Wednesday, 4 October 2017

The stranger from NYC who never sleeps


New York City, December 2003  

Ashley

How far is too far? Where does the limit between addiction and obsession lie? Watching him from your window, watching him from afar every night as the tower-blocks twinkle and the moon magnetizes is innocent, sort of sweet I suppose. I'm so fucking unhappy. And he’s so fucking hot. Blond and serious and sexy. He lives in the apartment opposite mine. The gap in my bedroom window allows not only a perfect breeze to drift through, but serves as a scenic spot where I can watch. And watch him I do. He spends sleepless nights in a leather chair, reading books and holding hands to his head in a bid to rid him of the thundering headaches he suffers from. I know this because I’ve followed him everywhere, from the café to the chemist, to the park and to the bookstore. I know his every move. It’s traced on my memory like a series of stinging scars. I spend my days keeping a destroying distance, just so I can keep him close. He never notices. He never notices anyone. I get the feeling he’s as lonely as me because when he looks at you he looks through you. It’s as if his mind is mirrored into some kind of devastated disconnection from the whole of New York City. From the whole world, even.


I wish I knew how to make him happy. How to even attempt to fix the broken glass of his blood and pool out the poison. I curse my view, sometimes. He always looks so destroyed, so hopelessly unhappy. It would be nice to get a reverie of a different room; his bedroom perhaps (him with or without his Calvin Kleins), or his bathroom (him in the power shower). My sister admitted he was cute, but not her type. She’s more of a dark and dreamy Dean Cain while I like the rougher, blonder babe. Think Ryan Phillippe in I Know What You Did Last Summer but edgier/more mysterious/hotter/older/more stubble. We’d watched my stranger one day at the bookstore, the one he vacates on a Saturday afternoon from two till six. Before it became a fix, I told her I liked the look of him. She went over and asked if he’d join us. He didn’t look up, said no with a curt nod that cut her convo short. He was British, she said. Had a deep voice with an accent she couldn’t quite make out (Northern, I’d find out years later). In the summer we’d spied him in Central Park (she’d spied him, I’d plotted that he’d be there as his faithful schedule predicted). He slathered suncream on himself and lay topless on his front on the grass. My sister found it hilarious. I don’t think she’d think it so funny now, somehow. Not if she knew he’s the only ache keeping me alive.  

Is it any wonder that he’s become an illusion to snatch, like a faraway star? The amount of times I’ve considered pills, or worse. There is no amount of sugarcoating; my husband hates me just as much as I hate him. It isn’t a bitter pill to swallow, I lodged it down my throat long ago. He wouldn’t even check for a pulse, I don’t think. Why would he when there’s cable to flick through and bottled beers in the chiller? Out of my window at night, I stay vexed up. He’s turned me into an insomniac. Just like him. I don’t just watch, I fixate on a billion fantasies that dazzle like Brooklyn Bridge at twilight. I can taste the triumph as I pack a bag and walk out on my holy matrimony. The cake and confetti, the champagne that stays on my tongue; an everlasting bath of booze. Sometimes I relish the realism of being trapped in my own mind. Cells and blood crashing together to form a fantasy frothing over with security and secrecy. It’s better, somehow. Better than facing the cold hard truth. I’ve tried to talk to him before, shoved into him a little too hard in the street, asked if the book propped up on his lap is any good but he just looks through me, like I'm the illusion. 

I watched him from my window because I was hooked, not haunted. And I kept his phone when he left it on the café counter because… because I… cared. I cared about him. Where was the crime in discovering who he truly was? I’m trashing his apartment because….because this has all got so out of hand. I need to know. Need to know why this girl has such a hold over him, the way I can’t. The way no girl in the whole of this city can. She broke his heart and I won’t stop mixing with this myth until I die. Oxygen crashes as I realise I’m circling myself in the same air as he often associates with. The thought leaves me feeling woozier than the tequila can claim. His apartment is stripped down, bare almost. Purple curtains cloak the room in a velvet prison of privacy. There’s a small black refrigerator, a kettle, a bookstand. That’s it, nothing else? His bedroom is charocal grey, curtains a blazing black. The sight isn’t spectacular, no glittering skyline or Brooklyn Bridge or Broadway. Just a few jammed yellow cabs, a stream of music tinkling out and a few people yelling. I search high and low, before uncovering a box of photos under his bed. Her. It is her. This isn't some sick joke. Photographs of them together. He looks so happy.... like a different guy. 

I’m going to make you so happy, promise. He can’t hurt you anymore. Here’s to us, on our honeymoon. Love you. J X

It wasn’t their honeymoon. But I wasn’t to know that yet. In my eyes she’d exchanged vows and rings with the guy I was mad about and that made me tip his place upside down in the hope of understanding.

