“You knew I was going to say something to you, right?” Eleven words I had dreaded ever since that night, the night that felt so long ago; last night. My heart sank and I didn’t need to turn around to know who he was. I can pick that voice out of anywhere. The late-night phone calls, the voice memos when we were too tired to text, that one car ride. I knew him, merely a harmless, charismatic, humble, backwoods boy from a small village in Alaska. I still never found out how this mystery man got my Instagram, or how he managed to wiggle his way into my every thought, but he did. I was in love with him. He was my 3,177.1 miles away internet sweetheart, and he was standing not but three feet behind me.
I grab Amanda, my sister, without turning around to face him. She sensed the panic, I can tell by the way her face turned white as the terror in my eyes met hers.
“I need to use the bathroom.” She says, covering for my inability to make a sound. “You know I hate public restrooms, let’s just go home please?” We start forward in a less obvious speed walk. It took everything in me not to collapse, not to turn around to at least see what he looks like in person, in daylight, alive.
“Happy Birthday,” goosebumps shoot down my spine as he whispers in my ear. My vision, getting blurry as I cling to Amanda for stabilization. All of a sudden, I feel a firm grip on my arm. Much too tight to be the clasp of my sister.
I freeze. I shot around out of instinct, met his eyes, and froze. I tried to scream, but it felt as though whatever connects my brain to my mouth wasn’t there. I couldn’t move a muscle, while his once-kind eyes pierced me as they sent a stabbing glacial tremble through every inch of my body. I was afraid of this man.
“Woah! Back off pal.” Amanda says as a few flies on the wall watched. I am reminded of the sting of his hand as he releases me.
“I didn’t mean any harm, ladies! Simply, telling your friend here that she’s dropped a five.” He says, holding up a slip of green paper, beguiling my sister as he once did me. The next thing I know, Amanda and I are sitting in our car.
“What the hell was that about?” I hear Amanda say. It sounded muffled and in the back of my head, as if it was being echoed through a corn maze into my ears. I still can’t speak. I don’t know how to even begin to explain this situation to her. I was always so ashamed of having an online boyfriend, why would I ever tell my sister about him. The only person in the world who knew about us, other than him, was Abigail. I get a sudden flashback to the night. I see Abigail’s face, same as when we met in junior high. Same beautiful hair, same twinkle in her eyes as she smiles. It’s a calming thought and I’m relaxed enough to look out the window, as Amanda backs out of our parking spot, without feeling nauseous. “You know, I should’ve known it wasn’t a good idea to bring you out, after what happened last night. I mean, of course, you’re bound to be -” Thud. As soon as Abigail’s face disappears from my mind with the sound of the car stopping abruptly, he’s back. This time, I can’t tell if he’s real or if he’s just like the vision of Abby.
“Happy birthday to my best friend in the whole world!” Abigail says, slurring her words as she wraps me in a huge embrace spilling tequila on us both. We had been out all night, celebrating my 23rd birthday. “ See!” She says giggling, “I told you this was going to be fun! We never go out anymore. I’m starting to think this mystery man is replacing me.” It is almost 2 am.
“Abs, you know that could never happen, but we do both have work tomorrow.” She drags me over to the crowd where we stay and dance. Now, it’s half past 3. “Come on, I’m getting us an Uber” Abigail is too out of it to repudiate. Just as soon as we walk out the door, we are both stopped in our tracks to see a man’s silhouette leaning against our uber.
“Olivia?” He calls. The second I hear that voice, I’m sober again.
“Oh my God!” Amanda screams as she pulls back into the spot, and jumps out of the car to check on the man she’s just hit.
“Are you okay?” I say, getting out, without thinking. However, as soon as I realize I’m able to speak again, it vanishes. I see the wrap around his forearm and immediately recognize this man. For only ever seeing him once, I knew every inch of him. I stumble back into the car trying to block out his voice. The voice that has been pounding in my head since the night. I hear Amanda’s voice fading in and out like a dial on a radio turning up and down.
