I call in sick the next day for my shift from three to ten since I haven't been able to sleep at all the whole night. Every time I close my eyes I just see those yellow, inhuman eyes staring at me, analysing me.
Lying now in bed, I don't even recall getting home. I was so scared that I think I must have sped home, crossing through red lights and zooming past houses. I shivered the whole night. Though I know that whatever had been in the woods isn't here in my room, I still remember the burning sensation of its stare.
Dad left for work several hours ago, letting me know of his departure with a single knock on my bedroom door. I watched the light of the day change as morning and afternoon come and go, sending flickering shadows across my wooden floors. I don't have another shift for several days, so I lie in my solace of knowing that I don't have to move for a while.
I contemplate telling someone about what I saw, but who will I tell? Who will believe me? I can't tell dad because he probably won't even pay attention in the first place. Tony and Pat are out of the question, and so are all my other friends since they're all going to take Tony's side.
I bury my head deeper into my pillow and try to finally catch some sleep. I haven't eaten all day and it feels like I won't be able to, even if I try. My stomach makes a silent promise to throw up anything I offer it, so I don't take any chances.
My Blackberry Bold vibrates on my desk and I grumble about having to get up. It'll be a miracle if I get any sleep at all today at the rate things are going. My phone vibrates again, sending a loud vrrr around the quiet room. Through my closed windows I can hear kids playing on their lawns and cars passing by. The world is still going on normally, as if nothing has happened at all.
One last warning from my phone finally motivates me to get up out of bed. I walk groggily towards my desk and grab my flashing phone. I click the touch pad and see that Pat has sent me various messages:
-Hey babe, i need u 2 call me ASAP. It's rly important! Luv u!
-Babe, srsly, call me, we need 2 talk! Luv u
-Look, wat Tony said, i can explain, pls, jst call me, i luv u.
I roll my eyes and see that he's called various times, but since I was out of it all night, especially when, shudder, I was out on the Burlington mountain. My cell had remained inside my locked car.
I sigh and slowly look up his name in the phone number directory. It's going to be a pain, having to talk to him, but I want him off my back and I don't want him calling later in case I somehow manage to fall asleep.
I press the green call button and wait. The ring tone sounds in my ear and my eyes begin to droop. I really should have gotten some sleep last night.
"Hello?" Pat's voice is deep and once, when we'd been dating, I thought it was sexy. Now, I just think it sounds lazy. "Babe?"
I always hated that nickname. I'm no feminist, but even I can see the demeaning qualities of such a name. Especially coming from a muscle head linebacker like him. His blond hair and daring hazel eyes had drawn me in, his attitude and cocky behaviour had pushed me away. For a year we were on-again-off-again because of his attitude and comments. He is the type of person who says inappropriate comments at the wrong time and not even realizes it unless someone hits him real hard.
"Hey Pat," I whisper into the phone. I look up at my ceiling, hoping that this is quick and painless. For him. "It's me."
Pat lets out a sigh of relief and without me even seeing him, I know that he is ruffling his curls. All the girls in school had told me how lucky I was when we started dating in grade ten. Maybe he'd been with them too while I ogled him unknowingly.
"Did you get any of my messages?" His voice sounds tired, like maybe he too spent the whole night awake.
"Yeah, just saw them now."
"Jeeze Clara, I'm so sorry."
Guess he's not in the mood to sweet talk his way into this.
"Yes baby, I am. I feel like crap. I haven't been able to sleep or stop thinking about you."
I let the line go quiet for a few seconds, wondering how we got here. When Pat first asked me out after our grade ten science class, I was ecstatic. He'd gotten me a single rose and presented it to me like a prince. I was completely head-over-heels. He was all I could think about for the first few months, which was a relief since mom had just died.
"Pat, it doesn't matter." I say quietly, lying down on my bed. "We're done anyway."
"But," he stutters, "I thought, I was just wondering, weren't we getting back together?"
I rub my eyes and try to ignore the gnawing feeling in my stomach that this isn't going to be easy. Great, something else to lose sleep over.
"Pat, we were just friends... with benefits. You know that."
He sighs, the frown on his face showing in his voice. "I know, but still, it doesn't mean that I don't care about you."
"I know, and I care about you too, but I can't do it any more. We can't be... doing these things while you go and do it with someone else."
"Clara, look, I'm sorry," Pat says in a childish whisper.
I stand up and roll my neck, trying to get the sickly feeling of ending it once and for all with Pat out of my system. "I know you are Pat, but isn't it better that we stay as friends?"
"When Tony said that she'd made you cry after she told you, I thought you'd hate me forever." His voice changes, determined. "She said you looked hurt."
"It's more complicated than that, Pat," I explain, pacing around my room. I don't want to tell him that what hurt more was the fact that Tony, my best friend, had used such hurtful information against me.
"Well, then explain it all to me, because I don't get how my girlfriend can act so normal after finding out that I've been cheating on her."
The sting of annoyance hits me from out of nowhere.
"Yeah, right. Girlfriend."
I stop pacing. And look around my room. What the hell was that? I could have sworn someone had whispered something in my ear. I know it wasn't Pat because he's busy trying to get me to accept that he was cheating on me. Plus, this voice felt and sounded like a warm summer breeze, caressing my ear and neck.
"Clara? Are you there?" Pat's gruff voice is calling out to me from my forgotten phone pressed to my ear.
"Yeah," I say, taking a deep breath and closing my eyes. That's it, I'm certifiable. First the random guy from my dream, then the creepy eyes in the forest, and now voices? I'm going crazy. Too much stress. Too many lies. Something is messing with me. "I gotta go, Pat."
"Wait, Clara, does that mean you're pissed at me?"
"No, Pat. We're just friends." I end the call and put my Blackberry back on the desk, before walking towards my bedroom window. Carefully, I move one of the window blind slats and look outside. My room faces our backyard. The grass is cut every weekend by some neighbourhood kids in need of money and our gazebo sits at the centre of the yard, painted white with flowers growing up the sides. Since mom loved it so much, dad has made sure to maintain it. I look around the yard and spot the guy I saw yesterday outside of Starbucks and from my dreams staring up at my bedroom window. Our eyes connect and an electric current seems to rage between us. He smirks softly and I take in his beautiful grey eyes and sharp facial structure.
Vrrr. My Blackberry sounds behind me on my desk, making me jump. The reaction makes me break eye contact with the stranger. "Crap," I swear, picking up the phone. Pat is calling again, so I press ignore.
I quickly head back to the window, ready to examine the stranger some more only to find that he is no longer there.
Shivers race through my body as I suddenly recall the creature from last night and the sudden appearances and disappearances of this beautiful stranger.