One day he left his phone on the café counter. I should have ran out after him, finally struck up the conversation that’s been burning on my brain for weeks, months. Years. It’s been two years since I started watching, following, waiting. Wanting. But I didn’t. It’s my lifeline, my in. I found out his name at long last: Jed. I’m not sure what to make of that. For some reason I’d thought his name might be… I don’t know. Turns out he’s a popular guy, a hunted man. A hunted man who never responds to callers on the other end of his eternal line….is this story all over the place? I'm sorry. Maybe now you know how I feel. Do you know what it's like, living like this? You just don't. You just can't. 
I didn’t realise, at first. Didn’t realise how serious it was, just why all these people were ringing him, leaving voicemails, texts. Day and night. British accents, all these British accents. Gradually the texts got frantically urgent with amped up anticipation,  stifled screams and tears that I could almost taste. A hospital was mentioned. Life support was mentioned. TURN ON THE NEWS, YOU’LL SEE HER FOR YOURSELFOne night I sat shaking, his phone in my hand and my heart in my mouth. I switched from CNN to BBC, and there she was. This girl with dark hair and a freckled face. His girl. Her stare scorched through my system. I wondered what I always wonder: ‘how could she not have known?!’He was responsible for burning her ablaze, a cottage, in the middle of nowhere. This was fucking awful, a bomb I had to detonate. If he knew, if he found out. I replayed the voicemails, fear gripping and façade falling.
I manage to charm the security guard into giving me a spare key to his apartment, apartment 333. I know it’s number 333 because I’ve followed him in twice, meaning to knock on his door and introduce myself before freaking out and going home to my husband. Jed’s out tonight, because it’s Thursday and every other Thursday night he meets a friend at some bar downtown. He always looks so tortured, so unhappy. He doesn’t swagger down the streets like most guys around here, he keeps his head low and his lips sealed shut. He’s gorgeous but lonely and reachable but untouchable. At first I pitied him and the life he’s chosen to live. But then it hit me like hail that I’m the ruptured one; following around a fantasy cloaked in his own closure. If he’s empty of emotion with a vexed void and a loneliness enough to blast this city apart, then who does that make me? Stalking a guy she can never have, living a life through dazed daydreams and heated hope. A lot of girls check him out, but he remains untouched. I wonder who did this to him, wonder if she realises the damage she’s done. I’ve never thought of myself as a cold killer before but sometimes violence plagues my mind like a flickering film, soundless, just blood.

‘What are you doing in my apartment?’ He’s behind me, suddenly. I can’t quite breathe, I can’t even feel the throb of my heart, only the whirr of my brain as I drink him in. Better looking up so close. I’m screwed. A red rash has crept up his neck but it almost serves me with more affection. He looks angry and hot and bothered. More hot, but certainly bothered. His brown eyes bore into mine, beads of ice falling from his leather jacket to the floor. Break the ice. Say something, God, tell him. 
‘Okay, okay, this is going to sound really weird but I wondered if you fancied getting a drink sometime? I’ve seen you at the bookstore and around and- okay I’ve been following you a bit. And watching. I watch you at night.’
‘That’s it, I’m calling 999.’
‘999?’ I repeat dubiously, my trance allowing his bizarre threat to fall through.
‘911,’ he barks, losing it. ‘You better give me a real reason as to why you’ve broken in or else I’ll call them and that’s that.’
His phone starts vibrating in my hand. He pounces. ‘Is that mine?
‘You left it at the café the other day, I was going to give it back.’ He motions for it and I hand it over, wincing as he swipes it out of my touch.
‘Yes, what?’ His eyes dart around, flickering over me as though I’m a disease he can’t drown. Our gaze glares like the ice outside shattering down on the already snow submerged streets.  

Jed

‘Have you been watching the news? You need to come to the hospital now Jed, for fuck’s sake! Forget what happened, forget everything. She’s on life support, Jed. Life support! You need to get here. Where are you?’ He knew who Daisy was talking about instantly. Memories glassed his mind like shattered mirrors; the first time they met; her running out into the road, him yelling his head off. Brandy and coke at Christmas, that awful time he caught her in bed with that bastard on Valentine’s and then Spain, the sex, the shattered ending that never really began. Blistering through his brain was the butterfly house, the endless parties, the moving in together, the promises he’d keep her safe. That her ex would never reach them.
‘New York,’
‘What the hell are you doing in New York?!’
‘I just…’ his voice broke and his heart bled. There was no reason.
‘Turn on the news, BBC.’
Forgetting the crazed stalker in his apartment, he switched on the TV. Fumbled with buttons he never used because he’d unplugged himself from technology just like he’d disconnected himself from humanity. Air felt like acid as he tried to breathe, only he’d forgotten how. Her face, her beautiful freckled face and that dark hair and those eyes that glittered with pain yet promise. On the news. Everyone could see her now, not just him. The whole world was tuned in to what was his.
‘What happened?’ He gasped out, only he knew it wasn’t what. It was who. 
‘Who do you think happened?’ Daisy spat. ‘Who do you think?
‘Is he…’
‘Just get here, Jed. I’ll never forgive you if you don’t get here. She’d want you here. You know she would.’ He cut the call, cursing silently. Over and over. Ignoring her, the stranger with the blonde hair and the high heels, he tipped the place upside down for his passport, and grabbed a small rucksack. She could trash the place for all she wanted, smash it up, blaze it down. He couldn’t care anymore. Nothing mattered.