“No no no, that’s nonsense! I’m fine really, just a little bump-“
“Olivia Anson?” as he approaches us, still silhouetted, “Uber, for an Olivia Anson?” This uber is for us. I always use a fake name, always as a different variant of Olivia. Of course, he knows this. The street light finally lets me see the left side of his face and there is absolutely no doubt who this person is. He had the same voice and the same birthmark just below his left eye. But, it couldn’t be, right? Amanda pulls me into the backseat with her. I think I might be going crazy. The conclusion I settle with is that I am just paranoid. “I see you guys had a fun night.”
“You knew I wasn’t going to let you party tonight, right? Are you kidding me! What the hell are you talking about right now? You are not going out with her. I say no… I’m your boyfriend and I say no.” There’s a long pause as I begin to tremble at the level to which his voice was raised. I say nothing as Abigail walks into my room, overhearing. He scoffs, “What? So you can go off and dance with a bunch of drunk men? Yeah, I don’t think so. I never knew you were such a whore.” I look up with helpless eyes to Abigail, who snatches the phone from my quivering hands.
“Look, man. I don’t know who you think you are. We are going to be going out for her birthday, there’s nothing you can do about it. You live in Alaska for God’s sake, you controlling freak!” She hangs up and proceeds to delete his number from my phone. She takes my hands, “Why did he call himself your boyfriend? I thought you two were just talking. You’ve literally never met the guy and you’re letting him treat you like this?” I gave a defenseless shrug, as his domineering tone still rang through my head. Ring ring, the potent sound of my ringtone fired at me. “Do not answer him. I don’t care how many times he calls, and while you’re at it, remove him from your socials.” I obey, feeling an odd sense of powerful desolation. Suddenly, I am all alone.
I shoot awake twenty minutes later, still in the back of this strangely familiar man’s uber. I look over to my left to see Amanda’s lips meeting the opening to a water bottle that she did not have before. I understand that it’s not an abnormal courtesy for uber drivers to supply refreshments like water, but the overwhelming consternation I experienced when I saw her take a sip was enough to make everything I had eaten that night make another appearance in the front seats and a little on our driver.
“Are you kidding me!” he yells in a familiar tone, the tone I heard just two nights before. In fact, the same sentence as well. This is it. This is him. I am terrified. “I’m so sorry! I must be sick!” I blurt out. I look out the window in hopes to find some sort of inspiration to spark an escape.
“Rite Aid!” I yell, proceeding to bring back my keenness. “Can we get out, please? I need to pick up a few things from Rite Aid, and this one is much closer. Come on Abigail -” I look over. Abigail appears to be asleep, I frantically text her. I tell her my boyfriend is our driver, as I simultaneously start my attempt to shake her awake. Ding! I hear the notification sound of Abigail’s phone. I heard the notification sound of Abigail’s phone out of my right ear only, as I face her. Once again, I am frozen. My heart feels as though it’s trying to escape, through my throat, while my stomach goes on a roller coaster ride. I begin to realize, it’s not me that’s frozen. The cold sensation creeping into me is by the skin-to-skin contact I’m having with Abigail.
“Here, wrap this around you. It will help with the shock.” A man in uniform says, giving me a big sheet of tinfoil. The blood of my ex, slowly drying on my hands “Oh my God! Are you alright!” Amanda yells as she runs to wrap me in her arms. “I heard there was some insane uber driver! Are you okay?!” Amanda shudders at the sight of the blood. She takes off her jacket and begins to wipe my hands clean. “Hey,” she pauses, “look at me sis. What happened out there? What happened to Abby?” I don’t say a word.
I slowly turn my head to the front of the car. “Is her phone charging?” I ask in hopes my oblivious act will be enough to save me. A nod is all I get as I sit back and try to control my breathing. My heart was beating so fast I thought it might burst. As calmly as I could, I began to search everywhere in that backseat. I need a weapon. Anything at all that could hurt him. We pass a streetlight which seems to be the first sign of humanity we’ve passed since the Rite Aid a few miles back. The light shines through the window just enough to catch the glare of a pen under the passenger seat. I drop my phone and bend down to grab the pen. As if an epiphany, I finally get the idea to call 911. With all the time I spend hollering at actors in horror movies to call the police, I never expected it would take me so long to remember to do so, in a situation like this. I cringe as I open my phone app, terrified of the noise my phone is bound to make when I begin to dial. “Can you turn this song up, please? I love this one.” beep beep beep, I hold my breath as I dial.
