know how many ways I could destroy her character. People want to believe lies. A spoken lie always becomes someone's truth. I could say she is cheating, abusive, intoxicated or suicidal. But I won't do that because I want something else from her.

When I went back home, I called eighteen times before Matt picked up.

"Listen closely, Andrea. I am only going to say this once. We obtained a restraining order against you. My wife felt bad for you, but you cannot take a hint, can you? Do not come to my home again. Leave us alone. You’re not welcome. Am I clear?”

After he hung up and blocked me, I went into plan ‘b’ mode and began orchestrating the plans for tonight.

I have my problems too! I gave up looking for work. My past employers would not give me a decent reference. I won a harassment lawsuit from the financial firm I worked at. My boss would not go the next step to cement our relationship. How dare he humiliate me! I recorded him, saying he found me to be attractive. I edited out the parts where he said he had no feelings for me and that he would report me for my stalking behavior against him.  He pressed me to get help and said I was delusional.

Angry at the rejection and false accusations, I acted first. I told the managing partners he harassed me for ages with unwanted attention. I had my short recording as proof. I destroyed the bastard’s life. They fired him and his wife took the kids and filed for divorce. The police discovered his body in the garage with the car running later that week. He committed suicide. What a baby!

The company found an accounting discrepancy I had made and used that as an excuse to fire me, soon after his death.

Now, here I am, standing in a snowstorm.

I continue to watch the family wind down for the evening until the house becomes dark.

Patience.

I wait.

Thankfully, they don’t have an alarm. Melody doesn’t know I stole a house key. I took it from their key rack in the kitchen months ago—long before they banned me. The bastards!

The snow will cover my tracks after walking back to the car I parked several blocks away.

I can take one. She will still have three.

I will walk quietly up the back staircase. The baby’s room is conveniently down the hall from the other bedrooms. I brought my gun in case anyone wakes up.

The infant will not remember them, and I try out being a mom.

My parents will be glad to be rid of me. It exhausts them to assist me with my break downs. They tell me I abuse them. My psychiatric hospital stints drained them of their retirement funds. I don't want to pay for their rent in their old age. I placed the fake suicide note on my mom's pillow. They won't search long for me.

A suitcase filled with the lawsuit cash sits in my trunk.

I bought a car seat and baby supplies on my ride up to Melody’s house.

We will drive until we disappear.

Me and my new daughter.

I got what I wanted.

No one will find us, and Melody will suffer, as she should.

 

THE END





Jacqueline Moran Meyer is a writer, artist and small business owner living in New York, where she received her master’s degree from Teacher’s College, Columbia University.  Jacqueline loves to read short stories, especially by O. Henry, Alice Munro, and Ray Bradbury. She also enjoys time with her family, hiking with her dog, and watching scary movies. Website: jmoranmeyer.net <http://jmoranmeyer.net/>



Henry Stanton's fiction, poetry and paintings appear in 2River, The A3 Review, Avatar, The Baltimore City Paper, The Baltimore Sun Magazine, High Shelf Press, Kestrel, North of Oxford, Outlaw Poetry, PCC Inscape, Pindeldyboz, Rusty Truck, Salt & Syntax, SmokeLong Quarterly, The William and Mary Review, Word Riot, The Write Launch, and Yellow Mama, among other publications. 

His poetry was selected for the A3 Review Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Eyewear 9th Fortnight Prize for Poetry.  His fiction received an Honorable Mention acceptance for the Salt & Syntax Fiction Contest and was selected as a finalist for the Pen 2 Paper Annual Writing Contest.

A selection of Henry Stanton's paintings are currently on show at Atwater's Catonsville and can be viewed at the following website www.brightportfal.com.  A selection of Henry Stanton’s published fiction and poetry can be located for reading in the library at www.brightportfal.com.

Henry Stanton is the Founding & Managing Editor of The Raw Art Reviewwww.therawartreview.com.






In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2019