Outside he stands, in the whirring streets. In a city that has never felt quite home, Jed hails a taxi.


I used to pretend she belonged to another life, a different day, another world. 
Today I had to stop pretending. Today was my wake up call. 



MORE SPIN OFF STORIES IN THIS SERIES:


NYC photos shot from the book "Colours of New York". 


🖤

31 comments:

  1. Oooh Sophie this is so good!! Love the way you write x

    heart-autumn.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Emma! So happy you enjoyed it 😍

      Delete
  2. You are so talented person, this is so good! I'm really impressed!

    jointyicroissanty

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww thank you so much lovely! It really means a lot to me 💕

      Delete
  3. Gosh I really admire your commitment to your writing Sophie! You absolutely have an identifiable 'voice' in your writing that always makes it so interesting to read. Super looking forward to the day I can buy a copy of your first book in store gorgeous!!

    aglassofice.com
    x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww thank you so much Gabrielle! So kind of you and your words truly mean the world to me 😍 Such a major compliment that you feel I have an identifiable voice in my writing and I'm so touched you have faith in my writing and book. Can't wait for you to read the whole shebang one day! 💖 xxx

      Delete
  4. There is so much energy in your writing Sophie! I loved this. Your stories are always so intriguing and so vibrant. x

    Kate Louise Blogs

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so so much Kate! That really means the absolute world to me 💖 xx

      Delete
  5. What an intriguing story. I was totally captivated within the first couple paragraphs. Great job. /Madison
    FASHION TALES

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww that really makes me so happy to hear! Thank you 💛 xxx

      Delete
  6. Such a beautiful writing, I love it!!!

    https://justohana.blogspot.com.es

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! So kind of you babe 💞 xxx

      Delete
  7. you write so beautifully, this was a true delight to read.

    katie. xx lacoconoire.com

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great pleasure to visit your blog, amazing post, I love it, thank you for sharing!!!

    xxx

    www.bridesonamission.com

    ReplyDelete
  9. Ah, Sophie! I so can't wait to read more of your book - this has really got me thinking now! Stunning writing as always my lovely one ♥♥♥ I'm very enthralled with your story and hooked on the characters! You are so incredibly talented!!! ♥♥♥

    ReplyDelete
  10. You are a great writer. :)

    http://surrealistique.com

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow it looks so nice on 2003. Time changes everything.
    Much Love,
    Zarrah | The Bandwagon Chic

    ReplyDelete
  12. You are so talented! This is crazy good!
    I'm excited to read more xxx

    Liz | LotsofLoveLiz

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is so good!
    Have a nice day!

    ReplyDelete
  14. That was amazing to read Sophie! I'm always hooked on your writing- your descriptions are always so visual and I could literally see this playing out before my eyes. You're such a talent and I can't wait to read your novel.

    Rachel xx
    http://www.thedailyluxe.net

    ReplyDelete
  15. Love your post, love your blog as well, thank you for sharing, cannot wait for the next amazing post!!!

    xxx



    www.bridesonamission.com

    ReplyDelete
  16. I loved this Sophie! You write so beautifully and poetically! This sort of storyline is right up my street, dark mysterious and gripping, cant wait to find out what happens.

    Anna
    http://www.madeupstyle.com/

    ReplyDelete
  17. Oh wow Sophie I'm hooked! This is fantastic m, you should be so proud of yourself. The voice is so strong and can feel the panic and obsession so strongly too. I love it!
    Katie
    Littlekaatie.com

    ReplyDelete
  18. Nooo Sophie I need to know more I'm hooked!!! Loved reading this your writing is so gripping! Srsly though i need to know more pls and thnk you!! Xxxx

    sophieinwonderlandxo.com

    ReplyDelete
  19. It took me a minute to realize this was a short story. So good! Sucked me in right away haha. You should keep on writing, very talented Sophie xx

    Naya // www.partyparrotblog.com

    ReplyDelete
  20. Is this story part of your book? Love the way you write and describe the characters, as well as the emotions they are experiencing. I want to know more about the girl that is stalking this guy, like why she does this, more of her background. It's my Psychology background that makes me so interested as to why people do what they do. The story left me wondering! Hope you write more on these two characters.

    xoxo,
    Tania
    http://inspiremyfancy.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your kind words of sweet support babe! 💖💞 This story is based on my book, there are a few scenes with Jed in New York similar to this story but the character of Ashley and her story has been written purely as a spin off for the blog, and she doesn't feature in my actual book. Her character is unhappy in her marriage and has latched onto stalking this guy as an outlet of her general loneliness and isolation she feels in everyday life. I thought through her and this spin off story for the blog it would also give readers a good insight into the character of Jed as he's one of my most important characters in my book 😍

      I'm so thrilled it left you wondering and that you enjoyed the emotions the characters experience! Bless you for your feedback babe, I'll be hopefully writing another short story for the blog in December ☃️❄️💖 xxxxx

      Delete
  21. Ooo, Sophie!! I'm loving this short, it's so captivating and incredibly intriguing to read! You have such a knack for writing, I love your style! I wanted to read more! Well done, doll, as always!!! XOXO

    ReplyDelete