“Okay, you’re clearly in shock. You’ll be alright, let’s just get you home.” We begin to walk to her car. My mind and body are numb and empty. “I know! Let’s go shopping tomorrow, afterall, it will be your real birthday.” I always celebrate my birthday a day early with friends. The only people who know the real date are my sister, parents, and him. I regret telling him anything. I regret giving him any trust at all. I regret loving him. I regret not hating him, even now.
Eagerly, I watch the phone like a hawk. Waiting for an operator to pick up and track my location. The call ends before the first ring. I cough as I hit the pre-logged call button again. The screen shoots back to the keypad once more. My phone is not working. The pieces of his puzzle begin to move together in my brain as I think. Why would he not take my phone? He took Abigail’s. I audibly gasp as I register the situation. He pays for my phone. He has access to all of my phone services. He disconnected my phone. Abruptly, I switch, I no longer feel helpless and afraid. I am tired of his control, his dominance. I am strong.
“Ow! You bitch!” he screams as the pen I stab into the wrist makes its way deeper and deeper into the filthy veins inside him. I pull back the pen, still inside him, another four inches down his forearm, before blood starts pooling the middle console. I look up to meet him with lifeless eyes, and I comprehend what I’ve done. Covered in blood, I climb into the passenger seat and push his foot onto the break with my hand. I put the car in park, get out as fast as I can, and I run.
“Ma’am? Ma’am? Hey Missy, are you okay?” A stern, yet concerned, voice echoes through my head at an obnoxiously loud vocalization. “You’re going to need to come with me.” I follow the man in uniform, the only question on my mind being the time. The sun appears to be rising as the brisk and foggy air enters my lungs. “In the back.” he demands as we approach a sheriff’s vehicle.
“My best friend-” I begin to speak, but my mouth is too dry to continue. “Save it, princess, we’ll get you some water at the station,” We pass a lonely streetlight. I am suddenly reminded of exactly where we are. My eye fixed out the window for the car I was in, just earlier that morning. “There!” I yell, the saliva returning to my mouth. “There’s where it was! That’s where I left them!” I stare at the scene of where I had been. “Stay here.” As he pulls over to inspect the oddly parked car in the middle of the lane. What seems like ten minutes go by before I see a silent and dull ambulance approaching. I see Abigail. I see her body on a stretcher. I see her face.
“Alright, they’ll send a tow up here to get the vehicle, we’ll go to the station now.” He says, getting back into the driver’s seat.
“What about the man?” I ask curiously, wondering why they didn’t take away his body as well.
“What man?” He asks as we pass the empty car.
“No, I insist, let us take you to lunch.” Amanda kindly offers, ignorant to the being she’s just hit.
“Amanda! We need to go right now!” I yell insanely, desperately pleading for her to give up on the decency, and get us away from him.
“Look, I understand you’re going through a lot right now and all, but I’m trying not to get sued here,” Amanda whispers to me through the open window.
“We need to go right now,” I say firmly yet softly. I don’t know what she says to him next, but she’s escaped his enthralling charm enough for us to get away.
“Home, sweet home!” Amanda yells as we get inside. I immediately lock the door. “He can’t know where you live hun. You’re safe here.” She says as if trying to be comforting. “I know. I am going to take a nap.” I lay down and begin to doze off for what feels like four seconds. My heart beats rapidly as my eyes open wide. It’s now dark out, and my gut hurts and I feel weirdly alone. Similarly to when I felt the lifeless temperatures of Abigail just hours ago. The words ‘he can’t know where you live’ rack up in my mind. Then, I remember. Uber home for Olivia Anson.